The party is most definitely on in Chavez Ravine.
New Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez strutted to the plate to a rousing standing ovation in his first at-bat Saturday night at Dodger Stadium and connected for a three-run homer on the second pitch he saw from Marlins starter Josh Johnson.
The Dodgers lead 4-1 at the end of the first inning.
Gonzalez was acquired from the Red Sox in the nine-player blockbuster trade that was finalized this afternoon after getting the approval of Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig.
Gonzalez took a private jet from Boston to Los Angeles along with right-hander Josh Beckett and infielder Nick Punto, arriving at his new home park just a couple hours before first pitch.
Beckett is set to make his Dodgers debut Monday. Punto is on the bench tonight, serving as a utilityman.
Gonzalez is now batting .301/.345/.476 with 16 home runs and 89 RBI in 124 total games this season. We’ll track his activity the rest of the way as the Dodgers try to gain ground on the first-place Giants.
UPDATE, 9:56 PM: Gonzalez struck out swinging in his second plate appearance of the evening. That’s baseball for you. The Dodgers lead the Marlins by a score of 5-2 at the end of the second inning.
UPDATE, 10:32 PM: Gonzalez struck out swinging again in his third at-bat. L.A. is up 6-2 in the fifth.
UPDATE, 11:04 PM: Gonzalez grounded out to first base in his fourth at-bat. The Dodgers lead 7-2.
UPDATE, 11:52 PM: Gonzalez popped out to center field in his fifth — and probably final — trip to the plate. The Dodgers will carry an 8-2 lead into the top of the ninth inning.
UPDATE, 12:01 AM: Yep, that’s it. Gonzalez goes 1-for-5 with a homer and three RBI in his first game with the Dodgers. Andre Ethier went 4-for-4 and Matt Kemp finished 3-for-5.
Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reports that Major League Baseball will mandate that teams store baseballs in “an air-conditioned and enclosed room[s]” this season. He adds that the league will install climate sensors in each room to measure temperature and humidity during the 2018 season, with such data being used to determine if humidors — like the ones being used in Colorado and Arizona — are necessary for 2019.
This move comes a year after Major League Baseball’s single season, league-wide home run record was shattered, with 6,105 dingers being hit. It also comes after a year in which two different studies — one by Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman for The Ringer, and another by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur — found evidence that baseballs were altered at some point around the middle of the 2015 season which coincided with home run numbers spiking in the middle of that year, quite suddenly.
Also coming last year: multiple player complaints about the baseball seeming different, with pitchers blaming a rash of blister problems stemming from what they believed to be lower seams on the baseballs currently in use than those in use in previous years. Players likewise complained about unusually smooth and/or juiced baseballs during the World Series, which some believe led to a spike of home runs in the Fall Classic.
To date, Major League Baseball has steadfastly denied that the balls are a problem, first issuing blatantly disingenuous denials, and later using carefully chosen words to claim nothing was amiss. Specifically, Major League Baseball claimed that the balls were within league specifications but failed to acknowledge that league specifications are wide enough to encompass baseballs which could have radically different flight characteristics while still, technically, being within spec.
Based on Verducci’s report, it seems that MLB is at least past the denial stage and is attempting to understand and address the issues about which many players have complained and which have, without question, impacted offense in the game:
Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that MLB commissioned a research project after last season to study the composition, storage and handling of the baseballs. He said that investigation is not yet completed. “I’m not at the point to jump that gun right now,” he said about the findings.
The investigation is not yet completed, but the fact that the league is now ordering changes in the manner in which balls are handled before use suggests to me that the league has learned that there is at least something amiss about the composition or manufacture of the baseballs.
Major League Baseball is a lot of things, but quick to impose costs and changes of process on its clubs like this is not one of them. There is likely a good reason for it.