Not doing my homework

Earlier this week, you might have read a story I wrote for the paper about Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino and how the Dodgers let him get away TWICE via the Rule 5 draft and how they turned down a chance to get him back the second time when the Phillies offered him back midway through the 2005 season. Well, there was one factual error in the story, and out of that factual error, there was a glaring misconception. As it turns out, the Dodgers had a very sound reason for not taking him back. First, the error: I wrote that Victorino had never been on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster, which turned out to be not true. The fact is, he HAD been on the 40-man once previously and had been outrighted OFF the 40-man. In light of that, the Dodgers’ reasoning for not taking him back: teams who make Rule 5 draft selections pay $50,000 for them, and if they don’t keep that player on their 25-man roster for all of the following season, they must offer him back to his original team for $25,000. But when the Phillies offered Victorino back to the Dodgers, the Dodgers were NOT going to put him on their 25-man OR their 40-man roster. Therefore, they would have to outright him to the minors. Well, any player who is outrighted more than once has the right to decline outright assignments, beginning with his second one, and become a free agent. As I understand it, the Dodgers were fairly certain at the time — 99.99 percent, as it was told to me — that Victorino was going to decline the assignment and opt for free agency. In that case, the Dodgers would have been throwing away $25,000. Granted, that seems like chump change in the grand scheme of a major-league payroll. But throwing away 25 grand is still throwing away 25 grand. Hope that clears things up.

Also, we just received word that Charlie Manuel’s mother passed away this morning, so thoughts and prayers go out to him. He is one of the truly good guys in this game. I’m told he IS expected to manage today’s game for the Phillies.

Here are today’s lineups:

Dodgers:

Furcal. SS
Martin. C
Ramirez. LF
Ethier. RF
Loney. 1B
Kemp. CF
DeWitt. 2B
Blake. 3B
Billingsley. RHP

Phillies:

Rollins. SS
Victorino. CF
Utley. 2B
Howard. 1B
Burrell. LF
Werth. RF
Dobbs. 3B
Ruiz. C
Myers. RHP

NLCS Game 1: Phillies 3, Dodgers 2

This is the big-time, and in a big-time hitter’s ballpark. That ultimately was what did in the Dodgers tonight. The ball Manny Ramirez hit in the first inning — the one that DIDN’T go out because it hit the very top of the wall not only at its deepest point, but also its highest point, and also hit about a foot to the left of the yellow stripe — went way farther than EITHER of the home runs hit by Chase Utley and Pat Burrell in that decisive sixth inning. But it’s not even close to panic time yet. The Dodgers blew a two-run lead in the ninth inning against the New York Mets in Game 1 of the 1988 NLCS — the last one of these that they actually were in — and came back to win that series in seven, then blew out Oakland in five in the World Series. Long way to go, folks. … The good thing about tonight was that Hong-Chih Kuo had a good inning, retiring the Phillies in order in the eighth. Appears to be back to normal. … Tomorrow’s game at 4:35 Philly time, which means weird shadows and maybe some weird developments. See ya then.

Saito update and tonight’s lineups

Torre said Saito took the news that he wasn’t on the LCS roster like a true professional. He’ll stay with the team for now and throw bullpens — the equivalent of the rehab assignment he never had is the way Torre put it — but might go to Peoria to make one appearance in the Instructional League if this series goes long and it looks like he might have a shot at a potential World Series roster. … By the way, Hong-Chih Kuo will be limited to warming up one time per game, pitching one inning per appearance and no back-to-back days.

Dodgers:

Furcal. SS
Ethier. RF
Ramirez. LF
Martin. C
Loney. 1B
Kemp. CF
Blake. 3B
DeWitt. 2B
Lowe. RHP

Phillies:

Rollins. SS
Victorino. CF
Utley. 2B
Howard. 1B
Burrell. LF
Werth. RF
Feliz. 3B
Ruiz. C
Hamels. LHP

NLCS game-day routine

At least for Game 1. Spent the day doing touristy stuff in Philly with Daily News columnist Steve Dilbeck and Al Balderas of the OC Register. We took the Independence Hall tour, which was interesting, but what I found more interesting was a tour of Congress Hall, which is adjacent to Independence Hall. This was where the first House and Senate chambers were, and we visited both as part of the tour. The House chamber was allegedly where George Washington announced that he wouldn’t seek a third term as President, and where John Adams was elected to succeed him (apparently, these things were done a little differently in 1796). Then we ate lunch at City Tavern, this old building where the wait staff dresses in Colonial period attire. It was all so fascinating that I kept forgetting we actually had a baseball game — and a pretty big one at that — to cover tonight. But we’re all here now, and Citizens Bank Park is all dressed up in the requisite red-white-and-blue bunting. Not a perfect day, just a tinge of smog in the air, and it’s expected to be a little cool tonight. But these are the playoffs. It’s supposed to be crisp. … By the way, as predicted here yesterday, Takashi Saito was left off the roster for this series to clear a spot for Hong-Chih Kuo. Broxton is now the unquestioned closer for this club. Makes you wonder whether Saito will even be around next year, giving that he will be 39 and is arbitration-eligible for the first time.

