Monthly archives: April 2005
April 30 Open Chat: Choi on Everyone's Brain
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For your pregame entertainment: "Why I Missed Hee Seop Choi's Granny," by Dennis Cozzalio of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. An excerpt:
"He says that if you're a true Dodger fan and you're home on Friday night, there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't be watching the game. I think he said something about demanding satisfaction, like you burning your 2004 division championship T-shirt in the parking lot of the Big A, or something like that. I stopped listening after a while."
I glanced over at the girls amusing themselves on the living room floor. "Look, Nonie!" cried Emma, "it's Cinderella!"
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With regards to whether Choi or Olmedo Saenz should start against left-handed pitchers, let me just add this to the discussion. It's a Dodger Thoughts post from February 7, 2004: "Only If He Hits Righties Does He Hit Lefties."
So, here's the revolution.The Oakland A's learned this the hard way, for example, when they signed Eric Karros in 2004 to be a specialist against left-handed pitching. He did do better against lefties, but his overall performance slid so much as to make him untenable.
What it means is that just because Saenz appears to hammer lefties way better than righties doesn't imply that he will continue to do so. On the other hand, it doesn't mean that limiting Choi to right-handed pitching for now is a bad tactic for the team overall. It's all stuff to consider...
April 29 Open Chat: Ks
For your pregame entertainment:
Mark Mulder vs. Tim Hudson, 4:35 p.m.
(Catfish Stew is live-blogging the game.)
Greg Maddux vs. Roger Clemens, 5:05 p.m.
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Anyone notice that Giovanni Carrara struck out five batters Wednesday? He and Steve Schmoll combined to get six of the final eight outs of the game with strikeouts.
The Gagne-free bullpen (which will be Gagne-free for two games more than we thought with his "violating a penalty" ... sort of the opposite of an outstanding achievement in the field of excellence) got credit this morning in the Times. Another stat Ben Bolch could have pointed to in praising the pen was strikeouts.
Overall, the Dodger pitching staff is striking out an unimpressive 5.12 batters per nine innings. But don't blame the relievers, who are at 6.72.
9.72 Yhency Brazoban
Frankly, it still surprises me that Carlyle has enjoyed less success than Schmoll so far this year. But, I digress. The starters are at 4.27:
7.20 Brad Penny
Penny's return will help, and Weaver should improve. But Perez has been on a downward trend for a couple of years now, while Lowe's figure is his highest since 2001.
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Softball players, here's your chance for Hollywood fame, fortune and fiber.
Happy Colored Zits
Yawn. Hi. Heard "The Deadbeat Club" by the B-52s this morning and wondered how I could (re)join. Feeling a bit overwhelmed these days. Lots of work, compounded by what was one of my more miserable Dodger game experiences Wednesday. Hopefully, better times are ahead.
The game had a lot of good things going for it. First, I got to go. Second, I got to go with my Dad. Third, there was some fine hitting led by J.D. Drew and great defense by Milton Bradley and Norihiro Nakamura (who, it should be said, doesn't play well enough to keep Hee Seop Choi on the bench).
But Jeff Weaver was miserable to me - even when he was getting guys out, he was miserable. Too many baserunners - especially of the Royce Clayton and Craig Counsell variety. And while it's one thing for one to espouse a conservative baserunning philosophy to protect your outs on offense, is there anyone who thinks that holding runners on at first base is passé? Do the Dodgers really need to hand second base to every Troy, Craig and Harry that lands on first?
Jim Tracy left Weaver in the game too long - the argument about whether Weaver's one-out, bases-loaded pitch to Counsell in the seventh inning hit him or not was a phony sideshow, considering that there was little reason to believe when Counsell came to the plate that the faltering Weaver was any match for the Diamondbacks' leadoff gnat. Then Steve Schmoll, the sidearming Cat in the Hat on the mound with more zip on his pitches than anything Weaver threw, was taken out too soon. He dominated one left-handed hitter, the switch-hitter Quinton McCracken, but then was removed before he could face another - Luis Gonzalez. If you don't have confidence in Schmoll against left-handed batters, why not bring in Kelly Wunsch to begin with? McCracken has hit better against righties like Schmoll for the past four years. So what was the deal? Tracy seemed out of sync the entire inning, as if trying to mock me for writing earlier Wednesday that bullpen use was a strength of his.
But ultimately, that game is ancient history and there isn't much point in rehashing it today. Anyway, it wasn't the stuff on the field that broke me down. It was the stuff in the stands.
The joy fans have from batting around a beachball is plain for anyone to see. Pick any section, and most people smile when a beachball is in the air, the same goofy smile a sex-deprived Elaine Benes had while watching a store sign twirl and twirl around. Beachballs have never really been my thing personally, but it has never been my mission to stifle their entertainment for others.
But if you can picture an unrepentant chainsmoker lighting up a new Marlboro with his old one, you can picture the noxious nightmare in the stands Wednesday night. From the second inning on, I'm not sure there was a single moment in which a beachball wasn't in the air. I'm really not trying to exaggerate here. It was pervasive, like bad-reception snow on the TV.
People complain about the clutter of advertising in Dodger Stadium these days, saying it's in your face, yet nothing interferes more with the game than people in the stands who have no regard for it at all. The tyranny of the majority at Dodger Stadium has decided that beachballs are part of the game - every bit as important, if not more so, as what's going on on the field. Not even Frank McCourt would have the audacity to interfere with the game as much as these fans do, completely unrepentant.
So, my policy of tolerance, of "let everyone have their fun," has reached the breaking point. I love you all to death, but I'm here to say:
Enough with the beachballs already!!!
Have some freakin' consideration. By all means, enjoy yourselves, but let the rest of us enjoy ourselves, too. At least just let there be breaks in between one ball and the next. And maybe, just maybe, when the bases are loaded in a tie game, can we just watch the game?
It may be time for more brave souls to make a cleansing statement and pop these happy colored zits on the face of the stadium. We can't change the advertising, but we can change this. Enough is enough. Let's at least have a compromise.
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Now for the nice part of the day ...
Six-and-a-half years ago, I joined a co-ed softball team that a friend from my Sunday morning pickup game was co-organizing. As I was warming up on the field at Barrington Park, I looked in the dugout. There was this girl ...
She was on my team. Got to know her a little bit and asked her out to a movie. She said, sure, we could go as friends. I was 30 years old - I had lived long enough to know what that meant.
But we remained teammates. She almost quit the team, but I helped talk her out of it. The team would go out after our Tuesday night games, and we would get to talking.
A couple of months went by, and out of the blue came a phone call. And she said, "So do you want to go to a movie or what?"
That was December, 1998. We saw The Theory of Flight, which would have been forgettable in any other circumstance. But not for us. Within about a month, there wasn't any doubt left at all. Just over a year later, on April 29, 2000, we got married.
Five years. Are you kidding me? Too good to be true.
I love that girl.
April 27 Open Chat: Center Stage
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Milton Bradley vs. Carlos Beltran, 2004
Bradley Beltran Age 26 27 Salary $1.73M $9M OPS .786 .915 EQA .274 .306 VORP 25.2 74.5
Milton Bradley vs. Carlos Beltran, 2005
Bradley Beltran Age 27 28 Salary $2.5M $11.5M OPS 1.020 .796 EQA .335 .271 VORP 11.7 4.1
Sources: ESPN.com, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball-Reference.com
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Farewell, Paul Shuey.
You might not remember when our skies were blue or our freeways were a pleasure. You might not even remember what you had for lunch two days ago. (You had chicken. No, no - trust me, it was chicken.)
Here's one other thing you might not remember: Hee Seop Choi actually got off to a good start when he joined the Dodgers.
Tracy No. 1 With a Bullet (Aimed Right at His Detractors' Sanity)
Overall Rank - No. 1
The timing may be ironic given Dodger events of the past week, though interestingly, Tracy's biggest weakness appears to be his team not converting scoring opportunities, which in part would be a function of in-game management. But overall, here's evidence supporting the belief that many people have that Tracy does plenty right. It's not case closed stuff by any means (okay, yes, I admit it, I'm writing this paragraph with Steve apoplectic in my head), but it's worth paying some attention to, especially during a rough week.
As they say on "Journey to Ernie", "Don't give up the ship, because here's another clue ..."
April 26 Open Chat: D.J. Lurks
Before people get too eager about D.J. Houlton becoming a No. 5 starter, keep in mind that opponents are batting .423 against him this season - 11 hits in 26 at-bats. In Houlton's favor, 10 of this hits have been singles, none have been homers, and he has only walked one while striking out five in 6 1/3 innings. Bad luck?
New Tribute to '55
Vin Scully planting a kiss on Terry O'Malley in celebration of the victory might be the Dodger equivalent of Life Magazine's famous V-J Day smooch. But there is much, much more.
A Little Club Soda Might Work on That Stain
To start Monday's game against Arizona, Derek Lowe threw four consecutive balls to Craig Counsell, who has 18 home runs in 2,556 career at-bats.
"If I knew what I was doing wrong, I guess I wouldn't have done it," analyzed Lowe, according to Ken Gurnick on MLB.com.
We know better, but we don't always do better. And so it has gone for the Dodgers, who have allowed nine runs in their past three opening innings. Gurnick notes that they have trailed by the end of the second inning in six consecutive games.
"Falling behind early is like spilling syrup on your tie at breakfast and leaving the house late for work," adds Steve Henson of the Times. "The morning is off to a bad start and the rest of the day is a mad scramble to turn it around."
We know better. The Dodgers know better. Don't spill syrup. How hard is that not to do?
Lowe, who entered the game with a 1.27 ERA, cleaned up nicely after his sloppy three-run first inning, throwing five shutout innings before allowing a two-out, two-strike, RBI single to Luis Gonzalez in the seventh.
The Dodgers, who entered Thursday 12-2, need some maid service as a team after losing four of their past five games. The answers might not come tonight, with Scott Erickson's 7.80 ERA looking like it belongs on center stage about as much as Scott Savol. Erickson has allowed 27 baserunners in 15 innings while striking out four batters, and was pounded the first time he faced Arizona this year.
Still, in the topsy-turvy world we live in, Erickson has got perhaps one more start before you have to give up on the "he's due" prayer and start wondering if this will be the long, slow torture of Hideo Nomo 2004. After all, Savol's in the final six, right? Looks can be deceiving, right? Right?
Maybe so. Dodger Thoughts readers generally seem calm, if a little less comment-happy these days. This makes sense, since we all knew some losses would come. A 13-6 record isn't as nice as 12-2, but it's still nice. Brad Penny is back, while Eric Gagne, Jayson Werth, Wilson Alvarez and Antonio Perez are all making progress in their recoveries. Jose Valentin is looking better defensively at third base. It is probably Valentin's recent 1 for 20 at the plate that has most directly hamstrung the Dodger offense, but even during the slump, he has reached base six times via walk or hit-by-pitch.
