Whicker: Can Brewers star Christian Yelich stay hot for one more month?
How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire “I guess that shows how smart I am,” McDonnell said.Yelich has spent 2018 making his believers look smart and the Marlins look otherwise.He led the league in hitting (.326) and slugging (.598) and was second in home runs (36) and third in RBIs (108).After the All-Star Game, Yelich traded his pedestrian wood bat for a lightsaber. He cranked 25 home runs in 65 games and hit .367, slugged .770 and fashioned a 1.219 OPS. Thus he simplified the debate over who should be NL Most Valuable Player.Milwaukee might well designate Jan. 25 a civic holiday. That’s when General Manager David Stearns got Yelich from Miami for Lewis Brinson and three minor leaguers, and when he signed center fielder Lorenzo Cain, a former Brewer who had helped the Royals win a World Series. The Brewers tied a club record for wins (96) and open the National League Championship Series at home against the Dodgers on Friday night.Miami’s self-defoliation made even less sense when one considers Yelich’s neat contract. This year, he made $7 million for all that damage. His $49 million, seven-year deal expires in 2021, when he will make $14 million.But McDonnell felt a familiar ambivalence.In 2017, the NL MVP was Giancarlo Stanton, also signed by McDonnell out of Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks, also traded by the Marlins.Miami made Yelich its first-round pick, 23rd overall, in 2010. Catcher J.T. Realmuto, former Dodgers reliever Grant Dayton and Oakland hitter Mark Canha all came in that draft. The Marlins’ personnel shop has always found players, almost as quickly as its management team trades them.“Obviously I’m happy for Giancarlo and Christian,” McDonnell said. “I just wish they were still playing for us.”Sign up for our Inside the Dodgers newsletter. Be the best Dodger fan you can be by getting daily intel on your favorite team. Subscribe here.McDonnell used to sneak into Notre Dame’s ballpark like a safecracker until he realized he was the only scout there. At Westlake, the scouts always gathered. That was a complication.Tom Battista was a scout for the Red Sox. He now works for the Braves. He is McDonnell’s friend, and he was also seeing Alecia Yelich, Christian’s mom, whom he later married. McDonnell tried to blend into whatever crowd Westlake had. He didn’t want anyone, particularly Battista, to know the Marlins were so enamored with Yelich.“I had a lot of people tell me, later, that we picked their pocket,” McDonnell said.“Team Yelich has really done a great job,” said Zach Miller, Westlake’s coach at the time. “Alecia had a plan for Christian and it’s come to life.“I remember a bomb he hit off Tyler Skaggs (Santa Monica) at Westlake,” Miller said. “That one wound up on second base on the JV field. There was one at St. Paul that hit a car in the parking lot beyond center field. But he always wanted what was best for the team. That’s why he played all those positions.”“I’d seen the ability, but I hadn’t seen the fire, the leadership,” McDonnell said. “One day, they played El Dorado and Christian slid into home and the catcher got a little rough, and Christian came up ready to go. He wasn’t having any of it. That answered that question.”Maybe the football genes came out. Alecia’s grandfather was Fred Gehrke, a former L.A. Rams receiver for Bob Waterfield who became the general manager of the Denver Broncos when they won their first AFC championship.But Gehrke’s real legacy is the curling horn on the Rams’ helmet. He designed that, primarily because all the NFL helmets were blank at the time.Related Articles Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies He was a left fielder when he was a freshman. He was a first baseman as a sophomore.Shortstop beckoned him as a junior. He finished his Westlake High career as a third baseman.“That was the only question anybody had,” said Tim McDonnell, the Miami Marlins’ scout. “Did he have a position?”So Christian Yelich won the National League Gold Glove award for left fielders in 2014, the youngest Marlins player ever to win one. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season Christian’s uncle Chris was an offensive lineman at UCLA when Rick Neuheisel was quarterbacking.At 26, Christian has already pocketed history. He hit for the cycle on Aug. 30 and Sept. 20, both against the same team (Cincinnati), which was unprecedented. He was 6 for 6 the second time.“I saw the ball in the air (that became a triple) and thought, no way this has just happened again,” he said.Yelich hit .310 at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, the first one Team USA ever won, and was all-tournament.But now that Yelich spent 2018 daring himself to beat whatever he’d done yesterday, he officially says goodbye to shadows.Instead, he will be followed wherever he goes. As will Tim McDonnell. Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco