Dodgers showing their fans how caring excessively about a team can suck


Dodgers showing their fans how caring excessively about a team can suck

Omens are for fools, and cheap movies, and lazy plot points. They are a triumph of lazy thinking and belief that there is a controlling power who actually gives a fraction of damn about what happens in your life, no matter how small or meaningless.

But if I were the Los Angeles Dodgers, I might start thinking about taping down the windows just in case.

They lost again Monday night, this time 8-6 to the freefalling San Franciscos. They have lost 11 games in succession and 16 of 17. Their game in HappyTown didn’t start until nearly 8 p.m. and subsequent delays were longer than the game itself because of a lighting storm that looked like it came to San Francisco because it was tired of waiting in the queue over Florida. The game ended at 2:11 a.m., which isn't even a fit time to close a bar.

And for all that, the Dodgers can still clinch a playoff position Tuesday if they offend the gods and win while St. Louis loses at home to Cincinnati and Milwaukee loses in Pittsburgh.

Yeah, omens.

The Dodgers’ stunning run of bad form is in its way more amazing than Cleveland’s 19-game winning streak, and as rancid as they have been, they remain nine games ahead of the second-place Arizonas in the NL West, and are 3½ games better than resurgent Washington in the overall race. They may use all their massive cushion to get this done, but they will still end up a playoff team, a division winner and quite possibly the home field defender.

This is not the way to bet, and there has been three weeks of evidence to suggest that the last of those three won’t happen at all. You don’t lose 16 of 17 games for no reason, and you don’t go from 13½ games ahead of the field to 3½ without badly losing your way.

But there is a very real possibility that the Dodgers could be an official playoff team this evening anyway, and find themselves confronted by a style conundrum.

Do they ignore the last three weeks, remember their long proud history with the Giants and celebrate on the field just to honor the rivalry by shoving the Giants’ faces in it? Or do they play it cool because the petty concerns of a rivalry with a team 36 games behind you are unworthy of notice?

Or does manager Dave Roberts say, as Bruce Bochy has in happier times for him, “You celebrate whenever you can because this stuff is hard to do,” and let the out-of-state pundits mock as they see fit?

Either way, this should happen just for the hilarity and upset feelings. And if the Dodgers still haven’t clinched anything by the time they leave, they should lose all the rest of their games. Because, let’s face it, this isn’t about the Dodgers, or the Giants, or the playoffs. It’s about us, and the value we place in non-violent chaos and undifferentiated shame. I consider it the best two reasons to follow sports, and you should, too. After all, the Dodgers are showing their fans just how much caring excessively about a team can suck.

Projection system loves Giancarlo Stanton at AT&T Park


Projection system loves Giancarlo Stanton at AT&T Park

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants have made a habit in recent winters of “kicking the tires,” so to speak, on as many free agents as possible. General manager Bobby Evans is committed to being thorough, but at times there is probably no need. 

Hitters have made no secret of the fact that they prefer friendlier confines, and if you’re a power hitter, you’re going to ask Evans for a significantly larger check to play 81 of your games at the harshest power park in the majors. That’s what makes Giancarlo Stanton, readily available via trade, so intriguing. But would Stanton be fully immune to the realities of AT&T Park?

The numbers, at least in a small sample, suggest he would. Stanton has played 27 games in San Francisco and taken 108 at-bats. He has nine homers, 11 doubles and a triple. His .676 slugging percentage at AT&T Park isn’t far off his mark at Coors Field (.714), and his 1.048 OPS is higher than his OPS during the 2017 season, when he hit 59 homers. 

The damage has been done in limited time, but the Giants clearly believe it’s fully sustainable, and a recent study done by ESPN’s Dan Szymborski backs that up. Szymborski ran his ZiPS projection system to estimate Stanton’s stats over the next 10 years for a variety of suitors. The numbers in orange and black are overwhelming. 

The projections have Stanton at 46.2 WAR over the next 10 seasons, including 7.1 in 2018 and 6.8 in 2019, the two seasons the organization should be focused on given Madison Bumgarner’s contract situation. ZiPS projects Stanton at 46 homers next season if he plays for the Giants, followed by 43, 42, 39, 35 over the following four years. For comparison’s sake, Brandon Belt led the Giants in homers each of the last two seasons and he has 35 total during that span. 

Any sort of projection system needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt, especially with a player who has had injury issues in the past. But ZiPS believes Stanton -- who plays in a huge park already -- is a rarity, the kind of power hitter who can keep crushing well into his 30’s and put up huge numbers even if he is limited by the realities of getting older and getting hurt. Szymborski’s projections have Stanton playing just 102 games in 2025, but he’s still projected to hit 23 homers, 20 doubles and post an OPS+ of 121. Even in the 10th year of the projections, ZiPS has Stanton down for 16 homers. 

There are no sure things in this game, but as Evans continues to chase a blockbuster deal, he can be confident that Stanton is one player who should be able to provide power for years to come, no matter what AT&T Park does to hold hitters down. 

Former A's slugger Gomes offers Ohtani scouting report: 'Big fan of the dude'


Former A's slugger Gomes offers Ohtani scouting report: 'Big fan of the dude'

Former A's left fielder/DH and Bay Area native, Jonny Gomes, last played Major League Baseball in 2015. The next year, Gomes looked to continue his career in Japan with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. 

Gomes struggled in Japan, batting just .169 in 18 games. While in Japan though, Gomes saw firsthand the two-way talent of Shohei Ohtani. 

"The dude throws 100 miles per hour consistently," Gomes said Tuesday to MLB Network Radio. "That plays."

With MLB, the Players Association, and the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization agreeing to a new posting system, Ohtani should soon be available as a free agent to MLB teams. Gomes was adamant that Ohtani will live up to the hype. 

"If you have the arm speed to throw 100 miles per hour, guess what your slider's gonna do -- yikes. And he also has a split, which is yikes with that arm speed. And he also has a changeup, and he also has a curveball. You're talking about five plus, plus, plus pitches.

"If he was in the draft, I think it would be a no-brainer right now that he'd be No. 1 overall," Gomes said. 

Since turning pro as an 18-year-old, Ohtani has been a dominant force on the mound. The 6-foot-3 right-hander owns a 42-15 career record with a 2.52 ERA and 1.076 WHIP. 

What makes Ohtani, 23, so intriguing is that he's not only the best pitcher in Japan, he may be the best hitter too. In 2017, Ohtani hit .332 with eight home runs in 65 games. The left fielder/DH owns a .286/.358/.500 career slash line with 48 home runs. 

"Now hitting wise, is it gonna transfer, is it not? I've seen the dude hit a fly ball that hit the roof of the Tokyo Dome," Gomes remembers. "So, what does that tell you? That bat speed's there, that power's there, that he's generating a lot out front.

"To be able to hit the roof of the Tokyo Dome is way more impressive than hitting any other roof in the states. It would be like hitting the roof in Seattle when it was closed, it's way up there."

Everyone knows about Ohtani off-the-charts talent. The stats are there. What we don't know as much about is his personality. Gomes does and he believes his leadership will make him be a star in the states. 

"I'm a big fan of the dude," Gomes says. "I saw his work ethic, I saw how players treated him, I saw how respectful he was. Over there it's all about seniority. Granted he was the biggest star on the field at any given moment, but still gave the utmost respect to seniority guys on his ball club."