The Hate is Delicious for the DubNation

It’s like a fine whine. Yes, whine. The hate for the Golden State Warriors is nearing crescendo heights and the season hasn’t even started yet.

Basketball fans are criticizing the Dubs for their “so-called” team building. Ruining the game, they say. Tilting the competitive balance, they say. Blah blah blah……All criticisms from people whose teams were not smart enough to draft correctly, build their organizations correctly and now want to discredit a team that is coming off of a titanic let-down in the NBA Finals.

A basketball nation rejoiced when the 73-9 Warriors were tripped up in the NBA Finals after holding a commanding 3-games-to-1 lead on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron got his ring for the land and those dastardly Warriors with their band-wagon fans (I would agree, some are on the wagon).

They hate because the narrative now is that somehow the Warriors have built this illicit structure of greatness differently or unlike other great teams have been built. NOT TRUE !

Six other teams could have drafted Steph Curry but they bought into the notion he was too small and not good enough. Ten other teams could have drafted Klay Thompson but they bought into the notion he was simply a one-dimensional spot-up jump shooter. And, EVERY single team in the Association could have had Draymond Green believing he was too small to be a four, and not versatile or athletic enough to be a three. Well, shame on you and your LOGO-less front office.

Now that Kevin Durant has utilized his God-given and collective bargaining given right to jump to the team of his choice during free agency, teams, pontificators and fans are furious that somehow the Warriors are not playing fair and it’s not good for the game. My contention is that having super teams is fantastic for the game. When the Lakers and Celtics were dominant in the 80’s everyone watched because everyone wanted to see them get beat. I didn’t see the Rockets, Mavericks, 76ers, Bucks or Pistons shy away from the challenge of knocking off these storied franchises. I didn’t see their fan bases whining about how good the Lakers and Celtics were. Those teams and fan bases went out to try and beat them. To compete.

I will say this now and I will say it again. After spending  35-to-40 years loving the Warriors and watching them be the laughing-stock of basketball. A joke, a punch-line. I don’t feel I have to apologize for anything. The Warriors are good. The Warriors are damn good. If they could go on an epic run of championships, I will bask in the glow of happiness. I have been conditioned to know that titles are not a team’s right. I learned that in 1976 after the 60-win Warriors were upended in the West Finals and sent this 5-year old into a miserable two-day crying fit. I will relish each and every moment of this great run.

I will be embracing the hate. The Warriors should never apologize for being great.

Let the games begin

Cubs hammer Dodger bullpen; take 3-2 NLCS lead

Two things are perfectly clear as the Cubs and Dodgers head back to Wrigley for Game 6 of the NLCS. First, the Cubs hitters are no longer in a slumber. They are back. They are dialed in and they aren’t missing mistakes. Second, the Dodgers bullpen, the unit that helped propel this team past the Giants to win the National League West, is spent. They have nothing left. The chamber is empty. Aside from Kenley Jansen the Dodgers pen looks and is pitching like a tired bunch.

The signs are all there. Missing with strike one. Missing with location. Hanging breaking balls, leaving sliders up. Almost everyone in the pen is doing it. Grant Dayton, Baez, Stripling, Avilan and most importantly, Joe Blanton. The Dodgers are getting beat on 0-2 counts way too much and it has resulted in the biggest hits of the series for Chicago.

The Dodgers starters in Games 4 & 5  only lasted three and two-thirds innings. The result is a lot of work for the Dodgers pen. While we couldn’t expect the 20 year-old Julio Urias to go deeper than the three-plus he went, the mistakes he made in giving up back-to-back hits on 0-2 counts were debilitating. No Dodger fan is worried long-term about Urias. He started the game out of necessity since the Dodger brass felt Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy were the answers to the Dodgers rotation woes, but we’ll get to that much later at a different time.

Kenta Maeda pitched well tonight, but throwing 76 pitches in only 3.2 innings isn’t ideal. His stuff really doesn’t play if his command and location isn’t impeccable. Against an average team he can survive, but these are the 103-win Cubs. They don’t have weaknesses and they pound mistakes. So, when Maeda misses a spot, or falls behind, its curtains.

The Cubs have found their stroke. The slumps of Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell are now a thing of the past. Javier Baez is getting good swings and the Cubs don’t seem to have weaknesses heading to Game 6. But, the Dodgers do have hope.

That hope rests on the shoulder of Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw, pitched 7 innings of 2-hit shut-out baseball in Game 2. The Dodgers will lean on Kershaw to keep them in the game, try to grind out some runs  and get them to a Game 7. If the Dodgers can get the series to Game 7 they would send Rich Hill to the mound against Jake Arrieta.  This is the match-up where the Dodgers scored six runs, chased Arrieta after five innings and won the game going away 6-2. It seems inconceivable but the Dodgers would be happy with this match-up, even on the road, and even against the reigning Cy Young Award Winner.

The Dodgers and Kershaw have been here before. In 2013 they were down 3-games-to-2 to the Cardinals and had Kershaw on the mound. He struggled and was eventually lit up against the Cardinals. This feels so much different. Kershaw is throwing the ball better. he is better. He will pitch with a full complement of rest and this Dodgers team is tougher. There isn’t a better guy Dodger fans would want on the mound with the season hanging in the balance.

As rough as Games 4 & 5 were for the Dodgers, Dave Roberts made the right decision  making sure Kershaw and Hill were fully rested. Here we go, either the Dodgers will upset the heavily favored Cubs, winning two at Wrigley to keep this amazing ride alive, or the Cubs will win the National League pennant for the first time since 1945.

I need rest. We all need rest. Saturday will be here soon

Rizzo and Russell wake up; Cubs even NLCS AT 2-2

You knew it was going to happen, the Dodgers just hoped it didn’t materialize until Spring Training of 2017.

Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell both mired in horrific slumps busted out in a big way on Wednesday night to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 10-2 win in Game 4 of the NLCS. With Rizzo sitting on a 1-for-26 and Russell a 1-for-21, they both banged out three hits and hit home runs as the Cubs scored early and often against Los Angeles.

The ramifications for the Cubs is an ease with which they played the entire season. A group that looked tight at the tail end of Game 2 and all of Game 3 now looks comfortable at the plate and sits only two games away from their first World Series appearance in 71 years.

All is not lost for the Dodgers, although the short-term prospects don’t look promising. With the Dodgers winning Game 3 it insured the Dodgers would need to play a Game 6 if they were to be facing elimination. That Game 3 win gave manager Dave Roberts some wiggle room to adjust his starting rotation. Roberts is going to pitch Kenta Maeda in Game 5 tonight and then have Clayton Kershaw and if necessary Rich Hill pitch in Games 6 & & respectively on full rest.

On paper tonight’s Game 5 pitching match-up doesn’t appear to be a match-up at all. Maeda has thrown seven innings in two starts in the post-season and has given up 7 earned runs. Lester posted his best ERA in his long major league career at 2.44 and is a 19 game winner. Lester didn’t have his best stuff in his Game 1 start but his ability to pitch in big spots and not rattle makes him one of the best post-season southpaws in recent history. You couple these factors with the Dodgers having a major league worst .214 batting average against left-handed pitchers, and this scenario SCREAMS….mis-match.

With that said, all year the Dodgers have found a way to buck the odds. Dare I say it, a win tonight would be on par with coming back from 8.5 down in late June against the Giants and winning the division by four games.

Regardless of what happens tonight the Dodgers are set up with their best in Games 6 & 7. If they win, they have Kershaw going on full rest for a chance to win the pennant. If they lose they have Kershaw, on full rest to save their season. If needed you would then have Rich Hill on full rest as well.

If this game is close, and Maeda gets in ANY kind of trouble Roberts will pull the trigger and go to the bullpen. With tomorrow being an off-day the Dodgers can be liberal with that bullpen tonight. I have to believe there isn’t a lot of trust in Maeda right now and the leash will be short.

