October 2014

‘Think Blue Review’ keeps Dodgers in sight

Don’t miss “Think Blue Review,” your weekly video window into the Dodgers’ offseason world. This week’s version, which includes a showcase of the Dodgers’ four Gold Glove finalists, is hot off the online presses, while previous editions can be found at this link.

— Jon Weisman

A season of Dodger community

Jon Soohoo

Andre Ethier speaking at Nightengale Middle School this year. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Erin Edwards

While the Dodgers’ 2014 season ended more quickly than we’d like, one constant remains: our commitment to the community of Los Angeles. Dodger fans support the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation (LADF) in many ways, so you share in our successes.

Here are some of the foundation highlights from this season:

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For what it’s worth, Dodgers No. 1 in ESPN Future Power Rankings

By Jon Weisman

Not that it means anything, but the Dodgers are winners of a kind.

Twice a year, in a forward-looking gaze, ESPN.com ranks all 30 Major League teams “in an attempt to measure how well each team is set up for sustained success over the next five years.” In the newest rankings, the Dodgers are No. 1.

It’s a nice reflection of the building strength of the organization and a reminder that, despite the disappointment of the past month, that all is not lost. But it’s admittedly an ephemeral honor.

After all, when ESPN.com debuted its Future Power Rankings in February 2012, the Dodgers were saddled with the 19th spot, so the site wasn’t exactly effective in predicting how the Dodgers would perform over the next three seasons, let alone five. In fact, even that unimpressive ranking was called “a leap of faith,” despite the promise of an impending ownership change.

At the time, under the Dodger Thoughts headline “Changes in MLB come too fast for long-term predictions,” I called the whole thing “folly”  … (more…)

Jamie Romak reflects on his friend Oscar Taveras

Jamie Romak on May 28, the day he was called up to the big leagues. (Jon Soo Hoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Jamie Romak on May 28, the day he was called up to the big leagues. (Jon Soo Hoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Cary Osborne

After 11 minor league seasons and more than 1,000 minor league games, Jamie Romak finally made it. The London, Ontario native was brought up to the Major Leagues with the Dodgers on May 28 and made his Major League debut that night. The corner infielder/outfielder spent a month with the club, had one hit in 21 at-bats — a two run-double on June 8 — before ultimately ending 2014 back in Triple-A Albuquerque.

“Playing for the Dodgers was my proudest moment as a baseball player,” Romak said this week from Venezuela, where he is playing winter ball for Tiburones de La Guaira. “Every day I put the uniform on, I took a lot of pride in the history and the expectations. It was truly an honor.”

Along that journey to the Major Leagues, Romak, now 29, spent time with five different organizations — including the St. Louis Cardinals. And while in the Cardinals organization he befriended a young outfielder named Oscar Taveras.

Taveras, tabbed by so many to be a future Major League star, died tragically on Sunday with his girlfriend in a car accident in his home country of the Dominican Republic.

“I was down here in Venezuela playing when I heard of Oscar’s passing,” Romak said. “I got a text from a friend back home asking if I were around to talk, and he filled me in. I played with Oscar for two years, and as an older guy at the time, I spent a lot of time talking to Oscar. We had a good friendship. I’m honestly really beat up about it. He was an incredible talent and a free spirit. I know from talking with a lot of my former teammates and coaches from the Cardinals that this has hit them very, very hard.” (more…)

Dan Haren confirms return for 2015

Right-handed pitcher Dan Haren has exercised his option to play for the Dodgers in 2015.

Haren had a 4.02 ERA and 4.09 FIP with the Dodgers in 2014, striking out 145 batters in 186 innings while allowing 222 baserunners. In his final 10 starts of the 2014 season, Haren had a 2.43 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings. He turned 34 in September.

His best start came June 30 against Cleveland, when he allowed two baserunners in seven shutout innings on the night the Dodgers moved into first place in the National League West after a 9 1/2-game deficit.

