2016 INTRODUCTION AND PHILBERT’S ANNUAL SPRING PREDICTIONS
This is a blog that looks at Baseball, and in particular the storied Dodgers vs. Giants rivalry, as seen from the perspective of a Blue-Bleeding-Fanatical-True-Son-Of-Lasorda Dodger fan who happens to find himself, due to unforeseen circumstances, living directly across the street from AT&T Park, the Giants offices and the continuous chirping of San Francisco fans. It’s a strange, yet not altogether unpleasant, kind of hell in which I exist. This weirdly cool conflict forms the basis for the contents of this blog. It isn’t much, but it’s what I have and it helps me cope.
New Philosophy: Readers of any of my blog posts or Friends On Facebook already understand that I’m kind of … well … opinionated. OK, OK, I’m a jerk. But, in my defense, I only appear to be a jerk because that’s what people who happen to be right all the time look like to the outside world. We can’t help it if all of you people who are always so wrong get all butt-hurt when somebody points it out to you. Call a waaaaaahmbulance.
But this season, I’d like to throw a change-up.
I sense it may be time for me to start being more sensitive to other people’s point of view. Perhaps my acerbic tone could be construed as arrogant, meaningless Baseball Xenophobia – to which I would have to plead “guilty.” But, it’s Springtime! The Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues are gearing up and hope springs eternal for baseball fans everywhere! What better time to change and grow as a human being! I am a chrysalis ready to burst forth and add a little color, life and love to the universe!
Let me outline my new “PIMP” (Philbert’s Improved MLB Philosophy):
- The Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants are only baseball teams. Fans of the aforementioned Giants should not be considered an “inferior race.” That is BFAIW (Baseball Fascism At It’s Worse). Both Dodgers and Giants supporters are only people. They just happen to be partial to one team or another. It just so happens these two teams have a well-known rivalry. This fact adds to both the fun and the passion exhibited by fans of the two teams. It also just happens to be true that these ball clubs represent two very fine California cities that I love. I have lived in both places and enjoyed them both immensely (beats the hell out of North Dakota, right guys?) Since I don’t buy into the concept of “Free Will” (at least not in its generally accepted form) an individual’s team of preference is primarily the result of a combination of geography, genetics and whimsy. It’s these rather random factors that determine a person’s BA (Batting Average or Baseball Affiliation in this particular case). Most are simply “born into it.” Certainly, by understanding this, there should be an inherent tolerance of each other, at least by rational people. (It could, of course, be argued baseball fans are not, by nature, rational creatures. But, for our purposes here, let’s take the high road).
- Baseball players are highly paid, pampered and privileged members of society. Every baseball team has baseball players. Fans “root for the laundry” – meaning their affection for one player or another is determined by the uniform they happen to be wearing at any given instance in the space/time continuum. I have personally witnessed a current player, Juan Uribe, loudly cheered and loudly booed by the same fans in the same ballpark based solely on the uniform he was sporting at the time. I’m OK with that. But, it should be understood that in the future, on this blog, I will attempt to rise above such “personal” prejudices and avoid commenting on “personalities” unless it impacts the game on the field. Today’s villain could be tomorrow’s hero. Besides, I’m tired of pointing out what an arrogant redneck Madison Bumgarner is and I’m just as weary of the accusations of immaturity and “hot dogging” aimed at Yasiel Puig. They both will play baseball for whatever team that will pay them … it’s their job. They’re mercenaries.
- Note to Jints Fans: I love to argue, cajole, lament and generally pontificate on the games with fellow fans. I’m sorry this has to be said, but I really don’t think Giants fans are scumbags or that their team is a morally bankrupt organization. I mean, you’re not the New England Patriots. Both the Giants and Dodgers are iconic franchises and their histories are entwined with baseball’s itself. We’re lucky to have each other. That being said, you will be shown no mercy on this blog. You simply belong to the wrong tribe. It’s just how things are … but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you. Keep that in mind.
2016 NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST PREDICTED STANDINGS
1a. LOS ANGELES DODGERS
1b. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
1c. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
4. SAN DIEGO PADRES
5. COLORADO ROCKIES
OK, I’m going to be honest here. If you’re at all objective about it (not a requirement, however) you would probably have to agree that there are three teams that, on paper, should compete for the division title. I don’t mean to sound wishy-washy, but would any of us be shocked to see any of those three teams in the playoffs? I wouldn’t. I’ll tell you why I like the …
DODGERS: I’m biased. But, I don’t think I’m out of line by picking them to finish first … or third. The national media has them ending up either 1, 2, or 3. It seems the “analytics” believers put them in first while the more “gut feeling” types seem inclined to pick them finishing third. Like EVERY team there are quite a few “ifs” that have to be resolved if My Beloved Bums are going to be successful. “If” Yasiel Puig returns to the form we saw in 2013 that would be huge for this team. There is no question his talent “potential” is off the charts but there is certainly no guarantee he will ever show that spark again. “If” Joc Pederson can recover from his post Home Run Derby slump he brings both power and speed to the offense and is a first-rate defender in the key Center Field position. Can he fill the holes in his swing? If so, he shows a keen knowledge of the strike zone and his OBP will go through the roof. If not, well, Oklahoma City is nice. “If” Corey Seager lives up to the hype, we’re talking Superstar. If he doesn’t, he should at least be serviceable. Either way, he’s the shortstop. “If” the bullpen can get it together, and they did the second half of last season, there’s no reason to think this team can’t win 90+ games. Now should all of those things, or even ONE, break the Dodgers way they will be a team to be reckoned with.
Why the Dodgers are good:
- Clayton Kershaw is The Best Pitcher On The Planet. It’s not even debatable.
- The team is “deep.” Yes, they lost Zack Greinke but they added serious numbers to the pitching ranks. If Ryu, McCarthy or Anderson aren’t as healthy as they say they are, the Dodgers still have free agents Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda, not to mention Alex Wood, Brandon Beachy (probably starting all year for OKC unless there’s a real emergency), newly signed Cuban pitcher, Yasiel Sierra, Mike Bolsinger, Julio Urias (#1 left-handed pitching prospect in baseball), Jose DeLeon and Carlos Frias all ready to step in. Bullpen? Aside from Kenley Jansen, who is as good a closer as there is, Chris Hatcher appeared to grow into the set-up role nicely in August and September. The Bums also re-acquired Joe Blanton who quietly had an EXCELLENT second-half for Benda’s Pirates last year. Add Yimi Garcia, Luis Avilan, Pedro Baez and J.P. Howell to the mix and I’d say that’s pretty good depth.
- You won’t get any argument from Dodger fans that we’ve been out-classed in the managerial department by the Giants’ Bruce Bochy the past few years. Well, you might get an argument, but it wouldn’t be a very good one. Things have changed, Don Mattingly is in Miami installing a new “no-facial-hair” policy (that should be good for a few extra wins, right?) and screwing up the Marlins’ lineup card. Thank you, Donnie Baseball. But, there’s a new sheriff in L.A. Granted, he’s a first time manager but it’s hard not to like Dave Roberts. He’s a former Dodger and he played two seasons under Bochy with the Giants. He has the most famous stolen base in history (2004 Red Sox). He has received praise from not only Bochy, Bud Black and even his rival for the job, Gabe Kapler, but his old coach at UCLA and the Seahawks Pete Carroll have endorsed him. There’s an all new coaching staff to assist Roberts, including former A’s manager, Bob Geren (who was also on the short list for the job). Gone is Mark McGwire who presided over some pretty bad offensive slumps last year. I guess he didn’t have the right prescription for today’s hitters. Of course, we don’t know how thing will go under the new regime but I feel safe in saying it certainly won’t be worse.
- The front office. Between Stan Kasten, Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi, Josh Byrnes, Alex Anthropoulis, Gabe Kapler, Gerry Hunsicker, Pat Corrales, Ned Coletti and Aaron Sele there’s a wealth of experience and high-caliber baseball acumen running the circus.
Why the Dodgers won’t win:
- If the so-called pitching “depth” is just a name for a lot of mediocre pitchers. After Kershaw, who knows? The injury bug also hovers over this staff. Several guys have less than stellar health histories.
- The offense. Last year the Dodgers’ OBP was among the league’s highest yet they were near the bottom in runs scored. They were a very poor base running team for most of the year. New hitting coach, Turner Ward, new 3B Coach, Chris Woodward and new 1B Coach, George Lombard figure to help correct the deficiencies that were so costly last year. If a lead-off hitter emerges and the bats of Yasmani Grandal, Carl Crawford, Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig return from the Twilight Zone, this team figures to score some runs … and without Greinke, they may have to.
- The outfield glut. What’s going to happen with Crawford and Ethier? If Joc doesn’t hit, who plays center? To complicate matters, Roberts is going to want to get Kiké Hernandez into the lineup (he can play the infield too) and there’s youngsters like Trayce Thompson (Klay’s brother and Mychael’s son) chomping at the bit. Scott Van Slyke will come off the bench in the OF and 1B, but who does Roberts play every day? It could get messy.
Probable Opening Day Lineup:
Joc Pederson CF
Howie Kendrick 2B
Corey Seager SS
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
André Ethier LF
Yasiel Puig RF
Justin Turner 3B
Yasmani Grandal C
SP#1 Clayton Kershaw, SP#2 Hyun Jin-Ryu, SP#3 Scott Kazmir, SP#4 Kenta Maeda, SP#5 Brett Anderson
Set-Up: Chris Hatcher
Closer: Kenley Jansen
NEXT UP: SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS … stay tuned