Category Archives: BLEEDING DODGER BLUE

Financial reality: The competitive balance tax is now Dodger reality

The flirtation with Giancarlo Stanton was glorious. It reminded me of that delicious meal that is fattening, artery clogging and unhealthy. You know you shouldn’t, but you just want to anyway.

Stanton wanted the Dodgers, and the Dodgers wanted Stanton I will explain why it just wasn’t meant to be.

While Stanton would have looked amazing in a Dodgers uniform it was not good for the organization’s long-term health. The tax implications would have been prohibitive and in the end, if the Marlins were not going to take any salary back from the Dodgers it was unfeasible.

I get all of you who are lamenting the Dodgers not getting Stanton. I really do. But, that is your emotional center talking to you and not logic. If you were listening to your head and not your heart you would understand that the being over the salary cap in baseball is not a good thing. The longer you are over that cap and it’s REALLY not a good thing, and Stanton would have made improving the rotation and bullpen very difficult.

The baseball luxury tax is called a “competitive balance tax.”  The system states that the top-5 teams in terms of salary would have to pay a tax on their salaries starting at 17.5 percent, the higher your salaries went, and the more you stayed in the top-5 in salary, that teams tax rate would PROGRESSIVELY increase. This progressive tax is where the Dodgers are sitting which made a Stanton deal nearly impossible. Something to note, the tax re-sets if you fall below the threshold for one year.  For example, the Dodgers busted the salary tax threshold in 2013 and then again in 2014. They paid 17.5 percent tax on those salaries above threshold in 13′ and 22.5 percent in 14′. But, the Dodgers went below the threshold in 2015 so they weren’t taxed. They again hit the tax threshold in 2016, when new terms stated first offenders paid a 20 percent tax. Second time offenders pay a 30 percent tax. Well, the Dodgers are having to pay a percent tax on the 49 million dollars they went over the threshold. In 2018 if the Dodgers don’t go below a 197 million dollar payroll they will have to pay a 50 percent tax on player salaries.

The Dodgers committed payroll for 2018 is 185 million dollars

How did we get here you might be asking ? Well, remember Carl Crawford ? The Dodgers just finished paying Crawford 22 million dollars to sit at home and watch games on TV for the 2017 season. Dodger fans love Andre Ethier but he was costing the team 17.5 million dollars during the 2017 season. When you throw in Howie Kendrick’s 10 million, and Alex Guerrero’s 10 million dollars,  well, you see where this is going. The Dodgers 2017 payroll was mind-jarring 244 million 661 thousand dollars.

Moving forward the Dodgers have some commitments that will make it nearly impossible to NOT pay the 50 percent in tax next year. The key for the Dodgers is to not pay the tax in 2019 as they prepare big contracts for Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger in the years to come. The good news is the Dodgers have huge dollars coming off the books next summer which should make the fiscal plan stabilize.

We love Adrian Gonzalez but his 22.3 million dollars price tag for 2018 is a tough one to swallow. His contract expires in 18′

Brandon McCarthy has been well-intentioned and it’s not his fault the front office over-paid him. He is due 11.5 million dollars in the final year of his 4-year 48 million dollar contract.

Scott Kazmir signed a back-loaded three-year deal in the winter of 2015 and the Dodgers have paid the price. He has been injured for virtually the entire deal. The Dodgers owe him a guaranteed 17.6 million dollars in 2018.

Erisbel Arruebarrena is due 6.5 million dollars in the final year of a 5-year 25 million dollar deal. Sometimes you roll the dice and some times it doesn’t pay off.

Hyin-Jin Ryu is due to make 7.8 million in the final year of his deal.

Yasiel Puig will make 9.2 million and is arbitration eligible. This is good news from a couple of standpoints. First, Puig is playing for a monster raise through arbitration in the 2018 season. If he doesn’t perform the Dodgers don’t pay as much. If he does, well he will hit the open market in 2020 and will use the 2019 season to get his huge pay-day.

It’s possible the Dodgers could be shedding 74. 9 million dollars in salary for the 2019 !

