The Bulldog on The Big Train: Orel Hershiser discusses Clayton Kershaw’s season.

Orel Hershiser

Orel Hershiser went 19-3 for the Dodgers in 1985. (Getty Images)

“We call him the Big Train because he keeps coming,” Don Mattingly said after watching Clayton Kershaw win his 19th game of the season Sunday.

The birth of a new nickname? Maybe.

Kershaw at the very least matched a 29-year-old team record. He’s 19-3, good for a .864 winning percentage, with two starts left in the regular season. Orel Hershiser went 19-3 in 1985, the only Los Angeles Dodger to finish a season with a winning percentage that high.

Here’s what Hershiser had to say about Kershaw’s season last Wednesday, four days before Kershaw matched his record:

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Vin Scully will call first game on SportsNet LA, which will televise spring training games every day.

Vin Scully

Vin Scully will work the first Dodgers spring training telecast on SportsNet LA. (Associated Press photo)

The Dodgers’ new network will have games every day of spring training, beginning with its inaugural telecast of the Cactus League opener between the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks.

Vin Scully will be behind the mic for the first game televised on SportsNet LA, scheduled for noon Pacific Time on Feb. 26.

“It is an incredible honor to have the remarkable opportunity to call the very first game on the Dodger network,” Scully said in a statement released by the team. “The Dodgers’ new ownership group has done a wonderful job assembling a team to make SportsNet LA what every Dodger fan deserves, a television network just for them. I’m humbled to be a part of it.”
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Daily Distractions: Persisting in the argument against Juan Uribe’s evil ninth-inning bunt.

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp swings and misses at Brad Ziegler’s final pitch in the Dodgers’ 2-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday. (Associated Press photo)

Last night in my postgame thoughts I didn’t delve too much into the first out of the ninth inning. (Neither did columnist Tom Hoffarth in Phoenix.) Speaking for myself, it was reasonable to assume the first out of the ninth inning would get the attention it deserved elsewhere.

It did.

The first out, you may recall, was recorded at third base. Juan Uribe was ordered to lay down a sacrifice bunt attempt and pushed the ball just a little too hard, enough to result in lead runner Michael Young getting gunned down by the Diamondbacks’ infield while a frustrated Uribe touched first base safely.

Dodgers manager Don “Mattingly … voluntarily hobbled the Dodgers by ordering hot hand Juan Uribe to sacrifice with runners on first and second and nobody out,” wrote Jay Jaffe at SI.com.

“Makes perfect sense if you’re into age-old rationales, and even if you’re not, it just might have worked if Uribe WOULD HAVE ACTUALLY GOTTEN THE JOB DONE,” wrote Tony Jackson (among his many less-than-flattering odes to the sacrifice bunt).

But if you read anything this morning about the bunt and its history, and why there’s such a loud furor over Mattingly’s decision, head over to BuzzFeed (and just try to resist the allure of “18 Animals Who Got the Last Laugh”). The age-old anti-bunting argument, presented by author Erik Malinowski, can be summed up in two points:

1, Baseball history — we’re talking a huge sample size here — shows that trading an out for 90 feet decreases a team’s odds of scoring a run.

2, Executing the bunt strategy usually requires a fast runner, a skilled bunter and another hit after the bunt (a sacrifice fly or an opponent’s error would have worked in this particular case, too). The Dodgers had none of these in the ninth inning Monday.

The argument is about as old as me — born in the early 1980s — so to convince bunting advocates against their position in 2013 reeks of dragging tobacco executives before the House of Representatives in 1994. I don’t have the power to levy a bunting tax, though I do have the power to point out its illogic. That doesn’t seem to be enough.

So what would convince Mattingly and the Dodgers to stop bunting at this point?

Malinowski hints — and recent history suggests — that it might simply require some more progressive thinking in the Dodgers’ front office, and some people who can present the data in a convincing manner. A little desperation would help, too.

Take the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates, for example. They had an old-school manager (Clint Hurdle) and a fairly desperate circumstance. Their payroll was maxed out. They were competing in a tough division. And they were giving away outs — not by bunting, but in the way they played defense. So with the help of a few progressive front-office officials, the Pirates turned a little conventional baseball wisdom on its head and changed the way they played defense. It’s been an important factor in their success this season.

If the Pirates can do it, maybe the Dodgers can turn some (quasi-conventional) baseball wisdom on its head and change the way they advance runners. It will take desperation and progressive thinking.

Some bullet points for a Roberto Clemente Day:
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