You don't win every bet no matter the odds, and you don't win every game no matter the talent. Reality is working its way back to the Dodgers, and we're still trying to see how it will land. The Dodgers are no more a 1-4 team than they were a 12-2 team. They can be clumsy at times, but this isn't a team of serial syrup spillers.
Except perhaps for Erickson. We'll see ...
Earlier Monday, I read a recent interview that Palo Alto Weekly had with a friend of mine at Stanford, Denise Clark Pope, who is now a leading lecturer and writer in education.
"What many parents don't realize is that they are contributing to the frenzy this way and they are hurting their kids," she said in response to a question about over-protective parents. "A Palo Alto educator calls them 'helicopter parents' - they hover and they swoop in and they don't want their kids to make mistakes or get hurt or have any real freedom to mess up. But kids need this freedom, even to get hurt and make mistakes, or they won't be able to thrive now or later in life."
As much as I'd like to draw the analogy, major league baseball is not high school. It's not a development arena - it's the working world. Nevertheless, it's clear that Hee Seop Choi has at least one helicopter parent.
If Olmedo Saenz is the Dodgers' best hitting first baseman, then the Dodgers should play Olmedo Saenz. If they're not sure if Saenz is the best or not, or if they think Saenz is good now but not the best for the long term, then the Dodgers should start him some days but not others, as they have been. That's fine.
But it doesn't make sense to start Choi, see him sandwich a questionable called third strike with two hard-hit fly balls against a pitcher other Dodgers were struggling against, then take him out for Saenz with two on and two out in the eighth inning.
"If that was going to be our only opportunity," Dodger manager Jim Tracy told Gurnick, "we had to cash in."
Considering that the No. 8 (Jason Grabowski) and No. 9 (pitcher) slots in the lineup might easily have come up during any kind of ninth-inning rally, this doesn't make sense. There was sort of a bipolar approach here by Tracy, where he was willing to pinch hit for Choi against a right-handed pitcher, but not for Lowe.
Perhaps Tracy had the same second-guessing of himself that I had. Perhaps the moment in which Lowe allowed a seventh-inning run after batting for himself in the sixth was the moment where Tracy realized he had to start being more aggressive with his bench.
If so, then it's a hint of better in-game decisions to come. If not, it was a strange aberration that can only be explained by a parent who doesn't know what to do with this adopted Choi of his.
Just in Time
Time Magazine's May 2 issue cites Baseball Toaster on its short list of "Top Baseball Blogs." This is in the print edition only. I'd post the PDF, but the Toaster Committee for Reminding the Overeager of Potential Copyright Infringement gently suggested I hold off.
April 25 Open Chat: Green Comes Home
If Shawn Green homers - which he hasn't done on the road this season - does he give away his batting gloves to a front-row fan at Dodger Stadium?
Hee Seop Choi at first base, Jose Valentin at third, Jason Grabowski in left for the Dodgers. Koyie Hill is catching for Arizona.
Update: In the bottom of the eighth inning, Grabowski took a called strike three on a pitch that appeared inches inside. I'd complain, except twice earlier in the game, Choi took called strikes at the same spot. At first, this seemed like injustice - now, it just looks like a failure for the Dodgers to adjust.
In the bottom of the sixth, Lowe came up to bat with the bases empty, one out, and the Dodgers trailing 3-1. Instinctively, I felt it was the right decision to let him bat. Eleven outs to go, Lowe's pitch count homonymically low. But trying to put the result aside - Lowe makes out, then gives up a run in the next inning - the more I think about it, the more I continue to think that the Dodgers should be aggressive with pinch hitters. The bullpen is too deep to shy away from.
Obviously, I see the argument for leaving Lowe in, because that was my original thought. But you basically need a shutout seventh and eighth inning to justify the move - you need to feel that Lowe is going to do better than the relievers would - and the odds might be against it.
Thought I'd check in on the guy who prevents me from being the biggest Jon Weisman in baseball.
Wayne State sophomore first baseman Jon Weisman, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound left-handed hitter, has an on-base percentage of .340 and a slugging percentage of .582 in 32 games this season. He leads the Warriors with six home runs (in only 98 at-bats) - after hitting seven home runs in 113 at-bats as a freshman. He is 28 for 82 against righties but 1 for 16 against lefties in 2005.
Hailing from Woodhaven, Michigan, the exceptionally bright Weisman has been named to the Athletic Director's Honor Roll in four quarters, posting a grade-point average of 3.5 or better.
This could get awkward ... though perhaps not as awkward as the potential confusion with this non-me Jon Weisman.
Seventh Day Stretch
In the past seven days ...
... Milton Bradley went 13 for 30, slugging .800.
... J.D. Drew had an on-base percentage of .517 and slugging percentage of .636.
... Jason Phillips had an OPS of .903.
... Hee Seop Choi was 5 for 15 with two walks.
... Cesar Izturis was 11 for 33 with one walk and 10 singles.
... Jose Valentin was 1 for 17 (his game-winning triple Wednesday was his only hit).
... Jason Grabowski, Paul Bako and Norihiro Nakamura combined to go 3 for 31 with a home run and three walks.
... Derek Lowe, Kelly Wunsch, Yhency Brazoban, D.J. Houlton and Steve Schmoll allowed no earned runs in 24 combined innings.
... the rest of the staff allowed 36 earned runs in 38 innings - an 8.52 ERA.
The Cost of Dodger Living
As the Dodgers return home with Giovanni Carrara on pace for a 27-0 season ...
The average cost of going to a Dodger game increased 4.8 percent, below the major league baseball average of 5.6 percent, according to the 2005 Fan Cost Index issued by sports marketing information provider Team Marketing Report.
For the FCI, Team Marketing Report calculates the amount it would cost to purchase two average adult tickets and two average child tickets, four small soft drinks plus two small beers (no word on who gets the beers), a hot dog for each guest, two programs (because kids don't like to share), parking, and two adult-size caps (because parents don't like to share).
Anyway, this is done for all 30 major league teams. And here's what was found concerning the Dodgers:
Adult Tickets: $18.94, 17th out of 30 teams despite a 9.2 percent increase over the previous year.
Child Tickets: $18.55. Few teams had any kind of discount for kids.
Beer: $7.00 for 20 ounces. The Dodgers tied with the Cardinals (shouldn't beer be cheap in St. Louis?) for most expensive beer price, though the Cardinal beer was 24 ounces. Other teams offered worse deals than the Dodgers, however. Oakland, for example, charges $5.50 for 14 ounces.
Soft Drinks: The Dodgers are listed at $2.50 for a 12 ounce drink, though at the games I attended this season, I saw only two options: $4.00 for a regular drink, $5.00 for a souvenir cup.
Hot Dogs: $4.00. Above average, but they are selling the Dodger Dog reputation.
Parking: $10.00. Below average by a dollar. San Francisco charges $20.
Program: $5.00. Above average by a dollar. Maybe they write better.
Cap: $12.00. Below average by a dollar. The Angels are listed at $6.99.
So, not bad, all things considered. My advice is to skip the beer and programs - and not get two caps every time you go. But while the Dodgers may be charging an arm and a kidney for their front-row seats and suites, the games remain in reach for most people. And not to sound too much like a flack, but on Tuesdays, the Dodgers have begun selling $2 seats in the reserve level, top deck and bleachers. That family of four can now get tickets and park for $18 (plus fees if you don't purchase tickets in person).
Out There in the Fields: Part 2
Where you, the reader, provide one interesting, concise fact about a team other than the Dodgers, so that in learning about others, we learn more about ourselves. Like watching Scared Straight.
Plus, April 24 Open Chat
So, count me among those who felt Jim Tracy should have pinch hit for Odalis Perez, down 7-4, with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth inning Saturday against Colorado.
And yes, this is part of a
Tracy has been correct in these occasions (also including the Game 161 event of 2004, before the Dodgers' seven-run ninth-inning comeback) that there have been opportunities to use pinch hitters later in the given game. But he is failing to accept that there might not be a need for those pinch hitters if he seized the initiative earlier.
He also appears to be making an assumption that his pitcher is going to get through the next inning unscathed, instead of putting the team in a deeper hole that forces the Dodgers to further tax their bullpen anyway, sooner than later.
Additionally, the weather reports indicated a better-than-average chance for rain today, which if nothing else is a reason to take an extra risk of being aggressive with the pen.
No one is saying that Tracy should pull his pitcher with a runner on first base and two out in the second inning of a game. But Tracy probably shouldn't be waiting so long to make this kind of move.
There's an important B plot to Tracy's decision as well, which is that the Dodgers went into Saturday's game without a full roster.
Pitcher Elmer Dessens has been injured since Tuesday, and it was clear before the Dodgers arrived in Colorado on Friday that he was headed for the disabled list. The Dodgers have held out placing him there until today or Monday, waiting for Brad Penny to be activated.
Most people disagreed with my April 11 assertion that the Dodgers should make a roster adjustment for the short term, based on the situation then of having two off days in one week. But I maintain that these kind of maneuvers are key. This past week, with a trip to demanding Coors Field, also called for a roster move.
By last Thursday, the Dodgers should have placed Dessens on the disabled list and called up another player for the few days before Penny came off the disabled list.
First, ask yourself why Jeff Weaver wasn't sent to Colorado the night before his Friday start, instead of arriving at 4 a.m. on the day he was going to pitch. Is it because the Dodgers felt Weaver was too important Thursday night as a pinch hitter or pinch runner? Instead of potentially relieving Weaver of those responsibilities by replacing Dessens with a healthy player, the Dodgers kept him in San Diego and possibly sabotaged his first Coors Field appearance. (Let me make it clear that the preceding paragraph is speculation.)
Tracy, by the way, also used a worst-case scenario come true like Jose Valentin's eighth-inning injury Saturday as a postgame justification for holding back a pinch hitter and keeping Perez in. Scenarios like this are of course a risk at any time - all the more reason not to enter a game a man short if you don't have to.
Beyond these issues, the Dodgers knew that Dessens would not pitch Friday and Saturday, nor would Penny, nor would D.J. Houlton, who was being held out for a possible start today. That means the 12-man pitching staff, so essential to so many people in the week of April 10 when the Dodgers only had five games in pitching-friendly Dodger Stadium, was down to 10 men for a trip to hit-happy Denver on Friday and Saturday without any preceding off days, and with either Houlton or Penny on a limited pitch count for Sunday.
So if the Dodgers weren't going to call up a batter to replace Dessens in the middle of last week, they certainly could have used a pitcher - a long man that could eat up innings in case the Dodgers ran out of pitchers, and who would allow Tracy to manage more aggressively earlier in the game.
I'm not suggesting that the Dodgers should manipulate their roster on a daily basis. But when you have the ability to adjust to a situation a few days ahead, for a few days at a time, you should take advantage. Keep in mind - the player in this situation doesn't even have to be particularly good. He can be expendable. He just needs to be a body.
