Monthly archives: October 2005
The Dodger Tradition
Let me tell you all you need to know about the Dodger Way, about Dodger tradition.
Only one team in history has ever traded Jackie Robinson. The Dodgers.
Perhaps the biggest hero of the game in the past 60 years, and the Dodgers forced him into retirement.
The last great era for the Dodgers was the 1980s, when they won four divisions and two World Series. The Dodgers kicked off that era with the high-priced acquisitions of free agents Don Stanhouse and Dave Goltz - both of whom flopped.
The Dodgers recovered to win a World Series in 1981. Before the champagne had dried from the team's World Series trophy, the Dodgers rid themselves of longtime second baseman Davey Lopes (who stole 139 bases in his post-Dodger career) and Reggie Smith (who hit 18 homers in 106 games for the 1982 Giants).
One year later, the Dodger Way allowed cornerstones Steve Garvey and Ron Cey to leave. Each won a division title with another team; the two combined for 139 home runs in other teams' uniforms.
Dusty Baker left after the 1983 season, following what might have been the ugliest period of miscommunication between a team and its star player in Dodger history.
The Dodgers replaced these people with a mixture of minor leaguers from within and major leaguers from without. Some of them succeeded, some of them failed.
It was legendary Dodger executive Branch Rickey, a statistician, who said it was better to trade a player a year early than a year late. That is the foundation of the Dodger tradition.
Meanwhile, Tommy Lasorda's 1988 World Series title was preceded by three losing seasons out of four from 1984-87. The only place that the Dodgers have valued stability over performance in the past 50 years, where one could fail or grow old without repercussions, has been the front office.
The idea that somehow, Paul DePodesta violated the Dodger ethos by trading Paul Lo Duca or Dave Roberts, or letting Adrian Beltre go, or watching a division winner have a losing season the following year, is patently absurd, and anyone who says otherwise has simply forgotten or chosen to forget the team's history.
The record shows that DePodesta did not put the Dodgers in the playoffs again in 2005. Shocking, I know. Do you know what the Dodgers' record for consecutive postseason appearances is in their 121-year history? Two. It is a Dodger tradition, like it or not, to have disappointment and then regroup.
Smith, perhaps the Dodgers' highest-profile outside acquisition from the 1970s, missed 301 games in his six seasons with the team. Kirk Gibson, perhaps the Dodgers' highest-profile acquisition from the 1980s, played 71 games the season after his great home run - one fewer than J.D. Drew - and was soon unceremoniously dumped. It is a Dodger tradition, like it or not, for key players to get hurt and stay hurt.
The Dodgers traditionally win when they rely on their farm system and the farm system produces. To be sure, the farm system doesn't always produce. But in their entire history in Los Angeles, the team has made only one playoff appearance with fewer than five home-grown players in the starting lineup. That team was the hallowed 2004 team at whose breakup everyone is so aghast.
DePodesta bet his future on the Dodger Way, transforming the team into one that was going to rely on the farm system, supported by a few outside acquisitions. He had not finished the job - a 71-91 record indicates that - but he was doing exactly what people have been asking for since 1988. He was doing exactly what the Dodgers have been doing almost forever.
DePodesta might have needed to improve his communication skills, but it doesn't help to be surrounded by people who refuse to listen to you, who have their knives out for you.
One can only hope that the next Dodger general manager has as good a sense of what made the Dodgers great as DePodesta did. It's as if people think Dodger Stadium was Eden before DePodesta arrived. It might have been a paradise at times, but a paradise found through major trial and error.
Update: Mark Whicker of the Register has a fairly balanced take:
DePodesta never got a chance to hire a manager. He had barely cleaned up the broken glass from the effects of Hurricane Kevin, the Category 5 disaster that battered the Dodgers for 2 1/2 seasons.
At the very least he had introduced some contractual sanity, and was looking forward to playing with the $24 million the Dodgers would no longer be paying Darren Dreifort and Shawn Green. ...
So Lasorda became the interim GM in '98, following Claire. "I'm not interested (in doing it now)," he said Saturday. "It's tough. You get here early in the morning and leave late at night."
Well, it's not as tough as Lasorda made it look.
In July of that year he traded Paul Konerko to Cincinnati for Jeff Shaw. At season's end he was surprised to learn that Shaw could demand a trade. Shaw took $8.1 million for three years instead. Konerko - entering free agency after back-to-back 40-home run seasons - has hit 128 bombs since Shaw retired.
Update 3: The Juice
Post-DePodesta, Looking Ahead
I don't normally speculate, but I'm going to make an exception and offer some up.
1) Jamie McCourt wants her team to be the first in baseball with a female general manager.
2) Frank McCourt wants his team to hire a former Dodger hero.
3) Tommy Lasorda wants his team to bring back Bobby Valentine, a former Dodger hero in his eyes and a former successful manager who happened to be a Dodger for a blip of time 3 1/2 decades ago in everyone else's eyes.
Leading to ...
4a) Hershiser becomes manager, and Ng becomes general manager with Valentine as her special advisor.
4b) Valentine becomes manager, and Ng becomes general manager with Hershiser as her special advisor
4c) Hershiser becomes manager, and Valentine becomes general manager with Ng as his special advisor and next-in-line.
5) And for sure, this happens: Season ticket sales show a net increase, with more people happy than sad that DePodesta is gone. The Dodgers improve in 2006 thanks to the talent that DePodesta and Dan Evans helped assemble, the new regime takes credit, and the McCourts crow all year.
Something Ventured, Nothing Gained: DePodesta To Be Fired
Won't take long to analyze this one. I have spent too long showing why Paul DePodesta has, while not being perfect (a standard no person meets), improved the Dodgers and positioned them to be a perennial title contender.
Like Jim Tracy or not, like DePodesta or not, the firing of first one and then the other proves that the McCourt ownership is incompetent.
The McCourts can't even follow their own counsel.
"The tremendous success we had last year and the huge disappointment this year just reinforced that it is a path, a plan, an overall approach to win consistently," Frank McCourt told the Times on October 6. "You can't get too high with the highs and too low with the lows. We're not as smart as we seemed in 2004 and not as dumb as we seemed this year."
It's not the end of the world - the Dodgers will have a winning season perhaps as soon as next year and intermittently down the road. But there's no celebrating having your team run by folks with the sophistication of 3-year-olds in the sandbox.
Stay cool, everyone.
Jonny, Jonny, Jonny, Jonny, Whoops, Jhonny
As the first official day of the baseball offsseason greets us, I have two words for you.
You do all this wheeling and dealing and planning and yearning for your team in your mind, and then out there in Cleveland, a 23-year-old shortstop who hit 15 home runs in the International League with an .871 OPS in 2004 comes up in 2005 and hits 24 homers with an .886 OPS (and 58.2 VORP, 26th in baseball according to Baseball Prospectus), emerging as a big reason why the Indians almost prevented the 2005 World Series Champion Chicago White Sox from even reaching the playoffs. And he fields his position at an above-average level to boot (112 Rate2 on Baseball Prospectus where 100 is average, 4.39 Range Factor per Baseball-Reference.com where 4.17 is average). It's enough to make me salivate and change the spelling of my name all at once.
There might or might not be a selves-destructive tug-o'war over who the next Dodger manager will be - right now it's all speculation and I'm not into that. Today, I choose to think about the coming Jhonny Peraltas in the Dodger organization, and how sweet it will be if even just a few of them pan out.
I love extra-inning baseball. Great moments from just the 14th inning of Game 3 Tuesday:
Usually, I prefer a 1-1 tie going into Game 3 of a series that I don't have a rooting interest in. But the 2-0 White Sox lead actually increased the stakes, turning it into a win-or-face the music night for the Astros. Houston ended the night with its most painful extra-inning defeat since the 16-inning loss to the Mets in 1986 (or, I suppose, Game 6 against the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series last year) and its most painful three-game losing streak since dropping the final three of the 1981 NL Division Series to the Dodgers after leading, 2-0. (And yes, I know the Astros have lost three consecutive postseason games a few times since '81.)
Jayson Stark has a very enjoyable recap of Game 3 at ESPN.com:
And afterward, Blum traipsed into the interview room, where he was asked where this shot would rank on his list of biggest hits.
"Good Lord," he laughed. "Have I had any big hits?"
Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus has a worthwhile review as well.
Update: This is tonight's game chat thread.
Quit Blaming the Computers
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One of our favorite Dodger Thoughts commenters was joking (probably), but each year when I read about how screwed up the computers in college football are because they don't match up to the human polls, I can't help wondering if the computers might possibly be right.
Of course, it isn't really the computers themselves who are at fault, but the people who programmed them. But are those programmers so certainly wrong?
Let me put it this way. They might be wrong some of the time. When there's an overwhelming national consensus that some injustice has been done, it's very possible that the computer's formula needs to be tweaked.
But local gripes when a team appears to have been underrated by the computer should be greeted with skepticism. The reason computers were introduced into the rankings of college football teams was to eliminate bias and injustice. The objections of an inherently biased group should not move anyone.
Last week, Texas soundly beat a highly ranked football team and USC didn't. It makes sense for Texas to move up in rankings that have previously rewarded USC for beating highly ranked football teams when Texas didn't.
The current system might not satisfy as much as an on-field playoff (which of course would yield counterintuitive results regularly), but it is not inherently more wrong than relying on human-based polls ... which also yielded questionable results from people who looked at team records and statistics, just as computers do.
This brings us back to Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta, who is regularly indicted for relying on statistics and computers by people who rely on statistics and computers. Is there anyone who literally does not look at a single number in evaluating a baseball player - not even batting average or height? No. It just comes down to which numbers you value.
So for crying out loud, if you must, find a more creative way to criticize DePodesta than saying he relies on stats. You might as well be criticizing someone in this day and age for breathing.
In addition, Zack Hample of MLB.com has an update on Dodgers in the AFL.
There's usually a moment, about three seconds into a conversation about the Dodgers, when you discern whether you are talking to a receptive listener. You could be generally supportive of general manager Paul DePodesta or not. Either way, you're going to find passionate opponents.
In those three seconds, on the occasions when I realize the person is not receptive, I cannot end the conversation fast enough.
It's depressing because there are a lot of people whom I like, and whom I like talking baseball with, and whom I have long talked baseball with, that I can't currently talk about the Dodgers with, because it's too exhausting and fruitless.
As long as there has been baseball there have been debates about baseball, but I can't remember one that so resembled the divide between Democrats and Republicans - where each side was so sure that the other side was not only wrong but blindly jeopardizing the future - as the debate over the state of the Dodgers. It's one reason I don't allow political debate on this site, because it's just more than I can take.
When I write something that I'm trying to sell, my philosophy is that I have to make it bulletproof. It's not enough for me to be personally satisfied. I can't allow others any reason to want to make changes or reject the work completely. If I fail to make my writing bulletproof, it doesn't mean I'm not a good writer. But it could mean writing that is A-minus quality will ultimately be no more successful than writing that is D-minus.
DePodesta has written some great pieces for the Dodgers, but he hasn't been bulletproof. Of course, few general managers are, but that's beside the point for a lot of folks. So some see a promising future for the Dodgers and some see a dire one. Not because they are by nature optimists or pessimists - it's just all that they see in this case.
I can't talk to those people who see things so differently from me - in such an entrenched fashion - except at a place where if someone disagrees with me, I can take the time to say what I want to say, the way I want to say it.
I can only talk to those people here.
Even the best filmmakers have had box-office flops, and DePodesta is weathering his. And so am I.
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There is tension in the Dodger front office - how can there not be with recent firings and the manager spot open and under the microscope. At the same time, if you step back, you won't really find any reason to think that things are different today than they were a week ago. Paul DePodesta probably has a year to show to those who can't already see it that things are on the right track - and there's great reason to think that he will succeed in this. Don't assume the implosion.
Without looking them up, name the last five Dodger World Series Game 1 starting pitchers.
2005 in Review
Here it is a review of the 71-91 Dodgers. Watch your step. (Explanations for the various acronyms appear at the bottom.)
Were it not for the fact that he had one at-bat in August. Aybar might have been one of the top September callups in Dodger history. His OPS was not batting-average dependent he drew more walks than Edwards and Jason Repko in fewer than half the plate appearances. Anecdotally, his extra-base this came from doubles down the line and not deep balls in the gaps, so it remains to be seen whether there's any power there.
Edwards had no business taking innings from Perez Edwards had some nice hits here and there, but it's not as if he looked good in the field at all. Valentin had more walks than hits. By virtue of his glove, Nakamura probably deserved more than 16 percent of Edwards' at-bats, but unlike with Scott Erickson, DePodesta decided to land this flyer before the crash got too big.
A comparison between Repko and Werth illustrates the difference between mediocre and completely replaceable. As Grabowski proved in 2004, one month with four or five home runs does not a major-leaguer make. Repko does have a future as a bench player, but ideally a new Dodger acquisition would push him back to the minors at least on Opening Day. Cruz mainly played center field before joining the Dodgers this year it was apparently his defense that got him in trouble there. The Arizona stats remind us not to get carried away with his nice late-season Dodger run, but also show the damage that can harm all a player's numbers when he plays through pain.
