Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Final Reflection

REFLECTIONS OF BLUE

A little over one year ago my friends and I started Reflections of Blue with no particular mission statement in mind other than our common admiration (ok, outright obsession) for the Los Angeles Dodgers. From that admiration grew an online destination where both euphoria and excruciating agony mirrored the daily journey that was, if nothing else, an emotional season of Dodger baseball. However, after an almost incredible year, it is time to hang up the cleats. There were never any goals laid out, so while I can't say we succeeded or failed in achieving any aspirations I can say we sure had a helluva good time.

When the site was started a year ago I never could have imagined the countless hours of research and effort needed in attempts to keep the site relevant. Even after posting I often found similar topics covered more thoroughly, and with greater resound, at other Dodger destinations throughout the web. It wasn’t demoralizing per say, but the internal pressure to elevate the content was felt on a consistent basis. That in itself is not the primary reason I have chosen to retire the site, but it's something that has frequented my thoughts over the past two months. I do feel however, that things did click at various points along the way as I found my little “Dodger diary” getting linked more frequently as the season wore on. The guys at True Blue LA and Sons of Steve Garvey were instrumental in making that happen, and for that I politely bow and pass along a humble thank you.

The original idea for Reflections of Blue was imagined after learning about a scrapbook of the 1962 Dodgers that my father kept while growing up in nearby Ventura. (For those unaware the 1962 squad tallied 101 wins in the inaugural season at Dodger Stadium; however, a 3-10 finish forced a three game playoff with the Giants for the National League pennant. If you’ve learned anything from being a Dodger fan over the years I don’t have to tell you how that series played out.) If nothing else, Reflections of Blue carried a sense of personal recollection, and my father’s mementos were the chief inspiration behind that theme. The newspaper clippings, pastel portrait giveaways, and ticket stubs included in that childhood collage were incredible links to the past, and I hope that one day the posts and images that appeared here will allow me to fondly recall the events that transpired as I was captivated by the boys in Blue on a nightly basis.

I can honestly say I've never followed an individual season closer, and never cheered louder for any team, in any sport, as I did for the 2009 Los Angeles Dodgers. However, much like my father’s scrapbook chronicles, the season has come and gone, and now feels like the appropriate time to step back and watch the 2010 season develop from afar. I bid adieu with the uncertainty of the future looming largely in the forefront, but also with the eternal hope of the distant Brooklyn Dodger faithful cry, “wait till next year" echoing constantly in the background.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fitting

It sure seems gloomy around Dodgertown right now. So what better time to pass on a link to a recent article over at Big League Stew detailing "The 10 Worst Baseball Contracts of the 2000s," where the Dodgers have three players in the top five.

Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt were truly awful, but author Jeff Passan really turns the screws on Darren Dreifort and Kevin Malone...

Dreifort is a combination of every malady above. An unnecessarily long and expensive contract. Horrid underachievement. Awful performance. He outschmidts Schmidt in cost per win ($6.1 million), outhamptons Hampton in injuries (two missed years, two partial years and a relief season) and outdoes everybody in baseball over the last decade.

It wasn't merely his five-tool ineptitude that sealed the title. No, the Dodgers — easily the most generous gifter of garbage contracts — somehow thought it was a good idea to give an $11 million-a-year deal to a 29-year-old who had a surgically repaired elbow and was coming off a season in which he allowed 31 home runs and walked 87 hitters. It was Dreifort's best season as a starter, by the way, and his ERA was 4.16. In Dodger Stadium. To know that of the three things a pitcher truly, indubitably controls — home runs, walks and strikeouts — Dreifort was terrible in two categories should have told the Dodgers: run. Run! RUN!!!

They didn't. They saw the Rockies' offer of six years and $60 million (!) and upped the per-annum value. At the time, this wasn't seen as a huge blunder, either. Dodgers GM Kevin Malone told Sports Illustrated: "You could say that Darren's contract shows that pitching in baseball is at the point where you don't need to show consistent performance to get a big, long-term payout. That's not healthy. But you could also say the contract shows we're an organization willing to take a chance to give our fans a winner. That's healthy. If Darren does what we believe he can do — give us 220 innings, start 32 or 33 games, win half of them — we're looking at a bargain."

Dreifort did throw 200-plus innings — over the life of the contract. Exactly 205 2/3. And he almost started 30-something games. Hey, 26 is close. And ... well, that's why Malone, at last check, was selling cars.

