Living day to day in such close proximity to the evil, black waters of McCovey Cove, it is sometimes necessary for yours truly to make a soul restoring pilgrimage to Blue Heaven On Earth. It’s important to touch that bright and joyful part of your heart on occasion, if for no other reason than Sanity Maintenance.
So, last week my four sons gathered from various locales like Chicago, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Canoga Park to meet The Old Man on Sacred Ground and to take in the Jackie Robinson Day festivities at 1000 Vin Scully Avenue, Los Angeles, California. Of course, as fate would have it, my Beloved Bums would be facing my loud and obnoxious neighbors in a three game series. We had tickets for Games 1 & 2 … and the Friday game day tour of Dodger Stadium. Check another item off the Bucket List, to quote Tommy Lasorda, This Is What I Live For!
We loved the Stadium Tour and afterward felt compelled to visit Philippe The Original, Home of the French Dip Sandwich. They claim to have invented the French Dip, but whether you buy into that assertion or not, you may have to concede that they perfected the thing. It’s pretty darn good. The place has been serving up sandwiches since 1908 and with its proximity to Chavez Ravine has been a popular Dodger Fan pre/post-game hangout since Dodger Stadium opened in 1962. It is one of those magical places that has a reputation of having healing powers. Visiting Giants Fans have been known to walk into Philippe’s, take one bite of the Beef Dip and walk out with a new and glorious light in their eyes and a heart pumping Dodger Blue … a Baseball Epiphany, if you will. Anything can happen in the shade of Saint Lasorda’s Shrine, even the rescue of a poor, lost black and orange soul.
Game 1, Shootout in the Ravine, Bumgarner vs. Kershaw, Part Two or “Hey, Kersh, I Get A Kiké Out Of You”
Feeling cleansed, we passed through the turnstiles at the ballpark, collected our Jackie Robinson replica jersey and settled into the sea foam green seats on the Reserved Level and watched with pride and humility as Rachel and Sharon Robinson took part in the pre-game honoring of their husband/father. You cannot be a baseball fan or an American and not feel goosebumps while the number 42 is being worn by every player on the field. What better place to be on MLB’s Jackie Robinson Day than Dodger Stadium? The fact the game is against the rival Giants is just icing on the cake. Throw in a pitching matchup of Bumgarner vs. Kershaw and it just becomes silly good.
For Dodger Fans, the game was more fun than a Yasiel Puig rundown! Kershaw did his thing and everybody’s favorite player, Kiké Hernandez, hit MadBum’s first pitch about 450 feet into the left field pavilion. The Banana Rally Boy went on to hit another home run and a two-run double to ice the game, 7-3, for my Bums.
Did the Giants really think they could beat the Dodgers on Jackie Robinson Day at Dodger Stadium? That’s just not gonna happen.
Random Notes: This was the first time all four Fountain Boys and I had attended a game together at Dodger Stadium. For me, it made the Dodger Dogs a little tastier and a win over the Giants a little more satisfying. It was a great day for an old, pot-bellied weirdo with a Dodgers obsession … and I liked it too.
Another thing I noticed was the lack of Giants Fans in the stands. The games I’ve attended at AT&T Park it seems that a good third of the crowd is wearing Dodger Blue. Now, I hope that’s not residue from the horrible Bryan Stow incident. I don’t think it is because the next night there were a few more black and orange caps scattered around the ballpark, but nowhere near the numbers I was expecting. Maybe Giants fans just hate L.A. that much … or maybe they didn’t want to be around the Jackie Robinson celebration. Dodgers fans are pretty proud of being the organization that broke the color barrier and that’s likely hard for Jints fans to take. I get that. But, they missed some nice, warm, pleasant evenings at the ballpark. Too bad.
Dodgers Two-Week Report Card: Well, here we are, two weeks into the season. What do we think of the 2016 Dodgers so far? Here’s my take:
- Today’s standings show the Dodgers tied for first place in the NL West with the Colorado Rockies at 8-5. The Giants are 1.5 games back at 7-7 while the Diamondbacks and Padres are currently under .500. Sure, it’s just two weeks but it’s always better to be in first place, even if you have to share it with the Rox. So far, so good. A-
- So far, the “depth” the Dodgers have amassed seems to be paying off. How many teams could start a season 8-5 with 11 guys on the DL? Everybody has injuries, I know, but how will other teams in the division fare when it happens to them? We’ll see if Friedman’s philosophy gets us to another postseason or leaves us stumbling with a bunch of “half-decent” players. So far, so good. A
- Kenta Maeda is doing what Zack Greinke did for us last year. In his first three starts he’s given up one run, a missed location pitch to Joe Panik that was unceremoniously swatted into the bleachers. So, one run … a homer … and that’s it. D-Bags are wishing they were getting that kind of production from their quarter billion dollar investment. So far, so good. A
- Scott Kazmir has been, well, stinky. He looked great his first seven innings against the Padres, but like the obnoxious meme says, “The Giants Ain’t The Fucking Padres.” Maybe the Jints have his number. Maybe he’s continuing his inconsistent career path. We know he can be dominant. Maybe he will be again. He better, or we might have a problem. D
- The bullpen. What is with the bullpen? Who are they? Why do they look un-hittable one day and then suddenly turn into Bryce Harper’s dad lobbing to his kid at the Home Run Derby? Currently they are on a 14 inning scoreless streak. At AT&T last week you needed more than ten fingers to calculate their ERA. I don’t get it. But, one thing’s for sure; Kenley Jansen may be the best closer in the National League. B-
- Attitude. This team is responding to Dave Roberts. I’m not a big believer in “team chemistry” but it seems that teams that are loose, yet focused and that genuinely seem to like each other have more success. I hope that’s true because this group has the best camaraderie I’ve seen on a Dodgers team since the Lasorda days. Have you seen their tweets? Kiké, A-Gone, A.J., heck, even Puig are all laughing, dancing and tweeting to beat the band. Justin Turner’s presidential bid will be a running gag all season and should help keep things loose. Kenta Maeda has endeared himself to his teammates and Chase Utley is providing that veteran presence the young guys need. It’s great to see. All credit to Dave Roberts … he’s got these guys scrapping. A+
- The offense. These guys can hit. They can score. Like all teams they are vulnerable to good pitching, but even the opponent’s ace better be on his game or these Bums will rough ’em up. They jumped on Cueto for five first inning runs the first week of the season (and then watched Kazmir and the bullpen give it back) and they’ve won against MadBum in both of his starts against them. Utley has been great at the top of the order. Seager is the best young hitter the Dodgers have ever had. Joc is a work in progress but he’s gettin’ his dingers, including a game-winner against the Giants on Sunday. Trayce Thompson can play and Kiké is just going nuts. This is a fun team to watch and the offense is showing the potential to be great. A
- Defense. Last year the Dodgers led MLB with the fewest errors made by any team. This year? A little sloppy so far but flashing signs of brilliance. Corey Seager is one of the smoothest fielding shortstops I’ve ever seen and his arm is great. He will likely get even better as he learns the league. A-Gone is always a Gold Glove-caliber guy and Yasmani Grandal has been terrific framing pitches. In fact, the tandem of Grandal and Ellis is one that pitchers have gotta love. But so far, early in the season, fielding has been a bit inconsistent, but it will get better. B
All in all, we’re a game and a half ahead of the Giants after two weeks of play. I’ll take that any old time.