The 2023 season is only two weeks old as of the first off day on Thursday, April 13th.
One year ago, as a fandom, we were dealing with a truncated spring training and Clayton Kershaw almost being perfect. What a year it has been since then.
And yet it feels like we have all aged a hundred years since this season started. Take the series finale against the Giants a couple of nights ago — it was the first game to go over three hours all year. I think we all aged considerably on the Freddie Freeman at-bat alone.
The whole 15-pitch walk from Freddie Freeman. pic.twitter.com/jhLwqH0mhX— Chad Moriyama (@ChadMoriyama) April 13, 2023
If anything that game showed the grit of these Dodgers. For those that wanted a grittier, more flawed team that could grind in the postseason, frankly, you are getting what you asked for. Last year, I wrote a “we all need to calm down” essay. As a fanbase, we should not be there yet.
A 111-game glide path through the summer is likely not in the cards for this incarnation of the Dodgers. I keep saying the following: it’s okay. If you are looking for positives, the Dodgers already have two grand slams and we are in mid-April. Last year, the second (and final) grand slam did not occur until September 11 against the Padres.
The New “Mayor” of San Francisco
Meanwhile, the biggest positive story to emerge in the early part of the year is the renaissance of Max Muncy, current “Owner” of the San Francisco Giants. It is a good thing that the Dodgers have a club option of $10 million for Muncy in 2024. I had joked to several members of the True Blue LA community that if I were the Giants and Muncy hit the open market, I would figuratively ply Muncy with enough money to overlook his professed distaste for Oracle Park.
After Game 1 of the recent series, Muncy told Kirsten Watson:
“I can’t answer [why I hit so well at Oracle Park], because I don’t like this place,” Muncy said when asked why he hits so well in San Francisco. “It’s cold & windy all the time. It was raining the entire game tonight. But I do hit good here. I don’t understand why, but I’m not going to complain about it.”
In Muncy’s defense, as we have covered at True Blue LA, Oracle can be quite a roulette when it comes to weather. After being accused of causing (non-actionable) emotional damage to the fanbase, I started to wonder about Muncy’s dominance in San Francisco. I was present for “Get it out of the Bay.” It is hyperbole to suggest that Muncy will continue to produce at Oracle Park if he played half his games there rather than the two series he currently plays now. However, fun hypotheticals are a specialty of mine.
First, as of the completion of the first series in San Francisco, Muncy has played 38 games on the road against the Giants. He has a slash line of .297 (38 out of 128 AB)/.419/.625 with an OPS of 1.044, including 11 HR and 31 RBIs over 38 games. All told that’s pretty good and if he had similar “home” numbers at Oracle Park, the San Francisco faithful would take that result in a heartbeat.
Still, comparisons to another Giants legend would be a bit overblown for now. Barry Bonds, in 139 games against the Dodgers in San Francisco, had a slash line of .267/.442/.575 with an OPS of 1.018, including 35 HR and 74 RBI.
The incredible shrinking Dodgers shortstop core
Without beating a dead horse, I predicted the Dodgers would likely regress significantly in 2023 due to no small part due to a downgrade in personnel. No Corey Seager, no Trea Turner, no Gavin Lux, just Miguel Rojas and friends. And the results over the past two weeks? Pretty bad.
Per FanGraphs, the Dodgers are currently dead last in the National League in offensive production from the shortstop position with a -.4 fWAR and a slash line of .118/.179/.255, and a WRC of 14. In essence, the Dodgers are having a pitcher bat again at the shortstop position. Ironically enough, the Dodgers are not last overall in baseball with the Athletics and Tigers somehow being worse.
As previously stated by Eric, if Miguel Rojas goes down for an extended period of time, the internal options are Chris Taylor, Yonny Hernández, and Luke Williams. As I pointed out six weeks ago, external help is likely not coming as Isiah Kiner-Falefa is not an upgrade and Tim Anderson is likely unavailable. Moreover, Oneal Cruz who might have been available is likely out for at least the next four months because he just broke his leg on an awkward slide.
Unless Hernandez and/or Williams foolishly decide to pull a Joe Boyd/Joe Hardy, the Dodgers are likely going to have to hope and wait for Chris Taylor to turn it around. I have seen the nickname “CT(strike)3” start popping up for Taylor. I predicted that Taylor would have a 20-20 season and I have no reason to doubt he can turn it around. Eric recently summarized the current state of Taylor’s offensive issues, so there is no point in beating a nearly dead horse.
Extending beer sales to the eighth inning shows the gall of certain major league owners
If you did want something to get angry about in the early season, not surprisingly, it’s the avarice of certain Major League owners, including the Diamondbacks, Rangers, Twins, and Brewers.
Through the first two weeks of the season, the recently implemented “pace of play” rules have created a noticeable effect league-wide as to game length, offense, and stolen bases.
A look at how 2023 rule changes are impacting our game through the first two weeks of the regular season. pic.twitter.com/QuRS7KnYl3— MLB (@MLB) April 13, 2023
If anything, the pace of play rules made me slightly more hesitant to splurge on impromptu tickets to the recent Dodgers/Giants series because if I am going to pay usually-painful prices for tickets, I would like to be there for a bit.
That said, I and others did wonder what would happen to concession sales if games were lasting less than three hours. Normally beer sales are stopped after the seventh inning to allow people to sober up before the game ends. If the goal was public safety, one would imagine that the sale of alcohol would need to be cut off sooner.
I know, I know — silly me for thinking logically. Apparently, for some of the more skinflint owners, public safety is to be damned, there is a bottom line to think about. As such, these above-identified owners have extended the sale of alcohol until the end of the eighth inning.
Phillies pitcher Matt Strahm had some choice words about the situation, given on the “Baseball isn’t Boring” podcast:
“I’m not surprised. When you mess with billionaires’ dollars, to find a way to make their dollars back. My thing is, when you’re looking at the safety of your fans, that’s probably not the smartest decision to extend it into the eighth. And, again, just being a common sense thinker, I think as a fan of the game, and just looking out for people, it would make more sense he stopped the sales in the sixth.”
It seems to me that this issue is pretty cut and dried, you can have longer games with more concession sales or you can have shorter games with fewer concession sales. I can easily foresee the decision to extend alcohol sales backfiring spectacularly in public opinion and potential litigation if something terrible happens.
I am hopeful, considering the nightmare it is to enter and leave Dodger Stadium, that the Dodgers do not follow suit. In a logical world, the Dodgers would announce curtailing alcohol sales at the end of the sixth inning at Dodger Stadium, but I am not holding my breath.