Monthly archives: December 2005
Dodger Contract Details
What follows is a reference guide for Dodger player contract information, which I'll link to on the sidebar and update periodically.
Recommendations for The Best of Dodger Thoughts
I'll say, when I made the order (compelled by the Lulu upselling system to order two copies, mind you), I rationalized it as support for the site, and basically figured that the book itself would be a little old-newsy. (And since I hardly have time to keep up on the site itself these days, I wasn't bursting with need to get more Dodger to read.) But now I realize I was seriously mistaken. It's wonderful having this collection of Jon's great pieces to flip back through. It's great reading in its own right, and also for folks who've dottered on the site for some time, has a very joyful familiarity. Sure, the stuff's there on archives, but it's just not the same as wandering through the book and running across an old friend that you probably wouldn't have even remembered was in there.
(To be clear, I think this would be a great gift for a baseball fan, a Dodger fan, or a writing fan, even if s/he hadn't spent time on the site.)
- Dodger Thoughts reader Sam DC
A Web site that you can actually read during a bathroom break? Jon Weisman, who since 2002 has been churning out his "Dodger Thoughts" blog about the local baseball team, has produced a 325-page book version called "The Best of Dodger Thoughts," with a forward from former play-by-play man Ross Porter. The $25 manuscript, which serves as a history of the team during a very roller-coaster ride in the franchise's existence, can be purchased at - where else - www.dodgerthoughts.com.
Let me reiterate that the book is not a simple printout of the Dodger Thoughts archives. It offers added value and enjoyment - with chapters organized thematically, introductory insights, and a special section capturing some of the best reader comments. Sections include:
As Dodger Thoughts reader Molokai recently wrote:
For the price of
2 movie tickets and one large popcorn and drink
you can support the man who writes DT for free and gives you hours of pleasure and pain.
Preview the book by clicking here to open this PDF file, offering a snippet of the Vin Scully chapter.
Say buy buy to 2005 with a purchase of The Best of Dodger Thoughts. It's the perfect book for your bedside nightstand or milk crate. And sure to be a collectors' item, your baseball bookshelf isn't complete without it.
Support Dodger Thoughts and enjoy Dodger Thoughts.
Buy The Best of Dodger Thoughts today!
Talking Baseball with Scrubs' John C. McGinley
When it comes to interviewing actors, some people want them to stick to talking about acting. I've given an actor license to do much more, but hold your fire - because it's too much fun to have an actor who wants to talk baseball - really talk baseball.
A couple of years ago, I got the assignment from my editor at Variety to do a feature on John C. McGinley, the artist currently known as reluctant mentor and anger-mismanagement expert Dr. Perry Cox on the NBC comedy Scrubs. You're just happy to share the field with a quality actor in a quality show, but little did I expect the conversation to begin like this:
Weisman: "How're you doing this morning?"
McGinley: "Well, the Yankees won last night, so I'm doing great."
And so my entertainment interview with McGinley, who has played roles ranging from Sgt. Red O'Neill in Platoon to Bob Slydell in Office Space, began with 10 minutes of straight shooting about baseball, before we finally forced ourselves to talk about his Emmy-worthy performance on Scrubs.
As much as anything else that day, what I learned is that McGinley will talk baseball anytime, anywhere. So during his vacation break from shooting the fifth season of Scrubs (which returns to air Tuesday with back-to-back episodes starting at 9 p.m.), it took no convincing to get him to not talk shop, and instead talk sports.
The first words out of his mouth after the initial exchange of hellos? "I feel really, really good about (Nomar) Garciaparra," referring to the Dodgers' recent free-agent singing.
"I like that signing. I don't love it; I like it," McGinley added. "I like it because they didn't have to give anything away for it. I think he's a quality player, and I think he's going to thrive out there."
While acknowledging that Garciaparra might not physically be the player he once was, he was surprised at the caterwauling out of Boston about Garciaparra's clubhouse personality.
"Everyone's talking about he's such a cancer," McGinley said. "Give me a cancer who wins three batting titles and hits .360."
Having had a residence in Southern California for years now, McGinley has grown familiar with the Dodgers. But it would be misleading to go much further in that direction, when his first baseball love remains the Yankees. McGinley grew up in Short Hills, New Jersey, and his fondest baseball memories reside at Yankee Stadium.
"Ron Blomberg becoming the first DH," McGinley said of his earliest baseball recollections, "and then for the Mets, when the Mets were playing at Yankee Stadium, I saw Willie Mays hit a home run. I couldn't believe my eyes. It's not that early, but I remember it vividly.
"Other than that, I just remember those Reggie Jackson teams winning the World Series," McGinley continued. "Those guys, they just rocked me. I just lived and died with the Yankees."
Asked to name his single favorite baseball memory, the first thing that came to mind was Yankee reliever Rich "Goose" Gossage.
"Every time he came in, he looked like was going to kill someone," McGinley said. "It just looked like he was going to kill someone."
And then, in the mid-1980s, McGinley got to see something Dodger fans didn't - Darryl Strawberry at the height of his game.
"For a stretch there," McGinley said, "when Strawberry stepped to the plate, waving the bat lefthanded, à la early (Gary) Sheffield, literally every time he stepped into the box, it looked like he was going to hit a home run. That stroke was just from God."
Asked to name his baseball hero, McGinley Blinked the late Yankee catcher, Thurman Munson, and after him, first baseman Don Mattingly.
"I want to love Bobby Murcer," McGinley said, citing one of his early fascinations, "but I couldn't feel it."
McGinley segued into talking about hanging out with former Yankee and current Mets manager Willie Randolph on the field a couple of times this year, and it became clear that for this actor, access to athletes is a perk much more important than having the biggest trailer.
"It's been the total biggest benefit, aside from being able to do stuff for Down Syndrome," McGinley said. (His son, Max, was born with Down's Syndrome, and McGinley is the spokesman for the National Down Syndrome Society's Buddy Walk program.) "You get the NBC tickets every once in a while, and they're not in the bleachers. They're pretty fantastic, to tell you the truth."
McGinley's brushes with athletic greatness aren't limited to baseball. While filming the football movie Any Given Sunday, director Oliver Stone had McGinley rehearse Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor.
"It was a really ambitious (monologue) to give a non-trained actor to do," McGinley recalled. "I worked with LT on that, and the tradeoff was he would explain Cover 2s.
"And I found myself at the Orange Bowl with LT, whom I grew up worshipping, explaining Cover 2s. And I'm thinking, 'I've got LT talking to me.' But after spending four weeks with him on that monologue - which he nailed - it was like, 'Of course, I'm talking to LT.' "
McGinley next talked about two of his neighbors: hockey star Chris Chelios ("God, I love him. He's having the renaissance year of his career.") and surfer Laird Hamilton, "who is probably one of the five best athletes on the planet." This led, inevitably, into another vitally unimportant digression.
"We were doing this the other day," McGinley said. "If you're doing the greatest (athletic) freaks of all time, the easy ones are (Michael) Jordan, (Babe) Ruth, because of the crossover with his pitching. I easily put Jim Brown on there because of his lacrosse crossover."
McGinley added Wayne Gretzky to his top five, but got tough when it came time to pin down the fifth.
"Fifth is tough - and don't freakin' say Muhammad Ali to me," McGinley warned. "What he did politically is unbelievable, but you can't put up a boxer - it's fixed. (John) Cusack was arguing to me the other day about boxers, I'm like dude - it's not their fault, but you cannot have it."
"It's tricky with non-modern athletes," McGinley continued. "(Jim) Thorpe was an Olympian, the greatest player of his era. People like to put Jesse Owens on there."
Unwilling to commit to evaluating athletes within their given era, McGinley returned to the more recent.
"A lot of people try to put Bo Jackson on there," McGinley said. "Bo Jackson, if he had stayed healthy, would be right up there with Jordan.
"Barry Bonds is clearly one of the greatest athletes in the history of the species. What he's done may in fact be unbelievable. I can't take everything away from him because of the (small) number of strikes seen in a game - and he tags it."
In the end, McGinley left the question of the top-five athletes unanswered - meaning he'll be picking it up again in no time.
Obviously, McGinley is not alone among actors in his sports infatuation. Cusack is deep into it, according to McGinley, though no one may be more hardcore than D.B Sweeney of Eight Men Out and The Cutting Edge.
"Sweeney is right up there," McGinley said. "And (Tom) Sizemore, before he got into all this trouble, he had close to a photographic memory. He was kind of like Bob Costas; he was unbelievable.
"D.B. is just, I don't know, he'll just go toe-to-toe with anybody on anything, just because he likes to argue. Plus he's just a Red Sox freak, even though he's from Long Island. He likes Yaz (Carl Yastrzemski) because Yaz's dad was a potato farmer from Long Island.
"Johnny is a pretty great Chicago sports freak, but it kinds of ends there. He kind of has blinders on. All he can talk about are the '85 Bears and Jordan - it's just a little stupid. For instance, he tried (on his list of top-five athletes) to put Scottie Pippen."
"I've had to hear from John how the Cubs now have the fastest outfield in baseball. No joke - a lot of speed. (And) no hitting."
McGinley also incorporated baseball into a self-improvement book project he completed for publication a year from now. Inspired by a Canadian cartoon character, the book is The Untalkative Bunny: How to Be Heard Without Saying a Word. The book focuses on the importance of non-verbal communication, and baseball comes into play in a chapter about perseverance, which McGinley defined as the rate at which you can return to effort from an unforeseen circumstance.
"In the Hall of Fame, .302 is the median batting average for offensive Hall of Famers. Even if they fail seven out of 10 times, they got back in the box as quickly as possible, it's the one thing Hall of Famers do. What you can do nonverbally: you can return to effort. It's the one thing you can control, no one can take that away from you. You may not be able to control that the fax machine broke. You don't have control over that, but you do have your effort, and you can do something else."
Just as the Scrubs interview a couple of years ago leapt easily into baseball, the informality of this baseball talk couldn't help but find its way back to talking about the television show, especially with the season premiere finally arriving following its surprising early season benching. It was a hiatus that McGinley understood intellectually even as he struggled with impatience.
"Now that networks are allowed to produce and own their own content, the mandate at NBC is to create and own," McGinley said, citing The Office as an example. "Disney is the producer of Scrubs, so you're hosed.
"When you're the new head of NBC (Entertainment), Kevin Reilly, he's a super guy, but he needs a hit on his watch, but (we're) not that. We're on (former NBC Entertainment president) Jeff Zucker's watch. We come back, we do okay - Kevin doesn't get any credit for it. (My Name Is) Earl is doing well for him, but that's 20th Century. That doesn't really fulfill the mandate he was given. Will and Grace is a perfect example - NBC Productions for NBC, they make a killing on that."
"All I can tell you is it's good to be back on the air. Of the first 13 we did (this season) I'd say 10 were A-pluses, and 3 were B-pluses. The writers came back from getting nominated for Emmys loaded for bear. Wait 'til you see the first couple. We did a Wizard of Oz Scrubs that's so good. Zach (Braff), of course, plays Dorothy, and the other three play the Lion and the Scarecrow and the Tin Man. I, of course, am the Wizard."
From his excitement at talking about Scrubs, you are reminded that acting really is the stuff that comes first for McGinley. It's not a job; it's a passion - and he takes it seriously. You could say he gets his game face on.
"I love (reading about baseball) if I don't have a rant I have to get into my dome in the next 10 minutes," McGinley said. (In case you haven't seen Scrubs, McGinley's character has a mile-a-minute monologue or two in about every episode.) "But if Billy (Scrubs executive producer Bill Lawrence) has me going on a rant, then everything else stops."
Still, his love of baseball is there. Someday, everything else may stop long enough for McGinley to win an Oscar or Emmy. If that happens, most will look for McGinley to celebrate the craft, his colleagues, his son.
But as McGinley takes the statuette and goes to the podium to speak to the millions around the world via satellite, I'll also be looking for him to give me a few words about the latest Yankee score.
Deja Vu: NFL Won't Park with Dodgers
Dodger owner Frank McCourt is interested in building a football stadium for an NFL team on the Dodger Stadium parking lot, according to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello in a Boston Herald story by Scott Van Voorhis. However, the report goes on to say that the NFL is focused on bids by the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and by Anaheim.
In a statement last night, McCourt indicated that for now, Dodger Stadium is off the table as a football venue.
"While we understand that Dodger Stadium is an attractive site, so long as the (Los Angeles) Coliseum is a viable site (for the NFL), Dodger Stadium should not be considered as a competing venue."
It was widely reported in the 1990s that Peter O'Malley explored the same idea at the behest of Mayor Richard Riordan, only to have Riordan change his mind and ask O'Malley to give up his bid and support the Coliseum. The turn of events, many believe, was key to O'Malley deciding to sell the Dodgers.
As far as the NFL's spurning of Chavez Ravine, no pigskin off my nose.
Something Can Go Wrong-O, Here in the Tomko
Hi - good to see you all again. The Brett Tomko signing is old news, well-discussed in the holiday chat comments, so I won't give you much more than my two pesos. (The parents of Raffi fans can explain the headline.)
Tomko is a below-average pitcher, with two seasons of above-average, park-adjusted ERA out of nine in his career, and two seasons even within shouting distance of average in his past five:
Year/ERA+ (100 is average, per Baseball-Reference.com)
The main arguments for Tomko are that he's a control pitcher (fewer than three walks per nine innings), that he has pitched well in Dodger Stadium (2.93 career ERA there) and that he's an innings-eater, averaging nearly 200 the past four years. Those arguments are not without relevance, but they should be seen as part of the overall picture.
Just before Thanksgiving, I questioned the value of an innings-eater.
(Jeff) Weaver is valued for his innings-eating skills, but are there other ways to eat those innings? Can they be swallowed more cheaply than Weaver would digest them? The going rate for an innings eater - based on what guys like Weaver, Derek Lowe and Odalis Perez command - is about $8-10 million per year. Instead of spending that kind of money on a pitcher who is going to make a difference every fifth day, maybe it's better to spend that kind of money on a hitter who is going make a difference every day.
The Dodgers won half the battle - they got an innings-eater at a discount rate: $8.7 million guaranteed to cover two seasons. In doing so, they have reduced the need to carry 12 pitchers, opening a sixth bench slot for position players.
But I'm not convinced that Tomko is exceptionally suited for Dodger Stadium, based on the sub-100 inning sample size available. Given that Dodger Stadium favors pitchers in general, the probability remains that more often than not when Tomko pitches, the opposing pitcher will be better. More often than not, if Tomko wins, it will be because the Dodger offense was better than the opposing offense.
If this signing has been assigned to the "It's Not My Money" Department, and/or if the money saved in picking Tomko over Weaver was used to help pay for position player depth, it's fine. Tomko will probably be one of the 11 best major league pitchers in the organization on Opening Day, and his presence will help at the outset. It will encourage Chad Billingsley or Edwin Jackson to pick up a major league job through the front door instead of catching a major league job dropped desperately from the third story of a burning building.
But don't be fooled - Tomko was less expensive than Derek Lowe or Odalis Perez or Jeff Weaver because he's just not as good. He might be the best the Dodgers can do right now, and you can evaluate the signing on those merits. But Tomko has not, in the sincere sense, filled a slot in the Dodger starting rotation.
Holiday Open Chat
I don't know if you've been sleeping
Happy Holidays! I'm devoting the next few days to not being on the computer, so enjoy yourselves in my absence!
Choi Benched, In the Good Sense, Sort Of - The Point Is, He's Signed
It's funny to read a Hee Seop Choi press release in which something being published on Dodgers.com is actually forced to say nice things about him.
Anyway, Choi takes a spot on the Dodger bench, alongside Ricky Ledee, Olmedo Saenz, Sandy Alomar Jr., and at most two other players. One will have to be an outfielder: Jayson Werth, Jason Repko, Cody Ross or Andre Ethier. That leaves only one spot for a backup middle infielder, forcing a competition between Willy Aybar and Oscar Robles, among others (a competition that leans toward Aybar's favor, given his palpitating debut in September and the Dodgers' infield depth at AAA, except that Robles is so well-liked and has a reputation for good defense). And it would mean the Dodgers would have an 11-man pitching staff, which given the shaky status at the back end of their starting rotation, is of some concern.
Unless/until there is a trade.
But for now, I guess it's something of an effective compromise, except for those who just want to see Choi play every day. The Dodgers have their proven commodity at first base, and if he plays well and stays healthy, great. If he falters, there are backups.
At a cost of money but not prospects, the Dodgers are stacked with proven position players. A surge in the Chad Billingsley Department would be a transformative experience.
Update: Chin-Feng Chen is tentatively headed for a 2006 season in Taiwan, reports the Taiwan News. Sounds like it's a tough decision:
"Now I am at the peak of my playing career... Maybe it is time to play in Taiwan, and stay close to my family. I am more mature and have learned a lot from my stay in the U.S.," he said.
But his Major League dream may not be finished. Chen said he will make his final decision this week after consulting with his parents and family members, "My family comes first, I will respect their opinion."
Also, this chapter in the Dodger careers of Jeff Weaver, Mike Edwards, Jason Phillips and Brian Myrow are over, although MLB.com's Ken Gurnick writes that Edwards is under consideration for a minor league contract.
Correction/Update 2: Weaver can still negotiate with the Dodgers. And they have signed Kelly Wunsch to a minor league contract.
Lofton Completes the Revamp
So Kenny Lofton, the guy whose No. 1-ranked basketball team blew a 21-4 lead at Maples Pavilion in 1988 and lost to Stanford, is coming to the Dodgers as a much-of-the-time starting center fielder for $3.85 million plus incentives, settling the lineup.
(S) Rafael Furcal, SS
The lineup looks promising top to bottom, as Navarro will not be an easy out at the No. 8 slot. The biggest, or should I say most important doubt remains at No. 5, where his two years of struggles and free-swinging approach make it unclear whether Garciaparra can really back up Kent. Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus echoes my concerns about whether the Dodgers have really improved themselves with Garciaparra:
Let's make this clear: the Dodgers are replacing (Hee Seop) Choi with a player Choi out-hit last season (and posted comparable numbers to in 2004), a player who's likely going to be inferior defensively, who will cost more money, and carry a greater risk of injury and decline. They're getting a more famous person in the deal, one whose aggressive approach at the plate may play better than Choi's disciplined one, but whose edges are all stylistic.
In other words, many people prefer Garciaparra's aggressive style to Choi's more tentative style, but for the past two years, the guy making outs more often has been Garciaparra. But the cases have been made, the Dodgers have chosen, and we move on. And what we find is that there isn't an obvious weakness in any lineup slot - all should post OPSes of .750 or above. That level, while not dominating, is still enough to cause trouble. By comparison, note how many hitters in 2005 didn't pull that kind of weight: Navarro, Werth, Oscar Robles, Repko, Paul Bako, Jason Phillips, Mike Edwards, Cesar Izturis. All have been jettisoned or benched, or are on an improvement track.
The small bench, to be culled from Werth (once he heals), Ledee, Repko, Robles, Olmedo Saenz, Coach Sandy Alomar, Jr., Willy Aybar and the other minor leaguers, is decent, which is a good thing because it's going to be used a lot given the brittleness of the team. (The Dodgers have four players on their 40-man roster above the age of 33 - Kent, Lofton, Mueller and Alomar, but a scroll of the roster's disabled list history would roll from here to China.)
The team does look like a fantasy draft from a couple years ago, but it has a lineup that looks like a contender.
So now, to the pitching ...
Who Am I Wearing?
Reporting the News
Reporters report, and they report what people say. They can be 100 percent accurate in their reporting - and still be wrong, if the people they are sourcing are wrong. Because those sources sometimes are wrong - particularly unnamed sources - I'm reluctant to assume that a report is on target - even if the reporting is accurate - until the deed is actually done. When I call something a "false rumor," I don't mean that the rumor was invented, but that the rumor didn't play out.
But reporting is tremendously challenging and competitive work, and just because I question whether a story will play out the way their sources predict doesn't mean I'm questioning the reporters' integrity.
I don't know if this needed to be said, but I wanted to make sure my position was clear.
It was news to me, but had they wanted to, the Dodgers could have gotten back lefty reliever Steve Colyer, whom they traded to Detroit in early 2004 for minor league outfielder Cody Ross. Instead, Colyer signed a minor league contract with Colorado, according to Sports Network.
Colyer, who will be 27 in February, showed a lot of promise two years ago with a 2.75 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings, but posted a 6.47 ERA with the Tigers in 2004 and spent 2005 in AAA Norfolk. He struck out 31 batters in 27 innings this year, but walked 19.
Ross, who turns 25 Friday, is on the Chin-Feng Chen long-term Las Vegas plan. In all likelihood, he will start his third season there in 2006.
Garciaparra Press Conference Today
The Dodgers scheduled their press conference to announce the signing of Nomar Carciaparra for 2 p.m.
If the Dodgers send Hee Seop Choi off to a new home, does that eliminate the last hot-button issue from 2005? Jim Tracy, Milton Bradley, the shrinking Dodger payroll and Choi probably make up the top four.
The most that would be left from this year would be the debate over the value of some long-term contracts for J.D. Drew, Derek Lowe and others.
Update: Five scouts talk to Scott Miller of CBSSportsline.com about where they would play Garciaparra in the field.
Update 2: "You go out and play (the position) asked of you," Garciaparra says at the press conference. So what position(s) will that be? Unbelievably, it appears no one has asked for on-the-record clarification. So we'll have to wait for the post-press conference stories to find anything out.
But we do learn that Garciaparra ate French dips from Phillipe's before going to Dodger games as a kid.
Revisiting the Konerko Trade
The Dodgers' 1998 trade of young Paul Konerko to Cincinnati is compared to the Braves' 2005 trade of young Andy Marte to Boston in the Baseball Analysts post by Bryan Smith.
Garciaparra: Wait for It
Nomar Garciaparra is coming, according to multiple reports, for one year at $6 million plus incentives. But until Dodger general manager Ned Colletti or manager Grady Little goes on the record to say that Garciaparra will play first base, hold off on buying into the media expectation that first base is where he'll play. As I wrote overnight in the comments:
It may be true, but after an offseason of one false rumor after another - $75 million payroll, J.T. Snow - maybe a little more skepticism is in order. ...I like the idea of Garciaparra, and the contract seems reasonable. But even if you think Hee Seop Choi is the worst baseball player on the planet, you might stop and ask whether Garciaparra offers enough at the plate and outside of the training room for a first baseman. For all the grief that J.D. Drew gets, Garciaparra has played more than half a season two times in the past five years, he's older than Drew, and his injuries (Achilles, groin, wrist) have been serious, too.
On the other hand, it is possible that Garciaparra + Choi's trade value > Choi. It's possible. Is there one team out there that believes in Choi and would trade a decent starting pitcher for him?
In any case, if Garciaparra gives the Dodgers their fifth 100-game outfielder to go with Drew, Jose Cruz, Jr., Ricky Ledee and Jayson Werth, not to mention anyone else that might come along, that might do just fine.