Dreifort retired after his contract expired and, even out of baseball, can't shake the injuries. His body betrayed him, making Dreifort's 95-mph fastball and power sinker and slider afterthoughts. His career is defined not by what he did but what he didn't — and by a simple legal document with the number $55,000,000 and his signature at the bottom.

The highlight of Dreifort's career, at least from my perspective, was on August 8th, 2000 when Dreifort hit two home runs in route to his twelve victory of the season. My Dad and I were in attendance for that game. Who knew we'd be seeing the pinnacle moment of the "worst contract of the 2000s."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Somewhere Logan White Just Ordered Another Drink

By now you've read elsewhere that the Dodgers have opted against offering salary arbitration to Orlando Hudson and Randy Wolf. While the Orlando Hudson option carried its own pros and cons the decision to pass on Randy Wolf sorta feels like paying a super high house insurance premium, waking up to find your house has been vandalized, and then opting not to recoup something from the situation from the insurance company. In this case it's the Dodgers that have been burglarized a valuable starting pitcher, and opted to pass on the insurance draft picks out of fear that the premium might go up once the claim gets filed.

It was simple really, and that's what makes this so confusing. The Dodgers found themselves at a crossroads, and were faced with three paths:

1. Offer arbitration, Randy Wolf accepts, Dodgers get a solid pitcher for one season.

2. Offer arbitration, Randy Wolf declines, Dodgers get two draft picks as compensation.

3. Do nothing, watch Randy Wolf walk away, end up with nothing but memories.

Well, thanks for the memories.

In what basically amounts to a "business decision" the Dodgers have somehow managed to handicap themselves for the present and the future. In what universe is that good business? But hey, look on the bright side. At least we'll get to see Charlie Haeger start more than three games next season.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Matt Kemp Is Funny Too

Three recent postings on Matt Kemp's Twitter page...


It's official Andre Ethier and myself jus won the silver slugger....wow!!! God has blessed me this year!!! This is another great day.

And I jus found out my boy Torii Hunter won the silver slugger 2. Two LA centerfielders holding it down 4 LA


My fault, my boy Torii plays for Anaheim...lol

Hilarious. Let's lock this guy up for years to come.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Manny A Thoughts

A little late to the party on this one, but that's neither here nor there. As you've all heard by now Manny Ramirez will be returning to the Dodgers in 2010. Admittedly the hoopla surrounding his return was substantially less than his initial arrival in 2008, and subsequent signing in 2009. Another season of Manny was such a foregone conclusion that it didn't even warrant a post when news broke a week ago. That is until this email exchange my Dad and I had today.

DAD: I am anxiously awaiting your R.O.B post concerning Manny.

ME: What about him? He's on the team for another year. Can't really say its a surprise. Do you know you something I don't?

DAD: No. I just thought you might comment on his taking of all that money after his less than stellar performance, and after his suspension. He was a bust in the playoffs (edit: minus hitting home runs that isn't entirely correct), and he could learn something about playing from the young guys. He better not turn into a cancer in the clubhouse like he did in Boston. He better quit playing all of the balls to left field like they are coming off the green monster, and when spring training time comes he had better be ready to contribute. A lot of us want to see the Dodgers really finish the season right and he needs to be a part of it for it to happen.

Can't really raise an objection to the fielding or spring training remarks. Good to see someone thinking about spring before winter has even set in.

Matt Kemp Is Golden


From the Press Release...
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Rawlings today announced that center fielder Matt Kemp and second baseman Orlando Hudson were awarded the National League Rawlings Gold Glove for their respective positions. Kemp becomes a Rawlings Gold Glove winner for the first time in his career.

Kemp led all Major League center fielders and ranked third among all big league outfielders with 14 outfield assists. His .995 fielding percentage was third among NL center fielders, behind Gold Glove winner Shane Victorino and Nate McLouth. The Oklahoma native made just two errors on the season.


While Hudson might not have been the most qualified winner, there is no debating the merits of Matt Kemp. He could have filled his own highlight reel roaming the outfield. My personal favorite was his "Willie Mays" over-the-shoulder catch made on July 10th. Not only did he make the game saving grab, he also hit the game winning grand slam in the top of the 10th inning. It was one of those games that made you sit back and say, "DAMN!" Of course, in typical media fashion, the writer spent half the recap column gushing over Manny.

Anyway, a big congratulations to Matt Kemp on an award truly deserved. Here's to many more.

Photo Courtesy of Orel @ SOSG

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dodgers Decline Garland's Option

Courtesy of Ken Gurnick...
The Dodgers declined the $10 million 2010 mutual option for right-handed pitcher Jon Garland, who can become a free agent.

Garland is entitled to receive a $2.5 million buyout, which will be paid by the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of the terms of the trade that sent Garland to the Dodgers for infielder Tony Abreu on Aug. 31.

I'm not one to stress over losing prospects, but giving up Tony Abreu for 36 1/3 innings of Jon Garland is something I'd rather not think about.

That's not an attempt to take away from anything Garland did as a Dodger (153 ERA+), or the prospect of having a reliable, albeit expensive, innings eater for 2010, but Garland's acquisition in late August was anything but necessary. With Charlie Haeger (125 ERA+, 1.053 WHIP), James McDonald (2.89 ERA in August/ September/ October) and even Jeff Weaver (114 ERA+), the Dodgers had more than enough candidates to fill those 36 1/3 innings, and didn't need to sacrifice their probable second basemen for the immediate future. So much for best laid plans, right?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Year In Reflection, Part II

From Orlando Hudson's home opening cycle to the multiple walk-off hits at the bat of Andre Ethier, there's no denying the 2009 Dodgers had a flair for the dramatic. Mark Loretta's hit in Game 2 of NLDS was the biggest walk-off of the year, but that's not to discount anything that Andre Ethier, who was named the "2009 MLB Clutch Performer of the Year," accomplished throughout the season. Of Ethier's six walk-off hits (four via home run) I was fortune enough to be in attendance for this one...

August 6th, 2009

Often times, before a game, my friends and I sit in the parking lot and drink a few beers before entering the stadium gates. We're not of the party going variety by any stretch, but the prospect of paying Frank McCourt $12 for a single beer is not something we consider fair market value. While tailgating at Dodger Stadium is technically illegal, you feel invisible to the law when you park between two large vans and drink behind tinted windows. That is until LAPD bicycle cops ride in between cars and begin to knock on windows. Talk about a buzz kill before the buzz.

My friend and I were pleasantly surprised when the officers politely explained the safety risks involved with tailgating, and instructed us enter the stadium without so much as a warning. A rough way to begin the night, but the damage could have been much worse. Sorta like watching Jeff Weaver start a game.

Facing their old friend Derek Lowe, the Dodgers quickly dug themselves into an early 2-0 hole, and would fail to lead at any point through the first 8.2 innings. It's not as if the chances didn't present themselves though. The Dodgers sent the go ahead runs to plate in both the seventh and eighth innings; however, strikeouts by Manny Ramirez (with two on in the seventh) and Matt Kemp (with two on in the eighth) to conclude each inning were unbelievably deflating. The crowd quickly thinned out, unaware of what would unfold to the faithful that remained.

Pierre and Furcal singled to start the bottom of the ninth, and would be hero Andre Ethier stepped to the plate. Three pitches later the ball game was over. If walk-off singles are sweet, then three run walk-off long balls are double chocolate fudge cheescake. Here's what I wrote about the game upon getting home that night:
A frustrating strikeout by Matt Kemp in the 8th inning saw the stands at Dodger Stadium empty like a dam letting loose years of stored up water. Doubt was in the air. However, those moments of agony and wondering at what might have been were soon replaced with memories of wonder and amazement at what actually was.

Tonight's walk-off home run by Andre Ethier not only won the game, but brought back the swagger to a team going through a tough part of the season. Three outs away from losing 8 of the past 12, the Dodgers stood strong, and refused to go quietly into the night.
The memories still resonate three months later, and refuse to fade into obscurity. It was yet another pleasant Dodger moment of 2009. However, as I wrote earlier, "the supporting cast present during those moments transcend[s] simply being at the ballpark watching Dodger baseball." Eventually the finer details of this game will fade away, and will be replaced with the remembrance of another Dodger game with my dear friend.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Reminder

Under a full moon, and amongst the creepies and crazies, I fought my way through the festivities at Universal City Walk last night. The high volume of foot traffic demanded my full attention as I weaved and waved through the crowd on the way to my final destination. I hastily turned a corner and, out of the corner of my eye, caught the unmistakable neon blue glow of the Dodger logo hanging above the team store.

