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A Broken Foot Has Stalled the Matt Carpenter Revival

© Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps nobody in baseball has had a rollercoaster week quite like the one Matt Carpenter just experienced. On Friday, the 36-year-old veteran returned to St. Louis for the first time as a visiting player and received a lengthy ovation from fans grateful for his contributions over the course of an 11-season run, and the warm reception continued throughout the weekend despite his now wearing Yankee pinstripes. On Monday in Seattle, however, Carpenter fouled a pitch off his left foot and suffered a fracture, sidelining him in the midst of an impressive comeback.

The injury happened during Carpenter’s first-inning plate appearance, when he fouled an 0-1 pitch from Logan Gilbert off the top of his left foot. “I knew it was broke. I knew something was wrong when I did it.” he said after the game, speaking to reporters while on crutches. He completed his plate appearance nonetheless, striking out with DJ LeMahieu on third base and Aaron Judge at second. “I thought that I could finish the at-bat and get that run in,” he added.

By the time Carpenter spoke to the media, x-rays had confirmed the fracture. He will meet with a foot specialist upon returning to New York, at which point a timetable for his return should become more apparent. “I’m holding out hope that it’ll be a situation where I could come back in the middle of September and can contribute towards the stretch run,” said Carpenter. “I’m not going to let my mind go anywhere else that I don’t want. I’m not even going to accept the fact that this will be it for me.” Read the rest of this entry »


Braves Send Struggling Ian Anderson Back to Triple-A

Ian Anderson
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to weathering an endless barrage of Jethro Tull jokes, Ian Anderson has played an outsized role in the Braves’ success since reaching the majors in late 2020. The 24-year-old righty has struggled this year, however, and on Sunday, the Braves optioned him to Triple-A Gwinnett in hopes that he can recover the form that helped his team come within one win of a trip to the World Series in 2020, then win a championship last year.

Anderson has pitched to a 5.11 ERA, the sixth-highest in the majors among pitchers with at least 100 innings, and a 4.24 FIP in 105.2 frames this year. He has been frustratingly inconsistent, allowing four runs or more in eight of his last 14 starts, five of those while failing to complete at least five innings. In his other six outings in that span, he’s allowed two runs or fewer.

Consider the sequence of Anderson’s last eight starts, a mix of good and bad outings versus good and bad teams: 4 IP/4 ER (vs. Dodgers on June 24), 2 IP/7 ER (vs Phillies on June 30), 5 IP/1 ER (vs. Cardinals on July 5), 5.2 IP/2 ER (vs. Nationals on July 10), 5.2 IP/ 1 ER (vs. Nationals again on July 15), 3 IP/7 ER (vs. Angels on July 24), 6 IP/0 ER (vs. Diamondbacks on July 30), and 4 IP/4 ER (vs. Mets on August 5). In the penultimate start in that stretch, he held Arizona to one hit and one walk, matching his season high of nine strikeouts, and on Friday, he yielded seven hits and four walks to the Mets, striking out just three. That’s not only a lot of variance, but it’s also a 6.62 ERA and a 12.4% walk rate over a six-week stretch, too much for any team — particularly a contender — to stomach.

“We need to get him right,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker of the move. “Hopefully, he can take a step back, reassess things and get himself going. He’s experienced a lot during his young Major League career, but he’s not a finished product.”

“They think I’m a big part of this,” said Anderson. “I need to get back to what I know I can be, and what they know, as well… Now it’s just kind of about getting confidence back and figuring some things out.”

Anderson relies on a three-pitch mix, with his changeup — thrown from a high and vertical arm slot — the star of the show. That pitch is still exceptional, but his results on both his four-seam fastball and his curve have receded significantly since he reached the majors, in part because he throws the latter less often when he falls behind in the count — and he’s falling behind more often. Always a pitcher with a reverse platoon split, he’s also been rocked for a .316/.380/.505 line by righties this year.

Anderson’s jump from last year’s 3.58 ERA is the third-largest in the majors among pitchers with at least 100 innings in both seasons:

Largest ERA Gains from 2021 to ’22
Rk Pitcher Team 2021 2022 Dif
1 Ranger Suárez PHI 1.36 3.68 2.32
2 José Berríos MIN/TOR 3.52 5.19 1.67
3 Ian Anderson ATL 3.58 5.11 1.53
4 Lucas Giolito CHW 3.53 4.91 1.38
5 Patrick Corbin WSN 5.82 7.02 1.20
6 Robbie Ray TOR/SEA 2.84 3.96 1.12
7 Cal Quantrill CLE 2.89 3.88 0.99
8 Sean Manaea OAK/SDP 3.91 4.74 0.82
9 Germán Márquez COL 4.40 5.18 0.78
10T Charlie Morton ATL 3.34 4.09 0.74
Tyler Mahle CIN/MIN 3.75 4.49 0.74
Minimum 100 IP in both 2021 and ’22. All statistics through August 7.

Factoring parks and scoring environments into this, Anderson’s 39-point gain in ERA- (from 83 to 122) drops him to fifth, with Giolito and Ray leapfrogging him, but any way you slice it, that’s an unflattering list to land on. Read the rest of this entry »


Dodgers Once Again Lose Kershaw, and an Air of Invulnerability

Clayton Kershaw
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

In what may prove to be their highest impact move of the trade deadline, the Dodgers traded swingman Mitch White to the Blue Jays as part of a four-player deal that lessened the immediate depth of their rotation. Less than 48 hours later, they watched as Clayton Kershaw once again left the mound in the company of a trainer, his future availability in doubt. While the combination of the trade and the loss of the three-time Cy Young winner isn’t likely to threaten their stranglehold on the NL West, the Dodgers suddenly have little margin for error when it comes to assembling a strong rotation for October — an issue that they’re all too familiar with after last year.

Kershaw left Thursday afternoon’s start against the Giants after experiencing lower back pain while warming up for the bottom of the fifth inning. Via MLB.com’s Juan Toribio: “Kershaw felt his back tighten up after his penultimate warmup throw. He then tried to throw one more to test the back, but immediately motioned over to the Dodgers dugout.”

The 34-year-old lefty underwent an MRI that didn’t yield any surprises, but he received an epidural injection to counter the pain and was placed on the 15-day injured list. “There wasn’t any new findings, so that’s a positive,” said manager Dave Roberts “This was the best-case scenario coming from the MRI.”

A best case scenario still is likely to mean a substantial absence for Kershaw. This is his seventh time in nine seasons missing time due to a back injury, and the second time this year; he had never doubled up before:

Clayton Kershaw’s Back Injuries
Start End Days Description
3/26/14 5/6/14 41 inflammation
6/27/16 9/9/16 74 slight herniation in lower back
7/24/17 9/1/17 39 lower back strain
6/1/18 6/23/18 22 lower back strain
7/23/20 8/2/20 10 lower back stiffness
5/9/22 6/11/22 33 SI joint inflammation
8/5/22 lower back pain
SOURCE: Baseball Prospectus & MLB.com

That’s an average of 36 games missed for the previous six absences, with four of the six lasting longer than one month. An absence of similar length would still leave Kershaw enough time get a few regular-season turns under his belt before the playoffs, but any kind of setback could threaten his October availability. Read the rest of this entry »


Aaron Judge Is Chasing Some Historic Home Run Totals

© Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

A week ago Thursday, I put my pre-trade deadline work to the side long enough to down a few beers while taking in a Yankees-Royals game from Yankee Stadium’s Section 422. The game — Andrew Benintendi’s debut in pinstripes, as it turned out — unfolded as a pitchers’ duel between the Royals’ Brady Singer and the Yankees’ Jameson Taillon. Singer struck out 10 in seven innings while limiting the Yankees to a fourth-inning single by Gleyber Torres, while Taillon scattered four hits across six frames. The two bullpens did their jobs as well, and the game remained scoreless until the bottom of the ninth, when after Benintendi fouled out to complete an 0-for-4 night, Aaron Judge brought down the verdict on a 95-mph middle-middle fastball from Scott Barlow, sentencing it to an exile 431 feet away in the Royals’ bullpen.

The homer — which looked even cooler from our birds-eye view just off to the third-base side of home plate, I swear — was Judge’s 39th of the year, tying the total he hit in 148 games and 633 plate appearances last year. It was also his third walk-off of the season, tying the franchise record set by Mickey Mantle in 1959. None of the other sluggers in Yankees history — not Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Reggie Jackson, or Alex Rodriguez — ever had three walk-off homers in a season for the the team (Jackson had three for the A’s in 1971).

Judge proceeded to leave the yard three more times in the next two games against the hapless Royals, with the second of those shots a grand slam (his second of the year) and the third his 200th career homer. He added another in Monday’s series-opening victory over the Mariners to run his total to a major league-leading 43 but went homerless on Tuesday and sat out Wednesday afternoon’s game. Read the rest of this entry »


Ice Skating With Jackie Robinson: An Appreciation of Vin Scully (1927–2022)

Vin Scully
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

“They can’t all be ‘Ice Skating with Jackie Robinson‘” is a phrase often spoken in the downtown Brooklyn abode I share with my wife and daughter. In a marriage between two baseball media professionals, one a writer who was born into a lineage of Dodgers fans and the other an editor who spends her days seeking, weighing the merits of, and polishing stories for publication, it’s a line that has taken on a multilayered meaning.

The story itself is one told by Vin Scully, who called Dodgers games for 67 years, from 1950 — when Dem Bums were in Brooklyn, the perennial underdogs in a three-team city — through 2016, when they were nearing the six-decade mark of their move to Los Angeles. In it, Scully recalls the time he and baseball’s ultimate barrier-breaker raced on ice skates at a resort in the Catskill Mountains, despite the fact that Robinson, a California native who had starred in four sports at UCLA, had never been on skates; Scully, a New York native, had plenty of experience. “There aren’t very many people who can say, ‘I raced Jackie Robinson on ice,'” he concluded.

In the Jaffe-Span household, Scully’s story — which he told again and again over the years, adding details, including the fact that the baby with whom Rachel Robinson was pregnant was Sharon Robinson — serves as a reminder that that not every story can be the cream of the crop; that we should strive to bring our own work up to our highest standards while accepting that not all stories are created equal; and that the ritual of sharing stories elevates them, creating a community of their audience and a continuity over the years.

Scully called games for the first six of the Dodgers’ seven championships, and seasons in which Dodgers players won nine MVP awards, 12 Cy Youngs, and 15 Rookies of the Year. He covered 25 future Hall of Famers including those inducted as executives and managers during his tenure. With the exception of Robinson and perhaps Sandy Koufax, Scully looms larger in the franchise’s history than any of them. The Hall of Fame recognized him with the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters in 1982; remarkably, Scully worked longer after winning the award than before.

Scully died on Tuesday, August 2, at the age of 94. In the aftermath of a day when baseball’s biggest trade in deadline history — the deal that sent Juan Soto to the Padres in exchange for six players — went down, the news of the beloved and iconic broadcaster’s death spread throughout the baseball world. On social media, seemingly everybody wanted to pay tribute to Scully, sharing his best calls, their own experiences with watching and listening to him through uncounted Dodgers and national broadcasts, and their encounters with the gracious and humble gentleman who in redefining his profession touched millions upon millions of people.

What follows here is an updated version of my own Scully story, first told at Sports Illustrated’s website back on September 30, 2016, as he headed into the final days of his illustrious career. I was lucky enough to listen to Scully for 37 years, intermittently in my youth but with increasing frequency over his final decade on the air thanks to cable television and MLB.tv. In our household, checking in on a Scully game three time zones away was itself a ritual, and I cherished the continuity it brought with my youth. I retell this in the spirit of “Ice Skating with Jackie Robinson” — this is the best I’ve got to offer, and I can’t think of any better way to pay tribute to the man who meant so much to me, part of a line of four generations of Jaffes who have pulled up a chair to hear him call a game.

On Aug. 10, 1979, the Jaffe family of Salt Lake City piled into our maroon-and-faux-wood-panel Chevy Caprice station wagon for a road trip to California. As dusk hit somewhere near the western Nevada border, my father tuned the radio dial and magically summoned a Dodgers game, called by a friendly-sounding voice: Vin Scully, who in those days alternated innings with partner Jerry Doggett.

I was nine at the time, nestled in the back of the station wagon. The previous summer, I’d become absorbed in baseball’s day-to-day flow for the first time, learning to read box scores, batting averages and division standings. My team, handed down from my father — who supplied a felt souvenir pennant for the bedroom I shared with my younger brother — was the Dodgers, and thanks to my collection of baseball cards, I could recite their batting order from memory: Lopes-Russell-Smith-Garvey-Cey-Baker-Monday-Yeager-pitcher.

My father’s own allegiance had been inherited from his father Bernard Jaffe, born in Brooklyn in 1908. Though he had greater access to Giants games at the Polo Grounds through a season ticket-holding friend, Bernie — a good enough ballplayer in his own right to (allegedly) have been offered a professional contract — fell for Dem Bums sometime in the late 1920s or early ’30s after seeing good-hit/no-field rightfielder Babe Herman get bonked on the head by a fly ball. Even after departing Brooklyn — first for the University of Maryland, then overseas to earn his medical degree (and to witness Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, foreshadowing his support of Robinson), and finally to Walla Walla, Washington, more than a decade ahead of the Dodgers’ migration — he passed on his love to his sons and grandsons.

Vincent Edward Scully was born in the Bronx on November 29, 1927, the son of Irish immigrants. His father, Vincent Aloysius Scully, was a silk salesman at an upscale clothing store who died of pneumonia when his son was four years old. After her husband’s death, mother Bridget Scully took her young son to Ireland to spend time with family. “My mother told me later that when we came back, I had a brogue you could cut with a knife,” Scully recalled in 2006.

With money tight at the Scully household, Bridget rented out two spare bedrooms, usually to merchant sailors. She eventually remarried one of them, an English sailor named Allan Reeve. The family moved to the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, and Reeve worked as a doorman at an apartment on Central Park West. “To me, he was Dad,” said Scully. “I never thought of him as a stepdad. I had an ache because I never knew my father, and it was washed away by my dad.”

When he was eight years old, Scully discovered his love of baseball. From his 2020 retelling:

“I went by a laundry and in the window they had the line score of a World Series game. The Giants had lost to the Yankees that day, October the 2nd, 1936, by the score of 18-4. Well, when I saw the Giants having lost by such a heavy score, the little boy that I was, I felt so sorry for them and I became a rabid baseball fan, and especially for the Giants.

“And from October the 2nd, 1936, I had my life dedicated to baseball.”

The young Scully’s favorite player was Giants slugger Mel Ott; later, as a lefty-swinging outfielder at Fordham Prep and then Fordham University, he emulated the future Hall of Famer’s signature style, lifting his right leg before swinging.

Building upon his love of listening to college football broadcasts as a youth, when he was fascinated by the noise of the crowd, Scully pursued broadcasting for Fordham’s WFUV radio station, covering basketball, football and, in his senior year, baseball, having quit the team as a player. After graduating in 1949 and working at the CBS affiliate WTOP in Washington, D.C., Scully met Dodgers broadcaster Red Barber, who was additionally in charge of sports for CBS Radio. Barber assigned Scully to broadcast a college football game from Fenway Park in place of Ernie Harwell; with no room in the press box, he had to do it from the right field roof, which he did in the rain and snow without complaint. Barber’s satisfaction with his work led to Scully being assigned the Harvard-Yale game the following week. When Harwell left the Dodgers broadcast team after the 1949 season to join that of the Giants, the Dodgers hired Scully to be their third announcer behind Barber and Connie Desmond. The rest, as they say, is history.

The first memory of Scully that my father (Richard Jaffe, born in 1941) has dates to the 1953 World Series between the Dodgers and Yankees, the first of nearly two dozen called by Scully either on television or radio. In those days, the World Series was generally called by the announcers of the participating teams; Barber, the senior Dodgers broadcaster, had shared play-by-play duties with Yankees voice Mel Allen the year before. As the story goes, to do the 1953 Series, Barber wanted a higher fee from sponsor Gillette, but Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley refused to support him and put forth the 25-year-old Scully instead. In doing so, he became the youngest person ever to broadcast a World Series game, a mark that still stands. The Dodgers lost the 1953 series in seven games but beat the Yankees in seven in ’55. The Jaffes gathered around the radio to hear Scully and Allen call Brooklyn’s 2–0 win behind Johnny Podres‘ eight-hit shutout.

That night in the station wagon in 1979, Scully and Doggett painted a vivid portrait of the players and the action on the field, which included a parade of Dodgers runs against the archrival Giants, including six in the second inning, keyed by centerfielder Derrell Thomas’ grand slam. In the fifth, rookie Mickey Hatcher hit his first big league homer. In the ninth, staked to a 9–0 lead, Don Sutton wrapped up a five-hit shutout, the 50th of his major league career. By that point, I was under a quilt in near-total darkness, but I imagined I could see the frizzy-haired Sutton smiling as he was congratulated by his familiar-faced teammates — my 1979 Topps Dodgers set ($3 via an address in the back of The Sporting News) come to life. Thus began my 37-year relationship with the golden voice of Scully.

Growing up in Salt Lake City meant that Dodgers games on TV were limited to national broadcasts via NBC’s Game of the Week, ABC’s Monday Night Baseball, and the postseason, but occasionally I’d commandeer the family’s old Panasonic radio and replicate my father’s signature touch, finding Scully’s voice cutting through the static at the left end of the AM dial. So it was on Friday night, October 1, 1982, as Rick Monday’s grand slam backed Jerry Reuss’ three-hit shutout in a 4–0 victory over the Giants (again) to keep the Dodgers alive in a three-team NL West race, one game behind the Braves. The next day, the Dodgers eliminated the Giants via a 15–2 rout; the day after, a three-run homer by the Giants’ Joe Morgan provided the coup de gràce to the Dodgers. So it goes.

“Parrish, needless to say, is not superstitious. He wears No. 13. We have a reason for bringing that up, because we’re in the business of telling you what’s going on here, and not getting cute and superstitious. So the big story, really, with Detroit leading 4–0, is the fact that Jack Morris has not allowed a hit, and it’s going to start to build.” — Vin Scully, April 7, 1984

From 1975 to ’82, Scully not only did Dodgers games, but he also did golf, tennis and NFL games for CBS Sports, most famously calling the ’82 NFC Championship game in which the 49ers’ Dwight Clark hauled in “The Catch” to defeat the Cowboys. After that, Scully left CBS for NBC, where he joined the nationally televised Game of the Week broadcasts, paired with Joe Garagiola, who shifted to color commentary after doing play-by-play with Tony Kubek for so many years.

On the first Saturday of the 1984 season, I watched the pair call a game from Chicago’s Comiskey Park, pitting the reigning AL West champion White Sox against the hot-starting Tigers, who would win 35 of their first 40 games and breeze first to the AL East flag and eventually a World Series victory over the Padres. Nobody knew any of that yet, but that day, Tigers starter Jack Morris dominated the Sox, holding them hitless despite six walks. In the sixth inning, Scully famously laid down the law regarding the custom of not mentioning the no-hitter, one that every broadcaster who tiptoes around the subject would do well to remember, as they’ll never work as many as he did (as many as 21, though sources vary as to the exact count).

In fact, in the recording and transcript of Scully’s call of the ninth inning of Koufax’s perfect game in 1965, he begins by telling listeners, “Three times in his sensational career has Sandy Koufax walked out to the mound to pitch a fateful ninth where he turned in a no-hitter. But tonight, September the 9th, nineteen hundred and sixty-five, he made the toughest walk of his career, I’m sure, because through eight innings he has pitched a perfect game.”

Morris’s gem was the only one Scully called for a national audience besides Don Larsen’s 1956 World Series perfect game alongside Mel Allen. Scully called three perfect games in all: those of Larsen, Koufax, and the Expos’ Dennis Martinez against the Dodgers in 1991.

“High drive into deep left field, McReynolds watching, would you believe? A grand slam for Tim Raines! That has to be one of the most incredible stories of the year in any sport, the first day back.” — May 2, 1987

From the time he burst on the major league scene during the strike-shortened 1981 season — where he and the Expos ultimately ran into Fernando Valenzuela and the Dodgers, who had a date with the Yankees to avenge their ’77 and ’78 World Series losses — Tim Raines stood out as one of my favorite ballplayers thanks to his dazzling speed, and I gained a fuller appreciation of his skills via the Bill James Baseball Abstract annuals. Raines became a free agent after the 1986 season, but even at the height of his game, he got nothing but low-ball contract offers amid baseball’s collusion scandal. The rules allowed Raines to re-sign with the Expos, but he was ineligible to play until May.

Without benefit of spring training or a minor league stint, Raines stepped into the lineup on May 2, turning a Game of the Week against the Mets at Shea Stadium into the greatest comeback special since Elvis Presley’s. And of course, Scully had the call as Raines went 4-for-5, bookended by a first-inning triple off David Cone and a 10th-inning, game-winning grand slam off Jesse Orosco. Over the course of covering Raines’s Hall of Fame case 10 times, watching Scully’s call of that homer never got old.

“In the year of the improbable, the impossible has happened!” — Oct. 15, 1988

In the fall of 1988, I left Salt Lake City for Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and the overwhelming nature of college life soon made baseball a secondary concern. From the East Coast, West Coast scores were hard to come by, particularly if you no longer had a newspaper delivered to your door daily. I missed all but a few notices of Orel Hershiser’s 59-inning scoreless streak, and once the playoffs began, my first attempt to watch the NLCS went amiss as the Mets fan with one of the few TVs in our freshman unit couldn’t cope with the threat of her team being toppled by the upstart Dodgers, who had lost 10 of the 11 regular-season meetings between the two teams. Fortunately, I struck up an unlikely bond with a pair of oversized football players who owned the largest color TV on our floor, and they made no complaint when Game 4 — highlighted by Mike Scioscia’s game-tying ninth-inning homer off Dwight Gooden and Hershiser’s 12th-inning save in place of suspended closer Jay Howell — pushed toward 1 AM.

The NLCS was on ABC, and the ALCS between the A’s and Red Sox (which I had to forgo, lest I risk flunking my first wave of tests) was on CBS, but the World Series was on NBC, with Scully at the mic. My hosts didn’t have a strong rooting interest in the series, so I’m grateful they withstood my barrage of whoops, hollers and high-fives in the wake of the gimpy Kirk Gibson’s famous pinch-homer off Dennis Eckersley, which set the stage for the Dodgers’ five-game upset victory over Oakland. By now, Scully’s call is the stuff of legend, considered not just the pinnacle of his career — more famous than his calls of Hank Aaron’s 715th home run and Bill Buckner’s 1986 World Series error — but one of the greatest home run calls of all time.

“Sure, I’ll wait a minute.” — March 1989

On the heels of the Dodgers’ championship, my parents hatched a plan for my spring break, flying me down to meet them and my younger brother in Orlando, where after a couple of days at Epcot and Universal Studios, we would attend four straight games at Holman Stadium, the Dodgers’ spring training home in Vero Beach, Florida.

En route to the concession stand before one ballgame, I crossed paths with Scully himself, decked out in a cream-colored golf sweater. I asked for an autograph, then realized I had just a scrap of paper and no pen. Seeing how flustered I was, he agreed to wait while I fetched one from my mother, who was on her way to the restroom. Somehow, I not only got the pen, but Vin waited in place, and signed what might have been a golf scorecard or a ticket stub. I’ve long since lost that piece of paper — inevitable while moving half a dozen times in four years — and I never met Scully again despite being becoming a credentialed reporter, but I’ve never forgotten the man’s small gesture of patience and humanity toward a star-struck 19-year-old.

“And another drive into high right-center, at the wall … believe it or not, four consecutive home runs and the Dodgers have tied it up again!… They’re coming back in, the people in the parking lot have decided they better come back.” — Sept. 18, 2006

Three years after moving to New York City in 1995, I became part of a partial season ticket group for Yankees games, getting my fill of championship-caliber baseball on the local front while the Dodgers’ postseason dreams sputtered on the opposite coast. But starting in 2003, I began buying the MLB Extra Innings cable package (and later MLB.tv), checking in on Scully and company with increasing frequency. One of the greatest regular-season games I’ve ever watched, and my favorite of those called by him, was the epic finale of a four-game series that had seen the Dodgers slip from 1.5 games ahead of the Padres in the NL West race to half a game back following three straight losses. The Padres jumped all over starter Brad Penny for four first-inning runs, but by the third inning, the Dodgers clawed back to a tie against Jake Peavy, who unraveled after a first-inning confrontation with Dodgers first base coach Mariano Duncan.

The Padres pulled ahead late, carrying a 9–5 lead into the bottom of the ninth. In the non-save situation, manager Bruce Bochy called upon not Trevor Hoffman but Jon Adkins, who immediately served up back-to-back solo homers to Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew. As Adkins departed, Scully dropped a Dylan Thomas reference after Drew’s homer: “What is that line? Do not go gentle into that good night. Well, the Dodgers have decided they are not gonna go into that good night without howling and kicking.”

On came Hoffman, at that point three saves shy of Lee Smith’s all-time record of 478. Russell Martin launched his first pitch into left-center for another homer, and the camera cut to Martin’s jazz musician father, high-fiving everyone within reach in the stands. “The Dodgers are still a buck short,” Scully lamented, moments before Marlon Anderson connected with Hoffman’s next offering — the first time a team had hit four consecutive homers since the Twins did it in 1964, and Anderson’s second homer and fifth hit of the game.

After the Padres scored a run in the top of the 10th, Kenny Lofton worked a walk off Rudy Seanez to begin the bottom of the frame. “Ball four! And the Dodgers have a rabbit as the tying run,” said Scully. Up came a banged-up Nomar Garciaparra, back in the lineup for the first time since suffering a minor quad strain. It wasn’t quite Gibson caliber, but on a 3–1 pitch, Nomar connected. “And a high fly ball to leftfield, it is away, out and gone! The Dodgers win it 11 to 10. Oh-ho-ho, unbelievable!”

Showing the signature restraint that had first impressed me with his Buckner call, Scully let video of the jubilant Dodgers tell the story for nearly a minute and a half, as Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” began to play to the ecstatic crowd. Finally, he cut back in. “I forgot to tell you: The Dodgers are in first place!” Another minute of crowd shots and stadium noise passed, un-Scullyed, before he finally signed off: “I think we’ve said enough from up here. Once again, the final score in 10 innings — believe it or not — Dodgers 11, Padres 10.”

“And there is one out to go, one miserable measly out. 0-and-2 … got him! He’s done it!… Clayton Kershaw pitches a no-hitter a career-high 15 strikeouts… Kershaw made six pitches in the ninth inning, you talk about getting it over in a hurry.” — June 18, 2014

The final leg of Scully’s remarkable career became inextricably intertwined with the rise and sustained excellence of the Dodgers’ latest ace. The first time Scully called a Kershaw appearance was likely the first time most of us — Vin included — saw the team’s 2006 first-round pick in action. On March 9, 2008, a 19-year-old Kershaw broke off a hellacious two-strike curveball to the Red Sox’ Sean Casey, and even an 81-year-old announcer who had just about seen it all gasped in wonder: “Ohhh, what a curveball! Holy mackerel! He just broke off Public Enemy No. 1. Look at this thing! It’s up there, it’s right there and Casey is history.”

Kershaw didn’t break camp with the Dodgers that year but debuted on May 25, an occasion I wrote about for FanGraphs in 2020. By 2009, when he struck out 185 in 171 innings, the 21-year-old southpaw’s starts had become appointment viewing, especially when called by Scully, which increasingly meant at Dodger Stadium as he whittled his schedule. Through the end of 2016, Kershaw owned a 71–29 record with a 1.99 ERA in 137 starts at home, virtually all called by Scully save for the occasional absence or a nationally televised game.

Scully called 14 Dodgers no-hitters: four by Koufax, two by Carl Erskine and one apiece by Sal Maglie, Bill Singer, Valenzuela, Reuss, Kevin Gross, Ramon Martinez, Hideo Nomo and finally Kershaw, whose trio of Cy Young awards harkens back to those of Koufax, reminding us of Scully’s perfection in calling Koufax’s perfecto. On Kershaw’s night of near-perfection, he didn’t walk a batter or allow a hit; the only one of the 28 Rockies batters to reach base did so on an error by Hanley Ramirez. Corey Dickerson, the final Colorado batter of the night, was the victim of Kershaw’s career-high 15th strikeout.

That game, the lone no-hitter called by Scully in the era of social media and MLB.tv, will live on in the archives available with a few clicks of a button to anybody with a subscription; it was the game I chose when our staff offered readers some viewing favorites during the bleak days of March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic put the world on hold.

As Kershaw said later, “I think the coolest thing is thirty, forty, whatever years from now, hopefully I’ll get some grandkids of my own and show them… what it was like to have Vin call a game and what he meant to it. That’s pretty special that I’ll always have that.” Thankfully, we’ll all have that game, and so many more, to pull up once again.

“It has been such an exciting, enjoyable, wonderful season—the big crowds in the ballpark, everybody is talking about the ballclub and I really respect, admire and love the management—so everything just fell into place…. As a baseball man, and someone who has always loved the game, the situation and the conditions are perfect.” — Aug. 23, 2013

For my money, the happiest day of the year would come on some seemingly random day in late summer, when Scully would announce that he had agreed to come back for one more season. On August 28, 2015, the Dodgers made a big show of the announcement, playing a video of ownership partner Magic Johnson introducing late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, who silently revealed the news few words at a time via cue cards before Scully took a bow. The next day, however, Scully clarified by saying that in all likelihood, 2016 would be his final season.

That set the stage for a long goodbye, the tributes from all corners — other broadcasters, media (including Sports Illustrated, which put him on the cover of its May 16 issue), an endless parade of ballplayers visiting his booth to bid him farewell in person — arriving daily. Ever the professional, Scully gracefully accepted the accolades while attempting to focus on the action on the field, where the Dodgers overcame a slow start and a slew of injuries to take their fourth consecutive NL West title.

Against that backdrop, I added a title of my own: first-time father. My wife, Emma Span, then Sports Illustrated‘s senior baseball editor and now The Athletic’s MLB enterprise editor, gave birth to our daughter Robin just before midnight on August 26, 2016. Robin wasn’t even an hour old when she heard Scully for the first time; as we caught our breaths in the wee hours following her birth, I pulled up the Dodgers-Cubs game on my iPhone, as much to provide Emma with the soothing familiarity of Scully’s voice as anything, though what could be better for a newborn to hear than the reassuring voice of a kindly grandfather of 16 and great-grandfather of three? Even before Robin’s birth, staying up late to listen to Scully had been an important staple of life with Emma, a ritual for two night owls. We even watched him call a Kershaw start the night before our wedding, April 18, 2015.

In her early weeks of life, Robin was exposed to several more hours of Scully. Sitting around with a newborn whose primary alternative to nursing, pooping, sleeping and crying is just being adorable while laying there in the arms of loved ones leaves plenty of time to watch baseball, and with the opportunities to listen to Vin dwindling, we checked in nearly every night the Dodgers were at home, no matter how lopsided the score. We stuck around through a 14–1 laugher over the Rockies, Kershaw’s final start at Dodger Stadium as called by Scully. It wasn’t nearly as stirring as the night before, with its hour-long pregame tribute, but who in their right mind would skip a Kershaw call, particularly given the team’s chance to clinch a division title?

“Swung on, a high fly ball to deep leftfield, the Dodger bench empties, can you believe it? A home run? And the Dodgers have clinched the division and will celebrate on schedule!” — Sept. 25, 2016

The Giants’ victory on that Saturday night over the Padres opposite the 14-1 rout prevented the Dodgers from clinching. As I had plans all over town with my family the next day, I couldn’t sit still for Scully’s final call from Dodger Stadium, instead catching bits and pieces throughout the afternoon. As fate would have it, I left our family dinner to head into Manhattan to tape a Fox Sports Extra TV spot; in doing so, I wound up at what was at that point one of the few wi-fi enabled subway stops in south Brooklyn. The readout on the platform told me that the next 4 train would arrive in eight minutes, which felt like an eternity until I pulled up MLB.tv on my iPhone, and found the Dodgers tied, 3–3, in the bottom of the 10th against the Rockies — the broadcast flowing smoothly despite the fact that I was underground. Between pitches, Scully even relayed the Padres-Giants play-by-play. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if…” I thought to myself as Enrique Hernández took his hacks against Boone Logan before going down swinging.

Up came light-hitting, seldom-used Charlie Culberson, who hadn’t homered in any of his previous 57 plate appearances that season or at all in the big leagues since Aug. 14, 2014 (two days before my engagement to Emma). As Culberson had already collected two hits that day — basically his monthly allotment — it seemed silly even to contemplate one more, let alone expect it. But somebody forgot to tell the shortstop, who launched Logan’s second pitch, an outside fastball, over the left field fence to seal the deal.

Pandemonium ensued as Culberson rounded the bases; Scully let the moment breathe. I could barely believe my dumb luck in witnessing the moment under such unlikely circumstances — a positive turn on an emotional day that had begun with the tragic news of Jose Fernandez’s death. My train arrived just as the broadcast cut to a commercial, so it wasn’t until later that I watched the coda: Scully serenading the Dodger Stadium crowd with a recording of him signing “Wind Beneath My Wings,” with shots of him (and many a Dodgers fan) getting teary-eyed.

Once Scully announced his retirement, I tried to avoid being maudlin when considering the approaching void; someone had to. Instead, I considered my luck to enjoy him as a part of my life for more than three decades, watching game after game while feeling as though he were talking just to me, whether describing the action in detail or digressing on Socrates Brito and hemlock, or ice skating with Jackie Robinson, or the defiant significance of every player wearing Robinson’s No. 42.

On the occasion of his retirement and now his death, that appreciation of has deepened. As viewers and listeners, we were truly fortunate to have shared the latter stages of Scully’s career via social media and MLB.tv, just as Los Angelenos did via newfangled transistor radios when he and the Dodgers first arrived in 1958. In our increasingly fragmented and polarized public lives, Vin brought us together for a few hours to find common ground. That was certainly true on Tuesday night, when the Dodgers broke the news of his passing.

On the SportsNet LA broadcast, Joe Davis and Jessica Mendoza did a masterful job of paying tribute, sharing their stories and memories of Scully. In one of them Davis, who has done an admirable job as his successor, related his first encounter with Scully, shortly after being hired.

At Oracle Park, the Giants paid tribute as well.

Nearly six years after her birth and Scully’s retirement, my daughter hasn’t become a full-fledged baseball nut, but she’s played a few seasons of tee-ball and has become a huge fan of Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, Mr. Met, and the Brooklyn Cyclones’ mascots Sandy the Seagull and Pee Wee, all while demonstrating some curiosity about the game and even some artistic flair. With two parents absorbed in the game for their professions, she’s also shown signs of rebelling against what we hold dear in favor of finding her own way, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Still, we do our best to explain the game, its rules and its important figures to her. That includes the remarkable Vin Scully, maestro of the microphone, and the way he connected three previous generations of Jaffes to the Dodgers and to baseball. “He’s the best announcer there ever was,” I explain, “and probably the best that ever will be.”


Twins Bolster Their Rotation With Tyler Mahle

© David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Even in an era when starting workloads are shrinking, it’s tough to win a division title without a decent rotation. The Twins have been trying their level best to do so nonetheless, entering Tuesday with 54-48 record and a one-game division lead over the Guardians (53-49) and a three-game lead over the White Sox (51-51) despite a rotation that’s been the weakest of the three. In advance of the trade deadline, they moved to fix that, acquiring righty Tyler Mahle from the Reds in exchange for a trio of prospects.

Mahle was considered one of the top starters available at the deadline, arguably the top one after the trades of Luis Castillo and Frankie Montas in what was admittedly a thin class. There was no pending free agent anywhere close to the caliber of last year’s Max Scherzer or 2017’s Yu Darvish, while the Giants opted not to trade Carlos Rodón and the Marlins decided to hold on to Pablo López. What made Mahle enticing wasn’t just his performance but his cost, as he’s making just $5.2 million this year, and has one more year of arbitration eligibility remaining.

Hence the three-prospect package, though none of the players acquired currently rank among our Top 100 on The Board, unlike shortstop Noelvi Marte, whom the Reds acquired from the Mariners in the Castillo trade, or Ken Waldichuk and Luis Medina, whom the A’s acquired from the Yankees in the Montas deal. The full trade sends the 27-year-old Mahle to the Twins for 21-year-old lefty Steve Hajjar, 22-year-old infielder Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and 24-year-old infielder Spencer Steer. Read the rest of this entry »


Joey Gallo Heads West for a Fresh Start with the Dodgers

© Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

It should have worked out for Joey Gallo in the Bronx. A fly ball-launching lefty with the ability to hit the tar out of the ball when he made contact, he seemed primed to thrive at Yankee Stadium, particularly after the mechanical work he did to lower his average launch angle paid off with his second All-Star appearance in 2021. Instead, Gallo struggled mightily to the point that his departure ahead of the 2022 trade deadline became a foregone conclusion. On Tuesday, the Yankees sent the 28-year-old slugger to the Dodgers in exchange for 23-year-old righty prospect Clayton Beeter.

Gallo is hitting just .159/.282/.339 with 12 home runs and an 82 wRC+ in 273 plate appearances. Of the 139 American League hitters with at least 200 PA, his batting average is second-to-last, ahead of only the Rays’ Brett Phillips (.147). Likewise, only Phillips’ 40.9% strikeout rate surpasses Gallo’s 38.8% rate, the highest of his career. Meanwhile, Gallo’s power (.180 ISO) and patience (14.7% walk rate, fifth among the same pool) merely confine his on-base and slugging percentages to the bottom quartile of the group. Since being acquired last July 29 alongside lefty reliever Joely Rodríguez in exchange for pitcher Glenn Otto and infielders Ezequiel Duran, Trevor Hauver, and Josh Smith, he has hit .159/.291/.368 (88 wRC+) with 25 homers in 501 PA as a Yankee, with only solid defense keeping his WAR in the black (0.9).

“I feel bad,” Gallo told The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler recently, having clearly read the handwriting on the wall once the team acquired left fielder Andrew Benintendi from the Royals last week. “It’s something I’m gonna have to really live with for the rest of my life. It’s going to be tough. I didn’t play well, I didn’t live up to expectations. And that’s a tough pill to swallow.” Read the rest of this entry »


Busy Braves Swing Deals for Odorizzi and Grossman

© Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves made their biggest headlines on Monday with the announcement of Austin Riley’s 10-year, $212 million extension, but they did make a pair of trades to shore up their roster in advance of Tuesday’s deadline. They fortified their rotation by acquiring righty Jake Odorizzi from the Astros, and added outfield depth by getting Robbie Grossman from the Tigers.

Both deals were single-player swaps. For the 32-year-old Odorizzi they sent 33-year-old lefty reliever Will Smith to the Astros, while for the 32-year-old Grossman they sent 20-year-old lefty prospect Kris Anglin to the Tigers.

After a season in which he was about league average in 23 starts and 104 innings for the Astros last year, Odorizzi has improved to a 3.75 ERA and 3.61 FIP in 12 starts this year, averaging exactly five innings per turn, and bouncing back from what initially looked like a season-ending ankle injury suffered while running towards first base against the Red Sox on May 16. At the time, there was concern that he had ruptured his Achilles or fractured his ankle, but he didn’t break anything, and the damage to his tendons and ligaments did not involve his Achilles and wasn’t nearly as serious as initially feared. He missed seven weeks, and since returning on July 4, he’s had rough starts against the Royals and A’s but also two seven-inning scoreless starts against the A’s (whom he’s faced in three of his five post-injury games) and Mariners, including a two-hit effort with a season-high eight strikeouts against Seattle on Sunday. Read the rest of this entry »


Padres Get Josh Hader in Surprise Blockbuster With Brewers

Josh Hader
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres pulled off a blockbuster on Monday afternoon, though it wasn’t the Juan Soto trade that so much of the industry expects. Instead, San Diego sent a four-player package headlined by closer Taylor Rogers, an All-Star last year, to Milwaukee in exchange for closer Josh Hader, an All-Star in four of the past five seasons, including this year.

On the surface, this appears to be something of a challenge trade: a pair of contenders swapping southpaws whose holds on the ninth inning had loosened due to shaky performances over the past month, sending their ERAs north of 4.00:

Josh Hader and Taylor Rogers: One Bad Month
Hader IP K% BB% HR/9 BABIP xwOBA ERA FIP Sv Blown
Thru June 24.2 45.1% 7.7% 0.73 .195 .201 1.09 1.70 24 1
July 9.1 36.0% 10.0% 4.82 .524 .436 12.54 8.16 5 1
Total 34.0 41.8% 8.5% 1.85 .306 .284 4.24 3.47 29 2
Rogers IP K% BB% HR/9 BABIP xwOBA ERA FIP Sv Blown
Thru June 31.2 29.8% 5.6% 0.28 .260 .283 2.84 2.43 22 4
July 9.2 22.0% 4.0% 0.00 .486 .372 9.31 2.09 6 3
Total 41.1 27.6% 5.2% 0.22 .333 .309 4.35 2.01 28 7

But there’s more to the deal when it comes to its respective impacts on the two teams’ 40-man rosters and payrolls, all of which is worth bearing in mind as Tuesday’s deadline approaches. Read the rest of this entry »


The 2022 Replacement-Level Killers: Designated Hitter

© Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

While still focusing upon teams that meet the loose definition of contenders (a .500 record or Playoff Odds of at least 10%), this year I have incorporated our Depth Charts’ rest-of-season WAR projections into the equation for an additional perspective. Sometimes that may suggest that the team will clear the bar by a significant margin, but even so, I’ve included them here because the team’s performance at that spot is worth a look.

At the other positions in this series, I have used about 0.6 WAR or less thus far — which prorates to 1.0 WAR over a full season — as my cutoff, making exceptions here and there, but for the designated hitters, I’ve lowered that to 0.3, both to keep the list length manageable and to account for the general spread of value; in the first full season of the universal DH, exactly half the teams in the majors have actually gotten 0.1 WAR or less from their DHs thus far, and only 10 have gotten more than 0.6. DHs as a group have hit .239/.317/.404 for a 104 wRC+; that last figure matches what they did as a group both last year and in 2019, and it’s boosted by the best performance by NL DHs (103 wRC+) since 2009, when their 117 wRC+ accounted for a grand total of 525 PA, about 32 per NL team.

Read the rest of this entry »