Morning Briefing: Perfect timing for Joe Kelly bobblehead night

Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly has put in some head-spinning performances this season.
(Jim Thompson / For The Times)

Dodgers relief pitcher Joe Kelly said it himself this week, after absorbing a loss against the Angels where in one hitless inning he gave up two runs, walked three, had two wild pitches and struck out three: “It can’t get any more bizarre. I guess it’s average for right now.”

The bizarreness meter goes wild again as the Dodgers proceed with not-just-an-average Joe Kelly bobblehead giveaway at Dodger Stadium for Thursday’s series opener against the Chicago Cubs.

In the history of the Dodgers’ bobblehead nights going back to 2001, this kitsch Kelly edition will be No. 127, according to team records.

True enough, there’s notable disparity when comparing a three-year, $25 million off-season deal given to the Corona High and UC Riverside product coming off a World Series win in Boston and his current 1-3 record, 7.59 ERA and three blown saves in 22 appearances.


It’s Joe Kelly bobblehead night at Dodger Stadium on Thursday.
(Los Angeles Times)

Yet if one were to audit one’s own Dodger bobblehead collection, there’s enough head shaking to go around. There have been ones honoring relief pitcher Joe Beimel (in 2008, after a fan internet vote orchestrated by his parents), several for Eric Gagne and Manny Ramirez (prior to steroid use revelations), Brian Jordan, Fred McGriff, Hong-chih Kuo, Brian Wilson, even Manny Machado last year.

Once the Dodgers made the official Kelly bobblehead announcement date, some on social media endorsed pitching it into the trash upon receiving it, or even things more rebellious.

Phil Sklar, CEO and co-founder of the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame Museum in Milwaukee, might be just as happy to take one off your hands.


He notes Dodgers fans are “in general among the most passionate fan bases we’ve seen when it comes to bobbleheads, and the Dodgers bobbleheads we carry have always done extremely well.”

While his organization doesn’t want to dictate what fans should do with their bobbleheads — some kids use them as props for a simulated baseball game, some collectors customize them and run a side business turning them into different players – Sklar reinforces the idea that “in most cases, they usually end up in the hands of people who will enjoy them.”

Like the one that the St. Louis Cardinals’ Springfield Double-A affiliate once issued called the “Joe Kelly Standoff Champion” — it’s Kelly with his cap over his heart from Game 6 of 2013 NLCS when he prevailed in a staredown with the Dodgers’ Scott Van Slyke over who would leave the field last after the national anthem.

Only 2,500 were made. Some are still on commanding $34.99. It’s among the 6,500 unique bobbleheads in Sklar’s collection that he still enjoys for its cleverness.

“If Kelly turns things around and ends up helping the Dodgers win the World Series, I would expect this one to rise in value,” said Sklar. “If he doesn’t turn things around, I would expect to see a lot of them at garage sales or thrift stores in the L.A. area for very low prices. Hopefully, Dodgers fans won’t litter the field with bobbleheads, especially if he has a bad outing.”

An Oakland sendoff

It’s hard to knock HBO’s announcement that the Oakland Raiders will be sacrificed for this summer’s 14th season of “Hard Knocks,” considering its lame-duck status prior to a Las Vegas change of address.

The network, in coordination with NFL Films, had only five teams to pick from based on league mandates that consider recent playoff performance and head-coaching changes that could cause distractions. Aside from the Raiders, the only other options were Washington, Detroit, San Francisco and the New York Giants.


“If they were smart they would go to Oakland,” said Washington head coach Jay Gruden weeks ago. “What an entertainment value that would be. You can do us next year.”

Plus, the focus would be on Jay’s brother, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, instead of him.

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