— Jon Weisman

Kershaw, Puig lead as Dodgers grab 15 GIBBY noms

By Jon Weisman

The GIBBY Awards aren’t named after Kirk Gibson specifically, though the awkwardness of the full name — Greatness in Baseball Yearly — suggests a determined attempt to arrive at that acronym. In any case, the Dodgers are nominated for several in 2014, and you can vote online through November 7. (Winners will be announced December 6.)

San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles DodgersClayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig were each nominated in three categories. Here is your full list of Dodger nominees:

  • MLB MVP: Kershaw
  • Starting pitcher: Kershaw
  • Closer: Kenley Jansen
  • Bounceback player: Matt Kemp
  • Manager: Don Mattingly
  • Play: Puig’s double play, July 5 at Colorado
  • Outfield throw: Puig, September 22 vs. San Francisco
  • Moment: Vin Scully announces his return for 2015, July 29
  • Hitting performance: Dee Gordon 5 for 6 with three steals, May 3 at Miami
  • Hitting performance: Puig, 4 for 4 with three triples, July 25 at San Francisco
  • Pitching performance: Josh Beckett no-hitter, May 25 at Philadelphia
  • Pitching performance: Kershaw no-hitter, June 18 vs. Colorado
  • Oddity: Dodgers’ defensive wall, August 29 at San Diego
  • Walkoff: Hanley Ramirez’s 12th-inning homer, August 2 vs. Chicago
  • Cut4 topic: Mo’ne Davis at Dodger Stadium

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Maury Wills, Gil Hodges on Golden Era Committee ballot for Hall of Fame

Wills-Hodges

By Cary Osborne

Dodger legends Maury Wills and Gil Hodges have their shot at the Hall of Fame again.

On Thursday morning, the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced its 10-name Golden Era Committee ballot, and the Dodger greats are on the list of candidates.

“You mean the National Baseball Hall of Fame?” Wills asked incredulously from his home in Sedona, Arizona when informed of the honor. “Ah shucks, this is one of my dreams.”

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Vintage Vin

vin 2vin 1By Mark Langill

How does an oversized Vin Scully collectible stay hidden for nearly 50 years?

Gary Cypres, the owner and curator of the Sports Museum of Los Angeles, couldn’t believe his ears recently when he received a phone call from a collector in Texas, describing an advertising banner used at Union 76 stations in 1966 promoting the company’s Dodger record collection.

“I’ve never seen something like this before,” Cypres said. “I didn’t even know it existed.”

Cypres jumped at the chance to add another one-of-a-kind item to his exhaustive collection, which this season was on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.

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The consolation prize: Why the World Series matters most, but the regular season still matters

San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Now that Madison Bumgarner has gone full Hershiser and then some, now that the San Francisco Giants have a well-earned dynasty of three World Series titles in five years, now that history has recorded this all in fresh ink, I’ve reached the stage of acceptance with the 2014 season.

But I am left with a sincere question …

Clayton Kershaw will win the National League Cy Young Award and maybe the MVP, the Dodgers won the NL West, and all anyone will say this winter is how they are inferior to Bumgarner and the Giants. I’m not denying people the right to say it.

But if winning the World Series is all that matters, and what you do in the regular season matters not at all if you win the World Series, and if how you finish in the regular season gives no hint about whether you’re going to win the World Series, then why worry about what is happening during the regular season?

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Dodgers set Los Angeles record in BABIP … what happens next year?

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Yasiel Puig had a .356 BABIP despite declining from 2013. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

Were they feeling lucky?

The Dodgers had a team batting average on balls in play of .318, which was third in the Majors but the franchise’s highest in 84 seasons, since the Brooklyn Robins had a .321 BABIP in 1930.

In general, the Dodgers’ BABIP has trended upward in recent years, thanks in part no doubt to strikeouts becoming a larger percentage of outs. It was a different story, for example, in the 1960s, when the Dodgers’ BABIP bottomed out at .266 in 1967 and .268 in 1968.

The oddity is that several prominent Dodgers underperformed their recent or career BABIP marks in 2014 …

BABIP chart (more…)