August 2006

Today's lineup

Furcal, SS

Lofton, CF

Lugo, 2B

Drew, RF

Ethier, LF

Betemit, 3B

Martin, C

Loney, 1B

Penny, P

From worst to first

On July 26, the Dodgers were in last place, a season-high 7.5 games out of first. In the past 15 days, they have gained 8.0 games in the NL West standings, having won 12 of their last 13 games. Several comments on this blog were among the most positive of the thinkers and it’s paying off for you guys now. Remember, it’s a long season and much like we try not to get too down when we’re losing, we’re trying not to get overly excited about a half-a-game lead on Aug. 11. There’s a lot of baseball left to be played, but it’s nice to be atop the standings again.

And for those who continue to think Kenny Lofton isn’t pulling his weight, consider the following: With his third hit last night, Kenny raised his average to .309 this season and .323 since the start of 2005. That ranks fifth in all of baseball since the beginning of last year behind Miguel Cabrera (.328), Albert Pujols (.327), Joe Mauer (.325) and Derek Jeter (.323) among players with 600 or more plate appearances during that span. Since the All-Star Break, Lofton is hitting .351 (27-for-77), raising his career average to .300. And in the month of August, his .469 average (15-for-32) is third in the Majors behind Omar Vizquel (.531) and Brian McCann (.500) (minimum 30 PA). Suffice to say, it’s tough to take him out of the lineup right now and Grady has him in there today against a lefty.

Tomorrow, the Dodgers Dream Foundation will host the “Jerseys Off Their Backs” Live & Silent Auctions. If you’re at the game, you can bid on all the autographed game-used jerseys worn by all the players and coaches. The silent auction is on the Club Level behind the Vin Scully Press Box and ends at 2:45 p.m. A post-game live auction will consist of jerseys from several of the team’s All-Stars.

Today’s lineup:

Furcal, SS

Lofton, CF

Nomar, 1B (1,500th career hit last night in his 1,152nd career game)

Kent, 2B

Drew, RF (back in the lineup)

Ethier, LF (14-game hitting streak)

Lugo, 3B (his .347 career mark against the Giants is the 3rd among active players with 75 or more plate appearances)

Hall, C (a night off for Russell with tomorrow’s day game looming)

Hendrickson, P

Meanwhile, the Dodgers lead the NL with a .279 average, six points higher than second-place St. Louis (.273). The team also paces the Senior Circuit in hits (1,114), triples (39) and on-base percentage (.352). The Dodgers have never led the league in hitting since coming to Los Angeles, though they shared the league lead with Cincinnati (.270) in 1970 and were atop the NL in 1955 (.271). The last time their team average was higher was in 1953 (.285).

Busy day around here. It seems like when we’re winning, every media outlet under the sun wants to talk to one of our players, coaches, front office staff or even PR hacks like me.

Serious props go out to the Kamenetzky brothers for finding a way to work into their blog the Saved by the Bell episode when Jessie Spanow gets "so excited." I’m not really sure what that has to do with the Dodgers, but they get my nod of approval.

Some notes from today’s game notes:

A FIRST FOR EVERYTHING – Julio Lugo made his first appearance at third base in the Major Leagues last night, starting at the hot corner. His last game played there was in 1997, when he played for Houston’s Single-A Kissimmee. Lugo has now played second base, third base, shortstop and all three outfield positions in his big league career.

THE BULL HITS STAPLES TOMORROW – Dodger reliever Jonathan Broxton will be signing autographs at the Staples in Glendale tomorrow from 12-1.

PLAYING RIGHT FIELD – James Loney made his big league outfield debut last night. Loney made three starts in right field for Triple-A Las Vegas from May 13-15 and went 7-for-11 with a homer and seven RBI vs. Nashville. Today, the Dodger organization named him its Minor League Player of the Month for July, the second consecutive month he has been honored. He hit .371 with three homers and 18 RBI in July.