The Dodgers have played, managed and general managed well almost the entire season. They started 2005 with 13 of their first 18 games on the road, and the fatigue is understandable.
With all that in mind, they played shorthanded Friday and Saturday. And it showed.
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April 23 Open Chat: When We Last Left Shawn Chacon ...
... he was making magical moments.
Now, Chacon is back in the starting rotation, where many people think he belongs.
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Quite a pitchers' duel in St. Louis today: Mark Mulder, with a 101-pitch, 10-inning, 2:42 shutout, beats Roger Clemens, who got a no decision despite lowering his ERA to 0.32 on the season.
Meanwhile, Chan Ho Park throws 122 pitches in 6 2/3 innings, allowing three hits, walking five and striking out six, and lassos the Yankees in a 10-2 Texas Ranger romp. Woodrow Call would have been proudd.
April 22 Open Chat: Star Wars, Starring Choibako
A double play between the Dodgers' first baseman and catcher would cause gum cancer worries: Choi tobako.
Hee Seop Choi gets consecutive starts at first base, batting second. Ricky Ledee bats seventh in left field, and Paul Bako bats eighth at catcher. Bako will catch Jeff Weaver again after being behind the plate for Weaver's shutout Sunday.
Weaver has faced 28 major league teams in his pitching career. The only ones he hasn't faced: the Dodgers and the Rockies.
Shortstop Clint Barmes of Colorado is batting .448 with four home runs and a 1.224 OPS.
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Jim Baker on the Dodgers and Rockies in today's Baseball Prospectus:
How far apart are these teams right now? Consider that the Dodgers are averaging nearly as many runs at home as are the Rockies, despite one of the biggest gaps in park effects of any two teams. The extreme nature of their respective parks has given us predictable results since the Rox came to be in '93. They've outscored the Dodgers at home at a 1.6:1 clip since their inception, the high-water mark coming in 1996 when they scored more than twice as many runs in Coors Field as Los Angeles did at Dodger Stadium. This year? The Rox hold just a 10% edge in run-scoring at home vs. the Dodgers' tally.
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The Chicago White Sox, playing at Kansas City tonight, are one-half game behind the Dodgers for baseball's best record. Anyone giving the Sox their 15 minutes of fame?
An Early Peek at the Minors
AAA: Las Vegas 51s
Caveat emptor on the offense-inflated Pacific Coast League stats ...
Kevin Goldstein of Baseball America's Prospect Report reports that yesterday, "Dodgers Double-A teammates Joel Guzman and James Loney combine to go 9-for-10 with four doubles and two home runs (Southern)."
Loney was 4-for-5 with a walk, a homer, and two doubles. Guzman was 5-for-5 with a walk, a homer, and two doubles.
High A: Vero Beach Dodgers
A friend emailed me last night to point out Chuck Tiffany's line at Class A Vero Beach: 16 innings, 6 hits, 1 run, 9 walks, 26 strikeouts. Yes, a 26/16 K/IP ratio. It doesn't get much better than that. Tiffany has an excellent curveball and changeup, and good velocity (87-90) for a 20-year-old lefty. Continued domination of the Florida State League will earn him a promotion to Double-A soon, if the Dodgers hold with the pattern they established with Chad Billingsley and other young pitchers over the last few years.
Tiffany's ERA is 0.56, and opponents are batting .115 against him.
Low A: Columbus Catfish
"Fans generally are thrilled that they can get that close to the action, but there are a few issues that have been raised that we are working to address," said McCourt. "We are prepared to do whatever is needed to remedy the sightline situation."
McCourt said minor adjustments may be made immediately, but major work must wait until the offseason.
"We are always working to address the concerns of tickets holders," McCourt said. "If our fans are displeased with their seats and want to be relocated, we will accommodate that request to the best of our ability."
A Dominican court ruled in favor of Raul Mondesi, ruling out the Mario Guerrero lawsuit of the infamous 1% of Mondesi earnings.
Now Mondesi can focus on baseball, and Mario Guerrero can look somewhere else to try to gain his money.
You can Google "Dodger Thoughts" and "Mario Guerrero" for several previous stories on the Mondesi-Guerrero dispute.
April 21 Open Chat: Fielding Jones
Hee Seop Choi back at first base, batting second. Jason Grabowski in left field, batting eighth.
Dave Roberts makes his first 2005 appearance against the Dodgers. He is 2 for 7 with two walks this season.
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I surveyed several NL scouts on the Dodgers this week, and they're all skeptical. The worries would go something like this: It will be weeks before Eric Gagne comes back. The back of the rotation (Erickson, Dessens) is scary, although Brad Penny gets Dessens out of there this weekend. They don't catch the ball in the infield...
- Jayson Stark, ESPN.com (emphasis mine)
Well, Cesar Izturis catches the ball. Jeff Kent catches the ball. (Show us the ones he has missed.)
Jose Valentin is a bit off, especially if you incorporate his throwing into the mix. The octopus at first base could be a bit better.
But it's all relative, isn't it? How many infields have Gold Glove-caliber players at all four positions?
One of the problems some prognosticators ran into in March is that they focused on the Dodger negatives, some of which were legitimate, while writing off the weaknesses of other teams. The Dodgers faced a problem with Jeff Kent batting cleanup - but the Padres lineup, anchored at the No. 4 spot by Phil Nevin, was supposedly wonderful. Jeff Kent, we were told, has no range at second base and Jose Valentin can't play third - but Ray Durham and Edgardo Alfonzo of the Giants were somehow the fielder's pajamas?
Most everyone graded the Dodgers' competition on a curve, while stabbling the Dodgers with a straight line.
The woebegone Dodger defense ranks second in the National League in defensive efficiency, according to Baseball Prospectus. The middle infield and the outfield are truly above average. And unlike pitching and batting, defense rarely slumps. What you see is what you get. The Dodger defense is not perfect, but show me a perfect defense. The Dodger defense is plenty good.
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As for Scott Erickson, I don't know if he's still scary, but he remains at least, say, unnerving. We'll see how he goes tonight...
Swimming with Scully
I mean, come on. That's quite a trip.
The Dodgers' Steel Curtain
When I think of 12-2, I think of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers, to be precise. I first became a sports fan in 1975. I can remember watching sports as early as the Lakers' 1971-72 season. (Shooting baskets in front of our garage, my brother would pretend to be Gail Goodrich and tell me I was Happy Hairston, until I got embarrassed about being a player named "Happy.") My earliest baseball memory is seeing Hank Aaron's 715th home run on a television set while on vacation at the White Stallion Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. I can remember going to Ram games, with my main infatuation being the power of my Dad's binoculars and how they could make the peristyle scoreboard look really close.
But then, in August 1975, I suddenly got it. At an exhibition game of all things. The Rams romped, over Dallas I think, which is neither here nor there except that for the first time, the winning mattered. For better or worse, I was hooked on sports - and no longer dreamed of being the next Dr. George Fishbeck.
I rooted hard for the Rams that year, but the team of my first season as a sports fan was the Pittsburgh Steelers. The tough, classy, dominating Pittsburgh Steelers. The 12-2 Pittsburgh Steelers.
Those Steelers went on to win the first Super Bowl I ever saw, 21-17, over Dallas, in a game that featured one of the most beautiful plays in sport I've seen to this day - Lynn Swann's balletic, tip-to-himself catch of a Terry Bradshaw bomb that helped save the Steelers' season.
The idea that the Dodgers have run up the same record as those Pittsburgh Steelers is astonishing to me.
Good teams and bad can go on 12-2 runs during a season, but for me, there's an aura to being 12-2. And since J.D. Drew homered in the eighth inning to tie the game and since Jose Valentin tripled in the 10th inning to win it, I haven't stopped shaking my head.
Winning breeds chemistry. You can see it in the elation of Valentin, Odalis Perez, Milton Bradley, Duaner Sanchez - those are just a few of the people I saw jumping up and down in the dugout after the Dodgers took their first lead of the game. You can hear it in the fascination in the voice of Vin Scully, "privileged" to be one of the announcers for the all-time great Dodger team of 1955 and amazed that a group of guys thrown together in 2005 could challenge the camaraderie of their predecessors of exactly 50 years ago. And you can feel it in your own skin - that tingle that makes you so jumpy, you can't sit down. It's not life or death, it's just fun.
Yes, the Dodgers will hit their rough spot. Last season, the team started 22-10 and built an eight-game lead over the Giants, only to go 15-25 and let San Francisco back in.
But I've made this point during the previous two seasons - in 2003 when the Dodgers trailed the Giants early, and 2004 when they led them. The beauty of a cushion is that you can lose it. You have some breathing room. You can regroup. And if a team catches you by making up a lot of ground, odds are that team spent its best run and is due to fall back.
They might not - or they might make you sweat until the bottom of the ninth of game 161. The Dodgers have not won a trip to the Super Bowl in the first 2 1/2 weeks of the season.
But as my Dad might say, this is real stuff. My apologies to Dodger Thoughts' younger viewers, but it's Mean Joe Greene having a Coke and a smile stuff.
It's real good stuff.
By the way - 37 innings against the Padres this season, three earned runs allowed.
* * *
Update: In a silly scoring reversal, J.D. Drew's infield grounder, which was bobbled off his own nose by Padre relief pitcher Scott Linebrink, has been changed to an infield single plus error, as opposed to two errors, giving Drew a fourth hit Wednesday and raising his batting average to .224 and OPS to .748.
When Jeff Kent started the season red-hot at the plate and Drew started ice cold, people prepared for each them to reach room temperature. And so it has begun - with a net positive for the Dodgers ...
Hits + Walks Per Game ... OPS to Date
Date Kent Drew Kent Drew 4/5 2 0 .833 .000 4/6 3 0 .985 .000 4/7 3 1 1.279 .071 4/8 2 1 1.179 .105 4/9 5 1 1.482 .120 4/10 1 2 1.275 .241 4/11 no game 4/12 2 3 1.173 .329 4/13 2 3 1.280 .407 4/14 no game 4/15 1 1 1.283 .393 4/16 3 2 1.316 .433 4/17 2 1 1.358 .514 4/18 0 DNP 1.221 DNP 4/19 1 3 1.165 .571 4/20 3 4 1.149 .748Source: ESPN.com
Update 2: At Mike's Baseball Rants, Mike Carminati looks at the history of every major league team that started its season 12-2 or better.
April 20 Open Chat: No Shirt, No Shoes, Service
Learn it. Know it. Live it.
* * *
Update: Norihiro Nakamura starts over Hee Seop Choi at first base, against a right-handed pitcher (Woody Williams). Unless Choi is suddenly ailing, this is a pretty big statement from Jim Tracy. Nakamura, for his part, is only 3 for 14 with no walks himself this season. His OPS of .500 is lower than Choi's (.565), which is saying nothing except that there's conclusive evidence about neither player. Looks like auditions are in full swing.
