Greetings from day two of the Winter Meetings

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I walked into the Hilton Anatole at 6:30 AM. I feel like I just left. Probably because I kind of did. The festivities go late at the Winter Meetings. Why I’m the only one who was both late and arrived early is an open question probably best reserved for my psychologist. As it is, I’m the only person in the media room right now. It’s actually kind of peaceful.

Less so last night.  The crowd in the lobby is a people-watcher’s fantasy. At one point my field of vision contained:

  • Tony Perez laughing it up with some friends;
  • Billy Beane leaving the restaurant sort of yelling “booyah!” at a couple of people milling around outside;
  • A half dozen eager young job-seekers, resume-containing portfolios in-hand, scanning the room for someone to whom they can deliver their elevator pitch;
  • Some guys from the trade show who make and sell these weird masks walking around in said masks. Someone within earshot looked at one of the guys and asked who his mask was supposed to be. The guy said Babe Ruth. Pro Tip: if people in town for the baseball convention can’t identify your Babe Ruth mask, you may want to redesign it; and
  • A national writer I know who shall remain nameless almost run over Frank Robinson. Disaster was averted, however. Which is good, because I’m guessing MLB has a special skull-cracking force to specifically deal with that kind of thing.

But for all of the gawking and talking and drinking, this is still a baseball thing, and the topic of conversation for most people remained the Florida Marlins. How serious is this Pujols business? Most people think it’s not, but we’ve all learned not to rule anything out. What’s up with Hanley Ramirez? No word yet on who will get behind his Michael Young-style MVP campaign if he asks for a trade because of a position shift.  Because that’s going to happen with him too, right?

Anyway, on a day with no really big breaking news, there was a sense of anticipation among most people I talked to. Something big is going to happen today, many believe. Someone will overpay C.J. Wilson, some suspect. Others think that the Albert Pujols tease can only last so long and that he’ll either commit back to the Cardinals soon (most think this) or break for that crazy show they are building in Miami (chaos-lovers are praying for this).

For our part: we’re just jacking back in to the Matrix, passing along everything we see and hear. Oh, and my betters at NBC think it’s a good idea to let me go on TV tonight. Hey: it’s their network and they know better than I do. More on that later, though.

Don’t go anyplace.

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.