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.
It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:
In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.
Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.
Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.
The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.
The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.
Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.