Dodgers fans are getting spoiled.
They are no longer satisfied with winning National League West pennants and making it to the World Series. It is World Series champions or bust for these fans who have seen their team win six straight Western Division championships.
And the fans don’t hesitate to let players know they are unhappy. Relief pitcher Pedro Baez has felt their wrath many times in the last two seasons. He’s off to a good start in 2019, but one awful performance can erase all the goodwill he has built up the first six weeks of this season.
Ask Joe Kelly. He’s the relief pitcher Andrew Friedman signed as a free agent in the offseason after the Dodgers couldn’t hit him coming out of the Red Sox bullpen last October.
Kelly was supposed to be the bridge between the starters and Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning, but Kelly has mostly been lit up this year. In 13 games, he has given up 15 runs for an earned run average of 10.13.
In the World Series last year, Kelly pitched in all five games against the Dodgers, throwing six innings and allowing four hits while striking out 10.
Unfortunately, that’s how relief pitchers are: hot or cold. When they are hot, they ride the wave as long as they can. When they are cold, they try to find that formula that made them hot.
It’s a never-ending battle that Kenley Jansen is starting to experience for the first time since he became the Dodgers closer in 2012.
Jansen is still one of he best closers in the game. He has 280 career saves, the third most among active pitchers in the major leagues.
In 2016 and 2017, Jansen saved 88 games for the Dodgers in 95 opportunities, which rounds out to a 93% save percentage. Dodgers fans want to know what happened to that Jansen.
Last year, Jansen was 1-5 with 38 saves in 42 opportunities. More importantly, Jansen became susceptible to the home run ball.
After yielding only 36 homers in his first eight seasons — and never more than six in any season — Jansen gave up 13 home runs last year.
In 17 games this season, he already has given up four home runs, including a walk-off grand slam to Hunter Renfroe May 5 in San Diego to keep the Dodgers from sweeping a series against the Padres.
On Twitter, fans called for Jansen to be traded, released and worse. But he’s still here and he probably will be here for the rest of the season.
Jansen is signed through 2021, but he can opt out of his contract at the end of the season.
Don’t look for that to happen, though. Craig Kimbrel, the Red Sox’s closer in last year’s World Series, is still on the market. He has 333 saves on his career, more than Jansen, and has that World Series ring that Jansen lacks.
But after earning $37.5 million over the last three seasons, Kimbrel wanted a substantial raise and hasn’t found a team that was willing to give it to him.
Jansen is making $18 million this year and next and is owed $20 million in 2021.
Kimbrel wants to get paid like that, but so far hasn’t found anyone who will do it. That may change when July rolls around.
The potential of the Dodgers was on full display May 7. In the second game of a series against the Atlanta Braves, the Dodgers put it all together in a 9-0 win.
Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched the best game of the season for the Dodgers, throwing a complete game four-hitter, striking out six and making only 93 pitches.
He had to share player of the game honors with Justin Turner, who broke out of his 2019 power shortage with three home runs and six runs batted in.
The Dodgers defense behind Ryu was solid as well. Cody Bellinger made a diving catch in right field to preserve Ryu’s shutout in the seventh inning and Max Muncy made two fine plays at second base, which is far from his natural position.
When the Dodgers are operating on all cylinders, there are not many teams that can beat them.
Next to Kelly, the off-season’s biggest acquisition was outfielder A.J. Pollock, who had elbow surgery and is out until after the All-Star break at least.
No problem for manager Dave Roberts. He plugs rookie outfielder Alex Verdugo into the lineup and the kid is hitting .337 with four home runs and 18 RBI.
Only Cody Bellinger and Muncy have more RBI on the team.
Chris Taylor also is getting more playing time and used it to good advantage over the weekend in San Diego. Taylor had a break-out year in 2017 when he batted .288 with 21 home runs and 72 RBI, but he dropped off considerably last year, hitting only .254 with 17 home runs and 63 RBI while leading the National league in strike outs with 178.
A player who is comfortable at second base, shortstop or the outfield, Taylor is the kind of player the Dodgers like: versatile with some pop in his bat. He is a necessary part of the equation for the Dodgers to win their seventh straight National League West title.
The post-season is always a crapshoot. Ask the NBA.
SOFTBALL LEAGUE: People who follow softball might be familiar with the name Natasha Watley.
Watley played shortstop for four years at UCLA, helping the Lady Bruins win the 2003 NCAA Championship before going on to win a gold medal with the U.S. team in the 2004 Olympics. She also won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics while going on to a successful professional softball career in Japan.
In 2008, Watley established the Natasha Watley Softball League in South Los Angeles in partnership with the Los Angeles City Department of Recreation and Parks.
She started the league after speaking to a group of young girls and one asked her what softball was?
The league serves girls from 8 to 15. To play, girls must submit an essay on the four points of the diamond: duty, discipline, dedication and dignity.
The league is gearing up for play starting June 8, the day after a coaches wprkshop.
Last year, 1,350 players competed on 90 teams in 16 locations across Southern California, mostly in South L.A.
For more information, visit the Natasha Watley Foundation website at www.natasha watleyfoundation.org.
TRACK CHAMPIONS: The West Los Angeles College men’s and women’s track teams both won the Western State Conference championship this season. For the women’s it was their fourth consecutive championship and their ninth title in 12 years.
Among the team’s top performers were graduates of local high schools like Steven Ashby of Culver City High School who won the long jump with a leap of 22 feet, seven inches.
Sophomore DeChanelle Govnes, of Westchester High, won the women’s triple jump and high jump with marks of 37 feet, seven inches, and 5 feet, one inch, respectively.
Aria Calhoun, a graduate of Dorsey High, won the 100 and 200 meter sprints and also ran a leg on the 4-by-100 and the 4-by-400 meter relays.