Monthly Archives: December 2014

Rooting for Laundry

September 21, 2011 - Source: Jeff Gross/Getty Images North America

On November 30, 2010, the Dodgers signed free agent Juan Uribe. Two days later, they declined to offer a contract to Russell Martin, making him a free agent. This was hard for me, as Martin was one of my favorite players and Uribe was my least favorite.

Jerry Seinfeld famously talked about what we’re really doing as sports fans:

Are we really just rooting for the uniform, the clothes, the laundry? The players come and go, but the uniforms stay the same.

As a Dodger fan, this has been on my mind the past 18 hours, as the Dodgers have turned over big chunks of their roster. Two homegrown talents, Dee Gordon and Matt Kemp, have left for less-attractive laundry, and another — AJ Ellis — has probably lost his starting job. Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, and Yasmani Grandal will all don the beautiful Dodger Blue next season, and I will cheer my heart out for them.

None of the players coming in test my fandom like Juan Uribe did. I have always liked Rollins and Kendrick, and the only thing I dislike about Grandal is that he hit a meaningless homer against the Dodgers late last season.

But the departures of Gordon and Kemp are challenging for me, because I really like both guys. I have pointed to both players in teaching my son how to play baseball — and how to be a good teammate and person. Logan still remembers the game in June when Gordon circled the bases on a triple-and-an-error in 13.5 seconds, and he has noticed that it wouldn’t have happened if Gordon hadn’t hustled off the bat. Most players would have thought, “Hit down the left-field line, that’s a double.” Gordon thought, “I’m going hard, because I might have a chance for a triple on this.” When Charlie Blackmon didn’t play it perfectly, Gordon had his triple. When Blackmon fumbled the ball again, Gordon was back at home plate with the first run of the game. Simply put, Dee Gordon is a player you can tell your kids, “Watch him play,” and you don’t have to worry about them picking up any bad habits.

Matt Kemp was the best player in baseball a couple years ago. He was fast, he played decent defense in center field, and he had remarkable power. Kemp’s 2011 season was probably the most fun I’ve ever had rooting for a hitter. But one of my favorite things about Kemp didn’t go away with his injuries like his power and his speed did. Before most home games, the Dodgers let kids take the field with the players. They run out there, get a ball autographed by the player they are assigned to, and then they run back off the field. Kemp is a pure joy to watch in those situations. He doesn’t rush the kids to get off the field. He doesn’t look inconvenienced. He smiles at them. He talks to them. He gives them a high-five and, often, a hug. These kids are getting an experience they will never forget, because Matt Kemp takes the extra five seconds to make it great.

So yes, I am sad to see Gordon and Kemp go. But their departures somewhat disprove the idea of rooting for laundry, at least for me. I will, without a doubt, watch more Marlins games this year because Dee Gordon is there. I will root for him because of him, regardless of the clothes he is wearing. And I will always be a Matt Kemp fan, even when he is wearing those terrible camouflage uniforms the Padres roll out far too often.

So is it laundry we’re rooting for? I don’t think so. I think it is family, or something close. Vin Scully has never worn the laundry, but he’s my family. Tommy Lasorda, Sandy Koufax, Don Newcombe — none of them have worn the laundry in a long, long time, but they are family. When I go to Opening Day at Dodger Stadium, it feels more like a family reunion than a baseball game, complete with some new faces and some missing old familiar faces.

It’s not the clothes they wear — it’s the name across the front of the clothes. Maybe that’s a distinction without a difference, I don’t know. But it seems meaningful to me. I enjoy watching a football or basketball game now and then, but I can’t get too fired up about it because I don’t care about the teams. But the word “Dodgers” means almost as much to me as the word “Snider.”

And just like a real family, when someone new comes in, they kind of grow on you. I never thought I’d say this, but … I kind of like Juan Uribe. He’s like that weird uncle you wished your aunt wouldn’t marry, but then it turns out he’s a pretty nice guy who makes a mean lasagna and buys good Christmas presents.

Once the laundry says “Dodgers” across the front, they are family.

Goodbye Dee Gordon

AP Photo/John Bazemore

Well, for about a minute, the Dodgers had the only (I think) all African-American middle infield in baseball, in Jimmy Rollins and Dee Gordon. But now Gordon is gone, off to the Miami Marlins. I wouldn’t say I am conflicted on this, because I definitely know what to feel. But my feelings are on opposite ends of the spectrum.

From a baseball perspective, I like the move. Alex Guerrero’s contract requires him to be in he Majors, so it makes sense to open up the only position that he can really play. The Dodgers are definitely taking a hit on defense here, as Gordon had turned himself into a very good defensive second baseman. And obviously, they are taking a big hit on speed. But Guerrero should be an upgrade offensively, even considering the speed deficit, and probably enough of an upgrade to make up for the defensive hit.

The return for Gordon is pretty exciting. Andrew Heaney is a 23-year-old left-handed pitcher who was a top-30 prospect in baseball coming into 2014. He struggled in his seven Major League games (five starts), but he was dominant in both Double-A and Triple-A before his call-up. Hanging around Clayton Kershaw can only do good things for a young left-hander, I’d guess.

The last part of the baseball equation is that the Dodgers are sending Dan Haren to Miami, too. This is addition by subtraction. Haren was solid at times and lousy at times, and there’s no way the Dodgers would have volunteered to pay him $10 million in 2015. But he had his player option, finasteride 1mg, which he exercised. He has said that if he was traded, he would probably retire, and it seems like the Marlins are probably counting on that here, because they certainly don’t want to pay him $10 million in 2015. So the Dodgers save millions and stop wasting a roster spot on a guy who doesn’t really have a place anymore.

You also have to consider the possibility that Gordon had a career year in 2014. If he repeats his solid season next year, I still like this move. If he doesn’t repeat it, I love that the Dodgers sold high on him.

So yeah, from the baseball side, there is a lot to like. But doggone it, I like Dee Gordon. He is always smiling. His energy is contagious. You can’t look at him and not be happy. If he and Matt Kemp are both gone next year, the team dynamic is a lot different. It’s not like they are irreplaceable, or even that they are the keys to the team chemistry. But I am sad to see him go, and I am pretty likely to watch quite a few games of Gordon/Stanton on Extra Innings next year. (On mute, of course, because the Marlins’ announcers are awful.)

Good luck, Dee, and thanks for the memories!

UPDATE (5:30 p.m. Mountain time):

Wow, it wasn’t just Heaney coming to the Dodgers. They also got Kik√© Hernandez (second baseman who can play a few other positions), Austin Barnes (catching prospect), and Chris Hatcher (a hard-throwing relief pitcher who was very good for the Marlins last year). It’s hard not to love this move from a baseball perspective, no matter how sad I am to see Dee go.

Jimmy the Dodger

August 8, 2011 - Source: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images North America

As of right now, we don’t have any official word on who the Dodgers will be sending to the Phillies, but it appears to be a done deal that Jimmy Rollins is coming to LA. Obviously, any real analysis will be done after all the parameters are known (and by people smarter than me), but assuming the Dodgers aren’t giving up too much talent, I really like the idea of Rollins at short in 2015. He’s only signed for one more year, and one more year is about how long we need to fill the SS gap before Corey Seager is ready for prime time.

Rollins is fast — 453 career stolen bases and an 83% success rate — but he’s not an ideal leadoff man even though he has spent the majority of his career in that spot. The Dodgers currently have Dee Gordon in the leadoff spot, and it will be interesting to see if they put Rollins in the number two spot or down near the bottom of the order. I think Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford are both better suited for the two-spot than Rollins, but let’s face it, they are probably both also better suited for the leadoff spot than Gordon.

So lineup composition will be interesting, but I think Rollins definitely represents a solid addition to the mix. He is definitely a better option than any of the in-house, all-glove-no-bat options (Erisbel Arruebarrena and Miguel Rojas), and while he’s a totally different type of player than Hanley Ramirez was, I think overall — factoring in health, defense, speed, etc. — he doesn’t represent a significant downgrade. I would definitely rather have one year of Rollins than four years of Hanley.

UPDATE (4:40 p.m. Mountain time):

Still no official word on who is going to the Phillies, but now it’s looking like Dee Gordon will be leading off in Miami instead of LA next season. If the Dodgers trade Crawford instead of Matt Kemp, then Rollins is probably the leadoff man. If they keep Crawford, it will be an interesting decision.