Observations from Opening Weekend

Now that opening weekend is in the books, here are a few thoughts from the Dodgers D’Backs two game series down under.

The Australians knocked it out of the park as hosts. The Sydney Cricket Grounds is an incredible venue, filled with majesty and splendor. And that’s me seeing it through the television. I can only imagine the gravity I would feel being there. The fans were top notch, cheering pretty much everything that both teams did. 

Vin Scully, at 85-years-old, still has it. Yeah, he stumbles a bit more often these days, but what of it? Two moments stand out. The first was when he told the story behind a statue that was erected in center field to honor a notorious heckler from a century ago who tormented the cricket players. Hearing Vinny laugh when recounting some of the heckler’s famous taunts, including “I wish I was a pigeon and you were a statue,” was hilarious. The second was when he was giving a play by play of using the smart phone his daughter had set up for him to compare the times of day in Sydney and Los Angeles, and it not quite going according to plan. I can’t imagine a Dodgers season without him. 

The loss of Patrick Corbin is crippling to the D’Backs. At the risk of stating the obvious, most teams would be suffering pretty significantly if their ace was hurt. But Corbin is the real deal, and Arizona just doesn’t have the resources in reserve that the Dodgers do. It shows, as deputy opening day starter Wade Miley was okay, but you need better than ok to beat Clayton Kershaw. If something, God forbid, would happen to Kershaw, there are at least a few capable arms in reserve that could step in.

Hyun Jin Ryu is very impressive. The Dodgers had their own deputy in Ryu, who was taking the place of Zack Greinke, he of the calf strain and general unwillingness to traverse continents. Ryu was not spectacular; several balls were hit pretty hard and he left a couple of pitches over the plate. But when the going got tough, he was at his best. Appallingly bad defense gave the D’Backs six outs in the fourth inning, but that’s when he stepped up to bail out his infielders with his best pitching of the game. Healthy, he’s a virtual lock to at least repeat his 14 wins from last year.  

Yasiel Puig is going to give me, and probably Don Mattingly, ulcers before the season is done. You love him for his talent. You love him for his hustle. You love him for his enthusiasm. His apparent willingness to start hitting the cut-off man gives you hope. His boneheaded baserunning decisions were apparently not cured by a Winter off, however. And if the perception that he is pretending to feel pain or injury after swinging and missing is true, that’s unacceptable.

I would not want to be on Kirk Gibson’s bad side. Long removed from a playing career where he was known for his intensity, it hasn’t faded. Watching Trevor Cahill walk one batter after the other, you could see him seething just below the surface. I wonder why the camera man kept panning over to Gibby after each base on balls. All it made me do was fear for Cahill’s safety. Anyone know if he was allowed back on the team plane? In any case, I admire it. Gibby is a great manager.

Mattingly is not. Donnie Baseball still has a chance to learn the craft, but he needs to understand that he is under a microscope, contract extension or not. He’s great at some things. The players like him, and you have to give him credit for being willing to engage an umpire when he feels like his team is getting the shaft. But the game planning and decision making have to get better. Lefty righty matchup or not, batting Justin Turner second and Andre Ethier seventh in game 1 is indefensible. Sitting Scott Van Slyke in favor of Mike Baxter after Van Slyke was responsible in one way or another for every run the Dodgers scored is head scratchingly bad. Hey, if you wanted to get some guys playing time for making the trip, say that! But if all wins, whether they’re games 1 and 2 or 101 and 102 count the same, there’s no reason bring along Chone Figgins when he and Dee Gordon are essentially the same player, but Gordon is just better at everything. Including now, center field. Mattingly is fortunate to be steering the ship of a very strong team whose performance can often mask his poor choices. He’s likable, so I hope he gets it one day, but that day ain’t here yet. 

Miguel Montero is not right. Last season a back injury cost him his effectiveness, both defensively and offensively. While his swing looks ok, his defense does not. Montero has long been known for being a good defender, and while he still can block the ball in the dirt, his throwing is bad. Really bad. He’s another guy the D’Backs can ill afford to lose. For their sake, I hope Miggy gets it back. 

Paul Goldschmidt is all that and a bag of chips. He’s Miguel Cabrera good. 

Adrian Gonzalez leads the Dodgers in stolen bases. Yup.

Well, that’s about it. Anyone else glad baseball is back? It was kind of a tease though, wasn’t it? Now we have to go through another week of fake games before the real ones start up again. I hope I remember to eat. 

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