Posted by Jeffrey Hensiek
Dear baseball fans,
By now you have probably heard of the Dodgers' rookie phenom Yasiel Puig. You may have seen highlights of his diving catches, laser throws and monster homeruns. You may have heard Vin Scully discussing the "Wild Horse" circling the bases. Surely you have heard his name as the center of much debate since he burst onto the scene.
But despite all of his talents, the baseball community seems to be focused only on one thing: How much fun the guy is having.
Following a slump-busting swing against the Cardinals in Game 3 of the NLCS, Puig performed a bat flip celebration that even the German judge would give a 10. It was masterful. The technique was truly brilliant — a work of art.
If you won't take my word for it, check it out here: The Bat flip. (That trajectory, that majestic arch.)
The problem was that despite his celebratory antics, the ball didn't leave the park. It wasn't until the Cuban defector reached first base (hand still raised to the heavens) that he realized his missile had struck the top of the wall.
L.A.'s main man then kicked it into gear — racing all the way to third for a "get up, stand up" kind of triple.
Once the (suddenly hurried) running was through, the celebration set off like a San Diego fireworks show. Hands and elbows and applause and smiles and howls filled Dodger stadium (the fans in the stands were pretty excited too).
Pretty fun, right?
Not everyone thought so following the game. Enter Carlos Beltran:
"As a player, I just think he doesn't know [how to act]. That's what I think. He really doesn't know. He must think that he's still playing somewhere else.
"He has a lot of passion, no doubt about that — great ability, great talent. I think with time he'll learn that you've got to act with a little bit more calm."
Innocent enough, but it is a feeling that has been echoing through the old-school world of baseball for months now from players and fans alike. People who want to keep the best of America's pastime in a past time.
The fact is, baseball needs more Yasiel Puigs on its fields. Following the steroids PR disaster — which simultaneously hindered the game's number one sell: the homerun — baseball needs to do everything it can to liven things up.
Be thrilled, get fired up, do a few Mickey Mouse celebrations, flip a few bats.
Because it is fun to watch. Because I don't need to spend 3 or 4 hours watching people modestly and calmly throw a ball around a park.
Puig who turns 23 in December is likely younger than almost everyone reading this post. Tell me, what were you doing at 23? Wouldn't you be excited to the moon and back that you got to move to Los Angeles, get paid $10s of millions, wear a Dodgers uniform and hit a baseball in October?
Who are we, as fans, to act so high-and-mighty? He is playing a game where you throw a ball and swing a stick and for some reason he is expected take everything so seriously.
So next time you feel like tightening your crown — remember that this kid's life went from 0-60 and he is thouroughly enjoying the game he loves.
I, for one, hope to see many more signature moments to come.
11.20.13 at 9:47 pm | Los Angeles Lakers know the scene far too well.. . .
10.15.13 at 2:26 pm | Dear baseball fans, By now you have probably. . .
10.14.13 at 12:34 pm | The St. Louis Cardinals threw the painful first. . .
10.8.13 at 11:39 am | Not many saw him coming, but all eyes are on him. . .
10.7.13 at 12:34 pm | The first three games of the Los Angeles Dodgers. . .
10.3.13 at 12:22 pm |
11.20.13 at 9:47 pm | Los Angeles Lakers know the scene far too well.. . . (5)
10.14.13 at 12:34 pm | The St. Louis Cardinals threw the painful first. . . (3)
10.15.13 at 2:26 pm | Dear baseball fans, By now you have probably. . . (3)
October 14, 2013 | 12:34 pm
Posted by Jeffrey Hensiek
The St. Louis Cardinals delivered the painful first punch in their postseason fight against the Dodgers — winning games against the dynamic duo Kershaw/Greinke.
The Dodgers now need to recover, re-think and re-light the fire in their corner before stepping back into the ring tonight.
Coming back from an 0-2 deficit isn’t impossible — in fact, it has happened four times in Dodgertown: 1981 Division Series, 1955 World Series, 1965 World Series and 1981 World Series.
Deep breaths Dodger fans, here are four keys to a comeback:
No-decision or better
Hyun-Jin Ryu doesn’t have to beat veteran postseason god among men Adam Wainright — just match him.
This is easier said than done, of course, when you are going up against a guy who went 9 innings of 1-run ball in his previous start.
