Monthly archives: January 2005
"I feel as well now as I have in a long time," he said. "I feel inner peace right now. No anger."
He looked again to Linda, who said, "It's the most amazing thing, the peace he has had. He even sleeps well. He's embracing life."
For now, it won't include the Dodgers, not even for a night. They have asked if he would come to a game, where they would honor his 28 years with them. Porter shook his head slowly. No noise. No spotlight.
"I really think we're past that," he said. "I wouldn't feel comfortable doing that. That's over. We will just go on."
Even if he wasn't exactly Ross Porter as we remembered him, he will be again soon. In the meantime, there'd be nothing wrong with pulling for the announcer and the man.
"Believe me," Scully said, "we have not heard the last from [Ross Porter]."
- Tim Brown in the Times, reporting on Ross Porter's induction into the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
'We Don't Need a Norihiro' - Or Do We?
We don't need a Norihiro
Honestly, is Tina Turner really a reliable source for this kind of analysis?
Which brings me to this morning's e-mail.
In the Dodger Thoughts In box:
I just wanted to make a polite lobbying pitch for you to do a post about Norihiro Nakamura. Haven't seen too much posted on him since the story first surfaced, but this piece suggests the Dodgers are a good bet to sign him and that he would be willing to play for only $500,000.
In the Dodger Thoughts Sent box:
I'm paying attention but just haven't been moved to post yet. I know I should - I know it's more important than some of the stuff I'm doing. But it strikes me, other than the international flavor of it, as talking in advance about the equivalent of signing Olmedo Saenz or not much more. Nakamura just doesn't look that important to me. Certainly, he could probably help, but I'm not worked up over it.
The two main keys for Nakamura, assuming he didn't have a lights-out Spring Training (or even if he did), are whether his dream to play in the United States could include at least a temporary stay in Las Vegas, and whether the Dodgers will carry 11 pitchers or 12. The surplus of candidates and the fragility of the starting rotation points to a 12-man staff, but it's no lock. A trade of fellow Japanese veteran Kazuhisa Ishii could tilt the balance back to 11 pitchers and a six-man bench.
Perhaps the more important news to draw is the reminder that Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta hasn't closed the book on improving the Dodger roster now, in March or throughout the season.
Kazuhisa is life beyond ... the thunderdome
Update: Dodgers win the bidding. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com suggests that Nakamura "could become a Plan B at first base should Hee-Seop Choi struggle offensively."
Yet another statistician - David Pinto of Baseball Musings - offers numbers indicating that Jeff Kent was a better fielding second baseman in 2004 than Alex Cora.
I'm not keeping score, but I'm pretty sure that Kent is beating Cora in most of these studies.
Hey, I'm no different from the rest of you. This is like having people telling me that Phoebe Cates isn't beautiful or the hamburgers at Kirk's in Palo Alto during college weren't the best anyone has ever had.
But what are your options?
a) Conclude that all the statistical models picking Kent over Cora are flawed.
b) Conclude there's a conspiracy among statisticians to make Paul DePodesta look good.
c) Overlook or deny that these Kentriffic statistics exist.
d) Conclude that, at a minimum, there might be something to this.
You're welcome to make a case for a) if you can, but it seems better to go with d).
Someone could have the prettiest swing, but if the guy's offensive stats repeatedly trailed Mr. Herky Jerky, would you insist he was the better hitter? How many times can it be the stats' fault?
It should be as simple as the plot of Paradise that Cora is a better fielder than Kent, but it's not. There's something about Kent we're not seeing, something about Cora we're not seeing, or something about these models we're not seeing.
At any rate, anyone should be wary of stating unequivocally that the Dodgers have weakened their defense at second base. With all the evidence piling up against him, how can anyone stipulate to Cora's supremacy at this point? Really, is there so much harm in acknowledging the mere possibility that are eyes might be misleading us?
Beyond that, the task today is to increase the breadth and depth of this conversation by publicizing these advanced fielding models with the simplest possible explanation for how they work (like, "rate of expected outs converted.") Because just like it was with OPS, it's going to be a matter of momentum, of seeing other people using these statistics and feeling comfortable with them, to win acceptance for them.
OPS isn't the end of the conversation about offense - but it improves the conversation. It expands it. That's what I'm talking about. We need to expand the conversation about how defense is measured.
It's 2005, and like it or not, you can't judge a second baseman by its cover. Kent can field a little bit, and Cora maybe not as much as we thought.
And by the way, Cates' acting improved as her career went on...
In the Projector Room
Three different systems for projecting future performance are reconciled - with the Dodgers as guinea pigs - in this article by Tom Meagher at The Fourth Outfielder.
Humble Pie and Modesty Cake
In some ways, writing Dodger Thoughts, is like whipping up a meal for the entire mess tent. And on some days, despite my efforts at gourmet preparation, I'm Igor ladling creamed corn.
One particular meal seems to go wrong for Chef Jon more than any other. Most of my efforts at serving Frank and Jamie McCourt come out flat - overcooked here, underdone there.
On no other issue relating to the Dodgers have I felt more out of sync with my readers. Pepper the McCourts, and patrons tell me to ease off. Serve the McCourts with sugar, and my guests want to spit out the sweetness.
Friday's supper, "One Year of the McCourts," was no different, even with an explicit effort to mix in both sweet and sour. Though there were a few who swallowed it all, most pushed it aside with a frown and asked for the check. As Zagat might have put it, the piece was "pointless" and "counterproductive," needed to be more "fair," offered side dishes that raised the question "how much do we really care," and overall signaled, in case one cared, that the chef could "kiss ... chances of working at the Dodgers' front office goodbye."
Sometimes I'll write something and expect disagreement. Comes with the territory of taking a point of view. No problem there. But when I write something and I'm surprised by the disagreeement, or at least the nature of the disagreement, well ...
First, it's an ego hit, in that I always expect my writing to hit the mark.
Once I get over that bad taste in my mouth (usually takes a couple of hours, or days, or ...) I've got some reflection to do.
I'll admit, the main conclusion I've drawn since last February was, "Don't write about the McCourts anymore." It has been something of a no-win situation for me since the get-go. There is something about the merge of their backgrounds and Dodger ownership history that has defied clarity. Little about them is as simple as it appears.
What I'm finally skimming off the top of this mess is that people can't seem to agree upon an owner's responsibilities, let alone whether these Dodger owners meet them satisfactorily or not.
I don't want to give the impression that I'm up nights worrying about this. Nothing I cook up about the McCourts on Dodger Thoughts is going to resemble Proust and his madelines anyway. But in the future, when it comes to the McCourts, I am going to try a new recipe - a much more humble approach.
On this site, I've asked the McCourts to relate more honestly to Dodger fans and acknowledge those who disagree with them with more than defensiveness and platitudes. I'm going to follow my own advice. It's a new year - Year 2 of the McCourt ownership. I'm throwing out any previous conclusions and try to reverse the divisiveness. Let's start over and see what happens.
One Year of the McCourts
Today is the 366th day of the McCourt ownership of the Dodgers. Dodger fans can be thankful in many ways - although mostly, perhaps, for fears about the McCourts not yet being realized. Sort of like giving thanks on Thanksgiving that you're not the turkey.
On the other hand, there definitely have been some "As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly" disappointments.
Without emotion, let's briefly assess the McCourt ownership:
To Be Determined
More to come, as things come to mind...
Update: Perhaps anticipating anniversary stories (sorry, that's too cyncial), the Dodgers release some enticing information about tickets, via Ken Gurnick at MLB.com. One plan, the "Coca-Cola Value 12-pack," offers 12 tickets for $36 total.
"We will be in the bottom half of the Team Market Report Fan Cost Index for a family of four attending a Major League game," said Martin Greenspun, the Dodgers' chief operating officer.
I tip my hat.
Good Luck, Hideo
If you can make it there
Wednesday, March 9: Dodgers vs. Tampa Bay. Scott Erickson vs. Hideo Nomo?
Update: In the prehistoric era of Dodger Thoughts, on September 13, 2002, I wrote the following:
After Hideo Nomo threw 132 pitches in the Dodgers' victory over San Francisco on Wednesday, players, coaches and reporters raved at his toughness. In response to the concept that throwing more than 120 pitches in a game has increasingly been proven to have a potentially harmful effect, these people all cited the fact that Nomo had exceeded the mark in Japan often, including a 191-pitch, 16-walk complete game. What they don't seem to remember is that Nomo's arm then went dead in the late-1990s, causing him to be released by the Dodgers and later by the Cubs.
Robert Tagorda, who covered politics and the Dodgers at his own site, Priorities and Frivolities, has taken Solomon's bait and cut himself in half. He is now doing his political writing at Outside the Beltway and his baseball writing at Baseball Crank. His recent output indicates that he's finding the moves quite liberating. Best on the new ventures, Robert.
Depth Wish 2005
Though his win-loss record fell from 23-8 in his Cy Young season in 1988 to 15-15 in 1989, Orel Hershiser remained a stalwart for the Dodgers. His ERA rose only from 2.26 to 2.31 and was just as strong relative to the league average.
In his fourth start of 1990, however, Hershiser walked off the mound in the middle of the seventh inning with rotator cuff damage. He would not return for 13 months.
Hershiser's departure opened up a fissure in the Dodger starting rotation of painful duration. While Ramon Martinez, Mike Morgan, Fernando Valenzuela and Tim Belcher combined to make 123 starts, it took eight other pitchers (including Hershiser) to fill the remaining 39 - "fill," in many cases, being a generous term.
Wetteland returned to the bullpen for the rest of his career June 5. Between June 5 and the end of the 1991 season, he allowed one earned run in 26 2/3 major league innings. And then was traded.
Neidlinger's success should have solved the Dodgers' pitching problems - except that Belcher did not make another appearance after August 16. Though not the only factor, Belcher's absence contributed to ...
The Dodgers finished 86-76, five games behind the World Series champion Cincinnati Reds, in 1990. The interminable search in the late spring and early summer for a starter to replace Hershiser arguably cost the team a division title.
Which brings us back to the present, and today's Daily News story.
Appreciate well that the Dodgers are building a host of possiblities to provide themselves depth in the starting rotation, given the health and quality concerns of the favorites to win spots and the youth in the minor leagues. There isn't always safety in numbers, but it costs very little to see if there might be. Arm-shredded Scott Erickson? Maybe not? Leave-me-be-until-after-the-game-starts Wilson Alvarez? Maybe not. Duaner Sanchez, who hasn't been a starting pitcher since 2001 in AA El Paso and hasn't been an effective starter since A ball? Maybe not. Elmer decends? Maybe not.
