Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The 10 Best Things About Being a Dodgers Fan

1. Matt Kemp

You’ve got to start at the top. The current Dodger regime has gone through some ups and downs, but through it all emerged a bona fide star. Last season, Kemp rose out of the shadows and posted MVP-worthy numbers. He was one home run shy of a 40/40 season and about ten hits short of a Triple Crown. This winter, the ownership signed him to an eight-year extension, ensuring that Dodger fans will have a superstar to anchor the lineup and the outfield on a daily basis until 2020. Kemp has the swagger and skill to keep fans coming to Chavez Ravine; he’s already predicted an unprecedented 50/50 season this year.

2. Dodger Stadium

Speaking of Chavez Ravine, you’ve got to love Dodger Stadium. It’s situated above most of the city, so you get a brilliant view of the sun setting over the skyline in one direction, and the Santa Monica hills in the other. There is just something about the atmosphere at Dodger Stadium that is magnetic. It’s stayed current, but maintained its historic significance at the same time. And players commonly rank the field at Dodger Stadium as their favorite in all of baseball to play on.

3. The Dodger History

What more do you have to say than: Jackie Robinson. From the days in Brooklyn to the move to Los Angeles, the Dodgers franchise has been one of the most historic and valuable in any sport, ever. Not only did Robinson break the color barrier, but also by doing so, he played a large role in the Civil Rights movement in general. We’ve had Jackie, we’ve had Sandy Koufax, we’ve had Fernando Valenzuela. The list of players that starred for the Dodgers and made gigantic, positive impacts on the sport of baseball is endless.

4. The moments

Every fan can claim that a good part of rooting for their team is the moments that went down in history. But the Dodgers just seem to have a flair for the dramatic. There was Kirk Gibson’s home run in 1988. And of course Steve Finley’s division-winning, walk-off grand slam in 2004 against the Giants. Or the back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs to tie the game in the 9th, preceding a walk-off by Nomar Garciaparra in the 10th just six years ago…the Dodgers own some of the most incredible, crazy moments in baseball history.

5. 1988

Speaking of Gibson, the Dodgers’ last World Series title came in 1988. It was a long time ago, and they have won six overall, but for my generation, this is the moment we refer to. The magnitude of that Series was so large that it still resonates among the fan base. No doubt, we are all hungry for another one, but “in a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened,” keeps us going.

6. Vin Scully

In case you live under a rock, the reference at the end of number five was the call by Scully on Gibson’s historic home run. Vin is the pride and joy of this Dodger franchise, entering his 62nd season as the voice of the team. Nobody calls a better game than him, nobody captures a moment better than him, and he is hands-down the greatest announcer in the game. Scully is in his mid-80s, and this Dodger fan would love nothing more than to see the boys in blue take home one last title for their beloved announcer before he retires.

7. Dodger Dogs

Oh, you knew they would be on here. If you haven’t had a Dodger Dog, you’re missing out on an essential part of baseball culinary history. These franks are so good that the Dodgers sold approximately two MILLION of them in 2011. The Dodgers are one of the only teams that serves such an iconic ballpark snack that it’s synonymous with the actual franchise. Dodger Dogs even spawned a chain of small restaurants in the Southern California area. If you’ve been to a game at Dodger Stadium and never tried a Dog, you should be ashamed.

8. Clayton Kershaw

We have Matt Kemp on offense, and the reigning N.L. Cy Young winner Kershaw in the rotation. He’s only 23 years old, but he has garnered comparisons to Koufax. Those are very deserved of a young man who wows crowds all over the big leagues with a blazing fastball and electric off-speed pitches. The sky is the limit for Kershaw, and that’s what excites the Dodger fan base the most. If he’s already got a Cy Young award, what else can he do throughout his career. We can only hope that he is signed long-term as soon as the ownership situation is resolved. Oh, did I mention, Kershaw outdueled the Giants’ Tim Lincecum to the tune of 4-0 last season? Any dominance of the Giants is greatly appreciated in Dodgertown.

9. The farm system

This has always been a strong point of the Dodgers. Personally, my memory goes back to the mid-to-late 90’s, when the team boasted five straight National League Rookie of the Year awards. The Dodgers’ franchise has won the award a staggering sixteen times, including another run of four straight from 1979-1982, and Jackie Robinson’s win in the inaugural 1947 vote. This team seemingly always has exciting new talent waiting in the wings, which keeps the fan base excited for the future no matter what. Most recently, Dee Gordon has provided a spark at the leadoff spot and we’re looking forward to see if he can be the next young Dodger star.

10. Rivalry vs. the Giants

This rivalry has taken a turn for the worst in recent years, but on the field, it’s the most ferocious back-and-forth in sports. These teams passionately hate each other. It’s been that way since their days in New York. From legendary brawls, to intense pennant races, to ripping each other in the media, these two teams mix like oil and water. And boy is it fun to watch on the field. Even if the Dodgers are having a down season, winning the season series from the Giants is considered a successful year. Ponder this: since 1901, the two teams have played over 2,000 times and the win difference is only 16 games. That’s what I call a rivalry, and these are the reasons I love being a Dodger fan.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Nervous Wreck

I never stressed over exams. First dates never bothered me. Presentations? A shot to start the day keeps the jitters away. A championship game's got nothin' on this. A job interview is a walk in the park compared to what I've been feeling all day and will continue to feel through tomorrow.

My stomach is being eaten very slowly by a couple hundred very angry butterflies. I can't stop bouncing my leg up and down and it's shaking the entire living room (we have weak floorboards, okay? I'm not that out of shape). And I can't remember the last time I blinked. It burns.

I'm absolutely exhausted from the past two weeks. If you haven't seen our St*ff the Fan Cave 50 Says yet, watch it now. You might be the only person in the world who has not seen it. But it's a very accurate depiction of my life since Feb. 8th.

For example, I can't sleep. I wake up at 6am to go to work anyway. And I stay up until at least midnight campaigning my sorry butt off. I've tweeted my fingers to the bone (over 1,000 tweets in less than two weeks if we are getting technical). I've probably memorized the answering machine of every reporter, radio show or TV host West of Oklahoma.

From all this hard work, I've gotten a few awesome re-tweets, four media mentions, and five minutes on the radio. Okay, there's more. I've gotten what I presume to be MILLIONS of votes from my amazing family and friends over the last couple weeks and I couldn't be more grateful. I just don't have the energy to properly thank you all right now, nor the money to buy you all a drink.

So, the reason my body is involuntarily contorting into strange angles is because I'm not sure how to feel. On one hand, I'm honored and shocked that I've made it this far in the first place. But once I realized I was 20 competitors away from moving a step CLOSER to that dream job, I went all out. Just ask the 2011 Boston Red Sox or Atlanta Braves what happens if you don't step on the gas pedal with the playoffs on the horizon...ZING!

Sometime on Thursday (they keep it mysterious to absolutely torture our souls), we find out which 30 of us all very deserving 50 contestants are going to Spring Training next week. Where we will get to meet in person, have a grand ol' time and probably have even more fierce competition than this time around to determine the six cave finalists.

My hands will be shaking until I get that phone call. Let's just hope that it's a happy-sounding Stephanie on the other side of the line. This obviously means a lot to me. If I get a "no," I'll move on. But not before I watch re-runs of Sex and the City with a few pints of Mint Chip ice cream.

Until we find out, thanks for the ride @MLBFanCave. And thanks for the support from everyone! I've met some amazing internet versions of people and really hope to stay in touch no matter the results. Because one day, I'd like to see what they really look like.

And I'd really like to see the inside of that Fan Cave.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Best Lineup in the Majors? Nothin' new here...

I was going to retire my Jamblin' Man blog for the extent of this Fan Cave competition, despite my aching desire to keep up my once-a-week New Year's resolution. But who the hell actually keeps those resolutions? And there's no better reason for dusting off the old keyboard on this site than to accept a CHALLENGE from a fellow Fan Cave finalist.

That's right. Brian Boynton (he's kinda a big Rangers fan if you didn't know) has challenged me to a blebate. What? That's a blog debate, don't you know anything?

The best lineup in the majors. His Texas Rangers vs. the New York Yankees. I guess all that money does buy them something - my endorsement in this piece. And a few championships here and there. Sorry, I digress. On to the real stuff.

This is how I expect the Yankees' 2012 lineup to look on Opening Day:

1. Derek Jeter
2. Curtis Granderson
3. Robinson Cano
4. Mark Teixeira
5. Alex Rodriguez
6. Nick Swisher
7. Andruw Jones
8. Russell Martin
9. Brett Gardner

That hurts me to see. Mostly because the only guy I can consciously root against in the lineup is A-Rod, and partially because there is an aching, gaping void at catcher for my Dodgers that Martin used to spectacularly fill.

Texas has an incredibly deep lineup too. From top to bottom, their only weak spot might be 8 or 9. But when comparing stats across the board, I have to believe the Yankees have the best overall lineup in the majors.

Jeter, el Capitan, had better numbers than Elvis Andrus in every category except runs and stolen bases last year. It's a push in hits, home runs and RBI, but in average, on-base percentage and slugging, Jeter won handily.

Curtis Granderson's average lacked last year, but he will easy outperform whatever combination of Julio Borbon and Craig Gentry that Ron Washington trots out to center field.

We don't need to compare Robby Cano to Ian Kinsler (who is a fantastic second baseman, don't get me wrong, but Cano is just better all-around). Advantage 3-0 Yanks.

First base is Tex's territory here. We're not even sure if it will be Mitch Moreland, Michael Young or even Mike Napoli (or some combo of these three) at first for the Rangers this season.

Third base goes to the Rangers. That Beltre guy is okay. Just don't touch his head. Suck on that A-Rod!

Right field easily goes to Nelson Cruz over Swisher and left field goes to Josh Hamilton over Brett Gardner even though they play a completely different style of ball.

Of course, Michael Young is much more of a DH than Andruw Jones is so the Rangers score an extra point there. So, according to my fool-proof statistical evaluation, the Yanks have five positions out of the nine that are more productive on offense than the Rangers.

Here's some real sh*t people say for ya: In 2011, despite a lower batting average and less hits than the Rangers' offense, the Yanks outscored them and had the second-most runs scored as a team in the league, just behind Boston. It's not the quality of the run scored people, it's the quantity.

It's widely accepted that whoever scores the most runs in a game wins. Well, the Yankees are damn good at that. And they haven't subtracted on offense at all this off-season. That might change if Jesus Montero has a big season in Seattle, but until then it's looking like the same old offensive juggernaut in the Big Apple.

Which sucks. For pretty much everyone.

So there you have it - the Yankees, owners of the best lineup in baseball - are still the team to beat.