Off Base
Almost Only Counts in Horseshoes

July 6, 2009, 11:10 p.m. And in gambling, when you're getting points. Thankfully, there's no such concern in baseball. Not that I'd know about that.

Yeah, the Dodgers almost dropped what would've been their worst loss of the season. We almost had to endure two days of baseball depression before the next contest, wondering if what happened Sunday was the beginning of a second half from hell.

We almost had a new (though not as compelling as Wade Boggs with cooked chicken, or Boggs and undergarments) baseball superstition to debate the merits of – a little thing called "the All-Star Jinx." Almost. Close, but no cigar.

A "Sophomore Jinx" is conceivable, I suppose, and surely the "Sports Illustrated Jinx" exists, but the "All-Star Jinx," no. So let's forget about that right now.

Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton got the news Sunday morning. Along with Orlando Hudson, they'd made the National League All-Star team, and were headed to St. Louis for next Tuesday's exhibition. So Billingsley goes out and pitches well. Maybe his best outing of the year, except since this is the sad-sack Padres we're talking about, who can say, really?

Then he just got unlucky. No jinx, just unlucky. Three earned in eight-plus is no disgrace, not even against San Diego. Bills probably could've completed the game without incident, but such is baseball. We'll never know, and it really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things.

Dodgers come away with a "W," even if they did have to play a few extra frames to get it. We'll all live.

Broxton had an off day. It's as simple as that. Just a bad day. An extremely bad day, sure, but that's all it was. The beginning of a trend this isn't, nor is it the second coming of Broxton's mid-September meltdown of 2007. Just a little bump in the road, that's out of his system. Not to worry.

In many examples between 1988 and 2008, too many to count, actually, a Matt Kemp doesn't get an Eliezer Alfonzo coming off the bag for that third out, and the Dodgers lose the game right then and there, and the tailspin begins. Or, as our beloved Don Drysdale would say, "it's Katie bar the door."

The 1988 Dodgers, on the other hand, would go onto win that type of game, exactly that type of game. A walkoff pinch single by a pitcher named Tim Leary, for example; a scoring-from-second-on-a-wild-pitch by a guy you may have heard of, one Kirk Gibson, for another.

And it looks like, in 2009, the Dodgers win those games too. Walkoffs, late-inning come-from-behinds, extra-inning successes in hostile environments.

In 2007, with the very same but not-yet-ready-for-prime-time reliever on the mound, in the same Petco Park, Broxton walks in the winning run, one of five in the bottom of the ninth. Five.

June 7, 2007. I was there, and if I could've slunk farther into my chair, or under it, I would've, believe me. The “Beat L.A.” chant that ensued, and the war-like drumbeat that accompanied, was absolutely deafening. Aerosmith deafening.

Since it was the third game of a series sweep, the clever Petco folks added the words "Sweep L.A." to the mix. And talk about your baseball climax. The stadium was in collective orgasm. Worst in-person baseball experience of my life, bar none, putting Jack Clark to shame.

But that was the 2007 club, the Dodgers of Danys Baez, Lance Carter, Mark Hendrickson and Brett Tomko. The Dodgers of Shea Hillenbrand, Wilsons Betemit and Valdez, and Chad Moeller. Quite the difference a couple of years makes.

Here's what's going to happen next. The Dodgers will go to New York and Milwaukee, and with or without some measure of Manny Ramirez hysteria along the way, will handle both of this week's opponents easily enough. Probably four out of six. Frisco and Colorado will tread water, and Los Angeles will head into the break eight or nine games up.

Don't give the points, or their equivalent, not that I'd know about such things, but about this much I'm quite sure.

There are no almosts in baseball. The Dodgers didn't almost lose a crazy game to the Pads on Sunday. They won the thing. And the Dodgers aren't almost the class of the National League. They're the class of the National League…

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

Prediction: Roy Oswalt to the Dodgers in July for both current big club players and minor leaguers, including Blake DeWitt and James McDonald…

He's Back: Not Manny. Enough with Manny. Rafael Furcal's back, and it's a good thing. A season-changer of an occurrence for L.A., and we never doubted him for a minute.

With his quick start to the month of July, Raffy has as many hits in the past four games, nine, as he had in his previous 13. And he's hitting .529 for the month. Just another item in the increasingly long list of things going right in 2009.

Furcal should be fine from here on out. With Hudson and Russell Martin getting a bit of a respite last week, perhaps they're next. I, for one, am grateful Martin missed the Midsummer Classic this time around. A catcher needs his rest – real rest, not the mild dose of R and R Martin is accustomed to getting. So there's that. Steps Out: We've taken the lead and launched the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) and are damn proud of it.

Great thanks to those in the mostly-Internet media supporting the cause with a shout-out. In particular, we'd like to thank Kevin Roderick of L.A. Observed, old friend "Orel," of Sons of Steve Garvey, and of course, IBWAA founding member Tom Hoffarth, of the Los Angeles Daily News.

Learn more about the association at the above links, and by perusing the IBWAA and 2009 election pages on this site.

Media Savvy: Steve Lyons takes considerably more incoming than just about any broadcaster in and around L.A., and while I'm no psychologist, I think it's more a matter of professional jealously than any valid criticism.

Sure, he's had a couple of unfortunate missteps behind the microphone, but I'm a big fan. I think Lyons does a great job both with his Dodgers game commentary, and with what is to me the indispensable Dodgers Live franchise for Prime Ticket. I miss Kevin Kennedy a ton, and the show was better with him than it is without, buy Lyons and Patrick O'Neal are an excellent pair.

Props to Lyons especially for his analysis of Manny's not being Manny enough, calling out the now 37-year-old outfielder for not better preparing himself to come back in game shape. I hate the expression, "spot on," and I try never to use it, but good for Lyons re Manny. Spot on, Psycho.

And finally, check out this cool video, from Sam Slesinger, and the folks at Manny Doin' Work...

Dodger Sighting: I ran into Andre Ethier at a Starbucks on Melrose on the off day last week. He was pushing the stroller and looking every bit the loving father and regular guy. He'd hit the game-winner homer the day before, but not a person in the place had a clue who he was. Only in L.A., right? Not being star-struck myself, or at least not to the point of insensitive obnoxiousness, I left him alone completely. Good for me, good for him…

Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend…

Remember, glove conquers all….







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