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Dodgers Dugout: Joe Kelly wins the hearts of Dodgers fans

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JULY 28: Joe Kelly #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts.
Joe Kelly gives his pouty face.
(Bob Levey / Getty Images)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and if I knew all it took to make Dodgers fans love you was to throw at Houston, I would have thrown at myself years ago.

So the big news coming out of the two-game series with the Astros was Joe Kelly.

Remember, the Astros cheated to win the 2017 World Series (cue emails from whiny Astros fans to me now). They were stealing signs with an outfield camera and relaying the sign by banging on a trash can next to the dugout. Tuesday was the first time the teams had met since the cheating was uncovered. Fireworks were expected.

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The game was uneventful through five innings, and then Kelly decided to shake things up. After retiring Jose Altuve on a popup, he had a 3-0 count against Alex Bregman when his next pitch, ball four, flew behind Bregman’s head.

The next batter, Michael Brantley, wasn’t on the 2017 Astros. Kelly threw him three pitches, none particularly close to him, and got him to ground to first. When Kelly covered first base in an attempt to complete a double play, he got annoyed when Brantley’s foot clipped his leg. Kelly glared at Brantley and suddenly, from the Astros dugout, someone shouted “just get on the mound, little ... " The ... represents a word we can’t use in a family newsletter.

The next batter: Yuli Gurriel. With a 2-0 count, a Kelly pitch went well inside, sending Gurriel sprawling. He walked Gurriel on the next pitch. That brought us to the main event: Carlos Correa.

Correa was the most vocal Astro to defend their title after the sign-stealing was discovered. He was particularly pointed in his comments toward the Dodgers. Kelly started with a pitch that made Correa duck. He seemed none too happy. The at-bat continued and Kelly struck Correa out with a breaking ball in the dirt.

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And then the fun began. Correa chirped at Kelly. Kelly, according to Astros manager Dusty Baker, said “Nice swing ....” Kelly made a pouty face at Correa, who started walking toward the Dodger dugout. The benches cleared. No punches were thrown. The game resumed and nothing much interesting happened after that, other than the Dodgers winning, 5-2.

Of course, the benches clearing made the whole “stay six feet apart” rule look ridiculous. Some players had masks on, some didn’t. Once again, it put the a bad light on the MLB coronavirus rules, which are violated multiple times a game if you pay attention.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, social media fell in love with Kelly. Dodger fans created memes of his pouting face and T-shirts with “Nice swing ....” He may be the most popular player on the team right now.

Kelly said he wasn’t throwing at anyone, he was just wild. And, while it is impossible to know 100% what happened, my guess is that if there was lightning in the area it would have struck Kelly the moment he said that.

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The big problem with all this, however, and something that should be remembered in the rush to deify Kelly: If he was throwing at batters intentionally, throwing at their head was not good. You can kill someone. Bury the ball in their ribs, not their head. There’s really no excuse for throwing at someone’s head (if it was intentional).

Also, keep in mind that Kelly was a part of the 2018 Boston Red Sox team that won the World Series. That makes things very interesting. If the Dodgers and the Red Sox meet in the World Series, will he throw at Red Sox hitters (assuming he was throwing at the Astros?)

But the pouty face? That was gold.

And to top it all off, the Dodgers sweep the series.

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Bill Plaschke says, “Thank you Joe Kelly”

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Kelly suspended

On Wednesday, MLB suspended Kelly for eight games in a complete overreaction. Eight games is way too many. Manager Dave Roberts was also suspended for a game.

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To sum up MLB’s policy: Cheat to win a World Series, no punishment. Apparently throw at a player that cheated you out of the World Series, eight-game suspension.

Was Kelly really suspended for 22 games?

Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly was suspended for eight games on Tuesday for throwing at Astros batters and taunting Carlos Correa.

But that’s an eight game suspension during a 60-game season. The equivalent for a 162-game season would be a 22-game suspension. I can’t remember any time a pitcher was suspended 22 games for throwing at a batter, but that’s basically what just happened.

Orel Hershiser consider Dodgers the 2017 champs

It was the fifth inning Tuesday when Dodgers TV broadcast crew Joe Davis and Orel Hershiser delved into the Astros’ cheating scandal. And Hershiser didn’t hold back:

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Davis: Listen to that sound (describing a single by Corey Seager).

Hershiser: Yeah. Whooock.

Davis: Instead of bang.

Hershiser: You want to get into that?

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Davis: Oh, we got to at some point.

Hershiser: You’re going to really get me going.

Davis: Here’s [A.J.] Pollock. Go ahead.

Hershiser: I view the 2017 Dodgers as world champions. And I think that their legacy should be that. It won’t be, but it should be. They were ripped off. You talk to Justin Turner and Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, lot of the guys, and all of them to a man will tell you that any conversation they get into with fans, at some point in the conversation it comes up, ‘I’m still waiting for you guys to win a world championship.’ And they can’t come back with, ‘We should’ve, we would’ve,’ because it sounds like sour grapes. So it just, it hurts everything. It’s such a butterfly effect. It’s changed all their lives.

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Davis: One ball, one strike on A.J. Pollock. You, and this is what really sunk in for me, you said that every day of your life since ’88 would have been different if [Mark] McGwire, [Jose] Canseco and so on had known what was coming. Every day.

Hershiser: Exactly. Clayton Kershaw didn’t have a breaking ball that was swung and missed at in the game in Houston, where he ended up looking like the goat again, the game that went, what, 13-12. I had [Dave] Parker and Canseco swinging and missing at breaking balls in the dirt, ones that were wide. If they knew they were coming, they’d have been taking them right out of my hand and they would’ve been sitting on my fastball. And I would not have been on the Johnny Carson show or would not have been at the last Reagan state dinner sitting next to Margaret Thatcher. I wouldn’t have been getting a contract that was one of the highest-paid in the game. I would have been a goat.

Davis: Ground ball base hit for Pollock, who is 2 for 2. Goat in the older sense.

Hershiser: Yeah, goat in the negative sense.

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Ask Ross Porter

Former Dodgers broadcaster Ross Porter is back for another season of “Ask Ross Porter.” We have a new email address this season for it. Ross will have access to this email address and will get your questions without me having to forward them. So, if you have a message (like thanking him for his years as a broadcaster) and not a question, feel free to let him know. Send your question or comment to rossporterdodgers@gmail.com.

Jim Adams of Sacramento asks: Do you think, Ross, now that they won’t have David Price, the Dodgers are sorry that they didn’t keep Hyun-jin Ryu?

Ross: An excellent question, Jim. I was very surprised when the 33-year-old southpaw pitcher was not signed by the Dodgers. Ryu had the lowest earned run average in baseball last year (2.32), was the best control pitcher in the game and posted a record of 14-5. Toronto is paying him $20 million a year which is only two million more than the Dodgers paid him last season. Ryu had shoulder surgery in 2015, an elbow operation in 2016, and a groin injury in 2018 so maybe that figured in the decision. The Dodgers are very adverse to giving out long-term contracts for big money -- unless your name is Mookie Betts.

Brad Kelly of Glendale asks: I’m looking at a 1968 newspaper clipping detailing Denny McLain of my favorite Tigers winning his 31st game that year over the Yankees. What stood out to me, Ross, was that it was McLain’s 28th complete game and 12th straight by a Detroit starting pitcher. Complete games today have become a rarity, haven’t they?

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Ross: Have they ever, Brad. When you look back in baseball history, there were feats in the beginning that are hard to imagine now. Will White of the Reds pitched 75 complete games in 1879. Jack Taylor of the 1904 Cardinals turned in 39 consecutive complete games. In 1920, Leon Cadore of Brooklyn and Boston’s Joe Oeschger both pitched 26 innings in a 1-1 tie. Of the 20 men who have the most complete games all-time, all pitched before the live ball era began in 1920, and 19 were right-handers. Eddie Plank was the exception. Warren Spahn is 21st with 382.

I was stunned to learn that in the last three years, the National League leader in complete games each season had only two complete games. Three pitchers in the league registered two a year ago — Walker Buehler, Sandy Alcatara, and Zach Eflin. There were just 18 complete games in the National League. Lucas Giolito of the White Sox and Shane Bieber of the Indians paced the American League in 2019 with three complete games apiece. 27 complete games was the circuit’s total. There were 2,466 games played in the majors last season and only 45 complete games were recorded (.018%). In 37 postseason duels, there were no complete games.

In the last 20 years, a pitcher has thrown 10 or more complete games just twice. James Shields of the Rays posted 11 in 2011 and CC Sabathia notched 10 in 2008 pitching for Cleveland and Milwaukee. Before that, Randy Johnson threw 12 complete games for Arizona in 1999.

Career Complete Games:

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Justin Verlander 26

Clayton Kershaw 25

Felix Hernandez 25

No pitcher has thrown 30 complete games since 1975 when Catfish Hunter had that number for the Yankees.

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The last pitchers to have 25 were Rick Langford of the 1980 A’s who pitched 22 straight, and Randy Jones of the Padres in 1976. No one has tossed 20 complete games since Fernando Valenzuela reached that figure for the 1986 Dodgers.

Why have complete games disappeared?

Two former Dodger pitchers named Don who are in baseball’s Hall of Fame gave me their opinions after their careers ended. Drysdale said, “Many of today’s pitchers are wimps. They are looking into the bullpen about the sixth inning in hopes that someone is warming up.” Sutton, the winningest pitcher in Dodger history, called the pitch count “misleading” and hated it. He told me there were games where he threw 85 pitches and struggled, and nights when he needed 115 pitches and breezed.

Sutton finished with 178 complete games and Drysdale 167, including 41 in 1964 and 1965.

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Janet Price of Westlake Village asks: I know baseball is experimenting with a new rule for extra-inning games. To start the 10th inning, the visiting team gets to put a runner at second base with no one out. If that man scores, does the home team have an opportunity to tie or win in the bottom of the 10th?

Ross: Yes. It is just like any extra-inning game. The visitors try to score as many runs as they can, and then the home club must at least tie the score to force another inning. If the home team ever takes the lead, the game is over. Used the last two years in the minor leagues, 73% of extra-inning games ended in the 10th, and 93% finished in the 10th or 11th. How many major league games went extra innings last season? 8.6%.

Your first Dodgers memory

After a brief pause. Your first Dodgers memory is back. I have thousands of responses, so if I don’t get to yours right away, don’t worry, I will eventually. If you haven’t already, I’d still love for you to send me your first Dodgers memory, and it may run in an upcoming Dodgers Dugout. Include your name. And don’t send only a sentence, tell why that memory sticks out in your mind. You can email me your memory at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. And remember, it’s first Dodgers memory, not favorite Dodgers memory. Thanks.

Richard Rebd: My first Dodger memory goes back to the magical year of 1959. The Dodgers had just moved to Los Angeles the year before. I was 7 years old when my father and older brother left one evening to go to a “special game” being held in honor of Roy Campanella. I cried for over an hour because I was too young to go. I started to listen to that game on the radio with my mom and around the second inning my father and brother made it back home, apparently the game was sold out (93,000 in attendance) and they either couldn’t get tickets or they couldn’t find a place to park. I may not have seen the game in person but I was there, after all Vin was calling the game.

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A great first memory from a kid that fell in love with the Dodger’s on Roy Campanella night.

Steven Doctrow: The day I got my driver’s license, my first destination (in my parent’s 1969 Dodge Dart) was Dodger Stadium. Normally, I would go to games with my Dad and sit in the top deck, but on this day in 1970 I made the trek without a ticket, hoping to score any seat I could. The Dodgers were playing the Giants, and I knew I had to be there in person. However, much to my dismay, the game was sold out. I was determined to get a seat and at that time, I knew I would be more likely to finding an extra ticket near the gate entrances. Hanging out at the box seat level parking lot and trying to be discreet as possible, I began approaching fans pleading for a ticket, no matter the section.

As it got closer to game time, my hope was running out when suddenly, a man in a dark blue) suit approached me. He looks down at me and said, “Kid, I have a free ticket for you, but before we get to our seats, I need to say hello to my friend first.” Shocked and excited, I glanced at the ticket he handed me and saw the seat was in the first row of the original Dodger dugout. Once inside the stadium, we quickly descended downstairs through a long tunnel, and walked right into the clubhouse.

Overwhelmed by excitement, we we entered the locker room and were immediately greeted by the great Dodgers manager Walt Alston. Walt asked, “Who’s the kid?” and the man replied, “He is my fan I adopted for the day.” As Alston’s steely eyes looked me up and down, he asked, “If you really are a fan, where is your Dodgers cap?” “I forgot it, sir,” I responded. “Well if we ever meet again, I want you to make sure you show your support,” he said. “Yes, Skipper will do,” I replied, shaking his enormous hand. Leaving the clubhouse, I ran upstairs to the closest souvenir stand and bought myself a Dodgers cap that I still wear to do this day. Feeling redeemed as a Dodgers loyalist for about two minutes I then realized I never grabbed the dugout ticket from the generous man, and the ushers wouldn’t grant me access. I waited for three innings by the entrance when it became apparent the man in the blue suit wasn’t coming to my rescue. Facing the reality of being without a seat, I spent the duration of the sold-out game moving from seat to seat, still stunned by locker room chat. I unfortunately never had the chance to thank the VIP, but still think of him to this day. By the way, the Dodgers lost 8-6 but I didn’t care!

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Up next

Thursday: Dodgers (Ross Stripling) at Arizona (Robbie Ray), 6:30 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570

Friday: Dodgers (TBD) at Arizona (Zac Gallen), 6:30 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570

Saturday: Dodgers (Julio Urias) at Arizona (Luke Weaver), 5 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570

Sunday: Dodgers (TBD) at Arizona (Merrill Kelly), 1 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570

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And finally

Watch the Joe Kelly incident by clicking here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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