Today’s lineup:

Furcal, SS

Lofton, CF

Nomar, 1B

Kent, 2B

Ethier, LF (somehow we just noticed his 13-game hitting streak is alive)

Betemit, 3B

Martin, C

Repko, RF

Billingsley, P

Nomar's back

Nomar has been activated and is starting at first base tonight. The lineup has four shortstops in it (including Repko, who started there in the minors), with two others, Betemit and Martinez, on the bench. Against the left-hander, we’ll send out:

Furcal, SS

Lugo, 3B

Nomar, 1B

Drew, RF

Kent, 2B

Ethier, LF

Martin, C

Repko, CF

Lowe, P

Toughest Day of the Year

This is always one of the toughest days of our year. Yes, the team has an 11-game winning streak, something that hasn’t happened since I joined the club back in 1995 (the last one was in 1993). However, that pales in comparison to our trip to Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles. In about half an hour, I’ll head over there with Rafael Furcal, Russell Martin, Chad Billingsley and Frank McCourt, where they’ll spend some time with the kids who are dealing with more than I can possibly imagine.

I’ve been fortunate enough to accompany the team on several hospital visits each of the past few years and to say it’s a reality check is a serious understatement. No matter how good things are going on the field or even if we were in the midst of an 11-game losing streak, this always reminds me just how fortunate me and my family are to be healthy, let alone earning a living in the game of baseball.

You might recall T.J. Simers writing an incredible piece when Eric Gagne went to Mattel Children’s Hospital a couple years ago and I’m sure we’ll have some TV crews there today if you want to see some of the footage from the visit, but I can vouch for all of the players I’ve gone with to these hospitals – it’s a humbling, eye-opening experience for them, too.

There will be more on the game later today and of course, there’s plenty of great stories out there today about Greg Maddux’s impact on the team from Bill Plaschke (LA Times), Steve Bisheff (OC Register), Jim Alexander (Riverside PE) and Mike Waldner (Daily Breeze) as well as a well done, tongue-in-cheek column by Steve Dilbeck (Daily News), who wrote the team off two weeks ago and has watched them go 11-0 ever since.

Today's lineup

I hope some of you got to chat with Roy Smith a little bit ago. We’re going for 11 in a row tonight, which hasn’t been done in 13 years. And even better, tickets are still available to see Greg Maddux in his home debut. We’ll see if he can throw a nine-inning no-no with three hitless innings to start the game. More importantly, it’s a chance to see him possibly tie Steve Carlton for 10th place on the all-time wins list. You can’t be a part of that kind of history every day. In fact, unless Tom Glavine or Randy Johnson somehow manage to pitch for several more years, it could be decades before someone cracks the Top 10 again.

Here’s the lineup that can help him do it:

Furcal, SS

Lofton, CF (joins Steve Finley this year as the first 39-year-olds to log nine triples in a year since 1945)

Drew, RF

Kent, 2B (back to second for tonight)

Ethier, LF

Betemit, 3B

Martin, C

Loney, 1B

Maddux, P

Trade deadline recap – Roy Smith

I thought I would take this time to review our moves at the trade deadline and give you a little insight as to how trades actually evolve. The two trades that the club made last Monday offered a contrast — one was made after much discussion over a number of weeks and one was made in the matter of an hour.

The Greg Maddux trade came together after many weeks of discussion between Ned and Jim Hendry, the Cub GM. Earlier in the year, Ned told Hendry that we would be interested if the Cubs decided to trade Maddux. In the ensuing weeks, the talks became more serious with actual proposals being exchanged. However, it wasn’t until about 40 minutes before the deadline that we offered Cesar Izturis. Hendry accepted our offer and after hashing out some money issues, the deal was made.

In the case of Julio Lugo, this trade was literally made in the last hour. Knowing that Andrew Friedman was having discussions about Lugo with other clubs and also that Izturis would possibly be involved in the Maddux trade, Ned called Tampa Bay and said that the Dodgers were interested and asked what the Devil Rays’ price was. The Rays asked for Joel Guzman, which was not an easy player for us to part with, especially for a player who was two months away from possible free agency like Lugo. However, after considering the depth of our system and questions as to where Guzman’s position would ultimately be, we decided go make the deal after including Sergio Pedroza.