How good is Wainright in the playoffs? Here are his stats since 2006:
Ryu, on the flip side, has pitched just 3 postseason innings. Those came facing the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. The South Korean lefty gave up 6 hits and 4 earned runs in an uncharacteristically poor start.
Perhaps it was rust, it could have been a result of the wear-and-tear of pitching 192 regular season innings — but most of all it was his nerves that got the best of him.
“Yeah, I was a bit nervous [in Game 1], although I believe being completely nerve-free is also a bad thing as a competitor.” Ryu said, “I think it’s finding a good balance between how anxious and how nervous I need to be tomorrow.”
Dodger fans better hope Ryu can find his center in an absolute must-win.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” — Lucius Annaeus Seneca
The guy must have watched some good October baseball in this time.
Luck — gimpy Gibson, bent-over Buckner, barging-in Bartman. Baseball has made a living on its flare for the dramatic. It is a game where so many things have to work perfectly on every play that there is always a chance of something going awry.
The baseball gods blessed the Dodgers with such a moment while facing the Cardinals in 2009. Down 1 in the 9th inning with 2 outs and nobody on base, James Loney hit a fly ball to right field that Matt Holliday dropped. L.A. went on to win that game (and eventually the series) scoring 2 runs in the inning.
One unpredictable moment can swing a game, a series.
It is a game of inches in a series where L.A. looks to inch closer to a chance at the World Series.
Dee Gordon on the bases
He is on the roster to play the role of Dave Roberts in 2004. Steal a base; get his team into scoring position; race home.
So far in the postseason, Gordon has been called on twice. During the Atlanta series, Gordon had one stolen base attempt and was called out on a controversial call. (Replay anyone?)
Ever-fair all-around good guy Adrian Gonzalez gave the umpire the benefit of the doubt, "One replay you could say he's safe, one replay you could say he was out," Gonzalez said. "The question is where does [Simmons] have control of the ball? If control is when the ball touches the web of the glove, he was out. If control is when he squeezes, he was safe."
In Game 1 of the NLCS, Gonzalez was lifted in the 8th inning of a tie game for the speedster. Dee never attempted a stolen base and was called out on a force play grounder at second base.
Base running’s importance is often overlooked — but with the pitching quality found in this series, it will play a vital roll going forward.
The Dodgers will need Gordon to mix his raw speed with smarter base-running if they want to get back into the series.
Signature Moment: Yaisel Puig.
Let’s face it. Yasiel Puig has been downright terrible during the NLCS.
Entering Game 3, the “Wild Horse” is 0/10 with 6 strikeouts and no RBIs. Ouch.
Puig hit rock-bottom in the sixth inning — striking with the bases loaded and 1 out on a 3-2 fastball that nearly scraped the dirt. A walk in that situation would have led to a 1-1 tie in a game where it was harder to score than arrive on time to a Dodgers home game.
All-in-all, he has left 11 men on base in the first two games of a series where there have both teams have combined for a total of 6 runs
He has clearly been pressing — which so far in his young career has proven to create problems at the plate and in the field.
Despite his early-series troubles, I still firmly believe Puig will leave a positive imprint on this series.
Some home-cookin’, “Mr. Criminal” playing as he walks up to bat and support from anxious but hopeful Dodger fans will be just what the doctor ordered for a guy who feasts on positive energy.
October 8, 2013 | 11:39 am
Posted by Jeffrey Hensiek
Not many saw him coming, all eyes are on him now.
With the Dodgers trailing 3-2 in the pivotal Game 4 of the NLDS, “Wild Horse” Yasiel Puig chugged out a two-bagger on a hit to right field that most people on earth would have been thrilled to be standing on first.
Juan “Papi” Uribe came to the plate with one job: move Puig to third with a sacrifice bunt.
The once electric crowd at Dodger Stadium was left to stand and stare as their supposed martyr was backed into a corner.
After a brief conversation with third-base coach Tim Wallach, Uribe stepped back to the plate down 0-2 against a pitcher who was throwing fire.
The veteran was able to check his swing on back-to-back tough pitches — something he had done all series, hitting 4 for 9 in 2-strike counts.
Uribe crushed a hanging breaking ball into the ocean of Dodger Blue causing a frenzy not seen since Mr. Kirk Gibson limped to victory in 1988.
Vin Scully, as always, said it best: “Isn’t it amazing what somebody will do when he can’t bunt.”
Here's the moment on TBS:
Maybe its time to let him off the hook for the hidden-ball-trick blunder earlier this season... maybe.
This wasn’t Uribe’s first clutch postseason homerun — though that one was painful to watch as a Dodgers fan — and it won’t be his last. The guy just has a knack for the spectacular when his team needs it most.
Papi's failure to play small ball sends the Los Angeles Dodgers to their first NLCS since 2009.
Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw pitches against the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium on Oct. 8. Photo by Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
All of the talk leading up to (and during) Game 4 of the NLDS was “how will Clayton Kershaw fair on three-days rest.”
I pointed out that Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly would likely lose his job if they couldn’t pull out a win in their last home game of the series.
Well — lucky for you, Donny Baseball, you have the modern-day Sandy Koufax on your ball club.
Kershaw was absolutely brilliant.
The young lefty gave up just 2 unearned runs (Adrian Gonzalez owes him an apology or two) on 3 hits through 6 innings — striking out 6.
How did Kersh do in the NLDS? 1-0, 0.69 ERA, 18 Ks, 6 hits, 0.77 WHIP, 13 IP.
For those of you who don’t know baseball speak: D-O-M-I-N-A-N-T.
Other pitchers of note:
J.P. Howell had another perfect outing after Ronald Bellasario gave up up the leading run to Atlanta.
Former Giant Brian Wilson continued his ridiculous run with the the boys in blue posting another goose-egg in the eighth. He now has a 0.61 ERA since joining the club.
Kenley Jansen, still somehow flying under the MLB radar, came in to strike out the side and save the game in the ninth.
Stat of the day:
Jansen appeared in 3 games of the NLDS. He struck out 7 in 2.1 innings (or all 7 of his outs) while giving up just 1 hit. The catcher-turned-closer now has 118 strikeouts and only 18 walks (6.5 K/BB ratio).
October 7, 2013 | 12:34 pm
Posted by Jeffrey Hensiek
The first three games of the Los Angeles Dodgers playoff run against the Atlanta Braves have an L.A. squad that went from buried to resurrected — a $239 million payroll disaster to a gleaming investment — on the brink of the National League Championship Series.
The Dodgers, one win away from their first visit to the NLCS since 2009, will send left-handed ace Clayton Kershaw to the mound tonight looking to finish off the series.
Kershaw, though he struggled in the early innings, dominated Atlanta in game one — making a volume strikeout team do what they do best.
The veteran* lefty gave up just 1 run on 3 hits while striking out 12 over 7 innings (123 pitches).
Despite his outstanding effort in game one, his quick turnaround makes me uncomfortable.
I actually thought the series was set up perfectly:
Let midseason acquisition Ricky Nolasco (8-3, 3.52 ERA with the Dodgers) throw against an aging Freddy García (4-7, 4.37 ERA this season) who hasn't been relevant since the White Sox won the World Series in 2005 and hasn't been dominant since his second year in the league (2001).
If Nolasco and the Dodgers pull out a win then you have your two-headed monster of Kershaw-Greinke in line for the first two games of the NLCS. Nolasco loses? Your fallback plan is Kershaw on normal rest — pitching where he won easily less than a week ago.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has been on the hot seat all season despite the team's historic run from July through August. Most recently, he was questioned for a number of decisions he made during game 2 in Atlanta. Mattingly chose to walk Reed Johnson (who hit just .244 with 1 HR and 11 RBIs this season) in order to face the far more dangerous Jason Heyward (who has been on fire hitting leadoff).
The thinking, of course, is that a lefty-lefty matchup of Paco Rodriguez and Heyward with the bases loaded gives you a chance for a double-play to get out of it — the result was a 2 RBI game-winning base hit.
Despite my hesitation, I do believe Kershaw will win tonight — regardless of the Braves decision stick with García or throw Game 1 starter Kris Medlen into the fire. A win would set up Greinke in Game 1 of the NLCS with either the Pittsburgh Pirates or St. Louis Cardinals.
There is something special about this team and the buzz in Dodgers Stadium tonight will be reminiscent of the elation in 1988 when Kirk Gibson hit a homerun you may have heard of.
How far do you think the Dodgers will go this postseason? Let me know in the comments below.
*Although Clayton Kershaw is in his sixth season in the Big Leagues — I hesitate to call a 25-year-old a "veteran."