Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Of Course It's Kosher To Boo - Even When We Love Who We're Booing.

Say what you will about this crazy Dodgers' season, but if anything, 2013 has given the local and national media, social media and us bloggers plenty to write, gripe and debate about over this past month. 

The latest fuel for fire is still attached to Matt Kemp, and whether or not it's OK to "boo" the face of the franchise.  One might say that I've been booing Kemp regularly here, and that would be a fair assessment.  Another might say I have no right to boo a guy who is so generous and gives to the fans straight from the heart.

Matt Kemp flew Joshua Jones to Los Angeles (Photo Credit: Sportspedia)
 I do have to admit that Kemp definitely has a knack for immediately going out and doing something wonderful,like flying and hosting terminally ill Dodger fan Joshua Jones and his family out to Dodger Stadium, immediately after I've written a less than positive piece about him.  That said, Kemp's benevolent moves away from the field, while worthy of respect and admiration, do nothing to advance runners in scoring position when it matters on the field.

Baseball has always been the sport of "Boo!" as much as "Peanuuuts!" and "Down in front!"  Anybody who's paid the price of admission is entitled to express a non-obscene opinion out loud, even if that sometimes includes hurling one or two hearty razzes at the home team.  It doesn't make you disloyal to your team or less of a fan simply because you expect more and you let the guys on the field know that you're not happy when they don't deliver. 

I'm definitely not advocating booing every time a player muffs a play or grounds out, and I'm definitely NOT advocating booing a struggling player in the middle of an at-bat.  That's exactly what happened in a recent game when the Dodger Stadium crowd actually started booing Kemp when he got to a two-strike count.  They weren't booing a perceived bad strike call by the ump.  No sir. They were booing in anticipation of an inevitable third strike.  Which inevitably came, and was followed by even more boos. That second-strike negativity doesn't help anyone, and possibly will cloud a player who's already pressing at the plate. 

That said, we should consider what exactly are all those boos directed toward?  Yes, in a situation following a third or fourth (the dreaded Golden Sombrero) strike out of a game, many of those folks are directly booing Kemp.  But many like me, are booing the entire scenario.  We're not only booing Kemp's strike out, we're booing the big picture, if you will.

In the case of this season, we've been booing the general situation of yet another case of runners left stranded, another ruined rally, another game lost that we should have won, and - until recently - the resistance of Don Mattingly to face reality and drop Kemp down in the batting order where his current offensive capabilities truly deserve to be.

If I may digress for a bit - all I've got to say about that recent development is - FINALLY!  I've been  writing here for quite a while practically begging that Kemp be dropped down in the order.  I suppose it takes a while for humble little blogs like mine to filter over to Mattingly. 

We're not booing in the stands or grumbling in our blogs because we're anti-team.  Rather, it's quite the opposite.  We love our team and we want them to win every night.  Point of fact: Dodger fans don't boo the home team easily.  That hasn't been our M.O. like it is in other cities; Philadelphia, to name one.

We're just tired of losing, tired of the enemy up north leading the division, and damn tired of rising ticket, hot dog and beer prices for a last place team.  There.  Now that a healthy boo has been let out -

( Credit: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Trade Me (Almost) Anything: Angels Edition

Hey everybody,

Here comes a crop of cards for you Angels collectors out there.  I also have a bit of pimpage for you all.  Bert, over at Swing And A Pop Up  is offering up Angels cards as well.

So with at least two blogs offering up cards, it's a nice time to be an Angels collector.  However, I'm hoping the Dodgers can build on the momentum of last night's come-from-behind win and make it a hard time to be an Angels fan again today.

Before I get to those Angels cards I have two extra notes:
1. I want to acknowledge some great trade packages that have arrived over the past 10 days or so.  I received packages full of goodies from Cardboard Heaven, Chunter and yet even more Hy-Grades from Swing And A Pop Up.  THANKS for all the great stuff, boys!  Posts will be coming up.

2. In another sports battle of California cities, the L.A. Kings are playing the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 of their playoff series.  The Kings just went up 2-0 as I typed this! Justin williams is now looking for a hat trick.  Go Kings!