But the Dodgers aren't assuming that they have their starting five locked in. Perhaps it should be obvious for them to be wary, but teams have missed the obvious before.
Get Your Seminar Face On
The evening is going to be about the "New Face of Sports Journalism," so I guess I had better shave.
Along with Times columnist J.A. Adande, KCAL Channel 9 broadcaster Alan Massengale, KSPN 710 talkshow host Steve Mason and Dodger public relations director John Olguin, I will be participating in a seminar on "21st Century Sports Journalism" on February 2 at the L.A. Press Club (6464 Sunset Boulevard, 8th floor).
The panel begins at 7 p.m. (moderated by Reason associate editor and media columnist Matt Welch), and is preceded at 6 p.m. by refreshments and, as the Press Club so coyly puts it, "networking." From the press release:
Panelists will explore a variety of themes, including: * The love/hate relationship between teams (and fans) and their hometown paper * The Dodgers' PR problems this off-season * How to cover increasingly aloof pro athletes * The ESPN factor * Tips for the novice sports journalist * Interesting developments online * and more!
I think I must fall in the category of "interesting developments online," although I will strive to be a part of "and more!".
Tickets are $15 for non-members, $5 for members and free for those who join the Press Club at the event. To RSVP or get more information, call (323) 469-8180 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Space Reserved for PECOTA
Just off the top (OBP/SLG/VORP):
Milton Bradley (.365/.441/27.1)
Adrian Beltre (.337/.486/30.9)
To me, PECOTA is a mixed bag. (Here's a piece I wrote a year ago.) I don't put too much weight in the projections, but they offer a fun starting point for discussion. So discuss!
P.S. Noticed this from the comment thread on last year's PECOTA post:
If Mota can pitch well in the first half of the season, but the Dodgers don't appear to be playoff-bound I can see him being perfect trade fodder for DePodesta.
Some team is going to be a desperate for a setup man and will overpay for him.
Posted by: Bob Timmermann at February 27, 2004 11:30 PM
Chen and Thurston Clear Waivers
Chin-Feng Chen and Joe Thurston cleared waivers, meaning that no team felt that they were so unfairly buried in the Dodger organization that they wanted to take a flyer on them. As a result, the duo will go to Vero Beach and try to win a job with the Dodgers in Spring Training. Another season in Las Vegas may well be in store.
The full list of Dodger non-roster invitees to Spring Training:
P Buddy Carlyle
The potential available slots include one spot at catcher if an in-house alternative is needed for Dave Ross, and as many as two slots on the bench if Jason Grabowski struggles and the Dodgers carry 11 pitchers. As for the pitchers, there's always the possibility of grabbing a spot in the back of the bullpen. Injuries could open up even more opportunities, and of course, trades can still be made.
Update: Commenter Icaros reminds me to mention Scott Erickson - who I appoint this year's occupant of the he's-so-done chair occupied in 2003 by Wilson Alvarez and 2004 by Jose Lima.
Too much to ask for a third successful reclamation, right? It doesn't always work. For example, we had a successful 2004 Over the Hill Third Baseman Makes Comeback as Valuable Part-Timer in Olmedo Saenz, but 2003 was a bust with Ron Coomer.
Wait Til Next Year on Dodger Prospects
Most of you are eager for Dodger propsect news, but in case you haven't gotten over to Wait Til Next Year and its Top 100 List yet, here are the key Dodger mentions from All-Baseball.com colleague Bryan Smith:
9. Chad Billingsley: In 1996, [Kerry Wood] was the rage of the Florida State League, with a 5.7 H/9, 10.7 K/9, and an odd 5.5 W/9. His stuff was as good as it gets, with a huge fastball and breaking pitch, along with the occasional solid third pitch. Billingsley, similarly, posted a 6.7 H/9, 10/9 K/9 and 4.8 W/9 this year. His stuff is similar to that of Wood, the player whom I am speaking of above. But unlike Kerry, Chad moved up and dominated AA in the same season, and is set for an appearance in Los Angeles some time this summer.
10. Joel Guzman: Like Jeff Francoeur before him, Joel Guzman has had BB/K numbers in his career that are worse than any Major League star. But I guess looking at Guzman’s career is where you get problems, since he wasn’t nearly the player as heralded as the Dodgers had claimed…until this year. Guzman’s breakout this year is what Los Angeles had hoped for years ago; they spent a record amount on him when he would have been just a sophomore in high school. With that said, it’s hard to penalize Joel for waiting this long to show us his true colors, which is why I didn’t. But, I think if Guzman, who is likely to move to third, is any reason the Dodgers didn’t sign Adrian Beltre, that’s a large mistake. Guzman is another with a large ceiling, a lot of room for flame-out, with very little in-between. While scouts expect Guzman to grow even more than his 6-4 frame, pushing him away from shortstop, the Dodgers need to keep him there until it’s absolutely necessary to move him. Let me give you some advice L.A. fans: pray there isn’t.
23. Greg Miller: Even with a year missed, given what level he should begin at next season (AA), Miller is an extremely young prospect. Also, if Logan White is right that Miller has regained most of his stuff from his fantastic 2003 season, there should be no stopping him. I know this might fall on deaf ears to Dodger fans who have heard so much hype and seen so little results from Edwin Jackson, but trust me, these guys can make a difference. It might take Miller a little while to do so, recovering from the injury usually has a grace period, and the presence of Jackson, Chad Billingsley, Joel Hanrahan and Jonathan Broxton will allow the Dodgers to take him extremely slow. If I were a gambling man, I would bet on an ERA in the low 3.00s, a K/9 a bit below the nine mark, but a solid H/9. ...
45. Chuck Tiffany: ... (in his last four starts) the powerful lefty struck out 46 in 21.1 innings, allowing just ten hits and three earned runs in the process. My problem with Tiffany, is his lack of continued dominance even at a relatively easy level. After starting the season with nine solid starts (2.25 ERA), Chuck really ran into difficulty in his next nine. Only twice in those next batch of starts did Tiffany allow two or less earned runs, and in neither instance did he pitch more than four innings. His ERA for the nine games was 7.08, with 38 strikeouts and 41 hits allowed in 34.1 innings. ...
Honorable mention - Jonathan Broxton: ... his ranking would likely be higher if not for the loud murmurs that he's a candidate to make the switch to the bullpen. His control improved late in the season, quieting such talk, but such a big body will always harbor those debates. His performance in Vero Beach, like just about everyone that pitches there, was dominant. Care to be freaked out? Try comparing Broxton's peripherals (7.7 H/9, 3.0 W/9, 10.1 K/9, 1.19 WHIP) with those of Eric Gagne in the same stadium (7.6 H/9, 3.1 W/9, 9.3 K/9, 1.19 WHIP). ...
Honorable mention - Andy La Roche: Other than a low average in the second half of his season, at a level higher than what he began, there's really no reason to dislike Andy LaRoche as a prospect. His ISO was still quite high in Vero Beach, which as we've previously mentioned is a pitcher's park, and he continued to show fairly good patience. Considering how long it took Joel Guzman to adjust to the stadium, I think Dodgers' fans will understand that it's best for LaRoche to be sent back to high-A beginning next season. At some point, you'll probably see him move up to Jacksonville, with Blake DeWitt filling his shoes. ...
Honorable mention - James Loney: We heard the wrist excuses a year ago, when Loney was showing no power in a pitcher's park as a teenager. But then he came to Spring Training in 2004 and turned everyone's heads, making them proclaim that since his injury was healed, he was ready to start showing why he was a first-round pick in 2002. And then they sent him to the Southern League, and he regressed. Talk of the wrist injury not being healed resurfaced, but I'm just sick of the excuses. I like the low strikeout numbers, but at this point that's all I really like. He doesn't walk quite enough, and hasn't shown the ability to hit for average that was supposed to be his calling card. And his power? I really think he hit more home runs in the first week of exhibition games last spring than he did all year with Jacksonville. ...
Quick story: I worked for NBC as a gopher for the boxing coverage at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. Some of you might remember how chaotic that was - Roy Jones being denied his gold medal, in a fight whose judging later was proven to be fixed, Byun-Jong Il's 67-minute sit-in in the boxing ring, etc. Anyway, at the end, we made sweatshirts that had the slogan, "We're boxing - We're bad." We meant bad in the "cool" sense, but whoever translated it into Korean made a mistake and used an offensive term. The sweatshirt story was broadcast on national television - with all our names - and covered worldwide. Got everyone in hot water. We felt lucky to get out of the country without being detained by the police.
By the way - I know Chen isn't Korean. It's just a language story. The point is, I do mean to be sensitive.
Anyway, if you scroll down you'll notice a recent rush of comments defending Chen, such as one saying that if the Dodgers don't keep him, it will be the worst decision they have ever made. The timing, of course, is ironic. I'm not going to say I agree with these commenters, but they're certainly welcome to their opinion.
New Year, Old News for Ross
Dave Ross was released by Dominican Winter League team Licey, according to Raul Tavares on Dominican Players.
"He struggled in the plate and behind the plate," Tavares said. "He was not popular at all with Licey fans."
USA Today has Dominican League stats: Ross was 4 for 29 with one home run, two walks and nine strikeouts.
Go easy ...
Among the other fancy names down there, Joel Guzman is 10 for 34 with three walks and a home run. ... Angel Pena is 16 for 39 with three home runs. ... Jose Offerman has a .391 on-base percentage. ... Luis Polonia (Remember him? He's 41 now.) has a .770 OPS. ... Jose Lima has a 3.00 ERA in 21 innings ... Pedro Astacio hasn't allowed a run in 10 innings ...Dodger non-roster invitee Aquilino Lopez has a 5.87 ERA but 14 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings. ... Duaner Sanchez has a 6.14 ERA in 7 1/3 innings.
Downing and Lyons Get the Booth
A year ago, we were flared up for the Dodger ownership change. Things have been a little more sedate this week. But still, there's news ...
"They will work the 40-45 road games that Vin Scully will miss," according to Larry Stewart in Friday's Times. On those occasions, newcomer Charley Steiner, handling the play-by-play, will team with Lyons on television, and Rick Monday will team with Downing on radio.
"When Scully is there for the 110 or so other local telecasts, Steiner and Monday will be the radio team, although for the first three innings, Scully's call will again be simulcast on TV and radio. When Monday works with Steiner, he'll be the commentator. When he works with Downing, he'll do the play-by-play."
Why would Scully subject himself to such a thing?
"A lot of people may not realize this, but as the father of three married daughters, I was T.J.'s secret advisor when his other daughter [Kelly] got married," Scully said. "The big question was, should he spend the extra money on covered chairs or go with uncovered chairs. I told T.J., 'If you don't cover the chairs you will hear about it for the rest of your time on this mortal coil.' "
But, really, why would Scully subject himself to a double team from Simers and his daughter?
"Well, if it doesn't go like I hope it will go, there's always phone failure," Scully said.
Left-hander Kelly Wunsch made more than 200 appearances with the Chicago White Sox from 1999-2003 but sat out nearly all of last season because of a shoulder injury. Another left-hander, six-year veteran Mike Venafro, made 17 appearances for the Dodgers last season.
Right-hander Aquilino Lopez had 14 saves with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2003 but spent much of last season at triple A. Right-hander Ryan Rupe made 83 starts from 1999-2002 with the Tampa Devil Rays and spent last season in Japan.
Another right-hander with limited major league experience, Buddy Carlyle, also has pitched in Japan.
Lefties Wunsch and Venafro, along with righty Lopez, would appear to have the best shot at grabbing a spot on the staff for Opening Day - but any number of these guys could end up in AAA Las Vegas.
... last year Astacio was still in the final stages of recovery from the major shoulder surgery he underwent in June 2003, and his recent impressive, albeit brief, Winter League stint in the Dominican Republic was heavily scouted by clubs shopping for pitching. Some have concluded that his may be the best arm remaining on the open market.
According to newspaper reports in the teams' respective cities, the Mariners, Rockies and Rangers all have strong interest in Astacio.
A 12-game winner as recently as 2002 with the New York Mets, Astacio's upside intrigues clubs still looking for starting help. An ironman who averaged 210 innings in the five-year span from 1996 through 2000, Astacio has since exceeded 190 innings only once.
The pit stop with shoulder problems -- which included tears in the rotator cuff and labrum -- has, oddly enough, kept stress off and extended the life of his arm, giving him a new lease on his career.
"There's SOME indication that players take two years to come off labrum surgery," Carroll said. "It's a very small sample set and not the best even at that. Think (Gil) Meche or (Chris) Carpenter, falling off a cliff at some point and you get the picture."
As for that other contest, which proved to be purely about how much campaigning a blog's author and audience could bear, it appears Dodger Thoughts finished in second place. It took a great many people to make that happen - so thank you very much.
Which Was Worse?
The Pedro Martinez trade or the Darren Dreifort contract?
Pardon Their Dust
They gone dug some big holes. Imagine a cartoon Steve Garvey literally scooping out a low throw to first base with those Popeye arms of his. That's what it looks like.
If I didn't know better, it would appear that not only have they eaten into much of the foul territory, they have eyes on some fair ground as well. That'll really wreak havoc with the park effects on offense.
.000 My Hero
It doesn't rank quite as high as "Greatest Golfer Never to Win a Major," but the chance of Chin-Feng Chen becoming the "Greatest Dodger Never to Get a Hit" could just lip out of the cup.
The Dodgers designated Chen for assignment January 13, meaning that they had 10 days to trade or release him. This might be the end of his Dodger career, though if he clears waivers, he can return to Las Vegas, and the Dodgers can purchase his contract if they so desire.
In three seasons of play with the major league club, Chen has compiled 14 at bats without getting a hit - tied for fourth all-time among the franchise's 184 career .000 hitters. First is second baseman Harry Redmond, whose entire major-league career consisted of 19 hitless at-bats with the Dodgers between September 7 and September 14, 1909 - the day after his 22nd birthday.
On the upside, Redmond did have a sacrifice hit, and he fielded 29 of 33 chances successfully.
Here is the illustrious group, courtesy of Lee Sinins' Sabermetric Encyclopedia.
Dodger .000 hitters
Best names: Snooks Dowd, Sweetbreads Bailey, Pembroke Finlayson, Lady Baldwin, Chappie McFarland, Whitey Ock, Possum Whitted.
Tommy Lasorda had one hit in his career - with the Kansas City A's in 1956 - topping Walter Alston.
Report: Gagne Signs for 2/$19 Million
Hope the Dodgers have earned the right to use Gagne for more than an inning at a time without criticism.
Update: Brad Penny asks for $5.7 million; the Dodgers counter at $4.7 million, according to MLB.com.
Update 2: The Gagne contract terms, from The Associated Press:
He will get $8 million this year and $10 million in 2006. Los Angeles has a $12 million option for 2007 with a $1 million buyout, but Gagne has the right to void the option and become eligible for free agency. If he voids the option, he would receive a buyout of $250,000 to $1 million, depending games finished the next two years.
In other words, if Gagne thinks he is worth more than $12 million for the 2007 season, he can declare free agency - and get six figures and a blender in parting gifts to boot. Still, as complicated as that third-year option sounds, and as much as it is tilted toward Gagne, it is not something to be worked up over.
As with the J.D. Drew deal, the worst-case scenario is that the Dodgers will have the money to spend elsewhere in '07. Even better than the Drew deal, the Dodgers aren't committed to any more years than Gagne is.
Update 3: AP reports that Alex Cora will make $1.3 million in 2005 from Cleveland - no raise from his 2004 salary - to go with $1.4 million in 2006. However, he can almost double his contract value through incentives, and can void Year 2 if he achieves 450 plate appearances in Year 1. The Indians are not handing him a starting role, though.
Desperate Househusbands: The 2005 NL West
Who are the 125 men who will cause your spirits to rise and fall this year as they pass through Stadium Way?
Most of their names appear below, in this side-by-side preview of the rosters of the National League West. Note that these are the 25 hale fellows well met whom each team might pick if the season started today. No claims are being made here that this is a foolproof list (and feel free to write in with any obvious mistakes).
The Rosters ...
Pos. Arizona Colorado Los Angeles San Diego San Francisco C Koyie Hill J.D. Closser Dave Ross Ramon Hernandez Mike Matheny 1B Chad Tracy Todd Helton Hee Seop Choi Phil Nevin J.T. Snow 2B Craig Counsell Aaron Miles Jeff Kent Mark Loretta Ray Durham SS Royce Clayton Clint Barmes Cesar Izturis Khalil Greene Omar Vizquel 3B Troy Glaus Garrett Atkins Jose Valentin Sean Burroughs Edgardo Alfonzo LF Luis Gonzalez Matt Holliday Jayson Werth Ryan Klesko Barry Bonds CF Luis Terrero Preston Wilson J.D. Drew Dave Roberts Marquis Grissom RF Shawn Green Dustin Mohr Milton Bradley Brian Giles Moises Alou IF Alex Cintron Luis Gonzalez Antonio Perez Geoff Blum Pedro Feliz IF Scott Hairston Desi Relaford Olmedo Saenz Eric Young Deivi Cruz OF Robby Hammock Jorge Piedra Ricky Ledee Xavier Nady Michael Tucker OF Q. McCracken Brad Hawpe Jason Grabowski Mark Sweeney Todd Linden C Kelly Stinnett Charles Johnson Paul Bako Miguel Ojeda Yorvit Torrealba SP Javier Vazquez Joe Kennedy Odalis Perez Jake Peavy Jason Schmidt SP Brandon Webb Jason Jennings Derek Lowe Woody Williams Noah Lowry SP Russ Ortiz Jeff Francis Brad Penny Brian Lawrence Kirk Rueter SP Shawn Estes Jamey Wright Jeff Weaver Adam Eaton Brett Tomko SP Casey Fossum Shawn Chacon Kazuhisa Ishii Darrell May Jerome Williams RP O. Villarreal Marcos Carvajal Elmer Dessens Blaine Neal Jesse Foppert RP Randy Choate Javier Lopez G. Carrara Dennys Reyes Jason Christiansen RP Brian Bruney Scott Dohmann Duaner Sanchez Chris Hammond Matt Herges RP Mike Koplove Brian Fuentes Wilson Alvarez Scott Linebrink Scott Eyre RP Jose Valverde Aaron Taylor Yhency Brazoban Akinori Otsuka Jim Brower Closer Greg Aquino Chin-hui Tsao Eric Gagne Trevor Hoffman Armando Benitez 25th Matt Kata Allan Simpson D.J. Houlton Rudy Seanez Tony Torcato
Arizona: C Chris Snyder, IF Jerry Gil, OF Josh Kroeger, P Jason Bulger, P Lance Cormier, P Edgar Gonzalez, P Mike Gosling, P Brad Halsey, P Brandon Lyon, P Dustin Nippert, P Adam Peterson, P Phil Stockman
Some brief comments ...
Yes, with all the elective surgery it performed, Arizona should look better this season - in a Nicolette Sheridan kind of way. (I’m not a fan of that show, but could you find a desperate housewife for each team in the division? San Diego as hot but misstep-prone Eva Longoria? The Dodgers as Teri Hatcher - the ditzy lead? But Felicity Huffman and Marcia Cross as the Rockies or the Giants? Nah - doesn't work.) Anyway, for a good many games, the Diamondbacks will have a nice 3-4-5 in Killer Gees Gonzalez, Glaus and Green. Tracy is a promising young player who will get his shot. Vazquez and Webb are due for rebounds - heck, just about everyone on the team is. But the team has too many day players and not enough actors of substance.
Colorado has promising starting pitchers in Kennedy, Jennings and Francis, with Aaron Cook hopefully on the mend. The Rockies also seem to have made a solid effort to rebuild their bullpen, despite losing Steve Reed, and will be hoping that at least one if not two Rule 5 draftees, Carvajal and Merricks, can phenomenize. Helton is a rock, and Closser, Atkins and Holliday are among their young players with potential. This is probably not the year for Colorado, but the Rockies suddenly strike me as a team that might begin rising in 2006.
The biggest weakness for the Dodgers, outside of the mystery that is their catching, might be their bench. Antonio Perez is promising but untested. The beloved Saenz will be good against lefties off the bench, but is hopeless in the field. Grabowski had a half-season slump. Bako is a zero at the plate. Perhaps hopes can be higher for Ledee, but not all that much. The Dodgers don’t seem that prepared to withstand a significant injury right now. On the other hand (or as an alien would say, on the other head), the lineup should be solid in seven spots if the Valentin-Perez platoon works out. (File this away: Out of eight Dodger lineup slots, 6 1/2 are below the age of 30.) They have the division’s best bullpen and the best starting four on the mound. Give me whomever you think the Dodger No. 4 is - Weaver, Penny, Lowe or Odalis Perez, and I’ll take him over his counterpart with the Sans.
In case you haven’t noticed, San Diego righthander Peavy is a star in the making. Quietly in 2004, at age 23, he had an ERA of 2.27 and 173 strikeouts in 166 1/3 innings. He should be the ace of the division this year. On the other hand, if you still have misgivings about the Dodger pitching, you must have them as well about the inconsistent Williams, Lawrence and Eaton. The Padres’ bullpen looks great at closing out games but iffy in middle relief. The starting eight have a nice mix, but Giles (remember when he was a kid? He’s 33 already!), Klesko and Nevin might not be aging well. The bench looks decent.
Another respectable bench is in San Francisco - but boy, are the Giants going to need it. For all the grief J.D. Drew is getting, there isn’t a player in the San Francisco starting eight that you can lock in for 140 games this season. (Bonds led the team with 147 in 2004, while Vizquel played 148 in Cleveland.) And here's a bold prediction: Dodgers catchers will outhit Giant catchers this year. Meanwhile, San Francisco has shored up its bullpen and has apparent depth in the starting rotation, though Rueter’s longtime magic is running out (56 strikeouts, 21 home runs allowed) and Tomko’s short-time magic may be just that.. Outside of Schmidt, it is not a big strikeout staff at all: 316 strikeouts among the other four pitchers in 605 2/3 innings.
Do you know who will win the division? I don't. All the teams have vulnerabilities. Sideline Penny, Schmidt and Peavy (all of whom were disabled in 2004) with injuries, and suddenly no one is a lock to win 90 games. At this time last year, most of the world considered Arizona a contender, and look what happened. We'll know more once Spring Training begins, but once more, the NL West could turn on what payoff teams can get from their midseason moves.
Izturis Signs for Three Years
Guarantees ($9.9 million)
Possibles ($6.15 million)
Just for comparison, Omar Vizquel is guaranteed $12.25 million from San Francisco over the next three years. Vizquel turns 38 in April and is losing range in the field, as well as whatever offensive advantage he had over Izturis.
OPS+ (100 is average, courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com)
Big Blue Bull Session
Can we come up for air now?
With most of the Dodger offseason moves completed - though there are no guarantees that this is the end - Jay Jaffe, who writes about baseball for his site, The Futility Infielder, as well as Baseball Prospectus, grabbed a nearby seat at the online pub so that the two of us could talk Dodgers.
What we realized is that 1) nearly three hours of instant messaging wasn't enough to cover the Dodger offseason and 2) it would still probably be plenty for anyone who was going to read this. So we decided to quit and publish while we were ahead. Part 1 of our chat appears here, and Part 2 appears at Jay's site. So come on and ease on down, ease on down ...
Jon: I'm trying to think of a clever way to start this ...
Jay: Ha ha ... "So, how about that Derek Lowe contract?"
Jon: The saying of the future. "How 'bout those Mets?" becomes "How 'bout that Lowetract?" Well, I'll bite.
In a nutshell, I was against signing Lowe at the outset of the offseason, I'm willing to believe that Paul DePodesta saw something that I didn't see initially, but in the wildest best-case scenario, I can't see the justification for risking four years at $36 million on Lowe. I have faith in DePodesta and feel he might be vindicated, but I wouldn't have done it for Lowe no matter what I discovered.
Jay: The concept of bringing him to the Dodgers is sound - Lowe was unlucky last year and isn't nearly so bad as his stats would suggest. As an extreme groundball pitcher who doesn't allow a lot of homers, he ought to do well in Dodger Stadium.
That said, this is a bad contract. The fact that it's backloaded a bit gives the Dodgers an opportunity to see if they can pawn him off after he mysteriously remembers how to win 15 games, but... I think this is a gamble that at best, they can wind up paying somebody a few extra mil to take him off their hands halfway through.
Jon: The thing about DePodesta for me is, even if I can see the logic in his moves, there are some in which I think the risk/reward ratio is too high.
Jay: I feel like DePo scrimped and saved all winter to cut himself the slack to do something a bit risky, and instead he bought Xt'Tapalatakettle (the big ugly head that Monty Burns gives the Simpson family).
Jon: Yeah, well, Monty Burns is probably more like a George Steinbrenner than a DePodesta. Perhaps DePo's idol will be of more value.
Jay: Frank McCourt isn't quite the Monty Burns character. Miserly and wealthy, but not obscenely miserly, and probably not as malevolent.
Anyway, most of DePo's moves have been sound. This one is off the reservation even given the fact that they can expect Lowe to be a League Average Inning Muncher (LAIM) instead of the least popular man in Massachusetts from April-September 2004.
Jon: Lowe will be earning eight figures in the fourth year of his contract, in his mid-30s. That's a big matzoball.
Jay: I mean, it's fine to get yourself an inning muncher when a week ago the Dodgers were looking at Edwin Jackson, Elmer Dessens and Wilson Alvarez as 3/5 of their projected rotation. But to overpay for what amounts to another Jeff Weaver, in terms of a performance niche, by a factor of 2-3x is just silly.
Jon: I agree.
Jay: As an aside, I've really started noticing the good, the bad, and the ugly about the L.A. Times coverage of L.A. since I took the Dodgers' Prospectus Triple Play beat on Baseball Prospectus. I liked much of Tim Brown's latest piece but found myself still disagreeing with a good amount of it.
Jon: I disagreed with some of it too, but I felt his approach, from the Times' standpoint, was so fresh. In a sense, I didn't feel I had to agree with it all, because at its core, the article was open-minded, which the columnists typically have not been.
Jay: I agree with you - I didn't mind disagreeing with some of the nits that could have been picked because the main thrust, that one win in October wasn't worth a bunch of stupid decisions to preserve the core of that team at all costs, was right on.
As for the L.A. Times in general, I can't think of a single NY writer as odious as either Bill Plaschke or T.J. Simers ... except for Mike Lupica on his bad hair days.
Jon: Plaschke and Simers were both better as beat writers. They're good reporters, and they had to rein it in a little bit, which was good.
Jay: Judging from their output over the past year, time has clearly passed them by. These guys beat DePodesta like a rented backup catcher and can't even acknowledge the fact that hey, they actually won something, in stark contrast to the preceding seven seasons.
Jon: Simers, I think I've figured out. Nothing less than unadulterated, unmitigated success impresses him - most recently represented in Los Angeles by USC football. Everything is black and white - and if you're not the best, you deserve ridicule. With some occasional exceptions made for honesty - such as when Milton Bradley had a forthright discussion with him. In a sense, I can even see where Simers comes from - but it's just way too cutthroat and nasty an approach for me. Ultimately, I think his columns are poisonous.
Plaschke simply is not governed by past opinions in his columns, not governed by anything but what he feels in that moment. And he's not the best logician.
Jay: Simers would probably play better in NY.
Plaschke would probably play better in some country where the concept of the two-sentence paragraph had yet to be introduced.
Jon: Okay, I'm going to speak up in defense of Plaschke on that one.
Jay: Knock yerself out.
Jon: For one thing, I don't think the one-line paragraph is inherently evil. And I think if you counted them up, he doesn't do it nearly as often as his rep indicates. I could be wrong.
Jay: Just pulled up his latest article and five of his first seven grafs are one sentence. That's just lazy.
Jon: I guess I'd just say that it's the least of my worries. He can write haiku for me if he makes sense doing it.
Jay: It's like nails on a blackboard to me. Unless it's done with extreme care, it's the sign of an utterly vapid line of reasoning, one that can't even find a sentence to support it.
The sentence might be in the next paragraph.
Or maybe the one after ...
Jay: Here's what I think.
He can't be bothered.
Like high-powered magnets, his thoughts are too weighty to put side by side.
Deal with it.
Jon: Hey, that's good stuff!
Jay: I could do his job without wearing more than a bathrobe and a hangover.
Jon: Don't we?
Jay: Oops, I've revealed too much ;-)
Jon: Back to the team?
Jon: Before we give away all our nasty secrets?
Jon: I want to relate the Lowe contract to the Paul Lo Duca trade. I'm generally pro-DePodesta but I'm gonna get some of my misgivings out of the way first.
Lo Duca-Guillermo Mota for Hee Seop Choi-Brad Penny - this was a sound trade in terms of value. But I don't think the potential increase in value was large. Meanwhile, by combining this trade with the Steve Finley pickup, he redistributed the Dodger assets oddly. Five OF/1B, zero catchers. To me, that's a significant risk to get the reward he's looking for.
Now, of course, Finley worked out superbly, so perhaps it's good that he had a surplus there. Insurance. And although the Dodger catchers didn't hit down the stretch, neither did Lo Duca. If Penny doesn't come down with to me (although some would disagree) a freak injury, the trade is a huge success. So there is part of me that wants to give DePodesta some slack even when I don't automatically see the wisdom.
Lowe is really testing that for me, but I'm not gonna lose sleep over it.
Jay: The Lo Duca deal should have worked out better on the field. Off the field, it gave them a lot more flexibility this winter, which is I think what his true priority was.
I mean, there's no reason to think, based on his minor league track record and his previous year in the bigs, that Dave Ross struggles to get across the Mendoza Line. There's no reason to think that given enough playing time, Hee Seop Choi can't live up to what he did in FLA. And I don't think Penny's injury could have been predicted either.
I do like some of what I saw out of DePo in the aftermath. The promotion of Yhency Brazoban to Mota's role was sheer brilliance that spoke volumes about the organization's capabilities for scouting and instruction, especially when contrasted with the Yankees. The Finley deal was a decent one that made him look smart, and ain't it funny that they're getting an even better catching prospect back from the Snakes now.
Jon: I agree, and I think your point about Ross is well taken. And I should add that I was completely not enamored with acquiring Finley.
Jay: The Finley wasn't overwhelmingly necessary in that they had a competent centerfielder in Milton Bradley, and that Finley's not an especially good hitter due to his low OBP. But it certainly gave them an experienced player who'd been through his share of races before, and that may have helped in its own small way.
But let's face it, the walkoff, get-off-my-property-and-away-from-my-division-title grand slam - against the Giants, no less - makes everybody look smart.
Jon: So again, not that Paul's a saint, but I don't think he can be easily dismissed. Be skeptical all you want, but don't dismiss him.
Jay: Agreed, DePodesta is hardly infallible, and many of his moves take time to unfold, time that the instahacks clearly aren't willing to grant him. But he's clearly about the process, and if the process is sound, the results have a much better chance not only of turning out well, but of being sustainable to insure future improvement.
Jon: So on that note, having conceded he's probably smarter than me, I'm gonna get my third and I think final disagreement of DePodesta out of the way: Adrian Beltre was worth going after harder. Even if he tapers in 2005, I think the next five years from Beltre will be outstanding.
