The Dodgers appeared to intentionally draft an unsignable pick in the first round the other day, quite possibly because they didn’t feel like paying anyone first round bonus money this year. But while they don’t appear to want to spend on ballplayers, the team had no problem spending six figures on some whack-job Rasputin “scientist and healer” figure to “send positive energy over great distances” in an effort to help the Dodgers win games.
It all comes out in a story from Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times that you have to read in its entirely to believe, but even a glimpse is enough to cause Dodgers fans to slam their heads into a wall.
The upshot: Vladimir Shpunt is a physicist of dubious quality who emigrated from Russia in 1998. He believes that his body channels 10 to 15 percent more “natural energy” that normal people’s bodies, and that that energy can be transmitted through both his hands and over great distances. He basically built a faith healing practice out of it in Russia.
Flash forward to 2004. Jamie McCourt has an eye infection and somehow gets referred to this guy, who she thinks healed her. She refers Frank to him and the relationship is bonded. They think about adding him to the Dodgers training staff but they don’t. They do refer Jayson Werth to him when he injures his wrist but — surprise surprise — it doesn’t help. Werth later says, without being specific, that the Dodgers misdiagnosed and mistreated his injuries. He goes to the Mayo clinic instead. Smart guy.
But the McCourts like the cut of Shpun’s jib and hire him anyway, paying him in excess of six figures to sit in his Boston home, watch Dodgers games on TV and send his positive energy their way. He counseled the McCourts to fire general manager Paul DePodesta and manager Jim Tracy. He also thinks he helped them win the NL West. The McCourts apparently do too, as they kept him on payroll and sent him thank you notes after clinching a playoff spot in 2004. Frank and Jamie each blame the other for hiring the guy, but it was quite obviously a team effort.
It is also merely the latest bit of evidence that the McCourts haven’t a clue what they’re doing and have wasted untold amounts of the Dodgers money on the sort of ridiculous things on which clueless rich people tend to spend their money.
The Dodgers were once thought of as the marquee franchise in all of baseball. The McCourts have turned the club into a laughingstock.
We’ve got some potential craziness building in the American League Wild Card race with one day left in the regular season.
After dropping both halves of a doubleheader on Saturday in Baltimore, the Yankees are now just one game up for the first spot — hosting duties. Houston, currently in the second spot, won again Saturday in Arizona behind two Colby Rasmus homers and a very good start from Collin McHugh. Anaheim won Saturday in Arlington, Texas in maybe the wildest game of the year to stay one game back of the ‘Stros.
This also touches the still-undecided American League West, where the Rangers only have a one-game lead on the Astros and will face a fired-up Angels team on Sunday afternoon. By design, the start times for all these games that matter are the same: 3:05 p.m. ET. Only the Cardinals and Braves will play at a different time (due to Saturday’s rainout).
Buckle up, people. Get your popcorn ready. All that.
Your box scores and AP recaps from Saturday …
Yankees 2, Orioles 1 (Game 1)
Royals 5, Twins 1
Angels 11, Rangers 10
Nationals 3, Mets 1 (Game 1)
Rockies 2, Giants 3
Marlins 7, Phillies 6 (Game 1)
Blue Jays 3, Rays 4
Reds 3, Pirates 1
Yankees 3, Orioles 4 (Game 2)
Red Sox 0, Indians 2
Cubs 1, Brewers 0
Nationals 2, Mets 0 (Game 2)
Marlins 5, Phillies 2 (Game 2)
Astros 6, Diamondbacks 2
Padres 1, Dodgers 2
Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.
Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.
The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.
The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.
If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.
If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.