This is a staff of pitchers that will give you six innings a game but put great pressure on your offense. Re-signing Weaver at market rates is pointless his innings should be replaced with a cheap veteran. Better to pay $2 million for five decent innings than $10 million for six.
Erickson lost out in his quest to notch more home runs than strikeouts allowed. Broxton pitched in relief in the majors in 2005, but he started much of his minor-league career and could be considered a dark horse for the 2006 rotation, which desperately needs someone of his strikeout abilities (though his walk numbers are bizarrely high). And Jackson, well, I'm not ready to give up despite his tough times. But for all the publicity his mental approach has gotten, it's not clear that his problems are not physical.
PA: plate appearances
Offseason Plans for Dodger Stadium
Houston at St. Louis, 5:28 p.m.
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The Dodgers have announced their offseason rehabilation agenda for Dodger Stadium, all to be finished by Opening Day:
The seat replacement has already begun, as this photo gallery illustrates. More information on the changes is available in this press release.
Perhaps helping to pay for these improvements will be the No. 5 news story on the Dodgers' official home page - a big ol' ad for natural products that not only elevate your energy level, but also help David Ortiz of the Red Sox "come through in the clutch." And no, it's not milk.
Update: Yes, there will be cupholders.
If you find anything good to say about Paul DePodesta, you've supposedly drunk the Kool-Aid.
But the people who offer criticisms like these from Steve Dilbeck of the Daily News - those are the rational thinkers.
How about that Dodgers' managerial search?
All dazzled? All giddy at the prospects?
Let's see, exactly what are they looking for? A veteran, proven manager like Bobby Valentine? An up-and-comer, but unknown like Giants bench Ron Wotus? Retreads Terry Collins and Alan Trammell? Successful minor-league managers like Jerry Royster or Torey Lovullo?
General manager Paul DePodesta's search appears all over the map.
That does not speak to someone who knows what they want, the type of manager they desire at the helm.
Rather extraordinary that Dilbeck criticizes DePodesta for having managerial candidates with diverse backgrounds. I suppose it would have gone over much better if DePodesta interviewed eight people that were exactly the same.
Believe it or not, people with different backgrounds and experiences can still agree on strategies, and people with the same background and experience can disagree.
I saw one inning of baseball last night. What an inning. The Cardinals do like themselves their three-run home runs in ninth innings in October, don't they ...
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To make more room on the 40-man roster and avoid salary arbitration hearings, the Dodgers allowed relievers Kelly Wunsch and Giovanni Carrara to become free agents by making them offers (to go to the minors) they could refuse, according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News. Both could resign with the Dodgers.
Wunsch seems more likely, since the only left-handed reliever on the team right now is promising but tender Hong-Chih Kuo. Left-handed batters went 12 for 62 with a .589 OPS against Wunsch before he injured himself with a bullpen misstep. Carrara's fate could depend on whether the Dodgers and Elmer Dessens take each other up on their mutual option for 2006 at $1.3 million.
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Bill Plunkett of the Register revisits Dodger managerial candidate Terry Collins' managerial history in depth today:
In Houston, the Astros took a 2 1/2-game lead into September 1996 but collapsed, losing 16 of their final 24 games and finishing second for the third year in a row amid grousing by players that Collins responded to the stress of a pennant race by becoming more uptight. He was fired after the season.
The end was uglier in Anaheim. Early-season injuries to Mo Vaughn, Gary DiSarcina and Tim Salmon in 1999 kept the Angels from meeting the high expectations created by Vaughn's signing. Nonetheless, Collins was signed to a two-year contract extension in May.
That proved to be a mistake when a faction of the clubhouse (Vaughn, in particular) turned against Collins, citing his failure to make the majors as a player for his inability to understand how to handle big-leaguers.
"It's unfair," Maddon (Joe Maddon, Angels bench coach under Collins and Mike Scioscia) said of that criticism. "Terry treated his players well. He was always fair. Sometimes guys don't like someone for different reasons, and it's easy to throw out something like that. It's a convenient excuse, but there have been plenty of successful managers who weren't big-leaguers as players.
"Let's put it this way - when men wanted to be treated like men, maybe they needed to act like men first to earn that."
One of the biggest challenges for managers is what happens when men don't act like men - or act too much like men.
"I guarantee you, T.C. has looked back on the situation here and thought about what lessons he can take from that," Angels outfielder (Tim) Salmon said. "You probably wouldn't see the same personality you saw here."
Orel Hershiser, Bobby Valentine and Kirk Gibson remain longshots to become manager, according to Steve Henson of the Times, though there are other positions in the organization that might be of mutual interest. Henson makes the point - interesting because of how it goes against the stereotype - that DePodesta has been continuing the tradition of bringing old Dodgers such as Dave Anderson and Steve Yeager back into the organization.
Update: "Although the Dodgers' list of managerial candidates shrank on Tuesday, when Terry Pendleton withdrew from consideration, general manager Paul DePodesta indicated the eventual hiring is likely to come after the conclusion of the World Series," writes Ken Gurnick at MLB.com.
The Times Extra-polates
St. Louis at Houston, 5:15 p.m.
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Under the banner of "Sports Extra," The Times has taken to running several sports stories on the web that don't make it into the print edition. Whereas until recently, the only Times web exclusives from sports were the occasional Bob Oates football column and a few other scattered pieces, Sports Extra now features several stories a day, bylined mostly by the paper's fulltime staff as opposed to freelancers.
And it's not just accounts of the Fillmore-Oak Park prep football game - today's Sports Extra, for example, has a National League Championship Series notebook by Steve Springer that print readers won't see, as well as stories on the Lakers, Kings, Mighty Ducks and other sports. It stands to reason that if this approach holds up over the winter, some Dodger stories will end up under Sports Extra.
It's a way for the Times to deal with having too much content and not enough space. Though it places some articles out of reach of computer-free people like my father, the alternative would be not having some stories at all. It will be interesting to see the thought process unfold over which stories demand print treatement and which do not.
An index to the day's Sports Extra stories can be found on Page 2 of the sports section, beneath the televsion/radio listings. Is this a further sign that printed newspapers will disappear completely in our lifetimes?
Sunday Playoff Open Chat
John Wooden Turns 95
Heck, he's young - my grandmother just turned 95 1/2.
Quite a month for ESPN.com's Eric Neel - Vin Scully and John Wooden features back-to-back. Happy Birthday, Coach.
Goings and ... Goings
The Dodgers lost catcher Mike Rose on waivers to Tampa Bay and designated pitchers Derek Thompson and Ryan Ketchner for assignment Friday, according to Ken Gurnick at Dodgers.com. This mainly clears space on the 40-man roster for offseason transactions, with midseason bright spot Thompson as well as Ketchner (acquired in the Jolbert Cabrera trade), both recovering from surgery, remaining candidates to re-enter the minor league system.
Meanwhile, the turnover in the Dodgers' public relations department continues. Vice President of Public Relations John Olguin, who became a friend to this site after my February appearance with him at a sports media seminar - and who was promoted to his most recent position a mere six months ago, was fired today along with PR colleagues Chris Gutierrez and Paul Gomez.
Olguin had succeeded Gary Miereanu, who was also let go in a Friday afternoon purge.
Olguin's replacement will be Camille Johnston, who will carry the title of Senior Vice President of Communications and report to Jamie McCourt. From the Dodgers' press release:
Johnston comes to the Dodgers from Rodale, Inc, a leading publishing company, where she served as Vice President of Corporate Communications for the last four years. Rodale has nine magazine properties including the global brands Prevention, Men's Health and Runner's World, which are published in 36 countries, and is also the largest independent book publisher in the U.S. with over 100 new titles a year including the South Beach Diet franchise. In her position, Johnston served as the spokesperson for the company and directed all corporate communications and public affairs divisions including media relations, brand publicity, corporate events, philanthropy and internal communications.
Prior to Rodale, Johnston held positions in the political arena. She was a Senior White House Aide in the Office of the Vice President and Director of Communications for Tipper Gore from 1999 to 2001. She also served as the Midwest Communications Director for the Clinton-Gore Re-Election Campaign and Deputy Press Secretary for the Presidential Inaugural Committee. And, she held several communications positions at the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education from 1993 to 1995. From 1997 - 1999, Johnston was the Director of Communications for WBBM-TV in Chicago, Illinois.
Incidentally, the Padres dismissed ex-Dodger Davey Lopes from their coaching staff, but before anyone throws his name into the Dodger managerial ring, re-read this Dodger Thoughts post from May.
This Riverside Press-Enterprise interview with former Dodger second baseman Davey Lopes ... does feature the same old misinterpretation of what "Ivy League GM-type managers" think of the stolen base. Lopes says that they believe "the stolen base is not important," which isn't true. What they believe is that the number of caught stealing is important - which is something entirely different and something I'm sure Lopes would endorse. Lopes had a career success stolen base percentage of 83 (557 out of 671), which just about any one in baseball would be thrilled with.
October 14, 1965 - Sandy Koufax's shutout wins Game 7 of the World Series.
October 14, 1985 - Ozzie Smith hits a game-winning home run off Tom Niedenfuer in Game 5 of the National League Championship series.
October 14, 2005 - Duaner Sanchez turns 26.
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Dodger managerial candidate Ron Wotus is profiled today by Daniel Brown in the San Jose Mercury News.
As the Giants bench coach, he has been the right-hand man to (Dusty) Baker and (Felipe) Alou. Wotus sits next to them during games, tracking the action as if he were managing alone. Alou, and Baker before him, turn to Wotus when they need a second opinion.
In Wotus' dual role as the infield coach, he helped the Giants establish franchise records for fielding percentage and fewest errors in 2000, then helped them break both marks again in 2003. During games, Wotus is responsible for positioning the infielders. ...
(Rich) Aurilia, who played briefly for those division-winning teams, said: "Ron is a good communicator, and in this day and age, that's a big part of the job. You're not only managing a game, you're managing 25 personalities."
Wotus motivates with an easy grace. His understated style will fall short if the Dodgers are in search of the next Tommy Lasorda. ...
Update: Ken Macha is returning to the A's after all, so the Dodgers will be competing with one less team for their next manager.
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Corey Brock of the Tacoma News Tribune suggests that Dodger hitting coach Tim Wallach will be a candidate to move to Seattle and reunite with Adrian Beltre, though there is no source attached to the story.
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Chicago at Los Angeles, 5 something p.m.
Your Call Is Very Important To Us
Baseball has umpires who make mistakes, and to blame a loss on a bad call is silly, no matter what the timing is. Anger is one thing; blame is another - and I apply this rule to the Dodgers like any other team. If your margin for victory is so small that an umpire's call blows it for you, it wasn't as if some grand injustice occured.- Dodger Thoughts, October 11, regarding a two-out strikeout call benefiting the Angels
But it was certainly an interesting play, so if you want to read or discuss more about the finish to Wednesday's Angel-White Sox playoff game ...
Update: And, Humbug:
... For those who are truly the best,
"I know I haven't seen it all, and I never will," Erstad said. "That's the beauty of the game, even if sometimes it stinks." - Darin Erstad in the Times
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As I noted in the comments Wednesday, former Stanford Daily colleague Susan Sluser reports that Orel Hershiser is interviewing to manage the A's.
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Agoura High School's Robert Stock, 15, was named Youth Player of the Year by Baseball America - the first high school underclassman to win the award.
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Dodger Draft Pick Cancer-Free
Four months after he was diagnosed with Burkitt's Lymphoma, 2005 23rd-round draft pick Jayson Whitehouse underwent tests this week that revealed no evidence of any cancer in his body. Many congratulations!
Whitehouse still has an issue with a blood clot - it was a blood clot that brought him to the doctor in the first place back in June - but the overall news is a great relief to Whitehouse and his supporters.
LCS 2 for 1
All three Flying Molinas hit the playoff floor tonight, with Bengie batting cleanup and designated hitting.
How many 21st-century Dodger DHes can you name? A full list follows:
"They get the messages I've been sending, they are very good teachers, and they're very good at implementing my ideas."
Well, isn't that a refreshing approach? So, who are "they?"
"They" are Jim Tracy's coaches with the Dodgers. Apparently, listening skills and doing what is asked of you are very important to the former Dodger manager - except, of course, when he's the one being asked to listen and heed.
In any case, Tracy will bring pitching coach Jim Colborn and bench coach Jim Lett with him to Pittsburgh, with first-base coach John Shelby perhaps on the way, according to Joe Rutter in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Rutter adds in a separate article that Tracy "can rapidly recite the numbers he produced in five years with the Los Angeles Dodgers: Four winning seasons, 427 wins, one NL West championship and the franchise's first playoff game victory in 16 years." Something tells me that Tracy hasn't memorized how many losses he has had.
Do I sound bitter? I only mean to sound really, really annoyed, and only because just about each time he opens his mouth these days, Tracy reveals an astonishingly deeper lack of perspective.
"The challenge is something I like very much," Tracy said, according to Rutter. "I take a lot of pride in people saying this is a situation where you don't have a chance to succeed. I'm really challenged by that."
Well shoot, then Tracy should have loved 2005 in Los Angeles, since we had Tracy telling Tracy he was in a situation where he had no chance to succeed. The only problem was that Tracy doesn't like being told he is in a situation where he does have a chance to succeed. Given that optimistic assessment from the Dodger front office, Tracy chose to find reasons to prove his bosses wrong.
But yeah, 2006 plays right into Tracy's make-me-an-overachiever hands. Columnist Bob Smizik of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is realistic about the Pirates' new manager:
With Tracy on the job, the Pirates will get the immediate lift that occurs almost any time a new manager steps into a losing situation. The players will naturally feel better about themselves because they'll see this as a new beginning and as an end to the darkness of losing that prevailed within the team. Tracy will have new ideas and new ways of presenting those ideas. Spring training will have an edge of excitement to it. But when the first real pitch comes in April, a manager isn't going to make a major difference.
His greatest chance of impact is not with fresh ideas, innovative strategy or improved lines of communication, but rather with better players. Hopefully, there will be the expected improvement in the young players that comes with experience and maturation, but it doesn't always work that way. There's rarely a smooth curve to success for baseball players.
Bucs Dugout has started to read Dodger Thoughts and other articles to get some other points of view on Tracy - and the folks there are getting a little nervous. I'd like to tell them I was rooting for them. There is almost no ex-Dodger I don't wish the best, but I find it impossible to root for people who have no humility. Eric Karros became one of those people, and Jim Tracy, I'm really sorry to say, has become another. I used to root for them both, but even Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan are more humble than these two.
Not that Tracy needs to worry about me - his new contract will guarantee him at least $3.2 million before it expires, about $2.5 million more than the Dodgers guaranteed him, according to Steve Henson in the Times. Pretty impressive, considering the contract also comes with such low expectations.
Henson also reports that Tracy had gotten strong signals from the Pirates that he would be their next manager after Lloyd McClendon was fired September 6. Two days later, Tracy gave his ultimatum to the Dodgers for a contract extension through 2008.
It was clumsy, but the act ultimately accelerated a sensible parting of the ways. As a result, the Dodgers will soon have a new manager and new coaches (although hopefully Manny Mota will stay). The Dodgers will soon have a staff that we can hope will allow Paul DePodesta to say:
"They get the messages I've been sending, they are very good teachers, and they're very good at implementing my ideas."
Update: Tony Jackson of the Daily News has this:
Colborn also implied the front office didn't consult Tracy and his staff enough before making major organizational decisions.
"You just never got the feeling you were part of the process," Colborn said. "You were part of it, but a dispensable part of it. But that's all right. Maybe they had their own point of view, and they probably figured (we) weren't going to carry out what they wanted done. They have the right to bring in their own people. But I don't really look at it is I did a bad job or that I failed any kind of test. But whatever I had to offer, they didn't think it was valuable."
It seems Jackson should have used (or Colborn should have implied) the words "listen to" instead of "consult." Either way, there are two things going on here - what happened before an organizational decision was made and what happened after. And however many meetings were held, DePodesta went his own way in making a decision, and Tracy and the coaches went their own way in carrying it out. Again, what's mostly significant is that the arrangement was not working.
Meanwhile, here's an Oakland Tribune feature from Josh Suchon on Ron Washington, who many thought would be a top Dodger managerial candidate because of his status as an Oakland A's coach. Washington interviews for the A's managerial position today.
As a manager, Washington said he would incorporate speed, finesse, power, aggressiveness and patience into his style.
"Whenever one of those styles is needed, I know how to use it," Washington said. "If I have to take it to the opposing team, I will. If the team is going well, I'll kick back and watch them play. If my offense is struggling, then I have to do something to help get them over it. You adjust to whatever the situation is."
Update 2: The London News Review opines in inimitable fashion:
The Walnut Street gang are wearing a worried look, and there's been a deal more horse spit than usual flying out from behind the Burlington Coat Factory. Because let's face it, not everyone in Pittsburgh is as chuffed as Dave Littlefield to see Jim Tracy pull on a Pirate hat and boots.
Last night I met George Romero, his mouth stuffed with a Primanti Brothers cheese steak, and he told me exactly what he thought of the Tracy shoe-in with a furious combination of gestures and coughs. And that's not all. Some jasper threw raddish tops onto junction 29 of the Turnpike, which in the language of the Rust Belt means "get the hell out of my town."
So, Tracy has been handed a beaver bone, but has he got the jaws?
If You're Throwing Out the Bathwater, I'll Take the Baby
Los Angeles at Chicago, 5 p.m.
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It wasn't that long ago that people thought Barry Bonds the lowest of playoff performers. At age 38, Bonds entered the 2002 playoffs with a career postseason record of 19 hits in 97 at-bats (.196), one home run and six RBI in 27 games. Add in his 15 walks, a hit-by pitch, two sacrifice flies, five doubles and a triple, and Bonds had an on-base percentage of .298, a slugging percentage of .299 and an OPS of .597.
Then in those 2002 playoffs, Bonds hit nine home runs in 17 games. In a seven-game World Series, his OPS was 1.994.
If the New York Yankees and their fans want to flea-market 30-year-old Alex Rodriguez, the greatest infielder of my lifetime, because he couldn't bail them out of a game in which they allowed five runs in the first three innings, I'd be happy to take my chances on him.
For that matter, Hideki Matsui, too.
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Former Dodger Bubba Crosby took a lot of grief from broadcaster Tim McCarver on Monday for colliding with another former Dodger, Gary Sheffield, on what turned out to be a series-turning triple by Adam Kennedy. Because the ball was tailing toward right field, McCarver felt it was Sheffield's ball all the way.
It seemed clearly to be an honest collision brought about by the crowd noise that hampered communication, and assigning fault was ridiculous. But if you were going to go that route, perhaps McCarver could have at least considered that every outfield ball is the center fielder's if he calls for it.
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Baseball has umpires who make mistakes, and to blame a loss on a bad call is silly, no matter what the timing is. Anger is one thing; blame is another - and I apply this rule to the Dodgers like any other team. If your margin for victory is so small that an umpire's call blows it for you, it wasn't as if some grand injustice occured.
I did disagree with Joe West's call that prevented Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano from reaching base after a strikeout pitch got away from Angel catcher Bengie Molina. Not only was Cano mere inches from the baseline, but Angel first baseman Darin Erstad had set up on the foul side of first base. Given what Cano could see in front of him, he could only think that by favoring the inside route, his baserunning was above board. It was barely a violation of the letter of the law, and no violation of the spirit.
But again, if you're biggest complaint is that you didn't get to extend an inning on a two-out strikeout, you're not going to get that much sympathy that you were cheated out of a victory.
And in the end, perhaps this is justice for the Yankees' sneaking away with the 1941 World Series. You win by the two-out strikeout, you lose by it.
Photo source: Tank Productions
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Oh yeah, almost forgot - the Pirates hired a new manager.
Bachelor No. 5
New York at Los Angeles, 5 p.m.
Eighteen-inning playoff baseball with two grand slams and Roger Clemens in relief and the same fan catching two home runs rules.
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Ron Wotus, bench coach from the team in San Francisco, is the Mystery Managerial Candidate, according to Ken Gurnick at Dodgers.com.
The interview schedule:
Tuesday: Jerry Royster
"I guarantee you wonderful bargains in playoff baseball!"
- Odet, Vice President
Would Herb Brooks Have Kept Jose Lima?
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The 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey team was one of the greatest teams in sports history, but it had almost no likelihood of repeating its gold-medal performance had it been kept intact for a mythical 1981 Olympics. They did not call it "Miracle on Ice" for nothing.
Obviously, the 1980 team was underestimated going into the Olympics, but that doesn't change the fact that its heroic triumph was an upset. At a minimum, there would have been personnel changes going into the next tournament. Some 1980 heroes would have been given their skating papers.
Though the 2004 Dodgers don't compare with the 1980 Americans, most of us have terrific memories of last year's National League West champions. But that team cannot be kept on a pedestal. It lived off many performances - more than we even realized at the time - that players were unlikely to repeat. A year later, too many people still cling to the idea that the 2004 Dodgers should have been kept intact. They need to let go.
The disappointment of 2005 doesn't mean changes weren't worth pursuing. Nothing would have soured people on 2005 faster than seeing the weaknesses of even more 2004 Dodger Olympians exposed.
Hero Worship Time
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ESPN Insiders can read Eric Neel's article on Vin Scully here in a neat magazine-come-to-virtual-life format. Dodger Thoughts readers Ross Porter and Vishal are among those interviewed, though I dream that a third interviewee is also a reader. According to Neel, Scully spends "three or four hours every game day surfing the Net."
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The strongest defense that I've seen in the print media for the Dodgers letting Jim Tracy go has come from Paul Oberjuerge in the San Bernadino Sun.
The Dodgers fired manager Jim Tracy this week, and from the media hue and cry you'd have thought the club shot Lassie. ...
Jim Tracy's ouster is no crime. In fact, it was required to get the organization pulling on the same end of the rope.
If the Dodgers are 71-91 two years from now, that's when fans should march on Chavez Ravine. We're guessing DePodesta's Dodgers are far more likely to be 91-71, once he has his team in place. Including the guy who makes out the lineup card.
Fear of the Red Menace in Chavez Ravine
The 1950s battle over the land of Chavez Ravine that ultimately ended with the creation of Dodger Stadium was a story I thought I was completely familiar with, but until this summer I had no idea that the Red Scare played a significant role.
Back in June, PBS aired Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story, a historical documentary that arose in part from some photographs taken of the area and its denizens by Don Normark in 1949. In the documentary, a former assistant director of the Los Angeles Housing Authority, Frank Wilkinson, spoke about how developers fought the plan to build a new public housing project in Chavez Ravine by discrediting people like him with accusations of being Communists.
As Wilkinson told it, the acquisition of the Chavez Ravine land was nearly complete in August 1952. Families were forced to sell their land or be evicted, but promised first choice at the new housing. But events changed dramatically at one of the final hearings.
"We had tremendous support for the program," Wilkinson said. "We were pretty well finished. And the only people opposing were what is commonly called the real estate lobby, which headed up by the department of house owners association and other people like that. They called [the public housing project] creeping socialism. They were trying to discredit us every way they could. They had petitions, they had initatives to try to kill the program. We should have been more suspicious than we were."
"As I remember, [the piece of property discussed at the hearing] was a very large site. It was vacant land, but the owner of that property was a prominent person in downtown L.A,. and he demanded, I think, a hundred thousand dollars, and we were fighting with them over value. He wanted as much as he could get, when out of nowhere this lawyer for the property owner turned to me and said, 'Now, Mr. Wilkinson, I want to ask you what organizations, political or otherwise, did you belong to since 1931?'
"He didn't say, 'Are you a communist?' He said, 'What have you belonged to?' I just turned to that judge and said, 'I refuse to answer that question.' Everyone, any lawyer would have said, 'Irrelevant and immaterial.' If that man had said that word, I would still be here today. And the project would have been built. But my lawyer said nothing. Not a word. He was just pale, white. He told me later, 'Frank, if I had objected to that question, then people would have known I' - meaning he - 'was a communist, because I object to that question.' I said, 'What about me?' He said, 'Well, you have a problem, too.' "
The documentary then showed 1952 footage of Gordon M. Scherer (R-Ohio), who had helped bring the weight of the U.S. Congress to the fight against Wilkinson and the project. Wilkinson was questioned by the House Un-American Activities Committee - and Scherer touted Wilkinson's lack of responsiveness to the public.
"One of the top Communist agents assigned to Operation Abolition is Frank Wilkinson, recently convicted of contempt of Congress for refusal to answer questions concerning his Communist party membership and activities," Scherer said. "Listen to this closely, because in it, you will hear Frank Wilkinson, a Communist agent, explain his Communist jargon."
Cut to a reporter in 1952 interviewing Wilkinson and challenging Scherer in the battle of who could use the same word most often.
"In the Communist hearings today, you were called an international Communist agent. Are you a Communist?"
Having not answered in testimony, Wilkinson, unsurprisingly, did not answer the reporter, either.
Decades later, Wilkinson's disgust with the whole series of events was still evident.
"I was fired," Wilkinson continued in the documentary. "I'm out. Destroyed. Really destroyed. Neutralized, they, the FBI, listed it. They successfully neutralized me. Crews of television people walked in, arrive to take pictures of the whole scene. Mayor (Fletcher) Bowron was removed - he would have been a shoo-in in 1953. After this was reported in the press, the Times and other papers crusaded against the mayor. ... New mayor Norris Poulson came in and started negotiating to turn the site not back to the people, but to turn it over to Walter O'Malley and the Brooklyn Dodgers. We spent millions of dollars getting ready for it, and the Dodgers picked it up for just a fraction of that. It was just a tragedy for the people and for the city. It was the most hypocritical thing that could possibly happen."
Wilkinson was fired and forced to spend one year in jail.
Rooting for the Individual
More than 13 years after his major-league debut, the Padres' Pedro Astacio makes his first career playoff start today. He pitched in relief in the playoffs for a total of five innings with the 1995-96 Dodgers, allowing only one baserunner while striking out six.
His opponent, the Cardinals, have outscored opponents in their past eight National League Division Series games, 50-23.
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For your pregame entertainment, Craig Burley takes a look at the San Francisco Giants' unusual drafting strategy at The Hardball Times today.
A new name has emerged in the search for the next Dodger manager, and for those of you who read about local sports in Los Angeles, you can call him the Eric Sondheimer candidate.
Torey Lovullo - Salvatore Anthony Lovullo to the Registrar's Office - was born in Santa Monica, grew up in Northridge, attended Montclair Prep and UCLA, and played in 116 games for the Angels in 1993 as part of a 12-year professional career. According to Steve Henson in the Times, Lovullo is one of five candidates to be interviewed next week by Paul DePodesta, along with Dodger director of player development Terry Collins, AAA Las Vegas manager Jerry Royster, ex-Detroit Tigers manager Alan Trammell and "a person is employed by another major league team that is not in the playoffs," which could imply Oakland coach Ron Washington. Other candidates could come in subsequent weeks, Henson added.
Let me interject a personal thought here, which is that I don't particularly care at this point who the next Dodger manager is as long as DePodesta is happy with him. This is not to canonize DePodesta a saint, but just to reiterate that I think it is of paramount importance to, as the phrase of the day has it, have everyone on the same page.
Collins said in so many words that he is on DePodesta's page, though the red flag with him is how quickly he fell out of favor in Anaheim and Houston despite winning records in both cities. Royster's record is less distinguished, though he certainly didn't have much talent to work in with the 51s or previously, the Milwaukee Brewers. In any case, his candidacy from within the Dodger organization implies that he might also be on the same page - let's call it page 26 so we can be on it, too.
Trammell is interesting because it's surprising to think that someone banished from Detroit would be the salvation here. As for the mystery candidate, if it is Washington, he comes with a Dodger pedigree from 30 years back and Moneyball employment of more recent vintage, though in my memory was portrayed in that book as somewhat resistant to some of the strategies Oakland general manager and DePodesta mentor Billy Beane favored. Presumably, he would have had to have made peace with those strategies to be considered.
Lovullo has two things immediately going for him - his local roots and his membership in one of baseball's top stories of 2005, the Cleveland Indians. Lovullo managed AA Akron to an Eastern League championship this season. There's something about his coming out of left field that makes him appealing to me, though one obviously shouldn't use that as an automatic endorsement. It is worth noting that Lovullo's interview indicates that DePodesta is considering people outside his immediate sphere - he has not yet met Lovullo.
Henson added that "DePodesta has scheduled one interview a day next week from Tuesday through Saturday and he could meet with additional candidates later (including internal candidates)."
Again, I wouldn't get hung up on the name that ultimately gets picked. I wouldn't even get hung up on the search. Just point everyone to page 26 and that should be enough.
The bigger mystery is what reins the scarcity of talented free agents and the presence of Frank McCourt might put on player moves this offseason - and I'm not saying this to villify McCourt in advance (because I've certainly done enough of that in the past - now I try to be more open-minded, or at least less pessimistic). But maneuverability for DePodesta is just a much bigger factor at this point than who the new manager is, now that the old manager from page 16 is gone.
Update: According to ESPN.com, Jim Tracy had his first interview with Pittsburgh today. Tracy will receive competition from Ken Macha, who will not be returning to manage the A's next season after - like Tracy - failing to agree to terms on a contract that would have employed him in Oakland through 2008.
There isn't an October that I don't remember bringing my portable radio to school and sneaking a listen to a playoff game between (or once even during) classes. Such will be the case for Yankee fans at 10 a.m. EDT for Game 2 of their series with the Angels.
Oh, you mean the game's at 10 p.m. EDT?
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Some quick playoff observations from Day 1, tying into the Dodgers whenever I can:
DODGERS 9TH: Baker grounded out (third to first); Monday grounded out (second to first); DAVALILLO BATTED FOR YEAGER; On a bunt Davalillo singled to second; MOTA BATTED FOR RAUTZHAN; Mota doubled to left [Davalillo scored (error by Sizemore; assist by Luzinski), Mota to third]; Lopes singled to third [Mota scored]; ground ball off turf-seam hit Schmidt in knee and caromed to Bowa who apparently threw to 1B in time; Froemming said safe; Lopes was picked off first but was safe on an error by Garber [Lopes to second]; Russell singled to center [Lopes scored (unearned)]; Smith grounded out (pitcher to first); 3 R, 4 H, 2 E, 1 LOB. Dodgers 6, Phillies 5.
Now, Perez has been criticized in the past for saying he was too injured to pitch. But did it do the Padres any good that Jake Peavy kept his ailment a secret? San Diego outscored the Cardinals, 5-0, after Peavy's departure.
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I originally wrote this in the comments at 6-4-2, but thought it would be worth presenting to you all:
Despite playing in less than half as many games as Shawn Green, J.D. Drew nearly had a more productive season on a cumulative basis (37.9 VORP for Green, 31.3 for Drew). Even if you assume Drew's broken wrist only forestalled a later injury to come, even if Drew played only 100 games in 2005, Drew probably would have outperformed Green.I want to backtrack on the "no contest" comment, because of course, the Dodgers had to pay some of Green's salary and because the Dodgers have another $44 million they potentially owe Drew that could boulder the scales the other way. But the fact that even the injured Drew, combined with Navarro, outperformed Green is rather impressive.
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Tangotiger's 2005 Scouting Report by the Fans for the Fans is up. Nearly 1,000 fans voted, and from the Dodgers, Cesar Izturis was rated the majors' top shortstop, but Jason Grabowski and Jason Phillips were dishonored as among the worst six fielders in baseball. I provided the commentary on Izturis:
Cesar Izturis has terrific range, great lateral and vertical reach (while also willing to dive at a moment's notice), a quick recovery and release after fielding a ball upright or on the ground, and a surprisingly strong arm for someone who is 5-foot-9. In 2004, he almost never made an error on a routine play and frequently amazed with his acrobatics on the field. In 2005, his fielding appeared to suffer on two fronts - his concentration early in the season wavered and he made more errors on routine plays than normal, and as the season progressed, back ailments limited his range and effectiveness. He underwent Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm (for reasons relating to a childhood injury) in September. Still in his mid-20s, there is every reason to believe he will return to the top echelon of National League shortstops defensively by the end of 2006.Check out the complete (but small sample size) Dodger results here.
DePodesta and Tracy Talk - Separately - After Parting Ways
For Tuesday playoff chat, please go here.
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Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta answered media questions at 8 p.m. following the announcement that the Dodgers and manager Jim Tracy had agreed to a mutual parting of the ways.
DePodesta and Tracy "couldn't quite get on the same page - that's the reason why," DePodesta said. It was "more broad" than personnel decisions," said DePodesta.
A reporter expressed surprise at the statement, because DePodesta had supported Tracy in the press up to now.
"Anyone who wears the Dodger uniform is going to get my full support," DePodesta replied.
"We certainly have spent a lot of time together in the last two months," he added, "even privately, to see if we could be eye to eye going forward, because I think we both realized how important that was going to be going forward for the organiziation."
The tone of the questioning to DePodesta was aggressive, if not hostile.
"We really, truly wanted to make it work - I think both of us did," DePodesta said. "Unfortunately, it hasn't."
Jim Tracy then spoke by phone.
"It was in both parties' best interest to part ways and move on due to philopsophical differences ... the personnel factor and the evaluation of those players," Tracy said.
Tracy went on to say - in sort of an earnest challenge - that observers would see in the coming years whose philosophy was superior.
"(It) will play itself out on the long haul," Tracy said. "To say that my feelings are correct or Paul's feelings are correct is wrong. How things played on the field will go a long way to determining (if) the philosophy is correct."
Tracy was not shy about touting his own record. The past four years showed "a lot there that worked," Tracy said.
Tracy indicated that 2006 did not enter into the discussion with DePodesta - apparently, hashing out the 2004-05 offseason and the 2005 season was enough to fill all the DePodesta-Tracy meetings. But the coming season was certainly on Tracy's mind - and pessimism about the season played a fundamental role in Tracy's demand for an extension.
"Between now and the end of 2006, did I feel I would be able to get the club back to where it was at the end of 2004? I knew there was a good possibility it would take a good deal longer than that," Tracy said. "I have some very strong ideas about what is necessary from a continuity standpoint. There are a lot of intangible things that I feel are strongly necessary."
Tracy at first said he would not be paid by the Dodgers for 2006, but then noted that he would be paid if he didn't find another job. Between the lines, he sounded calmly assured that he would be working next season.
The conclusion to part ways, as I've suggested in recent days and weeks, was sensible given the circumstances. Neither DePodesta nor Tracy are evil men. But their relationship was well beyond the point of workable differences.
The tone of some stories we will read in the papers tomorrow was suggested by the following question: "Is (managing the Dodgers) still a good job, under these conditions?"
The job offers a payroll of at least $80 million, some returning injured All-Stars, a rising general manager with another year's experience behind him, perhaps the best farm system in the game and three million fans attending each season. In return, all that is asked is that you pay some attention to what your boss is saying while trying to win.
To his credit, Tracy said "yes" to the question.
One small request to the media - when interviewing Dodger players for comment, don't just stick with guys like Eric Gagne, whom I love but who essentially owes a good portion of his livelihood to Tracy. Consider talking to those who might not be so enamored before determining that there was unanimous player support for Tracy. Maybe there was - or maybe players (other than Odalis Perez) would be too circumspect to say otherwise - but at least try to be fair.
Update: "I expect some columnists will spring to Tracy's defense," writes Kevin Roderick at L.A. Observed. "They hate to break in new guys. But, really, run-of-the-mill managers are expendable and highly replaceable. Like with U.S. president, at any given time there are dozens of qualified people who could do the job just fine. Why not get somebody who's in synch with the organization's strategy instead of at odds?"
Update 2: The Tracy Chronicles (thanks to Eric Enders for the link)
Update 3: Say it with me now - the new manager of the Dodgers should be Bob Loblaw.
* * *
Recent related entries:
Playoff Opening Day
Star Power - An Arbitrary Ranking
*Hitters with EQAs in the top 50 (.291 or better)
**Pitchers with VORPs in the top 50 (32.3 or better)
Source: Baseball Prospectus
Potential in-house stars for the Dodgers in 2006 include Jeff Kent, Eric Gagne, J.D. Drew and Brad Penny. (Penny just missed by ranking 55th among pitchers; Drew was on pace for a finish near the top 10.)
Eight stars in Cleveland? Rather stunning, isn't it? Are they supernovas?
So the Detroit Tigers fire their manager, Alan Trammell, and I don't really know why.
And so it's going to be to most of the western world if the Dodgers don't retain Jim Tracy.
You have to been following the Dodgers closely to have a prayer of understand the case for letting Tracy wander off. From a distance, you see Tracy with four winning seasons and a fifth derailed by injuries, with a reputation as a manager who is all business, who is both cerebral and a baseball man. If you disapproved of the Dodgers' offseason moves - and you don't have to be a knee-jerk Paul DePodesta critic for that to have been the case - you might not understand why Tracy shouldn't be given a writeoff for 2005, and you might not even be aware how much he wanted an extension.
The national press won't tell the story of playing Jason Phillips at first base or leaving Jeff Weaver to pitch until he could give up the big home run. It won't tell the story of how Tracy pass the blame for losses directly upward rather than take an iota for himself.
It's going to look bad. Just like this entire season did.
But I feel relaxed this morning. First of all, it's a relief, frankly, to siesta from the losing, to see our tumble down the cliff finally reach its splat, to lie there on our backs, staring upward at the climb.
I'm not intimidated by that climb, though it could be slow going in the beginning with a wafer-thin free agent market. But as long as the Dodgers don't dig themselves any deeper holes, they'll be okay.
This season was a civil war, a war at home. It was a painful challenge daily to hold our heads up. But at the risk of speaking too soon, the worst is behind us. Let the healing begin.
One Day to Go
(Unless there are two):
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I'd like to tell a pensive Jeff Kent to have a little faith. I'd also like to feel more confident that next year won't be Kent's turn to fade or get hurt.
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Rich Lederer has written about the Jim Tracy situation at Baseball Analysts.
Two Days to Go
(Unless there are three):
American League East
American League Wild Card
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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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