Now back to baseball cards.   Here's an Angels assortment of different uniforms and names:

THANKS for reading, everybody!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Move Over Bison, Here Comes El Jaguar !

Back when Don Mattingly was being a calm and quiet manager, it was understood that he expected one of the Dodger players to step up and be a leader in the locker room.  Mattingly properly understands that things work out best for a team when the players police themselves and gain motivation, energy and momentum from each other.

At the beginning of this season that guy was supposed to be the Bison, Matt Kemp.  Unfortunately, Kemp's been mired in a horrible 2013 season and he just hasn't been able to fill that role.

Make no mistake, a guy doesn't have to be hitting .375 and wear the Triple Crown to be a team leader.  A player who put up big numbers in a past season can still be a team leader in a later season when he's slumping.  Dodger fans saw that after Kirk Gibson's World Series heroics.  His past leg injuries took their toll, and his numbers and playing time steadily decreased.  However, to the team, the fans and the media, Gibson remained the Dodger's de facto leader and inspiration. 

 Kemp fits that pattern.  He's been coasting off of his vapors from an MVP-caliber 2011 and one super month in 2012, and he's been given the benefit of the doubt for a long time.  For too dang long in my opinion.  That benefit of the doubt has resulted in an automatic granting of that leadership position to Kemp by Mattingly, the media, and even the fans. 

Unfortunately, much like that other favored L.A. son, Andre Ethier, Kemp has not been handling this season's woes very well at all.  Kemp frequently lets his emotions get away from him, and he lets us all see it.   Far too often we don't get the Bison running over opposing teams, we just get a blind and lost bull busting up a china shop.

This past weekend, when he was lifted in a late game, double-switch by Mattingly (after striking out twice earlier),  he responded by angrily yelling at the manager and throwing his glove against the dugout wall, which was then followed by more fussing and shouting in Mattingly's direction, in plain view for all to see. 

Matt Kemp reacts after yet another strike out.       (Photo: MLB)

As I mentioned in my earlier post about Andre Ethier, this is exactly the way a selfish, spoiled youngster handles disappointment; not a professional, and certainly not a leader of men. 

Which brings me to the man who is establishing himself as the new Dodger's leader, Adrian Gonzalez -" El Jaguar".  Since Kemp is called the Bison, and I'm not enough of a Padre fan to know if Gonzalez had a nickname with the Padres - and even if he did, who wants to use a San Diego nickname anyways - I've decided upon calling Adrian  "El Jaguar".

Since his home run on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium, Adrian Gonzalez has been rock steady and has consistently come through for the Dodgers time and time again.  As of tonight, Gonzalez leads the Dodgers in just about EVERY offensive category!  He leads in B.A.(.337), H.Rs (6), doubles (11), RBIs (37), OBP (395), and hits (55).   In tonight's game while Kemp was dropping balls that were inside his mitt and going 0 for 5 with 4 strike outs, El Jaguar went 4 for 4 and scored 4 runs in a close 8-7, come-from-behind win over the Angels.

                                                                                                                              (Photo: Mark J. Terrill, A.P.)

As I mentioned earlier, it's not just big numbers that make a guy a leader.  However, at the crux of things, it does all come down to leading by example.  When Gonzalez suffered a neck injury at the start of this month, Mattingly rested him for a game against the Giants.  Later in that same game Gonzalez was called upon to come off the bench and pinch hit, sore neck and all.  El Jaguar immediately struck with a base hit that scored 2 runs.

After Don Mattingly called out the team for a lack of grit last week, Gonzalez had Mattingly's back  and underlined his manager's points that talent alone does not a champion make. Mattingly has always been loyal to his players, and Gonzalez went on record as being loyal to his skipper.

After that, we in the public haven't heard a lot from Gonzalez except the crack of his bat racking up  more hits and RBIs.  Watch Gonzalez these days when he gets on base (if he's not too busy trotting around all of them).  When he gets on, he looks over into the Dodgers dugout and mouths a solid, "Let's Go!" to the rest of the team.  I'm willing to bet he's doing the same thing behind those closed Blue Clubhouse doors.