Jason Repko also gets the start against the right-handed Williams, which leads me to check something ... look at that. Since 2002, Williams OPS allowed vs. righties is .726 and vs. lefties is .663.
Make of it all what you will ...
Update 2: Our fair site administrator writes that he ...
... may make a minor change to the server during the game. It will do two things, one they'll notice, the other maybe not:
1. There will be a Hide/Show link for each 50 posts (notice)
Good News Lacking for Bonds, Giants
Barry Bonds is behind schedule in his recovery from knee surgery, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. A return sometime in May remains a possibility, but a return by the end of this month seems out.
With J.T. Snow injuring himself this week and Moises Alou already with Bonds on the shelf (a shelf made of the finest oak, it should be said), the Giants are temporarily without their 3-4-5 hitters. Edgardo Alfonzo has done his best to carry the team with a 1.184 OPS, but San Francisco's team ERA is also 5.59. (Yes, the Giants have played Colorado six times - but the team ERA is actually lower against the Rockies, at 5.09). Starting pitchers Noah Lowry, Kirk Rueter and Brett Tomko all have ERAs over 6.00.
San Francisco, now 6-7, needs some balm to keep from sliding further under .500. Perhaps playing Arizona, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee in 11 of the Giants' next 14 games will help provide it. For their part, the Dodgers play Arizona and Colorado in nine of their next 11 games.
* * *
Previous comments about Montero on Dodger Thoughts (from 2004):
Walks almost a batter per inning, hits a batter and allows a homer every five innings. In March, I wrote, "Pattern in recent seasons has been decent numbers at one level, followed by a midseason promotion and ensuing decline in stats."The most recent player suspended before Montero also had a Dodger connection. Jorge Piedra played in the Dodger system from 1997-2000.
It Had To Be Said
"In my initial approach to the ball, I underestimated the velocity on the Milwaukee terrain. Therefore, I was rendered defenseless to field the aforementioned ball."
- Milton (four home runs in his past three games) Bradley, describing a fielding play, April 19, 2005
* * *
Dodger reliever Steve Schmoll's diving catch of a suicide squeeze bunt in the bottom of the eighth inning - spectacular.
* * *
Glad it wasn't me who wanted to cut Olmedo Saenz in Spring Training. In 21 plate appearances, eight hits (four for extra bases), five walks and eight outs.
For the second time in a week, the Dodgers had eight different players score in their comeback victory Tuesday, and their pinch hitters almost hit for the cycle: single by Jason Phillips, double by Saenz and home run by Jason Grabowski. Jason Repko and Norihiro Nakamura each came up with a shot at the triple but couldn't deliver.
* * *
Ex-Dodger update: Victor Diaz, included in the package of players that the Dodgers sent to the New York Mets in 2003 for Jeromy Burnitz, hit two home runs in New York's rout of Philadelphia on Tuesday. Diaz now has six home runs and a .972 OPS in 95 career plate appearances in the majors. You might recall he hit a home run late last September that crippled the Chicago Cubs' playoff hopes.
Hideo Nomo went and beat Randy Johnson in the Bronx, just like he did in Arizona two years ago. In his 302nd start, Nomo pitched on three days rest for the first time in his career - the most starts a pitcher has ever made before doing so.
The activation of catcher Humberto Cota by Pittsburgh didn't cost Dave Ross his slot on the roster, even though Ross, who started the season 8 for 19 with three homers, is now 0 for his last 10. Benito Santiago replaced Cota on the 15-day disabled list. Cota was named the starter over Ross, however. By the way - same guy?
* * *
No local television for tonight's game in San Diego apparently, either on Channel 13, Fox Sports West 2 or ESPN.
* * *
How does it feel to be 11-2 when so many said you'd fall on your face? Let's check in with Senior Baseball Analyst Bruce Springsteen:
Well, I had the carburetor, baby, cleaned and checked
Yin and Yang Are Five-Tool Players
Plus, April 19 Open Chat
More Strat-O-Matic ball from Jim Tracy. Hee Seop Choi at first, batting second. Jose Valentin at third base, batting sixth. Ricky Ledee in left field, batting seventh. Paul Bako at catcher, batting eighth.
By the way - if they ever return to selling the computer version of Strat-o-Matic for Macintosh again, somebody let me know. Talk about "I Live for This" ...
* * *
In honor of Milton Bradley, typing right-handed ...
Yin: Bradley homers batting right in the third.
Yang: Bradley homers batting left in the ninth.
Yin: Odalis Perez gets little run support in 2004.
Yang: Perez gets lots of run support in 2005.
Switching to my left hand ...
Yin: Dodgers get three walks in the second inning but don't score.
Yang: Wearing down the opposing pitcher, Chris Capuano, forcing him to challenge them, Dodgers score three in the third.
Yin: Still, you never like to waste run-scoring opportunities like that.
Yang: And so it went with the Brewers in bottom of the eighth.
Showing true versatility, now typing with both hands ...
Yin: Wunschtime! Kelly Wunsch retires Lyle Overbay with two runners on in that eighth, preserving the slim Dodger lead.
Yang: Bradley homers with two runners in the ninth, extending the slim Dodger lead.
Yin: Oh yeah - and Norhihiro Nakamura let an inning-ending grounder go past him for a double in the seventh, ultimately allowing two runs to score.
Yang: Oh yeah - and keeping his foot on first base, Nakamura made an amazing grab of a wild Jose Valentin throw, allowing no more runs to score.
Every game, every series, every week, every season has ebb and flow. Little moments make all the difference. So far, the Dodgers have had the personnel and the good fortune to be on the good side of those little moments.
* * *
With a nine-strikeout showing for AAA Las Vegas on Monday, Brad Penny is scheduled to be back in the Dodger rotation no later than next week, if not this coming weekend in Colorado.
Steve Schmoll, the last player added to the bullpen, remains the most likely player to go down to Las Vegas to open up room for Penny. Doubtless, it wouldn't be the last we see of Schmoll.
Meanwhile, though Eric Gagne and Jayson Werth are still weeks away from returning, pitcher Wilson Alvarez and infielder Antonio Perez might also be ready by the end of the month. Often, a timely injury to an active player creates room on the roster to activate the healed - and so might a trade - but if that doesn't happen, the Dodgers will face some of those choices you like to have.
There isn't one person on the 25-man roster who seems like an obvious demotion - no surprise with a 10-2 team - but if any of the following have a bad 10 days, they might lose their spot: Nakamura, Wunsch, Buddy Carlyle, Scott Erickson, Jason Grabowski ... and Hee Seop Choi. It's certainly possible, isn't it? Choi's upside potential hasn't changed, but if 2003 was Joe Thurston's year of disappointment and 2004 was Edwin Jackson's, 2005 could be Choi's. Perhaps in Choi's case, it will be surmountable.
April 18 Open Chat: Drew Rests
Some TV channel information can be found here.
To face Brewers lefthander Chris Capuano, Jim Tracy selects Jason Repko batting second, Milton Bradley batting third, Olmedo Saenz batting fifth, Norihiro Nakamura batting sixth, and Jason Grabowski batting eighth. Hee Seop Choi sits, and J.D. Drew, who has perhaps begun to hit, also gets a rest. Tonight's Dodger bench has no right-handed batters.
The Dodgers have a day game Tuesday following this night game - if the theory is that Drew needs periodic rest, this might be as good a game as any to sit him. Is that the theory?
Gibson Had It, Kent Has It
So without getting too carried away by a 9-2 start - you might have been optimistic about 2005, but probably not this optimistic - there's one feeling that's becoming hard to suppress.
Guy comes in, he's a little ornery, but he's a ballplayer through and through. And when you need him to produce, he produces.
Gibson's 1988 season is often misremembered. While his counting stats of 25 home runs and 76 RBI look like a good couple of months for an Albert Pujols in today's age and day - leading many to reflect that his MVP award was a product of major-market, Tommy Lasorda-infused hype - Gibson had a 1988 adjusted OPS of 149 (with 100 being average). Not that anyone was looking at that stat back then, but Gibson was more than just an inspiration on the '88 team - he got things done.
As it happens, though, Gibson didn't really get going that season until May, when he hit seven home runs and eight doubles while OPSing 1.018. So Kent is ahead of Gibson at this point. We'll see what happens as Kent tails from his outstanding start, but much like Gibson did in 1988, Kent brings both sizzle and steak.
* * *
Newly posted equivalent averages by Baseball Prospectus for 2005 confirm Kent's hot start. Taking into account hitting and baserunning and adjusting for park effects and league difficulty, Kent is first in the National League with a .424 EQA. His career high is .335 in 2000.
Jose Valentin, at .408, misses being among the leaders because he is one plate appearance shy of qualifying.
Continuing to audition for the role of Sundance to Kent's Butch Cassidy, however, is Milton Bradley, who noticeably got the biggest applause during pre-game introductions, then joined Kent in hitting back-to-back home runs for the second time in three games.
In contrast to the home opener Tuesday, Jeff Weaver survived his wobbly start and ended up pitching a complete game in nothing flat, "nothing" being two hours and 21 minutes. Staying the whole game was as breezy as the weather as we walked to the parking lot afterward, and happily, the gateway between the inner and outer rings of Dodger Stadium from Lot 6 had been re-opened. Makes a huge difference. We were out in nothing flat, "nothing" being a couple of minutes.
Things were so chipper that my father and I risked listening to the Dodger postgame call-in show - and we were rewarded with some unintentional comedy genius.
There was the caller who lamented the low production at first base by Hee Seop Choi - but then signed off with the parting remark that the Dodgers should have kept ... wait for it ... Larry Barnes.
And there was another caller, the self-described "new Dodger fan," who was beside herself that Paul Lo Duca, Jose Lima and Steve Finley were gone - but thrilled that Shawn Green wasn't around anymore to dissapoint her at every turn.
So, host Bret Lewis asked, who was her new favorite Dodger? "J.D. Drew."
* * *
Score by innings after the first inning of the homestand by Dodger opponents:
00 300 000 000 000 100 000 000 000 000 002 010 000 000 000 - 7
Dodger pitchers have allowed seven runs in their past 44 innings.
* * *
Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts gets in the spirit, offering, in honor of the Dodgers' hot start, this piece, in which he does a This Day in Dodger History from 1958-68 using the archives of his father, former Dodger beat writer George Lederer.
Quick sample: Forty years ago, just like today, the Dodgers were off to a good start while waiting for their best starting pitcher to make his first appearance:
"Two weeks ago, Sandy Koufax was worried about his arm and didn't know how frequently he would be able to pitch. Today, Koufax is still worried about his arm, but only because he hasn't had the opportunity to pitch.
'The only thing I'm worried about is that I haven't thrown enough,' Koufax said on the eve of his first regular-season appearance since Aug. 16. 'I've pitched exactly three innings since March 30 and I've thrown twice on the side in between. Everything else is fine. There's been no swelling in the elbow since I started to work again and I haven't had a bit of pain.'"
Meanwhile, let's congratulate Tom Meagher on burning brightly at The Fourth Outfielder, and wish him the best as he moves on.
What's the Frequency, Vinny?
With the 4:35 p.m. Dodger telecast roaming the airwaves because of Fox Sports West 2 scheduling conflicts, here's a clearinghouse thread where resourceful people in different areas can answer the question, "What channel is the game on?"
Out There in the Fields: Part 1
Testing out what might become a recurring feature on Dodger Thoughts...
Because my focus on the home team often keeps me from knowing much of what's going on in the rest of the baseball world, and because you all are so knowledgeable, I'm inviting each of you to post an interesting fact about a team other than the Dodgers in the comments below. Look at it as sort of our own Sunday notes column. Only it's on Monday. Only I had the idea on Sunday. So really, there's no problem, is there?
We'll see how it goes, but by staying in touch with the Dodgers' competition, "Out There in the Fields" might help us become even more informed about the Dodgers themselves.
April 17 Open Chat: Knock on Wood
For your pregame reading: "Home Runs to Remember" by Rich Lederer on Baseball Analysts.
With four straight victories and eight in their first 10, this Dodger vessel is looking more seaworthy on the rough oceans of the media. Tossed about through much of the winter and on the verge of capsizing at both their road and home openers, the Dodgers should find the media waters more forgiving even if they tilt a bit much to starboard at some point. They've bought themselves a little time.
(Impressive paragraph, isn't it - considering my entire knowledge of sailing comes from Gilligan's Island.)
With that in mind, there's one point that might be made without taking away from the Dodgers' early-season achievements. If there is something the team could have done during Spring Training to prevent Eric Gagne from injuring himself as seriously as he has been - Tony Jackson of the Daily News writes in his latest update that Gagne is still about a month from returning - let's hope the Dodgers have learned to do it for the future.
April 16 Open Chat: Polka!
Three-hit shutouts make you want to do crazy things ...
* * *
Pregame entertainment suggestion: Rob McMillin recounts his Friday night at the ballpark on 6-4-2 - an evening that ends with a collision worthy of Dave Parker and Steve Yeager.
April 15 Open Chat: Jackie Robinson Day
I would have loved to have written something to commemorate the Jackie Robinson celebration tonight, but I didn't have the time to do it justice. I'm finding now I regret not making the time.
* * *
For your pregame
The Martin Chronicles
In July 2004, the Dodgers traded the underperforming Martin to Atlanta for minor-league pitcher Matt Merricks, saving themselves more than half of the salary commitment.
Today, Atlanta released Martin after he allowed six hits, two walks and five runs in 2 1/3 innings to start 2005.
Merricks, a Rule 5 draft pick by Colorado, is on the disabled list, but according to Fox Sports, the Rockies will send him back to the Dodgers once he is activated. Colorado has another former Dodger minor league pitcher, Marcos Carvajal, on its active roster.
Earlier this week, Atlanta claimed Dodger minor league relief pitcher Frank Brooks on waivers.
And so it goes in Relief Pitcher Land ...
* * *
In the couple of minutes I took to put together the above, I found the following quote by Atlanta manager Bobby Cox, reacting to the Dodgers' major trades last July.
"The Dodgers are putting all kinds of pieces together there real quick," Cox told The Asssociated Press. "Believe me, they know what they're doing."
The name-angsting Fire Jim Tracy offers this piece by Jerry Fors arguing that Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta hasn't been given enough credit for his performance in 2004. An excerpt:
That 2003 team had a lot of positives: a legitimate ace (Brown), a lights-out bullpen, stellar defense (Beltre, Cesar Izturis, Alex Cora), boatloads of veteran experience (Green, Jordan, Fred McGriff), and a slugger (Green) who had hit 91 home runs in the previous two seasons combined. Dodger fans, however, learned (or re-learned) a few hard lessons that summer: sometimes proven sluggers have their shoulders fall off, sometimes veteran experience doesn't count for squat, and sometimes having the best pitching in the world doesn't translate into success, especially if your team can't hit.
[Last year] was supposed to be a rebuilding year-Jeff Weaver in, Kevin Brown out, no Vladimir Guerrero, no sign of Green's shoulder-fans would have understood if new GM Paul DePodesta couldn't turn around this old and creaky ship right away. But DePodesta was proactive: he got offensive help before the season started (Milton Bradley), and in July he tried to patch up the team's weaknesses (starting pitching, Jim Tracy starting Juan Encarnacion every day). The fans fussed but the 2004 version of the Dodgers nevertheless won the NL West and won a playoff game for the first time in sixteen years.
Maybe DePodesta and the Dodgers' front office need to work on communication skills-McCourt acknowledged as much when he fired Lon Rosen and a couple of other executives a few weeks ago. But hasn't DePodesta earned some currency with last year's success?
I'm actually not sure "fans would have understood" if DePodesta had truly spent the year in rebuilding mode, but I'm intrigued by the idea that criticism of DePodesta could ultimately have been the product of his ambition.
From the What Else Is New Department ...
Update: Trimmed out of having second thoughts that I was excerpting too much ...
Joe Morgan has a theory that theories do not win baseball games...
I know critiquing Joe Morgan chats used to be the department of Mike's Baseball Rants, and I won't deconstruct Morgan with nearly as much aplomb, but Morgan was so in the groove today that I couldn't resist. From Morgan's chat today on ESPN.com:
Joe Morgan: I think that they (the A's) had the makings of a great team when they had Zito, Mulder, Hudson, Tejada and Giambi. But when you let two MVPs go and two of the best pitchers in the league go, you're not really thinking about winning anymore.
Jon Weisman: Mulder and Giambi don't appear to be key contributors anymore, and there's no mention of the players Oakland picked up in exchange. But, whatever ..
* * *
Joe Morgan: That moneyball theory is overrated. No one has ever won with it. ... PLAYERS win games. Not theories.
Jon Weisman: The statement is, of course, nonsensical. It's like saying, "ARTISTS make music. Not songs." Or, "ANNOUNCERS can be deluded. Not comments."
* * *
Joe Morgan: The Red Sox had the second highest payroll in baseball next to the Yankees!!! The most important play last year was Dave Roberts stealing second base in game four ... that is NOT the moneyball theory. Without the stolen base or just the THREAT of the stolen base Dave Roberts provided, the Red Sox would have been eliminated.
Jon Weisman: And how did Roberts get to first base? As a pinch-runner. Because Kevin Millar reached base on a walk. Not that reaching base matters. And not that that's what Moneyball is all about. It's about making efficient decisions based on the payroll you have at your disposal. Decisions that can include acquiring a Dave Roberts cheaply because another team (the Dodgers, as it happens) has a surplus of outfielders and is willing to part with him.
But what else is new ...
Dodger pitcher Jeff Weaver, scheduled to face the Padres on Sunday, started six games against them in 2004. In all six games, the opposing pitcher for San Diego was Adam Eaton. The Padres won four of the six games.
Eaton and Weaver are scheduled to face each other again at Dodger Stadium on Sunday, though the Padres could conceviably skip fifth starter Tim Redding and throw Eaton on Saturday.
The results from 2004:
April 7, 2004
at Los Angeles: Dodgers 2, Padres 1
April 13, 2004
at San Diego: Padres 8, Dodgers 3
July 25, 2004
at Los Angeles: Padres 3, Dodgers 0
July 30, 2004
at San Diego: Dodgers 12, Padres 3
September 16, 2004
at Los Angeles: Padres 3, Dodgers 0
September 21, 2004
at San Diego: Padres 9, Dodgers 4
Gammons Apologizes for 'Inexplicable Oversight'
Peter Gammons said today on ESPN.com that he had meant, in a sidebar to his column Wednesday, to source Steve Henson and the Los Angeles Times in referring to Henson's feature on Milton Bradley, and apologized for the "inexplicable oversight" that this sourcing did not occur:
I thought Henson's piece was so poignant and interesting, I included a reference to it as a "sidebar" in my column. I was obviously referring to that newspaper piece, and commented on the exchange by writing, "Fascinating. Bradley is a very good person who has long dealt with demons, and this acceptance of responsibility may signal that he is on the right path. Everyone who knows him hopes so."
When I filed the column, however, I inadvertently and mistakenly omitted credit and sourcing to the Los Angeles Times. I thought I had sourced the Times as I wrote the column, and had not. Obviously, I should have. It was brought to my attention late Wednesday night by ESPN.com editors, who removed the "sidebar" while seeking clarification. I immediately admitted the mistake and asked that it be corrected.
I had intended to call attention to what I considered a very powerful story, and made an inexplicable oversight. I apologize to Steve Henson, the L.A. Times, and to ESPN.com readers.
This is a good thing. Again, the point of my original piece was not to accuse Peter Gammons of plagarism - although inevitably, some people were going to draw that conclusion despite my best explicit intentions - but to point out that there was a significant problem on ESPN.com. Steve Henson worked very hard to write a good story based on his one-on-one interview with Milton Bradley. He got Bradley to talk openly about his anger issues. ESPN, by posting text from that interview without attribution or proprietary rights, was taking credit for Henson's work. Just because this happened doesn't mean it wasn't an accident. But just because it was an accident doesn't mean it shouldn't have been corrected. And so it has been. Good for Gammons for handling this so graciously. And good for Henson for producing a good story.
Your Average Hot Start
In their 6-2 start, the Dodgers have been above the National League average at three positions, roughly average at two positions and below average at four positions.
1.274 by second basemen - first in NL.
This sort of doesn't take into account fielding, but I don't know that fielding does much to change these rough generalizations.
There will be changes to these rankings in the coming weeks, and so the question is, the more the individual things change, the more the overall will stay the same?
And that, I will not attempt to answer today.
April 13 Open Chat: Where Everybody Knows Your Name
So if I've got this right (starting at comment No. 433)...
Eric Enders is cast as Frasier but recast as "the beer-swilling slob" Norm Peterson.
Bob Timmermann is cast as The Thin Norm Peterson but recast as Frasier.
Suffering Bruin is Cliff.
BigCPA is auditioning for Woody, though I don't know if he can play that dumb.
Steve is Carla.
I think I get to be Sam - perhaps the biggest honor of my life - but perhaps I'm overreaching.
Casting is open for Diane and Coach, among others.
No need to audition for the role of Rebecca. On Dodger Thoughts, there was no Cheers after the fifth season.
* * *
Duplication in Two Bradley Stories
Update: The sidebar referred to below was removed from the ESPN website late Wednesday evening.
Update 2: ESPN and Peter Gammons address the issue.
In a sidebar to Peter Gammons' ESPN.com column today on the Dodgers, the same text that was published in a previous day's Los Angeles Times article - text that includes but is not limited to quotes - appears.