I didn’t even mention the possibility that Clayton Kershaw opts out of his 35.6 million dollar contract in 2018. I don’t even want to think about Kershaw in another uniform and when you consider he is due to make 70.2 million dollars in 2019 and 2020, I don’t think he opts out unless he has a *wink wink* agreement with the Dodgers to extend the deal but make it more club friendly in the short-term, helping the Dodgers gain flexibility.

So, be sad if you want with the Dodgers not signing Giancarlo Stanton, but the fiscal realities regarding our beloved Dodgers dictated that spending 265 million dollars over the next 10 years on a guy like Stanton was not realistic.

I pose this question. Would you rather have paid Stanton or keep Seager and Bellinger in Dodger blue during their prime seasons ?

It would have been nice, but fiscally a time bomb

 

Tonight, all Dodger Family business gets settled

It’s the day Dodgers fans have been waiting 29 years to experience.

It’s a day we have dreamed about, thought about, hoped for, believed would happen only to be disappointed.

It’s the day we have longed for as we reminisced about past glory.

 

If watching our arch-rival Giants win three titles wasn’t bad enough, coming excruciating close to winning pennants and playoff series’ has been worse. But, tonight all past debts get paid. Tonight our Dodgers play in the game that can erase the 29 years of bitter disappointment.

Tonight is the night we engross ourselves in a team that has become a part of us, part of our family. A 104-win juggernaut that has taken us on a six-month wonder ride. Tonight we march in lock-step with this greatest of Dodger teams and capture championship number 7.

Tonight we leave the residue of the past behind.

 

 

Tonight all Dodger family business gets settled……

Devastating loss has Dodgers on brink

There is no way to gloss over Sunday night’s Game 5 loss by the Dodgers. It’s devastating. They now trail the Houston Astros 3-games-to-2 as the series shifts west to Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night.

First, if you are expecting me to rail on the umpiring and the balls & strikes calls in Game 5 you might as well stop reading here. The umpiring was less than stellar but it is not the reason why the Dodgers lost. Blaming umpires is the novices way of making excuses. If you blame umpires it shows that you never really played the game, and you don’t really understand it. Ok, now that I’m done with that, let’s move on.

13-12 losses in baseball are tough. They are excruciating when you look at all of the various ways the Dodgers could have won this game. Before I focus on what the Dodgers didn’t do, let me first credit the relentlessness of the Houston Astros. My God, what a display of grit and perseverance as they continually battled their way back. Their approach at the plate was incredible, especially as they tried to get base-runners when trailing early.

George Springer, the walk-off winner hero Alex Bregman and of course the incomparable Jose Altuve and young phenom Carlos Correa. The at-bats these top four hitters in the Astros line-up took were simply amazing. Altuve and Correa hit some pretty nasty pitches for base hits in the 4th inning to set up Yuli Gurriel’s three-run home run to tie it.

Then, after Cody Bellinger’s three-run blast gave the Dodgers the lead 7-4 headed to the bottom of the 5th, here came the Astros again. Two out walks to Springer and Bregman, where Springer saw 8 pitches and Bregman saw 10 were amazing. Then, it was Altuve who hit the three-run homer to tie it.

The Astros know how to apply pressure and they are very good at it in their home ballpark. Let’s see if they can ride that wave to Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers jumped on Dallas Keuchel early, cashing in two 1st-inning walks and a two out two-run single by Logan Forsythe to grab a 2-0 nothing lead. Then a botched run down play by the Astros netted the Dodgers another run making it 3-0. In the 4th the Dodgers would add another and led 4-0 going to the bottom of the 4th with Clayton Kershaw cruising.

But the demons of post-seasons past reared its ugly head again, and this time one couldn’t blame the sign-stealing of the St. Louis Cardinals for his demise. This time it was ill-timed walks, location mistakes and great at-bats by the Astros stars. It’s unfortunate for Kershaw. A true gem, a stud, a guy Dodger fans love and want to see do well. It was painful watching him fail, and for many of us that love and defend him it was simply horrifying on baseball’s biggest stage.

In many instances Dave Roberts gets a pass when managing this ball club. Remember, he is simply pushing the buttons and navigating the course set by the analytics crew in the front office. There is no way he would have the job if he wasn’t following their directives. But, on Sunday night he had some egregious mis-steps.

First, with the score tied at 7 Justin Turner led off of the top of the 7th with a ringing double off the wall in right. Kike Hernandez was the next hitter and he was asked to lay down a bunt. Yes, a bunt. The tenor and flow of the game dictated that one run was about as useful as a pay toilet in a diarrhea ward. One run was an aroma. For Roberts to think and actually believe that one run would hold up in the top of the 7th inning is fool-hardy. The Dodgers have spent the entire year bunting primarily in low-scoring games where the ball isn’t flying around the stadium like a beach-ball with a beleaguered bullpen. It was an awful decision. It turned out to be a dud as Hernandez bunted it back to the mound, and Turner on a bad leg, after taking a screamer off his calf on Saturday, was easily thrown out at 3rd. Luckily the Dodgers would grab the lead when Springer would mis-play a ball in center and Hernandez would score all the way from first giving the Dodgers a one-run lead.

Second, with the Dodgers leading 8-7 going to the bottom of the 7th inning the Dodgers went to Brandon Morrow for the third straight day and for the 12th time in 13 games this post-season. Now, while he is not pitching in consecutive days, that is a lot of work. And, considering he has never thrown three straight days before, Roberts told assembled media before the game that he did not want to use Morrow. He used him. And, it blew up in his face. Morrow threw six pitches in the game. He gave up a 447 foot home run to Springer, a laser single to left by Bregman, a rocket shot double to left by Altuve and a Crawford Box home run to Correa. When the dust had settled after 180 seconds of baseball, the Astros had turned an 8-7 deficit into an 11-8 lead. It was devastating.

Before the game Roberts had said he may have to lean on Ross Stripling and Tony Cingrani. Well, those two pitchers cleaned up the mess and pitched well. Roberts first instincts were right, yet he out-thought himself and in the end it burned him and the Dodgers. Morrow gave up the runs, but it wasn’t on him. He did what he could. It’s a manager’s job to read the room, Roberts did it horribly.

The Dodgers would miraculously rally in the top of the 9th showing the guts we’ve come to love about this team. Down 12-9 going to the 9th the Dodgers would get a two-run home run from Yasiel Puig, a one-handed flip of the wrists that settled into the Crawford Boxes in the left cutting the deficit to 12-11. Austin Barnes would then double to left and after Joc Pederson grounded out, Chris Taylor would line a two-out two-strike single to center tying the game at 12. Gritty !

The game would end with the fatigued Kenley Jansen on the hill. After a scoreless 9th, Jansen would hit Brian McCann with two outs. He then carefully pitched to Springer and walked him before Bregman won it with a liner to left.

13-12 Astros win.

It’s crushing. The Dodgers had their best pitcher on the mound with leads of 4-0 and 7-4 and couldn’t hold a pivotal Game 5. They now have to beat Justin Verlander at home him Game 6 to force a Game 7. Verlander has been dominant this post-season. Sure, the Dodgers got to him in Game 2, but that was where the master bullpen plan started to crack for the Dodgers and now the pieces are in shambles.

To beat Verlander they will have to have a masterful approach, his pitch count won’t matter since the Astros bullpen is in tatters. With a game in tow, AJ Hinch is going to let Verlander go all the way. He won’t worry about the bullpen. Verlander’s stuff is so good he can throw 130 pitches and still be hitting 97 on the gun. The Dodgers are in the deep waters now.

They will turn to Rich Hill, hoping he can give them more than the 4 innings he was asked to give in Game 2. In fact the Dodgers will need 6 to 7 innings from Hill. The Dodgers bullpen is fried. On Tuesday they just can’t afford a short outing by Hill, plus he has no margin for error considering who he is facing.

