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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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Antonio Perez: Taken for Granted No More
2005-03-23
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

The defense of Antonio Perez raises eyebrows in the unpleasant Joan Rivers way, if the reports by Ken Gurnick of MLB.com and Tony Jackson of the Daily News are any indication.

"Although his spot on the opening-day roster seems secure, Antonio Perez continues to raise questions about his value as a utilityman," Jackson writes. "A natural second baseman, he committed his fourth error of the spring. All four have come on the left side of the infield, where club officials are hoping Perez can occasionally start and frequently enter as a late-inning replacement."

The follow-up question is whether Perez has the range to compensate for his errors, though there's little in the press reports to indicate this is the case. Although the errors are nothing to be happy about - apparently, a leaping Olmedo Saenz catch (you heard right) of a high throw by Perez spared the 25-year-old infielder a fifth error - here's some eyebrow relaxant. With Norihiro Nakamura and Jose Valentin on the roster, Perez isn't really needed for his defense on the left side.

Where the Dodgers could be most vulnerable is if there is an injury to Cesar Izturis. That could move Valentin, Nakamura and Perez out of their comfort zones - albeit with the tantalizing possibility that Joel Guzman would get his first sip of major league Starbucks.

Ultimately, Perez's role in 2005 is going to be to get on base. If he can't do that, the cries for slick-fielding Alex Cora will be heard from 570 to 1540. But if Perez fulfills his offensive promise, he'll be fine.

* * *

For review, the likely Dodger roster. Odalis Perez seems an increasingly good bet to make the Opening Day 25:

Catchers (2): Jason Phillips, Paul Bako

Infielders (7): Hee Seop Choi, Jeff Kent, Cesar Izturis, Jose Valentin, Olmedo Saenz, Antonio Perez, Norihiro Nakamura

Outfielders (5): Milton Bradley, J.D. Drew, Ricky Ledee, Jason Grabowski, Jayson Werth or Jason Repko

Starting rotation (4): Derek Lowe, Odalis Perez, Jeff Weaver, Scott Erickson

Swingman (1): Wilson Alvarez

Bullpen (6): Eric Gagne, Yhency Brazoban, Giovanni Carrara, Duaner Sanchez, Elmer Dessens, Mike Venafro or Kelly Wunsch (honestly, could you really need both of these guys?)

Comments (56)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2005-03-23 09:51:08
1.   Bob Timmermann
Any error the Dodgers make in the first week of the season is going to be exaggerated beyond belief.

I don't think it makes a difference who makes them.

However if Cesar Izturis hits poorly, that won't be an issue for some unknown reason.

2005-03-23 10:01:53
2.   JJoeScott
The cries might be heard BETWEEN 570 and 1540, since neither of those two stations seem to come in very clearly at night. I used to listen to Lee Klein nightly on either 690 or 1150, but 570 is a bunch of static. And I'm in Long Beach!!
2005-03-23 10:12:09
3.   Eric Enders
My question on Perez's defense is: Why now? He's been playing on the left side of the infield his whole life, and I've never heard his defense denigrated until this spring. Could this just be a sample size issue?

Honestly, anybody who can play passable shortstop should be able to become a good 3B. A-Rod turned himself into a Gold Glove-caliber 3Bman in a matter of, what, three weeks or so?

Do you guys think there will be a battle between Ross and Bako for the second catching spot, or has Ross's poor spring shut that door already?

2005-03-23 10:16:24
4.   Bob Timmermann
Perez is not fielding as well because he does not have the heroic inspirations of Alex Cora and Paul Lo Duca.

(Slaps himself in face)

Actually, I think it's just a spring training thing. And maybe a bit of pressure feeling that he has to prove he deserves his spot on the roster.

2005-03-23 10:21:13
5.   Icaros
"Do you guys think there will be a battle between Ross and Bako for the second catching spot, or has Ross's poor spring shut that door already?"

I think Bako automatically gets the nod due to his veteran experience (handling Maddux, et al.) and the fact that he is a lefty to compliment the righty Phillips.

DePodesta has already said that Bako breaks camp with LA.

Really, Ross looks like he needs to get back to AAA to find his swing (if it exists anymore). Maybe that Vegas air can instill him with some renewed confidence.

2005-03-23 10:23:11
6.   Jon Weisman
I think it very much could be a Spring Training/sample size issue, Eric - as well as the general nervousness about the Dodger defense that plagues so many - this belief that the team never made an error in 2004 but will make 300 in 2005.

Perez made about 20 errors in Las Vegas last year - I don't know if that's above or below average.

I wondered about Ross and Bako for the backup slot - I think the main issue is that Bako has a guaranteed, more expensive contract, while Ross still has options. I'm hoping it's not Bako's "veteran experience" by itself that has won him the job.

Still, Ross may be headed for a Jack Fimple-like disapperance...

2005-03-23 10:34:51
7.   Vishal
i thought depo was leaning towards having 12 pitchers. a buddy carlyle or a dj houlton, perhaps? though, i don't know who we'd lose.
2005-03-23 10:35:53
8.   Bob Timmermann
In my ratings of obscure Dodgers catchers, I think Fimple's 1983 was a lot better than Ross's 2004.
2005-03-23 10:45:03
9.   Jon Weisman
Fimple was more memorable but less impressive stat-wise.

Vishal, I hear all the discussion about a 12-man staff. And I'm more fine with it if you keep a long reliever like Carlyle or Houlton in place of the lesser of Venafro/Wunsch. But the idea of keeping a second LOOGY is fool's gold.

I wonder if Jason Grabowski is quietly finding himself on the bubble - at least for the opening couple of weeks.

2005-03-23 10:45:55
10.   Jon Weisman
By the way, Bob, did you mean Ross' 2003?
2005-03-23 10:50:10
11.   Bob Timmermann
No I was rating Ross in 2004 solely. Ross wasn't bad in 2003 as he hit his share of home runs in his limited playing time.
2005-03-23 10:51:47
12.   Jon Weisman
Then did you mean Fimple's 1984? I guess I don't understand why you're comparing Fimple's good year (1983) to Ross' bad year (2004).
2005-03-23 10:54:04
13.   Dodgerkid
Playing Bako over Ross is a mistake. Ross has the tantalizing possibility of being a decent backup with power, Bako is guaranteed to be terrible. I hope they reconsider.
2005-03-23 10:58:57
14.   Vishal
yeah, i don't see a scenario where we'd have TWO LOOGYs at the expense of a long reliever or a position player. that would be dumb. but i think we keep one of venafro or wunch, and add another reliever, and lose either repko or nakamura until penny comes back. then alvarez can go back to the pen and we can lose the extra reliever. i don't know if that's how i would do it necessarily, but that's what i see happening.
2005-03-23 11:03:28
15.   Jon Weisman
You're right, Vishal. Certainly, keeping 12 pitchers and losing a position player remains an Opening Day possibility.
2005-03-23 11:03:58
16.   Jeromy
I have a feeling that Antonio Perez isn't going to make the club opening day. With his slick fielding and power display this spring, I'm not sure they would send Nakamura down to AAA to accomodate another pitcher. DePodesta says he might even carry 12 pitchers. If Penny is healthy enough, he might take Perez's spot on your proposed roster. My only concern, is: if Perez doesn't make the club, who plays 2B if Kent gets hurt in the 1st inning of a game? Do they slide Izturis and Valentin around the infield and bring in a corner infielder off of the bench to play 3B?
2005-03-23 11:07:19
17.   Jon Weisman
Nakamura can be kept in the minors; Perez is out of options, I believe. Keep that in mind. And yes, I think they also want Perez as a backup to Kent, even if in an emergency they could shuffle the other guys around.

As I understand it, Penny has been ruled out for Opening Day, period.

2005-03-23 11:15:24
18.   Jeromy
So, if the Dodgers carry 11 pitchers, they send Nakamura down and not Perez. However, if they carry 12, does this mean they only carry 4 outfielders?
2005-03-23 11:16:46
19.   deburns
If Izturis goes down, Valentin is a decent SS, and Nakamura and Saenz can play 3B. If Perez is out of options, that is another way to go. With Grabowski having shown he can be the emergency C, there is a fair amount of position flexibility in the projected roster.
2005-03-23 11:34:43
20.   Jon Weisman
I don't understand your first sentence, Jeromy. If the Dodgers carry 11 pitchers, they will probably keep both Nakamura and Perez. If they carry 12 pitchers, they will probably send down Nakamura ... temporarily. Less-likely but remaining possibilities would be no Repko or Werth, no Perez or no Grabowski.
2005-03-23 11:46:34
21.   JJoeScott
Ross just homered.

Rick Monday's call: "Uncork a bottle of Champagne."

2005-03-23 11:46:55
22.   Eric Enders
And here is Ross complicating matters this afternoon by hitting a go-ahead homer.
2005-03-23 11:47:14
23.   Eric Enders
21 seconds too late -- story of my life.
2005-03-23 11:47:54
24.   JJoeScott
Choi hits one back-to-back following Ross. Hmmm ... I'm beginning to think it might be bad Tampa Bay pitching.
2005-03-23 11:47:55
25.   Eric Enders
Today is apparently Dodger-fan-whipping-boy-hits-homer day. Choi goes yard for his first home run as well.
2005-03-23 11:48:08
26.   Im So Blue
I just tuned in to the game today. Gagne pitched and was looking a lot better than the other day. David Ross has finally got his first hit of the Spring -- a homer to the opposite field. Followed by another homer by Choi. Dodgers 3, DRays 1.
2005-03-23 11:53:59
27.   JJoeScott
With all due respect, I'm listening to Monday's play by play as well and I couldn't tell you with any degree of certainty whether Gagne is looking better or not! ;-)
2005-03-23 12:01:22
28.   Vishal
i'm glad that we all seem to be rooting for ross, even if the likelihood for his success seems low. he seems like a really good kid.

anyway, back to the roster:

perez seems like a lock, if for no other reason than we need a backup for the middle IF positions, and there isn't really any other obviously better choice(thurston? schrager? i don't think so). now, i like nakamura, but do we really need both him AND saenz? perhaps we should keep nakamura, because he's a better fielder and can actually handle 3B as well as first. and he might be at least as good as saenz offensively, but that's not a given. saenz is a pretty known quantity, so do we want to ditch him? and depo has said that he has no qualms about batting saenz against RHP. either way though, one of them seems a little redundant, but i can't clearly determine which.

anyway, that seems to be the choice. given the fragility of our outfield, keeping the a 5th OF makes a lot of sense to me, so i'd keep repko around at least until werth is ready.

2005-03-23 12:07:37
29.   Eric Enders
Saenz is, and always has been, a really good hitter. I would be absolutely shocked if Nakamura turns out to be a better MLB hitter. As I see it, Nakamura is clearly the player who's redundant, not Saenz. (Nakamura may play a better defensive 3B, but then 3B is what Valentin and Perez are for.)
2005-03-23 12:08:19
30.   Icaros
I may have a few qualms about letting Saenz bat against RHP.

2004 OPS:

against LHP (65 abs) 1.057 OPS
against RHP (46 abs) .571 OPS

Small sample size, but still...ouch.

2005-03-23 12:19:16
31.   Eric Enders
Yeah, in 46 at-bats that means exactly nothing. Remember Voros' Law: "Anyone can hit anything in 60 at-bats."

Hee Seop Choi, incidentally, batted 62 times for the Dodgers last year.

2005-03-23 12:22:40
32.   Jon Weisman
At a certain point when configuring your bench, redundancies at some position are going to be inevitable - a sixth outfielder or a seventh infielder. So at that point, just take the best hitter. I wouldn't want Saenz to play defense on my softball team, but he's the Dodgers' best right-handed pinch-hitting candidate right now. You have to keep him.
2005-03-23 12:37:01
33.   alex 7
how funny, Jack Fimple is an assistant on the little league team I'm helping with. I'd heard he was a Dodgers catcher, as he seems to tell some people, but I'd never heard of him. Was he a hot prospect for a while or what's his story?
2005-03-23 12:42:47
34.   Jon Weisman
Alex, he was a real folk hero during the divisional pennant run in 1983. He was a rookie that came out of nowhere, so to speak, when Steve Yeager was injured and had some key hits to help the Dodgers win.

He had 37 hits and 22 RBI that season - eight hits and six RBI for the rest of his career.

Tell him to stop by the site - we love him here. It'd be cool to interview him if he's up for it.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/f/fimplja01.shtml

2005-03-23 13:01:43
35.   socalcardfan
I just looked at how the Dodgers acquired him; in a trade with the Indians along with Jorge Orta and Larry White for Jack Perconte and Rick Sutcliffe.

Ouch!

2005-03-23 13:01:51
36.   Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh
Has anyone seen a quote from DePo directly on his opinions of the value of a LOOGY? Trace seems insistent on having one, and I read a place where Colby said he wanted two. I like Tracy a lot, but I've always seen him as almost obsessed with L/R matchups. I thought DePo traded Tom Martin last year, not only to dump salary, but to prevent Tracy from constantly trotting him out in the 7th inning when a leftie came to bat. I was irritated to see Venafro called up last year, because I thought it was yet another temptation for Trace to do the same thing he did with Martin. I'm pretty sure DePo's careful to take Tracy's opinions into account, as he should, but unless Wunsch or Venafro truly pitch themselves on the roster, I really would rather DePo present Trace a fait accompli.

WWSH

2005-03-23 13:02:42
37.   Ben P
In terms of whether it would be useful to have five outfielders on the roster rather than four, it's worth remembering that Valentin can also play the outfield. It wouldn't be a huge sacrifice if we had to stick him out there since Perez, Nakamura and Saenz can all play third. The permutations are endless...

What about the Repko vs. Grabowski debate? Does Grabowski win out just because he's the "known quantity"?

2005-03-23 13:05:34
38.   Jon Weisman
I think DePodesta probably doesn't want a bad LOOGY, but sees enough situations where a good one is of use. He was the one who pursued Venafro, after all. Probably just doesn't want to pay a whole lot for one.

Repko bats right; Grabowski bats left. Start the discussion there.

2005-03-23 13:06:34
39.   alnyden
Personally I'm not going to make any rush judgements about this team for at least 20-30 games. I was as upset as anyone with all the changes, including losing Cora. I wouldn't be surprised if our defense is not as good as last year. But I've embraced change, am excited about the new year, and looking foward to baseball. As long as I can get a grilled dodger dog and sit in the stadium as the sun goes down over the mountains, I can live with some errors.
2005-03-23 13:17:09
40.   Eric Enders
As for Repko vs Grabowski, I'd choose Grabowski, and it's not a tough choice.

Remember, this is Spring Training, people. If spring training were real life, Jason Romano and James Loney would be Hall of Famers.

For some perspective:
Tony Womack is currently batting .488.
Enrique Wilson, .421
Julio Lugo, .400.

I think Repko might have something good to contribute in the future, possibly even this year. But I think some more minor league time would benefit him still. He hasn't played his way out of the minors yet. And he is nowhere near the hitter he's appeared to be in limited spring playing time.

2005-03-23 13:46:13
41.   Ben P
I certainly understand the argument that it's only spring training and Repko hasn't proven himself yet. He may well need more time in the minors. I would just point out that Grabowski hasn't really done anything either. He's played 125 major league games and gone .217/.302/.381 in that time. I certainly wouldn't choose him just because he can serve as emergency catcher.
2005-03-23 13:53:00
42.   Eric Enders
You're overstating the extent of Grabowski's experience -- he has all of 189 at-bats in those 125 games. A good many of which are pinch hit appearances, and, as a rule, all players hit worse as pinch hitters. (This has to do with facing the Eric Gagnes of the world more often, and the Scott Ericksons of the world less often.)

Taking their respective minor league records, Grabowski has established himself as a much better hitter than Repko at this point.

That said, if in July Grabowski is batting .130 in 100 at-bats, it might be a good idea to call up Repko.

2005-03-23 14:23:02
43.   GoBears
I had the same reaction as WWSH about the LOOGY question. I don't like the idea of wasting a roster spot on a guy who may face only 75 batters all season. LOOGYs are a managers' way to show that he's in the ballpark. If they're really good, they're probably under-used, and otherwise, they're probably over-used. Shoot, why not use an off-day starter for one batter? I like the idea of DePo reducing Tracy's ability to over-manage by avoiding such excessive specialization.

In the same spirit, and given that it's St. Louis, I wonder if La Russa would consider using Ankiel as a 4th OFer/LOOGY? No starts, not even Kieshnick-like inning-long stints, but the occasional LOOGification, maybe even moving from the OF to the mound and back during an inning...

2005-03-23 15:25:56
44.   Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh
Thanks, Jon, for reminding me that it was DePo who went after Venafro. Anyhow, I might not be thrilled with the idea, but it's not like I'm really going to be all that upset if either Venafro or Wunsch make the roster, especially with Houlton's recent rough outing. I'm just hoping Trace doesn't overuse them.

As for Grabowski vs. Repko, I don't have time to check his stats, but when Grabowski got sustained playing time, he hit quite well. His bat has more potential in my view than Repko. The problem, though, is that Repko is far superior a defender in the OF. I hope Grabowski can improve, but he looked very, very bad in LF last year. That being said, some of his problems seem to involve being overly aggressive--diving for balls that were out of reach and making singles into doubles or triples. That is presumably something that can be coached out of him.

Grabowski's left-handedness is also a plus. I think Nakamura will eventually be called up as the regular platoon partner of Valentin, and both Perez and Saenz should be enough for RH pinch-hitting duties in my view.

Actually, I've never thought about that. How are RH and LH reserves usually distributed? I'd assume you'd want more lefties, since there are more RHPs, but is that necessarily true in the late-innings with LOOGYs and specialization?

WWSH

2005-03-23 15:50:54
45.   Bob Timmermann
OK
Ross 03 > Fimple 83 > Ross 04 > Fimple 84 > Dodger career of Enzo Hernandez
2005-03-23 16:01:00
46.   db1022
How similar is Repko's situation to Romano's last spring? We turned (if I remember correctly) a hot spring by a fringe player into a legitimate prospect in A Perez. Think DePo could strike lightning twice? Or am I mistaken in comparing Romano to Repko (is he more a legit prospect)?
2005-03-23 16:17:20
47.   Icaros
"How similar is Repko's situation to Romano's last spring?"

Well, let's see...they're both named Jason, both have last names starting with "R" and ending with "o," both play the outfield, and both bat and throw right-handed. I'd say they're very similar.

Trade him.

2005-03-23 17:14:37
48.   Xeifrank
Werth or Repko? Is there really a question of keeping one or the other? I thought Werth was a sure starter, and now you are saying he might not make the 25 man roster?

vr

Xeifrank

2005-03-23 17:16:07
49.   db1022
OK, how about this - I viewed Romano last year as a AAAA player (one of these guys that kicks around AAA, never being quite good enough to make a club). Then he has a hot spring, and for some reason TB gives up a pretty decent prospect for him.

My question is does the organization view Repko as being a legit prospect, or another AAAA player?

2005-03-23 17:17:05
50.   db1022
"I thought Werth was a sure starter."

I believe the thought is that Repko takes Werth's spot if he starts the year on the DL.

Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2005-03-23 17:32:55
51.   Jon Weisman
Ah, the curse of the multi-Jasons.

Xeifrank - Werth will not make the 25-man roster if he's on the disabled list, that's all. The debate some people are having is between Repko and Grabowski.

2005-03-23 17:42:24
52.   Icaros
I vote for Jason.
2005-03-23 17:46:58
53.   Improbable88
I think you are all forgetting something very relevant and profoundly damning to David Ross' case for making the team...

...he comes to bat with Tim McGraw's "Bar-b-Que Stain on My White T-shirt" playing.

This is Los Angeles Baseball, not Mississippi Nascar...hit the road Ross.

2005-03-23 19:44:26
54.   Eric Enders
"...hit the road Ross."

And it would be the second time in five months the Dodgers have said that...

2005-03-23 20:24:02
55.   dzzrtRatt
It struck me today that the reason some fans are so perturbed about the '05 team is the unbalanced schedule. I know J.D. Drew had a great year last year, comparable to Beltre's, but I can't remember seeing him much on TV 'til the playoffs. Same with Kent. Same with Valentin; you'd have to tie me to a chair to get me to watch a White Sox game, and their games against the Angels were few. The Dodgers play so few games against rivals outside the division, the fans don't get much of a feel for the rest of the league anymore unless they work hard at it. We're being Balkanized.

You can't start drooling about some other team's players if you hardly get to see them play. Years back, I saw the rise of players like Paul O'Neill, Craig Biggio, or Mike Lowell because they were given so many opportunities to torture the Dodgers. Now, if he doesn't play for SF, SD, Col or AZ, I don't get much of a feel for him.

2005-03-23 20:37:57
56.   GoBears
Good point, dzzrtRatt. Although, with a stat-savvy group like this one, visual images aren't necessary. Frankly, I don't care if JD has a sweet swing or not, as long as the OPS is around 1.000. But you could be right that the lack of personal experience watching these new Dodgers leads to the low expectations by the "I know only what I see" types. Which would include everyone who words for the LA Times, apparently.

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