With the Los Angeles Dodgers suddenly hit with weeks of inconsistent play, their huge lead in the NL West has now evaporated to a virtual tie with the San Diego Padres with only six percentage points keeping the Dodgers at the top of the heap.
It wasn’t an overreaction when the Dodgers fan base really started panicking when franchise player Mookie Betts was recently placed on the injured list courtesy of a broken rib. Not only will Betts be out for the foreseeable future, so will a ton of talent and offense from the right field position.
After figuring out the severity of the injury which at first was believed to be only a bruise, it is being reported that he could be back in a couple of weeks. Betts shared his thoughts on how he was feeling after the diagnosis.
“I feel all right,” Betts said. “Sore, but it is what it is. It’s a cracked rib, so you’re going to feel sore. But after the play, the next inning it started hurting. I thought it was just a little bruise or something. So I tried to play through it and it got worse over the couple of days, and then now we’re sitting here.”
With one of the highest payrolls in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers decided to go with Trayce Thompson completing a deal with the Detroit Tigers for cash considerations. Trayce was playing for the Tigers’ Triple-A team in Toledo after signing with the team as a free agent. His eight home runs with seven walks in 25 games impressed the Dodgers to nab him as a short-term option as a right handed hitter for the two weeks Betts is recovering.
But Trayce’s signing could turn out to be a sportswriter’s dream if he can stick with the team for a long postseason run that leads to a championship. The 2020 World Series champs did pick up a MLBbro that is from a family that has a few professional championship trophies.
Most baseball announcers will point out the fact that Trayce’s brother is the newly crowned NBA champ, Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors who was celebrating in a parade probably when the negotiations were going on for our MLBbro.
But did you know that his father, Mychal Thompson was also a two time World Champion playing for the Los Angeles Lakers in the late 1980’s?
Trayce Thompson played in six MLB games for the Padres this season with one hit in 14 plate appearances. Overall in 223 games spanning six seasons in the majors with the Chicago White Sox (2015,2018), Dodgers (2016-17), Oakland A’s (2-18), Chicago Cubs (2021), Padres and Tigers (2022), our MLBbro brings a .205 batting average and .280 on-base percentage into the fold to keep the Dodgers afloat until Betts comes back and possibly going forward as Dave Roberts believes this injury will linger.
“I don’t expect him to be pain free,” Roberts said. “But I think with Mookie, and this is more of a Mookie question, as long as it’s not at a point where it could affect something else, then you have peace of mind to play through it. A guy like Mookie who plays every day, you’re obviously used to playing through some type of discomfort.”
Comments like this could open Trayce Thompson’s chances to stay with the big squad the rest of the season if he plays well. Based on his family roots, the Dodgers got championship pedigree for pennies on the dollar.
Three years ago, on February 18th in 2019, MLB lost one of its pioneers and baseball lost its first Black pitching star. His death was announced by the Dodgers in a Tweet, but it didn’t represent the full impact of Newcombe’s MLB experience as a racial barrier-breaker back in the 50s. Baseball fans, celebrities, and common folk from all walks of life sent their condolences.
Former President Barrack Obama put things in perspective in 2010 when he said, “I would not be here if it were not for Jackie and it were not for Don Newcombe.
“Newk” was a fearless, ferocious fireballer and baseball pioneer. He was the first black pitcher to start in a World Series and the first Black Ace to win 20 games in an MLB season. He’s also the only baseball player ever to win Rookie of The Year, MVP and the Cy Young Award.
Branch Rickey’s Integration Plan
Born in Madison, New Jersey on June 14, 1926, Newcombe only lived there because his dad was a chauffeur for this wealthy family. His pops made a good living making beer and driving.
Newcombe’s only connection to baseball was his uncles, who played sandlot ball on Staten Island. His parents would get into the car on the weekends and go watch them play.
A big-time New Jersey athlete taught Newcombe how to play baseball at age 13.
While Jackie Robinson gets all of the props for being Branch Rickey’s first choice to break baseball’s color barrier, Newcombe was the first African-American pitcher brought in by the Dodgers
He started in the Negro Leagues with the Newark Eagles and then after meeting baseball’s great emancipator, his life changed and he started his MLB career in 1949.
Said Newcombe in a classic interview with former Yankees and Mets announcer Fran Healy:
In 1945, we played in an All-Star Game…Negro League stars like Monte Irvin, Roy Campanella… and I happened to be on the same team with them. And we were playing at Ebbets Field and I pitched the first three innings against a major league team and shut them out.”
(After the game) into the clubhouse walked this thin white man with a great big hat on that looked like a parachute and while I was sitting there getting ready to shower he asked me if I was Don Newcombe? I replied, Yes. He asked me if I could come to the Dodgers office tomorrow in Brooklyn to talk with Branch Rickey about playing on a new Negro League team the Dodgers were starting.”
He says Rickey was using the Negro League All-Star team as a diversion to mask his true intentions of integrating baseball which he eventually and strategically did in 1947 with Jackie Robinson, and then Roy Campanella in 1948 and Newcombe the following season.
The rest is MLB history. Together they played on the first racially-integrated baseball team in the United States.
Of all the positions in baseball, pitcher is considered the glamour position. The pitcher usually gets the riches, glory or becomes the goat. Newcombe had an even rougher time than Robinson according to some historians because he was a pitcher and it was considered a white mans position.
Players, fans and at times, umpires had a strong disdain for Newcombe, and the pressure and racism and some postseason failure eventually drove him to alcohol addiction, which shortened his career.
In addition to the hate mail and death threats, the Black players on the Dodgers couldn’t stay at some of the same Southern hotels as their white teammates. It was a demoralizing and angering experience.
“All we wanted to be was a red-blooded Americans like everybody else,” Newcombe told Healy.
However, Newcombe was able to overcome his addictions and keep his family intact. He became a positive influence on the community and cleaned up his act, maintaining his sobriety from 1967 until his death
Newcombe has given speeches to more than 2 million people ranging from schoolchildren to chief executive officers. The speeches vary, but the theme remains the same.
“The life you have now is the only one you get,” he said. “You can’t burn it out with drugs, or drown it with alcohol, turn it in and get a new one.”
Newcombe became director of community relations for the Dodgers in 1970, and for 14 years headed the team’s alcohol and drug program, the first of its kind in the major leagues.
An amazing, towering Black Ace, the 6-foot-4 Newcombe had a stellar career on the hill with four All-Star appearances, 149 wins, just 90 losses and 24 shutouts. He was in the Top 10 among NL pitchers in ERA four times, wins five times, and strikeouts five times. He also could handle the bat, hitting 271 with 15 homers and 108 RBIs in 878 career at-bats.
But it’s what he did for future generations of players that make him extremely worthy of this Shadow League Black History Moment reflection.
He finished the game with four hits (three home runs) and six RBI.
The Dodgers knew what was at stake going into Game 5 and did not want their season to end just yet.
Unlike Game 4, they dominated throughout the game both on offense and defense.
Even though the Braves jumped out to a 2-0 lead to start the game, the Dodgers quickly responded and never looked back.
Seven players in the Dodgers lineup all had hits and five of them had multiple hits. This Dodgers offense has been one of the best all season and that’s a big reason why they are still playing right now.
With Betts being the leadoff hitter on a loaded team, he’s in a good position to give that team the spark they need, especially when the bats aren’t hot.
He’s been a spark all postseason and the few games he hasn’t, his teammates have had his back.
Dave Roberts had faith in his team coming into this game despite facing elimination and they certainly did not disappoint him.
One thing about the Dodgers is that they have multiple weapons on offense and on the mound and can beat you in many ways.
If one player is struggling, you better believe that another player is going to step up.
This is now seven consecutive elimination games that the Dodgers have won.
“I guess when our backs are against the wall we play our best and fight,” Roberts said after the game. “It’s not an ideal spot to be in, even right now, an elimination game on Game 6, but I guess it brings out the best of us.”
Dave Roberts discusses calling in Andy Burns to replace Justin Turner and the mentality of the #Dodgers heading into a must-win Game 5 vs. the Braves. pic.twitter.com/CnznhbqrNB
In Game 5 of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants, Mookie Betts went 4-for-4, and became the only Dodger in history with four hits in a winner-take-all game. Between the offensive production and his defense that has ignited many plays from his fellow Dodger teammates, this team is on a trajectory to still win the NLCS and make the World Series.
“This is when the stars are stars,” Roberts said of Betts after the game 5 win. “And he’s a superstar.”
However after viewing the first two games against the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS, some would question this team’s focus and energy.
In game two in Atlanta, Mookie Betts opened the game with a single followed by Corey Seager’s homer that gave the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.
The Dodgers had slightly better offensive production, despite Roberts decision to platoon pitchers on the mound including inserting Julio Urias into the relief that ultimately would cost them the win.
Betts is a part of a gigantic lineup that can hit in spots that most aren’t successful in, but balancing out the production is not only up to the players but Roberts seeing the adjustments through his eyes and not just analytics.
Many of the players are taking on the attitude of their manager with the aggressive base running in the first two games of this series.
During the regular season, the Dodgers ranked 17th in stolen bases. In the first eight games of the playoffs, Los Angeles has stolen 11 bases.
The aggressiveness must remain, yet smarter, more accurate hitting and fielding must improve if they want to have a strong chance at winning this series.
Betts stole two bases. Gavin Lux stole one base and Chris Taylor stole a base in game two on Sunday. Fortunately no one was thrown out while stealing bases.
“In the postseason where things are more magnified,” Roberts said, “you just can’t be afraid to fail. I just think that being careful in the postseason doesn’t play.”
Last year in the playoffs against the Braves they trailed 3-1 and fought back to win the series and move on to the World Series. This team has been down before, however can rise to the occasion again with similar opportunities on the line?
Roberts has strong believe in this club winning the NLCS, and maybe his strong faith can bend the baseball universe in their favor. However it will take swift action, precise hitting, stellar defense to be the empire who struck back to knock the Braves off for good.
LOS ANGELES — The 2021 season for the Los Angeles Dodgers could easily be a reality television series that gives fans every emotion and feeling possible.
From dealing with injuries throughout the lineup, to the saga of pitcher Trevor Bauer that has more drama than a General Hospital episode, and battling to claim the NL West while falling short by one game to their hated rival San Francisco Giants made this season a challenging one to say the least.
Manager Dave Roberts has seen and experienced it all, from his time as a player winning a World Series championship with the 2004 Boston Red Sox to becoming the franchise’s first minority manager being of Black and Japanese heritage.
Despite the criticisms over the years, Roberts has guided the Dodgers to multiple World Series appearances, battling against cheating scandals surrounding the Houston Astros in 2017 and Red Sox in 2018 and he’s always stood tall on his focus.
His determination and tremendous baseball knowledge finally guided the Dodgers to their first championship in 32 years in 2020. Unfortunately, it happened during one of the most deadly global pandemics our generation has experienced.
It didn’t happen at Dodger Stadium, therefore, there were limited fans attending the World Series in Texas. It came down to a sixth game and on the arm of a young phenom in lefty Julio Urias to secure the final three outs.
His young stable of hitters led by Corey Seager became the World Series MVP, acquiring one of the greatest talents in the game in Mookie Betts paid dividends especially defensively, and we saw the emergence of players like Walker Buehler, Cody Bellinger and Kike Hernandez under Roberts’ tutelage.
The 2021 season saw his Dodgers with their backs against the wall against a feisty and successful St. Louis Cardinals team that had won 17 consecutive games in September and won 19 out of their last 20.
Was Roberts unfazed by his opponent? You better believe it. Though he respected his opponent, he knew the type of talent and the attitude of his players who can play with a chip on their shoulder the size of Frito-Lay most times.
Only in Los Angeles where a team could win in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the ninth inning in a winner-take-all Wild Card game against the Cardinals at Dodger Stadium. Roberts continued to smile in the faces of his critics, and focused on his team defeating his NL West rival Giants in the NLDS.
This was a tall task seeing how the Giants clinched the division with a franchise-record 107-win season. Ultimately it came down to a do-or-die Game 5 at Oracle Park in San Francisco. Of course, Roberts’ methods would come into question again, as in the eleventh hour the probable starter Urias was changed to Corey Kneble. This decision came after Roberts proclaimed Urias would be starting Game 5.
Again, he managed his team out of NLDS and into the NLCS in a rematch against the Atlanta Braves. The Dodgers overcame a 3-1 deficit to win that series last year.
It’s time to put some serious respect on Roberts’ name and trust his decision- making more, especially with the proven track record he’s laid down. I often wonder if Roberts didn’t have the appearance he has, would he be questioned as much as he is.
He’s won a championship as a Black manager in a league that has just eight percent Black American baseball players on the field. There is a serious need for not only more Black players but more Black managers in positions to lead MLB teams.
Roberts is like Tom Cruise, no mission is impossible and could be well on his way to capturing another World Series title in 2021. The Roberts hire also shows when given an opportunity to manage with the proper personnel, anything is possible!