On its face it seems the Dodgers aren’t in bad shape, they are going home down 3-2 with a chance to win two home games and win the World Series. But, that is not the case. Their manager has the yips, their strength, which is the bullpen is a mess and they are facing the best pitcher left in the series right now and he is fully rested and ready to bring Houston a championship.

There are only so many times the game of baseball will give you the opportunity to win a series.

The Dodgers were three outs away from a 2-0 series lead at home with the best closer in the game on the mound and lost. They had a 4-0 lead and then a 7-4 lead with this generation’s best pitcher on the hill and lost.

At some point the game of baseball says, “your time is up.”

Game for the ages ends in a gut punch for the Dodgers

It was a classic, even though it doesn’t feel that way for Dodger loyalists this morning. In what will go down as one of the great World Series games ever, the Dodgers lost an 11-inning thriller to the Houston Astros in Game 2 of the series and missed a golden chance to take a commanding 2-0 series lead.

The many twists and turns of this 4-hour and 19 minute game is a second guesser’s dream and certainly there are plenty of moves made by Dave Roberts that can be called into question.

Roberts antagonists are out in full force after a bullpen implosion that feels like the outlier and not the norm. After throwing 28 straight scoreless innings during this post-season, the Dodger pen went from other-worldly to pedestrian. From 8th to the 11th innings the Dodger bullpen gave up 9 hits 6 runs and 4 home runs in collapse we haven’t seen around these parts since the 2013-16 post-season

Zing-Pow !

The criticism coming Roberts way is from those that weren’t happy with Doc pulling Rich Hill after 4 innings. The argument is that by pulling your starter so quickly you depleted your bullpen earlier than you should have and ultimately it led to having use Josh Fields and Brandon McCarthy in leveraged situations.

While I agree that I don’t want to see Fields and McCarthy in these spots, I felt Doc was correct in pulling Hill after four innings. While the lefty had struck out seven, his command was not very good. He had walked three (one intentional), had allowed the lead-off man to reach in three of the first four innings. He was missing BADLY with his fastball and his curveball was as inconsistent as we’ve seen all post-season. With a day off in the series, and only trailing Justin Verlander 1-0 in the 5th, I had no problem with going to the pen early.

Roberts got 4 outs from Kenta Maeda who has suddenly turned into money in the pen. Tony Watson induced an inning ending double play in the 6th. The only move I question from Roberts is starting the 7th inning with Ross Stripling. I believe he was caught off guard when Corey Seager hit a 2-run bomb with two outs in the bottom of the 6th giving the Dodgers a 3-1 lead. If the score was tied, he would have gone Stripling, but when the Dodgers took the lead, now its time to go to your big guns for those final nine outs. Brandon Morrow would have been the better choice with a lead to start the inning. The problem was that they grabbed the lead so fast,  Morrow didn’t have time to get loose. Stripling walked the lead-off man and then Morrow came in. If Stripling does his job, the point is moot, but he didn’t.

And, while the Dodgers didn’t cough up any runs in that 7th inning it changed how the rest of the game would have to be managed. Morrow went back out for the 8th, gave up a lead-off double to Alex Bregman, a ball that was just out of the reach of Yasiel Puig, and that necessitated the move to bring in Kenley Jansen for a 6-out save. Again, I don’t have a problem with this move either, and think how the game might be different if Puig makes the incredible diving catch ? Oh, what might have been. Why does Jansen come in then ? Well, at this point you have to bring in Jansen for the final six outs. You don’t want to lose the game with your second best reliever when you have Kenley looming. It just didn’t work out.

As much blame as Roberts is garnering, how about that 0-2 pitch from Jansen to Marwin Gonzalez in the 9th. The cutter didn’t cut, the ball didn’t move and with an 0-2 count it was a HUGE mistake. I know we all love Kenley. There is no one I want out there more than him and I feel supremely confident with him on the bump. But, that 0-2 miss was awful. Bury it in, run it away, bounce it. But, for the love of everything holy don’t miss on a hitter’s plane where it can be barreled.

It’s my contention you don’t change the philosophical way you manage your ball club when you play in October. June and October are different, but the philosophy of using your pen a certain way doesn’t really change and the opponent dictates a lot of the moves you make. This management group, Friedman, Zaidi and Roberts believe in a certain way and they don’t deviate. We may not love it or even like it, but it’s gotten us to this point. And, it’s been highly effective.

You may not like how Roberts used his pitchers, you probably don’t like the result, but it’s how the Dodgers operated all year. They aren’t going to change now. As much as you and Rich Hill think he should have gone longer, he shouldn’t have. He didn’t have it and the Dodgers had a near perfect bullpen waiting in the wings. Quite simply, they just had a rough night against the best offensive team in baseball. You make mistakes and they will eat you alive. The Dodgers pen made mistakes and in some cases didn’t, but the Astros just kept hitting and hitting and hitting.

Two things became crystal clear on Wednesday night. The Dodgers bullpen is not invincible and must locate, locate and locate to be effective. Second, the Astros bullpen is exactly what we thought they were coming into the series. Ken Giles is suspect and the rest of that pen has been beaten and battered to the point where their best reliever is a starter coming out of the pen on short rest. Still advantage Dodgers, despite last night.

The pain of the game will sear into our souls until about 5:08pm on Friday, then it’s time to suck it up buttercup, strap it on and get after the Stros’ at the ole Juice Box Park

Bleeding Dodger Blue Always

Dodgers head to San Francisco with a crisis in confidence

An anemic offense, an ineffective rotation, a leaky bullpen.  All season long problems for the 2017 San Francisco Giants, and now all  clear problems for the current Los Angeles Dodgers.

For 127 games the Dodgers surely looked like one of the great teams in the history of baseball. A stretch of 53 wins and only 9 losses in a ten week stretch had the fans of the Dem Bums dreaming of November parade. Now each sojourn to the ballpark is a nightmare with no end in sight.

A week ago I wrote the faithful were over-reacting to the recent downturn and this Dodger team was too good to let this thing linger for too much longer. I was bamboozled. Blinded by the 10-week joy ride. The weaknesses that were masked by heroics night-in and night-out are now glaring issues.

The starting rotation is in shambles. Clayton Kershaw is coming off his worst start of the year when the team desperately needed him (stop me if you heard that one before) Ouch ! Yu Darvish’s struggles in Texas were clearly not a result of environment, he can’t pitch in LA either. Rich Hill is pitching like an infant sleeps, one hour up/one hour down. Alex Wood was magical in May and June but clearly looks fatigued. And, does anyone trust Kenta Maeda in an October start. Suddenly what was such a strength appears to be an albatross.

The bullpen…..Oh Dear God this bullpen. The subject of such consternation for the past four post-seasons appears to be well on its way to be that pillar of inconsistency we have become accustomed to. Other than Kenley Jansen and a healthy Brandon Morrow I don’t trust anyone down there.

What’s with the allegiance and deference to everything Pedro Baez from Dodger management. A guy who has given up big hit after big hit in October’s past continues to get the call in highly leveraged situations and while he was lights out for much of the year, recently he has been a gas can. Not kindling on a smoldering mess of wet soot. No, dry wood, lighter fluid, extra gas, light match…..BOOM ! Unbelievably Dave Roberts reiterated this weekend that Baez will be the guy he calls on in big spots. Gotcha Dave.

The offense which was cause for much celebration and rejoicing all season long has been a mess. It seems too simplistic to cite the slight tweaks the trading deadline brought in changing chemistry, but there is something to it. The flow, the rhythm of the offense had a synergy that was off the charts.

Curtis Granderson has been awful. Love the guy but he has been as automatic an out as there is in baseball during his tenure with the Dodgers. Ever since is Grand Slam in Pittsburgh three weeks ago, how many hits does he have ? Two ? The beginning of the end came when Cody Bellinger turned his ankle. He had to sit for a week-plus, then Corey Seager started experiencing elbow issues, then Justin Turner slumped, then…….then…….then………it became a cyclical mess of misfortune.

I do not understand this commitment to Yasmani Grandal. A 240 hitter who is a terrible defender. Especially when you have a young talented and productive Austin Barnes who is just waiting. The Dodgers will tell you Barnes is productive because he DOESN’T play everyday, keeping him fresh to be a force when he is in there. You mean the kid can’t play everyday ? Or do you not want to disappoint a veteran Grandal in changing his role even when it’s warranted.

I could understand it if Grandal was a superior back-stop in the mold of Robert Perez of Cleveland. Perez can’t hit a lick, but Cleveland pitchers love throwing to him. He knows the hitters and blocks everything. Who cares if he hits .190. Grandal isn’t Perez.

I really don’t know what the Dodgers do with Joc Pederson or Adrian Gonzalez. Pederson just seems lost. After a long lengthy career it seems Gonzalez’s body is finally breaking down on him. At this point they just shouldn’t see the field.

Justin Turner told the media yesterday the Dodgers are the “worst team in baseball.” Right now I believe him. But, what we’ve seen from the Dodgers over the past two-and-a-half-weeks is also the reason why we love the game so much. Your fortunes can turn on a dime. At the moment,  I don’t see light at the end of the tunnel, but three weeks ago I didn’t see one of the worst stretches in Dodger history either.

Tonight they take on a team that is downright pitiful. The San Francisco Giants are a shell of their championship selves, ironically despite being  the worst team in baseball, they might be a playing a tad bit better than our boys in blue right now.

Can the Dodgers be this bad ? We will learn during their next 10 days as they travel to three cities, taking on both San Francisco and Philadelphia, two truly dreadful baseball teams.

Dodger Nation in full panic mode……

Rarely am I the great outlier when it comes to analyzing my beloved Dodgers, but over the last week there aren’t many voices of calm, except for my own.

After winning 91 of 127 games and going an insane 53-9 over a 10-week stretch the Dodgers have hit the pavement like a hell-bent anvil.

It’s not just the losses, its how they are losing. Ugly.

The usual criticisms are being rained down upon the Boys in Blue.

  1. Not enough depth in the starting rotation
  2. Bullpen shortfalls
  3. No reliable lefty in the pen

I can’t argue any of these points. All of these facets have been downright dreadful, but there are a few elements you need to evaluate before you jump off the ship without a life preserver.

First, the Dodgers slide coincided with the Cody Bellinger going on the shelf for a bum ankle. Second, as Bellinger came back Corey Seager went on the shelf with a problematic shoulder and elbow. These two were two of the pulsing pistons driving the Dodgers in June and July. They are banged up and the team is in a scuffle, not a surprise.

Justin Turner has also cooled off considerably. Like the Dodgers playing at an .800 clip it was unrealistic to expect “Red Turn” to hit .360 all year. These three are the teeth of the Dodgers offense, with a disruption in this triumvirate there was going to be some slippage.

And how about this for analysis ? They were due for a slide.  I know the reasoning is medieval and isn’t sexy but it’s fact. Over a 162-game schedule a team will always revert to their mean. You are what you are over 162 games. Right now the Dodgers are talented, spirited team that has put themselves in a great position, that is it. Nothing more, nothing less.

I will say that there is some concern with the complete meltdown on the mound. The starting pitching needs to be better, the bullpen needs to be better. They know this, it’s not a surprise. But, I think this team is closer to the team that blistered baseball for 127 games instead of the duds we’ve seen over the last ten games.

Last point, this thing does need to get turned around in the next few weeks. The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals won a World Series losing 8 of their final 9 games and limping into the post-season. They were exception and not the rule. You can’t expect to play like a trash bin and think you can flip the switch on September 27th.

For now, I sit back and let my Dodger brethren fret. I will take a deep breath, knowing that baseball is a fickle mistress, and watch as the Boys in Blue eventually find their footing.

I hope.

 

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…..

“IF YOU AREN’T APPLYING PRESSURE THAN YOU ARE FEELING PRESSURE.”

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…..it’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 !!!