Tag Archives: Justin Turner

More Than A Friday: Thinking of Lamar Odom During a Busy Week in Sports

Lamar Odom is going to die. We sincerely hope it doesn’t happen today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or even in the next year. For Odom, there is a reality, and doesn’t that word really have some negative connotation to it? The reality is, that I hope he is able to survive from the time between now and whenever this publishes, but only for a life that doesn’t involve suffering.

Why do I care about the mortality of Lamar Odom? As former Arizona Cardinal Darnell Dockett so bluntly stated, he didn’t cross my mind before he was trending, so to speak. I don’t mourn for his situation with a Lakers or Heat flag on my car, and I’m not sympathetic to the character he was presented as to the masses on a show I didn’t watch. I know who he is, because of basketball, and I know how much he loved being a Laker, through the words of his ex-wife during a very brief glimpse of that show that I swear I didn’t watch. I’m sympathetic to his situation, because he is very obviously in the public eye, and it feels like he’s slowly dying in front of all of us.

I don’t feel that he deserves that. He deserves our compassion, but to suffer, with all of those toxins eating away at the very life he’s lived for the past 35 years, 11 months, and change; no one has earned that fate. Everyone in the media seems to be acting appropriately sensitive, walking on egg shells and citing his difficult background, while commending his wildly successful life and hoping for the best. We’re all human enough for that; we should be well wishing Odom for a prolonged life or a merciful death, though most of us don’t know the answers. While we brace ourselves for the inevitable assassination of his character from a few directions, and for various reasons, this is a time to be above the noise and just care.

In Major League Baseball

If you lack a dog in this fight, it’s been an awesome week of watching the field dwindle itself from 8 down to 4. If you had rooting interest in the Division Series, half of you are elated and half of you ain’t.

The Chicago Cubs were the first ones in the clubhouse, waiting to see what the rest of semi-final field would be. They had to win that winner-take-all game, which is always dangerous. It meant burning their best arm, leaving one Jake Arrieta available for just one start in the subsequent best-of-5 series. To survive that do-or-die game in Pittsburgh, it meant taking on baseball’s best regular season team and a long-time arch-rival in what’s been a very lopsided pairing for a very long time.

Give it to the Cubs, for not letting history get the best of them. They were able to bounce back after a poor showing in St. Louis in Game 1, a game that had you thinking the Cubs didn’t have the ammunition to survive the almighty Cardinals, beaten and battered as Mike Matheny’s squad may have been. Lo and behold, they kept hitting the ball out of the park, and when the Cardinals pecked away at a Chicago lead, the Cubs scratched back.

We’ll say good-bye to the Cardinals, and point out that they’re just another great National League team that managed to win at least 100 regular season games on a long list of triple-digit winning National League teams that have failed to win the World Series since the Mets won it all in ’86. The 2015 chapter of the Mets are a little different; they’re not supposed to be here. Blame the Washington Nationals for that, but maybe credit these young Metropolitans for being too dumb to know the stage is too big for them or that they’re not ready yet.

For a while, we’ve known the National League’s chapter of New York baseball was acquiring too much talent to be kept down for long. Remember when Matt Harvey was pretty much the chosen one there? Those days are long gone, with the flowing locks of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard making the Dark Knight (and the Yankees) an afterthought in Gotham. You’ve got Yoenis Cespedes and David Wright earning the headlines for Terry Collins’ team, but it was the efforts of the likes of Michael Conforto and Daniel Murphy that put them in the place they needed to be to host the Cubs on Saturday in Game 1 of the NLCS.

As for the Dodgers, the brilliance of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke for two games apiece wasn’t enough. Chase Utley taking out Ruben Tejada on a questionable double-play breaking slide wasn’t enough. Justin Turner’s .526 batting average wasn’t enough, nor was any other aspect of the roughly $310 million payroll enough to get three wins against these Mets in a best-of-five series. If you’re into math, they were paying about $77 million, per team that advance farther than them in the 2015 Playoffs.

It’s probably not the best of ideas to reduce a best-of-five that goes the distance down to a single inning of an elimination game, but that’s how we’re going to roll with the American League Division Series. The conversation of the day on Wednesday, at around 2:30 PM (Mountain Standard Time) was about whether or not the Astros could rebound from their 8th inning collapse, a few days prior, against the defending AL Champs at home. And maybe the Royals had something to do with that as well, but you had to hold the phone on making Game 5 of Astros-Royals into headline material. Down 6-2 in the eighth inning, on the road, six outs from elimination, the Royals put together one of those innings. They got some bounces and scored enough runs(5) to survive(a 7-6 victory), but needed another win to advance. That was Monday.

Before the Royals could do what they needed to do, back at home on Wednesday evening, there was the issue of settling the other half of the bracket with Game 5 in Toronto. Fast forward to the 7th inning of that one, game tied at 2, with Rougned Odor on 3rd base and Shin-Soo Choo at the plate. On a Russell Martin throw back to Blue Jays’ reliever Aaron Sanchez, the ball hits Choo’s bat and squirts toward the third baseman. Odor scores on the “throwing error”, and all hell breaks loose in Toronto. After a review, the Rangers lead 3-2 and they were 9 outs from another trip to the ALCS. Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus wasn’t prepared to help the cause.

It started with a routine ground ball to short, which he mishandled. Then, there was a double play ball, and well, the ball was thrown poorly by Mitch Moreland at first base, and Andrus couldn’t haul it in. Next batter, it’s a sacrifice bunt not executed well, where a good throw to third should eliminate the lead runner, but Andrus can’t handle it. Bases loaded.

Toronto tied the game on a ball that should be described as a Texas Leaguer, and could have invoked the Infield Fly Rule, floats beyond the reach of the Texas second baseman. It ends up being a fielder’s choice at 2nd base, but the tying run scores. Tie game, runners at first and third for Jose Bautista.

What he did was hit the ball, so far that metaphors would be ineffective for those that don’t know much about Canadian geography. It was a three-run job, giving the home team a 6-3 lead that would stick. After he hit it, he tossed his bat about eight feet in the air, and (we assume) it traveled for kilometers before it reached the ground, well after he’d run the bases.

Blue Jays win, and they’re back in the ALCS, for the first time since 1993. That was the year Joe Carter hit baseball’s second (and most recent) World Series clinching walk-off home run. In a lot of ways, regardless of what happens to the Blue Jays the rest of the way, this Bautista shot may have been a bigger deal.

1908, 1985, 1986, 1993. The last time the Cubs, Royals, Mets, and Blue Jays have won it all, respectively. We’re going to get someone new, while the Giants, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Yankees watch from the couch…and I that’s just fine by me.

In Football

Ohio State is going to stay #1 until they lose. It’s just the way it is. I look forward to them playing Penn State under the lights in Columbus, but I’m not looking forward to seeing them wearing all black, for the sake of wearing all black.

Texas A&M will host Alabama, and the Aggies have a legitimate shot to win that game and establish themselves as a legitimate player in the College Football Playoff talk, while Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines host in-state rival Michigan State with a good chance to finally allow some points and to likely get handed their second loss of the season.

Florida will travel to Baton Rouge for a night game with LSU on Saturday. They will be without their starting quarterback, while South Carolina hosts Vanderbilt and USC travels to Notre Dame, both without their head coaches. You might expect an 0-3 run from that group with those voids.

On Sunday, expect plenty of blood in the water, in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Indianapolis. Bruce Arians didn’t even take the Cardinals back home last week, after thumping Detroit; you can be sure he wants to get his pound of flesh from Mike Tomlin and company, after they kicked him to the curb a few years back. TJ Ward said he wanted to remain with the Browns (and presumably his best friend, Joe Haden) two year ago, but Cleveland wasn’t interested, so he’ll surely be interested in ringing some bells with his Broncos visiting the 2-3 Browns. Finally, they say snitches end up with stitches, so go ahead and find your own shitty air/inflation-related pun to describe what Tom Brady and the Patriots might do to the Colts on Sunday night.

In the National Hockey League

Call it a Stanley Cup Hangover, or call it the distraction of one of your top players being accused of sexual assault, but the Chicago Blackhawks have looked anything but Champions…so far.

It’s obviously early, but we haven’t seen an immediate impact from Mike Babcock joining the Maple Leafs or Connor McDavid joining the Oilers. Both will happen in due time.

The Arizona Coyotes are basically left for dead by anyone who knows anything about this game, but they’re off to a promising start under Dave Tippett in Glendale. Rookies Anthony DuClair and Max Domi look like they have something special budding in the desert, making major contributions to the ‘Yotes 3-1 start.

Why Can't a Pitcher Win the MVP?

Thursday night I stayed up to watch Tyson Ross and Clayton Kershaw duel as the Padres finished a three-game series with the Dodgers. Getting to see such a good game was reward enough for me but as I turned off the television and rolled over to go to sleep, I couldn’t help but think I had seen more than that.

Before I begin, the point needs to be made that the greatest part about the game was that it took just two hours and twenty-three minutes to complete eight and a half innings (bottom of the ninth unnecessary because the home team won) of baseball. The ‘pace of the game’ is apparently something MLB and newly-elected Commissioner Rob Manfred will try to address in the near future. Although I whole-heartedly agree that games are taking far too long on average, I think micromanagement such as monitoring each hitter’s time spent outside the batters’ box is not the way to go about speeding up. This however, is the subject for another column and so I’ll get back to my point.

Dayn Perry wrote an interesting piece on pitching dominance a little over a week ago and though I was already aware how tremendous Kershaw is, the chart toward the bottom of the page made my jaw drop. On Thursday, Kershaw went eight innings, giving up just one run on three hits and two walks while striking out ten. That means he registered another ‘Dominant Start’ and brought his DS% just above 38 (8 of his 21 starts being ‘dominant’ as Perry describes). As good as he was Ross was even better through seven innings. He also went eight, refusing to surrender any runs until a Carl Crawford leadoff single and a Justin Turner homer gave the Dodgers the 2-1 lead in his last inning of work.

Watching the game unfold, I found myself wondering how some people can be naïve enough to discount the impact a phenomenal pitcher can have on a team. Sure, Kershaw won’t take the mound again until next Wednesday because the Dodgers have Monday off but his eight innings last night were huge.

Not only did Kershaw’s performance notch the Dodgers a home-series sweep against an opponent within the division, it also prevented the bullpen from overuse. Manager Don Mattingly had seen his starting pitchers go just five innings each of the past two days, meaning he had to rely on his bullpen to register twelve of the required twenty seven outs on consecutive days. This is the sort of thing you want to avoid making a habit of, no matter how well your relievers are pitching.

Mattingly might have let Kershaw go out for the ninth had closer Kenley Jansen been used at all the past weekend. Being swept by the Brewers before welcoming the Padres to town meant that prior to Tuesday, Jansen had not pitched since last Thursday in Atlanta.

Had the Dodgers not grabbed the lead on the Turner homer, Kershaw likely would have gone out to pitch the ninth too. His pitch count (if you put stock in such numbers) sat at 103, giving Mattingly more than enough wiggle room to justify sending his ace out to finish what he started. Instead the skipper, with a one-run lead, chose to use Andre Ethier as a pinch-hitter when the pitcher’s spot came up, in a vain attempt to add some insurance.

This is not to say I think Mattingly made a poor choice. I agree with his call to go with his closer, after all that’s what they’re there for. But in going eight and setting himself up to even go nine, Kershaw gave Mattingly a tough choice that any manager on any team would love to have to make.

The way in which the Dodgers won the game will certainly give them a boost going forward too. How good it must feel for the Dodgers to know that every five days, with Kershaw on the mound, they only need to get a couple runs and play sound defense. In a long roller-coaster type season, Kershaw’s track record must give his teammates a welcomed sense of clam at least once a week.

So now I’m asking: why is it that pitchers aren’t supposed to win the Most Valuable Player award?

If your defense is that pitchers already have the Cy Young Award and therefore a hitter should always win MVP, then you need to familiarize yourself with the Silver Slugger Award, given to the best hitter at each position in both leagues. This means that each season there are a combined seventeen Silver Sluggers which are given exclusively to hitters (yes, they do give an undeserving National League pitcher one every year as well). Meanwhile pitchers have only four honors to pursue, and that’s if you include the Rolaids Relief Man Awards for each league.

Maybe you don’t think a guy who plays every fifth day has much of an effect on those other four days. First of all, the impact a starter has on the day he pitches is absolute. If he pitches poorly, it’s going to be tough to get a win that day. If he’s on his game, it’ll be much easier. Secondly, a starting pitching performance often does have a lasting effect until the next time that pitcher takes the mound. For example, the Dodgers’ bullpen is now fully rested as the Mets come to town for the weekend. Lastly, any pitcher we’re even remotely considering for MVP would be dominating opposing lineups much like Kershaw has been this season, not going the minimum five innings to scratch out wins.

Maybe you just don’t like pitchers. Maybe you’re the type who would rather see a 10-8 slugfest than the pitchers’ duel that Ross and Kershaw engaged in on Thursday night. Well, when runs are continually scored, there’s a mound visit every inning and the outfield grass wears thin from trotting relievers, the games take much longer. If MLB wants to speed up the game they should start saying, “chicks dig the strikeout,” because good pitching beats good hitting more times than not, and nobody wants to spend a quarter of their daily time awake watching bad baseball.