On the heels of a year in which a record seven Hall of Famers died, the baseball world couldn’t get a full week into 2021 without losing another. Tommy Lasorda, the charismatic and voluble manager who piloted the Dodgers to four National League pennants and two championships during a run of 19 full seasons (1977-95) and two partial ones, died of cardiopulmonary arrest on January 7.
The 93-year-old Lasorda had returned home earlier in the week after being hospitalized since mid-November due to a heart condition. He had been the oldest living Hall of Famer since Red Schoendienst passed away on June 6, 2018; that title now belongs to 89-year-old Willie Mays.
For over 60 years, as stars and even Hall of Famers come and went from the Dodgers, Lasorda remained a constant. Including the final years of his professional career as a pitcher, he had been continuously employed by the team in one capacity or another since 1957, their final year in Brooklyn. He spent the past 14 years as special advisor to the chairman during the ownership tenures of Frank McCourt and Guggenheim Baseball Management. He professed a loyalty to the franchise that transcended his own mortality, a subject on which he spoke with frequency. “I bleed Dodger blue and when I die, I’m going to the big Dodger in the sky,” he often said.
As the manager of the Dodgers from September 29, 1976, when he replaced Walter Alston with four games remaining in the season, to June 24, 1996, when he suffered a heart attack and left the team in the hands of Bill Russell, Lasorda won 1,599 games, the 22nd-highest total in major league history; he’s 21st in losses (1,439, for a .526 winning percentage), and he’s the runaway leader in both categories among managers who were primarily pitchers during their playing careers. The Dodgers won seven NL West titles during his run, in 1977, ’78, ’81 (via the split-season format necessitated by the players’ strike), ’83, ’85, ’88, and ’95. They won pennants in the first three of those years, losing to the Yankees in the World Series in 1977 and ’78 before beating them in ’81; those teams were powered by the legendary Longest-Running Infield of first baseman Steve Garvey, second baseman Davey Lopes, shortstop Russell, and third baseman Ron Cey, all of whom Lasorda managed in the minors. In 1988, with an already-meager offense hamstrung by the limited availability of MVP Kirk Gibson, they upset the heavily-favored Mets in the NLCS and then the A’s in the World Series, a victory that is widely considered Lasorda’s greatest triumph.
Stylistically, Lasorda was less a tactician than an emotional leader, one who broke down the traditional walls that separated a skipper from his crew. He hugged his players, ate dinner with them, pulled pranks with them. “I brought a whole new philosophy of managing into the major leagues,” he told Steve Delsohn, author of True Blue, an oral history of the Dodgers published in 2001. “I wanted my players to know that I appreciated them. I wanted them to know that they were responsible for whether I’d even stick around or not.” Read the rest of this entry »
In 2018, Blake Treinen had one of the best relief pitching seasons of all time. A year later, his strikeouts went down, his walks doubled, and batters were getting the ball in the air and out of the ballpark. Oakland opted to non-tender Treinen after that 2019 season rather than pay him around $8 million. The Dodgers had no problems forking over $10 million in free agency and were rewarded with a solid season, including the final three outs of Game 5 of the World Series. Los Angeles liked what it saw from Treinen, and the 32-year-old righty appeared to have enjoyed his experience, as the parties reached an agreement on Tuesday on a two-year deal with an option for 2023.
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In some ways, Tuesday’s three-way trade between the Phillies (who acquired relief lefty José Alvarado), Rays (who acquired first baseman Dillon Paulson and a PTBNL/cash) and Dodgers (who acquired bullpen lefty Garrett Cleavinger) was an extension of the Blake Snell trade from earlier in the week. In that deal, the Rays got two 40-man roster players back in return (Francisco Mejía and Luis Patiño) but sent away only one, which meant they needed to clear a 40-man spot via trade in order for the move to be announced without them losing someone for nothing.
As a result, the Rays were leveraged into giving up the most exciting player in a minor swap in Alvarado, a husky lefty with elite-level stuff, a troubling injury history and frustrating control. It wasn’t long ago that he looked like the Rays’ future closer or high-leverage stopper. In 2018, when he was routinely sitting 98–101 mph early in the year, he ranked seventh among MLB relievers in WAR despite throwing just 53 innings because he was striking out hitters at a 30% clip, and generating ground balls 55% of the time his pitches were put in play. Alvarado became .giffamous (pronounced like infamous) because nobody should be able to throw a ball that moves that much that hard.
The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2021 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. For a tentative schedule and a chance to fill out a Hall of Fame ballot for our crowdsourcing project, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.
For better or worse, I’m a completist. In 17 years of analyzing Hall of Fame ballots using my JAWS system, I’ve never let a candidate pass without comment, no matter how remote his chance of election. From the brothers Alomar to the youngest Alou and the elder Young, I’ve covered ’em all. Thus it’s my sworn duty to tackle the minor candidates on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. I count 18 major ones — the 14 holdovers plus Mark Buehrle, Tim Hudson, Torii Hunter, and Barry Zito (the only newcomer to win a major award) — leaving seven candidates for this series.
To be eligible for election, a player must appear in games in at least 10 major league seasons, with a career that ended at least five calendar years ago, and then be nominated by at least two members of a six-member screening committee — a step that can produce some arbitrary results, as I’ve noted in the past, though their leaving the younger Young off this year’s ballot given his meager numbers and high-profile mistakes on and off the field was merited. Getting this far is a victory unto itself, but these candidates aren’t going any further; given that the seven players have combined for a single mention on the 36 ballots published so far, it’s fair to say that none is going to get the 5% necessary to remain eligible, let alone the 75% needed for election. Just the same, these one-and-done candidates were accomplished players who deserve their valedictory, and in this series, they’ll get it.
Our first batch covers a pair of outfielders who seemed to take forever to secure major league jobs, though both wound up helping several teams reach the playoffs before injuries eroded their performances and led them to walk away in the their mid-30s. Read the rest of this entry »
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. As there was no minor league season in 2020, there are some instances where no new information was gleaned about a player. Players whose write-ups have not been altered begin by telling you so. For the others, the blurb ends with an indication of where the player played in 2020, which in turn likely informed the changes to their report. As always, I’ve leaned more heavily on sources from outside the org than within for reasons of objectivity. Because outside scouts were not allowed at the alternate sites, I’ve primarily focused on data from there. Lastly, in effort to more clearly indicate relievers’ anticipated roles, you’ll see two reliever designations, both in lists and on The Board: MIRP, or multi-inning relief pitcher, and SIRP, or single-inning relief pitcher.
For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of Future Value’s merits and drawbacks, read Future Value.
All of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It can be found here.
Editor’s Note: Jesus Galiz and Wilman Diaz were added to this list after they agreed to deals with the Dodgers on January 15.
The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2021 Hall of Fame ballot. Originally written for the 2015 election at SI.com, it has been updated to reflect recent voting results as well as additional research. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. For a tentative schedule and a chance to fill out a Hall of Fame ballot for our crowdsourcing project, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.
Wherever Gary Sheffield went, he made noise, both with his bat and his voice. For the better part of two decades, he ranked among the game’s most dangerous hitters, a slugger with a keen batting eye and a penchant for contact that belied his quick, violent swing. For even longer than that, he was one of the game’s most outspoken players, unafraid to speak up when he felt he was being wronged and unwilling to endure a situation that wasn’t to his liking. He was a polarizing player, and hardly one for the faint of heart.
At the plate, Sheffield was viscerally impressive like few others. With his bat twitching back and forth like the tail of a tiger waiting to pounce, he was pure menace in the batter’s box. He won a batting title, launched over 500 home runs — 14 seasons with at least 20 and eight with at least 30 — and put many a third base coach in peril with some of the most terrifying foul balls anyone has ever seen. For as violent as his swing may have been, it was hardly wild; not until his late thirties did he strike out more than 80 times in a season, and in his prime, he walked far more often than he struck out. Read the rest of this entry »
The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2021 Hall of Fame ballot. Originally written for the 2017 election at SI.com, it has been updated to reflect recent voting results as well as additional research. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. For a tentative schedule and a chance to fill out a Hall of Fame ballot for our crowdsourcing project, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.
A savant in the batter’s box, Manny Ramirez could be an idiot just about everywhere else — sometimes amusingly, sometimes much less so. The Dominican-born slugger, who grew up in the Washington Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan, stands as one of the greatest hitters of all time, a power-hitting right-handed slugger who spent the better part of his 19 seasons (1993–2011) terrorizing pitchers. A 12-time All-Star, Ramirez bashed 555 home runs and helped the Indians and the Red Sox reach two World Series apiece, adding a record 29 postseason homers along the way. He was the World Series MVP for Boston in 2004, when the club won its first championship in 86 years.
For all of his prowess with the bat, Ramirez’s lapses — Manny Being Manny — both on and off the field are legendary. There was the time in 1997 that he “stole” first base, returning to the bag after a successful steal of second because he thought Jim Thome had fouled off a pitch… the time in 2004 that he inexplicably cut off center fielder Johnny Damon’s relay throw from about 30 feet away, leading to an inside-the-park home run… the time in 2005 when he disappeared mid-inning to relieve himself inside Fenway Park’s Green Monster… the time in 2008 that he high-fived a fan mid-play between catching a fly ball and doubling a runner off first… and so much more. Read the rest of this entry »
The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2021 Hall of Fame ballot. It was initially written for The Cooperstown Casebook, published in 2017 by Thomas Dunne Books, and subsequently adapted for SI.com and then FanGraphs. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. For a tentative schedule and a chance to fill out a Hall of Fame ballot for our crowdsourcing project, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.
It happened so quickly. Freshly anointed the game’s top prospect by Baseball America in the spring of 1996, the soon-to-be-19-year-old Andruw Jones was sent to play for the Durham Bulls, the Braves’ Hi-A affiliate. By mid-August, he blazed through the Carolina League, the Double-A Southern League, and the Triple-A International League, and debuted for the defending world champions. By October 20, with just 31 regular season games under his belt, he was a household name, having become the youngest player ever to homer in a World Series game — breaking Mickey Mantle’s record — and doing so twice at Yankee Stadium to boot.
Jones was no flash in the pan. The Braves didn’t win the 1996 World Series, and he didn’t win the ’97 NL Rookie of the Year award, but along with Chipper Jones (no relation) and the big three of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, he became a pillar of a franchise that won a remarkable 14 NL East titles from 1991-2005 (all but the 1994 strike season). From 1998-2007, Jones won 10 straight Gold Gloves, more than any center fielder except Willie Mays.
By the end of 2006, Jones had tallied 342 homers and 1,556 hits. He looked bound for a berth in Cooperstown, but after a subpar final season in Atlanta and a departure for Los Angeles in free agency, he fell apart so completely that the Dodgers bought out his contract, a rarity in baseball. He spent the next four years with three different teams before heading to Japan at age 35, and while he hoped for a return to the majors, he couldn’t find a deal to his liking after either the 2014 or ’15 seasons. He retired before his 39th birthday, and thanks to his rapid descent, barely survived his first two years on the Hall of Fame ballot, with shares of 7.3% and 7.5%. Last year, he jumped to 19.4%, offering hope that with seven years of eligibility remaining, he still has time to get to 75%.
This is Part Two of an interview with Jim Gentile, who played for five teams, primarily the Baltimore Orioles, from 1957-1966. Part One can be found here.
David Laurila: You mentioned Boog Powell earlier. What can you tell me about him?
Jim Gentile: “You could tell when he was 18 years old that he had all the makings. I knew he was going to be a first baseman after I watched him, because he had great hands. They put him in left field when he came up with us — that would have been ’62 — and he did a real good job.
“I didn’t have a very good year in 1963, so I kind of knew they were going to make a trade. They signed Hank Bauer to be the manager. All of us that were living in Baltimore — Jackie Brandt, Milt Pappas, and myself — went down to the ballpark and met with Hank. He gave us a big talk. I was asked, ‘You gonna be ready for this year?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ That night I get a phone call. I pick it up and [GM Lee] MacPhail says. ‘Jim, thank you for the great years you had with us. I just traded you to Kansas City. I think you’ll enjoy it.’”
Laurila: Were you surprised?
Gentile: “I was surprised I went to Kansas City — they usually made their deals with the Yankees — but I was lucky to meet a guy who became a dear friend of mine, Rocky Colavito. [Charlie] Finley said that he traded for the two of us because he wanted power. Well, it’s good to have power, but you’ve got to have pitching, too. A whole lot of clubs have proven that over the years. We weren’t very good. Anyway, I played there in ’64, and part of ’65. Last part of May, I was tied with Mickey Mantle for home runs, with 10, and Finley calls and tells me that I was sold to the Astros for $150,000, and two players [to be named later].” Read the rest of this entry »
Jim Gentile’s big-league career was filled with peaks and valleys. Short in duration — seven full seasons preceded by two cups of coffee — it was bookended by a lack of opportunity. In between, Gentile was a beast with the bat. From 1960-1964, the slugging first baseman logged a 139 wRC+ and made three All-Star teams. His 1961 campaign was Brobdingnagian. Playing for the Baltimore Orioles, “Diamond Jim” slashed .302/.423/.646 with 46 home runs and 141 RBIs — the last of those numbers being noteworthy for more reasons that one. Five decades later, it made his bank account just a little bit bigger.
Gentile — now 86 years young — reminisced about his bygone career over the phone earlier this summer.
David Laurila: You were signed out of (a San Francisco) high school by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1952. What was that experience like for you?
Jim Gentile: “Well, we didn’t have a draft. Once you graduated, you hoped your phone rang. I knew I was going to get signed, it was just a matter of with who. I talked to the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Phillies, and then the Dodgers scout came over last. We had dinner with him at the house, and we liked their offer. I signed for a bonus of $30,000 with a Double-A contract. Once I got a big-league contract, I got $7,500 more.
“This was in June of ’52 and they said, ‘Let’s wait until ’53; then you can go out to spring training.’ So I was home, and around August they called and said that one of the pitchers in Santa Barbara — that was the California State League, Class C — had gotten hurt. Would I like to go down there and see what professional baseball was like?
“I walked into the clubhouse, and [manager] George Scherger met me. We talked, then he handed me a baseball and said, ‘You’re pitching tonight.’ [San Jose] had just signed two guys for $80,000, and Marty Keough for $125,000. They were all my age, but starting out in Class C. I pitched against them. I had a no-hitter for seven innings, then they beat me in the eighth inning, The score was 3-2.”
Laurila: So your first professional game went pretty well…
Gentile: “Yes, but after that it was ‘Get the married men off the infield,’ because they started hitting me all over the place. I won two and lost six. The two I won, I won with my own home runs, so when ’53 came around they asked if I wanted to pitch or play first. I said, ‘I really like to hit, so let’s try first base.’ They put me at first, and that’s where I stayed. Read the rest of this entry »