I was taken aback for a second, as it was the first time I had thought about the Dodgers in almost a week. That may seem like no big deal to some, but after thinking about them non-stop for the better part of the year it was a little saddening. The Dodgers may be done playing for the year; however, they're anything but distant in my mind. Last night was a surprising reminder of that.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Year In Reflection, Part I

Perhaps the greatest the joy to be taken away from the recently concluded season were the experiences shared with family and friends. Looking back, a few moments stood out above the rest, and the supporting cast present during those moments transcended simply being at the ballpark watching Dodger baseball. Time has erased the disappointment of an NLCS defeat, and has brought to the surface recollections of happiness that was the 2009 season. Please forgive the self indulgence.

NLDS, Game 1

My Dad, who taught me to bleed blue from a young age, somehow hadn't been to a Dodger playoff game since Game 4 of the 1963 World Series. Shameful I know. So when the Dodgers found themselves in the playoffs for the second straight year there was simply no way I was going to let him miss another series on my watch. Plus he always pays for the tickets.

Despite having the best record in the National League during the regular season the Dodgers were written off by the majority of the mainstream media, and were even predicted to get swept by the hometown newspaper, before the series even began. And for the first few moments of Game 1 it appeared the pundits would be correct.

The Cardinals loaded the bases to start the game in about three nanoseconds, and panic soon set in. The silence throughout the stadium was deafening, as if that was even possible. I slumped in my seat, crossed my arms and grumbled silently, "I made my Dad drive hundreds of miles for this?" A bloop single by Ryan Ludwick further compounded the frustration as the Cardinals jumped out to an early 1-0 lead. Dodger pitcher Randy Wolf was laboring, and the boys in blue were playing like the team we've grown all too familiar with over the past decade. The stadium breathed a sigh of relief however as the next batter, Yadier Molia, grounded into an inning ending double play. Escaping that inning trailing only 1-0 felt like a small victory.

Rafael Furcal started off the bottom of the first and stroked the second pitch he saw into left field. And up to the plate stepped Matt Kemp. Seemingly, before his name was finished being announced, Kemp sent the first pitch he saw into the bleachers, and sent the Ravine into an orchestrated ruckus. From our seats in Loge 158 I could tell the ball was gone the second it left the bat. That's not always the case on deep fly balls, but there was never a moment of denial surrounding that particular moment. One pitch changed the momentum, and proved that Los Angeles would not go quietly into the night.

Screaming and shrieking like a little schoolgirl I let out a scream that pierced the night. I have never screamed louder at any sporting event. My Dad, who joined in the celebration, abused his vocal cords to the point that he was noticeably hoarse the next few innings. It was alright however, sometimes spoken words aren't enough to capture what unfolds before the eyes. A great memory in great company. This is my town.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself


For the first Saturday since April there will be no Dodger baseball on television. No reason to avoid social outings, and no excuses for not watching my fiancee's preferred Saturday viewing, "Say Yes To The Dress" on TLC. It's all your fault Jimmy Rollins.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Stance

I'd like to take a moment and speak briefly about the Frank and Jamie circus. The situation they have found themselves in is unfortunate, and may very well prove unfortunate for the Dodger organization as well. However, Reflections of Blue will not be rumor central, and will only comment on any developments that relate to the organization, and direction of the team. If it comes out that Frank McCourt was "scouting prospects" around Los Angeles, well, you won't read about it here.

The only rumors to be found on this site during the off-season will pertain to free agency, contractual thoughts, and organizational movements. There is lots of work to be done within the organization, not to mention the multitude of transactions likely to occur in the coming weeks, that command more coverage and respect than a husband/wife tiff. No disrespect meant to any other sites covering such developments, it's just not my bag.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

There's A War Outside Still Raging/ You Say It Ain't Ours Anymore To Win

And so, at the hands of the Phillies once again, the Dodgers pack it in for the winter. It's never easy to say goodbye to something you love so dearly, but after the sucker punch that was Game 4 you'd be hard pressed to say this loss was something completely out of left field (no pun intended). No, the unexpectedness came from the incredible joy that was the 2009 season, and in the great memories both shared and experienced with friends and fellow fans.

