I Always Hate Playing the Angels

I don’t know what it is, but it’s never fun. Oh, maybe it’s the 27-35 record the Blue have against them, including dropping 5 of 6 last year. That could be it. Also, if I’m not mistaken, it was a game against them last year where James Loney almost destroyed his career on the right field wall. (Edit: I was right. And it was adding injury to insult, as it was the 8th inning of a 10-4 Angels win).  Anyway, ESPN actually gives some pub to the West Coast rivlary – and it only takes them 20 seconds to include the not-played-out-at-all “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of…” bit! At least Tim Kurkjian gives the Dodgers some respect, saying it could possibly be a World Series preview, and saying he actually spoke to a scout who said, “you know the Dodgers are going to win the division by six games.” Actually, I didn’t know that, but I’d be more than okay with it.

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.553191&w=425&h=350&fv=] from sports.espn.go.com

Let’s do a bit of a roundup of things on a variety of topics.

Luis Maza made his major league debut, and minorleaguebaseball.com has a short profile on him:

Luis Maza, IF, Los Angeles Dodgers

CALLED UP: Contract purchased from Triple-A Las Vegas when SS Rafael Furcal went on the DL.

DEBUT: May 14 in a 6-4 win against Milwaukee. A late-game insertion on defense at shortstop after starting shortstop Chin Lung Hu was pinch-hit for, he did not bat.

NOTES: In his 11th pro season without making it to the Majors, the 27-year-old Maza finally got the call from the 51s. With Las Vegas, he was hitting .402 (.472 against left-handers) and had played second, third, shortstop, left and right field. Ironically, he wasn’t even the team’s leading hitter at the time (that honor went to third baseman Terry Tiffee and his .430 average). But while Tiffee strictly profiles as a corner infielder and left fielder, Maza’s middle infield versatility worked in his favor. Originally signed by Minnesota out of Venezuela in 1997, he was a .273 career hitter coming into 2008. He spent his first nine years moving up the Twins’ ranks before signing with the Dodgers in 2007 as a Minor League free agent.

If you saw his start against Milwaukee yesterday, you’ll know that it won’t matter if he’s hitting .402 or .902 – we need him to never be at shortstop ever again. I’ve never seen a shortstop with such a weak arm, to the point that the Milwaukee broadcasters were trying to figure out what he was even doing in the majors.

When did we sign Mark Bellhorn? Rotoworld has this:

Mark Bellhorn debuted for Double-A Jacksonville on Thursday and went 2-for-2 with a walk.
Bellhorn didn’t hit for the Padres in 2006 and he received just 11 at-bats with the Reds last season, so he faces an uphill battle to get back to the majors at age 33.

Bellhorn had one excellent season (27 homers, .512 SLG, and a 133 OPS+ for the 2002 Cubs), one good season for a champion (17 homers, 82 RBI, and 107 OPS+ for the 2004 Red Sox).. and at no point in his other 8 full and partial seasons has he even been within 20 points of league average in OPS. He started 2006 as San Diego’s regular second baseman, and was cut after putting up a solid .190 in 253 at-bats. He’s mainly a 2B/3B, but he’s played every position on the diamond. Let’s hope we’ll never need him.

Finally, I have a lot respect for Tony Jackson of the Daily News,  but I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read this, in an article about Dodgers hitting coach Mike Easler helping Juan Pierre:

Pierre, whose last home run came with the Chicago Cubs in 2006, will never come close to the 118 jacks Easler hit in his 14-year career. But that doesn’t change the fact that at times when Easler looks at Pierre, it’s as if he is looking into a mirror.

“I remember going through exactly what he has gone through this year,” Easler said. “I remember one year (1982), leading the (Pittsburgh Pirates) in this, that and the other, and then I open the ’83 season on the bench. I couldn’t believe it. I did some things kind of like him. I pouted a little bit.

Mike Easler was a very good hitter in this day, putting up a 111 OPS+ or better in each of the seven seasons in which he got 339 at-bats or more. (Which sort of makes him not even a little bit like Juan Pierre, doesn’t it?)  Not that anyone here really wants an in-depth examination of the 84-78 4th place 1982 Pittsburgh Pirates, but Easler led them in exactly.. zero offensive categories. No, really: not even a single one.

Finally, and most hilariously… the picture on the front of today’s Fire Joe Morgan post? Yeah, that was me. Took it with my phone in a bodega on 9th Ave in New York City the other day.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

Mattingly’s Not Hitting Coach!?

Just in:

DODGERS NAME EASLER HITTING COACH

Former NL All-Star to replace Mattingly on Joe Torre’s staff

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Dodgers today named former National League All-Star Mike Easler as the hitting coach for the 2008 season. Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti made the announcement. Easler will replace Don Mattingly on Joe Torre’s staff, as Mattingly will shift to the role of Major League Special Assignment Coach for the 2008 season due to family reasons.

Mike has enjoyed success as both a player and a coach in the Major Leagues and he’s extremely familiar with our players,” said Colletti. “This is an opportunity to promote a very talented individual from within the organization and we expect him to make a seamless transition to the Major League staff.”

Easler, 57, was the St. Louis Cardinals’ hitting coach from 1999-2001 and served in the same capacity for the Brewers (1992) and Red Sox (1993-94). He spent the last two seasons as a hitting coach in the Dodgers’ minor league system, first with Double-A Jacksonville in 2006 before being promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas prior to last season. In that role, he worked extensively with Matt Kemp, James Loney, Andy LaRoche, Tony Abreu, Delwyn Young and Chin-lung Hu, among other Dodger prospects.

The Cardinals reached the postseason in two of his three years as a hitting coach, ranking third in the NL with a .270 batting average and fifth in the league with a .339 on-base percentage and .441 slugging percentage in 2001, his last year as a big league coach.

During his 14-year Major League career, Easler played primarily in the outfield and posted a .293 average with 118 homers and 522 RBI with the Astros, Angels, Pirates, Red Sox, Yankees, and Phillies. His best season came in 1984 when he finished sixth in the league with a .313 average while slugging 27 homers and 91 RBI in 156 games for Boston. He was named to the National League All-Star team with Pittsburgh in 1981.

The Cleveland, OH native was a member of the 1979 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates and served as a minor league manager and college baseball coach following his big league playing career.

Mattingly will remain employed by the Dodgers full-time in the role as a Major League Special Assignment Coach in 2008 and will assist with the Major League coaching staff during Spring Training as well as other duties throughout the season.

I’m very grateful that the Dodgers have allowed me to take care of these family matters and I hope that everyone can respect our privacy during this time,” said Mattingly. “I truly appreciate the support of all Dodger fans since joining the organization and I look forward to helping the team win in 2008 and beyond.”

Say what? Didn’t see that coming. No idea what the “family reasons” are (hopefully nothing serious of course, unless he wants to personally teach Preston how to hit), but I’d say after all the ballyhoo this offseason about Mattingly being the hitting coach and heir to Torre, this is a pretty big surprise.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg