“Nobody sits in Vlad’s seat”

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Interesting insight from Buster Olney on Vlad Guerrero today:

Vladimir Guerrero is more than just the Rangers’ cleanup hitter. He is a centerpiece of respect and dignity and consistency, the wise old man of the group. He sits in the same seat on the team’s bus everyday, and if you happen to sit in his seat accidentally, before he arrives, one of the other players will politely inform you that you are residing in Vlad’s seat.

Then, after going over the possibilities for Game 2 — including benching Vlad — Olney says:

But within the Rangers family, which has functioned particularly well this year, the impact of those kinds of alterations would probably disturb their internal dynamic — and Washington probably does not want to be perceived as changing stuff. Remember: Nobody sits in Vlad’s seat. And it’s hard to imagine, unless Guerrero went to Washington and took himself out of the lineup before Game 2, that anybody else would be hitting cleanup and playing right field.

Most of us ignore the internal clubhouse dynamics most of the time because we simply can’t know about them.  Then we hear stuff like this and it makes us re-think what happens on a baseball field. Not every sub-optimal decision by a manager is a “dumb” decision.  A lot of the times they’re driven by all manner of concerns, some tactical, some political. We’d probably be better served as fans to consider that more often. God knows I ignore it most of the time.

That said, this is the World Series. And with all due respect to Vlad Guerrero’s seat on the bus, if the Rangers want the best chance to win Game 2, he should probably have a seat on the bench. And I bet even those on the Rangers who revere him the most would agree with that.

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

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The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.

Watch: Cody Bellinger breaks NL rookie home run record

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Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:

The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.

The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.