Hummel: Can the Dodgers go all the way? –

CINCINNATI Before youre tempted to ordain the Los Angeles Dodgers as World Series champions for the first time in 29 years, a little history lesson might be in order.

First, only one player who has any sort of prominent role with the Dodgers, Chase Utley, even has been in a World Series. Second, and probably more importantly, only six of the 22 National League teams who have finished with the leagues best record since the three-tiered playoffs began in 1995 have made it to the World Series. And only two of them have won, with one being the Chicago Cubs last year. The other club was the 1995 Atlanta Braves, who won the World Series the first year there were three rounds of playoffs and then never again.

Four other clubs, including the Cardinals 100-win teams in 2004 and 2013, made it to the World Series but didnt win.

Third, how will lefthanded ace Clayton Kershaws back behave the rest of the year? Last year, after returning from back problems that cost him more than two months, Kershaw was relatively strong in the last month of the regular season. But in 24 1/3 postseason innings, including the time he was called upon to save the final game of the division series, he allowed 12 runs and had nothing left in Game 6 of the league championship , when he and the Dodgers were shut out 5-0 in Chicago as the Cubs punched their World Series ticket.

But what the Dodgers have done so far, is amazing, said Whitey Herzog, who steered his Kansas City Royals to a lengthy, similar rush 40 years ago.

Their pitching has been awfully steady, said Herzog. Their bullpen has been outstanding. And that kid (Cody Bellinger) is hitting all those home runs. Theyve won so many games late in the game. Really amazing.

This year, the Dodgers were 10-12 before going 66-20 in their next 84 games. At a later point in the 1977 season, Herzogs Royals were 28-31 and then went 63-23, including winning 16 in a row starting on Aug. 31 of that year. They lost one, then won eight more in succession, running that hot streak to 24 victories in 25 games. They would finish 74-29 after June 16, which was roughly what the Dodgers record was before the weekend.

Herzog, noting how the Dodgers managed to win the division last year when Kershaw was out for so long, gave credit to manager Dave Roberts, who was in his first year then. He did one helluva job, said Herzog. He seems enthusiastic. Of course, its easy to be enthusiastic every day when you win. Its when youre losing every day that it seems to lag.

The Dodgers have an outside shot at 116 wins, the major league record for a season held by the 1906 Chicago Cubs in a 154-game season and the Seattle Mariners in 2001 in a 162-game season. It is worth noting that neither of those clubs won the World Series either.

Theyve got to keep playing like hell to do that, said Herzog. Is it sustainable? I guess its sustainable. They wont get rained out. But without Kershaw (who is out several more weeks), it doesnt seem possible to do that.

Herzog can remember the 1977 season as if it was yesterday. On the night the Royals stretched their winning streak to 16, they beat Oakland twice in extra innings in a twi-night doubleheader that was delayed by rain in Kansas City and didnt end until nearly 3:30 a.m.

There were torrential rains in the area and seven people drowned that night, recalled Herzog. There almost was an eighth as Herzogs son, David, had his car sucked into an open manhole but made it out alive.

The next night, Herzog said his team, understandably, was tired and lost to Seattles Doc Medich before putting together the eight-game winning streak.

Gene Mauch, who was managing Minnesota then, said that no team in the division was good enough to pull away, Herzog said. We won 16 in a row and Texas won 13 games out of 17 and lost 3 games in the standings.

It amazing how things happened how it just seemed everything worked out for us, said Herzog. We didnt have a great bullpen, but we had a lot of guys who pitched in and did their job.

But there was disappointment at the end, when the Royals lost the American League championship series to the New York Yankees three games to two, dropping the last two games at home.

And Billy Martin benched Reggie Jackson for the fifth game, said Herzog. Then he goes on to become Mr. October the next week. Figure that one out.

The Royals scored twice in the first inning of the last game and were nursing a 3-1 lead into the eighth but allowed one run in the eighth and three in the ninth as the Yankees won 5-3, delaying Kansas Citys first World Series appearance for three more years.

Thats one game Ill never forget, said Herzog.

In Game 4 of that series, Herzog yanked first baseman John Mayberry, who seemed ill, after he dropped a pop foul. He didnt play Mayberry, who had 23 homers that year, in Game 5, as he suspected that Mayberry may have been under the influence of something the day before.

Herzog said baseball can use the publicity generated by the Dodgers long stretch of torrid baseball and the chance they could approach the record for wins if they could keep it up. Otherwise, there are very few divisional pennant races and he said he was tired of hearing about the knockout game, meaning the one-game playoff in each league to open the postseason.

Three of the six division pacesetters the Dodgers, Washington and Houston have leads of more than 10 games, which, if taken to the end of the season, would mark the first time that has happened since 2002 when Atlanta, the Cardinals, Boston and Minnesota all won their divisions by 10 games or more.

That was the year that both wild-card teams, San Francisco and Anaheim, qualified for the World Series with the Angels winning. Since then, there have been four other wild-card teams to win the World Series Florida (2003), Boston (2004), the 2011 Cardinals and San Francisco (2014).

They raise hell about the wild-card winning too many times, said Herzog. If theyre going to continue to have five-game series in the division round they should play seven games with no days off they should reward the team which has the best record and plays the knockout winner. The way it stands now, the knockout winner is even (in home games) after four games. Give the wild-card winner the third game at home and the other four games you play at the team with the best record. That way, the knockout winner would have to win at least twice on the field of the team with the best record, plus its own home game.

Still an avid watcher of baseball as he nears age 86, Herzog said he cringes when he sees players swinging from their butt. He laments long games and said he had a discussion about this with commissioner Rob Manfred last week at the Hall of Fame ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y.

It used to be that you would see about 265 pitches for a nine-inning game, Herzog said. Every morning when I get up, I dont check to see who got the winning hit. I check the number of pitches. Right now, there are about 285 pitches in a game and how many games do you see 320 or 360 pitches in nine innings?

Now, how are you going to do this? Are you going to play seven-inning games? Or are you are going to play with two strikes and three balls? Thats messing with the rules and youd better not do that. But weve got too many throwers and not enough pitchers.

Young pitchers … all they care about is what the radar gun says. Why dont you take them out of the stadiums and take them out of the broadcast booths? Let the scouts be the only ones who have them. That might help them become pitchers.

Too many counts go to 3-2, Herzog said, because of nit-picking, instead of the outcome of an at-bat being settled at 0-2.

You can do something about this in the minor leagues, he said. Let them throw 125 pitches but tell all your young kids not to waste pitches out of the strike zone. Then they can accomplish that before they even get to the big leagues.

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Hummel: Can the Dodgers go all the way? –

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August 6, 2017   Posted in: Knockout Game |

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