Dodgers showing their fans how caring excessively about a team can suck


Dodgers showing their fans how caring excessively about a team can suck

Omens are for fools, and cheap movies, and lazy plot points. They are a triumph of lazy thinking and belief that there is a controlling power who actually gives a fraction of damn about what happens in your life, no matter how small or meaningless.

But if I were the Los Angeles Dodgers, I might start thinking about taping down the windows just in case.

They lost again Monday night, this time 8-6 to the freefalling San Franciscos. They have lost 11 games in succession and 16 of 17. Their game in HappyTown didn’t start until nearly 8 p.m. and subsequent delays were longer than the game itself because of a lighting storm that looked like it came to San Francisco because it was tired of waiting in the queue over Florida. The game ended at 2:11 a.m., which isn't even a fit time to close a bar.

And for all that, the Dodgers can still clinch a playoff position Tuesday if they offend the gods and win while St. Louis loses at home to Cincinnati and Milwaukee loses in Pittsburgh.

Yeah, omens.

The Dodgers’ stunning run of bad form is in its way more amazing than Cleveland’s 19-game winning streak, and as rancid as they have been, they remain nine games ahead of the second-place Arizonas in the NL West, and are 3½ games better than resurgent Washington in the overall race. They may use all their massive cushion to get this done, but they will still end up a playoff team, a division winner and quite possibly the home field defender.

This is not the way to bet, and there has been three weeks of evidence to suggest that the last of those three won’t happen at all. You don’t lose 16 of 17 games for no reason, and you don’t go from 13½ games ahead of the field to 3½ without badly losing your way.

But there is a very real possibility that the Dodgers could be an official playoff team this evening anyway, and find themselves confronted by a style conundrum.

Do they ignore the last three weeks, remember their long proud history with the Giants and celebrate on the field just to honor the rivalry by shoving the Giants’ faces in it? Or do they play it cool because the petty concerns of a rivalry with a team 36 games behind you are unworthy of notice?

Or does manager Dave Roberts say, as Bruce Bochy has in happier times for him, “You celebrate whenever you can because this stuff is hard to do,” and let the out-of-state pundits mock as they see fit?

Either way, this should happen just for the hilarity and upset feelings. And if the Dodgers still haven’t clinched anything by the time they leave, they should lose all the rest of their games. Because, let’s face it, this isn’t about the Dodgers, or the Giants, or the playoffs. It’s about us, and the value we place in non-violent chaos and undifferentiated shame. I consider it the best two reasons to follow sports, and you should, too. After all, the Dodgers are showing their fans just how much caring excessively about a team can suck.

Matt Moore blanks Rockies, continues late-season surge


Matt Moore blanks Rockies, continues late-season surge

SAN FRANCISCO — Matt Moore knew there was something different about his final home start at AT&T Park this season, and not just the fact that he received a loud ovation as he walked off the mound in the seventh. Moore noted later that the outing was the first shutout he has been a part of this year. In fact, it was the first time in 30 starts that he walked off the mound without having allowed a run. 

“I guess it’s better late than never,” he said. 

The Giants are hoping it’s actually a preview of things to come. They counted on Moore to be a big part of their 2017 push, but instead, he likely will finish with the worst ERA of any full-time starter in the National League. Still, general manager Bobby Evans has informed Moore that his 2018 option will be picked up, something that Moore appreciated given the time of year. 

“I always pictured myself here,” he said. 

Whether coincidence or some kind of “weight off the shoulders” situation, Moore’s first start since the public revealing of the decision was his most encouraging of the year. Facing a good lineup, and a team that needed a win desperately, he pitched six shutout innings. The Giants beat the Rockies 4-0. 

Moore was already showing signs of life, with a 3.76 ERA over his seven previous appearances. Bruce Bochy viewed this as another step forward. 

“It’s been getting better and better with each start,” he said. “What he did really well today was on the arm side. He had good balance to both sides of the plate.”

Moore peppered the outside corner with fastballs, and he credited catcher Nick Hundley with stealing a few strikes. The plan allowed Moore to put hitters away in big spots, one of three points of emphasis he brought into the second half. The other two: limiting lefties and getting ahead of hitters.

That’s Moore’s roadmap back to being the player the Giants acquired. For the team as a whole, the roadmap back to relevance is similar to Wednesday’s plan. This is not a home-run hitting lineup, but the Giants are 47-21 when scoring four runs, and Wednesday was a reminder of the different paths to that magical number. 

Brandon Crawford had a solo homer, but the first two runs came on sacrifice flies and the fourth on a walk-wild pitch-single combination. Bochy said he liked “the brand of ball” his team played.

“They executed so well today,” he said. “It’s just good baseball, and that’s what I felt good about.”

Doing due diligence, Giants send Evans, Shelley to scout Shohei Otani in Japan

Doing due diligence, Giants send Evans, Shelley to scout Shohei Otani in Japan

SAN FRANCISCO — A couple of weeks ago, a Giants official expressed amazement about how little was known about the desires of Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani.

“Teams know just about as much as you guys (in the media),” he said. 

The Giants are hoping that changes this week. General manager Bobby Evans and assistant GM Jeremy Shelley have traveled to Japan to take a look at the 23-year-old, who reportedly will come over to play in Major League Baseball next season. 

“There’s going to be a lot of attention on him and it’s part of the scouting process every club goes through,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s doing our due diligence, as you say.”

Otani is a rare prospect, a potential ace on the mound and lineup-altering bat in the outfield. He has 47 homers in just over 1,000 professional at-bats, and this season he’s batting .341. As a hard-throwing pitcher with a wipeout breaking ball, Otani has a 2.57 career ERA for the Nippon Ham Fighters. He had a 1.86 ERA last season with 174 strikeouts in 140 innings. 

Because he’s said to be coming over at such a young age, Otani will sacrifice the chance to sign a massive contract. The CBA limits him to collecting money from a team’s international bonus pool, and the Giants are limited to $300,000. Still, some other big-market teams are in the same boat, and despite their lack of pool money and poor season, the Giants surely believe they have plenty to offer. 

It’s not known what Otani is looking for, but perhaps he wants to play in a big city to make up some of his lost earnings? Perhaps he wants to play on the West Coast, closer to his home country, or in a region with a big Japanese population? Perhaps he’s just a big Buster Posey fan? The Giants intend to find out, and to be in the bidding. 

It’s possible that Otani has seen the way Bochy uses Madison Bumgarner as a pinch-hitter, but Bochy said he can’t imagine using a true two-way player. 

“I don’t think it would work,” he said. “You’re talking more of something that might work in the American League. That’s a lot of throwing and wear-and-tear.”