Jay: While I don't dismiss the possibility that Beltre might be outstanding over the next five years, the investment in J.D. Drew is a much sounder one.
1) He has a consistently solid and nearly outstanding track record as a hitter, with a ton more plate discipline than Beltre.
2) He's cheaper than Beltre would have been.
3) The out in his contract after two years shouldn't hurt the Dodgers at all. If he performs so well that he'd rather chance the market at 30 and toss 3/$33, hey, DePodesta's not going to stop him and I probably wouldn't either.
Jon: I will say the escape clause doesn't bother me either, and if it helped bring Drew in, great. If Drew has two great years with the Dodgers and then they suddenly have $30-plus million to spend, life is good. Once you're willing to go five years on Drew - that's the big decision - the escape clause is ancillary.
I do think that Beltre being a great-fielding third-baseman, plus the possibility so easily dismissed by so many - that at age 26-27, Beltre might even be better than he was in 2004 - makes him the better pick, even at more dollars.
Jay: I think it's virtually impossible for Beltre to improve on what he accomplished last year. Some players peak a couple years early, there's no denying it, and frankly I think Beltre might be one of them.
That said, as an excellent 3B in the field, he's got a bit more inherent value than Drew, assuming the latter plays a corner position either next year or eventually once he loses a bit of speed.
Jon: Well, you know, a 20 percent decline in HR next season still leaves Beltre at about 40. Plus, his walks figure to go up. That's a fabulous player.
Jay: Yeah, but we're also talking about a guy who for the previous three years - years that have their caveats, sure sure - who struggled to keep his OBP above .300 and who suddenly gained an extra .200 of SLG. Gains like those have "regress" written all over them.
Jon: I hear it. But 62 HR since August 1, 2003. When does the guy get some credit for being more than a flash in the pan?
To read Part 2, follow this link to The Futility Infielder ...
From Intern to GM in a Year
Thirteen months ago, 28-year-old Emily Christy was an intern for the Vero Beach Dodgers.
Thursday, she became their general manager.
The 28-year-old Christy, who rose quickly to become assistant general manager in 2004, got the promotion and will replace Trevor Gooby, who is now the Director of Florida Operations for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"I guess timing is everything," Christy told Dodger Thoughts today. "I've worked hard and tried to maximize every opportunity that the Dodgers have given me to learn and grow as a baseball professional. However, if you had told me six months ago that I'd be sitting in the GM chair, I would have said you were crazy."
Even earlier this week, Christy said she did not think she would get the nod. But now that it has come through, she has plenty to offer.
"Given the particular time of year when my GM career is beginning, I'd say the most important strengths that I can offer in this role are flexibility and having a fresh energy," Christy said. "With Spring Training just around the corner, it's extremely busy and new challenges arise every day. Fortunately, there is a great staff already in place here in Vero, and I like nothing more than being challenged. With our combined efforts and some good weather, we're looking forward to an exciting and successful season."
The good weather is going to be a key. Gooby and Christy had to help Vero Beach recover from last year's onslaught of hurricanes in Florida. Hopefully, there will be clear skies ahead for the Dodgers' new Class A general manager.
Steve Henson of the Times has more about the increasing importance of women in the Dodger organization.
What the Heck is the Deal with Raul Mondesi?
Raul Mondesi is like Darryl Strawberry without the drugs.
Raul Mondesi said he has agreed to terms with the Atlanta Braves on a one-year contract.
Mondesi told The Associated Press that he will earn $1 million, and that the deal includes performance bonuses that could bring the total value up to $1.7 million.
"I will travel to Atlanta tonight to take a physical early Friday, and the deal will be official afterward,'' Mondesi said Thursday.
According to Braves spokesman Brad Hainje, assistant general manager Frank Wren said Mondesi's claim was not true.
"We don't have any news on Mondesi,'' Hainje said. "There are a number of players we're talking to. I don't know if Mondesi is one of them.
"He has not signed with us, and we don't have plans for an announcement today.''
The Dodger Thoughts Mondesi Chronicles
July 11, 2003: Ill-Winds on the Mondesi Front
Update: Raul Tavares writes that others and I shouldn't have been so quick to assume that Mondesi's story was the faulty one. And Tavares is right. I still think it's been a strange couple of years for Mondesi, which is all my lead really tried to point out, but I have to cop to not considering that it was the Braves spokesman who was out of the loop, rather than Mondesi being loopy.
Baseball Cards, Gimme Five, and Freddie 'Boom-Boom' Washington
Baseball cards and slapping five are the subjects of Alex Belth's great post this morning at Bronx Banter. Here's my comment.
I collected cards haphazardly as a kid - very organically, no designs on the future (although I've always been a packrat and have trouble throwing anything out). I even liked the gum. I know it was cardboard, but I liked it.
When I was about 10, in 1977 or thereabouts, for my birthday I got a vintage gumball machine that gave out a gumball and a baseball card in exchange for one penny. The machine came stacked with probably 300 baseball cards, all from the 1960s. It was an INCREDIBLE gift, certainly one of my best ever. I still have it, though I put marbles in where the gumballs go because it was gettin' kind of nasty.
The rest of my card collection (which is mainly baseball cards from the 1960s and 1970s that my brother and I saved, along with some football and basketball) is in what was once one of those huge containers of ice cream you see embedded in a Baskin Robbins/31 Flavors shop - together with an Oshman's Sporting Goods plastic bag filled with ticket stubs that I collected from the 1970s and 1980s. Again, it was very much the unstrategic, vacuum cleaner approach: I can remember one night, after a UCLA basketball game at Pauley Pavilion, walking through the stands and picking up every ticket stub that was left on the ground. But there is some real good stuff in there as well, tickets from big games, playoff tickets for games that were never played, tickets that were unused. Do those have any value? No idea.
As for slapping five (aka the low five) vs. the high five, I've written about it before: "Nearing its 30th birthday, the high five has seen disco come and go, and come and go. It has seen Charlie’s Angels both as television series and movie. In the history of the western world, what hand greetings, outside of the handshake, have stood the test of time better than the high five?"
There was an article in the Times a few months ago - I have no hope of finding it - about how the word "cool" has remained in style for decades, while other words such as "groovy" went from hip to, well, decidedly uncool in a much smaller span. The high five appears to be a blood brother of "cool."
But I can remember how new and different the high five was. I can remember being on the playground in third grade during recess and slapping five while imitating the guys on Welcome Back, Kotter. The change to the high five was like when I was a couple years younger and learning to dribble a basketball with one hand instead of two, or when I had to get used to the "Pac-10" instead of the "Pac-8."
The new is completely strange, until the old is completely strange.
What are your thoughts and memories? (And some of you big-name lurkers out there - don't be shy about jumping in.)
DePo Talks Up Kent's Defo
Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta, who recently has demurred on Jeff Kent's fielding qualifications, became more of an advocate today in Ken Gurnick's MLB.com piece today. Hee Seop Choi, too.
"I think we had possibly the best defense last year and I still think we're well above average," he said. "We have three center fielders [J.D. Drew, Milton Bradley and Jayson Werth] roaming the outfield. In Jose Valentin, we have a shortstop at third. We have a Gold Glove shortstop [Cesar Izturis]. Our people believe Hee-Seop Choi will be above average at first.
"We have Jeff Kent at second instead of Alex Cora. I don't think Kent is getting his due. He made fewer errors than Cora and his range factor is almost identical. And we will be very, very strong behind the plate [David Ross and Paul Bako]. I still think we have one of the best defenses in the game."
We also learn that Derek Lowe will earn $7.5 million of his $36 million contract this season.
Meanwhile, Paul Lo Duca is getting $18 million over three years from Florida. Like many contracts, it looks good for the employers for the first year, when he takes in only $4.25 million, but a lot worse when he gets $13.75 million over the next two, when he'll be 34 and 35 years old.
Not everyone bought into the last column of his I cited, and perhaps not everyone will buy into this one. I don't even agree with the latest piece 100 percent - but the vast majority of it that I do agree with is so right on.
If you don't think this is progress at the Times, ya need help!
The Dodger Offseason: An Outsider's Positive Review
Mitchel Lichtman, known to readers of Baseball Primer as MGL, is one of that site's most popular and respected commentators. Lichtman has been doing sabermetric research and analysis for 16 years, and is currently a part-time statistical analyst for the St. Louis Cardinals. He has a degree in mathematics and psychology from Cornell University and a law degree (J.D.) from the University of Nevada.
Dodger Thoughts recently asked Lichtman to assess the Dodgers' offseason reconstruction, and he was kind enough to put on his hard hat and run the inspection. Here are his answers:
1) Flashback to October: the Dodger season has just ended. Name the most important "do" and/or "don't" for Paul DePodesta.
2) Back to the present, what has been DePodesta's strongest offseason move to date and what has been his weakest?
The weakest (and most controversial) move by far, and that is an understatement, is Lowe's signing. Funny I thought he was going to be underrated (since he had an unlucky regular season in '04) and able to be had for a bargain. I don't know what happened. Lowe should benefit from a very good Dodger IF defense. There is also some evidence that groundball pitchers do anomalously well in Chavez (and Fenway, BTW); I am pretty sure that Depo knows this. I have a hard time believing that even if true (that Lowe will benefit greatly from Chavez), it makes Lowe worth anywhere near 9 mil a year for four years. If Lowe even has a little bit of bad luck or a severe injury, Depo is setting himself up for a crucifixion.
3) For many people, the offseason priority was retaining Adrian Beltre. For me personally, his transformation seemed completely legitimate. What is the range of expectation for Beltre's performance in 2005, and what should the Dodgers have been willing to spend on him?
I also don't believe in breakout years or "transformations" as you put it. Not that players don't change their true levels of performance (including having breakout years), sometimes even drastically, from time to time. It's just that it is very difficult to identify a real change among all the random fluctuation (noise) in a player's stats. A scout can help with that of course. This is true of lots of things in baseball.
I (and most other forecasters I think) expect Beltre's offensive performance next year and beyond to be somewhere in between last year and prior years, with more of an emphasis on last year of course. His defense appears to be great. One of the best. He has no other above average peripherals, by the way. My observation (which I don't particularly trust) of Beltre this year was that pitchers starting pitching him away too much, he adjusted, and crushed the mistakes. I think he will and should be pitched inside more often this year. This is the sort of cat and mouse game (game theory) you sometimes see between pitchers and catchers.
He is worth around 10 mil per in a short or long-term contract, about the same as Drew. Seattle's contract of five years/64 mil is high. I would not have signed Beltre for that much. On the other hand, it is usually easier to replace a corner OF'er than a 3B'man. So between the Drew and Beltre contracts (assuming that the Dodgers could have gotten him for around the same money), it would have been close if I were the Dodgers.
4) When Beltre went to Seattle, did the Dodgers over-commit in their contract for J.D. Drew?
No, I don't think so. I already addressed that.
5) Jeff Kent next. First, talk about what we might expect from him offensively as he goes from Houston to Los Angeles (and parenthetically, perhaps, how much of a change to expect from Dodger Stadium now that the foul territory is being reduced).
There are lots of people who know more about that than I, and the answers are sort of obvious anyway. Less foul territory equals fewer foul outs equals more of everything else.
Who cares what Chavez will do to Kent's stats? All the Dodger opponent hitters at home will suffer the same effect on their stats, right? Sure some players may benefit more or less from a stadium than other players, but one, it is usually de minimus, and two, we don't have a great understanding of how that works anyway. That is one of the uncharted territories in sabermetrics, although I am sure that some teams are already working on it (see comments above on Lowe).
Dodger Stadium is fairly small and the average temperature is fairly warm. It does not suppress home runs. It increases foul outs (and therefore increases everything else), and decreases doubles and triples because of the configuration of the foul territory and the smooth outfield dimensions (no nooks or crannies). Kent is a fly ball hitter, so his doubles and triples should not be suppressed as much as the average hitter. Maybe that's one reason they acquired him. We still should see his overall stats decline, as compared to Houston's Minute Maid Park, which inflates almost everything.
6) A big topic of conversation has been about Kent's defense. Alex Cora simply dazzled us at second base, yet you have statistics that show that Kent may be as good or better?
Kent is not generally considered a good defender, although I have heard a few knowledgeable people say that his instincts and positioning are underrated. In Tango's excellent Fan Scouting Report, the respondents have Kent rated quite low (and Cora high) in all categories. Who knows? UZR is not the gospel. All things considered, my best guess is that he is around average. For Dodger fans, let's hope that UZR is right!
Cora? Dazzle schmazzle! Seriously, UZR does not rate Cora very well. Interestingly, his UZR was much better as a SS in 2000 and 2001. It should be the other way around. Of course, that could just be luck (either good luck as a SS or bad luck as a 2B'man). How a player "looks" on defense can be misleading of course. In fact, players who make the spectacular looking (dazzling) plays are often overrated and vice versa. For example, there is a certain GG fielder whose first name is Der… Never mind.
7) Beltre gets replaced at third, for now at least, by a platoon of Jose Valentin and Antonio Perez. Is this adequate?
8) Evaluate the Shawn Green trade.
9) What would you do now about the Dodger catching situation?
10) Jim Tracy's starting lineup could be something like: Cesar Izturis, Jayson Werth, J.D. Drew, Jeff Kent, Milton Bradley, Jose Valentin, Hee Seop Choi, Dave Ross. Overall, what's your impression?
12) Even with the return of Odalis Perez returns, the starting pitching appears a bit threadbare. Jeff Weaver is the most durable starter. Perez misses a few starts here in there. Kazuhisa Ishii is inconsistent. Edwin Jackson has potential but some growing on the mound up to do. Brad Penny - who knows? Though Elmer Dessens and Wilson Alvarez can spot start, and help may come from the minors (such as Jackson provided in 2003), should fans be worried the staff will be battered? (Note: this question was asked before the Derek Lowe signing, but answered after the signing.)
I don't know about "battered", but yes, the rotation is suspect. Perez is their best pitcher (actually Alvarez is, but he does not appear to be able to start much or for long), Weaver is OK, so is Lowe, Ishii is terrible, Penny is a question mark, and Jackson has a long way to go, and has not progressed so far. If Penny is healthy (he was very good when he was) and Lowe greatly benefits from Chavez and the Dodger defense, then things will look a lot rosier for Dodger fans.
13) Ultimately, what do you see as the common thread in DePodesta's maneuvers?
14) Any thoughts about how the Dodgers will fare in 2005 - or too soon to say?
15) Any other insights about the team you'd like to add?
Thurston, Stanley DFAed
Joe Thurston, the career Dodger minor leaguer who couldn't make the leap into a starting role tailor-made for him at second base in 2003, and Henri Stanley, acquired in the Dave Roberts trade last summer, were designated for assignment Tuesday, according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News. They could return to the Dodger organization if they are not traded or claimed on waivers in the next 10 days.
"Another player will have to be moved off the now-full 40-man to make room for (Paul) Bako," Jackson adds. "(Dioner) Navarro took the spot vacated by Green."
Here's a piece I wrote about Thurston in March 2003, a piece that now belongs in a time capsule for its irrelevance - except perhaps for its overall point of giving young players a chance.
What I can’t understand is how you can talk sending to the minors a young guy who has a rough five weeks while advocating that the team build for the future.Still, given who it was written about, take it with a grain of salt. Perhaps Thurston proves that sometimes, despite the varying levels of competition and the compressed timeframe, Spring Training is all you need to make a decision on a player.
Stanley didn't look like much for Roberts last summer (other than providing cost savings for the Dodgers and ultimately the granting of a World Series ring to Roberts). Of course, he's not too old to follow Roberts' career path.
The Bullpen? Oh Yeah, The Bullpen
Just felt like talking about Wilson Alvarez and the out-of-the-spotlight Dodger bullpen today.
Some carefully husked 2004 stats for Alvarez:
76.1/4.95 As starter
18.2/13.50 vs. Braves, Mets and Phillies
OPS allowed vs. right-handed batters: .584 (333 AB)
Strikeouts: 102 in 120.2 innings. Walks: 31.
If Alvarez remains in the bullpen this season, odds are he will give the Dodgers some smothering performances - which no doubt will lead to calls for him to re-enter the rotation. And it should be said that Alvarez is not a lefty specialist in the Tom Martin/Jesse Orosco mode. You get more out of him if you let him face righties as well.
Note that outside of Eric Gagne, the Dodgers will have five or six other relievers earning a combined total of under $5 million. And all six have strong credentials as relievers. The weakest link would be Elmer Dessens, who pitched well in relief last season but has been inconsistent.
(Edwin Jackson will probably begin the season in the Los Angeles or Las Vegas starting rotation. If the Dodgers do keep a seventh reliever, look perhaps for another lefty in the Martin/Orosco mode. Anyone got Jesse's number, by the way?)
There could be other changes. Remember in 2003, Giovanni Carrara was considered a lock to make the staff after a solid 2002, only to be released before the end of Spring Training.
In any event, pitchers like Alvarez, Duaner Sanchez and Yhency Brazoban could once again combine with Gagne to provide a dandy Dodger bullpen, one that only requires six solid innings per game from a starting rotation that should be equipped to provide them regularly.
Only $3M for Perez in 2005
Tony Jackson of the Daily News gets the dates of payment for Odalis Perez's $4.5 million signing bonus: between November 2006 and November 2007. Yep, that's right. For 2005, Perez is taking a paycut from $5 million to $3 million.
Over the next two years of his contract, however, Perez will earn $19.5 million - this damage coming when the approximately $15 million owed to Shawn Green and Darren Dreifort is history.
Jackson also clarifies the additional $1 million in possible incentives Perez can earn: each year, $150,000 for pitching 185 innings, another $150,000 for pitching 200 innings, another $200,000 for pitching 215 innings.
In the past three seasons, Perez has pitched 222 1/3, 185 1/3 and 196 1/3 innings.
The 2005 Dodger payroll is now at about $88 million. Additional savings for 2005 could come soon, if we find that Derek Lowe's contract is also backloaded.
Meanwhile, Rob McMillin at 6-4-2 has information and analysis of the just-revealed escape clause in J.D. Drew's contract that allows him to opt out after the 2006 season.
Perez Returns, Chatty As Ever
Some might argue that everything in the following press conference quote from Odalis Perez, as recorded by John Nadel of The Associated Press, is wrong (yep, including the seemingly carefree putdown before the compliment).
"(Jeff) Kent is not a great fielding second baseman, but he can hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs," Perez said.
Right or wrong, Perez comes across as very excited about his new contract with the Dodgers - which is probably the main point. Smiles, everyone, smiles.
"(Jose) Valentin is the same way," Perez continued. "We might not have as good a defense, but we're going to score some runs. If they can score some runs, it doesn't matter."
Perhaps more pertinent than Perez's seat-of-the-pants statistical analysis is the fact that, according to Nadel, Perez has less in the seat of his pants. He has already dropped 10 pounds - and isn't stopping there.
"I might lose about 10 more," he said. "I'm working hard. I have a personal trainer. I'm doing whatever it takes to come to spring training in the best shape of my life."
In passing, Nadel adds (without elaboration) that Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta "indicated a catcher will probably be added to the roster."
Update: Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has details on Perez's contract, and they're significant with regards to the 2005 payroll.
2005: $3 million
* Gurnick writes that the signing bonus is "paid after this year." It's unclear whether that would fall on the 2005 or 2006 budget, though one presumes 2005 based on Perez's salary for the year. That being said, the delay gives the Dodgers a little bit of extra flexibility in terms of timing future deals.
Gurnick has much more from DePodesta, including a comment that "DePodesta said he hopes to sign (Eric) Gagne to a multiyear deal and avoid arbitration."
Without going into any detail, Bako cannot hit. Like Brent Mayne did, Bako does his non-hitting from the left side.
Nadel adds that in 2006 and in 2007, Perez can earn $150,000 for pitching 185 innings and another $150,000 if he reaches 200 innings.
Farewell to Shawn Green
At different times, Shawn Green could be great, he could be good, he could be tolerable, he could be frustrating, and he could be a downright nuisance.
If you're completely at ease with Green's departure, you're probably not valuing what he could have contributed below the cleanup spot this season for the Dodgers. If you can find no consolation at saying farewell, you're ignoring Green's declining speed with the bat, on the basepaths and in the field, and the probability of recurring shoulder problems reducing his effectiveness, despite his improvement as 2004 went on.
Six million Dodger dollars that would have gone to Green in 2005 will now go elsewhere in the Dodger organization. Ten million Dodger dollars will continue to find Green's pocket - but in exchange, the Dodgers will acquire four minor leaguers:
This haul of minor leaguers could be great, could be good, could be tolerable, could be frustrating, and could be a downright nuisance.
With all this in mind, how can you not be stoic about parting ways with the most stoic of ballplayers, a fellow who you hardly ever saw smile or complain (not that he didn't do both off camera), whose ecstatic, leaping rush to greet Steve Finley at home plate following the division-winning grand slam in 2004 was a revelation along the lines of seeing your head-in-a-beaker science teacher belt out a karaoke "Dancing Queen"?
Green was the guy who hit four homers in a game and didn't stop hitting them out for days after, and who hit 42 homers the season after Gary Sheffield was traded. Green was the guy who pulled one weak grounder after another in a style reminiscent of Chuck Knox's flairless Los Angeles Ram offenses of the 1970s.
Green never got enough credit and always got too much.
So now we look at this trade of Green to Arizona, once again being given clearance for landing after circling the completion runway in this rainy winter enough times to make everyone's stomachs heave, and we're faced with the following. The trade will be great, it will be good, it will be tolerable, it will be frustrating, and it will be a downright nuisance.
Beyond that, no matter what happens this season, Shawn Green will be more beloved by Dodger fans in a Diamondbacks uniform than he would have been in a Dodger uniform.
I wish Shawn the best of luck, and I wish the Dodgers the best of luck.
Dodger Payroll Update
On the sidebar ...
Derek Lowe and the Groundlings
While everyone is wondering about giving four years to this pitcher (or any pitcher), there are some interesting revelations - beyond what you already knew - about DePodesta and an emphasis on groundball pitchers and flyball hitters.
Note also in the Times this morning that, in addition to renewed momentum for a Shawn Green trade, the Dodgers hope to recoup approximately $8 million in insurance this year on Darren Dreifort's contract.
Update: With this piece, Tom Meagher at The Fourth Outfielder has completed his rapid journey to must-read status. Meagher has always had the analysis, but you might have been wondering if he had the writing chops, too. He does.
Oh, and by the way - today's Times mentions that the LAAoA (would you like to buy a vowel?) didn't know Vladimir Guerrero was playing in the Dominican Leagues until he injured his thumb December 26. Perhaps they should have been reading Raul Tavares' Dominican Players, which had this December 20 photograph of Guerrero taking batting practice for Licey and has been tracking him all winter.
Finally, a tremendous honor for All-Baseball.com's Rich Lederer of Rich's Weekend Baseball Beat and the retired Brian Gunn of Redbird Nation: Their piece on Jim Edmonds was named one of the top 10 sports columns of 2004 by The Wall Street Journal. Major congratulations!
9 a.m.: The Clash
Did he stay or did he go now?
Update: From Mark Gonzales of the Arizona Republic:
The Diamondbacks were still working past today's 10 a.m. (MST) deadline on a contract-extension plan that would land two-time All-Star right fielder Shawn Green from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Green, 32, was seeking an extension after the 2005 season, but the Diamondbacks were looking to cut his pay in half as part of the extension. Green is scheduled to make $16 million this season in the final year of a five-year contract.
As of 9:45 a.m., agent Greg Genske was awaiting a telephone call from Diamondbacks officials and said no decision had been made on his client.
Update 2: He stays.
Update 3: Sample lineup vs. righties:
Izturis, SS (still wouldn't mind seeing him drop back down)
Sample lineup vs. lefties:
Obviously, there are several different combinations.
Played? Not Yet
Citing Robert Louis Stevenson as justification (with nary a mention of Arte Moreno), the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers blog Honest Wagner has changed its name (for now at least, as long as it keep its tongue in its chaw-filled cheek) to the Los Angeles Wagner of Honest.
This morning's newsy entry explores the controveries surrounding the Aramis Beltre, Jason Lo Duca and Craig Seop Choi transactions.
(The joke window on the Angels' name change is starting to close - but we're not quite there yet. So enjoy it while you still can!)
Jerry: (doing the voice) Good-bye Kramer.
Kramer: Jerry, buddy, I got to tell you something. That voice is played.
Kramer: So played.
George: I told you.
Line 2 launches us to a whimsical place, but it is Line 6 that moves us beyond whimsy to genius.
In the Pause
Though the East Valley Tribune reports a snag in the negotiations between Shawn Green and Arizona, perhaps once again unlocking this locked deal, my hunch is that Green will go through that door.
On the other hand, this news, combined with the reports that Odalis Perez's return to the Dodgers is contingent on the savings from Green's departure, does raise some questions.
If Perez's return is dependent on Green's leaving, and Green stays, is there any hope for the Dodger rotation beyond a couple of miracle seasons from organizational soldiers or prospects? Is there a $950,000 pitcher like Jose Lima 2004 out there?
If Green stays, the Dodgers retain a player who is certainly not worth $16 million, but who would certainly strengthen their lineup. He would once again give them considerable depth at the outfield/first-base positions, allowing Jim Tracy to mix in - as well as rest - Green, Jayson Werth, Milton Bradley, J.D. Drew and Hee Seop Choi, while a trade from the surplus remains a possibility. Can that compensate for the apparent pitching shortfall?
One thing I'd like to say about those who criticize Paul DePodesta for not having a plan is that the current situation illustrates that nothing ever goes according to plan, no matter how perfectly designed it is. You simply can't control everything. This does not excuse DePodesta from any poor decisions, should his decisions turn out that way. But the constant chanting of the plan mantra is way beside the point. Plan is the wrong word. A more appropriate concept would be "philosophy," and there is no doubting DePodesta has that.
In any case, there are benefits to Green staying and benefits to Green leaving - some more obviously short-term and some more obviously long-term. Histrionics will not be in order, no matter how this turns out.
P.S. Read The Fourth Outfielder for some deep analysis from the past two days, including how the Dodgers are stockpiling so many highly regarded prospects that by the time the next Rule 5 draft comes along, in about 11 months, there may well be more than the Dodgers can protect - meaning either that DePodesta will be cashing in some of those chips, or that he will need to maintain most Dodgers on short-term contracts in order to have roster spots to accomodate the prospects.
Return of The Fountainhead
Following this morning's great Tim Brown column in the Times (and ensuing interesting dicussion), new Dodger beat writer Steve Henson knocks one for extra bases with a provocative piece on Paul DePodesta.
And yes, Henson smoothly gets at both the praise and criticism of DePodesta ...
And yes, The Fountainhead is back ...
Architect is a description the Harvard-educated DePodesta would find flattering because the fictional character he admires most is Howard Roark, the fiercely independent architect in Ayn Rand's 1943 novel, "The Fountainhead."
Roark dismissed traditional methods and stood by his radical designs in the face of severe criticism. Rand presented him as a man of extraordinary conviction, and, no surprise here, Gary Cooper played him in the movie.
Fans alarmed at the wholesale shakeup of the Dodgers probably feel DePodesta is more interested in detonating dynamite than in drawing up the blueprint for a winning team. Not that he would be insulted — Roark too blew things up when he deemed it necessary.
Here, for me, is the toughest Roark to swallow.
DePodesta didn't return agent Scott Boras' phone call the day Beltre agreed to terms with the Seattle Mariners because Beltre, he of a monstrous 2004 season after six years of inconsistency, was not part of the plan.
To this day, this sounds oversimplistic to me - the idea that Beltre was not part of the plan. At a minimum, I can't believe he wasn't of part a plan - whether or not that became the ultimate plan. If that's the case, I disagree. But I really don't know if this should be taken at face value.
As a postscript, I'm wondering now how Roarkian I am with my approach to this site.
Bradley Avoids Arbitration - Perez Returning?
Here's the Milton Bradley press release; he and the Dodgers avoid arbitration with a one-year contract. Dodger Thoughts commenter Saul also says Peter Gammons is reporting that the Dodgers have resigned Odalis Perez. To be updated ...
Update: Bradley will get $2.5 million, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, $500,000 less than my estimate. As for Perez, "the club," Gurnick writes, "denied reports that a deal had been struck with Perez, who went 7-6 with a 3.25 ERA in 31 games (all starts) for the Dodgers in 2004. But it is believed an announcement could come as soon as a proposed trade of (Shawn) Green to the Arizona Diamondbacks becomes official."
Update 2: I've taken a gamble that the Green and Perez transactions will happen, and incorporated them into my estimate of the 2005 Dodger player payroll that I posted on the sidebar.
Perez should be welcomed back - despite his postseason meltdown, which might or might not turn out to be a learning experience, he is a quality pitcher. While the dearth of free-agent alternatives no doubt increased his salary demands, his reported contract is not an obvious overpayment. A team with better starters could let him go by on the baggage carousel. A team like the Dodgers needed to make a grab - and Perez is a better piece of baggage to take a flyer on than many others. His contract is well in line with free-agent deals made days and weeks ago.
The team is already looking better, with Dessens moved into the bullpen where he belongs (at best). He and Wilson Alvarez can serve as sixth and seventh starting pitchers to back up the fragile rotation - not that the current rotation is in cement, yet.
The most obvious weakness remains catcher, but the team could simply use more overall strengthening at most spots. Payroll is now at approximately $80 million.
The Dodgers and O'Malley, Day-by-Day
A few years back, Bill James put out a Page-a-Day calendar that was about the best and most interesting I had ever seen in that highly respected medium. Walter O'Malley - The Official Website has announced its own day-by-day calendar, and while the site is keeping its version online, it comes the closest (at least for Dodger fans) to duplicating the uniqueness of the King James calendar.
Let's catch up with some samples from the year to date:
1958: A float called “The Big League” sponsored by the City of Los Angeles and representing Major League Baseball’s arrival to the Southland is included for the first time in the parade. Guests of Los Angeles County Supervisor Warren Dorn, the O’Malley family later attends the Rose Bowl game, sitting with current New York Yankee Manager Casey Stengel, as Ohio State defeats Oregon, 10-7. Stengel was also a former Brooklyn Dodger player and manager.
1948: The Board of Directors, including Vice President and General Counsel Walter O’Malley, of the Brooklyn Dodgers execute an agreement to purchase the franchise rights, players and equipment for Brooklyn in the All-America Football Conference, with home games to be played at Ebbets Field. O’Malley also submitted a frequency modulation application for radio coverage of the football games.
1962: Sportswriter Frank Finch of the Los Angeles Times, comments in The All-Sports News about his biggest thrill for 1961: "Outdrawing Walter O’Malley on the last card in a poker game in the Dodgertown (Vero Beach, Florida) press room was an unforgettable moment, but I guess my biggest thrill on the sports beat in 1961 came when Roger Maris hit his sixty-first home run." Finch’s statement concluded, "O'Malley won the next five hands."
1955: Walter O’Malley writes a letter to broadcaster Vincent Scully stating, "John Johns (advertising agency executive) told me a few minutes ago that all negotiations with you, Connie (Desmond), and Andre (Baruch) have been completed and I am now free to resume ordinary social amenities. Why not come in some day and we will go to lunch, and at a later date, I have asked Connie to have you three join me also."
Selling a Contract to Japan Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry
What can you say about a 32-year-old former Dodger whose contract was sold to Japan? That he was useful and occasionally brilliant? That he loved Mozart and Bach, the Beatles and playing seven positions?
Mariners Musings has the news of the next chapter in the career of Jolbert Cabrera, amid a larger post about Seattle's signing of shortstop Pokey Reese for something in the neighborhood of $2 million to sidekick Adrian Beltre.
"When a Japanese team approached the Mariners about Cabrera," writes Larry LaRue of the Tacoma News-Tribune, "it was clear they planned to offer him a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract – and the Mariners saw a way to save salary and make a popular player happier."
Not that it matters in Los Angeles, but does Reese's fielding ability make him a better player than Cabrera?
Hall of Fame Report
Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg, great guys from the Cheers era who were becoming too quickly forgotten, are elected to the Hall of Fame - happy about that. Of course, I can't have read Rich Lederer's stuff and be happy about Bert Blyleven's omission, and the lack of appreciation for Alan Trammell hits me wrong.
The ex-Dodger standings:
Player Votes % (75% needed) Tommy John 123 23.8 Steve Garvey 106 20.5 Darryl Strawberry 6 1.2 Tom Candiotti 2 0.4 Otis Nixon 0 0.0
The early days of Dodger Thoughts featured a short piece about Garvey. I have always liked Garvey, but the case is clearly against him for the Hall.
Hall of Non-Fame Report
For lack of anything else to keep score of (other than that minor announcement they're making in Cooperstown this morning), here are the morning standings for the Best Sports Blog competition at The Best of Blog Awards. (To vote, click here)
All Quiet in the East Stand 49.43% (173 votes) Dodger Thoughts 27.14% (95 votes) Arsenal Blog 8.57% (30 votes) Fishing Jones 4.00% (14 votes) Sitting Courtside 4.00% (14 votes) The Soxaholic 2.86% (10 votes) On the Field 1.71% (6 votes) Ben Maller 1.14% (4 votes) Formula 1 1.14% (4 votes)
Yeah, sadly, it's meaningless and yet I find myself caring.
Brown and Green All Over
Sincerely no offense to Ross Newhan, but what the Times has unleashed by making Tim Brown its national baseball columnist is equivalent to Adrian Beltre waking up and discovering the joys of hitting the ball the opposite way.
Whole new worlds of insight and enjoyment have opened up.
Presley Green is on the telephone, or near enough so her soft sobs are audible.
"What is it, honey?" her dad whispers.
"Want to watch TV?"
Then she is gone, padding away, maybe in those little pajamas with the feet in them, her worries smothered by dad's gentle voice.
"Sorry," Shawn Green says into the phone, a small laugh follows, and he resumes a conversation more complicated, a decision unsolved by simple distraction.
Is there news in the lead to Brown's column this morning? Perhaps not literally. Yet I find it more informative and compelling than anything else I've read on Green. This is him.
Want analysis? Here's Green, in a paragraph.
He is a good man whose price got too high, whose swing got too measured, whose bat got too unpredictable. The best players in the game, Beltre, for one, were getting $13 million a year, and Green, sadly for everyone, hasn't been one of them for a while.
Want to know where things stand?
He has a contract to negotiate, his only option being to trudge back to the Dodgers, hold them to an agreement reached a few general managers ago, and play in a uniform being measured for somebody else.
It's not great leverage; it's all he has.
And then, the conclusion - summing up the situation, art disguised as news.
So, the question comes, dressed in blue, decorated in opening-day bunting: What became of happily-ever-after?
"Don't write me off like I'm already gone," he says, "but I so appreciate the people who supported me in L.A. Maybe that'll continue. Maybe it won't. Time will tell."
Behind him, through the telephone, there is laughter.
"OK," Shawn Green says, a little weary now. "I'll see ya."
And then he is gone.
This column isn't just a grand slam - it's the surge you feel with the bases loaded and the ball in the air and you know it's going out, and you just want to milk the sweet moment as long as you can. It's great writing, and everyone involved deserves credit for bringing it to us this morning.
A Juarez to Los Angeles Journey
The Arizona pitching prospect to accompany Dioner Navarro to Los Angeles in the Shawn Green trade (now approved by the commisoner's office and waiting for Green's signoff on a contract extension) will be William Juarez, according to The Associated Press.
Juarez is a 23-year-old righty starter who split time between A and AA ball last season. He has good walk and strikeout numbers - 2.2 walks against 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings in his career - and only 20 home runs allowed in 408 innings. Like Navarro, probably not ready to have an immediate impact - the Dodgers' 2005 needs will have to be solved elsewhere.
Navarro: The Next Lo Duca or the Next Pena?
Based on this detailed analysis from John Sickels at ESPN.com, Navarro - like Lo Duca - appears to offer nothing special in the walks or power department, but maintains a steady batting average and puts the ball in play. And he tops out at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds - Lo Duca is listed at 5-10, 185.
"[Navarro] has a short and compact stroke from both sides of the plate," Sickels writes. "He doesn't have a lot of home run power, since his swing is level and not tailored for loft. He hits quite a few doubles, and more home runs may come eventually. Navarro shows good command of the strike zone and will take a walk if offered. He does not strike out much, and with his quick swing is difficult to overpower.
For now, Navarro's offense probably remains at least a year away - he posted Minor League Equivalent Averages near .200 last season. (Recent minor league free agent signee Mike Rose, by comparison, was at .231.)
Perhaps the biggest key is this: Navarro appeared in 2004 to have a slight but, for now, correctible work ethic issue, one that will probably determine whether he becomes the next Lo Duca or the next Angel Pena.
(Of course, Lo Duca didn't become Lo Duuuuuuuca until he was 29. Believe it or not, Angel Pena, out of the majors since 2001, is still only 29 years old himself. Navarro turns 21 in five weeks.)
As Green Packs ...
Since it seems pretty clear that Shawn Green is leaving, coming desert or high water ... once more with feeling, the updated Dodger player payroll (some salaries are estimates):
There's money to spend, folks.
I feel as strongly as ever that the Dodgers should have signed Adrian Beltre. I have injury fears, however rational or irrational, about J.D. Drew. At the same time, I don't hate the Dodger starting lineup. It doesn't have a huge power hitter in the form of Beltre, but at the same time, there are six players who could hit 20 or more home runs. The team could reasonably hit 160 home runs next season. Not as good as last season's 203, but not horrible.
It's the starting pitching that remains in clear need of strengthening. You can't possibly imagine simultaneous quality seasons from Weaver, Penny, Ishii, Jackson and Elmer Dessens or Wilson Alvarez.
Derek Lowe? Last season ended a six-year run of park-adjusted ERAs better than the league average. That should have lowered his price, but his wonderful postseason, combined with the dearth of free agent pitchers, buoyed his salary demands. His walks are ample, his strikeouts much less so. He would certainly fit into the current Dodger rotation, but he is a prime case study for the question, "Just because you have money to spend and a need to spend, should you spend?"
Lowe could pull a Jeff Weaver and lower his ERA coming to the National League. Still, I'm not at all convinced that Lowe is better (or more affordable) than someone like Odalis Perez, for example. And I'm not at all convinced that locking up Lowe for three years, when Jackson (still only 21), Greg Miller, Joel Hanrahan, and so on and so on remain exciting prospects, in trade value if not actual value in a Dodger uniform, that we won't feel like it the dollars spent on Lowe were a waste by July.
I Think, Therefore I Self-Promote
Today's special section on potential Oscar nominees for Best Actress in this morning's Variety contains two articles by your intrepid correspondent - features on Laura Dern of We Don't Live Here Anymore and Imelda Staunton of Vera Drake. They're not free at this moment, but perhaps you'll find a way to read them. I'll excerpt myself to tease ya. ...
After more than 25 years of trying, Hollywood finally made Laura Dern blush.
Gauntlet Thrown: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The press release is out. The Angels have gone official:
ANAHEIM -- Angels Baseball Monday announced the team has changed its official name to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. This change is effective January 3, 2005.
The inclusion of Los Angeles reflects the original expansion name awarded by Major League Baseball in December 1960 and again returns the Angels as Major League Baseball's American League representative in the Greater Los Angeles territory that Major League Baseball expects the team to serve.
The Los Angeles region, which is comprised of Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties, is the second largest media market in the country. This name change will strengthen the Angels' long-term economic health by enhancing the marketability through this metropolitan area and beyond.
Angels Baseball and the "A" brand will continue to be the marketing focus of the organization and Angels Stadium of Anaheim remains the home of the 2004 defending American League Western Division Champions.
The Angels have enjoyed tremendous success in Anaheim, highlighted by a World Championship in 2002. The organization will continue to work closely with the City of Anaheim in promoting the Anaheim community, Angel Stadium of Anaheim, and the Angels' baseball experience.
The press release is well-written, however much it skirts the legal issues surrounding the name change. And the fact of the matter is, as Bill Shaikin (who broke this story to much derision last summer) of the Times wrote last week, the city of Anaheim's legal footing in preventing the name change isn't as solid as it first appeared:
The stadium lease agreement demands only that the team name "include the name Anaheim therein," providing Angel owner Arte Moreno with a potential loophole to exploit should he decide to call his team the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
"There's no question the city could have written a lease provision that would have given the team no wiggle room. This provision does give the team some wiggle room," said Robert Jarvis, professor of law at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and co-author of a sports law textbook.
A negotiated settlement remains a likely outcome - though who can wait to see the Law and Order ripped-from-the-headlines version of the trial? (R.I.P., El Gallo.)
As for the lengthy name, obviously the prepositional phrase at the end will be dropped for brevity by most people. As for the redundancy in the name, I'm not going to worry about it as long as I'm working next door to the La Brea Tar Pits.
I still think the homage to the World Football League, the Southern California Angels, would have been the way to capture much market share indeed. But who am I to get in the way of identifying the "territory that Major League Baseball expects the team to serve?"
You've Heard of Me; You've Really Heard of Me
The Cable Ace Awards were first presented in 1979. Points to anyone who can find a record of the occasion with a list of the winners.
For those of you who can't get enough of the electoral process, you can vote daily through January 17. Go on - be a kingmaker! And watch for the exciting dance number in the middle of the show - choreographed by Debbie Allen, Peter Allen and Richie Allen.
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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Thank You For Not ...
1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity