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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
7) using sarcasm in a way that can be misinterpreted negatively
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12) claiming your opinion isn't allowed when it's just being disagreed with

Dodger Thoughtless
2005-04-03 22:49
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

"No one seems to understand what the Dodgers are doing," Karl Ravech said on ESPN tonight.

It was a throwaway line, the kind that several people will make.

Forget for a moment, though, whether the Dodgers will finish first, fourth or 40th. For the sake of argument, assume they'll be the worst team in professional baseball in 2005.

If you've read almost anything about baseball during this offseason - even on ESPN.com - you will find people - good people - who seem to have a pretty solid understanding of what the Dodgers are doing. They may turn out to be wrong about the outcome, but it's not like the Dodger thought process is this big Holmsian mystery.

You'd think the Dodgers were the only team in history ever to lose a free agent, the way these people talk - instead of one of many teams this offseason.

You'd think the Dodgers were the only team in history ever to sign a pitcher to an expensive long-term deal, instead of one of many teams this offseason.

You want to be skeptical? Be skeptical. But don't single the Dodgers out. For example, don't act like the Dodgers are the Soulless Brothers From Another Planet and then turn around and rave about how the Padres will win because their (aging) power hitters are used to playing in Petco Park now.

Be a journalist. Be opinionated if you want, but still be a journalist. Act like your words have meaning.

Comments
2005-04-04 01:00:23
1.   MrTim
Hear, hear! I get so frustrated listening to these people speak without anything meaningful coming out. It's one thing to predict a bad season for the Dodgers, but it's another to predict it without even explaining why you think they will be a bad team. And it gets so frustrating having to try and explain to my other baseball-fan-friends that no, I'm not crazy for thinking the Dodgers will have a good season, even though the talking heads on ESPN have already declared they will have a bad one.

Yakkity-yak-yak....

2005-04-04 02:03:40
2.   Tommy Naccarato
Jon,
Realizing that Moneyball in L.A. is such a new thing for some of us, I think some if not all of these media guys are just as puzzled by some of the moves.

I know I am!

2005-04-04 05:36:00
3.   Suffering Bruin
Jon, I saw it. I'd like to think that Karl was being rushed to break and decided to come up with a throwaway line. I'd like to think that he at least in part regretted that he was echoing conventional wisdom rather than exercising analysis. I'd also like to think that because of such regret, he'll be revisiting the issue in more depth.

I like to think these things because the alternative is that the ESPN guys are just lazy echo chambers of conventional wisdom. I hope that's not true but then again, there's a wealth of evidence to suggest otherwise.

2005-04-04 06:15:46
4.   Suffering Bruin
All right, sorry for the multiple posts but I had to share this one (http://tbogg.blogspot.com/):

Based on preseason reporting there appear to only be two teams this year: the Yankess and the NotYankees who are apparently in Boston. All you other Major League cities: grow up.

You don't count.

2005-04-04 07:28:57
5.   Ben P
Aside from it being harmful to the team, it really was unfortunate for DePodesta that Penny got hurt last year. If he had stayed healthy and pitched roughly as well as he had in Florida, the media would have stopped criticizing that trade eight months ago instead of continuing to harp on it. It's also bizarre that DePodesta gets so much flak for losing Beltre but almost no credit for bringing in Drew, Kent and Lowe and re-signing Perez, Gagne and Izturis. If a non-Moneyball GM had made those exact same moves Ravech and his ilk wouldn't be so puzzled.
2005-04-04 08:43:57
6.   Screwgie
I wonder sometimes if the flak shot Depo's way is not because of his adherence to the principles set forth in Moneyball, but simply because he looks like a nerd.

I'm not kidding.

Aside from the fact that he's had a track record success, I think one of the reasons that Beane is more palatable to the mainstream media is because he's an ex- player. The logic is that he's played the game and therefore must know what he's doing. Depo on the other hand, while using the same philosophy as Beane, is percieved as a usurper -- percieved as the guy picked last on the sand lot who now has the audacity to think he knows better.

And to show what a nerd I am, I'd like to quote the ancient Vulcan proverb:

"Only Nixon could go to China."

Sometimes I wonder if only Beane can play "moneyball."

2005-04-04 08:56:34
7.   Alex Ciepley
I don't understand the "DePo looks like a nerd" bit. As compared to who in baseball's front offices? As compared to which journalists?

Jon, I saw that Ravich throwaway too and groaned. But I actually thought Kruk's little smirk afterwards was more annoying. Just like ESPN has marginalized its good analysts on its web sites, its broadcasting crew seems to have made a left turn at the corner of Clown and Lazy.

2005-04-04 09:03:29
8.   molokai
I love being the underdog and can't remember a year when I wanted to win so badly to prove everyone wrong. Let's the Giants sweep us the 1st 3 games so that everyone can really pile it on. How sweet it will be come October when they wipe the smirks off their faces.
2005-04-04 09:04:47
9.   Bob Timmermann
I don't think ESPN is much different than other places where people of opinions gather. ESPN, despite appearing to wanting debates on air, wants consensus among its employees.

Would you want to go on TV and be the only person with a contrary opinion? Do you want put up with having your coworkers poke fun at you on the air in front of several million people each day?

It's a lot easier for everyone to be in agreement. ESPN is really no different than most places where people don't work. We crave assent. We don't like dissent.

2005-04-04 09:24:21
10.   ElysianPark62
Karl Ravech is a noted Dodger critic. Not professional about it, either. He bagged on them last year, even when they were doing well. So, it is ironic that he should criticize the overhaul. He didn't like LAST year's team, so why should he squawk about retooling them?
2005-04-04 09:27:30
11.   ElysianPark62
I can recall Ravech actually cracking jokes (or TRYING to, he's not funny) about the Dodgers. He continued in the off-season, particularly around the Green trade. That is clearly unprofessional. I used to have some respect for him but no longer.
2005-04-04 09:49:58
12.   Bob Timmermann
I don't think Ravech is all that bad, but he doesn't bring a lot to the table in the way of original thought. His job is to sit in the studio, listen to producers tell him about what clip is coming up, and keep the studio guys in line.

I do think Gammons, for all of his Red Sox/Yankee-centricness, has an idea of what DePodesta is trying to do with the Dodgers. I think he likely gets along better with Brian Sabean, so he might look like he's more of a Giants supporter.

I liked Steve Henson's profile of DePodesta in the Times A section today. Henson mentioned the same thing Jon did. Namely, that DePodesta can't approach the Dodgers like he's a fan. He has to approach the team dispassionately. He has to get them to win by bringing what he considers to be the best players.

Anybody who is in charge of something faces the daily conflict that while you want the people who work under you to like you as a person (we all like that), sometimes you can't achieve that. But you also can't go too far the other way. It's a delicate balance.

I was surprised to find out we experience this even when we are really young. When we go to school sometimes our classes will have teacher's aids. Those people get to work closely with the students, they get to be their friends. But the teacher doesn't get to do that, the teacher has to give out grades and make you do detention if you get out of line.

Or even in families, my nephew and nieces love it when I come to visit. Why? Because I'm the uncle who will come by and play with them and be fun. But I'm not Mom or Dad. I'm not forcing them to go to bed, brush their teeth, go to school, etc.

So this long-winded comment is just my way of agreeing with DePodesta that you can't be a fan if you want to be a successful GM.

2005-04-04 10:29:51
13.   Mr Customer
In response, to #8:

Screwgie,

I'm sure there is a quite a bit of resistance to the idea of the "outsider" or "nerd", so to speak, dealing the contracts of the highly-paid, American hero über-jocks. However, I think some of the criticism has to do with personality types, as well.

Billy Beane's success, at this point, is fairly incontrovertible(despite the fact that he garnered much of the same sort of criticism early his tenure). Some of that is based on his shrewdness, but it also has to do with the fact that he's a fairly media-friendly personality. He's volatile, outgoing, and good for a sound bite.

In comparison, DePodesta seems remote, which has only reinforced the perception of the analytical, cold-hearted, math-geek.

2005-04-04 11:04:17
14.   Robert Fiore
Reading the 2005 Baseball Prospectus over the weekend (and if Ravech thinks nobody understands what the Dodgers are doing he ought to read their analysis), it occurred to me that the new thinking on baseball has less to do with unconventional stats than with the addition of a new objective criterion: How much you pay a player. In the traditional view, at least in the sportswriter mind, the only questions are what players are available and how desirable are they. Desirability is determined by batting average, home runs, RBIs and stolen bases plus "intangibles," which ultimately meant how much the sportswriter liked the player. Salary was thought of as something the accountants took care of, and the only cost factor considered is what you would have to give up for a player in a trade. Each player is looked at in a vacuum, and the assumption is that any money you don't spend on a player is banked. Thus Bill Plaschke, who appears to believe that it's sentimentality and not pitching that's 90% of the game, looks at Shawn Green sees someone who's desirable to have around even if his production is a little off, without considering that $16 million spent on Shawn Green is $16 million you can't spend on anyone else. Whereas sabermetrics were originally intended to get a more accurate view of the game, the purpose they are turned to now is in determining the true monetary value of a player. One thing that this year's Prospectus points out is that whereas the Dodgers paid $8 million for the peak of Paul LoDuca's career, the Marlins will have to pay nearly that much for one year of his decline. Though I'm not 100% what this means exactly, the Prospectus also projects that whereas J.D. Drew's Value Over Replacement Player will be something like 44 this year, Adrian Beltre's will be 30.

DePodesta's problem public opinion-wise is that he's made moves based on projections of the future, and we won't know if they're accurate for some time. If Beltre doesn't continue to perform at superstar level, if LoDuca's performance this year is below last year's, if Guillermo Mota doesn't turn into an elite closer, if Choi and Valentin turn out to be productive players, then DePodesta will be proven right. Another problem for him is that the Dodgers are not going to come into their own until the talent in the system matures, and that won't be until next year. What it seems like right now is that he's been better at getting bad contracts out of the system than he has been at finding their economical replacements.

2005-04-04 11:07:03
15.   Icaros
Bob,

Did you mean "teacher's aides" or "teacher's AIDS"?

Just checking.

2005-04-04 11:16:02
16.   Mark
To be fair, Jon, the question Ravech was responding to was "What about the NL west champs last yer? The Dodgers?" and he had about 3 seconds before they were going to cut to commercial/switch stories/etc. To expect a drawn-out, "Well, the acquisition of Lowe, combined with the loss of Beltre, Cora, Green, and the gaping hole at the catcher spot, I'm just not certain of the Dodgers' chances" is asking a bit much.
2005-04-04 11:18:07
17.   Jon Weisman
That's not the issue. I'm not asking Karl to provide an explanation in three seconds. It's the blanket dismissal that there was no explanation anywhere - No one understands what the Dodgers are doing - that I find irresponsible.
2005-04-04 11:21:03
18.   Bob Timmermann
The name of the job for people who help out teachers in classroom is "teacher's aid". So more than one would be "teacher's aids".

Some districts call them "aides".

I think the "aide" spelling might becoming more common because of AIDS, but a dictionary would tell you that an "aid" and an "aide" are the same thing.

2005-04-04 11:35:39
19.   Icaros
Can't ever be defeated, can you?

The dictionary says both spellings are acceptable.

Still funny though, wasn't it?

2005-04-04 11:41:17
20.   Bob Timmermann
It was somewhat funny, but I kept writing up a job as an "aide" once and my bosses told me to change the name to "aid", so I had to learn about it.
2005-04-04 11:44:30
21.   Mark
Ah, Jon, then it appears that you took the comment incorrectly, perhaps? I heard it as "none of the people sitting at this desk understands what the Dodgers are doing", rather than "nobody in Major League Baseball understands what the Dodgers are doing".
2005-04-04 11:46:33
22.   Jon Weisman
I suppose it's open to interpretation, but I listened to the whole segment and I'm confident in how I heard it. He wasn't summing up the opinions of the people at the desk, he was adding his own two cents.
2005-04-04 11:57:27
23.   Icaros
I actually was an aid(e), but only for two summers.
2005-04-04 12:12:27
24.   Bob Timmermann
I want to be an "aide-de-camp" for somebody important. That's how Alexander Hamilton made his bones during the American Revolution.

Except I don't think Hamilton talked like Moe Green.

2005-04-04 13:39:38
25.   Jon Ericson
In the Times article this morning:

'However, DePodesta made no attempt to re-sign Finley, who agreed to a two-year deal with the Angels. Tommy Tanzer, Finley's agent, slammed the Dodgers for not contacting his client, saying DePodesta operated "like a rookie" and that Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman, by contrast, was "an experienced professional."'

Whether or not it's a fair comment, what sort of agent would say that? Aren't GMs the agent's customers? The only explaination I have is that this is related to the Dodgers being a political lightening rod.

2005-04-04 14:57:36
26.   Robert Fiore
It might be a matter of being undiplomatic. Perhaps DePodesta had simply decided that he wasn't going to pursue Finley, and he had made his best and final offer for Beltre, and he saw no reasons to make further telephone calls when he had no further offers to make.
2005-04-04 15:22:00
27.   Nolan
Yes...Yes! Yes! Yes!

I was watching that also and was similarly infuriated. My opinion of the national baseball media, frankly, has never been lower. ESPN, first of all, has become overrun with former players who basically do nothing but a) praise players for being "winners," b) talk about fielding as if it is the most important aspect of the game and c) just don't get it. Joe Morgan's interview w/Karl Ravech, on the same episode of BBTN, was nearly incomprehensible and he's their star guy!

As for the writers, they've become a joke too. Gammons has certain GMs and players who are willing to give him dirt in exchange for him gushing over them. I can't remember the last time Gammons took a bold stand on anything...He's a company man who is just trying to keep everyone happy - he's stopped being a journalist...

It is just so frustrating...I'm glad that others feel the same way...

2005-04-04 15:28:16
28.   Nolan
One thing about the relevance of Moneyball to this debate...I'd like Karl Ravech or someone of his ilk - Morgan, maybe - to explain why they think the indicators they prefer to use (BA, RBI, Errors, etc.) make sense...Just explain why BA is better than OPS...Their answer can only be, "Well, that's the way we've always done it and experienced baseball people think it makes sense." That is ABSURD.

My advice to anyone who disagrees is to watch the recent documentary on Robert McNamara - "The Fog of War." He discusses the gross inefficiencies he came across when joining the Ford Motor Company...Just because a particular approach has been the "way we've always done it" doesn't mean that it is right...The American way is invention, innovation and progress - the Morgans of the world, in order to protect their own self-image - would counsel us to adopt stagnation...

2005-04-04 15:44:57
29.   MGL
Robert Fiore,

Excellent comments! Right on the money. That is what sabermetrics is really about, at least as far as it applies to running a baseball team. "This is how much money we have to spend, let's acquire the best team we can, both in the short terms and the long term." At least from the standpoint of a fiscally responsible owner.

It is really not that difficult to project a team's talent level and hence, their expected w/l record and their chances of making the playoffs. The biggest factors that go into a team's projection not being commensurate with their final results are injuries and luck, not the accuracy of the projections.

The reason Depo may have come across negatively in the Finley deal is that Depo may have "known" that Finley was a terrible defender at this stage in his career (assuming he uses some UZR-type system for defensive analysis, which he probably does). If that is the case, Finley is closer to a replacement player (which I contend and Depo may also) than to the star that many think he still is. Given that, it may have been difficult (not impossible) to "negotiate" with him. Kind of like if you are selling a nice house and someone makes you a ridiculously low offer (this is sort of the reverse of the Finley situation). It is difficult to smile and say, "Thank you for your kind offer, but we prefer to wait. Check back with us in a couple of weeks..."

2005-04-04 16:20:04
30.   Jon Ericson
Right. But why would an agent burn bridges like that?

The Beltre/Boras/DePodesta stories are contradictory, but it seems like it's possible to imagine there is some sort of misunderstanding rather than complete disrespect. Certainly Boras and DePodesta have been able to do other deals since then.

I'm sure this won't prevent the Dodgers from signing Tanzer's agents in the future, since it seems like DePodesta can ignore the media in order to do what's best for the team. It just seemed strange to me.

2005-04-04 17:05:29
31.   gvette
While Ravech and his Bristol buddies are ripe for criticism, in a larger sense, what Bill James, the internet, and blogs like Jon's have exposed is that the majority of the non ex-athlete media may not know anything more about baseball, and in fact may know less,than the rest of us.

Ravech can give an opinion about the Dodgers, a team he probably hasn't seen play in Spring, based on what others he considers "experts" tell him. Same with other media "heavyweights" like Van Earl Wright,Barry LeBrock, John Ireland, or Joe McDonnell. They only know to parrot back what somebody, they consider an expert, tells them.

That's no different then when fans in 2003 agreed with Dan Evans that Miller, Jackson, Loney and Hanrahan were untouchable in any trade. Few if any ever saw them play, yet fans knew that Evans is an expert, therefore, he's right. Well, what happens if he's not, just like what happens if Joel Guzman isn't AROD, but just an oversized kid from A Ball, with bad hands, and no range?

Sometimes you get the idea that the whole sports media establishment is like the Wizard of Oz, and the statheads and blogs are leading us to expose what, if anything, is behind the curtain.

2005-04-04 22:42:29
32.   Daniel B
ESPN is entertainment. Its something you watch when there is nothing else on and you're looking for something that will keep you occupied.

Do you watch Extra or E! news to become better informed on world issues (other than Brad and Jen)? No.

So why you watch ESPN for their reporting and opinions is beyond me. Thats what the internet is for. Thats what reading box scores and DodgerThoughts is for.

I notice we're using the term "journalism" rather loosely nowadays. Karl Ravech, John kruk, Joe Morgan? Most definately not "journalists"

2005-04-05 11:58:38
33.   Bob Timmermann
Dodgers lineup:
Izturis SS
Choi 1B
Drew RF
Kent 2B
Bradley CF
Valentin 3B
Ledee LF
Phillips C
Lowe P

Giants lineup:
Durham 2B
Vizquel SS
Snow 1B
Alou RF
Feliz LF
Alfonzo 3B
Grissom CF
Matheny C
Schmidt P

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