Saito’s roster spot in jeopardy

In fact, it looks like he isn’t going to make the cut for this round. After the workout, after most of the team had boarded buses back to the downtown Westin, Saito went to the visiting bullpen with Torre and Honeycutt and had a side session to try to work out a mechanical problem that has plagued him since he returned from the DL. The problem is with his balance pitching out of the windup, and the solution for now is that he has scrapped pitching out of the windup and will go exclusively out of the stretch, but that’s if he goes at all. Saito said the decision rests with others, but he seemed to offer a cryptic hint that he won’t be on the roster when he said this, with Kenji Nimura translating:

“I’m never going to say I’m (off) the roster, because that isn’t for me to decide. It’s up to oe and the coaching staff, and they might want me to give it some time and work on my mechanics so I can be ready for the World Series.”

The calm before the storm

It’s an absolutely gorgeous day here in the birthplace of America. From the press box at Citizens Bank Park, you can see ol’ William Penn quite clearly, all 37 feet of him standing atop the City Hall spire off in the distance. Phillies are working out on the field right now. Dodgers’ charter should be taking off from LAX right about now, and the team is expected to arrive around 8 tonight. There will be a more formal, MLB-mandated workout for both teams tomorrow. Phillies’ media availability was well-attended by the media, but not by the players. Only a handful of them came into the locker area of the clubhouse while reporters (dozens of them) were allowed in. Fortunately, one of them was the guy I was looking for, center fielder Shane Victorino. In case you don’t remember, he’s the guy the Dodgers let get away TWICE via the Rule 5 draft, and his grand slam in Game 2 was arguably the biggest hit of the Phillies’ four-game division series win over the Brewers. Victorino’s story, how he went from an overlooked prospect with the Dodgers to the everyday CF for the Phillies, can be found in tomorrow’s paper. That’s about all I have for today. Hasta manana.

Playing hooky

Your favorite correspondent skipped the workout today to deal with some medical issues. Nothing major, and I won’t bore you with any of the details, but if you see my beautiful mug in the background of any on-camera interviews in the next few days, I’ll be wearing glasses because I can’t wear my contacts for three or four weeks, allegedly (we’ll see about that). Anyway, I’m told by my colleague Steve Dilbeck, who was kind enough to cover for me today, that there was no major news. It does appear that the Dodgers’ Game 4 starter will depend largely on whether Hong-Chih Kuo is healthy enough to be on the roster for this series. If he is, he’ll be the second lefty in the pen and Clayton Kershaw probably will be the fourth starter. If Kuo isn’t a go, Kershaw will likely have to be the second lefty in the pen, so Greg Maddux would get the nod in Game 4. Lefty relievers are vital in this series because the Phillies have so many dangerous lefties in their lineup, beginning and ending with N.L. MVP candidate Ryan Howard, who had a monster September. … By the way, the schedule for the entire series has been set. Basically, all the games except for Game 2 start at 8 Eastern. That means all three games at Dodger Stadium (3, 4 and 5) will start at 5 Los Angeles time, while three of the four games at Citizens Bank Park, including Games 6 and 7, will start at 8 p.m. Philly time. … That’s all I got for now. Like Elton John’s Daniel, I’m traveling tonight on a plane. I’ll be the guy on the redeye with the red eye.

Dodgers-Phillies in the NLCS, Part IV

Below, you will find the schedule for the upcoming NLCS, which begins on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park. This will mark the fourth time the Dodgers and Phillies have met in an NLCS, the second-most frequent NLCS matchup of all-time behind Cincinnati-Pittsburgh. The Reds and Pirates have met in the NLCS five times (1970, 1972, 1975, 1979, 1990), while the Dodgers and Phillies will have met four times (1977, 1978, 1983, 2008). No other matchup has occurred more than twice. The NLCS didn’t begin until 1969. This will be the FIRST time the Dodgers have met the Phillies in a best-of-seven NLCS. The three previous meetings were all best-of-five, and each of the three went four games. Dodgers won in ’77 and ’78, Phillies won in ’83. The only other four-time LCS matchup in either league is New York-Kansas City in the American League. The Yankees and Royals have met four times (1976, 1977, 1978 and 1980) in the ALCS.

Game Matchup Day Date Time ET TV
Gm 1 LAD @ PHI Thu Oct. 9 TBD FOX
Gm 2 LAD @ PHI Fri Oct. 10 TBD FOX
Gm 3 PHI @ LAD Sun Oct. 12 TBD FOX
Gm 4 PHI @ LAD Mon Oct. 13 TBD FOX
Gm 5* PHI @ LAD Wed Oct. 15 TBD FOX
Gm 6* LAD @ PHI Fri Oct. 17 TBD FOX
Gm 7* LAD @ PHI Sat Oct. 18 TBD FOX

Giving new meaning to the phrase “drunk as a skunk”

Several of us were packing up to leave the press box at about 10 after 1 this morning when we happened to notice a large skunk walking along the front row of the Dugout Club seats down below. The gate in the centerfield wall was wide open, so we’re guessing that was how he/she/it had entered the now completely-empty stadium. But the skunk was clearly scavenging for whatever it could find to eat/drink, and if you have ever been in a stadium two hours after a game, you know there are a lot of leftover concessions items tossed aside between rows of seats. Well, apparently, some of the ballpark patrons hadn’t finished their beers, because after a few minutes, this skunk made its way onto the field and headed in the general direction of the open gate. Then, he stopped and started just generally walking around in circles, and his gait seemed to slow down gradually. By the time we got bored and left, he/she/it was in short right field, near the line, and didn’t seem to be moving much at all. For all I know, he/she/it was still there, passed out, when the grounds crew arrived this morning. Sure wouldn’t want to be the person who has to romove him/her/it. … Phillies are pounding the Brewers 5-0 in the sixth inning. Looks like there is a cheesesteak or two (or 10) in my very near future.