LEFT ON BASE: Tyler White, Cody Thomas, and the Temporary End of Dodger Baseball

Several Dodger players walk together with their gear across a practice field.

It was gonna be our year.  We got Betts and Price and Graterol.  We got to keep Joc and Ross.  Kersh and Kenley were looking sharper than ever and Buehler had both his curveballs and his f-bombs locked and loaded.  CT was looking good, Pollo looking buff, Belli as lazily lethal as ever, and all of them were getting on base. Seager was finally fully healthy, and the potential from the minor league teams was brighter and brighter with every called-up swing. 

And then…well, you know

Suspending the season was absolutely the right call.  There’s no question about that now.  It doesn’t make it easier to stomach.

The Dodger season ending was particularly abrupt.  The game started with Buehler on the mound for the Dodgers.  He looked good, but you could tell he was trying out some things, a few of which weren’t working as well as others.  Even so, he only gave up three hits and one run.  For the Brewers, Freddy Peralta was looking very sharp, giving up only two hits, though one was a home run from Seager. 

At the top of the fifth, when the weather began to make more of a serious threat, most of the veterans were pulled from the field and the prospects and non-roster invitees were sent out.  In the batter’s box, the second string shines, knocking in three runs on four hits with RBIs for Edwin Ríos, Tyler White, and Cody Thomas.  Kenley comes in for the 6th, gives up a single hit but still puts up a zero in the blustering weather. 

By the bottom of the seventh inning, the rain was coming down in earnest.  Ríos had a very long out to left field, but both White and Thomas were able to draw walks.  The Brewers were in the process of bring out another arm when the crew chief called the game. 

In spring training, it’s recorded as a win, but it’s a frustrating one. With only one out in the inning and several of our promising prospects to follow in the lineup, the Dodgers could have really done some damage.  Instead, we are left with a big, yawning nothing, as the next day’s game against the Cubs was rained out and the suspension went into effect that afternoon.

It’s incredible to think that, at the moment, the Dodgers have temporarily ended their 2020 season with a record of 10-7.

In all of this sorrow and frustration surrounding the lack of baseball – of everything, really – I keep coming back to the two men left on base.  Cody Thomas and Tyler White – the last Dodgers on base for the foreseeable future.

Left On Base in the Rain

Cody Thomas was one of the breakout prospect stars of the 2020 spring training season.  Long limbed and nimble, he’s made a few spectacular right field plays that grabbed the crowd’s attention.  With Betts’s time with the Dodgers limited, the idea of a two-thirds Cody outfield has a nice sound to it.  And Thomas is even more impressive in the batter’s box.  He’s tied for first in the league for home runs with five and tied for third for RBIs with eleven.  If he had continued to impress and stayed healthy through the summer, a September call-up seemed his to turn down.     

I’ve spent a lot of time watching Tyler White.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that his presence on the team confounds and fascinates me.  Being with the Dodgers has perhaps spared him the entire crowd booing him, but he has not escaped the hecklers.  While at bat agains the Rangers, one fan from the stands openly harassed him, shouting, “Once a cheater always a cheater, Tyler.”  It was so loud and venomous that it caused a not-quite-silent scoffing gasp from Joe and Orel.  Earlier that same game, Tyler had an RBI single and was walked on base for Cody Thomas’s 2 RBI home run. 

Cody Thomas doesn’t tie with Bryce Harper for 11 spring training RBIs without Tyler White’s discipline at the plate. 

White has walked five times this spring, tying Ríos with 5.  Only Max Muncy and Zach Reks have walked more for the Dodgers.  He has a better batting average than Bellinger, Betts, Pollock, Lux, Smith, Muncy, and Beaty. Literally no one has played more games in one position as White has at first.  And while he still had to endure fat jokes and harassment for his weight, not to mention the tendency to have his at-bats plastered over with player side-line interviews on broadcasts, Tyler White was quietly building a very respectable spring training.  But does that matter?  Could this have been Tyler White’s redemption season?  And if it was, were Dodger fans ready to let that happen?

In a game made of rhythms and rituals, a complete shutdown for an uncertain time is a huge disturbance.  Even with the best at-home training and conditioning sessions, it’s very unlikely any player picks up exactly where they left off. What does it mean for Betts and his one-year contract?  What about Turner, who has made some small noises about retirement?  Or for Kersh and Kenley, who have fine-tuned their arms for a championship season?  We can speculate and formulate all day, but the truth is, we just don’t know. 

I think a lot about Tyler White and Cody Thomas. One player poised to make a major league splash, one player seeking to overcome the stigma of cheating the very team he’s now fighting to stay a part of.

Both left on base in the rain.

 

For more on Tyler White from Tavi, click here.

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