I've been bleeding blue my entire life, but believe me when I say it was REALLY PUMPING this year. There may not be a meaningful pitch until next season; however, the Dodgers won't be far from my mind. How could they be after all we bore witness to this season?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Manny Bashing

Regardless of your personal stance on the matter, is this really necessary?
He’s now a dreadlocked distraction, and the example he sets for Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp and James Loney and Russell Martin – that not watching the game is acceptable under any circumstances – is pitiful.
Would it really have been that hard to watch a few regular season Dodger games before writing such tabloid trash? If anything, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp are the ones setting the examples.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Worst Dodger Moment Of My Life

My fiancee often calls this little site I maintain my "Dodger diary." Sure it's not some pink book with a cheap lock on the front, but I've been known to sit in bed many a night and pour out my emotions to the computer just before slipping away in slumber. Well, dear diary, what the hell just happened?

My Dad, who has been a fan ever since the team moved to Los Angeles, has referred to the Dodgers as "The Bums" for as long as I can remember. It's only now that I understand why.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Miserable Performance All Around


A completely demoralizing night for the boys in blue. Simply stated, zero runs will never get it done, and that's what happened tonight. If it's any consolation understand that ten runs wouldn't have accomplished anything either. Whether Cliff Lee goes eight scoreless innings (which he did) or gets yanked early the Dodgers still would have needed to score twelve runs to pull out a victory. And they didn't.

The Dodgers were ugly on both sides of the ball, and that's putting it mildly. It's hard not feel dejected and worrisome after an 11-0 loss, especially since tonight's defeat could very well mean no more games in Los Angeles until next April. However, as Joe Torre reminds us, it's just one game.
"You never want to get your rear end kicked," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "But you don't toss and turn and wonder if you made the right move. It's still only one game and we're in position to tie the series tomorrow."
Hard to feel that way though after watching such a smackdown.

On a side note, in case anyone is wondering, Hiroki Kuroda's 2009 postseason ERA now resides at a laughable 40.50. Funny, given how awful he was tonight, I thought that number would have been higher.

Photo courtesy of David J. Phillip

Studying Up For Game 3

It's been quiet around here as of late, and with good reason, but rest assured I'm all studied up for today's exam. Below, an excerpt from a wonderful piece courtesy of Dylan Hernandez that you might want to familiarize yourself with. Talk about tough...
[Kuroda] said that when he was in high school, his baseball team held a one-month training camp in the summer. The team practiced from sunup to sundown. The players slept at the school.

Because drinking water was considered a sign of weakness, doing so was not allowed by the coach. Practices were so brutal that players resorted to drinking directly out of a dirty river that ran behind the baseball field.

If that weren't bad enough, Kuroda received an added punishment for pitching poorly. He and another pitcher were told to run nonstop for four days in a row. They were expected to continue running throughout the night.

Kuroda said teammates used to sneak food and water to them and that he and the other pitcher would keep running, but would also be waiting for the light in the coach's office to go off. Then they would run behind a fence, where they would sleep for a few hours, and then be up and running again by the time their coach woke up.

After three days, Kuroda said that the other boy's mother became concerned about their health and showed up one night and took her son and Kuroda back to her house.

The boy's mother called Kuroda's mother to tell them what had happened.

Kuroda said his mother told her: "Please take my son back to the field."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Like Stealing A Kiss From The Homecoming Queen


Things were looking grim with Pedro on the mound. The Dodgers were six outs away from misery. Fate soon intervened however, and made it's way out of the right field gates. Just your typical single, bunt single, fielders choice, throwing error, single, walk, strikeout, walk come from behind rally. Left for dead, but suddenly alive with hope. Exhale with me. It's a whole new series.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pick Me Up Off The Floor


If last week's walk-off hit by Mark Loretta was the highlight of the season then tonight's defeat, at least on a personal level, clocks in as the lowest. The energy and effort exerted by the Dodgers was painfully clear; however, the dueling three run shots by the Phillies put the game out of reach from even the most resilient team. Buckets were working all night long, but the water simply came in too fast too often.

If there are any positives to take away from tonight's loss it was that the Dodgers, despite being down by three or more runs in three different situations, never threw in the the towel. The tying or go ahead run was sent to the plate six times in the final two innings. The effort was there, alas, it just wasn't meant to be.

We could sit and analyze tonight's game to no end, but with Game 2 just around the corner another batch of problems lies on the horizon.

Craig Sager Is Stealing Vin Scully's Suits