I'm not making any accusations - just pointing out the similarity. I have made inquiries to the Times and ESPN.com to determine if this is, as may be likely, just an editing or publication error.
The following passage appeared Tuesday in Steve Henson's feature in the Times on Milton Bradley.
Former Cleveland teammate and close friend C.C. Sabathia had a candid discussion with Bradley on Super Bowl Sunday, saying he was still angry because Bradley's behavior prompted the trade to the Dodgers before last season.
The final incident in Bradley's tumultuous 2 1/2 years in Cleveland came at the end of spring training when Manager Eric Wedge thought Bradley did not run out a pop-up.
"C.C. is like my brother and when he said, 'You left me and I'm still upset,' that was real," Bradley said. "We wanted to turn Cleveland into a powerhouse, and I see now that my actions were wrong and hurt people."
When the Dodgers traveled from Vero Beach, Fla., to Winter Haven to play the Indians in spring training, Bradley made sure he was one of the few regulars to make the two-hour bus ride.
"By trading me they made a big statement about the direction the organization was going," he said. "I understand they had to do it. I needed to go to Winter Haven to talk to some people. I needed to go for closure."
The following passage appears today in Gammons' sidebar on Bradley:
Milton Bradley and close friend C.C. Sabathia had a candid discussion about Bradley on Super Bowl Sunday.
Bradley said Sabathia was still angry because Bradley's behavior prompted the trade to the Dodgers before last season. "C.C. is like my brother and when he said, 'You left me and I'm still upset,' that was real," Bradley said. "We wanted to turn Cleveland into a powerhouse, and I see now that my actions were wrong and hurt people."
When the Dodgers traveled from Vero Beach, Fla., to Winter Haven to play the Indians in spring training, Bradley made sure he was one of the few regulars to make the two-hour bus ride.
"By trading me they made a big statement about the direction the organization was going," he said. "I understand they had to do it. I needed to go to Winter Haven to talk to some people. I needed to go for closure."
Jackson Opens with a Struggle
While the Las Vegas 51s were being two-hit by Salt Lake, Edwin Jackson allowed six runs, five hits and five walks while striking out two over four innings in his first regular-season appearance of 2005.
Fun, Thrilling and Safe at Home
Round about 5:30 p.m., I walked in the door and replayed the final at-bat of the game. And my little girl caught a glimpse, and shouted "Dodgers!" and "Baseball game!" and asked to go outside to play catch.
So I think I'm locked into the elation that Milton Bradley and the Dodgers felt today. Dogpile on Jonny - it's five hours later and I'm still beaming.
And Dodger fans, they know what it's like to be Tiger Woods' golf ball on the 16th. Together, the assembled stood along the fringes of the grass, victory an impossibility although not quite, a long, curving path taking us right to the precipice, breath baited, before dropping us home.
Never thought the Dodgers were out of this one. Thought the Dodgers might lose, with Jeff Weaver dishing singles like a dealer at five-card draw, but never thought they were out. Against Jason Schmidt or Jake Peavy, perhaps. Not against the staff the Giants threw out there today.
Perhaps more impressive, through the hundreds of comments posted this afternoon, it appears few of you thought the Dodgers were out of it either. Ill turns in the game were greeted with disappointment at worst and sardonic good humor quite often. It's as if a realization has spread: those Dodgers, they're so incorrigible, but doggone it if they don't find a way out of their messes. Like a team with Dennis the Menace at short and Beaver Cleaver at second. Sitcom baseball - we'll have some fun, maybe catch a talkin'-to, but everyone's happy at the end.
This being Opening Day, the field was adorned with balloons, not the least of which was the thought balloon many brought from the offseason that said that the Giants are the sound, mature and cohesive leaders of the West and the Dodgers are a bumbling, misanthropic, inchoate mess. Those balloons are now punctured and spinning in curly-cue formation around the parachutists and doves and stealth bombers flying through the air. We yet don't know which team will win the National League West - if either of them - but those who thought the writing was on the wall before the season began got this as a response: "Tear down that wall!"
* * *
There was good and bad in the changes to Dodger Stadium, or at least stuff I could live with and stuff that I would rather not. The new seats change the feel of the stadium - it's like building an add-on to your house which is totally functional, totally works, but makes the yard feels a little smaller. Because it is. To me, the distance between the bases, which I assume remains 90 feet, had the optical illusion of appearing greater than in previous years because the adjacent territory between the bases and the dugout had shrunk. But it's all well and good. The ribbon scoreboard, even if it is mostly dedicated to advertising, is fine as well (as long as it's not blocking the view of people sitting below it.)
The problem with the outfield wall isn't just that advertisements have replaced the annual homages to Dodger greats (which themselves were a relatively new tradition), but that the advertisements were slapped on without any kind of panache. The wall is completely unapologetic - not that I mean that the Dodgers should apologize for pursuing ad revenue. But the wall is not even trying to make the advertising palatable. I don't want to trade Ricky Ledee for an outfield wall free of ads - not after his ninth-inning double - but I would like to see some finesse, some imagination, some class. Dodger Stadium was a stroke of genius and beauty that earned its owners lots of money. The concepts are compatible. But no one appears to have tried to reconcile them on the outfield wall today. Further, the yellow stripes (across the bullpen gates) advertising a shipping company that isn't Federal Express are a blight in themselves. I'm not going to moralize about these ads - they are just ugly, and I'm not convinced they have to be.
One could go on and on. Credit-card usage at the food stands is a big plus, and my hot dog was wonderfully charred. If Nancy Bea had more of a presence today, I didn't really notice. That's because the sound system remains antiquated: If you put your speakers in two different locations even when you live in a one-room apartment, someone tell me why it makes sense to have speakers in one location in a 56,000-seat stadium.
It's still a great stadium. It feels a little more modern, a little more cluttered, but it remains a great place to be.
* * *
Barry Bonds liked it. Craving as many boos as he could get, he thrust his arms in the air when the public address announcer introduced him before the game, his split personality happening to alight on the seven pin today instead of the 10. The only other player fans really booed at all during the introductions was poor Hee Seop Choi, who caught a smattering and then was stuck with it, on camera, while the announcer seemed to lose his place.
In general, Dodgers other than Choi received three kinds of receptions during the introductions. These might best be explained by imagining you had gone to a play at your child's elementary school - the difference between clapping for your kid, clapping for your friend's kid, and clapping for someone's kid just because he goes to the school and you're being nice. In Opening Day-ese, this translates to 1) outright adulation, reserved for award-winners like Eric Gagne, 2) polite applause, which went to players who were anonymous to most in the crowd but at least wore the right uniform, and 3) a warm welcome for those who weren't All-Stars but had done the uniform proud. Jayson Werth was among those in this group, illustrating once again how quickly the fans can bond with the players even within the first year. Jose Lima, thank you again - but by May, no one's going to be missing you. It's nothing personal - people just like to bond with who's in front of them.
I think I'm starting to develop some commandments.
1) Spring Training doesn't matter.
2) Winning breeds chemistry, not the other way around.
3) No matter how little time you've been with the team, if you help us win, you're one of us.
* * *
Did I stay to the end of the game? Well, we had to pick my daughter up from the sitter by 4:30 p.m. So, no. I didn't leave because I wasn't enjoying myself, or because I didn't want to stay, or because I had lost faith. I left because I'm a father to a daughter. You want to knock us for it - we'd be happy to have you babysit. Really. You think I'm kidding, but I'm tempted to tell you what time to put the kids to bed... Anyway, old readers of Dodger Thoughts know that I'm not as militant about leaving early as so many are. I respect your dedication and envy your ability to prevent the outside world from intruding. But it wasn't in the cards today.
That being said, we would have stayed until the end if not for something truly unfortunate and brainless the Dodgers in 2004 began doing periodically in their parking lots.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the drive inside Dodger Stadium, the main components are an inner ring going one direction around the ballpark and an outer ring going the opposite, with occasional links between the two. One of those links emerges from Lot 6, where we park. For years and years, we could stay until the end of the game, fast-walk to our cars, cross from the inner ring to the outer and, by knowing which lane to be in, be down to the freeway entrance in almost nothing flat.
But in 2004, the Dodgers began closing off that link. What this succeeds in doing is preventing our car - and many cars like us - from achieving a quick exit. Consquently, this forces our car - and many cars like us - to stay in the inner ring longer, thereby adding to the already saturated postgame traffic. You might as well close off the San Diego Freeway and force people to go from Northridge to Westwood via the Hollywood Freeway. Forget about explaining the speaker system - how on earth can traffic flow improve when you close off routes? It's not as if keeping us from going to the outer ring eliminates congestion - it only funnels that congestion into an area, the Elysian Park Avenue exit, that already has more than it can handle.
Generally, I try to be humble, but it's safe to say that over the years I have taken Dodger Stadium traffic navigation to such an art form, it should be the first line of my resume. But the parking people have torn up my canvas. I hope to paint again, but today was not the day, not with the babysitter on the clock.
* * *
So the Dodgers are 5-2, with three four-run final innings in seven games. In their past two ninth innings at Dodger Stadium, the Giants have gotten three outs and allowed 11 runs. Elation.
On Opening Day six years ago, in a game started by Randy Johnson, Raul Mondesi hit home runs to tie the game in the ninth and win it in the 11th - and I don't know if today's game tops that game or not. But I'm fairly certain that there has never been an Opening Week - games 1 through 7 - to match this one. It feels so good, I just want to wake my daughter up and go have another catch with the whiffle ball.
On the other hand, you gotta sleep while you can. Brand new game tomorrow. Last while it's fun.
April 12 Open Chat: Opening Day II
See you after today's game ...
This Goes to 11
With only two games coming up over four days (counting today) and Derek Lowe scheduled to pitch in neither game even if healthy - Elmer Dessens be in the bullpen - the Dodgers would do well to option a pitcher to the minors right now and recall a 14th position player.
If and when the Dodgers needed to go back to 12 pitchers, they could then option the position player and recall another pitcher (not necessarily the same pitcher due to roster rules, but another interchangeable bullpen part). Or, perhaps by then, it would be time to activate Wilson Alvarez anyway.
The only possible hitch in this get-along would be if there is uncertainty over Giovanni Carrara's ability to pitch. Otherwise, the Dodgers are carrying too many pitchers right now for the upcoming two-game series with the Giants, when they could have extra pinch-hitting flexibility.
Letters to Buster
Buster Olney of ESPN - The Magazine ran the following letters on his blog. Any Dodger Thoughts readers want to lay claim?
Despite Jose Valentin's opening day error, you are incorrect about his defense. Valentin is a defensive upgrade. As for Kent, he is not a defensive upgrade, but if you are saying that you'd rather have Cora than Kent
Of course, Cora-Beltre is a better combo offensively AND defensively than Valentin-Kent. But it is not nearly as bad as you made out, and it IS a whole lot cheaper as a combo, thanks to the enormous contract Beltre got.
