Sports Medley: Dodgers Half Year MVP 10 Jul 17
by Tony Medley
Who has been the Dodgers MVP for the first half of the season? While
probably nobody would argue against the selection of Justin Turner, who
is leading baseball in batting average, he would not be my choice
(having missed almost a month due to injury).
In 1988 Dodger outfielder Kirk Gibson was the near unanimous choice as
MVP. While Gibson’s contributions to the Dodgers World Series winning
year are uncontroverted, I have always felt that second baseman Steve
Sax was the most valuable Dodger that year.
Gibson got all the headlines and glory, but Sax was the player who got
the hits that kept the innings alive for Gibson to come to bat. In fact,
Sax led the major leagues in singles that year, 147 of his 175 hits were
one baggers. Hitting singles is not the way to get headlines. But it’s
the guys who hit singles and keep rallies alive that make a winning
baseball team. I remember that season well and the image of Sax coming
to bat with maybe a runner on first and two out and getting hit to keep
the inning alive for Gibson (who had 105 RBIs on only 157 hits that
year). But Gibson was the runaway winner of the MVP and Sax only got a
few votes, finishing 18th in the voting.
This year the Dodger headlines have gone to Turner, justifiably so, and
home run–bashing Cody Bellinger. Nobody talks about Chris Taylor much,
but he is to this team as Steve Sax was to the ‘88 Dodgers, only he also
adds power to the mix. If I had to choose between Bellinger and Taylor,
I’d pick Taylor
As long as I’m at it, I might add that Turner is an old school batter.
While all of today’s stars strike out much more than the players of
yore, Turner strikes out less than 13% of the time, contrasted with
Bellinger, who strikes out 1/3 of the time, as does Taylor. Further, the
player generally regarded as the best in the game, Mike Trout, still
strikes out this year 25% of the time. Even though he has lowered it
from more than a third of the time, that is still striking out one out
of every four at bats which is far too high.
Nobody can convince me that the game they play today, that does not
allow starting pitchers to throw complete games and looking the other
way as batters strike out at double the rate they did in the ‘50s is
even close to the quality of the game which I grew up loving.
manager Dave Roberts has the magic touch if you want to call it that. On
Thursday, in a 1-1 tie game against Arizona, starting pitcher Rich Hill
was dominating. After seven innings he had allowed only two hits and one
run while striking out 9 without a walk. But, hey, he had thrown 95
pitches, so out he came. In came Luis Avilán with his 4.30 ERA from
Roberts’ bullpen. The first batter he faced, Jake Lamb, blasted a huge
home run into the right centerfield stands. Two batters later, .250
batting shortstop Ketel Marté hit his first home run of the year. After
Roberts had turned a tie game into a 2 run deficit by pulling Hill,
another of Robert’s bullpen heroes, Josh Fields and his 4.32 ERA,
allowed another run in the top of the 9th, giving the Dodgers
a 3 run deficit going into the bottom of the 9th.
But the problem with Roberts’ inept handling of his pitching staff is
that his team is so good that it staged another miracle rally in the
bottom of the 9th to win the game, so nobody even commented
on the fact that had Hill stayed in the game Arizona would probably have
remained scoreless. No, instead everyone gushed about the comeback. I
have no problem with the comeback which was exciting. The problem is
that because the comeback was so exciting Roberts gets away with murder
in the way he continues to foul up Dodgers game by his knee-jerk
acceptance of the 100 pitch limit fallacy.
ESPN's disdain for tennis is despicable. In the second set of the Roger
Federer-Mischa Zverev Wimbledon match on Saturday they cut away from a
tight second set cutting the sound of John McEnroe, to show an
interview on a split screen with Mischa’s brother, Sasha, while Mischa
was gamely fighting to remain in the set. The match was interesting
because it was old school Mischa who served and volleyed on every serve
vs. new school Federer. But ESPN thought that an interview was more
important than concentrating on the game on the field.
ESPN's telecast of the World Cup of softball for women was equally
amateurish. The announcer gave the score at the end of the second inning
as “2 to nil.” Nil? Whoever heard anybody ever give a baseball score as