Update: A mass e-mail from the Dodgers paraphrases Ken Gurnick's MLB.com article in saying that "Garciaparra will be the No. 5 hitter and first baseman in a dramatically rebuilt infield ..." This still would seem like a premature move without a new outfielder in place, but nonetheless, there it is. Frankly, the easy appropriation of Gurnick's article highlights the part-of, not-part-of blurriness of his relationship to the Dodgers.
It would be like something out of Oz (both the prison show and Dorothy's vacation home), if Choi got traded to Pittsburgh.
No, Not Nomar at First Base
Hee Seop Choi in 2005: .789 OPS with the Dodgers, 110 OPS+
Ricky Ledee in 2005: .778 OPS with the Dodgers, 107 OPS+
Nomar Garciaparra in 2005: .772 OPS with the Cubs, 99 OPS+
Now, Ledee is an injury risk, like Garciaparra. The pair would make an interesting - though hardly dominant - left-field platoon, with Jayson Werth looming in the disabled background.
But Choi is younger, healthier and, sorry, more productive than Garciaparra. Choi even had a higher OPS+ in 2004, even including his 2004 floundering in Los Angeles.
If the Dodgers' priority is a No. 5 hitter to bat behind Jeff Kent, the combination of Olmedo Saenz (.804 OPS, 113 OPS+) and Choi is a better bet than Garciaparra alone - although certainly Garciaparra could compete with Saenz to be the right-handed platoon partner. But Saenz is already signed for a mere $1 million.
Dodger general manager Ned Colletti has said that a change at first base is not a high priority. He also clearly likes to keep his options open. If he's thinking, he's looking at Garciaparra principally as a 120-game starting outfielder/backup infielder.
Thursday, Ken Arneson at Catfish Stew declared that Milton Bradley puns had reached their peak, and declared there should be no more. The time was right.
Along those lines and around the bend, I'd like to issue my own decree. Signing into a baseball chat with the alias of an actual baseball player, manager or owner and asking a question in the first person, like this:
Brian Sabean (SF): Will I regret signing Matt Morris?
... that joke is played, Jerry. Played.
* * *
Even after his awful 2005 season, Jose Lima was still a wanted man. Some criticized Paul DePodesta for not signing Lima to a contract following his fantastic 2004 playoff performance, right up to the day DePodesta was fired as general manager, ignoring the fact that 1) one could anticipate a decline from 2004 and 2) because of arbitration rules, the Dodgers could not get Lima as inexpensively as other teams.
Well, Lima is still out there - and available at a cheaper rate than 12 months ago. Raul Tavares at Dominican Players reported earlier this week that Lima said the Padres were interested in him. The Padres! Why, they're our rivals!
The clock is ticking on Lima Time, but nothing has been finalized yet. His strikeout to home run ratio in 2005 was only 2.6. So where is that fervent movement now?
(By the way, signing Lima to a $500,000 non-guaranteed, non-roster contract for 2006 isn't the most insane idea in the world. It's mostly a pointless act - he probably wouldn't do much better than the 2005 versions of Scott Erickson or Hideo Nomo - but Lima's a little more promising than those two were. The fact that no one has suggested this only adds to the hypocrisy of how much Lima was used this year as anti-DePo ammunition.)
Work in Progress: Where Do the Dodgers Stand?
This is a snapshot of the Dodgers, with the understanding that further changes are to come.
Mueller Signs for Two Years
Mueller, who will be 35 in March, should strengthen the team. He has had EQAs of .315, .281 and .288 the past three years (.260 is average), and has had only one year below .270 in 10 seasons. He is also an average to above-average fielder. He does bring very little home-run power, and his 150 games played in 2005 were his most since 2000.
His signing fills the third-base gap without blocking the position long-term. We'll soon learn how much was spent in the process - but again, even the relevance of that figure will only be fully understood once we see the final team payroll.
Update: Dollars have been announced: $9.5 million over the two years, according to The Associated Press.
My point in Tuesday night's column boils down to this: I did not think that Ned Colletti should have said he "tried everything" to keep Milton Bradley as a Dodger when it's clear that there was something he didn't try.
I'm not saying that he had to try everything. I would have tried talking to Bradley - as much out of my interest in meeting him as anything else - but I'm not saying Colletti had to. I'm just saying that it wasn't clear to me why he didn't try talking to him, and also that he misspoke. And I spent hundreds of words conveying an idea that could have been conveyed in about 25, and therefore probably made too much of it.
I appreciate the support and the constructive critiques that I've gotten. Very worthwhile.
I'm ready to move on.
The Preschool End-Around
Some friends of ours ... their daughter was expelled from preschool last month. That's right - expelled from preschool. That was a new one on me, and the circumstances were even more reprehensible than I could have imagined. Their daughter made an innocent comment, a truthful comment but one that she, at age 4, could not disguise with guile. It was not racist or politically incorrect. It was a kid making a comment about life, and loss.
The comment compounded a personality conflict between our friends and the other preschool parents, a personality conflict that amounted to "these people are getting on my nerves." So the other parents met with the preschool administrators, without inviting our friends, and requested that the family be removed from the school. Their wish was granted.
The girl's mother brought the girl to school in the morning, and the preschool teacher came out and met them - didn't pull our friend aside, but did this right in front of the child - and stated that they could not enter the premises. It was insane - with the precious twist being that the moment it happened, our friends lost any desire to keep their daughter at the school. Any school run in that fashion was not worth learning from - kind of the opposite of the Groucho Marx rule.
"It was clear there was no way to make this thing work," said Colletti, who spoke to Bradley for the first time on Tuesday when informing him of the trade.
Dodger general manager Ned Colletti decided the Milton Bradley cause in Los Angeles was hopeless without even talking to him, as this quote from Ken Gurnick's MLB.com article indicates. The contradiction is stark. Was it that the mercurial Bradley couldn't be spoken to? That Colletti left messages and Bradley wasn't returning?
No. In the Times, Tim Brown writes that Colletti "tried everything short of contacting Bradley."
As far as I'm concerned, that means Colletti tried nothing.
"Colletti said he spoke to players on the roster," Brown writes, "but not directly to Kent, and those around the organization, including owner Frank McCourt, and concluded that Bradley would no longer be accepted among them."
That's not an attempt at reconcilation. That's a witchhunt. And even if were to be revealed that Bradley really was, in the end, a witch, I'm not at all impressed. The Dodgers and Colletti pulled the preschool end-around on Bradley.
No, baseball isn't a court of law, and if enough people don't want someone around - including, say, the team owner - that's not insignificant. And if you decide Bradley's health puts him at risk of not being worth a contract of $3 million or so, if you're just not interested in having him around regardless of his personality, that's not insignificant.
But as long as he's on your team, how can you not talk to him?
"No glimmer of hope," Gurnick quotes Colletti as saying. "The more information I received, the more it became clear it was irreconcilable. In the conversations I had, it was so definitively strong that in his case, his interest was in moving on.
Did Colletti determine what Bradley's preference was, what was in Bradley's best interest, by osmosis?
I want to take one final look at the Milton Bradley rap sheet as a Dodger:
1) Suspended after tearing off his uniform and throwing baseballs on the field in anger after an ejection.
2) Angrily threw a plastic bottle at the feet of some fans after the bottle was thrown at him by other fans.
3) Sparred with Times reporter Jason Reid, calling him an "Uncle Tom."
4) Took umbrage with Jeff Kent questioning his hustle, then aired out his grievances in the press against the express wishes of his team.
5) Drew police investigations into allegations of domestic abuse.
Let me just say I've seen managers commit the most theatrical versions of 1), that I've seen Dodgers go en masse into the stands in a manner even more destructive than 2), that many a ballplayer has had interactions with reporters worse than 3), and as for 4), well, even Odalis Perez is still in Los Angeles today.
And 5) was rendered irrelevant by the lack of charges being filed and the signing of Rafael Furcal.
The combination isn't pretty, and I can understand the rationale to exchange Bradley for a less volatile, and promising, ballplayer. The Dodgers didn't release Bradley. They traded him. They may lose the trade - as Mark Whicker writes in the Register, "One day Milton Bradley will make someone look bad, besides himself" - but it's an open question. At least Andre Ethier looks more promising to me than Henri Stanley.
But Colletti didn't talk to Bradley? In a year in which communication between Dodger management and subordinates has been questioned time and again, Colletti didn't even have a conversation with him? Dusty Baker flew in from Chicago and talked to Bradley, but Colletti, the people's GM, couldn't make the drive down the 710?
It'd be nice to know why. Bradley's sins were not so grim that he did not deserve a conversation.
If Paul LoDuca was the heart and soul of the Dodgers, Milton Bradley was the piss and vinegar. (Which is to say, neither was completely so.) Still, their Dodger careers were very different, and their departures were very different, and yet they have the common ground of how conflicted they leave me feeling.
Both Bradley and Antonio Perez Traded
The Milton Bradley Era in Los Angeles - and if anything was an era, this was - is over.
Ethier, who will turn 24 on April 10, had an .882 OPS with Midland in the Texas League last season, hitting 18 home runs. (Midland slightly favors pitchers, according to Baseball Think Factory.) On first glance, he would appear to do no more in the short term than make the Dodgers' highly regarded minor-league treasure chest even richer - he would be on the same career track as Joel Guzman, Andy La Roche and others - a maybe in 2006, a likely in 2007. Bradley, by comparison, had an .834 OPS in 75 major-league games last season. No word yet on what Ethier's defense and personality are like - but he may have Paul LoDuca's karma. Ethier was a 37th-round draft choice (1121st overall) in 2001, but then went to Arizona State and became a second-round pick in 2003.
The trade indicates Ned Colletti's eagerness to rid the Dodgers of Bradley's mental and physical uncertainties and Perez's defensive uncertainties. The Dodger outfield is practically threadbare, offering J.D. Drew, Jose Cruz, Jr. and Ricky Ledee as starters, which means that Ethier becomes a contender with other minor leaguers for major playing time unless/until the Dodgers acquire someone else.
My guess is that another acquisition is in the cards, but my question is whether Guzman is going to be converted to the outfield soon.
It's hard for me not to have mixed feelings about Bradley leaving. I'm feeling one long, slow exhale that he won't be part of the local angst anymore, but I'll certainly be rooting for him to get everything together - to be a productive citizen on the field and off.
Catfish Stew has the A's perspective.
Update: Dodger Thoughts commenter King of the Hobos points out that Ethier won the Arizona Fall League Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award last month.
Mychael Urban of MLB.com writes that "frustrated by his inability to reach new Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti at last week's annual Winter Meetings in Dallas, A's GM Billy Beane stopped pursuing a trade for Los Angeles outfielder Milton Bradley and shifted his focus to free agent slugger Frank Thomas." That wouldn't have happened with DePodesta in charge ...
Update 2: Jeff Kent, the Dodgers just traded your nemesis and weakened themselves for the coming year. Feeling conflicted?
Update 3: Rob McMillin of 6-4-2 has pointed out that Ethier was the 2005 Texas League Player of the Year.
I'm not convinced this is a bad trade, in the sense that I'm not convinced Ethier won't end up having the best major league career or the most long-term value of the players involved. I'm certainly not sold on the deal - I just don't have enough information to necessarily conclude it was a mistake.
At Ethier's age, Bradley was coming off a barely there major league debut, on his way to a passable but mediocre age-24 season. Ethier might be one year behind Bradley in development. If he's healthier, Ethier could make up that difference in due course.
Do keep in mind, as you evaluate him, that Ethier was 31 months older than Guzman while playing in the same league in 2005.
Update 4: Colletti said Bradley had no chance left in Los Angeles, reports John Nadel of The Associated Press:
"I went into it with the idea of trying to keep him a Dodger," Colletti said. "It was clearer and clearer there was no way to make this thing work. I got no glimmer at all that it could work."
Colletti said he didn't speak with Bradley until Tuesday.
"I was looking for a way to mediate," Colletti said. "I was looking for a way to keep him. At every turn, I just got stopped. I got it from a lot of different places including inside the clubhouse, outside the clubhouse, people who have known him very well and have known him for a long time.
"There hasn't been a day gone by where I haven't talked to somebody about this."
AP adds, as I suspected, that Ethier will start the 2006 season in AAA.
Please Follow This Link
... to here.
The DePo Era
Just as Paul DePodesta was fired as Dodger general manager, I was wrapping up my chapter on "The DePo Era" for The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006. The book itself is a terrific compilation of statistics and essays, and believe me, it is an honor for people like myself, Alex Belth of Bronx Banter, Aaron Gleeman, Dave Studeman and Steve Treder of The Hardball Times, and Matt Welch to appear in the same pages as Bill James and Rob Neyer.
For obvious reasons, I can't print my entire chapter here, but here is a 200-word excerpt from the 5,000-word piece:
Stripped of the emotional backstory, DePodesta was almost conventional. Like most general managers, DePodesta alternated between intense activity and dormancy. He made obvious moves and risky ones. He made bad moves and good ones.
As is often the way with writing, I started "The DePo Era" worried about filling the space I was given - and ended up giving the editors too much. So here are some charts that didn't make the publication, charts that track every DePodesta transaction. The Win Shares Above Bench-After Transaction figures cover the period for each player from the date of the transaction through the end of the 2005 season.
DePodesta Transaction Summary
^traded for cash considerations
During 2004 Season
*signed as a free agent
**let go as a free agent or on waivers
^traded for cash considerations
Between 2004 and 2005 Seasons
*signed as a free agent
**let go as a free agent or on waivers
***selected in the Rule 5 draft
^traded for cash considerations
During 2005 Season
^traded for cash considerations
Remember - this is the stuff that didn't make the book, so I hope that some of you get a glance at the chapter in print.
And I Would Like a Pony
The Dodgers have notified the agents for Roger Clemens, 43, that they would be interested in the seven-time Cy Young Award winner should he decide to pitch again. General Manager Ned Colletti spoke to Randy and Alan Hendricks after the Houston Astros declined to offer salary arbitration to Clemens last week.
- Tim Brown in the Times
Our Timmermann Acorn Becomes an Oak
Imminently - but whenever he's ready - our very own Bob Timmermann is going to get his own spot running The Griddle, the worldwide baseball slice of Baseball Toaster. This man has needed a showcase for his wit and wisdom for a long time, and it's gratifying to see that he's accepted the opportunity to have it with us.
Hopefully, he'll still visit Dodger Thoughts, but whether it's here or there, I know you'll continue to enjoy reading him.
Dodgers Add Dead Weight
The question of why a young catcher must be mentored by a worn-out veteran catcher on the roster instead of a vibrant catching coach off the roster lingers unresolved.
For $650,000, Sandy Alomar, Jr. ...
Alomar hit .273 without a home run in 46 games this year, and he did not throw out any of 17 opposing base stealers.
... is now a Dodger.
The headline on the latest from The Associated Press answers a lot of questions about the kind of media coverage the Dodgers will get in 2006:
Grady Little entertains the L.A. media
Meanwhile, Little's predecessor in Pittsburgh, Jim Tracy, gave a long interview during this week's winter meetings. The transcript is here. It's a bit wordy.
And in other news, the McCourts have hired the son of Massachusetts (shock) Governor Mitt Romney as the Dodgers new Chief Marketing Officer (though I thought the McCourts were supposed to be the brand). Tagg Romney, also with the double consonants at the end of his first name, was vice president of on-field marketing for Reebok.
Guzman, Rule 5 and Other Minor League News
First, a leadoff thought. There has been much talk that the signing of Rafael Furcal means the end of minor league prospect Joel Guzman's shortstop career. But if Guzman were to tear it up in AAA at the start of 2006 and field passably (and if Hee Seop Choi doesn't nail down the first base job), is there no chance that Guzman could get called up, Furcal would move to second base, Jeff Kent to first, and that Cesar Izturis would be traded? This certainly would be nice, because whatever offensive value Guzman will have in the big leagues will only be multiplied if he can hold down a middle infield slot.
Of course, this scenario has a lot of ifs in it, not the least of which is whether Guzman will see an inning at shortstop in Las Vegas. Furthermore, Bill Mueller is not yet officially a Dodger, so third base is still open for Willy Aybar, Andy La Roche and Guzman.
But my point is, no one should consider Izturis playing second base in the second half of 2006 a done deal. As I've said before, too much can happen between now and then to know anything for sure. Heck, if the Dodgers aren't winning in June, Kent might be the one who gets traded.
Update: Meant to add earlier that Carlos J. Lugo posted this update about Guzman within his Dominican Winter League Report on Baseball Prospectus:
The Dodgers' Joel Guzman is continuing his steady development, a trend that started in 2004. Guzman is hitting .294/.370/.513 with 5 homers, 9 doubles, 26 RBI, 14 walks and 26 strikeouts in 119 at bats playing for the Estrellas. His notorious raw power has been on display more often in game action this year, and he's shown a much better understanding of the strike zone. Guzman has drawn a walk every 8.5 at bats and has struck out every 4.6, compared to 10.5 and 3.4 at Double-A during the summer. Joel told us at the season's start that former Dodger GM Paul DePodesta wanted him to concentrate more on his hitting and at bats, no matter where the Estrellas put him on the field. Guzman has played primarily at both infield corners, and recently was moved back to shortstop. He has committed eleven errors on the season.
Best Hitter for Average: Blake DeWitt
Read more about all of them in The Dodger Thoughts Comprehensive, Non-Definitive 2005 Minor League Report.
Luis Gonzalez, Jacksonville, 6-0, 190, 2/27/83: 2.21 ERA in 41 games with the Suns, interrupted indecorously by a midseason 9.31 in 10 games with Las Vegas. In Jacksonville, struck out 46 and walked 34 in 61 innings, but allowed only 35 hits and one home run.
Here's my snapshot of Weeden:
Brandon Weeden, Columbus, 6-4, 190, 10/14/83: Jeff Weaver and Yhency Brazoban made a difference for the Dodgers. Weeden, the third piece of Kevin Brown Yankee booty, who struck out 96 in 94 2/3 innings (top ratio in Columbus) but walked 69, gave up 13 homers and a 5.70 ERA ... maybe not. He was a second-round draft choice in 2002.
'The Office,' the Dodgers and the Relevance of Competency
The team in Scranton was in revolt, and the fans watching on television were once again agape. Already the standard bearer for bad leadership, Michael Scott, anti-hero, had taken it to an unprecedented low, destroying the Dunder Mifflin Christmas party and any sense of holiday cheer with his Molotov personality disorder of arrogance, pettiness, selfishness, jealousy, insensitivity and incompetence.
Daunted but not defeated, bereft of introspection but not of gumption, Scott set out during a commercial break to raise everyone's spirits from the dead. His plan was instinctive and therefore as ill-conceived as they come, providing fuel for the fire, arms for the mutinous.
He bought 15 giant jugs of vodka. About one for every person at the party. And started pouring. He started pouring alcohol for the angry.
And it worked.
Everyone had a ball. Alcohol is not the answer, and yet alcohol was the answer. And Michael Scott was none the wiser, to be sure.
For me, this half-hour of television worked like an Afterschool Special in its cautionary tale. We watch every move the Dodgers make. We look at some moves and know they are right and yet see them go wrong, and we look at some moves and know they are wrong and yet see them go right. Decision-making in baseball is always about odds, but the odds are always fallible.
When you're living or dying with baseball, it is tragedy. When you step back, baseball is comedy. It is Seinfeld, it is Chaplin, it is Molière. And competency is no longer as relevant as blind luck, or as Michael Scott would spin it from behind his office desk, "street smarts."
It's not that decision-making by your ne'er-do-well gut is the smart way to go. No, no, no. It's that smarts are not always rewarded. Sometimes, stupidity conquers all.
Don't Forget: Buy The Best of Dodger Thoughts
Copies of The Best of Dodger Thoughts began arriving in people's mailboxes this week. The Best of Dodger Thoughts is the brand new 325-page book featuring the top selections from this website since its creation in the summer of 2002, and is on sale now at Lulu.com.
Many of you coming to the site are new visitors who can only be just starting to catch up on what you've missed. For $25 - less than the price of a single good seat at a ballgame - you can enjoy the best of more than three years of Dodger Thoughts content, with sections on:
Preview the book by clicking here to open this PDF file, offering a snippet of the Vin Scully chapter.
The Best of Dodger Thoughts is a prime keepsake, offering fun and insightful perspectives on the Dodgers that you won't find anywhere else - ever. Don't put it off any longer. Your Dodger bookshelf is no longer complete unless The Best of Dodger Thoughts has a spot on it.
For only $25 (which entitles you to free Super Saver Shipping if you select that option), you can show your appreciation for this independent home for Dodger chat and commentary. The purchase price mostly covers the printing costs of the book, with the remainder supporting the ongoing presentation of Dodger Thoughts online. Consider The Best of Dodger Thoughts a gift for family, friends - or yourself.
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Thanks! And now, back to your regularly scheduled commenting ...
Fernando Valenzuela, a mere 45 years old, improved to 3-0 in the Mexican Pacific League with six innings of seven-hit, two-run, one-walk, one-strikeout ball Tuesday. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball America passed along the update. Getting it done with guile instead of strikeouts, Valenzuela's ERA is 3.72.
In other news ...
Once he passes the physical, Furcal will receive a $5 million signing bonus and a $4 million salary for 2006, but that salary jumps to $13 million for each of the following two seasons. Finally, he will receive a $4 million deferred payment in January 2009, by which time Furcal will be eligible for free agency again and might have played his last game in a Dodgers uniform.
Updates on Weaver, Saenz, Choi and Bradley
Jeff Weaver will get offered salary arbitration, Olmedo Saenz is close to returning, and of the outfield, pitching staff and the corner infield spots, first base is "the least of" Ned Colletti's concerns, according to Ken Gurnick's latest from the Dodger general manager on MLB.com.
Offering Weaver arbitration does not mean he will return to the Dodgers. Unless Weaver is willing to settle for a one-year contract - unlikely - it just means that the Dodgers would be compensated in the draft if Weaver signs elsewhere. On the other hand, it does leave open some possibility of a long-term deal in Los Angeles - if Weaver lowers his contract demands.
Wednesday is the deadline for teams to offer salary arbitration to their players - meaning that we'll find out within 26 hours and 20 minutes whether the Dodgers will at least get value for Milton Bradley and retain a chance of him being on the 2006 roster. The big news today was that Cubs manager Dusty Baker has had a nice meeting with Bradley.
Correction: Wednesday is the deadline for offering arbitration to free agents. For players who are still team property - like Bradley - the deadline is December 20. Thanks to Dodger Thoughts reader Molokai for the reminder.
A Little Surprise for Manager
Once again, the readers of the tea leaves have come up dry. The new Dodger manager is not Jim Fregosi, it's Grady Little, according to MLB.com.
Here's a little background from Ken Gurnick. Key points: Little was a catcher and a cotton farmer ...
His resume includes two seasons as bench coach of Cleveland under Charlie Manuel from 2000-2001, three seasons as the Red Sox bench coach under Jimy Williams from 1997-99, the 1996 season as bullpen coach of the San Diego Padres, and 16 years as a Minor League manager (10 of those seasons in the Atlanta organization).
After being drafted in the 12th round by Atlanta out of high school and a six-year playing career as a Minor League catcher, Little began his coaching career in 1974 in the Yankees system. He was out of baseball from 1975-79 as a cotton farmer in Texas, returning to Minor League ball in 1980 with the Orioles' rookie team and managing in that system through 1984. He spent one season managing in the Toronto system before moving to the Braves farm system.
Eight of Little's Minor League teams were in the postseason, four of them winning league titles. Little, who was born in Abilene, Tex., and lives in Pinehurst, N.C., is married with one child and two grandchildren. His younger brother, Bryan, played five seasons in the Major Leagues with the Expos, White Sox and Yankees.
Tim Brown of the Times adds his initial report.
Little brings two characteristics similar to those of Jim Tracy: popular with many players, and someone who became famous for staying with his starting pitching too long. Brown reprints these interesting quotes from the aftermath of his Little's firing (which came about from his decision not to replace a tiring Pedro Martinez in a critical American League Championship Series game).
Shortly before being let go, the folksy Little told the Boston Globe: "Right now I'm disappointed that evidently some people are judging me on the results of one decision I made not the decision, but the results of the decision. Less than 24 hours before, those same people were hugging and kissing me. If that's the way they operate, I'm not sure I want to be part of it.
"I know that wherever I go, I'll do the best I can. I know what we did there. I'm sorry the results of one decision caused so much pain, and it sure helped sell a lot of papers. I feel bad for it. But gol'dang, I can't turn back the clock and make another decision, not knowing whether the results of that decision are good or not."
I don't have an opinion yet on Little. He is a flawed winner, a redeemable loser. This sentiment - "I feel bad for it" - is something we never heard from Tracy in 2005.
Clearly, the people in Boston are having the reaction that many had when Tracy was hired in Pittsburgh. That's discouraging. (David Pinto at Baseball Musings thinks the Dodgers made the best choice among their finalists, but jokes: "He's also a manager that got fired over not using statistical information supplied to him by a young, Ivy League GM, so the L.A. Press should just love Grady.")
But I don't really know what to expect. I'll just wait for more information to come. I sure do hope it's not a repeat of 2005 - a manager whose ability to handle adversity is more reputation then reality.
Update: Rob McMillin relays the news at 6-4-2 (provided by Repoz at Baseball Think Factory) that just today, Tommy Lasorda endorsed Fregosi for the job. Having similarly whiffed before on his managerial whims, Lasorda is now on his return boat to Elba.
Update 2: The sense I am getting as I surf the Internet is that Little might make the right lineup, might play for the big inning and not be a slave to manufacturing runs, but is unreliable as an in-game tactician, both in timing bullpen switches and pinch-hitters. This is just the buzz I'm picking up.
Though it might make no difference, I can't imagine the hiring of Little impedes the future of Milton Bradley
Questions Only - A Milton Bradley Game
What does it say about Milton Bradley that ex-Dodger manager Jim Tracy appears eager to have him in Pittsburgh, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette indicates?
Why should the Dodgers be eager to get rid of Bradley if other teams are willing to get him?
I return you to the questions of last month:
If other teams are willing to acquire Bradley, however low the price, why shouldn't the Dodgers keep him?Can I pass on a), because our new general manager and eventual manager should be able to solve the Jeff Kent friction?
Is the truth, as the signing of double DUI Rafael Furcal indicates, that b) is off the table, and the Dodgers don't have to unload Bradley as badly as the rumors indicate?
Does the interest from Tracy and others eliminate c)?
Will the answer be e) the Dodgers can actually get more for Bradley than the rumors indicate? Or just plain old d)?
* * *
Oh, and would you read Travis Nelson at All-Baseball.com calling Furcal "a bargain at $39 million?"
Get Your Gargoyles
Season 2, Volume 1 of Gargoyles, the Disney television series co-created and produced by my brother Greg, goes on sale Tuesday. Let me urge you to get your copy right away.
This new three-DVD set includes 26 uncut episodes. One of the most important and enjoyable animated programs of the past two decades, Gargoyles is truly worth owning. Genres aside, if you think anything of the quality of writing that I do - well, understand that I learned a lot of what I know from my brother.
Let me quote from this review of the series when Season 1 came out on DVD last year:
What was initially stunning about Gargoyles was the number of taboos it broke. People fell to their deaths. Guns real guns, not science-fictional "blasters" were fired. People bled. And there were lines like, "Pay a man enough, and he'll walk barefoot into Hell." It was surprising enough to see things like that in TV animation, and doubly surprising to see it on an American show, let alone a Disney show.
To the show's credit, all of these things were contextual and therefore not sensationalized; when the shock wore off, viewers noticed that there was an interesting story with interesting characters backed by interesting visuals. Characters weren't black or white, but shades of grey (the show features one of my favourite animated villains precisely because he's not evil, but coolly amoral); and while the animation quality occasionally slipped normal for a TV production the design, framing and poses were almost generally strong.
Sound familiar? You bet. Those are the same features that draw people to anime. In fact, the first season was largely produced at Disney's Japanese studio, resulting in an all too rare synthesis of Japanese and American styles American character design and animation, Japanese economy, staging, effects and backgrounds. American anime? Maybe. A storytelling and visual delight, as well as a sadly unexplored new direction for Disney? Most definitely.
So even if you aren't familiar with Gargoyles, give it a look. You won't regret it. Gargoyles was an even bigger underdog than, say, Arrested Development is today, but it definitely merits a place in your DVD library.
(For more information about the show, click here.)
Manny Mota should be on Survivor, or whatever counts as the cool musical chairs reality show of the day. How has he survived in the Dodger organization, where there has been so much turmoil and so many others have been disappeared, long enough to play a role in making Rafael Furcal a Dodger?
* * *
Be sure to read the Dodger Thoughts stories from a busy weekend:
* * *
Anyone else do a double take when they read this headline in the Times today?
Johnson Booed, Beaten
Antonio Perez Recovering From Fractured Cheekbone
There hasn't been an official report from the Dodgers, but infielder Antonio Perez was hit in the face by a pitch playing for Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican League last month. (Here is a report in Spanish, as well as a follow-up.) Roughly translated, the injury to Perez's left cheekbone will take a long time to heal.
Folks in the Dodger Thoughts comments first alerted me to this news, though I hadn't seen a story link until tonight. Raul Tavares of Dominican Players confirmed via e-mail that Perez suffered a bone fracture. Perez is sitting out the rest of the Winter League season, but Tavares said that according to the reports he heard, Perez "is supposed to be ready for Spring Training."
Boston farmhand Anastacio Martínez of Estrellas de Oriente hit Perez with the first pitch of the game.
Just some afterthoughts to Saturday's Rafael Furcal news:
Comparison? In 2005, Giles had a 65.1 VORP, Furcal a 49.4 VORP. VORP doesn't include fielding ... so you can reduce the gap because of that, because Furcal has more fielding value. Furcal is about seven years younger and more likely to replicate or improve his performance. Giles is likely to decline.
1994: 85 (Dodgers)
* * *
Oh yeah - don't forget to read about "Big Choi" here.
As Choi puts it, life will throw many curve balls at these children, but confidence and practice are a surefire combination for a homerun.
Report: Furcal Agrees to Deal with Dodgers
If Steve Henson's report in the Times is accurate, by Monday (if not sooner) the Dodgers will officially announce one of the most surprising free agent signings in their history: Rafael Furcal for three years and $40 million.
I'm frankly stunned enough by it happening that I still haven't finished forming my reactions. The Dodgers are now paying nearly $17 million for shortstops next year. But my initial thoughts can be found in Friday's post, including a discussion of the following.
"Dodger shortstop Cesar Izturis, who won the Gold Glove award in 2004, is recovering from Tommy John surgery and is not expected to play until July," Henson writes. "With Furcal in the fold, Izturis is expected to move to second base and Jeff Kent would play first base."
I wouldn't get caught up in anticipating what will happen when Izturis returns. July, if that's even the month, is a long way off, and we'll have a lot more information about the team by then. Interestingly, though, this timetable might give the Dodgers cover to let Hee Seop Choi get a three-month trial (what else is new?) at first base. If he succeeded, the Dodgers would try something else to accomodate Izturis, including perhaps a trade. (In any case, the days of Izturis batting leadoff are over.)
Of course, where Choi is concerned, nothing is certain. Particularly since the Dodger offseason isn't over yet.
"The Dodgers plan to remain aggressive in the free agent market," Henson adds. "They are expected to sign either Bill Mueller or Joe Randa to play third base and have made offers to several free agent starting pitchers. Obtaining a power-hitting outfielder is also a priority."
* * *
A lineup based on the current roster ... Five switch-hitters (!), and seven lefties against right-handed pitching.
Furcal, SS (S)
Is this Furcal acquisition like getting the Delino DeShields of daydreams without trading a Pedro Martinez for him?
Los Angeles Bruins of Pasadena at Los Angeles Trojans
The excitement for the UCLA-USC game, 20-plus point spread or not, is why it's worth rooting for both the Angels and Dodgers to be great.
It's only football, but here's hoping for a great show.
Pursuit of Furcal Reopens Door for Bradley
Forget for a moment whether it's sensible for Dodger general manager Ned Colletti to be interested in signing free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal - forget for a moment whether it will even happen - and just think about what the interest itself means.
It would have been easy for Colletti to enter the season with Oscar Robles as the starting shortstop while Cesar Izturis recovers from his surgery. Robles can field, comes up with a clutch hit every couple of weeks, and has a good personality, a nice backstory and Vin Scully's fond support. Robles, like Izturis, generally matches what has been the idea of what a shortstop should be for most of baseball history.
Instead, Colletti has decided that however adequate the Dodgers might be at shortstop, the team should explore being better. Of course, this may mean that Colletti realizes that the Dodgers are far from adequate at shortstop at all - offensively, neither Robles nor Izturis were in the top 25 in EQA last season at the 6-hole, according to Baseball Prospectus. Furcal, on the other hand, was 10th. The fact that Robles and Izturis often batted leadoff adds to the importance of the distinction. In any case, Colletti is showing he isn't satisfied with mere acceptability - that even an incremental improvement is worth considering.
Colletti's interest is also a signal that the 2006 Dodger payroll might prove higher than some have predicted. Considering Furcal will make at least $10 million next season, his signing alone would boost the Dodgers above $80 million. Now, that doesn't mean the Dodgers wouldn't stop there - or even reverse course and trade some salary away. But the idea of eight figures for a shortstop is forcing payroll pessimists to raise an eyebrow.
(Remember, for the time being we're not discussing the sensibility of the offer. Just bear with me.)
Another noteworthy aspect of the speculation is that Mark Bowman of MLB.com reported, without attribution, that the Dodgers offered Furcal $13 million over three years. I'm passing this along despite my distaste for unsourced reports, because it is worth talking about even as a hypothetical.
First, it might be more savvy of Colletti to offer a player $39 million over three years than, say, $55 million over five years. While your annual cost is higher, your overall committment is lower. Three years from now, when the current Dodger crop of prospects has matured, the Dodgers might not need Furcal as much - and they could make up the extra 2006-2008 expenditures then, rather than being burdened by what ultimately would be an extra $16 million.
Second, this offseason, we've seen middle relievers, like B.J. Ryan, get five-year contracts. We've seen 38-year-old relievers, like Tom Gordon, get three-year contracts. All for big money. Baseball's salary structure, which had shown some signs of being tamed following the 2003 season, is gorging on donuts again and exploding in the middle. Last year, barely there starting pitchers like Russ Ortiz got huge deals. Now, in December 2005, we've only just begun to spend. Greenbacks and promises. A kiss for luck and we're on our way.
As a result, the extra money that the Dodgers might spend in the offseason might not yield any more talent than you might have expected to get. It just might mean a recogntion that inflation has hit again, and that while the Dodgers are still going to do the minimum to keep up with the Joneses, they realize that the minimum is higher.
Finally, and in some ways most importantly, there is the character issue. Furcal has two, count 'em, two convictions for drunk driving. Colletti's willingness to even meet with Furcal - regardless of whether he signs him or has even offered him a contract - surrenders any claim to populating the Dodgers with squeaky clean ballplayers. And you know the ramifications of that. We're back to talking to Milton Bradley.
So there is news this week, even if Furcal signs with the Cubs or Braves the second after I publish this piece.
Now, should the Dodgers be talking to Furcal?
Well, at 28, Furcal is a great age. His EQAs of .279, .267 and .274 are higher than the career-high of Izturis (.253 in 2004). Izturis tumbled at the plate last year, although I'm fairly certain some of that was due to physical ailments. Furcal might also be one of the few guys out there who matches or tops Izturis as a fielder, at least statistically - Furcal had a Rate 2 of 113 last year, while Izturis' best is 108.
So Furcal is a worthy ballplayer. If you're just adding him on like another children's drawing on your refrigerator, without regard to the other artwork and grocery lists already there, he's not going to hurt you at all.
He also might grant the Dodgers the luxury - or the necessity, depending on your point of view - of entering the season by giving Hee Seop Choi three months (the amount of time before Izturis is expected to play) to prove himself once and for all at first base.
However, if the offer to Furcal isn't a sign of organizational largesse, if it is instead a large commitment of scant resources to a specific area, then you have to be a little concerned. Because by summertime, if you're careless, you could end up with an infield of Jeff Kent at first, Izturis at second, Furcal at shortstop and Robles at third base. Not to mention continued questions about outfield depth.
Which brings us back to Bradley.
Let me reiterate - by showing any interest in Furcal, the Dodgers have already crossed the character line. Convictions for DUI are as serious as allegations of domestic abuse. At any moment, while operating a vehicle while under the influence, you put multiple lives in jeopardy. It is incredibly dangerous.
Perhaps Furcal has since been treated for his alcoholism - if so, that's wonderful. Regardless, Colletti, and by extension, Frank McCourt, can no longer talk about past character crimes (short of something even more serious, like murder or having been a fan of Home Improvement) as a reason not to allow someone in a Dodger uniform.
If the Dodgers had wanted to draw a line on Bradley based on his having gone anywhere near domestic violence, I would have understood, even though it ultimately might hurt their win-loss record. But now instead of drawing a line, they've erased it.
They can still bring up the chemistry issue if they want, but that is a much, much weaker position. So far, Bradley has not been reported to have had clubhouse friction with anyone besides Jeff Kent. So far, Bradley's passion for winning has been a net asset for the Dodgers. Public relations can take care of paving the way for Bradley's next chance.
They can still bring up the health issue if they want, although Bradley figures to heal, if not by April, probably by June. His salary could be adjusted accordingly.
But to sum up, the news of the week has already happened. By opening the door to Rafael Furcal, the Dodgers have re-opened the door to Milton Bradley. In my opinion, the Dodgers this week just improved their outfield depth.
This wouldn't be the first driving-related mishap for Rodriguez, who last year pleaded no contest to three misdemeanors (a hit and run, driving with a suspended license, and driving under the influence) stemming from two 2003 incidents in L.A. She was sentenced to 48 hours in jail, community service and treatment in a 30-day alcohol program.
We've got parallel situations going. ABC fired a supporting cast member from "Desperate Housewives" amid gossip reports of indecent exposure. That's the juicier crime, but not more serious than this.
In anticipation of the ensuing tangential discussion, let me say that, apparently unlike many others, I like Ana Lucia's character.
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Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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