Monthly archives: December 2003
Just Get Vlad
Hey look over there - All-Star free agent available, almost no takers.
Vladimir Guerrero, Montreal (free agent), OF
The Dodgers show no apparent interest in signing Guerrero, who is great.
The Dodgers clearly have the need. And, with Kevin Brown traded, they clearly have the salary room: more than $30 million if their projected 2004 payroll limit is as high as it was in 2003.
Dodger 2004 Salary Commitments
*$6.25 million minus Yankee contribution of $1.5 million
Additional Dodger 2004 Salary Estimates
That they haven't pursued Guerrero led me to join in the speculation that ostensible new owner Frank McCourt is going to slash the budget limit starting in 2005. However, given how much the Dodgers have reduced their payroll already, plus the fact that they'll gain about $9 million for 2005 just by taking Hundley and Jordan off the books, McCourt could knock the payroll well under $100 million and the Dodgers could still afford Guerrero (not that I'm sanctioning McCourt or these speculative payroll cuts to begin with).
Starting in 2006, the expiration of Dreifort's contract gives them eight figures more free money.
Realizing now that Guerrero is really only being pursued seriously by one team, the Orioles, and that the danger of a bidding war is greatly reduced, I find myself almost completely at a loss as to why the Dodgers are letting slip this opportunity to sign such a great player.
Is it concern over his 2003 back injury?
Or could it possibly be the rumor that says that Guerrero himself will never sign with the Dodgers, because of their lack of faith in him as a teenage ballplayer in the Domincan Republic?
I asked Jonah Keri (an expert on both the Expos and the Dodgers) of Baseball Prospectus if he could provide any explanation for the Dodgers' inaction. Here's his reply:
I'm not big on rumor-mongering, Jon, but Vlad's agents did come out this off-season and say that the story's false ... that while it may have bugged Vlad back in the day, he's open to signing anywhere now. Obviously, that could very well be a leverage play, but you see why trying to speculate on such things becomes pointless.
The Dodgers (and any other team) would be nuts not to pursue Vlad. Will Carroll says his back condition is identical to Pudge's, and you saw what Pudge did last year. Vlad looked great once he was a couple weeks removed from the injury, down the stretch last year, to boot. Playing off the Big O turf will help too.
Given the golden opportunity for the Dodgers to sign him, they're crazy for not trying. I think you can blame a combination of Evans' inability to be aggressive or creative and the specter of McCourt. But yes, you're 100 percent right that they could make room, on top of which we both know the revenue to be had when a team...you know...WINS.
Unless they're super good at keeping super secrets, the Dodgers need to get it into gear now. A de facto offseason trade of Kevin Brown for Vladimir Guerrero would be a dream come true. And it's a dream they can do.
Letting Others Do My Work for Me ...
... And RecyclingThanks to those of you who have continued to flock to the site during the holidays. While it looks like I've lost about 45,000 visitors, thanks to outsider-inflicted counter troubles at GoStats.com, I've actually been impressed by how many have stuck with me during the holiday slowdown. Anyway, I've been playing catchup at work since returning from vacation, but hope to be back on my regular schedule following the New Year.
In the meantime, please take this opportunity to peruse the archives. While many of you have seen little change on the main page in the past week, few were around during the heady days of this site in early 2003. Eleven months ago, I had about five readers a day. So, do relive, with the advantage of hindsight, my 2003 preview articles, or consider one of my history pieces, like "Traumatized in '67."
Being and Nothingness
Since 1999, the Dodgers have made significant moves between January 1 and the start of the season - but not many.
The Mike Piazza trade, of course, came in the month of May, but that's another story.
And Now, For Those of You Who Wanted Actual Information
Site reader Mike Branom pointed me to this length Baseball America chat with Josh Boyd regarding the Dodger farm system. If you want to feel encouraged about the future, read this.
Boyd himself was interviewed in engaging fashion by Toronto baseball site Batter's Box.
I'm Casting Off Material Desires, And I'm Loving It!
I get handed the phone ...
--Are you in the middle of dinner?
I'm microwaving, if that counts.
--Well, I have a question for you.
--What are the Dodgers going to do for players?
Microwave ticks down: 9, 8, 7...
--Well, call me back when you have an answer.
Look, the bright side is, when you are rock bottom offensively at first base, second base and shortstop and near the bottom at third base, left field and center field, well, just think how easy it would be for Bart Simpson to raise his grade-point average.
The Dodgers may or may not get an A ballplayer, but some Bs could help nicely, and even the Cs like Juan Encarnacion won't necessarily hurt.
There are guys out there. They just may not be the guys that excite you. And in the end, they may not be the guys that give the Dodgers a title - even though those guys are out there.
I find myself in a sanguine mood this morning. After being exhausted by rumor after rumor, I find myself, without even trying, just thinking about the game. I find myself thinking about how much I like going to Dodger Stadium, no matter who is wearing the Dodger whites.
This may not be much consolation to those of you who aren't so peculiarly addled today, who can't understand why (re)building the Dodger offense is a shaky hand wavering on whether to cut the red or blue wire.
I don't know. I guess today, with my dad's question, I find myself forced to look at the positive. I find myself willing to embrace the ascetic. I find myself willing to suffer with Cesar Izturis' quest for a .300 on-base percentage, with Adrian Beltre's attempted escape from the poisoned Fountain of Youth, with good guy Dave Roberts attempting to show that it is possible to deliver only 13 extra base hits in 440 plate appearances. It's liberating.
The holidays are coming. I'm tired of fighting, tired of railing. For the time being, however short, I'd rather accept. Just accept. And I'll hope to be pleasantly surprised, though I won't expect it.
I know it's denial. I feel strangely like Jerry Maguire in the war room after he's been fired, with all the other agents regarding him with car-wreck pity.
But I just don't have it in me to be angry today. Ultimately, baseball is still my favorite game, and that's where I'm at.
I wish I could go to a game right now.
It'll be a Dodger Blue
It'll be a Dodger Blue Christmas without me. Enjoy your holidays - Dodger Thoughts will return after the 25th!
Updated NL West Rosters
Like I did a few days ago, I'm going to let the trade pot percolate a little before commenting again. Updated again are the National League West rosters, if the season started today:
National League West Rosters - Updated December 18
December 19 Update: Alvarez officially signed. I have dropped Dreifort from the rotation, at least until someone from the Dodgers makes a public statement that he is ready to pitch.
And Now a Word From Your Sponsor ...
Though I'd love to earn some income from this site, I've instead gone and spent some more money. Dodger Thoughts now sponsors the 2003 Los Angeles Dodgers page at Baseball-Reference.com. Considering how much I rely on this reference source, the support was long overdue.
Jay Jaffe's rousing account of his Winter Meetings experience in New Orleans - "four days of pure sensory overload, intensive immersion in a realm of the baseball world I had only previously imagined" - was well worth the wait.
Is Jim Edmonds Still Out There?
Mike Cameron would have also been a good signing. Instead, he's with the Mets.
Over a Barrel, or Under It?
Either way, the Dodgers may have to roll with it down a potholed road.
Newsday, the first publication to report the Kevin Brown for Jeff Weaver trade when it was actually happening, states this morning that neither Nomar Garciaparra nor Magglio Ordonez will not be traded to the Dodgers, but traded for each other.
The Los Angeles Times also has the sudden rumor, although tag-teamers Ross and Jason add that the White Sox might still trade Garciaparra to Los Angeles.
Essentially, by creating the possibility of withholding both these players from the Dodgers, the White Sox may force Dan Evans to cave in and surrender more talent than he wants, to get just one of them.
There is reason to panic if you're a Dodger fan, but it may not be the obvious one.
The Dodgers could well survive and even prosper without Garciaparra or Ordonez. Keep in mind that both players are rentals. Each has a contract that expires in 2004. Ten months from now, the Dodgers could easily rue the day they gave up multiple players for one of them.
Sign Vladimir Guerrero, and you're in clover, picking up the jewel of the free agent market while retaining Odalis Perez, Guillermo Mota and the niblets of promising young pitching the team has nurtured.
Ah, but here's the alarming part. As Bob Keisser writes in a strong column for the Long Beach Press-Telegram:
While the public mandate given Evans was to improve the team while staying under last year's self-imposed salary cap, sources believe Fox higher-ups made it clear they will not approve any major multiyear free-agent signing.
That explains why Evans has been so focused on Nomar Garciaparra and Magglio Ordonez, whose contracts expire after the 2004 season, rather than free agents Miguel Tejada and Vladimir Guerrero. An investment in Nomar or Magglio doesn't tie up any long-term money.
Is this where the barrel rolls over us? Yes, Dan Evans is promised no salary cutbacks for 2004 - but what about 2005? Will the Dodger payroll be slashed $20 million? $30 million? $40 million?
On the one hand, I feel I'm jumping the gun on this. On the other, with Frank McCourt's loan-heavy purchase proposal - redefining the term "collateral damage" - maybe I've been all too slow to realize what's going to happen.
If that is the scenario, here is what we're looking at:
1) For the Dodgers to compete in 2004, they may have to trade young talent like Edwin Jackson, Greg Miller, Joel Hanrahan, Franklin Gutierrez or James Loney.
2) For the Dodgers to compete in 2005 and beyond, they may need young talent like Edwin Jackson, Greg Miller, Joel Hanrahan, Franklin Gutierrez and James Loney.
That barrel's got us where it wants us, all right. The fury of the Dodger fans will be intense if the team does not add a single power hitter this offseason, prospects be damned. But if the 2005 budget is going to be cut, there is no best-case scenario aside from the Dodgers actually winning the World Series next year. Unless he conjures some Billy Beane or Billy Beane-like magic, McCourt will have smothered the means to improve the team beyond next season.
Which do you pick: one shot at winning in 2004, or bitter patience so that we can turn to the young core to carry the Dodgers through the rest of the aughts?
Hell, who'd have thought we'd have to choose?
When the McCourt agreement was announced two months ago, I was nervous. That's my nature. That being said, the possibility of rollbacks in 2005 has only just started to sink in for me - I'm not sure I can fully appreciate it yet. Maybe it's still all paranoia.
Isn't it wonderful, though, that Major League Baseball is going to great lengths to keep a gag order on McCourt, to ensure that the fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers are kept completely in the dark about the team's future.
Snag May Benefit Dodgers
The players' union has rejected proposed changes to Alex Rodriguez's contract that would enable him to be traded to Boston. This may make it impossible for the deal to go through before Major League Baseball's deadline of 3 p.m. PST Thursday.
If that trade falls through, that would presumably end the Red Sox' plan to send Nomar Garciaparra to the White Sox for Magglio Ordonez. In that case, the pendulum swings back in the Dodgers' favor; they would become Chicago's principal outlet to unload Ordonez' contract.
Of course, Ordonez may never become a Dodger no matter what - reports are spreading that neither Dodger general manager Dan Evans nor White Sox GM Kenny Williams wants to give in to the other, due to the fact that they were once both candiates for Williams' job. Whatever happens, I again say that this is less about Ordonez specifically than about how the pending ownership change may affect Dodger offseason plans for years to come.
Dodger Thoughts reader Bill Simms, in an e-mail responding to my morning post, noted that by 2006, a lower payroll becomes less of an issue for the Dodgers, because the Shawn Green and Darren Dreifort contracts expire by then. (Here is a new link to a website, Ahead of the Curve, that details the Dodger contract commitments.)
Simms is correct, if the Dodgers have the young, low-paid talent ready to take the reins. However, if they trade it all away prematurely, then the team will face the prospect of having to overpay in two years to be competitive. This market correction we are now seeing won't last forever.
Again, if there a payroll cut is coming in 2005, the Dodgers have to decide whether 2004 is an all-or-nothing year. Some would say "nothing ventured, nothing gained," but personally, I hate the idea of all-or-nothing years, because nothing is too easy to come by.
While you and I wait on the Alex Rodriguez deal and the ensuing dominoes, read the Sports Bard's meter-free treatise on suffering. It dovetails with my March entry, "The Meaning of the Game," in examining why we put up with all the frustration that accompanies our love of our team or our game.
Quick Updates1) The Dodgers seem
Quick Updates1) The Dodgers seem firmly out of the Vladimir Guerrero bidding, fearing his long-term viability following back surgery.
2) Potential free agent signee Todd Walker appears ready to sign with Texas if an A-Rod departure creates a vacancy there.
3) The Dodgers' interest in Ivan Rodriguez seems sincere, as does their willingness to trade Paul LoDuca. If this gains momentum, I'll devote a full entry to the matter.
4) In case you missed it in the morning papers, Wilson Alvarez is close to signing his return ticket to Los Angeles.
Two of my colleagues, Alex Belth of Bronx Banter and Jay Jaffe of The Futility Infielder, ventured down to New Orleans to get a first-hand taste of the Winter Meetings. Make sure to check out their sites today: Alex offers a personalized description of what it's like to be a neophyte at the confab, while Jay fills in the gaps about the duo's poker-playing adventures with the gang from Baseball Prospectus.
Looks like I would have been drunk under the table and separated from all my finances had I gone. I can only rest easy with the confidence that I could have out TV-watched them.
More on Encarnacion
Lee Sinins, publisher of the Baseball Sabermetric Encyclopedia, writes that "in the past half century, (Juan) Encarnacion is in the top 10 for worst career OBA, vs. the league average, among OF with 3000+ PA."
Reports indicate that the Dodgers will non-tender Encarnacion a contract if he does not agree to their terms, but that those terms could be as generous as $4 million per year for two years.
The guy's supposed to be a hell of a fielder, though, which is probably why the rumors of Shawn Green moving to first base are rekindling.
Fears of a Scorched Earth Ownership
The Dodgers might acquire Freddy Garcia from the Seattle Mariners, with the hopes of exchanging him for offensive help.
It's just a rumor. But it leads to this question:
Does Dodgers/Freddy Garcia/offensive help = Frank McCourt/Dodgers/real estate killing?
McCourt's bid for the Dodgers is almost entirely financed with loans, the Times reports today. While Ross Newhan and Jason Reid write that this could jeopardize the approval process for McCourt, they add that "because of baseball's financial relationship with News Corp.'s subsidiary, Fox Sports, which holds national TV rights and the regional rights of many clubs, it has been tolerant in regard to McCourt's financing and less inclined to challenge the possible deal."
From my vantage point, one of two things need to happen.
But at the rate things are going, the converse of all these statements may be used to justify some destructive moves.
What McCourt might do to the budget for Dodger player salaries, right now, is the least of my fears. I'm happy to eat crow if and when the time comes, but this stuff is making me more and more nervous for the fate of the franchise.
"Interesting," Pappas said. "I don't think MLB has any (predisposed) interest in McCourt - but it DOES have an interest in cooperating with News Corp., which between the national broadcast and local cable contracts is its single biggest business partner. If News Corp. wants to sell, MLB doesn't want to stand in the way."
My reply: With Fox poised to become the Dodger landlord (via financing McCourt's loans) instead of the Dodger owner, I continue to wonder if the ownership situation is going to go from bad to worse. And that's before one even confronts McCourt's likely interest in making team ownership a real-estate venture.
Juan is staying, for $3.55 million in 2004 and $4.45 million in 2005.
The Florida-bound Dodger to be named later has been named: Travis Ezi, an outfielder who had 33 walks and 33 steals while OPSing .650 for the Class A South Georgia Waves.
Updated NL West Rosters
Remember, these are rosters laid out as if the season started today, not predictions.
Right now, I would say that the NL West is the second-weakest division in baseball, behind only the American League Central.
Dan, Dan, Dan - Do You Know What a Walk Is?
The Dodgers have acquired outfielder Juan Encarnacion from the Florida Marlins, for a player to be named later.
Juan Encarnacion, whose career high in walks is 37 (against 601 at-bats in 2004).
Juan Encarnacion, whose EQA of .267 in 2003 is barely above the league average.
Juan Encarnacion, who is basically a slightly younger - and arguably weaker - version of Jolbert Cabrera.
Cabrera in 2003: Age 30, 347 AB, 32 doubles, 6 home runs, 27 walks + HBP, 62 strikeouts, .332 OBP, .438 slugging, .271 EQA.
Dan Evans, I've been in your corner. But this had better be an intermediate step, a secondary acquisition. I can wait for the big one - don't get me wrong. I'm just saying, it had better be coming.
Encarnacion's .313 on-base percentage hits my gullet like a cold hot dog - I can barely stomach it. I know the Dodgers have money to spend, but Encarnacion, who is due for a raise after making about $3.5 million in 2003, had better not get in the way of a real difference-maker.
Sweet Sixteen and Never Been Kissed
A life filled with trials began in November 1988.
The first few months were blissful, unfolding softly in the shadow of a big brother who was the Big Man on Campus. Big Bro was a jock, a baseball stud. From 1974 through 1988, Big Bro made the playoffs seven times, winning two World Series.
However, despite being born with almost every advantage Big Bro had, nothing went quite right for Little Sister.
The first year was a stumble, a lot of acting out. The second year, in 1990, looked more promising, but something remained amiss.
The more her earnest parents, the O'Malleys, tried to make things right, the more things just seemed to go wrong for Little Sister. They set high goals; that wasn't the problem. The problem was the recalculation that followed each failure, the desperation to solve Little Sister's problem through acts that bordered on shock therapy.
The older brother, increasingly distant, offered no comfort. The parents themselves grew older. They had had other kids, even before Big Brother. None was a challenge like this one. After 1994, a year of great promise that collapsed in a schoolyard brawl, Mom and Dad had just about had enough. They agonized for a little longer, but in 1998, they put Little Sis, now 9 1/2, up for adoption.
And then the foster parents ... sigh. You know about them. The Foxes. Something cruel out of Grimm's Fairy Tales. Crass. Callous. Dim. Wanting a kid just for show - just for the money. Sounds crazy, but oh, did they know how to exploit her! Like Mama Rose exploiting Gypsy. At the height of Jerry Springer's popularity, here was a family worthy of his dysfunctional program. Year after traumatic year passed, each reneging on the promise of this problem child, cast loose from her historic, proud family.
Little Sis is now 15, going on 16. People her age - people in high school - can't even imagine what Big Bro was like. Make no mistake, Sis has had to endure.
And now comes a third set of parents, her third caregivers since she was born in the reflection of Big Bro's glory.
These new parents, they have to be better, right? They have to be the ones that put Little Sis on the straight and narrow.
Well, a funny thing happened over the past two or three years. The Foxes learned a little about parenting. They humbled themselves. They hired some help, hired some discipline. They even learned a little about nurturing, and most important, they learned to stay out of the hell out of the way when they didn't belong. Call me crazy, but as a very interested observer, I grit my teeth with the notion that it's almost a shame to see them go, now.
Honestly, name the bad things the Foxes have done since Sis became a teenager. Other than lack of profligacy - other than not spoiling the child - times have been better lately. No, Sis is not all the way back yet, but think how far she had to go.
There may be no forgiving the Foxes for the damage they did to the child born 15 years ago. And certainly, no one's trying to stop them from letting her go now, even though they're doing so just as they seem to have gotten a hang of this parenting thing.
But there's a little quirk. An discomfiting little quirk about the whole process, this transfer that will probably take place a month from now.
Little Sis, an ugly duckling if baseball has seen one over the past decade and a half, may have a swan in her after all. But nobody knows what the McCourts will be like. And baseball, baseball doesn't seem concerned. Baseball checks whether New Dad has got the money. Baseball checks the crime books to make sure nothing's amiss there. But when it comes to character, baseball character, heck, there's no evaluation at all.
The McCourts could be good stewards. They could be great.
But we're just guessing. Wishing.
We're left simply hoping that the third time around, Little Sis finally gets some luck. We can hope. All we can do is hope. I want her to be happy next year, Sweet Sixteen.
Get Your Headlines
I've added a link on the right-hand bar for easy access to Dodger headlines near and far, via Google. Hope you enjoy it.
Okay, You Can Be the Race Car
This morning, it still feels like the Dodgers' little silver top hat landed on Free Parking.
Man, they've got some money to spend if the Kevin Brown trade goes through. Even this financial disciplinarian is ready to go buy some hotels.
Let's just make sure they're not on Baltic Avenue.
With all this spending money available, I hope my old readers will forgive me if I repeat, for the benefit of the new readers that have come via the Times, the reigning guideline for the Dodgers this offseason: acquiring a good-hitting outfielder is more important than acquiring a good-hitting infielder.
You can read a more detailed explanation about it here, but the gist of it is this: Dodger left fielders were last in the league in offensive production in 2003. Cesar Izturis left the Dodgers last in the league at shortstop as well - a problem certainly worth solving - but his defensive value renders that problem less urgent. Bid on Nomar Garciaparra if you want, but you had better make sure you also get Vladimir Guerrero or the next-best thing.
To force-feed another board game analogy, it doesn't do much good to fortify Kamchatka when ... well, I don't have Risk in front of me, but think of your flank being exposed. And that flank is in left field. And those high rollers in the bleachers - they can be Alaska - are attacking your flank. Phew. Anyway, it's not good.
The nice thing about the Brown trade is that the Dodgers can buy houses and hotels at multiple locations. But on the off chance that they aren't the most adept organization at multitasking, they had better know what their priorities are.
McCourt Turns in Blue Book, Baseball Ready to Grade
As of 3:40 p.m., the Times website does not have the Associated Press report that Kevin Brown has permitted the Dodgers to trade him, and only needs to set his private flight plans with the Yankees for his approval to be completely sealed. However, Ross Newhan and Jason Reid do have news of another formality that, is it fair to say, some will find surprising.
Prospective Dodger owner Frank McCourt has finished his take-home exam, turning in the paperwork detailing the finances of his bid to the commissioner's office.
According to the report, two unnamed baseball officials - and I don't have any idea why baseball can't go on the record on this matter, because there's no benefit to the home office from the cloak and dagger - indicate that approval of McCourt's purchase could come one month from tomorrow, January 13.
The countdown for the mysterious McCourt can begin in earnest.
Update: Four hours later, the Times website has the Brown news, and AP has the McCourt news with baseball chief operating officer Bob DePuy on the record - but duly credits the Times website with the scoop.
While We're Bracing ...
Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports Weekly told me in an e-mail that he thinks the Dodgers' acquisition of Nomar Garciaparra for Odalis Perez is "done" if the Red Sox complete their proposed Manny Ramirez for Alex Rodriguez trade.
Nightengale had reported in this week's issue that "the Red Sox hope to finalize the trades by the end of the winter meetings" Monday.
As far as the Dodgers were concerned, Nightengale added that "the tip-off that the trade could be consummated is that the White Sox were informed by the Dodgers that Perez is off the market." The White Sox had been preparing to send Paul Konerko to the Dodgers for Perez, the merits of such a deal notwithstanding.
In fact, there is the possibility that Garciaparra-to-the-Dodgers could happen no matter what. There's this from Rumor Central at ESPN.com:
ESPN's Peter Gammons reports the hard feelings between Garciaparra and the Red Sox over the team's attempts to trade for Alex Rodriguez could lead the team to deal its star shortstop even if it doesn't acquire A-Rod. Rather than enter the season with Garciaparra due to become a free agent and unhappy with management, Boston could deal him to the Dodgers, then make a run at Miguel Tejada in free agency.
From my perspective, there does seem to be enough bad blood brewing between the Red Sox and Garciaparra to make the Red Sox' "hope" more like an urgency. To paraphrase from the daily airings of The Shawshank Redemption, "Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope gets you killed."
(Editor's note ... Bob Timmermann writes:Urgency may be another story.
On the other hand, would a Kevin Brown trade kill this deal? Or would that create a new sense of urgency for young Edwin Jackson and recovering Darren Dreifort, as well as rebounding Wilson Alvarez, aging Hideo Nomo and confounding Kazuhisa Ishii? Oh yeah - and Weaver.
For my take on the value of the Dodgers acquiring Garciaparra, click here.
By the way, Nightengale said that he is still confident that Gary Sheffield and the Yankees will officially come to terms.
With Andy Pettitte signing with the Astros, the Associated Press is reporting that the Yankees are "closing in on a trade with Los Angeles that would send Kevin Brown to the Yankees for Jeff Weaver in a swap of starters, a baseball official said on the condition of anonymity."
Newsday says it's done - Kevin Brown for Jeff Weaver, two minor leaguers, and $3 million.
The Associated Press says that the deal is tentative:
Brown, who has the right to block a trade, must approve any deal and has not yet been approached, agent Scott Boras said. Players must pass physicals, and the Yankees want to review Brown's contract before signing off on the trade, the officials said.
Here's what I wrote when the Brown-Weaver trade was first proposed. Will update when time permits, as more details and confirmation come.
This morning, before the Kevin Brown news broke, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register quoted Dodger general manager Dan Evans as saying that the team's budget for 2004 salaries will again be "right around where we were last year."
This contradicts those who have suspected that Evans was under orders to reduce the budget amid the pending sale of the team. The 2004 budget projects to be about $120 million.
With that in mind, in case there is any doubt about the spending room trading Brown would create, take a look at this:
Dodger 2004 Salary Commitments
*$6.25 million minus Yankee contribution of $1.5 million
Additional Dodger 2004 Salary Estimates
That gives the Dodgers 18 players at a cost of $79.3 million, leaving the team about $40 million to spend. (There would actually be a fraction more, but because the Dodgers will use more than 25 players in 2004, we'll leave that fraction for the in-season replacements.
What slots are vacant on the 25-man roster?
That leaves $35 million for the two starting infielders and the starting outfielder - an average of $11.7 million per slot. If they want to replace Dave Roberts too, they can still spend an average of $8.75 million per slot.
And that doesn't even factor in what the Dodgers can still do in trade.
That, my friends, is a lot to work with.
You can pursue everyone, from Nomar Garciaparra, to Miguel Tejada, to ... Vladimir Guerrero.
Meanwhile, in Atlanta ...
Can you believe this is the starting rotation of the Atlanta Braves?
And they don't have Sheffield either.
Angels Busy, Dodgers Dizzy
In my morning mailbox:
Subj: The end of the Dodgers as we know them
I am absorbing Arte Moreno's acquisition of two power arms in the offseason thus far. He has negotiated from a position of strength in that he does not need to lose a first round draft pick to acquire A-grade free agents (though he will lose a sandwich and second-round pick). In (Kelvim) Escobar's case, it was a brilliant move; his numbers off Astroturf are phenominal, and he should pitch very well at the Ed. In the case of (Bartolo) Colon, I fear they picked up a name without thinking, as Colon's K/9 dropped dramatically in the last two years. You would think that Sele would have taught them that guys with declining K/9 numbers are not a good investment, especially for contracts longer than three years. But, at least the Halos have been active.
The Dodgers have not.
Sure, there was the huge Duaner Sanchez deal, the resigning of Robin "Where's My Walker?" Ventura, and Masao Kida to a minor league contract, but nothing of import so far. I get the strong impression that this is because the team has substantial pay cuts coming and is loathe to mention them in public. Frank McCourt cannot say it -- he is forbidden to. The Dodgers dare not say it -- it undermines their negotiating position for players like Kevin Brown and Odalis Perez. Perhaps deals fell through because of poor fits or extravagant costs. Certainly, you could argue that we made the Snakes give up far more for Richie Sexson than they should have. And while that's all good, a cloud hangs over Chavez Ravine.
The owners' meetings will certainly be interesting
Of course, you forget Tom Martin ...
Certainly, we're all getting a little stir-crazy. Not just this letter-writer - Steve Dilbeck expresses the same sentiment in this morning's Daily News. It's been a month since the Phillies-Astros trade of Billy Wagner essentially kicked off the Hot Stove League, and the Dodger stewpot has been at simmer for that entire time. Some might call it a crockpot.
But there are three kinds of activity, in this order: good, none and bad. As this letter points out, the Colon signing is a risky one for the Angels. They have committed $51 million over four years to a pitcher, nearly $13 million per year. I applaud Arte Moreno's willingness to invest in his team, but I don't know if that's the best allocation of funds. If injuries or ineffectiveness ruin a year of that deal, the average salary for the remaining three rises to $17 million.
The Dodgers have been this kind of "active" in the past and it has burned them. Admittedly, they went above and beyond with Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort, but just as one adjusts for park factors in evaluating statistics, I think you have to adjust for market factors in evaluating salaries. For all the value Colon is sure to bring to the Angels, his contract is some serious money - maybe a little too serious.
And then, of course, there is the chaos that is the New York Yankees. Read today's Bronx Banter. Yeah, they play in October, but would you really want to be part of this? I'm sorry, I lament the lost hitting, but I still don't miss Gary Sheffield.
There will come a time to judge the 2004 Dodgers, but this isn't it. The Hot Stove League hasn't even reached its All-Star Break - pennants are not won by December 10. As hamstrung they are by the Frank McCourt tremors, the Dodgers have too many resources not to be competitive next year. The most significant player they have lost from their 85-win team is Paul Quantrill. I'm still looking for a National League West team that intimidates me into submission, but I can't find one. Better to continue using this time encouraging rational moves by the Dodgers than encouraging activity for the sake of activity.
Daryle Ward, You Have Earned Every Dollar...
... of your non-guaranteed, minor-league contract with Pittsburgh.
Read this entry by Tyler Bleszinski at AthleticsNation.com:
If someone asked me to point to a vivid memory of my Dad at Fenway, I would probably come up blank because the time that meant the most to me never had anything to do with a particular game or a specific action. It may have just been the cramped seats of the majestic stadium, but I never felt closer to him than at Fenway Park.
Fenway may have ghosts and a curse, but the truth is, it will always be a temple to me.
Happy Birthday, Walter. And best wishes, Tyler.
No Frustrated Jocks Here
It's almost less about the quality of the people he interviews than it is about the quality of his questions (and the answers they elicit). I'm talking about Alex Belth, whose latest thoughtful interview, with Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, can be found here.
A worthwhile excerpt, which conforms with my experience in the sportswriting world:
BB: You mentioned earlier that in a perfect world, yeah you would have loved to have been a ballplayer. Do you find that a lot of sports journalists are frustrated jocks?
Verducci: I don't think so. A lot of times I take exception to the cliché of the frustrated jock. If you can't do, therefore you write. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, but from what I've seen that is a very tiny fraction of the writing population. I think people get into writing because they like to write. In some cases the writers like sports more than the people playing the games. I know people—and I'm sure you know this with fans—who are more passionate about their sports than the athletes themselves. I can't say I know many writers who are frustrated [jocks] and are trying to live out their fantasies by just being around that culture and writing about it.
Some of you who are relatively new to Dodger Thoughts (actually, I'm sort of amazed that my audience has continued to grow during the offseason) may wonder why Priorities and Frivolities is included among the many baseball links. This Spring, its author, Robert Garcia Tagorda, burst upon the Dodger blogging scene like Edwin Jackson - only older - dazzling us with his insightful repe-twa.
Since then, Tagorda's Priorities have shifted to the political, but he still remains one of the best blog reads on the Web. As I've written before:
On some issues, he and I fall on different sides of the political spectrum; on others, we are close. In either case, I never fail to learn something from his material. ... Political references has been deliberately kept from Dodger Thoughts. But if you have any interest in what's going on outside of the basepaths, read Robert.Why bring this up today? Because Tagorda has joined the hundreds of happy peppy people who have left Blogger for greener, Moveable Type pastures. He has a new URL, www.tagorda.com, and I hope you enjoy, or continue to enjoy, using it.
And, Robert promises me that he's not done writing about baseball yet.
Ventura - The Backup - Signs
I need to start out by correcting an error I made last month. The deadline for offering salary arbitration to those eligible for free agency was Sunday. However, the deadline for offering arbitration for those not eligible for free agency - notably, Adrian Beltre and Dave Roberts - is not for another two weeks.
So Beltre is still the Dodger third baseman - and Sunday's signing of Robin Ventura does little to affect the Dodgers' evaluation of Beltre as their hot corner man for 2004. Ventura instead takes over the Ron Coomer role of backup at first base and third base. More accurately, Ventura takes over the role filled by Dave Hansen for most of the past decade, but left unfilled last year.
The signing of Ventura surprised me - as I saw the news, I let out a manly gasp that sent my wife running out of our bathroom thinking I had hit my head against the wall accidentally, rather than metaphorically. The dollar value attached - $1.2 million plus incentives for a year - took me aback. For example, here are Hansen's age, OPS+ (courtesy of Baseball Reference.com, major league average is 100), and salary for the past two seasons, plus what he's looking at in 2004:
2002: 33 years old, OPS+ 107, salary $675,000
Now, here are Ventura's:
2002: 34 years old, OPS+ 121, $8,500,000
Ventura compiled his numbers over more plate appearances, and has the advantage of being a better fielder, but you might surmise that the Dodgers are spending a few hundred thousand dollars to pay for Ventura's reputation, to pay for hits in his past.
That being said, Ventura did hit a home run every 22 at-bats with the Dodgers, walks more often than the average Dodger, and used judiciously, can be a positive player. He'll make less money for his full season with the Dodgers than he made during his partial season in 2003. So if they overpaid, it's not by that much.
Along with signing Ventura, the Dodgers offered Paul Quantrill and Wilson Alvarez salary arbitration. For Quantrill, it was a formality that, after much confusion on this writer's end, apparently will provide the Dodgers compensation in the 2004 draft. Alvarez is still not a Dodger - he can decline arbitration if he wants to - but the Dodgers' show of interest in Alvarez among a field of free agents who were mostly spun away by their teams speaks to a likely signing.
Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Jordan, Rickey Henderson, Andy Ashby, Fred McGriff and Coomer are gone. Is that it for Rickey in the majors?
You'll notice that I haven't talked at any length about Nomar Garciaparra yet. I'm working up to it.
The Transaction Guy organizes the list of free agents not offered salary arbitration, by position. As you will see, pickings at most spots in this group, particularly the corner infield, are slimmer than Whitman.
One year after a near-lifetime with the Dodgers, Eric Karros has joined the ranks of the itinerant - the Reggie Sanders and Kenny Loftons, who rack up new teams like Paula Marshall racks up new shows. I feel bad ... mostly for Paula. She deserves another Cupid.
National League West Rosters - Updated December 8, 5 p.m.
Added: Carlos Baerga (Arizona), Steve Reed, Greg Norton, Mark Sweeney (Colorado), Robin Ventura (Los Angeles), Rod Beck (San Diego), J.T. Snow, Michael Tucker (San Francisco).
Three Big Names to Consider
Nomar Garciaparra, Boston, SS
Miguel Tejada, Oakland (free agent), SS
That's not to say that Tejada is the be-all and end-all - you still have to negotiate smart with him, and be prepared to walk away. However, no report indicates that Tejada is asking for an eight-figure annual salary. Unless the Dodgers can get Garciaparra to agree to a contract extension for less than his current salary, I don't see why they should pursue him - except as a bargaining tool with Tejada.
For the umpteenth time, however, I remind you that the Dodgers should not get a big-name shortstop if it prevents them from getting a great-hitting outfielder. Better to have Cesar Izturis at short than Chin-Feng Chen or Jolbert Cabrera in left.
Rafael Palmeiro, Texas (free agent), 1B
I have no idea what salary Palmeiro will command. He would represent an improvement over Fred McGriff, offensively and defensively, so there is the potential for value, even if his acquisition would almost strike me as too reminiscent of McGriff. But with his reptuation, plus his Texas-inflated stats, the risk for overpayment is considerable.
Ah, Sweet Unnamed Sources
The Times, 24 hours ago:
The Dodgers' off-season search for a first baseman could finally end with the team reacquiring Paul Konerko, two club sources said Wednesday.
The Times, this morning:
A deal for Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, a two-time Dodger minor league player of the year, has been on the table for weeks, sources said, but Evans apparently isn't interested.
Further celebrity guests on the sports page today are Nomar Garciaparra and Jermaine Dye. It's sort of like a parade. I love a parade.
I guess we should enjoy this while we can, before the January procession of non-roster invitees like Ron Coomer and Pedro Borbon, Jr.
Stadium Shooting Not About Rivalry, Police Says
Meant to mention this Thursday. The Times quotes Lt. Jorge Villegas of the Los Angeles Police Department as saying that the September Dodger Stadium shooting was not related to fan rivalry:
On Sept. 19, about 10 p.m., Marc Antenorcruz of Covina was walking in the stadium parking lot with his sister, brother and a friend, when an argument broke out with another group, which included Marron, police said.
"Despite what was reported, there is no information from anybody that the dispute was over the baseball teams," Villegas said. "It was not about baseball."
The dispute, which Villegas did not describe further, led to Antenorcruz being shot twice after a man he was arguing with pulled a .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun from a truck, police said.
As You Expected, the Yankee Rumors Cool
The Yankees appear to have traded Nick Johnson for a starting pitcher, but it's not Kevin Brown or Odalis Perez, but rather Javier Vasquez of the Montreal Expos.
With Jeff Weaver still penciled for the Yankee rotation, the Yankee interest in one of the Dodger starters won't have diminished, but ...
(Jay Jaffe of The Futulity Infielder analyzes the Yankees starting pitching needs with ferocious detail. The caveat is that he concludes with what the Yankees should do, as opposed to what they will do. Nevertheless, on a list of targets that placed Vasquez fourth, Brown is third and Perez is fifth.)
... with Johnson gone, Dodger general manager Dan Evans may shut things down. Unless he is encouraged by the news contained in this New York Times report:
Weaver (reported) to Tampa to work with Billy Connors, the organizational pitching guru who has since been hospitalized after bypass surgery last weekend.
Weaver said in a telephone interview that Connors altered his arm angle, telling him he had been throwing sidearm too often and swinging his leg too far behind him in his delivery. Weaver was relieved to find a mechanical cause for his struggles.
"It's like if you practice a bad golf swing over and over, you're not going to really notice what you're doing after a while," he said. "I was throwing sidearm for so long, I didn't even realize I was down so low and really dropping my head."
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times passes along Paul Konerko as the Dodger target o' the day. I was a little disappointed by this, because I think he's overvalued in the current market. (See my analysis of Konerko here.) As I wrote then, the trade is valid only if the White Sox picked up some salary.
* * *
Paul Quantrill's imminent signing with the Yankees could yield two high draft picks for the Dodgers (then again, maybe not, according to post #116). A fringe benefit is that because he was so superb with the Dodgers in 2003, and because some of that suberbity had to do with Cora and Izturis fielding the many ground balls hit off his pitches (he induced more than two grounders for every fly and for every strikeout while with the Dodgers), Dodger fans are not likely to be tortured by seeing another player leave Los Angeles and perform better elsewhere.
Which is not to say that we won't see Quantrill pitching in October without us.
I congratulate Quantrill for being rewarded for his risk in opting out of his Dodger contract. I question whether he is worth the near-$7 million committment for two years that the Yankees have reportedly promised him, but wish him the best.
Oh, and MLB.com reports that erstwhile Dodger Larry Barnes is following Mike Kinkade to Japan.
Looking at the ages of the hitters the Dodgers are pursuing, I got to wondering about how old certain Dodger players from the past were when they had their best offensive seasons.
I ended up looking up EQAs on Baseball Prospectus for about 50 Dodgers - just about everyone who was a regular for at least two seasons. (I omitted current, younger Dodgers, because they would skew the chart.)
Not surprisingly, some of the players were not with the Dodgers when they had their best season. But it's not as bad as the cynical among you might think.
I won't try to draw any conclusions from this chart, but I will say I thought I'd see more 27s than I saw 29s or 31s.
To think Rick Monday has been coasting for 35 years now ...
Career-Best EQAs of Selected Dodgers
I'm sure you're all fascinated to learn that Jeff Hamilton peaked at age 25.
Spoke to my brother just now. He suggested that Duke Snider was not active in 1854, as the chart below indicates. I asked him if he had researched this topic, and he confessed, with great embarrassment, that he hadn't.
I decided to leave the chart as is to teach him a valuable lesson.
Second Arrest on Dodger Stadium Shooting
Just to complete the roundup of news that didn't make the morning papers, this came over the wires:
A second man was arrested in the shooting of a San Francisco Giants fan at Dodger Stadium, authorities said.
Pete Marron, 19, a fugitive since he was charged with murder in September, was arrested during a traffic stop Tuesday after officers saw him leave a home they had staked out on a tip, said Officer Jason Lee of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Mike Kinkade Goes to Japan
Dodger utility man Mike Kinkade, who didn't get enough chances against left-handed pitching early in 2003 and then couldn't hit right-handers well enough later to take advantage of injuries to Brian Jordan and Fred McGriff, signed an $800,000, one-year contract with Japan's Central League Champion Hanshin Tigers.
In other National League West news, the Giants resigned pitcher Dustin Hermanson, coincidentally to an $800,000, one-year contract. And the Rockies traded infielder Juan Uribe to the White Sox for infielder Aaron Miles.
Update: The Giants resigned Jeffrey Hammonds, he of the 37-game hitting streak for the 1990 Stanford Cardinal, to a one-year, $1 million contract with performance bonuses, according to The Associated Press, that could total an additional $825,000 - if he played 150 games and reached 550 plate appearances.
The rest of the baseball world always picks on Hammonds and the teams that sign him - you won't see me do that here.
National League West Rosters - Updated December 3, 5 p.m.
Though I don't expect Paul Lo Duca to be the Dodger opening day first baseman, given my operating philosophy of treating the rosters as if the season started today, I think you have to put him there until a new first baseman is found.
Rumors, Coast to Coast
Some consensus, some discrepancies ...
From the Newark Star-Ledger:
The Yankees have had discussions with the Los Angeles Dodgers, as first reported yesterday by Newsday, about a trade that would bring right-hander Kevin Brown to the Bronx. Officials with both teams said yesterday the talks have not yet progressed very far ...
Dodgers officials said yesterday there was "no chance" they would agree to a Brown-for-Weaver swap, but they left open the possibility that the Yankees' offer could be improved and the talks rekindled.
The Dodgers have interest in dealing Brown because of the $15 million he'll make each of the next two seasons. Receiving Jeff Weaver in return wouldn't get it done, Dodgers sources said yesterday. Los Angeles would like Nick Johnson ...
From the Los Angeles Times:
Pitcher Kevin Brown's desire to play for an East Coast team has further complicated an already difficult off-season for Dodger General Manager Dan Evans, who might trade the All-Star right-hander to the New York Yankees, team sources said Tuesday.
Agent Scott Boras recently informed Evans that Brown wants to play for a team closer to his off-season home in Macon, Ga., the sources said, saying Brown would waive his no-trade clause to join the American League champions. ...
The Yankees, apparently aware of Brown's stance regarding his future, have offered beleaguered 27-year-old right-hander Jeff Weaver. But the Dodgers won't trade Brown for Weaver straight up, two team executives said.
From the New York Post:
If the Dodgers were to trade Brown, according to sources, it would be for a hitter, not a hittee. In fact, industry sources on both the left and right coast shot down such a trade ...
From the New York Times, which seems to have concluded that this is old news:
The Yankees toyed briefly last month with another significant pitching acquisition, speaking to the Los Angeles Dodgers about acquiring 38-year-old Kevin Brown, who makes $15 million a year and is an elite pitcher when he stays healthy. The same baseball official said the discussions about Brown were part of a hypothetical four-way trade that "never got off the ground."
A second baseball official said the Dodgers had no interest in the trade, which Newsday reported yesterday as a potential straight-up exchange involving Brown and pitcher Jeff Weaver, who has struggled mightily as a Yankee. That official said that Dodger conversations about trading pitching had centered on adding offense, not cutting payroll, which would be the main benefit of trading Brown for Weaver.
As evidence that the Dodgers could add salary, the official noted that the team spoke to the Florida Marlins about first baseman Derrek Lee before he was traded to the Chicago Cubs last week, and to the Milwaukee Brewers about the slugger Richie Sexson before he was dealt to Arizona on Monday. The Dodgers backed out of both deals, the official said, when the asking price, in terms of players, became too high.
From the Los Angeles Daily News:
Although the New York Yankees have interest in starting pitcher Kevin Brown, the right-hander apparently will be staying in L.A. ...
However, sources said Tuesday the Yankees' offer was rejected. The Dodgers have received several offers for Brown and Hideo Nomo but apparently will only trade pitching in exchange for an offensive upgrade.
The Dodgers and Yankees talked last month about potential trades involving Nick Johnson or Alfonso Soriano, but those talks centered around Odalis Perez, not Brown.
And then, there are the Carlos Beltran and Rafael Palmeiro rumors. The Daily News continues:
Rafael Palmeiro might be the Dodgers' best free-agent option, and Randall Simon will be expendable since the Cubs acquired Lee.
Several teams, including the Dodgers, have expressed interest in Kansas City outfielder Carlos Beltran, but it seems increasingly likely the Royals won't deal him. They turned down several offers for Beltran at last season's trade deadline and, beyond that, the Dodgers are reluctant to trade for players who will be free agents after 2004.
From the Kansas City Star (annoying registration process required):
The Los Angeles Dodgers, after failing to land either Derrek Lee or Richie Sexson, are again showing interest in acquiring Carlos Beltran in an effort to boost their punchless lineup.
The problem for Dodgers general manager Dan Evans is nothing has changed since last summer when he pushed harder than anyone else in efforts to pry Beltran away from the Royals.
Simply put: The Royals don't see a match.
The Royals want more than lower-level prospects in return for Beltran, a superb defensive center fielder who led the club last season in virtually every offensive category.
My take Tuesday on the theoretical Brown trade is here. I find today that Bill Plaschke of the Times and I are in agreement, which hasn't happened much in the past year. So from the Dodger standpoint, I have to assume that the trade is a no-brainer. Whether it will happen, of course, is another story. But I don't mind that Evans is trying to negotiate with authority rather than desperation, trying to get more.
Time permitting, I'll take a closer look at Beltran and Palmeiro.
Advancing the Insight, One Base at a Time
Alex Belth of Bronx Banter, who made a Thanksgiving weekend foray to some used bookstores (that is to say, bookstores that sell used books, not bookstores that are washed-up), is reading Maury Wills' autobiography, On the Run. He quotes from it today, and now I'm going to steal that quote from Alex - less because Wills is an ex-Dodger and more to relay the compelling thoughts about bunting and fundamentals from one of the game's most famous small-ballers.
I refuse to get upset with modern ballplayers who can't bunt or run the bases. They said the same things when I was playing.
So it doesn't drive me nuts to got to a game and see players who can't execute fundamentals. There were only a handful of players when I played who could do the little things like bunting properly. The game hasn't really changed that way. Managers get made because someone didn't sacrifice a man over, but very few managers insist that their players learn to bunt.
...They don't have a column in the papers to tell who's leading the league in sacrifice bunts. You don't see guys demand that their salaries be doubled because they lead the league in sacrifice bunts. There's not glory for bunters. All bunting does is win ballgames.
...Learning to bunt takes a lot of time. The manager ends up assuming that some guys can do it and others can't and he leaves it at that. You have to have time for infield practice. You have to have time for batting practice, the great priority. You have time for all that other stuff, but you don't have time for bunting.
It's like I wrote way back in Feburary.
Brian Jordan is quoted as saying more little ball is coming. “We shouldn't have to sit back and wait for the three-run home run. We're going to do a lot more."Or in April, during the opening week of the season ...
Frankly, I’ve been wondering what makes mediocre offensive teams like the Dodgers think they would be any better at manufacturing runs than they are at buying them retail. If they’re not good enough build an above-average OPS, what makes them think that they can execute a fairly difficult play, the hit-and-run?
A Contract Killing?
From Newsday, the whopper of the Dodger offseason:
According to multiple sources, the Yankees have seriously contemplated acquiring righthander Kevin Brown from the Dodgers. In return for Brown, who will turn 39 in March and will make $15 million in each of the next two seasons, the Yankees have offered their beleaguered righthander, Jeff Weaver.
First of all, can I say how stunned I was that Brown has only two years left on his contract with the Dodgers? You might have figured Harry Potter would be in law school before the Brown deal ran its course.
Weaver is owed $15.5 million through 2005, meaning that his contract is almost exactly half the cost of Brown's. Of course, Weaver doesn't appear to be half the pitcher of Brown - a healthy Brown, anyway. He's more like a - 10%.
Still, you have to believe the Dodgers would most certainly make Brown available to anyone, even straight up for Weaver.
They should obviously negotiate for more. Add Nick Johnson to the trade, and it's a slam dunk. For that matter, with all the ridicule the Dodgers got for the picking up Todd Hundley a year ago, acquiring Johnson might be as important for image reasons as talent reasons.
But if it's only Weaver, you set up the T.J. Simers barricades and still make the trade.
Brown is a significant injury risk with a huge salary on a pitching-rich team. Especially with the ownership in transition, they would be eager to add flexibility to the payroll. Moreover, he is the symbol of the misguided excess of the failed Kevin Malone "Bring 'em on" era. If the team can trade the other symbol of the Fox era, Gary Sheffield - which they did fairly easily - they could and should absolutely trade Brown. He is Cisco stock purchased at $80 a share.
Weaver averages fewer than six strikeouts per nine innings, so I'm not betting that he'd turn his career around in Los Angeles. But at age 27, I think one could risk that Weaver is more likely to perform like Omar Daal 2001 than Andy Ashby 2003, or even Hundley 2003.
If you can mine the best from the pitcher, as the Dodgers did with Daal and Terry Adams and Wilson Alvarez, that's gravy. But to lower the payroll by $14.5 million, plus all those round trip plane tickets for Brown's family, that's the meat.
Meanwhile, From the Department of Not Compromising
Here's a tangent to a tangent. A story about the Barry Sanders of the comics world. (Does baseball have a Barry Sanders?)
Meanwhile, speaking as a big fan of Bloom County, I think Berke Breathed is going to have to come up with more than snappy artwork - say, humor and interesting characters - to make Opus worthwhile. Does no one miss Milo or Binkley?
Under the Interview Knife
By now, I hope you're making it a habit to check out Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT at least once a week for his superb interviews with people of the Interbaseballnet. In case you haven't, be sure to catch the last two, with Baseball Prospectus' Will Carroll (who helped me so much with my Shawn Green article) and David Pinto of Baseball Musings.
What NL pitcher threw the most pitches under 80 MPH?
Hideo Nomo in a landslide, throwing 150 more under 80 MPH pitches than number two on the list, Mark Redman. We think of Nomo as a premier strikeout pitcher, but this is just a reminder that it isn't how hard you throw the ball...
Headline at Dodgers.com:
Five Dodgers on Hall of Fame ballot
And the teaser begins:
Juan Samuel and Jim Eisenreich are making their first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot this year...
Now that's poetry.
The other three, by the way, are Steve Garvey, Tommy John and Fernando Valenzuela. You can make the best case for John, but even he should wait in line behind at least Bert Blyleven, Ryne Sandberg, Paul Molitor and Alan Trammell.
For a perspective on Garvey's candidacy, in which I point out that he was not in any given year the best hitter on the Dodgers, click here.
The Worthy Pain of Compromise
When my 14-month-old daughter is smiling with her glittering eyes, cheek-to-so-pinchable-it-looks-like-there's-chaw-in-there cheek, when she laughs from the back of her throat like you're Richard Pryor and you've just killed, when she buries her tired face in your chest in a darkened bedroom at 6 a.m., little else matters.
When my wife cuddles next to me, just like she has every night of the past four years - we've only been separated about seven nights that entire time - little else matters.
When I'm away from them, at the office or in the spare room, writing - in days past for the screen, in days present for this website - well, little else matters.
There was a time, just in the last decade, where all I had was my writing, and I did plenty of it, but I didn't have the stamina to do it all day. So there were hours, days, that were empty. Just plain empty and sad.
Now, 24 hours, seven days, 52 weeks, 365 days, it's not enough. It's not enough for me to fully experience all the joys I percieve in life. I make compromises just to get tastes.
I am not as good as I want to be in anything. I want to be a better father, better husband, better writer, better athlete. I want to travel like I could when I was younger. I was fortunate enough to visit London three times by my 20th birthday. Sixteen years later, I haven't been back. I haven't been to Yosemite since I was 11 - even though I tell myself every year I have to go. I want to see Ireland, Australia, Japan. And oh yeah, I want to ski at least two weeks each year. Good luck.
I used to play basketball two or three times a week. Last week, while with my family at the park, I picked up a stray ball - had to be the first time in two years. Usually, when I pick up a ball, I miss a shot, then hit three in a row - feeling loose as a goose, before I start to think about my shot and settle back into making about a third, or about a fourth. This time, there were so many misses of the same shot in a row, so shaky, air balls from seven feet, I felt like I was relearning how to walk.
Even reading is a tradeoff. I juggle magazines and newspapers, barely able to fit in all that I want. Then there's all the informative writing about baseball on the Web - an area where, you can imagine, I have built a significant interest. Barely manage. When I try to squeeze a book in, the wheels come off. I can't read all I want to read. Is that right? Is that possible?
I have slashed my television watching to try to help this. When I could say with conviction that I was in the profession, I was watching about as many hours per week as there are prime time hours in the week. Bought a second VCR in case there were three shows on at once that I wanted to see, and sometimes relied on my brother's two VCRs for backup as well. Now, I feel misgivings when I test a new show, even if it might be good, because it may stretch my rubber-band existence further.
Oh yeah - and I have a job. Doesn't require overtime in labor or stress. The people I work with couldn't be nicer. But, you know, those are 40 or so hours a week where you know, I need to pay attention.
I put off calling friends because there's so much I feel I need to do. Is there much in the world to be less proud of?
This website has made my year, as far as anything to do with work goes. Something as silly as writing about the Dodgers has made me feel that my education and my career are worth more than food and shelter. When I read something or see something that I want to discuss here, I'm revved up, Indy 500-alive. When I piece together sentences and I like the way I've done it, I don't need someone else's praise to feel pride. And I like pride. I'm not overflowing with it, so it's still a treat.
Rest assured, when I'm recognized by a reader or a fellow writer, I'm on Cloud 10 1/2. Oh, man, can I milk some praise, even the smallest praise.
In this niche of the world - baseball writing on the Web, unpaid division - objectively, I'm somebody. I'm a role player. I'm - I'll pick a ballplayer I don't even like, but he's on my mind today and he fits - Craig Counsell. I'm not an All-Star - in fact, give someone else my roster slot, and he might do better. But you know, I feel like I'm in the Show. It's a blessing. Writing this website is a blessing. I get triple-digit readers daily now, but I'll tell you, the moment I realized I had crossed into double digits, that was a sweet exhale on a cold day.
But my god, this site is nowhere near the quality I want it to be. It is thrown together, rapid-fire, a machine gun barely under control, spraying bullets every which way. It has the potential to meet or surpass what others do, but I can't seem to make it happen. I can't find the resources to take the extra base when it's there - and god, it's right there, all the time. So little time is spent refining the writing, which means so much to me. I settle for the obvious words. I let stand a turn of phrase that's an obvious stretch.
It's not enough to wipe away the blessings, but it's frustrating. I crave doing better. I want to be the storyteller, the unequivocal storyteller.
I make compromises instead. They're the best compromises I can think of - because believe me, I weigh this stuff every day. But I think I have my priorities straight. Family comes first, every time. (Well, maybe there's a moment when I cheat, and my wife changes a diaper while I sneak a peek at the latest comments on Baseball Primer Clutch Hits, but that's about the worst of it.) When work needs my full attention, it gets it.
And I think I'm a nice person to be around. (At least, I hide my anger in public well.) That counts.
But I find myself wondering, with ignorant curiosity, what happens to ballplayers when they get married and they have kids. Who makes compromises? What kind of compromises do they make? I know of one for sure - they're gone from their families for longer on one road trip then I've been gone my entire marriage. But beyond that unavoidable issue of logistics, the ones who have stayed close with their family and retained the ability to hit and pitch, those are the Hall of Famers.
I find myself scoffing, with equal parts superiority and jealousy, at writers out there who are single. What I could do with their extra time. Then again, what did I do with it when I had it? No excuses - everyone has hurdles, and you are judged by what you leave on the page.
I find myself pondering the notion of team chemistry. Mention the term, and people always bring up the A's of the 1970s: "They didn't need to like each other to win." Duh! All of a sudden, that seems like the obvious conclusion, the natural one - to have to make the case for it is like having to make the case that reality shows don't reflect reality at all. Being nice to people can so innocently erode the single-minded devotion to getting better at your trade, for two reasons: 1) it often involves sacrifice and 2) it can give you enough pleasure that you don't need to get better at your job. In the game of baseball, if you hate the uni next to you, what else have you got for yourself but to try to be the best there ever was?
No, I make the compromises. I savor my family and accept the frustration that this site isn't as good as I'd like it to be. I'm gonna try every day to be better than I was the day before. But at the same time, I'm posting this message at 9 p.m. without reading it over, Stanford Cardinally sinning, because at some point a man's got to eat dinner. I have a wife who worries when I don't.
I'm the kid who has this habit of dreaming
- from "The Kid," written by Buddy Mondlock
Jon Weisman's outlet
for dealing psychologically
with the Los Angeles Dodgers
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity