Dodgers Dugout: The long and winding road to Bryce Harper may be near an end
Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and, hey, Bryce Harper might still be in the Dodgers’ future after all.
Bryce Harper is coming to town?
The big news since the last newsletter: the Dodgers are back in the hunt for Bryce Harper.
The Phillies have been, and still are, the favorites to sign Harper, who would love a 10-year deal for more money than Manny Machado got from the Padres ($300 million). It is believed the Dodgers, who never officially discuss their negotiations, are offering a much shorter deal to Harper.
A contingent of Dodgers, including manager Dave Roberts, went to Las Vegas over the weekend to meet with Harper.
“It was good,” Roberts said. “Just kind of trying to get to know each other and I think in the spirit of us as the Dodgers, vetting a certain process makes sense. And for those guys to do their due diligence as well.”
It still seems unlikely the Dodgers will sign Harper, but it is interesting that they did meet with him. It’s possible that he really wants to play on the West Coast and he’s hoping the Dodgers offer him something at the last minute to tempt him to sign.
The timing of all of this is bad, because fans who really wanted them to sign Harper had finally calmed down and accepted the fact they weren’t, and this has just gotten them all riled up again.
I still think he ends up with Philadelphia, but hey, not many expected Machado to end up with the Padres, so you never know. Heck, by the time you read this, Harper may have already signed with someone. When a signing does happen, we’ll break it all down in a future newsletter.
Kershaw is a question mark
We now know the mystery condition that caused Clayton Kershaw to stop throwing last week: inflammation in his pitching shoulder.
“It’s better now than later,” Roberts said. “So, we have plenty of time to address this, reset, and see where it takes us. But we’re hopeful. … Just talking with Clayton and the training staff, there’s no cause for concern.”
There’s plenty of cause for concern in the minds of Dodger fans. We have watched Kershaw slowly deteriorate physically over the last few seasons, so when you see “Kershaw to stop throwing” in the first week of spring training, the immediate thought is “done for the season.”
And then Kershaw threw again on Monday and shut it down after not feeling right.
This is not a good sign. I’m not going to speculate on how long he could be out or what this means because we are talking about a person’s health, and I don’t like to guess about those things. Hopefully, it’s nothing. We probably won’t know for a while.
But while our minds race to the worst conclusion, let’s take a look at Kershaw’s games started and innings pitched in recent years:
2015: 33 GS, 232.2 IP
2016: 21 GS, 149 IP
2017: 27 GS, 175 IP
2018: 26 GS, 161.1 IP
That’s not a good trend.
Puig said what?
For those of you still mad the Dodgers traded Yasiel Puig, he said this in camp with the Cincinnati Reds:
“The last couple years, I didn’t work hard because I still have a contract to go. Now I think I’ll work hard more than any year in my life.”
Also, KTLA will televise 10 Dodger games during the season. They are:
Tue. April 2, vs. San Francisco, 7 p.m.
Fri. April 12, vs. Milwaukee, 7 p.m.
Thur. April 18, at Milwaukee, 5 p.m.
Wed. April 24, at Chicago Cubs, 5 p.m.
Sat. April 27, vs. Pittsburgh, 6 p.m.
Sat. May 11, vs. Washington, 6 p.m.
Mon. May 27, vs. New York Mets, 5 p.m.
Thur. May 30, vs. New York Mets, 6:30 p.m.
Sat. June 1, vs. Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
Sat. June 15, vs. Chicago Cubs, 6 p.m.
All-time 40-man roster
We had 43 players on the 40-man roster, so I asked you to cut three players from a list of the lowest vote getters in previous rounds. After receiving 10,146 ballots, here are the results:
Cut from team
Burt Hooton, named on 37.9% of ballots
Mike Marshall, 33.6%
Bob Welch, 31.2%
Remaining on team
Andre Ethier, 28.3%
Kirk Gibson, 27.4%
Zack Wheat, 25.9%
Matt Kemp, 23.3%
Adrian Beltre, 22.9%
Wes Parker, 20%
Bill Russell, 13.7%
Pedro Guerrero, 12.6%
Tommy John, 9.3%
Mike Scioscia, 7.8%
Jim Gilliam, 4.2%
Johnny Podres, 3.1%
Which means our final 40-man roster is:
Pee Wee Reese
Who is going to manage and coach this team?
Now that the team is set, we need to pick a manager and coaches to conclude our offseason polling. So, let’s take a look at everyone who managed the team for at least 462 games (basically, three full seasons) since 1901. Please vote for five of them. The person getting the most votes will be the manager, the next four will be coaches. You can vote by clicking here or by clicking here to email me your choices. Remember to vote for five.
Walter Alston (1954-76, 2,040-1,613 W-L record, 4 World Series titles): Tommy Lasorda is far more famous, but you can make a solid case that Walter Alston is the greatest manager in Dodger history.
Alston began managing the Dodgers in 1954 when they were still in Brooklyn, and remained manager until 1976, winning seven NL pennants (1955, 1956, 1959, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1974) and four World Series titles, (1955, 1959, 1963, 1965), three of them in Los Angeles. Alston was named NL manager of the year six times before retiring. He had his number (24) retired by the team in 1977, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983. When he got his 2,000th win in the 1976 season, he became only the fifth manager at the time to reach that milestone. There are only 10 now. He is one of five managers to win at least four World Series titles. The others: Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel, Connie Mack and Joe Torre. Alston died at age 72 on Oct. 1, 1984.
Legendary Times columnist Jim Murray wrote the following when Alston retired:
“I don’t know whether you’re Republican or Democrat or Catholic or Protestant, and I’ve known you for 18 years,” Murray wrote of Alston. “You were as Middle-Western as a pitchfork. Black players who have a sure instinct for the closet bigot recognized immediately you didn’t know what prejudice was. There was no ‘side’ to Walter Alston. What you saw was what you got.”
You can read more about the life of Alston in this article.
Bill Dahlen (1910-13, 251-355): The Superbas, as they were called then, had a reputation as being a team of lazy individuals instead of a true team when Dahlen was hired to manage them. Dahlen was sort of a Billy Martin type, a guy who would do anything it took to win and fight anyone who got in his way. It was a perfect match. Though his record was poor, Dahlen whipped the players into shape and got them to play as a unit, discarding the players who refused to toe the line. He had the team ready to win a pennant when team owner Charles Ebbets decided that they now needed someone a little calmer to lead the team to the final step. He fired Dahlen while releasing this statement: “His judgment in handling the players under contract of the Brooklyn club has been wonderful. During his first three years as manager he dispensed with the services of many players who were either incompetent, misbehaving or troublesome, rarely misjudging as a player, as is evidenced by the fact that of all the men he passed up only one was of major league caliber.”
Ebbets hired Wilbert Robinson to manager the team, which won the pennant the next season. The first person Robinson thanked was Dahlen. Dahlen died in 1950 at age 80 and is currently buried in an unmarked grave in the Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn. It would be nice if the Dodgers bought him a marker, because he was an important part of their history.
Chuck Dressen (1951-53, 298-166): Dressen managed the team to two consecutive pennants and looked like he would be Dodger manager for a long time. After losing to the Yankees in six games in the 1953 World Series, Dressen wrote a letter to Walter O’Malley asking for a three-year deal. O’Malley never gave more than a one-year deal to his managers, and told Dressen, who refused to back down at what he thought would be the start of a negotiation process. O’Malley didn’t negotiate. He called a news conference to announce that Dressen was not coming back and that Walter Alston was the new manager. He returned years later as a coach under Alston and died of a heart attack in 1966 at age 71.
Leo Durocher (1939-46, 1948, 738-565): Durocher was a fiery presence, always willing to pick a fight to spur his team to action. In 1947, some Dodgers players started and circulated a petition asking management not to put Jackie Robinson on the team. The team was training in Cuba when Durocher found out about the petition around midnight. He immediately called a team meeting and told the players what they could do with their petition. “I don’t care if he is yellow or black or has stripes like a … zebra. I’m his manager and I say he plays.” Durocher was suspended by MLB not long after for carousing with known gamblers and having an affair. He came back for a while in 1948, but GM Branch Rickey was looking to unload him (Burt Shotton had replaced Durocher as manager in 1947 and won the pennant) and didn’t get in the way when the New York Giants asked if they could talk to Durocher about becoming their manager. They hired him the next day.
Ned Hanlon (1901-1905, 328-387): “Those [players] didn’t pay any more attention to Ned Hanlon than they did to the batboy,” Sam Crawford is quoted as saying in the book “Deadball Stars of the National League.” “He was a bench manager in civilian clothes. When things would get a little tough in a game, Hanlon would sit there on the bench and wring his hands and start telling some of those old-timers what to do. They’d look at him and say, ‘For Christ’s sake, just keep quiet and leave us alone. We’ll win this ball game if you only shut up.’”
Tommy Lasorda (1976-96, 1,599-1,439, 2 WS titles): Do I really need to explain who Lasorda is? I wrote about him last year when voters named him the eighth greatest Dodger of all time. You can read that here.
Don Mattingly (2011-15, 446-363): Fans never really warmed to Mattingly in his five seasons with the team. He didn’t show a lot of emotion and wasn’t a great game manager, but he did lead the Dodgers to the playoffs three times. But for a guy who led the team for five seasons and left only four years ago, it’s certainly hard to remember any memorable stories involving him.
Dave Roberts (2016-current, 287-200): There’s nothing I can write about Roberts that you don’t already know. Dodger fans either love him or hate him as a manager.
Wilbert Robinson (1914-31, 1,375-1,341): Robinson managed the Dodgers to two NL pennants and the team was so identified with him at the time that they were called the Brooklyn Robins for a while in his honor. Brooklyn Robins to two National League pennants and a 1,399-1,398 record from 1914 to 1931. In 1915, famous woman aviator Ruth Law was near the team’s spring training camp in Daytona Beach, Fla., and getting a lot of publicity for dropping golf balls from her plane on a nearby golf course. The Dodgers saw a chance to get in on this publicity and asked her if she would drop a baseball from her plane to a player down below, who would catch the ball. She said sure, but no player would volunteer to do it. Robinson, wanting to show his players they need to be tougher, said he’d do it. When the time came, Law realized she forgot to bring the baseball with her, but she did have a grapefruit (don’t ask me why). So, she dropped that instead. Robinson got the grapefruit, which exploded the moment it hit his mitt. Robinson was convinced the pulp covering him was his innards and that he was seriously injured. He called for help. Players rushed to his side, and once everyone figured out what had happened, he never lived it down. Robinson died in 1934 after falling in a bathroom and striking his head on the bathtub. He was 70.
Burt Shotton (1947-50, 326-215): Shotton was hired when Leo Durocher was suspended for the 1947 season and led the team to the NL pennant in his first managing job since he led the Philadelphia Phillies to a 60-92 record in 1933. He was the complete opposite of Durocher in demeanor and his quiet way causes him to go overlooked by many fans when listing the best Dodgers managers ever. He wore street clothes when he managed, one of the last to do so. When Walter O’Malley took the Dodgers over in 1950, that signified the end of Shotton’s tenure with the team. “I love playing for Shotton,” Jackie Robinson said. “When Shotton wants to bawl out a player he takes him aside and does it in private. That gives you a sort of lift.” Shotton died of a heart attack in 1962 at age 77.
Casey Stengel (1934-36, 208-251): Stengel managed the Dodgers before he became the genius who led the Yankees to multiple World Series titles. He was known mostly as a clown during his short Dodger tenure, coaching third base and entertaining the fans between innings. He was fired after the team finished seventh in 1936.
Joe Torre (2008-10, 259-227): Torre came with great fanfare to the Dodgers and got the team to the NLCS his first two seasons with the team. He stepped down after his third season and handed the keys to the team over to Don Mattingly.
Jim Tracy (2001-05, 427-383): Tracy was a good, but not great, manager but a better human being. A few days after Tracy was let go as manager following the 2005 season, the Times sports dept. received a call. It was Tracy, wanting to speak to then sports editor Randy Harvey. Tracy called to thank everyone in the sports department for the fair and even-handed coverage of the team for the five seasons he was in charge.
Tommy Lasorda has had enough of the Phillie Phanatic. Watch it here.
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