Magic-Pelinka Partnership Off To Great Start

When Magic Johnson was appointed President of Basketball Operations for the Lakers, on one hand it was an absolute step forward to remove the moribund Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak regime, but on the other hand, the list of star NBA ball players who successfully transitioned to top caliber management or personnel executives can be counted on the fingers of a single hand. Though a fine player and great coach, there is no argument that Phil Jackson has failed miserably as the guy making personnel decision for the New York Knicks. And who in LA will forget the great play and awful executive career of Elgin Baylor? Sure, Magic was a great player, has been a success in the business world, and has that engaging personality, but he did fail as a coach and fail as a TV host. That sounds like he’s batting 50-50 and his history is thus no prognosticator of what might come next.

Rob Pelinka was a players’ agent and a successful one, but does that translate into becoming a successful General Manager? My first reaction is an absolute No as a general

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rule, but hey, maybe this guy has something that could work. As do many top level agents, he is well educated, with both a law degree and a business degree, each earned from the University of Michigan.

Well, the two of them came in with their work cut out for them, and with plenty of room for world-class mistakes. The biggest single challenge that developed was what to do with the second pick in the 2017 NBA draft, Continue reading

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Urias’ Career Derailed, He’s No Longer a Top Prospect

There have been a couple of monumental advances in sports injury medicine over the past few decades that produced surgical procedures that have saved the careers of untold numbers of players, stars and journeyman alike, from the pioneering work of Dr. Frank Jobe in developing the ulnar collateral ligament transplant, commonly referred to as “Tommy John Surgery”, that reconstructs the elbow and in 90% of instances returns the player to his former elbow strength, to micro-fracture surgery, developed by Dr. Richard Steadman, a surgical process that for the first time enables the actual repair of knee cartilage, as opposed to traditional surgical procedures that could only remove damaged cartilage. As with “Tommy John Surgery”, micro-fracture surgery has resurrected and extended the professional careers of significant numbers of athletes, from baseball players to football players and to others around the world.

But when it comes to significant injuries to other areas of the body, and in particular to professional baseball players and among them to pitchers, medical advances over the years

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have been far less successful, and most significant among those where success is yet to be found involve injuries to the shoulder. It was back in the late 1960s and early 1970s that sports’ injuries to the rotator cuff first began to be diagnosed, and the immediate medical response was surgery, surgery to repair tears to any of the four muscles that attach at different sites on the scapula, a.k.a. the shoulder blade, either the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor or the subscapularis. Back in the 1970s, guinea pigs such as star Continue reading

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Suddenly Need Pitching? NOT Jose Quintana

How quickly fortunes change in baseball. It seems like it was just hours ago when the Dodgers were rich in starting pitching, with manager Dave Roberts juggling seven starters by putting healthy pitchers on the ten-day disabled list here and there, and shuttling starters and relievers back and forth to Triple-A. Well, just guess what happened.

First, the inevitable happened with the team’s latest $48 Million Dollar Give-A-Way, Rich Hill. First it was missing time with his usual state of affairs, the blister, and then lo-and-behold, his lack of pitching ability caught up to him! As I’ve written so often, the journeyman walking injury, on the scrap heap for most of 2015 after an undistinguished career of demotions, releases and waivers among five major league teams, the then 35-year-old Hill was picked up by the Red Sox and pitched four solid games in September.

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That netted him a million-dollar deal in Oakland for 2016, and after his usual DL stints and all of 76 inning pitched through the first four months of the season, the Dodgers load up the truck and let the A’s steal the silver in a horrible deal for Hill and the totally non-productive free-agent-to-be Josh Reddick. Once he got off the DL, Hill managed a grand total of 34-1/3 innings for the Dodgers, for which he was rewarded with his three-year, $48 M deal, the sort of thing art thieves and incompetent cooked politicians dream of. Continue reading

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“Kike” Hernandez – And What If His Name Began With An “N”?

LA Dodgers utility player Enrique Hernandez chooses to use as his preferred nickname a disgusting religious slur, and no one cares.

Throughout “polite”, i.e. “white” society, the use of the “N” word is universally vilified, finding a place in today’s popular culture only among African-Americans who seem to have drawn a wide pass, in particular those who are entertainers, and among racists who as in the past use the term to leave no doubt about their bigotry and hatred.

Recently, popular comedian and political commentator Bill Maher, a fixture on late night television for over two decades, came under extreme fire for his use of the “N” word in a joke precipitated by an inadvertent straight line fed him by a republican US Senator. The

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comedian in him took over, and without thinking, Maher spoke the “joke”, and the word, and has spent more than a week being vilified and profusely apologizing.

Folks, there are other words that carry similar connotations that are just as racist, ignorant, mean spirited and bigoted out there, and there are some that apply to every racial, religious and cultural group. But as opposed to the use of the “N” word and knowledge of it’s effect on any and all African-Americans who may be victimized by the word, people are quick to ignore or minimize the use of some of these other words that are equally as offensive to other groups. Continue reading

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Red-Hot Kole Calhoun Making Up For Trout Loss

For the last three years plus, the Angels’ Kole Calhoun has been one of the top right fielders in the American League, playing solid defense, hitting for power, driving in runs and averaging in the .270s. As this season began, a big year from Calhoun was an absolute necessity if they Angels were to have a shot at the post season, given the state of their pitching staff, which today features two closers and four of their best five starters all on the disabled list for extended periods, several to be there for the rest of the season.

The Angels did get off to an ok start, bolstered by the best career start of baseball’s best player, Mike Trout. After the team’s first 53 games, they were one game under .500, which put them in contention for a wild card spot. And they did this despite a very poor start from Calhoun. Over those first 53 games, Calhoun hit only .209 with five home runs and

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16 RBI. But in that 53rd game, Trout injured his thumb sliding into second base, tearing a ligament, and putting him out of action for about two months.

Most people figured that the Angels would then tank, given the poor performances up to that point from several players, only one of whom was Calhoun. But a funny thing has happened: The Angels overall have played better since Trout’s injury, now posting a record in those games above .500, at 6-5. And a big part of that is due to the resurgence of Calhoun. Continue reading

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No, Mike, It’s NOT “Just a Freak Thing”

After suffering the first significant injury of his career, a torn thumb ligament that will keep him out of action for as long as two full months, the Angels’ Mike Trout stated that he would continue to slide head-first into bases and that the slide into second base which resulted in catching his thumb on the bag, ripping the ligament from bone, “was just a freak thing” and no reason to change his ways and slide the safer, feet-first way. I thought Trout was a lot smarter than that.

The head-first slide is among the most dangerous activities that can occur on the baseball field, and likely the most dangerous that can be totally avoided. Coaches and managers throughout baseball as a general rule tell players of the dangers of sliding head-first, but the blockheads they deal with seem to believe that are all invincible, that they will never,

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ever, suffer a serious injury on the play, and that that is just the way they do it and just the way they will continue to do it. History tells us that is just plain wrong, and that serious injuries will continue to occur so long as players believe that the perhaps split-second advantage of the head first slide is a necessary and needed element of their game. Continue reading

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No, NOBODY Today Can Hit the Ball

Follow up to yesterday’s “Can’t ANYBODY Hit the Ball?

As rookie Cody Bellinger and second-year man Corey Seager are developing into solid power hitters in the LA Dodgers’ lineup, one thinks back over the past few decades to three other power-hitting duos that the Dodgers featured for long stretches of time, duos that hit home runs and drove in runs, but that struck out at significantly lower rates than the average player of today, and at significantly lower rates that Bellinger and Seager do today.

Going back to the 1970s, the Dodgers’ lineup featured the play and the power of Steve Garvey and Ron Cey. Garvey was an everyday player in the team’s lineup for nine full seasons and over that time he seldom if ever missed a game, coming to the plate over 600 times season after season, and he averaged 21 home runs per season. But not once in all

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those years did he ever strike out 100 times in a season, averaging only 69 strikeouts per season, with a season high of 90. Cey played every day for ten years averaging 23 home runs per season, and hit the 100 strikeout figure exactly one time as a Dodger, as he averaged 83 strikeouts per season over that time.

In the 1990s, the duo of Mike Piazza and Eric Karros Continue reading

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Can’t ANYBODY Hit the Ball?

Tonight, the LA Dodgers and the Milwaukee Brewers, two teams each occupying first place in their respective National League divisions, played a robust 12 innings of baseball, 12 innings that saw three runs scored while 42 batters struck out. Before this season, the record for most strikeouts by a team in an extra inning game stood at 26, set by the then California Angels 46 years ago on July 9, 1971 against the Oakland Athletics. It took Angels’ pitchers 20 innings to strike out 26 batters. In this day and age of the Rule of the Strikeout, that record has been tied twice in less than one month. On May 7, in an 18 inning game between the Boston Red Sox and the new york yankees, 26 new york batters


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struck out at the hand of Red Sox pitchers. Then last night, Dodgers’ pitchers struck out 26 Brewers’ batters. The May 7 game between the yankees and Red Sox also set a record for most combined strikeouts by both teams, 48, while last night’s Dodgers-Brewers game that lasted “only” 12 innings fell a few short at a total of 42, with Brewers’ pitcher striking out 16. That 42 strikeout total is the new National League record. At the rate Dodgers’ pitchers were striking out Brewers’ batters last night – 26 K’s in 12 innings – had the game gone that additional six innings, the Dodgers’ pitchers’ strikeout total would have reached 39.

Can’t anybody hit the ball? Continue reading

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The Best Pitcher in the Game?

Not quite one-third of the way through the 2017 major league baseball season, the LA Dodgers clearly have had the most dominant pitching in the National League. The Dodgers lead the NL in lowest ERA, 3.23, a full third of a run better than the surprising second-place Diamondbacks’, and NL batters have hit a league-lowest .232 against each of the two staffs. But, Dodgers’ pitchers have both struck out the most batters of any staff, 472, and allowed the fewest base on balls. They’ve allowed the fewest hits of any NL staff, the fewest home runs, and are tied for the most shutouts. They have the lowest WHIP in the league, 1.16, the highest strikeout-per-nine-innings rate, 9.48, and by far the best strikeout-to-base-on-balls ratio, at 3.42.

Leading the way is perhaps the best pitcher in baseball, and no, I do not mean the obvious choice, Clayton Kershaw, but rather the guy whose 2017 numbers are mind-boggling.

Through June of last season, Kershaw was re-writing the record books when it came to control. Through June 20, he was 11-1 with a 1.57 ERA and in 105 innings pitched, he had

struck out 141 while walking an astounding total of seven batters. He was receiving constant adulation as he seemed to be setting standards for control perhaps never before seen, at least from a starting pitcher. But then came a back injury and the disabled list that derailed any chance of a career season. Continue reading

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