 THAT'S what a team leader does. 

Cardboard Heroes Say THANKS To The Real Heroes

Hey everybody,

It's Memorial Day and Buzz Aldrin is about to toss out the first pitch at Chavez Ravine.  As our baseball heroes prepare to battle it out on field, I'm presenting some cards with patriotic backgrounds to honor the men and women who served and gave the ultimate sacrifice on the fields of battle keeping us all safe for generations.

From me to all the vets out there, past and present, especially to Dad, who earned a Bronze Star in The Battle of the Bulge - THANKS!

THANKS for Afghanistan!

THANKS for Iraq !

THANKS for Iraq (again)!

THANKS for Vietnam!

THANKS for Korea!

THANKS for World War 2 (Pacific Campaign)!


THANKS for World War 2 (European Campaign)!

THANKS for World War 1!
THANKS to ALL VETS, and Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Trade Me (Almost) Anything: St. Louis Cardinals

Hey everybody,

Whew! What a week it's been for the Dodgers.  We had everything - and now, here comes the kitchen sink - the best team in the bigs, the Cardinals.

While Chris Capuaono is showing he currently doesn't have enough grit to shut down those Cards, let's see if these cards have enough grit to garner up a quick trade:
Here's a sparkplug that Angels fans know as well.

Nice card, Most Saves - Rookie

He's so good, he merits two cards.

Here's another former Angel, Jim Edmonds

Waitaminute - Yet Another Angel???!!?? Wow
 THANKS for reading, everybody!


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mattingly vs. Ethier Round One

With an off day for the Dodger Nation, we all get to reflect on the bizarre whirlwind that the 2013 season has become.  Over the past week the Dodgers and their fans have seen everything from the depths of getting swept (again), to the heights of a Clayton Kershaw masterpiece (again), to rampant media speculation over the exact second Don Mattingly will be fired (mostly proven wrong as of this writing), to Mattingly firing his own shots across the bow toward anyone within earshot (the most interesting development of them all). 

Since the  statements made by Mattingly before yesterday's game have underlined and punctuated almost every word said or written about the Dodgers since, here's my dos centavos:

Most folks have rightfully taken those statements to be shots at popular Dodger Andre Ethier and equally UNpopular Dodger G.M. Ned Colletti.  While I agree with the initial assessments, I think some out there are missing the point behind his calling out (and sitting down) of Ethier.

Some folks are presuming Ethier was benched because he's somehow been "dogging it" and not giving enough effort in the field or not hitting well enough with RISP, and then correctly arguing that we've all seen him play hard on defense, he hasn't been the only stiff in the lineup when it comes to RISP, and he's certainly putting up better power numbers than his underachieving teammate, Matt Kemp.  That said, there are definite issues with Ethier's emotional maturity levels - which definitely affect his ability to play at his best. 

How Andre sees himself.

How too many of us have seen him too often.

When Mattingly sat Ethier because he wanted to field a team of  players willing to "compete", I don't think he was referring to Ethier's work ethic or whether or not he dives often enough in the outfield.  Rather, he was speaking about THIS Andre Ethier (credit o.p. Chad Moriyama):

Far too often Andre has allowed his emotions to control his actions.  He may very well see this as his competitive spirit,  but Mattingly is enough of a manager to know when a guy is seeing red, he's effectively taken himself out of the game.  Even if the ump doesn't eject him, a player in this state of mind will stand in the outfield focused on himself and being angry at the world, potentially missing that crucial first jump that is the difference between stealing a home run at the wall and being one step too late to do anything but watch it sail just beyond his glove. 

Mattingly didn't bench Ethier because he doesn't have any fire, it's because Andre internalizes and misdirects it.  All athletes feel the emotion of the game; it's how they handle it that separates the great ones from the Milton Bradleys.

I think that's what Mattingly was trying to say here: Asked if he didn't think Ethier would fight, Mattingly said, "I don't really want to say that, but we've got to compete."

and here:
 “There’s a touch of a difference between saying you’re giving your best effort and you’re willing to fight for something,” Mattingly said. “Some guys go to another level for that price, will do whatever it takes to win a game … that inside, you’re not beating me today. There’s something there you can’t measure with Sabermetrics. You can’t put a number on it.”

Mattinlgy has challenged Ethier to dig down inside himself and stop reacting like a disappointed adolescent.  He's asked him to sit a bit, reflect on his actions and play the game like a man.

That said, I'm encouraged (and I wager Mattingly is as well) that Ethier took the  high road (mostly) in reacting to his benching.  Ethier says he's disappointed that Mattingly spoke to the press about this before speaking to him privately, and  some are taking him at his word, in turn criticizing Mattingly for this supposed slight as well.

However, Mattingly's stated that he's spoken to Ethier about these issues a few times in the past.  It's entirely possible that Ethier is simply not making the connection between those past conversations and this week's disciplinary action.  Regardless of who's right on that particular angle, it's still incumbent upon Andre to step up and prove himself worthy of remaining in the lineup the next time he gets the chance.

"Put me in, coach."

One last note: Had enough negatives and speculation? Read a great piece here  at True Blue L.A. about "What has gone right for the Dodgers". 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

As Don Mattingly Twists In The Blue Wind...

To fire or not to fire Damn Mattingly?

These days it seems just about every writer, blogger, sportstalk radio host, and part-time Dodger fan around the water cooler isn't talking about IF Dodger manager Don Mattingly should be fired, but rather WHEN the axe will fall.  The popular theory is it'll take place sometime after the completion of today's game in Milwaukee and before first pitch Friday night at Dodger Stadium.

With Hyun-Jin Ryu leading the Dodgers to a victory today, I'm inclined to think Mattingly's hide will be rescued once again.  How long it stays rescued (if it indeed is) is anybody's guess, but I don't think Dodger's ownership really wants to fire the guy.  Heck, although I've chewed out Mattingly for boneheadedness any number of times here in the past, I've never called for his head.  Firing the guy is not going to suddenly make Matt Kemp the player he once was, or Andre Ethier the player many of us hoped he would become.

There are some out there who consistently declare that a manger doesn't make any difference.  I always wonder how literally they mean this, because OF COURSE MANAGERS MATTER.  It's simplistic to think any bum off the street could take the place of Casey Stengel and the team wouldn't miss a beat.

We've all seen teams that are so full of talent firing on all cylinders that any halfway competent game manager will look like a genius, and teams with so little talent that a gaggle of HOF managers wouldn't be able to save that mess.  In those cases managers might not matter much, but those are the exceptions to the rule.  Note: When two teams are evenly matched (more or less), the better manager can and often does make the difference.

When you have a team of players that are overachieving and leading a division over an extended period of time, that's often due to a manager.  When you have a team that can ignore the hot spotlights of controversial ownership, team bankruptcy and fan boycotts while remaining focused on the field, that's due to a manager.   When you have star players who are slumping, but they're not criticized in interviews, or are given multiple chances until they can work their ways out of it, that's thanks to a manager. 

Apparently the Dodger players love Mattingly.  This is partly due to his intense loyalty to them.  For the first miserable part of this season, Mattingly has refused to publicly knock any of his players, or the team as a whole.  Despite Matt Kemp's inability to rise to the level of just being a shadow of the batter he once was, he remains cemented in the 3 or 4 spot in the batting order.  After the Dodgers were embarrassingly stomped and swept in San Francisco earlier this season, Mattingly said he was "more pleased" with the team after the sweep.  Now THAT'S loyalty - to a fault.

Perhaps sensing - as most of us do - that now every game is a potential make or break for his job, before this morning's game Mattingly gave one of the most honest assessments of the Dodgers that I've heard from him all season.  As reported by Bill Plunkett in the  O.C.Register and picked up by Ernest Reyes over at Dodgers Blue Heaven , Mattingly actually called out his players publicly and said:

"We gotta find a team with talent that will fight and compete like a club that doesn't have that talent."

 "There has to be a mixture of competitiveness. It's not 'Let's put an All-Star team together and the All-Star team wins'."

 "All grit and no talent isn't going to make you successful. But all talent and no grit isn't going to get you there either."

WOW! Coming from a guy like Mattingly, these are bombshells.   Apparently he's decided that HE better show some grit before he's tossed under the bus.  Is it too little, too late?  If this is the first time anyone who matters has heard those words from him, it may well be too late.  However, I think he's said this before, behind closed doors, and perhaps all the way to the top.  Therefore he feels comfortable enough - or stressed enough - to finally air it out for all of us on the outside.  This wasn't criticism filled with frustration or bile.  He's simply calling it like it is.  Every now and then everybody needs a cold dose of reality to stop our world and get us realigned. 

As much as I have faulted Mattingly for his past in-game decision making, I gotta admire the guy's loyalty to his team and his players.  Do you remember the last time the Dodgers had a manager with such devotion?  Yup, Tommy Lasorda.

Sometimes never-die loyalty and trust in a player to rise to the occasion like Tommy had will get you bit in the rear (see Tom Niedenfuer), but quite often it nets awesome results (see Bob Welch, Orel Hershiser and so on).  Sometimes even, entire teams will respond (see 1988 Dodgers).  Managers don't matter, my eye.

Perhaps Dodgers ownership recognizes and actually wants that type of loyalty from a manager.  He's certainly given these Dodgers every possible chance to rise to the occasion and never questioned their ability or "grit" - until now.  I would venture Kasten and Co. are not blind to the fact they built this team, not Mattingly.  Surely they recognize if Kemp and Ethier did the jobs they are being handsomely paid to do, this conversation would not be taking place. 

Which is why Mattingly may be saved.  There's not enough loyalty in the world, much less in sports today.  If he's anything, Mattingly is old school loyalty, which the Dodgers used to embody, and may well wish to embrace once again.

I don't think Magic really wants to be the face of the guys who fired Donnie Baseball, so I see this drama being strung along a bit further.  I think they give Mattingly until the All-Star break to find out just how much grit this team has.  

Then we'll see something. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Trade Me almost Anything: Mil-Walk-EEE Brewers (Our New Masters)

Hey everybody,

Despite the Dodgers having yet another outrageously bad weekend, mine was pretty darn good. 
The highlight was meeting up with a few of my fellow bloggers at the card show on Saturday. 

Last week I wrote about Clayton Kershaw being an almost guaranteed winner every time he takes the mound.  However, with what this year's Dodger squad has devolved into, I now feel the only way Kershaw wins tonight against the Brewers will be to pitch a perfect game....

...and even then, we might end up being tied 0-0 at the end of 9, and (insert burned-out Kenley Jensen or just plain burn-out Brandon League's name here) will come in and immediately give up a walk off homer in the 10th.  It would not surprise me in the least.  *sigh*

On a positive comes Brewers trade bait for ya!

Here's how it works In each post I'll offer cards from one particular ballclub.  I'm starting the offer at 9 cards, since 9 is what fits onto my scanner plate, and I can comfortably shoot 9 cards to you in a PWE. 

What do I want in return?  I'll accept whatever and however many cards you want to shoot back. It doesn't have to be 9 cards in return and they don't have to be all Dodgers.  My only request is you check out my "What I collect" or "Sets I'm chasing" pages here and use them as guides.

Once again, you don't have to match me for numbers of cards or perceived monetary value.  Say I send you 9 cards and you send me 1insert or vintage card.  Cool!

The intent here is simply to  TRADE, BABY, TRADE!


 THANKS for stopping by, everybody!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I Went To A Card Show & A Trade Fest Broke Out

Hey everybody,

(The below post was written last night and finished too late to post...but here it is in its original form.) 

LtoR: Ernest, Zawkin, StealingHome, Spiegel

 Today's post about the card show out in Culver City is going up a bit late because I went to the card show with a friend.  After the show we hopped over to Santa Monica and I just got home.

What a cool card show it was!  It was held in a city auditorium...

 You can read Spiegel's review of the show as a dealer  here.

Here's our dealer hero now!
 I left before the end of the show, so I don't know if Spiegel was able to sell off all the rest of this below, but he did tell me he had already made back his table fee and every sale from there on was Champagne Money! Woo-Hoo!

As Spiegel mentioned, it was more than a card show, because it was a great chance for several Dodger bloggers to get together, talk cards and get a couple of trades going.

It was extra cool for me because even though I have been blogging for a little more than a year now, I'm still a relative newbie when it comes to meeting up with my fellow Dodger bloggers. As a matter of fact, I'm such a newb that I met Ernest from Dodgers Blue Heaven today and I thought I had simply met a cool guy.

Ernest, I apologize I didn't make the connection that you're the guy behind that great resource blog of all things Dodger Blue.  I'm looking forward to the next time we meet and talking a bit more.

How about a couple more shots from the show...

It wasn't a huge card show, but vintage was well represented.

Speaking of vintage, there were some very cool old-time bats here. Zawkin said he held Hack Wilson's bat.
 My friend who joined me at the show today doesn't know much about baseball, but this guy was definitely a familiar face...

 Did I mention some trades took place?  First up was a card exchange between Spiegel and myself.  He gave me a great stack of cards; here are just a few highlights...

Above is a very cool -and new for me - shiny card honoring the best third baseman the Dodgers have had in a decade.  A DECADE !  Do you hear me, Ned Colletti????

THIS was the best card of the trade for me.  My first card of the Dodgers new K-Kid. 

How about this one? Dodger pitcher relics are cool, but I really appreciate a bat relic from a pitcher.  Nice one, Michael.

 There was also a quickie trade between Zawkin, from the great blog,  Plashke, Thy Sweater Is Argyle and myself.  First of all, I've gotta say the only thing I expected to get was the cold shoulder because of the way I've chewed up Zawkin's favorite player, Matt Bison Kemp here at ATBATT in the past.

Well, because Zawkin's cool like that, he dropped a very nice card on me...

I now have my very own Mickey Hatcher autograph.  A-way back in March, Zawkin posted about a trade that netted him the above Hatcher card, and I commented that I've gotta get one of my own.  Zawkin is such an awesome dude that today he gave me THAT very card because as he said, he knew, "I liked it"!  Zawkin, THANKS, man.

Most of you non-Dodger fans are probably thinking who-the-heck is Mickey Hatcher?  Some of you probably know him as the dude with the giant baseball mitt from his '86 Fleer and '91 Upper Deck cards, or as the former batting coach for Mike Scioscia's Angels.

Mickey is much more than that.  To me, Hatch is the unsung hero of the 1988 World Series.  Everybody remembers Kirk Gibson's 9th inning heroics from Game 1, but that never woulda had a chance to happen if it wasn't for Hatcher's 1st inning, 2-run HR off of A's ace, Dave Stewart.  Hatcher and Gibson's homers were the only ones for the Dodgers that night.

That wasn't all for Hatcher.  After Gibby knocked out that legendary HR, he never appeared in the series again.  Who replaced him?  Yup, Mickey Hatcher.   He provided a great spark of enthusiasm and fire for that Dodgers team that ran hard on Tommy Lasorda's unique brand of baseball spark.

Nobody hit another home run for the Dodgers in that series again until Game 5.  Like he was placing bookends on the WS, once again Hatcher stepped up and blasted a 2-run HR in the 1st inning to help lead the Dodgers to win that 5th and final game of the series.

After hitting only 1 homer all season, Hatcher replaced Gibson in the freakin' World Series, no less, and went on to bat .368 with 2 homers and 5 RBI's. When Baseball's Spotlight shone the brightest and hottest, Hatch delivered and he truly became a World Series hero.

Oh yeah, there was a card show today, which means I also bought a few cards.  That post is yet to come.

What was the secret joke that made us all laugh in this shot?

THANKS for reading everybody!