The way these deals went down is two perfect examples of how trades get done. I would say that the Maddux trade is the most common scenario. Often a trade will start out as a general conversation months in advance of when the deal is actually consummated. The conversation may start with Ned or it may start with Kim or I making an inquiry with our counterparts on another club which gets the flow of ideas going. Many times the trade will have taken on many permutations before the actual deal gets made. The reason why there is a flurry of activity at the deadline is usually because the clubs want to exhaust all possibilities before making the final call, hoping that someone blinks and gives up what was previously unattainable.         

Want to find out more from Roy? Be sure to take part in the live web chat tomorrow (Tuesday) at 2 p.m. at dodgers.com

NL West

First off, here’s today’s lineup:

Furcal, SS

Lofton, CF

Drew, RF

Kent, 1B

Ethier, LF

Betemit, 3B

Lugo, 2B

Martin, C

Penny, P

And, with a weekend to think about it, I’m starting to wonder why the NL West continues to take such a bad rapp. Sure, there isn’t a dominant team like there is in the NL East or Central, but to me, there just seems to be a ton of parity in the National League outside of the Mets.

Maybe it’s the East Coast bias that’s so evident in media coverage outside of California, but so many people like to rip on this division and say that it’s filled with a bunch of mediocre teams. Why is it, then, that the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies are second, third and fourth, respectively in the Wild Card race? As it stands right now, it would be hard to argue with anyone that the American League has been superior to the National League, but within the NL, there doesn’t seem to be much difference to me.

Take, for instance, this nugget from STATS Inc.

Best Run Differential – 2006 National League

             Run Diff    Record
Mets       +94          66-44
Dodgers  +45          56-55
Rockies   +19          54-56

Entering play today, the NL East had just 270 total wins, compared to 277 for the West and 311 for the Central. Sure, the East teams have to play the Mets more regularly than the other divisions, but we’re not yet in the final six weeks when there’s so much intradivisional play.

At the end of the day, I guess this doesn’t really mean much, but I’m curious to see if everyone else thinks the NL West is as bad as others think it is or if there’s just a lot of evenly matched teams.

Going for an even 10 in a row…

Serious neglect

I didn’t have much to add this weekend, being here in L.A. while Joe Jareck was on the road with the team. Of course, while waiting for the plane to take off, Jaime Jarrin called to lobby for Joe to do the traveling on the next trip, too. It seems they’ve taken this superstition to the utmost levels, which is not surprising.

Sorry I didn’t post any lineups, but it seems the chatter was still pretty strong among you all. The weekends seem quieter anyway on Inside the Dodgers. I’m guessing most of you like to check in on this while you’re at work. Just don’t tell your bosses I condone that sort of behavior.

To answer one of the questions about Ryan Ketchner and Derek Thompson, both are recovering from left-elbow surgeries, but Ryan’s is doing much better. He’s back and pitching again with Vero Beach and earned a win the other day, I believe. Derek has not been throwing yet, though, and is still quite a ways away from what I understand. Hopefully there will be more to update down the road and I promise to post more regularly now that the team is back in town.

Let’s just hope that I don’t jinx the winning streak by doing something differently.

By the way, I wonder if Wilson Betemit thought it would be this easy in the NL West. Since he showed up, we’re 9-0.

Lineup

Here’s today’s lineup:

Furcal, SS

Lofton, CF

Lugo, 2B

Drew, RF (.383 lifetime at Dolphin Stadium, fifth-highest among active players)

Ethier, LF (time for people in Florida to see the guy that will beat their guys out for Rookie of the Year)

Betemit, 3B

Martin, C (hitting .364 in close & late situations)

Loney, 1B

Lowe, P (August is his month – 19-8, 3.25 career marks)

For those who don’t know Dave Smith, he started Retrosheet and found these interesting nuggets:

Last night was the team’s 84th different lineup and the most frequent one has only been used four times. We’ve only had the same one on back-to-back nights five times. Amazing.

Also, from SABR’s Rod Nelson and Ted Turocy, last night’s Saenz to Betemit to Maddux 3-5-1 double play is only the sixth since 1957, according to Retrosheet, to include the third baseman as the pivot man. So just think, if you were bummed that you didn’t get to see a no-hitter last night, you actually got to see something a lot more rare!

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