Less than a month ago, a lot of people were asking whether the Dodgers were in big trouble. Don Mattingly and Andre Ethier had a heated argument in the Dodgers dugout. Mattingly called his team “sh***y.” On June 8, they found themselves nine and a half games back of the Giants. This matched their biggest deficit of the 2013 season as well. Last year they went on a near-historic run to take control of the division and cruise into the playoffs. No such thing would happen again this year, would it? I mean, you can’t count and that kind of stuff happening two seasons in a row.
Except there they were when they went to bed last night, 21 days after getting to the bottom of that nine and a half game hole, tied for first place after winning 14 of 19 games.
On June 8, Clayton Kershaw helped the Dodgers beat Colorado 6-1. Yesterday he bookended things with a 13-strikeout performance. He has been a big part of the surge, going 6-0 with era of 0.82 in June and ending the month with a still-active 28-inning consecutive scoreless innings streak. Overall, Dodgers pitchers led the NL in team ERA for June with a 2.63 ERA. Dodgers hitters were not as impressive, but you can be fifth in the NL in team OPS for a month when you got pitching like they have.
Also helping the Dodgers’ surge: the San Francisco Giants. They’ve been in a tailspin dropping 15 of 19 games. Their pitchers are 14th in the NL in ERA for the month, their hitters are eighth in OPS in June. Their defense has been among the worst in the NL. It’s going wrong for the Giants any way you slice it.
It may still be too much to ask for the Dodgers to replicate 2013. I mean, the surge so far has been nice, but it’d be hard to bet on them winning this division by 11 games again. The Giants won’t play this poorly all season. But no one saw that happening last year either. And as they’re showing at the moment, the Dodgers appear to have a higher gear the other teams don’t seem to have.
Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times has an outstanding profile of former Rays prospect Brandon Martin, who is currently in jail for allegedly murdering three men nearly two years ago.
Fenno describes Martin’s erratic personality as he became a highly-touted baseball prospect who then descends into drug use. Friends described Martin has having completely changed into an unrecognizable person. Martin had repeated conflicts with friends and family such that police reports became common and he was placed in a psychiatric facility. Sadly, the facility only held him for less than 48 hours. He would allegedly murder three people upon returning home: his father, his brother-in-law, and a home security system contractor. Martin fled from police, who eventually caught up to him and subdued him with the help of a police dog.
Fenno’s profile is really worth a read, so click here to check it out.
Martin, 23, was selected by the Rays in the first round (38th overall) of the 2011 draft. He spent three years in the Rays’ system, reaching as high as Single-A Bowling Green.
On Sunday, Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes was ejected for throwing at Orioles third baseman Manny Machado‘s head. It was revenge for a slide of Machado’s which ended up injuring Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Barnes was suspended four games.
Hall of Famer and former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez said that if he were in Barnes’ shoes, he would have also thrown at Machado, although not necessarily at his head. Via ESPN’s Scott Lauber:
If I was pitching, I was going to drill Machado, as much as I love him. The only thing I would’ve done differently is probably bring the ball a little bit lower.
Martinez added that Machado “did not intend to hurt Pedroia. And I know that because I know Machado.” And he doesn’t think Barnes meant to throw at Machado’s head.
Martinez, of course, was certainly a pitcher who wasn’t afraid to pitch inside to batters and even hit a few of them when he felt he or his teammates had been wronged. This is an unfortunate part of baseball’s culture and the fact that it continues means that it will eventually result in someone being seriously hurt. It’s disappointing that Martinez isn’t willing to be a better role model now that his playing days are over. Martinez could have set an example for today’s pitchers by saying what Barnes did crossed a line. Getting a Hall of Famer’s seal of approval will only embolden players now when they feel they must defend their teammates’ honor.
The “tradition” of beaning batters to defend one’s teammates is anachronistic in today’s game, especially when Major League Baseball has made strides in so many other ways recently to protect players’ safety.