Baseball terms have always made great metaphors for life.
Yasiel Puig is making a run at becoming the opening day left fielder.
The term “out of left field,” according to the unimpeachable source called Wikipedia; was first used in the music industry to describe a song that was a surprise hit. In 1981, New York Times columnist William Safire “tweaked” with that meaning somewhat and deemed it to mean “disoriented, out of contact with reality.” No matter what meaning you choose, the theory behind the choice of left field as the position sounds logical – the left fielder has the longest throw to first base and a ground out of “7-3″ on a scorecard would be a very unusual happening. And unusual just might describe the Dodgers left field scenarios.
Projected starter Carl Crawford experienced soreness in his surgically repaired elbow at the opening of camp and will most likely begin the season on the disabled list. This means the fight for the left field spot may be between someone whose future looks very bright, one whose prospects could begin to dim, and a few others in between.
Currently, the name generating the most excitement in camp is Yasiel Puig. Puig was a much sought after Cuban “defector” the Dodgers signed to a $42 million deal last year. He is currently hitting .352 with two doubles in 15 spring games. Manager Don Mattingly is quite impressed with what he’s seen from a player who the Dodgers stated would still need another year of “seasoning” in the minors.
“He’s short to the ball. It’s interesting watching a big power guy like that,” Mattingly said. “The issue will end up being, can he keep guys in the strike zone.”
Puig may still have to learn a couple of the game’s mental aspects as well. In one recent game, Puig threw the ball to third instead of second on a base hit to him. Mattingly noted “On those kinds of plays, it’s just explanation, getting what we want, and then him not making the same mistake. He seems really smart, and that’s where we have to teach, to get what we want.”
At the other end of the spectrum is 26-year old Alex Castellanos. Castellanos was the key prospect the Dodgers obtained when they traded shortstop Rafael Furcal to St. Louis in 2011. He has been in the minors since 2008 and the word is this might be his final chance to prove he belongs in “The Show” permanently.
Castellanos had a terrific Triple A season in 2012(.328 BA, 17 home runs). Unfortunately, he didn’t make an impact in the sixteen major league games he got into last season batting just .174 and striking out in 1/3 of his 23 at bats. But Castellanos is using this spring to make a case for playing a role with the Dodgers.
He is batting .267 with 3 home runs. Los Angeles Times writer Bill Shakin jokingly pointed out that Castellano’s home run total is more than the entire 2013 projected starting line-up has hit since camp opened.
The other outfielder on the roster is Elian Herrera. Herrera, 27, has been in the Dodgers system since 2003. He batted .251 in 67 big league games last season and is batting .346 this spring.
Dodgers get a break(?)
Last winter, one of the new Dodgers owners, Mark Walter, stated he was somewhat adverse to paying large sums of $$ to pitchers because “pitchers break.” Of course, that didn’t stop the Dodgers from paying $147 million for Zack Greinke.
Walters words echoed loudly this week when Greinke reported pain in his elbow. The Dodgers breathed a sigh of relief when doctors blew it off to simple inflammation and not ligament damage.
Greinke will now join what could be called the Gingerly list – he, like Matt Kemp and others who are coming back from injuries, will be treated very gingerly this spring. They will probably not see much action until the regular season opener.
The Dodgers have sold a 30,000 season tickets in 2013. The team hasn’t sold that many season seats since the O’Malley family owned the Dodgers and the Dodgers owned L.A. Back then, about 27,000 season tickets were scooped up. Of course, the Dodgers could have sold way more but 27,000 was the cutoff. Then, under Frank McCourt’s tenure, season ticket sales fell to as low as 17,000. The silver lining in that was if you decided to go to the game on a lark and buy tickets at game time, choice seats were still available. Well, like McCourt, those days are gone.
Back in the O’Malley days, if you bought tickets at game time and asked for the best seats available, the ticket window clerk’s only response was “deep right.” Sounds like that term is like the Terminator – it’s back.