A Reason to Get Behind A.J. Ellis, All Star

When most people talk about the Dodgers, two names always come up: Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp.

This Dodgers team currently holds the best record in all of baseball at 30-14, which is due to everyone on the team contributing, not just Kemp and Kershaw. Players that weren’t expected to do much at all going into this season have stepped up. However, one player in particular has shocked many Dodgers fans with his play so far, and that is A.J. Ellis.

When I say that these players weren’t expected to do much at all, I mean that. Most people weren’t sold on Ellis being the starting catcher for this team when the season began. I actually believe if a deal was in place for another catcher prior to the season, general manager Ned Colletti would have pulled the trigger. Well we are now 35 games into this season and Ellis is showing everyone that he belongs with the best of them. I don’t think Colletti would even consider trading this guy now.

AJ Ellis has been a backup catcher throughout his career in the major leagues, and has struggled to stay in the bigs. In 2008 he only played in four games with a total of three at-bats, in 2009 he played in eight games with 10 at-bats, in 2010 he played in 44 games with 108 at-bats, then in 2011 he played in 31 games with 103 at-bats. So this is his first year as the starting catcher and he hasn’t looked back.

This year with already 113 at bats under his belt, and is hitting .327 with four home runs, 20 RBIs, and is ranked 3rd in all of baseball with a .449 OBP. The one thing people did know about Ellis going into this season was that he knows how to get on base. I honestly think this guy will live till he’s 150 with how much he walks. The amazing thing about Ellis is that he is putting up these kinds of numbers while hitting in the eight slot in the lineup, for the majority of the season so far.

To all of the people that weren’t sold on this guy, you should now be voting him into the All Star game! Believe it or not at this point in the season, A.J. Ellis belongs in the 2012 Summer Classic in Kansas City. This guy has even taken the twitter verse by storm, having his own personal hash tag #AJ2KC. A twitter account was made called AJ2KC, getting the word out to send A.J. Ellis to his first ever All Star game. I think it might be time to get a A.J. Ellis jersey; seriously he has become a fan favorite. So people need to take notice, fill out their all-star ballots, and punch A.J. Ellis a ticket to the 2012 All Star game.

Around the West: Dodgers Continue to Watch from Afar

I write this as the Dodgers just lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 11-4, however, before this loss the Dodgers won six straight games, taking the first two games from the Diamondbacks in this three-game series, which followed a tough sweep against the St Louis Cardinals last weekend, with the third game being watched by a national audience as part of ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. This Dodgers team is doing it all without their superstar player Matt Kemp.

If you didn’t know Justin Sellers, Elian Herrera, and Scott Van Slyke before last week, I’m sure you do now. I get to write this once again folks; the Los Angeles Dodgers have the best record in all of baseball at 30-14.

San Francisco Giants – 23-21 The Giants are back over the .500 mark on the season, but still sit 7.0 games back behind the Dodgers in NL West division. They just won two out of three against the Milwaukee Brewers on the road. This past weekend they also took two out of three from their interleague rival, the Oakland Athletics. The Giants will begin a four game series starting today on the road against a Miami Marlins team that is 24-20.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger Fan): This team looks like they could be taking a turn for the better, winning their last couple of series. Also, their pitching is ranked fifth in the Major Leagues in team ERA (3.36).

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger Fan): I’ve been saying it all year; this lineup will struggle to produce runs on a nightly basis.

Biggest contributor: Buster Posey, hitting .300 and leads the team with four home runs and 23 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Tim Lincecum, in nine starts has a 6.04 ERA with a 2-4 record.

Biggest surprise: Santiago Casilla, in 21 games has a 1.37 ERA, 1-2 record, and 11 saves in 12 opportunities.

Arizona Diamondbacks – 20-25 This team continues to struggle in lots of areas, and it all starts with their franchise player Justin Upton. He hit a home run against the Dodgers yesterday, but overall is hitting just .253 on the season with 18 RBIs and five home runs. That’s not what you’re looking for out of your superstar player. The Diamondbacks will take on the Milwaukee Brewers (18-26) at home over the weekend for a three game series.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger Fan): They’re starting to get healthy again, after a rough start to the season with injuries.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger Fan): The Diamondbacks pitchers have allowed the most home runs in the National League with 48. So Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier can always look forward to a matchup against the Diamondbacks. Biggest contributor: Miguel Montero, hitting .255 with two home runs and leads the team with 21 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Ryan Roberts, hitting .238 with three home runs and 19 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Craig Breslow, in 20 games and 22.1 innings pitched, he has a 1-0 record with a 2.01 ERA.

Colorado Rockies – 16-27 Before the Rockies beat the Miami Marlins 8-4 yesterday, they had a streak opposite of the Dodgers, losing six straight games. They were swept over the weekend by the Seattle Mariners (21-25) in the first interleague series of the year. The Rockies will look to get on track, as they travel to Cincinnati this weekend to take on the Reds (24-19) for a three game series.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger Fan): They are ranked third in the National League in home runs with 46 of them.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger Fan): They have to face some tough teams in June, who could dig them a deeper hole in the NL West. Here is how the month will go; they will have series against the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Angels, Athletics, Tigers, Phillies, Rangers, Nationals, and Padres.

Biggest contributor: Carlos Gonzalez, hitting .306 with a team leading eight home runs and 34 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Jeremy Guthrie, in six starts has a 2-2 record with 5.55 ERA.

Biggest surprise: Jordan Pacheco, in 20 games and 61 at bats, he is hitting .279 with one home run and five RBIs. Also holds a nine game hitting streak at the moment.

San Diego Padres – 16-29 The Padres actually won two out of three games in their interleague matchup last weekend against the Anaheim Angels. Unfortunately, the wins didn’t carry over to their recent series with the St Louis Cardinals (25-19), as they got swept in the three game series. This team also lost one of it’s best starting pitchers Cory Luebke for the season, due to reconstructive surgery on his left elbow. They are now tied for the most losses in the Major Leagues with the Chicago Cubs (15-29). The Padres will face a tough opponent in a four game series over the weekend, as they take on the New York Mets (24-20) on the road.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger Fan): Still thinking….

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger Fan): The Padres are last in the majors in home runs (17), and last in slugging percentage (.328).

Biggest contributor: Chase Headley, hitting .245 with a team leading five home runs and 21 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Cameron Maybin, hitting .212 with one home run and 12 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Yonder Alonso, hitting .300 with one home run and 13 RBIs.

Around the National League West

I’m back again to give you the scoop on the National League West Division! The Los Angeles Dodgers remain in first place with a five game lead over their arch-rival, the San Francisco Giants. It gets even better though, the Dodgers are also tied for the best record in the National League at 20-11.

Those last two sentences are something I could get used to writing, so let’s hope this continues. While the Dodgers have been in first place for the majority of the young season, the other teams around the West continue to struggle.

San Francisco Giants (15-16)
The Giants should be grateful that they’re in second place at the moment, considering they’re under .500. San Francisco is off to a rough start in May, losing six out of nine games to start the month, with the injury bug biting them just over a month into the season, possibly already crowning the storyline of the 2012 Giants. If you thought their lineup was weak before, you should see it now. Besides Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and maybe Melky Cabrera, I’m not sure if Giants fans could name any of the other guys in this lineup.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger Fan): It’s more than fun to take shots at their lineup; however, their pitching staff is a different story. It isn’t much fun watching the Dodgers go up against a staff with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and even Ryan Vogelsong, who beat the Dodgers on Tuesday night. He pitched 7.1 innings, allowing a run on eight hits.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger Fan): This team has lost two of the biggest contributors they have, due to injuries. Their All Star closer Brian Wilson is out for the season (Tommy John surgery), and one of the biggest threats in their lineup Pablo Sandoval, is out for more than a month (surgery on left hand). Not to mention Guillermo Mota‘s 100-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Biggest contributor: Sandoval (on the DL), leads the team in all categories, hitting .316 with five home runs and 15 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Ryan Theriot, who they picked up in the offseason to be their starting second baseman, is hitting .179 with two RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Joaquin Arias, filling in for the injured Sandoval, is hitting .308 with five RBIs in 12 games.

Arizona Diamondbacks (14-18)
The defending National League West Champions have seen better days, as they have lost five games in a row. This team has probably been hit with injuries harder than any other team in the MLB. Starting shortstop Stephen Drew (fractured right ankle), starting pitcher Daniel Hudson (injury to right shoulder), and starting center fielder Chris Young (slight ligament tear in right shoulder) are all on the 15-day DL at the moment.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger Fan): When healthy, everyone expects this team to be back in the hunt to defend their crown.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger Fan): Their pitching has been knocked around a bit this season, as they are rank 22nd in the MLB with a 4.21 team ERA.

Biggest contributor: Miguel Montero, hitting .277 with two home runs and a team-leading 16 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Justin Upton, who is labeled as the franchise player, is hitting .235 with three home runs and nine RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Wade Miley, who has stepped into the starting rotation for the injured Hudson, is 3-1 with a 2.76 ERA this season. He was named the National League Rookie of the Month for April.

Colorado Rockies (13-17)
The Rockies have a lineup with lots of talent, but haven’t been able to put it together this season, at least not yet. They got swept by the Atlanta Braves over the weekend, at home! It only got worse as the Padres recently took two of three from them in a series, in which Troy Tulowitzki injured his left groin. However, Tulowitzki is listed as day-to-day, so Rockies fans can let out a sigh of relief. They will come to Dodger Stadium over the weekend for a three game series.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger Fan): Its simple, Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are in their lineup. Gonzalez already showed us what he can do, after hitting two home runs in an 8-5 win over the Dodgers last week.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger Fan): This is a pitching staff that has been roughed up much more than the Diamondbacks have. The Rockies are ranked 28th out of 30 teams in the MLB with a shameful 4.89 team ERA, this should make for a pleasant weekend at Dodger Stadium.

Biggest contributor: Gonzalez, hitting .312 with a team leading 7 home runs and 26 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Drew Pomeranz, who was acquired in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, last year, is 0-2 with a 4.70 ERA in five starts this season.

Biggest surprise: Tyler Colvin, who they traded for in the offseason, is hitting .300 with 2 home runs and 10 RBIs.

San Diego Padres (11-21)
This Padres team owns the worst record in the National League, but they should thank the Minnesota Twins for being (8-22), and saving them from the worst record in the MLB. Although the month of May hasn’t been all that bad, they’ve won two out of three series to start the month.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger Fan): Believe it or not, but this team actually has one of the better team ERAs in all of baseball, ranked 8th with a 3.33 ERA.

Reason to be optimistic: The Padres are ranked 29th in the MLB with a team batting average of .220. This time they can thank the Oakland A’s who are worst in the MLB (.215) for keeping them out of dead last.

Biggest contributor: Chase Headley, hitting .257 with a team leading four home runs and 16 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Cameron Maybin, who the Padres gave a $25 million contract extension to, before the season, is hitting .208 with 1 home run and 9 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Yonder Alonso, who got off to a slow start this season, is now hitting .292 with 8 RBIs.

More than just a bat off the bench

For the last couple of years the Dodgers have been known for filling their final roster spots with MLB veterans to come off the bench. When these signings are made, they usually get put on the backburner by fans, but by the end of year become fan-favorites. It’s hard to become a bench guy after being an everyday player for most of their careers. However, these guys have accepted their role to be able to wear Dodger Blue.

This year’s bench guy for the Dodgers hasn’t just accepted his role; he has stepped up and delivered in every way possible.

At 35-years-old Jerry Hairston Jr. has been the 2012 version of Jamey Carroll, which means a whole lot to this ball club. Hairston is in his 16th year in the MLB, with the Dodgers being the ninth team he has played on. This guy has baseball in his blood, considering his Grandfather, Father, Uncle, and Brother have all played in the big leagues.

In 2009, Hairston won a World Series with the New York Yankees, in the same role he now has with the Dodgers. When you can play basically anywhere on the field besides catcher like Hairston, opportunities will present themselves more than often.

That role with the Dodgers is to pinch hit, be a defensive replacement, clubhouse guy, and give the everyday players some time off after a long week. Well after a month into the season Hairston has done more than just those things.

In a series against the Milwaukee Brewers early in April, most people would say he won the third and final game of the series. He was filling in for the injured Juan Uribe at the time, when in the bottom of the eighth inning he made a sensational diving play at third base to save the go-ahead run.

Honestly, through the first month of this season I’ve seen him make plays that Uribe couldn’t dream of making. That’s not all this guy has done; against the Rockies on Wednesday starting in place of Uribe again, he took advantage of the opportunity at the plate this time! Although the Dodgers lost the game, down 2-1 in the top of the eight-inning, Hairston delivered a two RBI double to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead. This play by Hairston has already created the question: Should he start at third base for the Dodgers?

I personally think he is in the perfect role and the Dodgers shouldn’t mess with it. He has played in 16 of the 25 games this year, so Mattingly is finding ways to get him into games. Through those 16 games, Hairston has had 45 at-bats resulting in 13 hits and a .289 batting average.

The Dodgers have plenty of options with Hairston in this role, if anyone on the field gets hurt besides A.J. Ellis, he can fill that void! Last year when Rafael Furcal went down with an injury, it was Jamey Carroll who filled in at shortstop. Carroll ended up playing the majority of the season, with 452 at bats and finished with a .290 batting average. So the Dodgers have their 2012 bench guy in Jerry Hairston Jr., a guy who can fill in anywhere and get the job done!

The Start of a New Era

The last couple of years have been tough for all Dodger fans, who have been haunted with more drama than the Kardashians.

But that’s about to change.

Once again it’s going to be fun to be a Dodger fan, as former owner Frank McCourt’s deal has become official, transferring the team to the group headlined by Magic Johnson, which should be all but make this an official holiday for fans to celebrate! A Los Angeles Lakers legend is about to own the city’s most prestige franchise, does it get any better than that? Let the new era began!

The Dodgers are off to a 16-6 start and have the best record in the National League. Could this somehow be the start of a sort of “Magic effect”. A team that was picked by no one at the start of the season to win anything, has played the best baseball Los Angeles has seen in quite some time. Matt Kemp is playing at a level that most people would call “freakish,” setting paces to do things that have never been done, and giving Dodger fans the privilege to see something special every night.

The best thing about it is that Dodger fans will be able to see this guy for the next eight years, thanks to the his new $160 million contract extension he signed before the season. Clayton Kershaw, the other Dodger leading the team into the new era is already mentioned amongst the legendary pitchers donning a Dodger uniform since moving to Los Angeles, joining the ranks of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Don Sutton, Orel Hershiser, and Fernando Valenzuela. Already Kershaw has a Cy Young Award at only 24 years old, solidifying a claim that he could be the next legendary Dodger pitcher. As it is, the name Clayton Kershaw has legendary written all over it.

Many people may have been against the signing of Don Mattingly as the Dodgers manager last season. Mattingly is actually the perfect guy for the job, little do those people know. He may have been a career Yankee but now bleeds Dodger Blue. Since managing the Dodgers, he has brought up on numerous occasions how important it is to play the “Dodger way,” showing that he is completely on board to bringing the Dodgers back to what they used to be: the greatest franchise in all of sports.

It isn’t easy coming in as a first year manager with an owner who isn’t committed to winning, or willing to spend money on everything except improving the ballclub. The Dodgers could have ended last season well below .500 with several distractions on and off of the field, however “Donnie Baseball” kept the team focused and ready to play day-in and day-out. He might not have gotten this team to the playoffs, but they played hard from the first game of the season to the very last. In the game today a manager must have the respect of his players, something exactly what Mattingly has. It means a lot when you have a player’s manager running your team.

Look at the Texas Rangers, who have been in the World Series the last two seasons. Their manager Ron Washington is a player’s manager, which has a lot to do with the Rangers’ success. If you have a manager who the players love playing for, you can go a long way in this league. As long as Don Mattingly is the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the players will put everything on the line for him on any given night.

Since Frank McCourt sold the team about a month ago, you can already see how different of a team this is. They are actually being credited for their play on the field, not about how their owner keeps bringing them down. This has a lot to do with the comfort of knowing that they have an owner who can actually write their checks.

Magic Johnson was leading the Lakers to championships in the 80’s, when the Dodgers owned the city of Los Angeles. He knows how important this team is to the city and will do everything possible to put the Dodgers back on top. The Dodgers fans are in great hands as the start of a new era in Los Angeles begins.

Is there a better group to start with? Not even close, as Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Don Mattingly, and Vin Scully lead the way. The next time you hear the legendary Vin Scully say “It’s time for Dodger baseball” it will mean more than it ever has before. So Dodgers fans need to hold their heads high and get ready for a future that looks brighter than ever!