Dodger Thoughts: Jackie Robinson
Spring Training, Day 4
- Jerry Sands homered for the Dodgers in the seventh inning.
- Chad Billingsley pitched three innings of shutout ball, no walks, three hits, three strikeouts.
- Nine innings, three baserunners on offense, two errors on defense.
- Tony Gwynn Jr. struck out twice and made an error in left field.
- Four consecutive Dodgers relievers — Wilkin De La Rosa, Jon Huber, Roman Colon and Oscar Villarreal — each walked two batters (in a combined four innings).
- Gwynn is featured by Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
... Gwynn had a career-high 393 at-bats and scored 59 runs with the Padres (in 2009). He also posted a .350 on-base percentage to go with that .270 average, and it looked as if the Padres had their center fielder for the foreseeable future.But everything changed for Gwynn in 2010.
After a decent start, he had a miserable May in which he batted .145. He spent most of the rest of the summer trying to rebound, but a broken bone in his right hand landed him on an operating table. By the time he was ready to play in mid-September, the Padres were in hot pursuit of a division title, and they couldn't take any chances on a surgically repaired outfielder who they weren't sure could help the cause. Also by that time, Gwynn's famous father had been diagnosed with cancer of the parotid, something that wouldn't be made public for months but that Gwynn's teammates were aware of.
"It just so happened that two days after I broke my hand, I found out my dad had cancer," Gwynn said. "It's one of those things you think can't happen to you until it happens. ... I was hurting, but it's not something I'm never going to use as an excuse for my performance. It's just a part of life, and this is my job."
Gwynn went hitless in 11 at-bats the rest of the way. The division title never came, and the Padres non-tendered him after the season. His father appears to be doing well in his battle and has returned on a limited basis to his job as the baseball coach at San Diego State University.
The Dodgers signed Gwynn for $650,000, a bargain compared to what the Padres probably would have paid him if they had gone to arbitration. Gwynn's hand is healthy now, and he worked this winter to regain his batting stroke, sorting out his mechanical issues and his approach with hitting coach Jeff Pentland. ...
- Will Carroll's Team Health Reports are now hosted at SI.com, and you can check out the Dodgers writeup here. Billingsley finally graduates to a green light, but I would ignore the comment about Gordon being a potential replacement for Casey Blake at third base.
- In the wake of Garret Anderson's retirement, Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com shares this important reminder: "You just can't tell how much someone cares."
- Here are a couple of stories about Jackie Robinson's 1945 tryout with the Boston Red Sox, from The Governor's Sox (via Baseball Think Factory) and Jackie with the Monarchs. Very much worth your time.
Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty ImagesJackie Robinson
Times were different then, obviously, but I still found it rather stunning. This was a year in which Robinson hit .297 with 74 walks and 48 extra-base hits and led the National League in stolen bases. He grounded into five double plays in 590 at-bats. There probably weren't many hitters for whom the sacrifice was more of a waste than Robinson. Yet there he was, squaring up more than anyone around.
In fact, in a 15-game stretch from August 10-23, during which Robinson OPSed .998, someone thought it'd be a good idea for him to sacrifice bunt eight times. My way of putting that in perspective: Robinson had more sacrifice hits in those two weeks than Rickey Henderson had in 1,746 games from 1981-93.
It was a long time ago, but I wonder if there was anyone who noticed Robinson was red-hot at the plate and wondered when they were going to stop making him give himself up.
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My favorite part of Arash Markazi's ESPNLosAngeles.com column on Manny Ramirez's return to Southern California:
Dodgers organist Nancy Bea Hefley and her husband, Bill, drove down to Anaheim to catch up with Ramirez and (Juan) Pierre, before leaving for their home in northern Nevada prior to the opening pitch.
"When Manny arrived, the team wasn't doing anything and he just brought a spark," said Hefley, who gave Ramirez and Pierre a big hug each in the visitor's dugout. "He brought a spark to the team in the dugout and on the field and made it very exciting." ...
* * *
Shades of Randy Wolf: Ted Lilly should clearly be offered salary arbitration after this season, though he will probably turn said offer down, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness.
Petriello also passes along this note from Mark Whicker of the Register that outfield prospect Jerry Sands will experiment at third base in the Arizona Fall League. Whicker's main point in his column is that the Dodgers shouldn't give up on their homegrown core, despite this year's frustrations.
April, 11, 2010
George Sherrill's bad outing against Pittsburgh on Opening Day was mere prelude to Saturday's Florida fright night.
George Sherrill should be able to get three outs before he gives up three runs. And inevitably, there was going to be a do-or-die situation this season when he would need to do that. Just as Vicente Padilla shouldn't give up four runs on nine baserunners in 4 1/3 innings, Sherrill needs to do better if the Dodgers are going avoid trouble.
But Padilla and Sherrill's failings are basically heat-of-the-battle failings, whereas Joe Torre's use of Jonathan Broxton this week is the equivalent of filling the bubbles in your SAT exam with Crayola burnt orange. (Assuming they still use bubbles.)
We've said it before and we hate to say it again – so this is going to be brief. If you can't afford to allow a run – as was the case when the Dodgers played extra innings in Pittsburgh on Wednesday – you use the pitcher least likely to allow a run. Only after that pitcher has been used do you turn to others. And certainly, you don't worry about saving your best pitcher for a situation in which you can allow a run and still win.
On one level, it was coincidental that Torre's use of Broxton this week led to us talking about his absence from Saturday's game. It required a specific flow of events from Opening Day on. On the other hand, we do see this from Dodger managers, including Torre's recent predecessors, all too often. If Sherrill had been used Saturday after a proper use of Broxton in previous days, people would have been talking about Sherrill overnight a lot more than Torre.
Do not save your best reliever for a save situation in an extra-inning game on the road.
- One other oddity regarding Saturday and the bullpen: Torre told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that Ramon Troncoso, who was pitched a perfect eighth inning but was pulled after giving up a leadoff single in the ninth, "is basically a one-inning guy." I realize that bullpen roles have changed with Hong-Chih Kuo and Ronald Belisario out, but especially when he hadn't pitched the day before and with Broxton out, since when is Troncoso a one-inning guy? The guy made his reputation with his ability to go multiple frames. Troncoso needed only seven pitches to get out of the eighth inning, then had thrown six pitches in the ninth when he came out of the game.
- The botched squeeze in the second inning Saturday (that resulted in a bases-loaded, one-out situation imploding) was even crazier than it appeared. As many surmised, Vicente Padilla missed the suicide squeeze sign that resulted in Casey Blake getting tagged out between third and home. But from what Torre told reporters this morning, it appears that Torre himself wanted to take the squeeze off after having initially called for it – but that he gave the second sign too late for third-base coach Larry Bowa to see. So Bowa and Blake incorrectly, though understandably, thought the squeeze was still on – while Padilla, apparently, was oblivious to all of this. Torre indicated that he puts signs on and takes them off all the time.
- Manny Ramirez had his 2,500th career hit Saturday, while Rafael Furcal had his 1,500th. Furcal has a .480 on-base percentage this season and is tied for the major-league lead in doubles.
- Ian Kennedy is the scheduled starter for Arizona against Clayton Kershaw in Tuesday's home opener, followed by Rodrigo Lopez against Chad Billingsley on Wednesday and Dan Haren against Hiroki Kuroda on Thursday.
- LeeAnn Rimes will sing the national anthem Tuesday.
- Josh Lindblom was hit hard in his first 2010 start for Albuquerque – needing 77 pitches to get through three innings that saw him give up eight hits, two walks and three runs while striking out one.
- John Lindsey, the 33-year-old minor-league lifer still looking for his first major-league action, is 7 for 13 with three doubles in his first three games for the Isotopes. Lindsey would need a few injuries to right-handed hitting Dodgers before he'd have a shot at a cup of coffee.
- James Adkins, a 2007 first-round pick, allowed five runs in three innings of relief in his first 2010 outing for AA Chattanooga.
- Ethan Martin's Inland Empire season debut was a different story: five innings, no runs, three singles, no walks, one hit batter, nine strikeouts.
- Allen Webster allowed one run over five innings (six baserunners, four strikeouts) in his '10 Great Lakes debut.
- Dixie Walker, the Brooklyn Dodger long remembered for starting a petition against Jackie Robinson joining the team, is revisited today by Harvey Araton of the New York Times (via Inside the Dodgers). The article's main point seems to be that Walker was remorseful and not the racist he's been accused of being:
... Though (Maury) Allen and Susan Walker suggest in the book that her father did not initiate the anti-Robinson petition, Roger Kahn, in his 2002 book, “The Era,” wrote that Walker told him in 1976 that he had.
Kahn quoted Walker saying: “I organized that petition in 1947, not because I had anything against Robinson personally or against Negroes generally. I had a wholesale business in Birmingham and people told me I’d lose my business if I played ball with a black man.”
In a telephone interview, Kahn said his conversation with Walker took place when Walker was the hitting coach for the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
“He invited me out for a glass of wine — somewhat shocking in that Budweiser world,” Kahn said. “We talked for a while, and then he got to the point: the petition and his letter to Rickey. He called it the stupidest thing he’d ever done and if I ever had a chance to please write that he was very sorry.”
Calling the Walker he met “a lovely, courtly man,” Kahn said that the assumption should not be made that all early opposition to Robinson was based on core discrimination and not confusion or fear.
“Ballplayers depended on off-season work back then,” he said. “When I was covering the Dodgers, Gil Hodges sold Buicks on Flatbush Avenue. Now, if you’re Derek Jeter and you have a wholesale hardware business, you can say, ‘So what?’ ”
Rachel Robinson's response in the same article: "If you’re asking about forgiveness based on the context of the time, I can’t say I worry about the view of them at this time. Maybe they learned better or changed, but at the time, they had a chance to move forward from segregation and chose the opposite. They had an impact.”
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