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Judge Dodgers on seven straight titles, not the World Series crown they’re still chasing



It seemed like the oddest of places to celebrate a seventh consecutive National League West title: At Camden Yards, against a bad Baltimore Orioles team, the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrating with a group photo in blue “October Reign” T-shirts and the B&O Warehouse in the background.

Justin Turner sat on the ground in the middle of the congregation, holding up seven fingers. He has been with the Dodgers for six of the division crowns — Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen and Hyun-Jin Ryu are the three holdovers from the 2013 team that initiated this run — and in many ways Turner is the perfect symbol of how the Dodgers have built this dynasty.

The Mets had non-tendered Turner after the 2013 season, and he inked a minor league deal with the Dodgers with an invitation to spring training and a $1 million salary if he made the big league club. He was merely insurance at second base when he signed in early February 2014, a backup plan if either Alex Guerrero — remember him? — who had just signed out of Cuba for $28 million, or prospect Dee Gordon didn’t work out.

Turner, of course, had started to revamp his swing, and he hit .340 that first season with the Dodgers. He became a star, with top-10 MVP finishes in 2016 and 2017, and he eventually would earn a much larger payout with a four-year, $64 million contract.

Turner actually was a Ned Colletti signing, as Andrew Friedman took over as head of baseball operations following the 2014 season. So give the Colletti front office some credit for this run of division titles: It was under him (and scouting director Logan White) when Kershaw was a first-round pick in 2006 and Jansen was converted from a weak-hitting catcher to a fireball-throwing reliever.

Turner, however, exemplifies how a roster of stars has been developed in a variety of means. Yes, money helps and the Dodgers have spent a lot of it, but consider the following:

Max Muncy, like Turner, was free talent, cut loose by the A’s, and he has blasted 68 home runs over the past two seasons. Muncy is ninth in the majors in wOBA during that time frame.

• MVP candidate Cody Bellinger was a fourth-round pick in 2013 (oh, that was Colletti and White, as well).

Walker Buehler, who tossed seven scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts in Tuesday’s win, was a first-round pick; but as just the 24th overall selection in the 2015 draft, it was a stroke of genius as the Dodgers took a chance after he came up with a sore arm at Vanderbilt.

Chris Taylor was acquired from the Mariners in a trade for pitcher Zach Lee, who never even pitched for Seattle.

Kenta Maeda came over from Japan, and he has been a vital member of the rotation over the past four seasons.

Above all, the key under Friedman has been player development at the minor league level.

The 2016 draft has a chance to become legendary, as Gavin Lux, Will Smith, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin all were drafted that year, reached the majors this year and have a chance to make the postseason roster. (Smith definitely, the other three maybe.) It’s amazing: A team that just reached two straight World Series came up with four rookies of this caliber the very next season. (Alex Verdugo also has rookie status, although he debuted in 2017.) That’s how you win seven division titles in a row.

Don’t underestimate the impressive nature of this achievement. Here’s the list of teams who finished in first place seven consecutive seasons:

• 2013 to 2019 Dodgers (seven NL West titles)
• 1998 to 2006 Yankees (nine AL East titles)
• 1995 to 2005 Braves* (11 NL East titles)

*: Some will credit the Braves with 14 straight division titles, choosing to skip the 1994 strike season; the Braves were in second place at the time of the strike.

That’s it. Three times. The 1995 to 2001 Indians won six in seven years. The Yankees’ dynasty from 1949 to 1964 included an incredible 14 AL pennants in 16 seasons, but had a high run of five in a row. (Granted, that was before divisions, so they had to beat the entire the league.) The 2007-2011 Phillies won five divisions in a row. The Big Red Machine of the 1970s is considered one of the greatest teams of all time. They topped out at two division titles in a row.

So, yes, this is a monumental run of excellence for the Dodgers. No, it’s not simply because of money. The Yankees will win the AL East this year — their first division title since 2012. The Red Sox have won four World Series since 2003 — and finished in first place just five times.

Of course, mentioning those World Series championships gets us to how a lot of fans — even Dodgers fans — may feel about this seventh title: Show me a ring.

That’s unfair. For one thing, it devalues the regular season we all spend countless hours consuming, enjoying and celebrating. For the players and everyone else in the organization, a division title is extremely important, the first goal every team has when spring training begins. Just look at the celebration and tell the Dodgers this doesn’t mean anything. That’s an insult to all the work they’ve put in and all the games they’ve won.

This is the first step to the ultimate goal: the Dodgers’ first World Series title since 1988. While it’s unfair to say this division title doesn’t mean anything, it is fair to suggest that following this seventh title and following two straight World Series defeats, the Dodgers will enter the postseason with more pressure and expectations on them than any other team. But that’s a discussion for another time. If you’re a Dodgers fan and didn’t enjoy the celebration in Baltimore because only the October tournament matters, than I don’t know what to tell you. The journey is the joy.



Corey Seager hit a three-run homer in the top of the first inning, then poured on another two-run homer in the third to give the Dodgers a 6-0 lead.

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The Phillie Phanatic makeover has been revealed



The Philadelphia Phillies played their spring training home opener on Sunday, and unveiled the new-look Phillie Phanatic.

Here’s a full breakdown of the Phanatic’s makeover, and the reason for the changes.

The Phillies defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-3, by the way. And the Phanatic proved that some things never change.

See? We told you so.

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MLB tells court attempts at cheating are part of sports



NEW YORK — Attempts at cheating are a part of sports, Major League Baseball said in urging a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by fantasy contestants.

Five men sued MLB, MLB Advanced Media, the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox in federal court in Manhattan, claiming fraud, violation of consumer protection laws, negligence, unjust enrichment and deceptive trade practices by teams that violated MLB’s rules against the use of electronics to steal catchers’ signs. The five said they participated in DraftKings fantasy baseball contests.

“Rules violations — large and small, intentional and unintentional, technical and game-changing — are a never-ending source of sports television, talk radio, web and elevator commentary by sports pundits and fans alike,” MLB said Friday in papers submitted to U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff. “And fans’ general awareness of the potential for infractions is underscored in this case by the fact that clubs were publicly disciplined for electronic sign-stealing violations during the 2017 regular season.”

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred ruled last month that the Astros violated sign-stealing rules during home games en route to their World Series title in 2017 and again in 2018. He suspended manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for one season each, and both were fired by the team. Manfred fined the Astros $5 million, the maximum under MLB rules, and stripped the team of its next two first- and second-round draft picks.

He also is investigating allegations against the Red Sox.

In its papers, MLB cited a 2010 opinion by Judge Robert Cowen for a 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel that upheld the dismissal of a suit by a New York Jets season-ticket holder against the NFL, New England coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots over the Spygate scandal.

“It appears uncontested that players often commit intentional rule infractions in order to obtain an advantage over the course of the game,” Cowen wrote.

MLB maintained that “plaintiffs got exactly what they bargained for: contests determined by baseball players’ actual performance on the field, whatever the contributing factors, predictable or unpredictable, may have been” and added “not one plaintiff claims to have lost any fantasy baseball contest as a result of sign-stealing or otherwise.”

Houston submitted papers to dismiss, citing the Astros’ better performance on the road in 2017: The Astros hit .279 at home with 395 runs and 115 homers at home vs. road stats of .284, 501 runs and 123 homers.

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Marlins’ Derek Jeter calls Astros scandal a ‘black eye’ for baseball



JUPITER, Fla. — Derek Jeter wishes baseball could change the subject.

The Miami Marlins CEO, who masterfully steered clear of controversy throughout his Hall of Fame playing career, has watched with dismay each new headline in the Houston Astros‘ sign-stealing scandal.

“It’s like a slow drip of responses coming out from everyone,” Jeter said Monday at the Marlins’ spring training camp. “You hope at some point people can just move on. But look, it’s unfortunate. It’s a black eye for the sport.”

Jeter spoke publicly for the first time since commissioner Rob Manfred concluded the Astros violated rules by using a TV camera to steal catchers’ signs during their run to the 2017 World Series title and again in the 2018 season.

Manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for one season and then fired by the team. The commissioner’s punishment has been widely criticized because players were not disciplined.

“When you talk about people trying to get an edge in baseball, I don’t think that’s anything new. People have been trying to do it for years,” Jeter said. “But, obviously, people took it way too far. And there are penalties for it. They’re paying the price.

“Regardless of what the penalties are, others are going to have their opinions on what they think should happen. You hope that over time it passes. But I’m sure this is going to sting for a while.”

Last month, Jeter came within one vote of being a unanimous pick for the Hall of Fame. As the New York Yankees‘ shortstop he was all about winning, but in his two seasons with the Marlins they’ve gone 120-203.

Miami’s farm system is much improved, however, and while Jeter declines to predict when the Marlins might become playoff contenders, he believes the depth of young talent will begin to pay dividends in 2020.

“This organization is in a lot better shape than when we took over,” he said. “We should be a lot better this year than we were last year. I’ve always preached competition. We have an organization that is layered with talent. Guys are going to start pushing, and that’s a good thing.”

Miami went 57-105 in 2019, the worst record in the National League. Many projections have the Marlins winning around 70 games this year.

Another challenge for Jeter is to put more fans in the seats. Last season the Marlins finished last in the NL in attendance for the 14th time in the past 15 years.

“From the interactions I’ve had, people are starting to get excited,” Jeter said. “We’re trying to earn the trust of the fan base. It takes a little time. We’re hoping more people are starting to trust us, and they come out and give us a chance.”

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