Bleeding Dodger Blue

Hill shines and Dodgers keep applying pressure

I have covered a top-flight baseball program for the past 20 years. The Chico State Wildcats have won two D-II national titles and 9 regional championships. The axiom which is instilled when you don the Cardinal and White is…..


Right now the Los Angeles Dodgers are applying all kinds of pressure to the heavily favored Chicago Cubs. Pressure in execution. Pressure in style of play and pressure in aggressiveness.

The Dodgers are playing free and easy. They are playing the game the way child plays baseball. Playing a game, having fun and enjoying this whole October experience. As a fan who follows this team much closer than I actually should, I can see it. This is not the same group that participated in the playoffs in 2013-2015. Watching those teams in October was a chore. We constantly waited for the other shoe to drop. The Dodgers were favored, but I never felt they were playing a game. The game looked forced to those teams.

This group is different. They are playing as if they know they aren’t better than the Cubs. They are just coming after the 103-win Cubbies as if to say, “you may beat us, but you are going to have to fight us for it.” It’s a joy watching this team grind it out. I have spent so many October’s watching the San Francisco Giants play this way. Free and easy, no pressure, just play.

After the Dodgers tossed their second straight shut-out against the Cubs it’s as if Chicago is carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. I really thought that they had gotten past their tortured past. The Cubs look tight. This game is hard enough to play when your mind is clear. To play it and succeed when your mind is racing and you are hauling around the hopes of a city…’s almost impossible. The Dodgers are applying pressure, the Cubs are certainly feeling it.

If anyone can turn this thing around for Chicago it’s Joe Maddon. I also think the Cubs will be well served in not facing Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill or Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers will now send their young 20 year-old phenom Julio Urias to the hill to try and grab the series by the throat. Tomorrow’s result could determine whether the Dodgers go with Kershaw on three days rest or save him for regular rest and pitch him in Game 6 in Chicago. With a win tomorrow, I think the Dodgers save Kershaw. A loss and my gut tells me Dave Roberts brings him back on three days to pitch Game 5.

I have too much respect for the Cubs to start searching StubHub for World Series tickets. The Cubs won 103 games for a reason. They are good. They are tested and they are hungry. The Dodgers just have keep doing what they are doing. But, look out if the Cubs can get out of their own way. Game 4 could very well determine who wins the National League pennant……enjoy Dodger Fam

Bleeding Dodger Blue !!!

Kershaw and Jansen dazzle as Dodgers even NLCS

For the fourth time this post-season Clayton Kershaw appeared in a game and for the fourth time the Dodgers won.

The good news for Chicago is Kershaw will not appear in Games 3 & 4.  Behind the brilliance of Kershaw and closer Kenley Jansen the Dodgers evened the National League Championship Series at a game apiece.

Kershaw was fantastic. Primarily utilizing his fastball and slider he located perfectly, keeping Cubs hitters off-balance. Kershaw threw only 9 curveballs and will be able to lean on that pitch when he appears later in the series. Jansen came in to put the game away in the 8th and 9th innings striking out 4 of the 6 hitters he faced.

The only offense was provided by Adrian Gonzalez who took ERA leader Kyle Hendricks deep to left-center in the 2nd inning. Gonzalez was thinking opposite field against the change-up specialist and it paid dividends, hitting one into the basket just above the .368 marker at Wrigley.

The Cubs will certainly have the pitching advantage in Game 3 of the series as the scene shifts to Dodger Stadium for Games 3, 4 and 5. Reigning Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta gets the ball for the Cubs while the Dodgers counter with Rich Hill.

The biggest concern for the south-siders in the inexplicable slumps from Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell. The two have combined to go 2-for-42 in the post-season with Rizzo sitting on a 1-for-23. The Dodgers know it only takes a blooper, a bleeder, or a Texas-leaguer to get these guys going. Both the Giants and Dodgers pitching staffs are making perfect pitches on Rizzo, and to win the series and keep him in check, they will have to continue to hit their spots and get count leverage.

A big question mark for Joe Maddon is what to do with Jason Heyward. He scuffled all year and is now struggling in the post-season. Jorge Soler or Albert Almora might be a better option if Heyward continues to struggle.

The Dodgers felt real good even after their Game 1 loss to the Cubs. The Dodgers are taking some real good at-bats (aside from Yasiel Puig’s two-out bunt try on Sunday night) There is a grind-ability to the Dodgers offensive game right now that is fun to watch.

Been saying it all year, this team may not be as talented as the team’s from 2013-2015 but there is no doubt this Dodgers squad is tougher.

Game 3 is Tuesday at 5pm from Dodger Stadium

As Always Bleeding Dodger Blue !

Dodgers @ Cubs NLCS GAME 1 RECAP

A fantastic game that ended with a gut-punch as the Dodgers fall in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Cubs on Saturday night.

The Dodgers rallied from a 3-0 deficit with a stirring come-back highlighted by a two-run single from Adrian Gonzalez in the top of the 8th inning off of Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman.

After an Andrew Toles single, a walk to Chase Utley and a fielders choice to Justin Turner where Toles made a daring dive into third to beat Kris Bryant’s attempt at a force to load the bases…….enter Chapman who blew away Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig to set the stage for Gonzalez’s heroics.

But, the Cubs would wrestle the game from the Dodgers in the bottom of the 8th on a lead-off double by Ben Zobrist and intentional walks to Jason Heyward and Chris Coghlan, Miguel Montero sent Wrigley into delirium with a grand slam. It was a horrible 0-2 pitch from the usually reliable Joe Blanton who has been a main-stay out of the Dodgers bullpen all year. Blanton’s cement-mixer on 0-1 was repeated on 0-2 and this time Montero didn’t miss it.

The Dodgers will  turn to Clayton Kershaw to pull them out of the fire again. Kershaw gets the start against Cubs right-hander and ERA leader Kyle Hendricks. Game time 5:05pm with the Cubs up 1-0 in the series.


Dodgers @ Cubs Game 1 NLCS PREVIEW

I woke up this morning to the stark realization that the Dodgers reward for outlasting the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the National League Divisional Series was a date with the best team in baseball the Chicago Cubs.

The Dodgers grit, determination and grind-ability will be severely tested against the 103 win Cubbies who have the south-siders dreaming of their first pennant in 71 years and first World Series title in 108 years.

The Cubs are a machine. Their rotation is nasty with one of the best lefties in the game in Jon Lester (Game 1 starter), the ERA champion in Kyle Hendricks (Game 2) the reigning Cy Young award winner in Jake Arrieta in Game 3 and savvy experienced veteran in John Lackey in Game 4.

Their bullpen is loaded with Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon setting up left-handed flame-throw Aroldis Chapman. From the left-side they can bring Mike Montgomery and Travis Wood, giving them the ability to match-up with the Dodgers.

The scary thing about the Cubs is they really didn’t flex their muscles in the Giants series. Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell struggled offensively against San Francsico combining for only 2 hits. I expect those two to perform at a much higher level. I thought Giants pitchers navigated the Cubs line-up with aplomb.

Locate Locate Locate…..Dodger pitchers need to locate with movement. Game 1 starter Kenta Maeda needs to be much better than he was against the Nationals in his Game 3 start. He gets the ball today with the Dodger brass hoping he can give them AT LEAST 5-6 innings. Three innings today would be a disaster considering how spent the Dodger bullpen is.

The Dodgers were 7-for-33 with runners in scoring position against the Nationals. That number will get them swept. They were 0-for-8 with the bases loaded. That number will also get them swept. This squad can not waste their chances. Unlike the Nationals series where many in Dodger-land felt Los Angeles gave away Game 2 of the series. They can’t afford a give-away against the mighty Cubs.

This promises to be a delicious series with two teams and two cities hungry for a pennant. If the Dodgers can get a split in Chicago they would be ecstatic. For once, they need someone other than Kershaw and Kenley to pitch them to victory in October. Today begins a journey, many of us in late June will totally improbable…..gotta love baseball

Bleeding Dodger Blue…..ALWAYS

Dodgers need to take off the kid-gloves in handling of Urias

We have all seen it. We go to the home of that high-end society couple and as we walk through the door we almost don’t want to touch anything for fear we might break something. They have all these high-end vases and urns, furniture that must be dry-cleaned weekly and high-end art hanging from the walls.

This is the Dodgers and how they approach the game of baseball, look but don’t touch. When I see 20 year-old left-handed phenom Julio Urias, I see a player who is being showcased for no specific purpose. He is a piece of art that the fans and rest of baseball can look at, but can’t necessarily enjoy.

The Dodgers decision to pitch Clayton Kershaw on three days rest is another sign that the Dodgers aren’t ready to make that next jump. I doubt this decision belongs to Dave Roberts. This is a Friedman/Zaidi decision where they believe it’s in the best interests of the franchise to stunt the growth of a pitcher who has shown the tools to be a star of the future and instead lay the weight of the world on ole reliable Clayton who will try and bail this flawed team out again in a must-win game.

Why even have Urias on the roster if he isn’t going to be utilized ? Front office defenders will tell you that Urias has been average and they are trying to protect him and keep his pitch count down and yada yada yada. Think how different the 1981 season would have been if the Dodgers kept Fernando Valenzuela’s pitch count down ? Whatever happened to winning NOW. You mean to tell me that if the Dodgers threw Urias today and he is shoving and putting up zeros in an elimination game that they would pull him at 65 pitches ? They would pull him after four innings because we need to protect him ? Protect him from what ? Winning ? Pitching while fatigued in a big spot and learning how to win ? What is the point of having such a great piece of art, if you are just going to look at it but not enjoy it.

The Dodgers might very well win today. What does that mean for Game 5 ? Well, it means Urias would most likely get the start in Game 5 and will be on a pitch count that limits how long he can go. If the Dodgers don’t win today then the kid was simply here as a threat that we might use. I thought the point of having pitchers, and young talented ones’ was to use them to win a pennant and a World Series. I didn’t know that a season of protecting Urias’ arm meant he would simply take a roster spot and wouldn’t be utilized.

The Dodgers are needlessly taxing and pushing their best player in Kershaw so they won’t have to make a decision on Urias throwing 80 pitches in a game where he might be effective.

I expect Kershaw to shove and give the Dodgers a chance. I just don’t know what it means moving forward for the Dodgers and for Urias if they do win and get to a Game 5. The time for baby-ing the youngster is over. Pitchers, pitch, they aren’t works of art.

Dodgers miss golden chances in Game 2 loss

It would be foolish to expect to win a game where you go 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position (RISP) and 0-for-5 with the bases loaded. Winning teams don’t waste so many opportunities. With Sunday’s 5-2 loss the Dodgers missed a great chance to take a strangle-hold on their first round NLDS series against the Nationals.

After Corey Seager’s first inning solo home run the opportunities were a-plenty for the Dodgers. The Dodgers would load the bases in the second inning and come up empty as Rich Hill would strike out and Chase Utley would ground out.

Josh Reddick would single home a run in the third giving the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. With the bases loaded and one out Yasmani Grandal would ground into a double-play.

In the 5th the Dodgers would load the bases again only to see Grandal strike out and Howie Kendrick line out to left. The Dodgers had another great chance in the 6th with runners at first and second and two outs only to have Adrian Gonzalez fly out to left.

Mistakes are magnified in the post-season. One mistake, one bad approach at the plate could end your season. For the Dodgers, these at-bats in run-scoring situations need to get better. I do give the Nationals a ton of credit for making quality pitches in big spots, but if you want to advance the approach needs to be better.

Today’s Game 3 has high stakes for both clubs. The Dodgers need to solve a left-handed pitcher in Gio Gonzalez. It’s no surprise lefties are the Dodgers kryptonite, hitting a league worst against south-paws with the lowest on base and slugging percentages as well.

The Nationals know a win today puts them a win away from advancing to the League Championship Series for the first time since they were playing in Montreal.

As I said before the series, the team who hits better with runners on base and gets better work out of the bullpen will win this series. So far it has proven to be true.

Bleeding Dodger Blue….enjoy the game !