Come on, I know you know Moneyball. Choi's on-base percentage last year for Florida when DePodesta traded for him was .388, so he's on base almost 4 out of every 10 times he comes to the plate. Every time he gets on base, he's not making an out. Every time he's not making an out, he's giving his team a chance to score runs. So what if his bat is slow. You could run me out there (I haven't seen live pitching in 6 years), and if I found a way to get on base four out of every ten plate appearances, I would be helping the team, too.
As a Dodger fan, I have to ask you to tell me something different. Your Opening Day article on L.A. is the same piece that has been written since Beltre walked, and we signed Lowe and Valentin. There is more to the story ya know, and it's not all negative moves. If Valentin was a bad move because of yesterday's performance, Lowe is certainly looking like a good move.
I'm going on the record with Dodgers winning the West by 5 games.
(Matt -- You got it. I got 'em finishing third. That's part of the fun of this, laying some opinions and seeing how they pan out. If the Dodgers win the division, all credit to you -- and to DePodesta, for that matter, and feel free to check back in October and remind us).
Here's a first-week oddity for you. The Dodgers have scored 40 percent more runs than their opponents while being outslugged:
Dodgers: 42 runs, .354 on-base percentage, .435 slugging percentage
The Dodgers are second in the National League in runs, but eighth in the league in OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). Dodger pitching is 13th out of 16 teams in opponents' slugging percentage.
Also noteworthy is that Dodger pitching so far is last in the league in strikeouts per nine innings.
Though the Dodger team ERA is 4.50, ESPN.com has two statistics that indicate the pitching staff has been spared even worse damage. The Dodgers' ERC (or "component ERA," a new stat for me, defined by ESPN as "a pitcher's ERA based on the hits and walks he allowed, rather than actual runs.") is 5.45, and their DIPS ERA (defense-independent ERA, assuming a constant rate of batting average on balls in play) is 5.98.
Interestingly, the segment of the Dodger pitching staff that has been the luckiest - or most fielding dependent - has been the starters:
The relievers have been awful, and it has shown. The starters have arguably been mediocre, without it showing.
No one who watched Saturday's game at Arizona needs to be told that the Dodgers survived thanks to some great defensive plays; no one who watched the entire Arizona series needs to be told that any one of the three games could have had a different result, and that the Dodgers could have headed home anywhere from 5-1 to 2-4.
Some Dodger starting pitchers have had their share of misfortune. Thanks in large part to facing Jason Schmidt in one game and a line drive off his arm in the other, Derek Lowe has pitched in both Dodger losses. On the other hand, Lowe's 3.18 ERA is probably better than he deserves - he's pitched 11 1/3 innings while allowing 16 baserunners, including three walks, a hit batter and two home runs. (Six runs have scored against him, though two of those runs have been unearned.)
The first-week Dodger offense, with its extremes from J.D. Drew to Jeff Kent, has been a story unto itself. But the subtext of the opening six games might be how the Dodger defense has prevented enough runs from scoring to put the team in first place. Most encouraging about this for the Dodgers is that to some extent, the defense is capable of doing that much and more throughout the season. We might easily look back in October to find that Cesar Izturis and Jose Valentin had their worst fielding weeks of the season right at the start. But perhaps even more than we realize, the Dodgers need their pitching staff to get healthy and stay healthy - if not get better and stay better.
Update: I'm a little worried I mucked up my conclusion, so I'm going to add this comment (#7) I made below. Not very elegant of me, but in the interest of being more accurate ...
I guess what hope is clear, though, is that my overall point was not to bash the Dodger pitching, which is clearly in flux, but to praise the defense. A lot is going to be asked of the defense this year, and so far - hype about Valentin's Opening Day notwithstanding - it appears to be delivering.
April 10 Open Chat: E-Ticket Rides
Pinball wizardry for the Dodgers in Arizona the past two nights. Spinout city. Wow.
Remember: Don't get too wrapped up in the bullpen struggles to date. When Brad Penny, Eric Gagne and Wilson Alvarez return and the pitching staff returns to 11 men, the bottom four relievers will go onto the taxi squad.
April 9 Open Chat: Erickson's Travels
Hee Seop Choi is batting second; Paul Bako eighth. The Dodgers have no hitters in their lineup batting between .000 and .294; they have two hitters batting between .000 and .467.
The Season's First Tracy Conundrum
No, I don't leave lefty reliever Kelly Wunsch to bat for himself in the seventh inning of a close game just to preseve a pinch-hitter and allow him to face lefty swinger Shawn Green. No reliever on the active Dodger roster is so automatic that you should fear an alternative. The bullpen is rested. And you don't worry about running out of pinch-hitters when you have five (plus Jeff Weaver if need be) to choose from in the seventh inning.
Sure, you want your best shot at getting the leadoff man out in the bottom of the seventh. But you also want your best shot at getting the leadoff man on in the top of the seventh.
So there's a debit for Dodger manager Jim Tracy. What about his credits?
Does he get credit for getting a home run out from Olmedo Saenz and two singles from Antonio Perez in this game? He started those players when many (perhaps a higher proportion of Dodger Thoughts readers than non-readers) would have wanted to start Hee Seop Choi. If you're going to penalize Tracy for playing a certain player at a certain moment, I think you have to credit him for the same reasons. Perhaps this will reek of rationalization, but how can one deny that the starting lineup is part of managing too?
There might be an argument to be made that the short-term gain of the victory came at a long-term cost - another blow to the confidence of Choi. On the other hand, you could also argue that the best way to get Choi going is to play him mainly against right-handers. Then, once he's got some positive numbers in the books, you start to extend him against lefties.
You can also argue that Antonio Perez deserves a chance to see what he can do - and the best place for him to do that is from second base, not third base.
By the way, I'd also say that Tracy removed the surprising Elmer Dessens at precisely the right moment - with Luis Gonzalez coming up as the tying run coming up after 5 2/3 innings.
The Season's First Tracy Conundrum has this answer - Tracy made one significant mistake, but he did some tangible things right that shouldn't be ignored. That doesn't mean we shouldn't aspire to have Tracy eliminate significant mistakes (assuming that's even possible). But just because a bad move is more obvious than a good move doesn't mean it's more important.
* * *
In other news:
* * *
One discouraging trend continues ... perhaps Rob McMillin can create a drop-down menu on 6-4-2 for this.
The injury to Dodger [Fill-in-the-blank] is more serious than first believed.
Following Shawn Green, Hideo Nomo, Brad Penny, Eric Gagne, etc. ... Jayson Werth. Steve Henson of the Times has the latest.
April 8 Open Chat: To Shawn, Arizona
Shawn Green in an opponent's uniform. Doesn't exactly have the fever of traveling to Miami to see Shaq for the first time, does it? But still, an era ends, an era begins.
Objectively, the Dodgers have better uniforms than the Diamondbacks, don't they?
The Dodgers have used 21 players so far this season. Elmer Dessens (tonight's starter), Scott Erickson (Saturday's starter), D.J. Houlton and Paul Bako are standing by.
Checking In with Walter O'Malley.com
In case you weren't aware, it's always fun (and useful when you don't have time for a long post) to see what's happening on "This Day in Walter O'Malley History" at Walter O'Malley - The Official Website.
Once again, Walter O'Malley is no mere parochial family scrapbook, but a first-class resource of Dodger history. A couple of items:
April 8, 1959
* * *
April 8, 1963
Dodger farmhand Chuck Tiffany struck out 11 in five innings, allowing one hit, as Class A Vero Beach won its season opener over the St. Lucie Mets tonight, 1-0.
April 7 Open Chat: The Pendulum Swings
Today, the Dodgers are playing .500 ball. Tomorrow, they're at .667 or .333. Hang on!
* * *
Precede your first comment of the evening by responding to any or all of the following.
1) State (or foreign land) of current residence. (Let's see how much ground we cover. I know D.C. is taken by at least Sam and Ben.)
2) Predicted 2005 ERA for Jeff Weaver.
3) Predicted final score for Friday's game, Dodgers at Arizona, with probable starters Elmer Dessens and Shawn Estes.
4) Yes or no: Did you know Jose Offerman was on a major league team's 2005 Opening Day roster?
I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, but I can't.
What I can do, perhaps, is illustrate that you don't have to like or dislike everything the Dodgers have done under Paul DePodesta.
Look at the following almost-comprehensive list of Dodger transactions since DePodesta became general manager (information courtesy of Dodgers.com). I defy you to like or hate them all. I've offered my interpretations your mileage will vary.
That doesn't mean you can't ultimately form an opinion of DePodesta as generally good or generally bad. Some transactions are more important than others. But maybe it will help make my case that DePodesta isn't this alien species that has come here either to serve man, or, you know, to serve man. Maybe it will help us all realize that DePodesta's fans are not blind supporters, and that his detractors can find a silver lining here or there.
We'll see. Have a read and a smile
April 6 Open Chat: Group Hug
Pretty tense 24 hours in the comments for Dodger Thoughts, and noone feel more responsible for that than me do. (I typo to lighten the mood.) From the moment I make my original post, through any comment that gets made on the site, I feel it's my job to keep things both interesting and fun. It's clear that some people didn't feel they were getting fair treatment, and I don't want anyone to feel that way.
Even more sadly, I signed on this morning with the specific goal of keeping things light after the Opening Day loss - hence the silly Angels intro and the feeble joke in the middle - but others in the comments did a much better job than me of moderating the discussion. I hope to do better and keep this a place where people feel comfortable in expressing themselves, regardless of their viewpoints. Nobody knows everything.
More to do with the disappointment people felt after Tuesday's game, I was reminded this morning of the confrontation on the mound in The Bad News Bears between Vic Morrow and Brandon Cruz, the father-son coach-pitcher combo for the Yankees. That moment where everyone on either side feels that things have gotten way too serious. You can include this among analogies that don't quite work, but as passionate as we get, let's not forget that at the end of the day, rather than gloat or mope about the final result, it's best to end the day by tossing cans of beer to the kids.
So let's have ourselves a game, let's get happy and sad, let's agree and disagree, and let's have some fun.
As Alex 7 said, "Group hug." And, as Steve Martin says:
Steve: And now, let's recite the nonconformist's oath! I promise to be different.
Audience: I promise to be different.
Steve: I promise to be unique.
Audience: I promise to be unique.
Steve: I promise not to repeat things other people say.
Bless the Beasts and the Children
This isn't Little League, folks - this is the majors. And this wasn't just the majors - it was Opening Day. The Day Where Everything Means Everything.
So pardon me if I ask you to spare some kind words, if I ask you to reach out with some understanding to this team from Los Angeles.
New acquisition Steve Finley went 0 for 3.
New acquisition Orlando Cabrera went 0 for 3.
They've got a first baseman batting leadoff - he went 0 for 3. Oh, he got one of those measly walks, but those don't count.
Against the Texas Rangers, who sport one of the poorest pitching staffs in the division, they only got three runs on six hits. Ryan Drese - Ryan Drese! - retired 15 in a row at one point.
The local Opening Day starter, Bartolo Colon, was in jams all game long, allowing 10 baserunners in 6 1/3 innings. The setup man, Scot Shields, served up a gopher ball.
Vladimir Guerrero had a big day, with a double, home run and two RBI, but you can't depend solely on him every game.
If the best they can do on Opening Day is defeat the future last-place team in the Western Division by one run, what hope is there?
* * *
(Dodger adjusts necktie, stretches neck from side to side)
"Whew. Tough room."
* * *
To paraphrase Danny DeVito in one of those Batman sequels, "Who brings tomatoes to a baseball game, anyway?"
Plenty of people, and they came ready to throw. If you can stomach an early-morning double entendre, they came ready to hurl. And conveniently, they got their target - an error by Jose Valentin that allowed the winning run to score. Valentin might as well have bent over in clown pants with a big red target on his butt, just to make it more of a challenge.
Although I thought the ball was hit sharply enough that it was no automatic play, I'm of no mind to make excuses for Valentin - whose acquisition I have questioned more than once. Nor will I easily forget Adrian Beltre, who I think is the real deal.
But, since apparently this is not stating the obvious, can I just make the point that Jose Valentin did not replace Adrian Beltre?
J.D. Drew replaced Adrian Beltre. And for that matter, Jeff Kent replaced Steve Finley. It's not that the positions they play are irrelevant, but it should go without saying that the bulk of the former Dodgers responsibilities came from batting third and fourth in the lineup.
To make the point clear, if the Dodgers had traded outfielder Jason Grabowski and infielder Beltre for, say, outfielder Barry Bonds and infielder Neifi Perez last year, would you be saying that Bonds was replacing Grabowski and Perez was replacing Beltre?
Paul DePodesta believes that the Dodgers are a better team overall than they were last year. He may be wrong, but picking on one game, one moment, one player, isn't going to be what proves the case against him.
DePodesta knows that Valentin isn't Beltre. That's not even a question. The questions are - among others - whether Drew is Beltre (maybe), whether Kent is Finley (maybe), whether Valentin is Alex Cora (maybe), and whether if any of the above are answered "no," can DePodesta do something about it?
If you think any of those questions were answered yesterday, well, pass the tomatoes.
Opening Day! Open Chat
Matchups for today's game:
Cesar Izturis vs. Ray Durham - Durham
The Giants might have the edge in this game thanks to Schmidt - and in general, their pitching should be better than it was last year - but for the season, they really, really need Barry Bonds. Outsiders complain about the Dodger lineup, but J.T. Snow as your No. 3 hitter?
Opening Morning Fungos
Update: He warns us not to make too much of this, but Alan Schwarz on ESPN.com writes that of the five National League players who faced the easiest pitching last year (highest OPS allowed), four were Dodgers, including three no longer with the team. The top five: Alex Cora (.746), Adrian Beltre (.744), Khalil Greene (.744), Cesar Izturis (.743) and Shawn Green (.741). Jeff Weaver, by the way, faced the third-toughest collection of batters in the National League in 2004 (.750).
Farewell, March Madness - it's April
After Stanford got eliminated in the first round, I didn't even look at my March Madness picks until last night.
Turns out, I did pretty well. Not gonna win any pools (only entered ESPN's free Tourney Challenge anyway), but I ended up with 45 winners out of 63 (25/11/4/2/2/1), including a correct pick of North Carolina over Illinois in the final, with North Carolina winning 72-67. Margin of victory exactly right - almost the exact final score.
Insignificant, I know - but who else am I gonna tell but you?
Seventeen hours to first pitch ...
With the Opening Day roster determined, I've updated the Estimated Dodger Payroll chart on the sidebar. Some notes:
1) Always remember that it says estimated. Corrections welcomed.
2) As of right now, the Dodgers have more than $30 million in salary going to players not on the 25-man roster - and that factors in a potential insurance refund in the Darren Dreifort case. Of course, that $30 million should reduce as most of the stars heal.
3) As of right now, the entire bullpen is earning less than $3 million.
4) I've budgeted $1 million to cover potential incentives - this is just a wild guess on my part. Open to suggestions.
2005 Dodger Preview
"No one seems to understand what the Dodgers are doing," Karl Ravech said on ESPN tonight.
It was a throwaway line, the kind that several people will make.
Forget for a moment, though, whether the Dodgers will finish first, fourth or 40th. For the sake of argument, assume they'll be the worst team in professional baseball in 2005.
If you've read almost anything about baseball during this offseason - even on ESPN.com - you will find people - good people - who seem to have a pretty solid understanding of what the Dodgers are doing. They may turn out to be wrong about the outcome, but it's not like the Dodger thought process is this big Holmsian mystery.
You'd think the Dodgers were the only team in history ever to lose a free agent, the way these people talk - instead of one of many teams this offseason.
You'd think the Dodgers were the only team in history ever to sign a pitcher to an expensive long-term deal, instead of one of many teams this offseason.
You want to be skeptical? Be skeptical. But don't single the Dodgers out. For example, don't act like the Dodgers are the Soulless Brothers From Another Planet and then turn around and rave about how the Padres will win because their (aging) power hitters are used to playing in Petco Park now.
Be a journalist. Be opinionated if you want, but still be a journalist. Act like your words have meaning.
Steve Schmoll, Come on Down
Something like hearing, "You're the next contestant on The Price Is Right," all the way out on the corner of Fairfax and Beverly, Steve Schmoll learned over the weekend he was being added to the 25-man roster. Heck, considering he was taking Eric Gagne's spot, it's almost like hearing, "You're the next host on The Price Is Right."
Adding to the irony, Schmoll almost matched Gagne's celebrated annual 82 1/3 innings pitched in 2004. The 25-year-old righty pitched 84 2/3 innings with single-A Vero Beach and AA Jacksonville. His ERA was 1.81. He walked 25 and struck out 76. He allowed 71 hits and no home runs. None.
The injury replacement Dodger bullpen at this point really does look as haphazard as Contestant's Row - you half-expect pitchers to warm up wearing sequined I HEART JIM TRACY T-shirts. There are going to be some bad pitches made with such a rough-edged group; there will be some games lost in the pen. But the strikeout-proficient replacements also have the potential of outshining the expected members of the relief corps.
Probably would be nice not to have Elmer Dessens and Scott Erickson in the rotation together for too long, though. That really seems a little shaky.
Rest for the Weary: Gagne Goes on DL
I won't connect the dots between Eric Gagne altering his mechanics to compensate for his knee injury and the announcement of his new arm injury ... unless I'm given the go-ahead.
From The Associated Press:
"It wasn't on any one pitch. There wasn't a bolt of pain or any severe pain, from what I understand," general manager Paul DePodesta said. "He had an MRI today and there's no tear, so he is structurally sound. His soreness is over the drill holes where the surgery was done 10 years ago, but structurally, he's in real good shape."
Execs Fired as McCourt Reorganizes Public Face of Dodgers
Tim Brown of the Times has the breaking story:
Dodger owner Frank McCourt fired two high-ranking executives and began the restructuring of the organization's top end this afternoon after becoming frustrated by what he said were numerous communications failures, both within the organization and with the public.
Team management was notified during a noon meeting at Dodger Stadium that McCourt's wife, Jamie, would assume responsibility for all business operations, Chief Operating Officer Marty Greenspun would oversee the marketing department, and that Lon Rosen, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, and Gary Miereanu, vice president of communications, would be let go. ...
As part of the general reorganization, McCourt promoted his 23-year-old son, Drew, to director of marketing, and will hire two new senior vice presidents, for marketing and communications. ...
"They certainly made some contributions while they were here," McCourt said of Rosen and Miereanu. "I wish them the best. But we're making the changes to address the problems we have. It's no secret we've had some issues in terms of communicating effectively. I'm taking the steps to address that. I'm taking full responsibility for it.
I've certainly been critical of the Dodgers' public personna under McCourt, but that predates the hiring of Miereanu. (Full disclosure: As some of you may know, Miereanu is a friend.) In fact, my criticisms recurred during McCourt's entire tenure, until about six weeks ago, when McCourt showed his first sign of humility or reflection. Around that time, the Dodgers contracted with an outside consultant, Sitrick and Co., "to address the organization's communication deficiencies," as Brown points out.
There are two principal threads in Brown's article: 1) McCourt feels that the positives of what he and his staff have done were not being communicated effectively, and 2) phone calls were not being returned.
It's a little hard for me to imagine that McCourt doesn't bear some personal responsibility for at least the first of those complaints, however little he appears to be taking. (Is "taking full responsibility" really taking full responsibility when you fire people but don't acknowledge any misbehavior of your own? Isn't there a difference between saying "other people made mistakes" and "I made mistakes?")
Of course, McCourt's overall goal to "share our thinking" with the fans is admirable. If, somehow, these firings allow him to do this, than Miereanu will have been sacrificed for a good cause. John Olguin, the director of public relations who with Miereanu helped me get Thursday's interview with Paul DePodesta, gets the promotion to to vice president of public relations.
But if the problem is higher than Miereanu, then ... what a waste.
The other question is that with Rosen gone, is Nancy Bea Hefley playing a jig?
Update: Rob McMillin has some interesting comments at 6-4-2:
So these changes give us no more information about the notoriously opaque Frank McCourt than we had before. And I really don't know -- and in some ways, don't even care -- how to evaluate them, so long as they don't take away from my enjoyment of the game on the field and in the park. The glass half-full says the Dodgers have lost a "marketing pinhead", and thus are better off; the glass half-empty says the Dodgers have accumulated a 23-year-old who inherited the job of marketing director by virtue of winning the genetic lottery. This latter feeds my insecurity about the club's long term ability to function; on the other hand, he has grownup supervision, and in any case, how much can the kid screw up? Giving out leftover Adrian Beltre bobbleheads? Handing out bats and complimentary hip flasks of Jack Daniels at a Giants/Dodgers game? For once, color me perversely optimistic on the overhaul.
I'm not sure how McMillin gets to the optimistic conclusion, perverse as it may be - because clearly if Lon Rosen can be a negative, so can Drew McCourt. But who knows? I certainly agree with McMillin's first 3 1/2 sentences.
Freeway Series Open Chat: April 1
So, who gets to see Joel Guzman in person tonight?
Update: No time for me to comment on it, but once again Bob Keisser of the Long Beach Press-Telegram established himself as one of the more open-minded columnists in town with this piece Tuesday.
A few of you might also be interested in this TCPalm.com article by Keona Gardner, describing how money was spent in Vero Beach, including Dodgertown, in the aftermath of that area's hurricanes last year.
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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12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
09 08 07
Jon's other site:
Thank You For Not ...
1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity