Thursday, December 31, 2015

Welcome to the Blue, Kenta Maeda!

Oh Boy!

Reports are swirling that the Dodgers have added another arm to their starting pitching staff, and for once it's not a lefty.  Instead, they appear to have signed recently posted Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda, per Jon Heyman on twitter:
Since we've all been bitten badly in the recent past on these kind of non-confirmed announcements, I would suggest taking this news with a grain of salt.  Still, after weeks of false starts and non-movements I can't help but be excited about what has happened the past few days.  All of the sudden, the Dodgers have a deep staff to go along with the best pitcher in the game - Clayton Kershaw.  Hopefully, this signing doesn't end up falling apart.  BTW, Jeff Passan mentions that it could be quite a few days before it becomes official.  On a side note, this signing should calm Brandon McCarthy's nerves.

For those who don't know, Maeda is suppose to be the next BIG Japanese import.  He throws five pitches, a four-seamer, a sinking fastball, slider, curveball and changeup.  Ben Badler at Baseball America said this of him:
Maeda has shown solid stuff across the board, with a fastball that sits at 89-93 mph and can touch 94, a tick above-average slider that he leans on heavily, along with a curveball and a changeup he will use to try to keep hitters off balance … (in the Premier 12 tournament in November), Maeda’s changeup was a plus pitch. At times, the pitch had good sink, at others it had excellent fade, and sometimes it had both.
(Pic via ‏@YakyuNightOwl on twitter)
Check out some more stories and reports on Maeda in the links below:
Make no mistake, Maeda's secondary pitches and his ability to locate them explain how he's been able to have sustained success in NPB without overpowering stuff. His low-80's slider is known as his best pitch despite true wipeout, bat-missing break because he's able to flip it for strikes to both righties and lefties in any count.
I don’t see Maeda — his nickname is Maeken, by the way (MAEda KENta) — as an ace or anything like that. It does seem like he has a chance to contribute as a mid-rotation guy for someone though.
Exact terms of the agreement are not yet know, but it had been previously noted that the posting fee expected by the Hiroshima Carp was $20 Million. 

In celebration of his signing I made the above two fantasy cards of him.  On the left, the photograph is from Koji Watanabe/Getty Images/ and I used the 1986 Topps Baseball card design.  On the right, the photograph was taken by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images North America during a WBC game in 2013 and I used the 1972 Topps Baseball card design.

Below are his career statistics as a player and a manager, via Baseball-Reference:

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Dodgers Cards on Milk Cartons

Where the heck have I been?  What are these?

I recently came across several eBay listings (here and here) featuring single serving sized milk cartons featuring Dodger players on a side panel.  Check out the pics above and below.  Four Dodgers are known to me (Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier), and I wonder if there are any more.

As you can see, they were created by Driftwood Dairy and the LA Dodgers Foundation appears to be a sponsor.  Apparently, unopened cartons (without any milk inside) where distributed at a Dodger game on June 16, 2014 to the surprise of fans in attendance - although, it's not clear to me if everybody got one or only folks within a certain section.

Being the fanatic collector that I am, I had to dig a little further to find out more and came across something on the Dodger website (link here).
The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation (LADF) strongly believes that children who are healthy can achieve far greater results in the classroom than those who are ill and lack basic nutrition.

School Fuel is a 3-year campaign supporting universal breakfast for 700,000 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. School Fuel was created by the LA Fund for Public Education.
LADF is the exclusive sports team partner of School Fuel. In addition to program support, the LADF features the Dodgers Foundation logo, player images and content on milk cartons and breakfast trays distributed to students each morning. Current Dodger players, Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford have lent their brand to this program that promotes health and wellness, a key pillar of LADF.
It appears that only four Dodger players are currently available, and that (along with the game giveaway) full cartons with milk where also distributed at schools as a part of this meal program.  Based on the numbers above these cartons do not appear to be rare; as it's likely that hundreds of thousands were printed up (if not millions).  Of course, it's also unlikely that large numbers of these will survive the test of time, so who knows.

Of note, the unopened empty cartons given away at the Dodger game in 2014 might prove to be scarce as time goes on; especially if kept in original unopened carton form.  For now, you can probably purchase them for only a few bucks a piece.  Sooner or later I'll have to track these down to add to my collection.

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* Dodgers Blue Heaven home page *

Blog Kiosk: 12/31/2015 - Dodger Links - All About Kazmir

Here's another fantastic vintage International News press photo I ran into on eBay.  It is dated September 23, 1951 and features Phillies outfielder Richie Ashburn, Gil Hodges and the days umpire in the middle.  Via the description on the reverse:
Ump Larry Goetz (center) presents $500 US Bonds Singer Awards (Jack Singer, INP writer killed in WWII) to Ashburn and Hodges their Good Sportsmanship.
BTW, the Dodgers defeated the Phillies, 6-2, that afternoon.  Dodger starting pitcher Preacher Roe pitched a complete game for the victory.  Also, Roy Campanella hit his 36th home run of the season, and Andy Pafko hit his 26th.  Below are more links to check out:
We did come to an agreement in principle (to acquire Chapman), but as (additional) details came to light, we just weren’t comfortable making the move. 
For the Dodgers, this isn’t a major move. That’s a weird thing to say about a $48-million free-agent contract, but Kazmir isn’t going to be one of the stars on the roster. He’s depth, a potential No. 2 starter in a rotation full of No. 2 candidates behind the No. 1. I don’t know if Kazmir is better than Brett Anderson. I don’t know if Kazmir is more dependable than Brett Anderson. I don’t know what Hyun-Jin Ryu is going to do after his shoulder surgery. The most important thing here is a bit of stability. Kazmir comes with his question marks, but his presence removes one question mark from the Dodgers’ list. Others remain, but you can’t address everything. Nor do you need to with the season months away.
Via Farhan Zaidi: “He was really a fastball-breaking guy in the Tampa days,” Zaidi said. “In Oakland, he really evolved into a fastball-changeup guy. His changeup is one of the best in baseball. I think when pitchers have that type of athleticism, that ability to adapt as pitchers … those guys tend to be more successful.”
  • Adrian Gonzalez wonders aloud (on twitter) about the implications to him with an all-lefty starting staff:

  • Panini America shares a bunch of preview pics of their newest Baseball card set: 2015 Elite Extra Edition.  (Link here) It is now available in stores.  Below are autographed cards of Corey Seager, Julio Urias and Grant Holmes.
Of particular interest to Cubs fans was Mr. Kendrick's description of Buck O'Neil, who was instrumental in bringing down the walls of segregated baseball, by being hired by the Cubs as the first African-American scout and coach in the Major Leagues. He is credited with bringing Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Lou Brock, among others, to the Cubs and serving as an inspiration and father figure to many of the first black players

"There's no denying Buck O'Neil's influence on Ernie Banks, on Lou Brock, on Billy Williams, all those guys that came up for the Cubs, George Altman, Gene Baker," Mr. Kendrick said. "Buck took Ernie under his wing. Buck O'Neill was like a father figure to Ernie, He taught him how to be a pro."

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