Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell. Is there something in the bullpen water cooler that makes pitchers weak? Because it appears Dustin May drank some of it Sunday.
Ask Orel Hershiser
One of the all-time Dodger greats, Orel Hershiser, answered some of your questions over the weekend. I received over 500 questions for him, and chose the ones that were asked most frequently. If your question didn’t make it, I do apologize. Perhaps we will do this again next season and you can try again then. In the meantime, here are his answers. And I am listing the name of the first person to ask the question:
Andrew Helman asks: Who were one or two of the toughest batters you had to face?
Orel: Statistically, if people look it up, they are probably going to come up with different names than I will. Statistically I think Craig Biggio was the ultimate right-handed hitter against me and Davey Concepcion is the guy I dominated the most. But in the back of my mind, as far as the way I pitched, I would say low-ball-hitting left-handed hitters were the biggest challenge. Being a sinkerball pitcher, it was strength vs. strength. So, it was a guy like Gregg Jefferies, Wally Backman, Keith Hernandez, Barry Bonds. But the low-ball-hitting lefty in my generation was a very tough out for me.
Editor’s note: Just for fun, let’s look at who had the most and least success against Hershiser in his career, minimum 25 plate appearances. As you’ll see, Orel was pretty much spot on.
Sammy Sosa, .481 (13 for 27, 4 homers)
Larry Walker, .464 (13 for 28, 5 doubles)
Gregg Jefferies, .447 (17 for 38, 4 doubles)
Kal Daniels, .428 (12 for 28, 4 homers)
Craig Biggio, .410 (25 for 61, 7 doubles)
Keith Hernandez, .395 (17 for 43)
Davey Concepcion, .048 (1 for 21)
Cal Ripken Jr., .050 (1 for 20)
Darren Lewis, .069 (2 for 29)
Jose Canseco, .074 (2 for 27)
Bo Diaz, .083 (2 for 24)
Royce Clayton, .103 (3 for 29)
Elliot Powers of San Diego asks: Are you for or against the DH in the National League?
Orel: I like the diversity in the game right now, with NL not having a DH and the AL having one. Some will say, “Fans don’t want to see pitchers hit.” I understand that, but also, it brings a lot of strategy into the game. Do you hit for the pitcher now or wait? Roster configuration, defensive replacements, double switches — it creates a lot of strategic interest. But I also like the DH extending the careers of great players. You can play a guy who is slightly injured and you can give a guy a day of rest from fielding but still have him hit. Both those things allow your stars to play more often. I like that part of the game too, so I think we get the best of both worlds right now, with no DH in the NL and the DH in the AL.
Jeff Mizukami of Lake Havasu City asks: What are your thoughts on working with Joe Davis?
Orel: I think it’s public knowledge that Joe wasn’t the Dodgers’ first choice. They wanted a big name to replace Vin Scully and Joe was a young guy who was up and coming, but was he really a name you could sell to the Los Angeles audience? Lon Rosen and Stan Kasten and the whole brass, they did a good job of picking the right guy. Vinny started at a very young age and Joe is starting at a very young age.
When I met him, I thought “You know what, this guy can really do it.” I thought he was super-smart, I thought he was down to earth, I loved his wife, Libby. We went to lunch and hung out and got along great. I thought at that time they had already signed him, so I texted after lunch and said, “This is going to be great. I love you guys and I’ll do everything I can to make it successful.” And he hadn’t even signed a contract yet.
Then early on, the chemistry developed because both of us made the broadcast No. 1. The fan and the communication are No. 1. Whether it be information that is statistical or biographical, whether it’s discussing the current game or something else not even related to baseball, we always come back to “What is the fan receiving and is this what they would like?” So, if he is on a roll, I just stay out of his way. It’s not about, “Hey, how do I get into this broadcast?” And if I’m on a roll, breaking down a hitter or situation, he’ll just say, “Ball one away.” We’re both comfortable enough to let the other take over if that’s what serves the game best.
And when we started, we discussed how to make the best transition from Vinny to us. We studied his broadcasts and said: “There are portions we have to have.” Whether it’s the story of Memorial Day or the landing on D-Day or how the U.S. flag was designed. Or the background on Jackie Robinson. Those were Vinny moments where he told a story while the game was going on. And we try to do that too. We are very in sync with each other as far as the best way to present a game, and it has led to us becoming very good friends.
Tony Cortes of San Pedro asks: Are you in favor of the electronic strike zone?
Orel: I have come over in favor of the electronic strike zone fully this year. I was not quite in favor before because I would get feedback from a player that “Hey, be careful when talking about our eye, because the strike zone is off by about three inches tonight.” I don’t hear any talk from the players like that this year. So, that makes me now on board with it.
Dale Brockmeyer of Oakland asks: A lot of fans consider you Mr. Dodger, so what was it like pitching for the Giants?
Orel: I chose the Giants and the Mets, and would have chosen the Cubs next for completely different reasons than people might think. I was a free agent, and I first chose the Cleveland Indians because I wanted to have a well-rounded career and to have that I needed to experience American League baseball. Cleveland came calling and GM John Hart said, “We have a young team that needs to learn how to win and we’re signing veterans who still have a passion for winning.” And I said: “That’s me.” So, I decided to go there.
But at no time, after the Dodgers, did I pick a team for money. I picked them for family motivation, personal experience and cities I wanted to live in. After Cleveland, the three cities I wanted to experience living in were San Francisco, New York and Chicago. I wanted my kids to experience that too. I played for the Giants and Mets, but my body fell apart before I got to Chicago.
Q: What advice would you give Little League pitchers on how to deal with nerves before and at the start of a game? (Editor’s note: Unfortunately, I lost the names of the five kids who asked this. Sorry!)
Orel: Well, I loved getting nervous. You shouldn’t be scared of nerves because that means you care. I think if you get to a point where you care too much, and the nerves become an obstacle, then you are probably concentrating on the wrong thing. You are probably caring more about results than you are caring about execution and doing your best. I loved nerves, because I used them to drive me to understand my delivery more. They drove me to understand how to get a hitter out more. They drove me to understand the game and how I can apply my skills into this game. So, the nervous energy, instead of letting it debilitate me, I used it as a fire to get better. Robin Yount and Dennis Eckersley are both in the Hall of Fame. In their Hall of Fame speeches, Yount said he was running toward success, and Eckersley said he was running toward defeat, but they were both running in the same direction.
And Tommy Lasorda was a huge help to me. I was scared when I got to the big leagues. I idolized these guys, and there I was pitching to them. So, I understand being nervous, but you have to use that as motivation.
Thanks again to Orel for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer fan questions.
I’m going to give Orel the spotlight for today’s newsletter. Next time, we will look at this weekend’s important series with the Yankees as well as Julio Urias’ suspension and check in with the bullpen.
Today: Toronto (Sean Reid-Foley) at Dodgers (*Clayton Kershaw), 7 p.m.
Wednesday: Toronto (TBA) at Dodgers (Walker Buehler), 7 p.m.
Thursday: Toronto (TBA) at Dodgers (Kenta Maeda), 7 p.m.
Highlights of the 1955 World Series, including Jackie Robinson stealing home. Watch it here.