Kershaw wins another Cy Young Award

Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw won the National League Cy Young Award for the second time in the past three seasons today, following a season in which he went 16-9 and led the majors in ERA (1.83) for the third consecutive season, becoming the first pitcher to do that since Atlanta’s Greg Maddux did it from 1993-95.

Kershaw allowed no more than one run in 16 of his 33 starts this season.

Kershaw was a near-unanimous winners, receiving 29 of 30 first-place votes. The other first-place vote went to second-place finisher Adam Wainwright of St. Louis.

The Cy Young Award is the major league-leading 11th by a Dodgers pitcher.

Kershaw, 25, also was an All-Star for the third year in a row, and he actually finished second in Cy Young Award voting last year behind New York’s R.A. Dickey. Two years ago, Kershaw won the pitching version of the triple crown, leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts. His ERA this year was the best of his career.

Kershaw is potentially eligible for free agency after next season if the Dodgers don’t sign him to an extension. There was one media report last month that the Dodgers had offered Kershaw a deal with a total value of $300 million during the season. Kershaw, who never specifically addressed that report, has publicly expressed disappointment that word the negotiations were taking place had leaked publicly.

When the MLB Network crew asked Kershaw about his contract negotiations on live television at the award announcement, Kershaw’s wife and several friends walked into the shot to congratulate him, saving him from having to answer the question. Kershaw later claimed on a media conference call that was merely a coincidence.

“That was perfect timing,” he said. “I don’t know how that happened, but it was great. I didn’t have to answer. That was perfect. Not my doing, just coincidence.”

Kershaw said no negotiations presently are under way on a new deal.

“Right now, I am in L.A. for (at least) one more year, and that is kind of as far as I am looking at it,” he said. “No talks have happened yet this offseason. That is really all I want to talk about as far as that goes. We’ll just see what happens. It’s kind of an open book right now.”

Mattingly says talks on a contract extension are “going good”

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To the surprise of absolutely no one, Pittsburgh’s Clint Hurdle was the runaway winner of the National League’s Manager of the Year award. The Dodgers’ Don Mattingly finished second with two first-place votes.

More importantly, Mattingly told the MLB Network in the moments leading up to the MOY announcement that he is engaged in negotiations on a new contract.

“We’re in talks right now, and things are going good,” said Mattingly, who went on to say he is optimistic that something will get done soon.

It already was known that Mattingly’s 2014 option had been picked up by the club — the option vested when the Dodgers reached the N.L. Championship Series — and despite Mattingly’s statements a few weeks ago that “that doesn’t mean I’ll be back,” the Dodgers announced a few days later that he would be. But Mattingly had made it clear he didn’t want to manage a second consecutive season without job security for the following season, and a contract extension would mean he wouldn’t have to in 2014.

In other developments, the Dodgers finally confirmed to the media today that pitcher Onelki Garcia underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow last Friday and that he will be “competitive” by the start of the regular season. That probably rules him out for the opening-day roster because, if I’m interpreting that correctly, he won’t be ready to pitch in spring training. … And the Dodgers have hired Roy Clark away from the Washington Nationals, according to Keith Law. That’s the former Braves scouting director Roy Clark, not the guy from HeeHaw. No announcement yet from the Dodgers, so it isn’t clear what Clark’s role will be, but he was an assistant GM with the Nats. And, as you may have guessed from his history with the Braves and Nationals, he is a close associate of Dodgers president Stan Kasten. … The Dodgers have signed minor league free-agent catcher J.C. Boscan to a minor league contract, meaning he’ll probably be at Triple-A Albuquerque. He also is a surefire spring-training invitee because teams always invite a boatload of catchers to spring training for a very simple reason — they need them to catch all the bullpens. … And finally, Ron Cervenka, who runs the Dodgers blog site ThinkBlueLA.com, tweeted earlier today that he has confirmation from a team source that pitchers and catchers will report to spring training on Feb. 5. If that seems awfully early, and it does, it’s because the Dodgers will break camp on March 16 to fly to Sydney, Australia, for their season-opening, two-game series there with the Diamondbacks.

Shockingly (or perhaps not), Yasiel Puig isn’t the N.L. ROY

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Before anyone cynically suggests Yasiel Puig didn’t win the National League’s Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year award because his brashness, swagger and perceived uncoachability poisoned the minds of the 30 writers from the 15 N.L. cities who were chosen to vote on this award, let me just say this: The ballots were due BEFORE the start of the playoffs, and while Puig’s comportment issues were well known in Los Angeles almost from the moment he arrived in the majors on June 3, they didn’t really become a national story until the playoffs, when they showed up on the big stage in a big way.

Rather, the reasons Puig lost out to Miami’s Jose Fernandez were all the right ones, and they had everything to do with baseball. Look, Fernandez deserved this thing, hands down. He had only four starts all year that weren’t “quality starts,” and he had only one start that was bad — and that was way back in April. And, he was in the majors all year, whereas Puig spent only two-thirds of the season in the majors, and really, he spent only half the season being the greatest player in the history of mankind. He hit just .214 — albeit with six home runs — in September, striking out once every 4.5 plate appearances.

That, as much as anything, is what decided this.

Now, I want to examine some of Puig’s, umm, issues.

At some point, the Dodgers are going to have to do something. From the outside looking in, it almost seems like management is afraid to deal with him harshly or to reign him in, afraid that if they offend him or hurt his feelings, he’ll stop giving maximum effort. Don Mattingly said many times during the season that there was a fine line between asking a player to display proper fundamentals and robbing that player of his enthusiasm, aggressiveness and love for the game — and Puig clearly loves the game.

Ultimately, though, the goal here is to win. And when you have a player who routinely overthrows the cutoff man and occasionally even overthrows the guy the cutoff man is supposed to be throwing to — you know, like, the catcher — that is a detriment to winning. And when other fielders who play in his vicinity have to be tentative when chasing fly balls or pop-ups whenever Puig is anywhere near out of fear he may not back off when he is called off, that is a detriment to winning. The reason the Dodgers are paying Puig $42 million over seven years is because they believe he is talented enough to help them win. You don’t protect that investment by tiptoeing around it. You protect that investment by doing everything you can to ensure that the player does what you are paying him to do.

In fairness to Puig, there is no denying he is a fun player to watch. He brings a refreshing enthusiasm to the field that too many players in today’s corporatized game simply lack. And when he makes one of those notorious throws over the heads of everybody, those throws are still awe-inspiring to anyone watching who doesn’t have a vested interest in Puig hitting the cutoff man. The guy has a cannon arm and a powerful bat, and he doesn’t appear to be intimidated by anything or anyone, and those are beautiful things.

Of all of Puig’s transgressions this year, the ultimate, in my opinion, came in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the N.L. Championship Series. The Dodgers had a comfortable lead, but not an unblowable lead against a team like St. Louis. And when Matt Holliday led off with a pop fly to shallow right and Puig dropped it, possibly losing it in the late-afternoon sun, Puig reacted by walking to the ball rather than running after it.

By the time that happened, alas, the ROY ballots had long since been turned in.

Already in that game, Puig had raised the ire of the umpires by standing at home plate for several seconds after being called out on strikes, an antic that led to a well-chronicled, on-field meeting (warning?) before Game 6 between Joe Torre, who oversees the umpires, and Dodgers president Stan Kasten. I got a buddy who suggested to me the day after Game 6 that might have been the reason Clayton Kershaw appeared to be getting squeezed in the early innings. I’m not buying that, not for a second. Umpires can be vindictive at times, especially this generation of umpires, but they aren’t so vindictive that they are going to consciously affect the outcome of such a huge game and alter the course of baseball history.

Still, the last thing in the world the Dodgers can afford is for Puig to walk around with a target on his back (see Milton Bradley), because that situation can turn toxic really quickly. Most umpires, most of the time, are very professional. But just as we in the media sometimes allow our personal feelings toward a player to subconsciously seep into our reportage, umpires are human, and humans have emotions, and human emotions sometimes manifest themselves in certain ways. And when you have a player like Puig who clearly loves attention, you have to be at least a little wary of him sometimes drawing the wrong kind of attention.

It’s like my old junior-high principal (God rest his soul) told us at orientation on the first day of the seventh grade: “It’s better for you if I don’t know your name, because if I know your name, it means you have spent way too much time in my office.” Obviously this is a different situation, and the umpires DO know the players’ names, all of them. But my point is, the best thing a player can do in the eyes of the umpires is to just blend into the crowd of players.

And if there is one thing we have learned about Puig, it’s that he doesn’t blend into crowds very well. Nor does he want to.

And the spring-training schedule has been announced

I won’t bore you with all the details because, you know, it’s the Cactus League. It’s the same as always, where they basically play everybody home-and-home with a few variations. The first two games (Feb. 26-27) are with the Diamondbacks, the first one on the road and the second one at CBR, so given the lingering bitterness between the two clubs, that could be interesting. Oh, and the Dodgers’ first visit to the Cubs’ new ballpark in Mesa is March 14. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same as always — except that it wraps up much earlier than usual. The last game before the team leaves for Australia is March 16, against the Rockies at CBR. The two season-opening games in Sydney (also against the Diamondbacks) are March 22-23, but they are preceded by another exhibition against Team Australia on March 21. Then, there is a three-game Freeway Series, March 27-28 at Dodger Stadium and March 29 at Angels Stadium, and before anybody asks, yes, it is standard practice for teams opening the season overseas to come back and play more exhibition games before resuming their regular season at the same time everybody else is beginning theirs.

I just checked, and even though the Dodgers have sent out the schedule to the media, they haven’t posted it on their web site yet. But keep checking if you’re interested, I’m sure it will be there shortly.

Also, keep in mind the Rookie of the Year award winners will be announced this afternoon. My gut tells me it’s going to Jose Fernandez in the National League, just because Yasiel Puig didn’t play a full season and faded down the stretch. But it will be televised on MLB Network if you want to tune in.

Thoughts on the Dodgers coaching staff …

So they announced it this morning. The newsy part of it was that Tim Wallach, as had been widely speculated, will move from third-base coach to bench coach, effectively a promotion that puts him in line to inherit the manager’s job if Don Mattingly is fired at some point, and that longtime Dodgers minor league manager Lorenzo Bundy is being promoted from manager at Triple-A Albuquerque to take over Wallach’s third-base coaching duties. Bundy, who managed the Isotopes for the past three seasons and also was the Dodgers’ Triple-A manager at Las Vegas in 2007-08, is bilingual, which I’m guessing was a factor in his promotion. He also has managed in the Mexican Winter League for more than two decades and presently is managing at Navajoa, I believe. Just a guess here, but it’s possible the front office sees Bundy’s ability to speak fluent Spanish as an asset in communicating with difficult-to-manage right fielder Yasiel Puig. But Puig doesn’t seem to listen to his Spanish-speaking teammates much more than he listens to management, so I’m skeptical that it will have much of an effect.

Anyhoo, on the subtler subtext of this morning’s announcement: the first line of the press release simply says “with manager Don Mattingly and his nine coaches returning.” Returning. Still doesn’t specify under what conditions Mattingly’s return will take place. Is he once again a lame-duck manager managing in his option year — a fact that would be made even more glaring given that heir apparent Wallach is now more heir-apparent than ever in his new role as Mattingly’s bench coach? Or will he get a new, multi-year deal? That announcement is yet to be made, of course, and if there ultimately isn’t a multi-year deal and Mattingly IS coming back as a lame duck, there may not even be an announcement. Meanwhile, Mattingly is a finalist for National League Manager of the Year, the winner of which will be announced on Tuesday. He isn’t likely to win it simply because Pittsburgh’s Clint Hurdle seems like the clear choice.

The rest of the coaching staff, by the way, is returning intact. The minor league staff will be announced later, and it isn’t clear who would replace Bundy as manager at the team’s top affiliate. Simple logic would suggest Double-A Chattanooga manager Jody Reed might simply inherit the position, but Double-A and Triple-A are different animals in this day and age, with different missions. Triple-A really isn’t about development anymore. Back in the day, Triple-A was viewed as a kind of finishing school for major league prospects. Nowadays, that is more the role of Double-A. Triple-A rosters tend to be dotted with older guys, most of whom have at least tasted the majors and some of whom are major league veterans trying to make it back. And frankly, a lot of those guys are ticked off that they aren’t in the majors now and make no effort to hide that discontent when they come to the park every day. Knowing that, a lot of organizations don’t like for their top prospects to spend much time in Triple-A being exposed to that. And I have heard many a coach say over the years that the biggest jump in the minors is between high Single-A and Double-A. This is why you see a lot of the game’s top prospects promoted directly from Double-A to the majors.

Anyway, I kind of went off on a tangent there in trying to make my original point. I’m just saying that while Reed may inherit Bundy’s old job, it wouldn’t shock me if he didn’t, and that is the reason.

Yimi Garcia pitching well in AFL as 40-man roster deadline nears

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Spent a few minutes with Yimi Garcia before Friday night’s Arizona Fall League game at Scottsdale Stadium. The Dodgers right-hander is in his protection year, which means he will have to be added to the 40-man roster by Nov. 20 or he is exposed to the Rule 5 draft, and he almost certainly will be added because he is one of the organization’s top relief prospects. He says no one in the organization has given him any indication either way, but that’s standard practice — teams don’t like to tip their hands, even to the players involved.

Garcia, 23, was signed out of the Dominican Republic in January 2009. He didn’t give up a run in any of his first five appearances for the Glendale Desert Dogs in the AFL, a span of 6 2/3 innings (yes, relievers occasionally are allowed to go multiple innings in the AFL). Since then, he has been scored upon in three of four outings, but that probably can be chalked up to fatigue as he pitches deeper into the year.

In addition to likely being added to the 40-man, Garcia has an outside shot of reaching the majors sometime in 2014. He is coming off his first full season at Double-A Chattanooga, where he made 49 appearances and posted a 2.54 ERA and had a WHIP of 0.812. He also had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 6:1.

In 2009, Garcia debuted with the Dodgers by dominating in the Dominican Summer League. A year later, though, he had a rude awakening in the Arizona Rookie League, as his ERA blew up to 7.04.

“I didn’t know what had happened,” Garcia said. “I had always thrown my fastball down the middle, and in the Dominican, you could get guys out that way, just blowing it by them. But I came back that next year, 2011 (at Ogden in the Rookie-level Pioneer League), and I started using my slider and my changeup a lot more.”

By becoming more of a pitcher than just a thrower, Garcia posted a 3.10 ERA at Ogden in 2011, split 2012 between low Single-A Great Lakes and advanced Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and then spent all of 2013 at Chattanooga, gradually shaving down his ERA at each stop.

By the way, a few minutes after we spoke, Garcia was playing catch in the outfield while the Scottsdale Scorpions took batting practice, and he was grazed in the left (non-throwing) shoulder by a line drive that struck him on the fly. Apparently, Garcia was OK, as he went right back to throwing. He wasn’t scheduled to pitch that night, but he came back the following afternoon to give up a run on one hit over one inning.

Another Dodgers player wins another award I’ve never heard of

It’s that time of year again. You know, when there is some set or another of postseason baseball awards given out pretty much EVERY DAY. Yesterday, it was something called the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year awards. Wilson is a maker of athletic equipment, including gloves, so the company has an award for defensive play. Best I can figure, the way this differs from the Gold Glove awards, which went out last week and are the traditional defensive awards that people actually care about, is that the Wilson award goes to the best defensive player on each team, regardless of position. And for the Dodgers, it went to third baseman Juan Uribe, and very deservedly so. Uribe is one of those guys you have to see on a regular basis to appreciate just how good he is defensively. He isn’t the type of third baseman who is going to show up on Web Gems very often because he isn’t the type of third baseman who is diving and lunging and flopping all over the place. But this guy can pick it. He has amazing reaction time, and it is impossible to know how many runs he saved for Dodgers pitchers this year and all three of his seasons with the club, even though during the first two of those seasons, Dodgers fans pretty much hated him, partly because he was an ex-Giant but mostly because he hit a combined .199 over those two seasons.

This year, of course, Uribe became a fan favorite, mostly because he hit 12 home runs — twice his total for his first TWO seasons in Los Angeles — just in time to become a free agent, which he still is, so it remains to be seen whether he has or hasn’t played his final game in a Dodgers uniform. If you listened to the podcast Phil Stone and I recorded yesterday, you know my thoughts on this. If you didn’t, I’ll repeat them here: given Uribe’s recent penchant for turning in his best seasons when he is in the final year of a contract (he hit 24 homers and drove in 85 runs for the Giants in 2010, just before the Dodgers signed him to a three-year, $21 million deal), the Dodgers should offer him no more than a one-year deal. Just my opinion.

The real awards, the ones voted on by members of the Baseball Writers Association (MVP, Cy Young, Manager of the Year and Rookie of the Year) go out next week.

By the way, I went to an Arizona Fall League game last night just to see how the new replay-review system was going. This was the second day of testing the system in the AFL, which is limited to NIGHT games — of which there is never more than one per day — through Tuesday. As luck would have it, there were NO requests for reviews from either team in this game. I’m told there were SEVEN such plays the night before, the first night the system was tried.

Sorry, but I’m not a fan of this whole concept. I can’t imagine how much time is going to be wasted while umpires review replays and consult with somebody back in New York who is watching TV monitors of every game. And is this going to eliminate arguments between managers and umpires? Fans love a good manager-umpire argument, especially if it involves dirt-kicking, hat-tossing or base-throwing.

Finally, this is pure speculation on my part, so to be clear, I HAVEN’T HEARD THIS FROM ANYBODY, but during a lunch with a handful of colleagues yesterday, somebody started talking about former Cubs manager Mike Quade (pronounced KWAH-dee) and how he hasn’t been able to get a job, ANY job, in the game since being fired by the Cubs after the 2011 season. Well, this got me to thinking … if, as I keep reading, Dodgers third-base coach Tim Wallach is about to be moved into the vacant bench coach’s position now that he wasn’t hired as manager in either Detroit or Seattle, the team is going to need a new third-base coach. Quade, as someone with Cubs ties, could be a candidate given general manager Ned Colletti‘s apparent penchant for hiring people (and signing/trading for players) with Cubs or Giants ties, the two organizations for which Colletti worked before coming to the Dodgers eight years ago. And before he became the Cubs manager, Quade was the Cubs third-base coach.

Not saying any of this will happen, mind you. But if it does, just remember I was the first one to speculate that it might. This is what we in the journalism biz like to call “throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks.” Hey, at least I’m admitting it.

ScribeWire Q & A Podcast #2

On this week’s podcast we discuss, Donnie Baseball’s future with the club, David Price vs. Masahiro Tanaka, Brian Wilson, Juan Uribe,¬†and the one move Tony would make this off season. Keep sending your podcast questions to phil.stone@dodgerscribe.com.

 

 

Zack Greinke wins N.L. Silver Slugger Award

Not exactly a surprise, as Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke was clearly the best-hitting pitcher in the National League, batting .328 with a .409 on-base percentage. He went 5-for-14 (.357) with runners in scoring position. Greinke also pitched pretty well for the Dodgers this year, going 15-4 for a league-best .789 winning percentage, and he posted a 2.63 ERA.

The Silver Slugger is determined by a vote of the league’s managers and coaches and is awarded to the top-hitting player at each position in each league. Greinke is the first Dodgers pitcher to win it since Orel Hershiser in 1993.

Also, in case you missed this earlier, the reckless driving case was dropped against Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he was busted for driving 97 mph in a 50-mph zone back in April while he was playing for the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate there.

Finally, the Dodgers have hired a new advance scout named Gary Pellant. Pellant has been with the Chicago White Sox for the past 28 years. I don’t know him at all, but a colleague in Chicago speaks highly of him. Pellant replaces Wade Taylor, who held the position for the past three years and whose contract wasn’t renewed after the season.

Puig, Kershaw, Mattingly among award finalists

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Proving once again that television rules all when it comes to professional sports, the MLB Network today ran a show announcing the “finalists” for each of the major postseason BBWAA awards — meaning the top three in balloting for each of those awards in each league. It wasn’t that long ago that the results of this balloting was a strictly guarded secret until the day the award winner was announced. I guess that is still true now, but just the fact we are told who the finalists are is a little like knowing what the gifts under the Christmas tree are before you open them.

This announcement of finalists is, of course, strictly a made-for-TV event. But you can see all of them here.

Anyway, the Dodgers had three finalists for the National League awards: Yasiel Puig for Rookie of the Year, Clayton Kershaw for Cy Young and — keep in mind, these ballots have to be cast BEFORE the playoffs start — Don Mattingly for Manager of the Year.

Of that group, Kershaw probably is the closest thing to a slam dunk. He went 16-9 and led the N.L. in ERA (1.83) for the third consecutive season. Mattingly is a long shot because Pittsburgh’s Clint Hurdle appears to be a heavy favorite for the award. Puig is tough to predict. He took the big leagues by storm when he arrived on June 3, but he didn’t arrive until June 3, and plus, he faded down the stretch, batting .214 in September to finish the season at .319. The favorite for this award probably is Miami’s Jose Fernandez. He went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA.

Each of these awards are determined by ballots submitted by two BBWAA members in each city (30 ballots for each award). Winners will be announced at various times next week.