Sunday Night Baseball: Interview with ESPN's Tim Kurkjian about the Dodgers and the Angels

In advance of this Sunday evening’s game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball at 5 pm PST, I had the great pleasure of speaking to ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian so I could get his thoughts on the Dodgers, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the late Tony Gwynn. Tim has, for many years, regularly appeared on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, served as in-game reporter on Monday Night Baseball, and has written for and ESPN The Magazine.

You can listen to my interview with Tim here, or read his thoughts below:

-Thoughts on Dodgers managing to have the best record in the National League by the All Star break:

“I’m surprised that they are where they are because I didn’t see the Giants falling this quickly after that great start, and if I were a Dodgers fan, I’d be thrilled where the team is right now, given what you said. You go almost six weeks without Clayton Kershaw. Your outfield situation is injured and a complete mess. All sorts of injuries in the infield: catcher, third base, everywhere else, shortstop. And they’ve hung in there. So there are two ways to look at this: the Giants let them back in this, or the Dodgers are really good and they’ve weathered their biggest storm and now they’re ready to take off. Now, I’m not sure they’re a great team by any means. But I think they’re in a really good spot now because as long as you’re healthy with Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu, I think you’ve got a chance to do all sorts of things, and that’s where they are right now.”

Jul 15, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; National League pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch in the second inning during the 2014 MLB All Star Game at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

-Thoughts on whether or not the Dodgers need to make a trade for the stretch run (such as going after David Price):

“Well, I think they’ll add to the bullpen because almost every contender seemingly does that these days knowing you win a lot of games with a deep, versatile bullpen. I’ll be really interested to see where they go with David Price. I’ve asked two dozen executives it seems like in the last three weeks what’s gonna happen with David Price. Several of them have told me the Dodgers seem like the likely destination if there is a destination for him, meaning if Tampa Bay trades him. Just seems like so few teams have the necessary prospects to get David Price and, just as important, enough money to sign him long term because you can’t trade two of your best young kids and just have David Price for a year and two months. So, I think the Dodgers are in on this. I don’t think its gotten to the point where they’ve said, ‘Okay, you know we’re gonna need Pederson and Seager to get this done’. But I think we’re at a point where the Dodgers have to consider this and the Rays are looking around. Just one warning on the Rays for all Dodger fans, they are NOT going to get taken on this deal, they are NOT going to do this deal—if there is one—without getting exactly what they want. Andrew Friedman is a VERY good general manager for the Rays, and one of the strengths of a good GM is he will walk away unless he get what he wants. And I don’t think that’s happened, certainly to this point.”

-Thoughts on Dodgers’ outfield situation, and possible trade:

“I don’t think they’re gonna to trade Matt Kemp, and I don’t think they’re gonna trade any of those outfielders. I just think ultimately, unless the Dodgers are willing to pick up enormous amounts of those deals, they’re not gonna trade Ethier, or Crawford, or Kemp. I’m just not sure, sorry, who would want Matt Kemp at a really high price right now, a really high price. I’d take a shot at him if he were relatively cheap and see if I could find whatever he’s lost over the last two years. But not at an exorbitant rate, I don’t think anyone would do that. Ethier is paid a lot of money, and so is Carl Crawford. So, my guess is all those guys stay and my guess is if there is a change in that Dodger outfield they go get Joc Pederson from the minor leagues. Put him in center field, and he would be the only true center fielder on their team. And say, ‘alright, go catch everything, we’ll see if you hit’. But then Don Mattingly is going to have to mix and match with ANOTHER outfielder out there and he’s got his hands full with the current group he has.”

-Thoughts on Puig’s maturity this season and how Dodgers have ‘reigned him in':

“Yeah, I think the Dodgers have done a very good job because they have a young guy here who was totally out of control last year and this year he’s only a little bit out of control. I think that’s progress. As Don Mattingly told me, last year he would take one step backwards for every two steps forward. This year he’s taking only one step backward for every ten steps forward. That is indeed progress. I think most people around baseball are pretty impressed with how Puig has made some progress here. And it’s hard for a young player, especially one who doesn’t speak the language, to figure everything out over here. I know from my perspective he’s been in the news far less than he was last year, and I think for the Dodgers that’s a good sign.”

Jul 15, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; National League outfielder Yasiel Puig (66) of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts before the 2014 MLB All Star Game at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

-Thoughts on the rest of MLB ‘warming up’ to Puig:

“Yeah, I think so. And he’s also produced through it all, again. He produced last year and people weren’t real comfortable with him. But he’s continued to produce and now he’s got, you know, well over 162 major league games under his belt and that first 162 was a pretty breath-taking first season if you wanna look at it that way. I think people look at him and say, ‘Well, the one thing he does do is he plays really hard all the time’, and that’s all anybody really wants is somebody who really cares and is really trying and that’s what he’s doing. He’s got a lot more work to go, as does almost any young players. I think it helps—helps is not the right term—but you know when Manny Machado, another young player, has an issue, however small, that he had this year I think it proves a point that Puig is not the only young guy out there who has a little bit of trouble and needs a little help once in a while.”

-Thoughts on the Angels being able to make the playoffs:

“Well I think they’re equipped right now to make the playoffs, for sure. I think, after Oakland they’re the second best team in baseball heading into the second half of the season. But in order to beat the A’s and make some noise in the playoffs, they’re going to need another reliever. And, just logically, Huston Street of the Padres seems to be the perfect choice there if they can make a move and get him. He seems to be willing to move on if he’s allowed, and I think the Padres in their current situation could use some help certainly offensively. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if a trade like that happens. And if the Angels were to add a quality closer, I think they could beat the A’s in the division and I think they’d be good enough to win the World Series. I’m not saying either is gonna happen, but I think they’re going to the playoffs no matter what. And I wasn’t saying that six months ago.”

-Thoughts on Mike Trout’s contract extension working out for both Trout and the Angels:

“I think it’s pretty fair for both sides. I think the Angels have got, unquestionably, the best player in baseball. And Mike Trout, for his end, got paid a lot of money long before he becomes a free agent. So both sides really win on this one. I don’t think Mike Trout even has to look at it that way because his next contract will be the really big one and there’s no telling where that one’s going to end up. But when you’re a team, you just have to keep your best players, period. And then, secondly, you have to keep them away from arbitration, if possible, and certainly away from free agency, if possible. That’s where the Angels are with Trout. And, I think they did really well to lock him up for a while and I think Trout is in a really good spot.”

Jul 15, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; American League outfielder Mike Trout (27) of the Los Angeles Angels holds up the MVP trophy after the 2014 MLB All Star Game at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

-Thoughts on MLB not honoring the late Tony Gwynn at the All Star game:

“Well, I was disappointed also. I thought they would do something for Tony Gwynn. And I thought they would do something for Don Zimmer, and maybe some of the others who have passed this year: Ralph Kiner, Jim Fregosi, Bob Welsh. But, I think you think of the All-Star Game and a lot of times you think about Tony Gwynn. He was a great, great player and a great, great All-Star. And, I think this is going to spur other teams now to have a little moment in the middle of the game like they do at the Hall of Fame induction and just recognize those that have passed on in the last year. It can be a very lengthy list and you have to be careful not to leave somebody off. But Tony Gwynn, something should have been done for him and I think Major League Baseball understands that.”

Don’t forget to tune in to ESPN at 4 pm PST for Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown, hosted by Karl Ravech and Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. Sunday Night Baseball will follow at 5 pm PST, with Dan Shulman, John Kruk, and Buster Olney calling the game.

Tags: Clayton Kershaw Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim Los Angeles Dodgers Mike Trout MLB Tony Gwynn Yasiel Puig

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