Scenes from Spring Training: We hate your favorite team

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I ate that thing pictured to the right last night. It’s a chilaquiles verde, and yeah it has a fried egg on top. Between that and the In-N-Out the other night I realize I’m going to die soon, but it’s worth it. I’ve lived a good life.

Dinner last night was with Keith Law of ESPN and Jonah Keri of Grantland. You can probably guess the reason for our dinner meeting: to plan this year’s strategy of hating your team and cultivating our overall biases in such a way as to be unfair in anything we write.  It’s a pretty good system, actually: Keith handles the prospects and postseason awards voting bias, Jonah handles the long form, in-depth team-specific bias and I handle the day-to-day bias.  Summit meetings are great.

But I did have some actually serious thoughts about bias yesterday. It came after I interviewed Orlando Hudson. He, like Torii Hunter the day before, was so nice and so accommodating, making what for me is kind of a nerve-inducing task — interviewing someone — much, much easier. When I left their presence each time I thought “man, what a great guy.”

But then I thought “now that I’ve had a nice personal interaction with them, if one of those guys did something bone-headed or worthy of criticism, I wonder if I’d go after him the way I go after someone else.”

This thought matched up with what I’ve heard and observed while in the presence of beat writers over the years. Most of them — even the best of them whose writing never seems to be infected with any kind of bias at all — talk openly about who is nice, who is surly, who makes time for interviews, who gives you good quotes, who tries to be a wise ass and all manner of thing that affects only how easy it is for the reporter to do his job.  How can those considerations not color the coverage? It has to, right? Even a little, even on an unconscious level?

All of which makes me question — as I think I do every year around this time — the nature of baseball writing and the desirability of access.  I like going into the clubhouse and sitting in the press box some because (a) it’s cool; and (b) I feel like I should at least have some presence and accountability given how often I rip people.

But I don’t think I’d be able to do the sort of writing I do while working as close to ballplayers as the beat guys do. And if I were running a newspaper’s sports section, I’d think hard about how deep into the clubhouse I’d want my columnists and opinion writers to be, lest they pull punches in the same way I, even after five minutes around them, worry that I might pull my punches regarding Torii Hunter or Orlando Hudson.

Anyway: off to Goodyear today to visit the Cleveland Indians and to take in the Angels-Indians game.

Dodgers clinch NL’s top seed, West title with win over A’s

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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Wrapping up an NL West title has become routine for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but in a year in which no one was sure three months ago if there would be a baseball season, manager Dave Roberts wanted his team to still savor the moment.

The Dodgers clinched the NL’s top postseason seed and eighth straight division title Tuesday night with a 7-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics. They are third team to win at least eight straight division titles, joining the Atlanta Braves (14 straight from 1991-2005) and New York Yankees (nine straight from 1998-2006).

“To fast forward a couple months and be crowned NL West champs is a credit to everyone. It should never be taken for granted,” Roberts said. “Truth be told a lot of guys didn’t know we could clinch. We were responsible but I let it know that it has to be appreciated.”

The Dodgers, who own the best record in the majors at 39-16, were the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff berth on Sept. 16. They will open postseason play on Sept. 30 by hosting every game in a best-of-three series against the No. 8 seed.

Los Angeles came into the day with a magic number of two and got help with the Angels’ 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres.

Instead of a wild celebration on the mound after Jake McGee struck out Sean Murphy for the final out, players briskly walked out of the dugout to celebrate with teammates. Everyone grabbed a division clinching shirt and cap before heading to the mound for a group photo.

The clubhouse celebration was also muted. Champagne was still involved, but it was players toasting each other with a glass instead of being showered in it.

“We talked about it instead of dumping stuff on people. It’s a moment you need to celebrate and we did,” said Corey Seager, who had three hits and one of Los Angeles’ four home runs, “It stinks not being able to do champagne and beer showers because some of the younger guys haven’t been able to experience that.”

Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and AJ Pollock also went deep for Los Angeles, which leads the majors with 104 home runs.

“This whole year has been weird. There’s no other way to describe it,” Muncy said. “It’s sad not to be celebrate as usual but we know there is a lot more at stake.”

Dustin May (2-1) went five innings and allowed two runs on three hits. The 22-year-old red-headed righty set a team record by not allowing more than three earned runs in his first 13 career starts, which include 10 this season.

Robbie Grossman homered for Oakland, which clinched its first AL West crown in seven years on Monday during a day off. The Athletics, in the postseason for the third straight year, currently are the AL’s No. 3 seed.

Mark Canha had two of Oakland’s five hits.

Seager tied it at 1 in the first with an RBI single and then led off the fifth with a drive to center off T.J. McFarland to extend LA’s lead to 6-2.

Muncy gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead in the third inning with a two-run homer. Taylor and Pollock extended it with solo shots in the fourth off Oakland starter Frankie Montas (3-5).

Grossman quickly gave Oakland a 1-0 lead when he homered off the left-field pole in the first inning. Sean Murphy briefly gave the Athletics a 2-1 advantage when he led off the third with a walk and scored on a wild pitch by May with two outs.

Montas, who allowed only four home runs in his first seven starts, has given up six in his past three. The right-hander went four innings and yielded five runs on seven hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

“They’re a pretty good team that when you make mistakes, they make you pay,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “They’re pretty good laying off and making you throw it over the plate. They made Montas pay, unfortunately.”

Cody Bellinger added two hits for the Dodgers, including an RBI single with the bases loaded in the seventh.

ATHLETICS ADVANCE

The A’s have a team text thread they used to celebrate clinching their first AL West title since 2013 during their off day Monday, when the Mariners beat Houston.

“We didn’t really celebrate too much yet. It’s exciting,” Chad Pinder said. “We wanted to do it on our own terms. We still won the division and that was our goal. It’s nice to know we’ll be playing home for the series.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Athletics: INF/OF Pinder (strained right hamstring) planned to run at Dodger Stadium and test his leg with hopes of still playing before the conclusion of the regular season. …. RHP Daniel Mengden has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas. He was designated for assignment after being medically cleared and reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list following a positive test from Aug. 28.

Dodgers: 3B Justin Turner was scratched from the lineup less than an hour before first pitch due to left hamstring discomfort He came off the injured list on Sept. 15 and has not played in the field since Aug. 28. … Joc Pederson was in the lineup at DH after missing five games while on the family emergency medical list. Roberts said before the game that he wasn’t sure if Pederson will remain with the team during the entire postseason.

UP NEXT

Athletics: LHP Sean Manaea (4-3, 4.50) is 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA over his last five starts dating to Aug. 20.

Dodgers: LHP Julio Urias (3-0, 3.49) will make his team-leading 11th start.

AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this story.

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports