Although it doesn’t feel like it after a massive Game 3 win, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ high hopes are once again teetering on the brink.
This club needs to take three of four from a formidable Atlanta Braves team to stay alive, and on Thursday they’re counting on Clayton Kershaw — a guy who wasn’t able to pitch Tuesday due to back spasms. This is a tough spot, and for all their talent FanGraphs gives them only a 40.5 per cent chance of winning the series.
Writing off the Dodgers would be ludicrous, but it’s worth considering the implications of another playoff heartbreak. Thanks to the team’s decision to extend Mookie Betts there’s an argument to be made that 2020 doesn’t carry outsized importance for this group, but coming back to win the NLCS feels particularly crucial for one of the stalwarts of this team. Specifically, Justin Turner.
When we talk about the Dodgers getting over the hump, that conversation centres around Kershaw and his inconsistent October performances. This time it’s different. Not only has Kershaw been outstanding in these playoffs (14 innings of 1.93 ERA ball with a 2-0 record), even if he lays an egg on Thursday he has a baked-in injury excuse. He’s also under contract for next year, and after he rejuvenated his stuff in 2020 it’s easier to have confidence he’ll have more cracks at this — probably with the Dodgers.
Turner is a bit of a different case. He’s not an inner-circle Hall of Famer like Kershaw, but he’s a star in his own right. Since he came to the Dodgers in 2014 his WAR of 26.6 ranks 19th among all position players, sandwiched between George Springer and Xander Bogaerts. His wRC+ of 141 ranks 14th, right behind Bryce Harper. Although he’s often been overshadowed by superstar teammates, he’s been a through line of the Dodgers’ success in the Andrew Friedman era. Unlike many of those more famous running mates, he’s also tended to come through in the playoffs, hitting .281/.373/.474 against a virtually-identical regular-season line of .292/.369/.469.
Watch Game 5 of the ALCS between the Rays and Astros on Sportsnet & SN Now at 5:00 p.m. ET / 2:00 p.m. PT. Game 4 of the NLCS between the Dodgers and Braves follows at 8:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. PT on Sportsnet, Sportsnet One & SN Now.
If Turner’s legacy as a Dodger, and playoff performer, are secure, how this team performs in 2020 wouldn’t seem to weigh on him too heavily. However, the stakes are extremely high for the third baseman for two reasons.
The first is that this is probably his last run with the Dodgers. Turner turns 36 at the end of this year and hits free agency following the season. The Dodgers have a number of alternatives at third base including Max Muncy, promising up-and-comer Edwin Ríos — who’s slugged .634 in his first 139 MLB plate appearances — and blue-chip prospect Kody Hoese, who could be a starter as soon as 2022. There are also scenarios where Gavin Lux or Corey Seager slide over. Despite their financial resources, Los Angeles likes to stay flexible both financially and positionally. Retaining Turner — for all of his positive qualities — would hamper them on both fronts.
Wherever Turner might go next year he will have a worse chance of winning the World Series than he would with the Dodgers. Even if he signed with another team, and found his way to the mountaintop, it might not be quite the same as doing it where he spent his prime. Whether you want to be 100 per cent practical or 100 per cent sentimental, there’s something to be said for Turner winning with the Dodgers, and there’s a good chance this is the last opportunity for that to happen.
The second reason that Turner needs this to keep going is to bolster his free agent case, which is already a murky one. On one hand, the veteran is coming off a season where he posted a 140 wRC+, marking the seventh consecutive season he’s been a significantly above-average offensive contributor. He also had a 14.9 per cent strikeout rate, which is appealing to teams in this high-whiff era — and helps indicate his bat speed isn’t gone.
On the flip side, Turner hit only four home runs this year, missed time due to a soft-tissue injury, and saw his Isolated Slugging take a massive dive.
It’s also unclear what you’re getting from Turner with the glove at this point considering his age and the scattershot nature of his defensive metrics in recent years.
Then there’s the matter of his post-season performance in 2020, which has been brutal thus far. Turner is hitting just .167/.278/.167 during this playoff run. When you put it all together, you can paint two very different free agency narratives for Turner: one if the Dodgers come back and win it all, another if they fall short again. Here’s how that looks:
If the Dodgers come back and win it all: Turner gets more games to salvage his post-season and is lauded as the guy, along with Kershaw, who got through all the Dodgers’ struggles and finally broke through. If he gets a crucial hit or two in the World Series, he can easily slide from “longtime star” to “franchise icon”. Should Los Angeles get into the sentimental re-signing of World Series winners, he even has a chance of returning.
If he goes elsewhere, his “veteran presence” credibility is increased significantly by his ring — which might add a little premium to his next contact. Even if he doesn’t perform in the playoffs, he’ll be remembered as a strong October performer thanks to his overall numbers, and the fact he’s a World Series champ. Turner will be seen as a player who can help put another team over the top, perhaps one with a younger core that hasn’t been there yet.
If the Dodgers fall to the Braves: Turner’s post-season goes down as a failure, and one that reinforced his biggest worry during the season (his inability to hit for extra-base power). Anxieties about his potential decline as a hitter — valid or not — increase because of recency bias. His chances of returning to the Dodgers likely decrease, and his legacy with that franchise is as a core member of the teams that simply couldn’t win it all. His credibility as a veteran is beyond repute, but his agent doesn’t get to sell prospective suitors on a champion.
There’s a pretty significant difference there in terms of both status — particularly in the context of the Dodgers franchise — and free agent dollars. Kershaw may be the face of this team’s quest to end a 32-year title drought, but nobody needs it more than Turner.
Joey Moss bled Edmonton sports and taught a generation about vulnerability – Sportsnet.ca
EDMONTON — The players and coaches, so many of whom have been tribute tweeting over the past day, saw one side of Joey Moss. The behind closed doors, “Once an Oiler/Edmonton Football Team player, always an Oiler/Edmonton Football Team player,” view.
Us sportswriters, dressing room visitors for a select few hours of the week, we saw another. And the fans here in Edmonton — and across Canada — they saw some part of it all as well, from yet another angle.
But the people who really knew Joseph Neil Moss, who picked him up in the morning, shared a traditional game-day hot tub, or moved him in with their families for weeks at a time during training camps or road trips, were the training staff. People like Lyle “Sparky” Kulchisky, Dwayne Mandrusiak, Ken Lowe and Barrie Stafford — the equipment and medical staff who are the inner workings of the pro sports wristwatch — never rotated in and out the way coaches and players always do.
They saw it every day for a few decades, the impact Moss — who hailed from a local, musically-inclined family — had on 35 years of hockey and football players who passed through this city.
“We saw a side of Joe that was compassionate, but serious at times,” said 49-year Edmonton Football Team equipment man Mandrusiak. “Joe knew when things were not going well and you didn’t joke around. Whether it was vacuuming, doing the laundry or whatever it was, when it was time to go, he took his job seriously.
“But he’d also come up to you when you were having a bad day, put his arm around you and say ‘You’re OK with me.’ You had to smile.’”
The #Oilers organization is extremely saddened by the passing of our dear friend & colleague, the legendary Joey Moss.Once an Oiler, always an Oiler.RIP, Joey. pic.twitter.com/KJSkN9oO9W
The entire EE Football Team organization is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Joey Moss.Edmonton lost a hero today. Joey’s bravery, humor, strength, work ethic & perseverance in our dressing room & in our community left indelible impressions that will live with us all. pic.twitter.com/8ATs8ckQMS
At the time he was brought into the Oilers dressing room, Moss was better known to the organization as the 21-year-old younger brother of Wayne Gretzky’s then-girlfriend, singer Vikki Moss. It was an act of inclusion on the part of Gretzky, Glen Sather and the Oilers organization — giving a chance to the 12th of 13 kids born to Lloyd and Sophie Moss in a small home on Edmonton’s east side.
In the end, it was Joey who did all the giving, migrating over to the Edmonton Football Team dressing room and leaving behind a legacy that had Stafford’s phone alight since news of Joey’s passing broke on Monday night.
“Ryan Smyth, Ales Hemsky, Eric Brewer, Steve Staios, Ethan Moreau, Gretz, of course… I have over 200 text messages,” said Stafford. “Anyone in the inner circle has a feeling for the impact Joey had on people lives. How can such a small person have such a large impact? The sports community, the disability community… Is there a person with Down syndrome who has had this kind of an impact in our country? In any country?
“I do believe he’s an iconic Canadian.”
In the heartless world that pro sports can be, Joey became the goat in the horse barn, putting an arm around a player that had just been released, assuring him better days lie ahead, and leaving an impression that no coach, GM or teammate possibly could.
“He changed my life immensely,” Kulchisky said on Tuesday, the morning after Moss passed at an Edmonton hospital. “I was ignorant to Down syndrome – I didn’t understand it and I didn’t want to. He made me become a more patient, sensitive person.
“He made all of us — you included – better people. More understanding.”
As the rosters became fluid, as the once-mighty Oilers and the Edmonton Football Team took their turns at the bottom of the standings, their rosters churning through forgettable name after forgettable name, Moss was a rare constant.
You could look down on the Edmonton Football Team sidelines and ask, ‘Who is No. 76? He’s standing next to Joey.’ Or walking out of what seemed like a decade-long string of Oilers losses, you could think of Joey on the scoreboard belting out the anthem before the game, and there was at least one smile your team gave you that night.
Moss bled blue and orange by winter, green and gold by summer, teaching a generation of Edmonton sports fans about vulnerability, and putting it all out there even when you’re a bit off-key some of the time. Or all of the time.
Janet & I are saddened to learn about the passing of Joey Moss. Not only was Joey a fixture in the Edmonton dressing room, he was someone I truly considered a friend. We will miss you Joey and you will always live on through our memories. Our thoughts are with Joey’s loved ones.
With the greatest of all-time… and #99. Oil Country sure won’t be the same without you, Joey. Thanks for always brightening up any day and may you rest easy my friend. pic.twitter.com/p7yGRqTdbk
Someone who could brighten your day with just a smile or a wink. May you rest in peace Joey, you will be missed by so many. pic.twitter.com/ecuxIBiWPU
It’s OK to blindly love your team, win, lose or draw. And if you’re going to sing “O Canada” in front of 18,000 people and a national TV audience, you’d better not leave anything in the bag. His anthems were legendary, sung from a seat a few rows above the Oilers bench.
“He loved to sing and he loved to dance,” Stafford said. “My wife and her mother took tap dancing lessons. He went in one of their recitals and was the star performer, the hit of the recital. The thing that Joey did was, he gave pure joy to people. He made everyone smile… His two loves were dancing and singing, and they came naturally through his family.”
Along the way, he became a cornerstone of the teams, sent down the hall to the visitor’s dressing room to wish Mathieu Schneider a “Happy Hanukkah!” or to deliver the organizational handshake to a new husband or father. He was as welcome in the dressing rooms of every visiting CFL or NHL team as he was in Edmonton’s.
Part of that was due to his ability to fit in seamlessly.
In sports, if they’re not kidding around with you or pulling your leg, it’s because you haven’t been accepted yet. If they treat you with kid gloves it’s because you are seen to be on the outside, and the closer you get to the heart of a team the sharper your wits had better become.
“If they don’t mess with you, don’t tease you, they don’t like you,” said Mandrusiak.
“What struck me about Joey,” began long-time Edmonton sports columnist Cam Cole, “was how no one treated him like a ‘special needs’ guy. He was just a completely integrated part of the dressing room culture, going about his business, giving and taking chirps from the players. Like the time he was vacuuming the rug, in between reporters’ feet while John Muckler was doing a stand-up interview. Muck interrupted himself to say, ‘—- off, Joey,’ then continued his comments, and Joey simply kept vacuuming, a few feet away.
“He was a part of the scenery, a part of the mood, often happy, sometimes crabby like everyone else. One of the boys.”
Moss’ dancing, bellowing version of La Bamba was legendary inside those rooms, as Moss blasted out a brand of Karaoke that most of those elite athletes, with their muscles and macho, would never have the courage to attempt.
It was while he was dancing a few months back that his hip gave out. “He was dancing by the lunch table,” said Kulchisky. “His body just gave way.”
A broken hip, advancing Alzheimer’s and the pox that is this COVID-19 era combined to hand Joey a final few weeks he surely did not deserve, distanced in palliative care from those loved ones who would have loved to put an arm around him the way he did so many others, so many times.
By the time closed his eyes at age 57, Moss had lived perhaps 30 years longer than doctors would have predicted back in 1963.
“The football club and the Oilers kept him alive that long,” Kulchisky reckoned. “A lot of time, as Down syndrome people age, they just put them in front of a TV in the morning and call them for dinner. Joe woke up every day to a challenge. With the Oilers, at least 40 people a day were counting on him. He had a purpose, Joe.
“That’s what kept him alive, kept him going.”
Until Monday, when the song finally ended for Joseph Moss, Edmonton legend.
They come and they go, in this sports world where the speed of change seems to have quadrupled as my career passes the 30-year mark. There was, for me, no comparable for Joey Moss.
They broke the mould, either before or after they made Joey.
Joey Moss: Edmonton's unsung sports hero has died – CityNews Edmonton
Cam Newton: Starting Job In Danger If Poor Play Continues – RealGM.com
Cam Newton admitted his job as quarterback of the New England Patriots will be in jeopardy if he struggles like he did against the San Francisco 49ers.
“The first thing I said to myself coming home was, ‘You keep playing games like that, bro, and it’s going to be a permanent change,'” Newton said Monday morning on Boston sports radio WEEI.
“You don’t need to tell me that for me to understand that. I get it loud and clear.”
Bill Belichick said he’s “absolutely” sticking with Newton as his starter despite giving Jarrett Stidham some reps in the fourth quarter.
“For any type of competitor, do you feel embarrassed? Yeah,” Newton said Monday in the radio interview. “I don’t feel offended by what was done. I don’t feel offended having this type of conversation. I’m a realist.
“I don’t fear my position stability more so than controlling the locker room. Performances like yesterday jeopardizes [that]. It’s like ‘Oh my God!’ Players talk and that’s what’s most important to me. Knowing you have your coaches’ belief [is good], but my belief is that I want to have the whole facility … It doesn’t start with no miraculous play. It’s a whole body of work that goes into performing on Sunday.”
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