Monthly archives: August 2006
In First on September First: Hang On
Originally published August 31, 2004.
Leading is easy, clinching is hard.
Even with a healthy lead in your pennant race, a relative eternity awaits before you get to raise the flag. This invites a tension that more often than not will be more than is necessary.
Most of the time you win with a September 1 lead - but you lose just enough to make it interesting.
August 30 Game Chat
The Unbearable Lightness of Blogging
So much to talk about ... so little time. I am here in spirit, if not in so many words ...
August 29 Game Chat
Solving the Food Line Crisis, Part II
Dodger senior vice president in charge of business operations Marty Greenspun's discussion with Steve Henson of the Times concerning the long food lines at Dodger Stadium manages to say almost nothing about the biggest aggravation: the ballpark's broken-down system for taking your order and providing your food.
It's hard to imagine anyone watching a concessionaire commence a country walk to the back to look for more hot dogs, leisurely distribute nacho cheese, or top off a beer as if executing the final brushstrokes on Boulevard of Broken Dreams and have any doubt about at least one of the major problems that needs to be solved.
"For the time being, Greenspun is pushing the company that provides concessions, Levy, to operate as efficiently as possible," Henson writes - the only reference to the issue that we see. Considering how long the problems have been going on, combined with the limitations on how many sales points can be opened, it appears this push has been meeting a shove.
How about Person A takes the order, and Person B gets it? And while Person B gets the order, Person A takes the next order. It's radical, but I've seen it work at ... just about every fast-food establishment in the world.
And while I recognize these people are not major league athletes, maybe they need more incentives to work quickly. I'm not expecting things to be like a pit stop at Indy, but it shouldn't be like drivetime on the 405, either.
Until then, Dodger food is like Dodger traffic. If you don't know a secret way to get around the backup, you'd better go early or prepare to miss a nice chunk of the game.
(Previously on Dodger Thoughts: Solving the Food Line Crisis)
Dodgers Walk Nine, Win
A blast of fire from Jonathan Broxton gets the called strike three to end it.
Elmer Dessens gets the hold with his three-run, four-out performance, but Brett Tomko goes holdless.
It Was 40 Years Ago Today ... Dodger Stadium Got the Beatles To Play
Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News revisits the Beatles' penultimate concert, which took place 40 years ago at Dodger Stadium. Good pics and links to be found. (Inside the Dodgers came across this sooner than I did.)
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Chad, Chad, He's So Rad
Chad Billingsley had 29 strikeouts in his past 29 innings going into Sunday's game, so I'm going to ignore the low strikeout total in his victory over Arizona, focus on his increasing mastery of the pitch count and his out-and-out success in preventing runs of late (1.50 ERA in 36 innings in the past month) and say hey, this guy flat-out helped save the Dodgers' season.
Not that Brad Penny, Derek Lowe and Greg Maddux haven't had their runs of success in the starting rotation, but Billingsley and Aaron Sele have secured themselves unlikely spots in the 20th-anniversary folklore of 2026 should the Dodgers take the National League West this year. They'll follow the fond look back at Steve Finley, Alex Cora and Jose Lima in 2024.
* * *
Without Julio Lugo around, Olmedo Saenz probably would have started at first base on Nomar Garciaparra's day off Sunday, and Jeff Kent would have stayed in second. Instead, Lugo started at second base, reached base twice and assisted on three double plays in support of Chad Billingsley, while Saenz popped out as a pinch-hitter. And yet, I'm still fairly confident that Saenz would have been a better choice to start.
Saenz's at-bats by month in 2006: 41, 41, 37, 31, 13. While most feel that Saenz will burn out if he plays too much, another byproduct of the Dodgers' infield overload is that his presence has become about as visible as the Miss America pageant. His at-bats have been productive - he's 4 for 13 with a homer and four walks this month (1.038 OPS), but they've been rare. Saenz has not started since August 6; perhaps we'll see him against a left-hander this week. Lugo's OPS this month remains low (.647).
In case you were wondering, yes, I have noticed Joel Guzman's slow start in the minor leagues with Tampa Bay. I'm not letting the first month of statistics by anyone involved in the deadline deals influence my views of them. I had an initial reaction - my subsequent review will be a while from now.
* * *
Andre Ethier has had some surefire ugly at-bats in the past two weeks, but the rookie actually has hit in seven of his past eight games (12 for 35, .343 batting average, two doubles, two triples, .514 slugging percentage). On the downside, Ethier has struck out 12 times since his last walk - there's your ugliness - and is emerging at least anecdotally as a Nomar Garciaparra-like early in the count swinger.
We'll see if he can continue his success for 10 more games or 10 more years, but for now, even though they know he's swinging, pitchers haven't been able to get him out very often.
Ethier's batting average on balls in play has tapered ever-so-slightly, remaining a high .391. I have to believe that someday, that figure will come down no matter how talented he is, taking a hefty chunk out of his batting average. But I do think he's got the power to remain productive.
Update: Former Dodger holdout Luke Hochevar's debut in the Kansas City organization has gone well - Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus has this update:
The number one pick in June made the third start of his pro career on Saturday, and it was business as usual as Hochevar struck out five over 3.1 innings while giving up an unearned run on three hits and a walk. With 9.1 innings in the books, the former Tennessee star has a perfect ERA of 0.00, giving up four singles and two walks while striking out 10. He'll have one more regular season start on Friday, and then it will be off to the desert for some Arizona Fall League action. His command is still a bit rusty from the time off, but he's already pitching at 93-94 mph and touching 96 while also showing a plus breaking ball. Mid-2007 for a big league debut is well within reach.
Goldstein adds this regarding Dodger AAer Jonathan Meloan:
Sleeper alert! A fifth-round pick in 2005 out of Arizona, Meloan missed the first five weeks of the season with a sore elbow, and has been treated with kid's gloves since returning, pitching in short stints every five days or so. The thing is, nearly every time he goes out, he's untouchable. On Friday it was no different as Meloan whiffed five over a pair of hitless innings, giving him 21 strikeouts in 9.2 Double-A innings and 89 punchouts overall in 51 frames across three levels. This is not a nifty, tricky pitcher fooling hitters with marginal stuff. Meloan is sitting at 92-94 mph, touching 97, and his curveball has morphed into a plus-plus spiking monster. 2007 could be a coming out party for him when the Dodgers take the reigns off.
Emmy Chat Thread
Although apparently no one in the country was going to watch tonight, I am.
Kelly MacDonald just scored a George Mason-like upset (and well-deserved) in the best supporting actress category for a movie. She beat Shirley Jones, Ellen "17 Seconds" Burstyn, Alfre Woodard and Cloris Leachman. That's almost like beating four No. 1 seeds.
Baseball chat remains welcome here.
Hendrickson Pushed Back
Mark Hendrickson's next start is being pushed back a day so that Brad Penny can take his turn Monday on four days' rest, according to Bill Plunkett of the Register. An off day followed Penny's last start Wednesday.
Another off day arrives for the Dodgers this coming Thursday, which will give Derek Lowe an extra day to recover from being hit at the base of the left thumb. Lowe had been on his way to giving the Dodger bullpen a nice rest before getting hit in the fourth inning of last night's game - instead, the Dodger bullpen has thrown 36 2/3 innings in its past nine games, Plunkett said.
The good news Saturday, alongside the fact that Jeff Kent's ninth-inning home run gave the team one more run than it had allowed that evening, was that Jonathan Broxton got the victory by throwing only one pitch. That was efficient.
Broxton had thrown 32 pitches in one inning the night before (infield single, walk, wild pitch, intentional walk, pop out, fielder's choice, strikeout), which partially explains why Dodger manager Grady Little removed him after that single pitch to allow Takashi Saito to get the save. Still, with the bullpen stretched out, I'm a little surprised Little didn't leave Broxton in. Saito, who threw 25 pitches while allowing an 11th-inning unearned run Friday, closed out the Diamondbacks on nine pitches Saturday.
* * *
With the choice to recall Tim Hamulack as a replacement for Giovanni Carrara came the clear sentiment that the Dodgers want Hong-Chih Kuo to remain a starting pitcher. That gives us one more thing to look forward to in Spring Training 2007.
Carrara will probably return to the Dodgers shortly after rosters expand. Even if another team were to show interest - a dubious possibility, considering that he has allowed 10 runs in 9 1/3 August innings - Carrara probably would rather be in Los Angeles - mop-up man or not.
Remember when Carrara got that save? It was less than two weeks ago.
* * *
Ramon Martinez is 1 for 10 with no walks since July 29. The arrival of Julio Lugo seemed to render both players irrelevant.
Lugo's agent, Dan Lozano, told the Times that the Dodgers should trade Lugo if they aren't going to start him. Who asks for a trade on August 26?
People have seen what Lugo can do playing every day for a loser for years. Yeah, I guess it doesn't look good for a potential free agent if he can't beat out Wilson Betemit for a starting job - but it's not like third base is Lugo's true position. Anyway, at this point, Lugo's got a good chance of impressing if he makes just a few contributions to a winner in September or October. Plus, he's only one injury to the vulnerable Dodger infield away from starting.
* * *
Jason Repko, meanwhile, is 6 for 37 with a double and a walk (.451 OPS) since his return from the disabled list. Look for Repko to OPS 1.000 against the Dodgers while leading off in center field for Arizona in 2011.
* * *
John Wooden visits the Angel and Yankee clubhouses. Even if you normally skip T.J. Simers, this is worth a read.
We're at Angel Stadium, and John Wooden is eating a hot dog "relish only, please," and talking about the sport he loves the most.
"Baseball," he says. "The Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers could be playing for the championship, and I'd rather be here watching the Angels and Yankees." Then Wooden pulls out his wallet, removing a newspaper clipping he must treasure carefully packaged along with a picture of his wife, Nellie, who was 15 at the time.
"Now it can be told," the old clipping begins, Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Joe Brown confirming that while at a dinner in Los Angeles years ago, Brown asked the UCLA basketball coach if he would like to manage the Pirates.
Wooden said no, but according to the newspaper story, when Brown was asked what if Wooden had said yes, Brown replied, "I would have hired him. He could handle any job."
Wooden shakes his head and laughs. "I keep it in my wallet because it's so ridiculous. It would be flattering if it made sense. But it's like I told Brown, 'Who do you think would be fired first if I was hired? You for hiring me.' "
* * *
In an all-too-typical scenario, when it was my wife's turn to get the boy Friday, he woke up at 7:45 a.m. When it was my turn this morning, he woke up at 5:15.
Yeah, I know how the Dodgers feel ...
August 25 Game Chat
NL Win Paces
100 New York
Scooter Doesn't Know
The following came from an e-mail by sabermetrician John Eigenauer:
I have watched every one of Chad Billingsley's starts this year. Up until his last start, he relied on a fastball and a hard overhand curveball that dropped downward. In his last start, perhaps one third of his pitches were sliders - a pitch that I have not seen him throw all season. He abandoned the overhand curve except for two or three pitches, which he had thrown about one third of the time before this.
While I have seen many pitchers introduce a new pitch at the start of the year (Ryan's changeup, for example), and others throw a new pitch a few times in a game (in the middle of the season), I have never seen a pitcher switch so quickly to a new pitch and use it so frequently in the middle of the season.
Since I don't see a lot of games besides Dodgers, Angels, and ESPN games, I am eager to know if others have seen pitchers introduce new pitches in the middle of the season and throw them frequently.
Scooter, the Fox baseball TV mascot, doesn't know. Neither does Casey, Bob Timmermann's cat. What say you?
Can't He Still Buy the Corsage?
Following the John David Booty path, 16-year-old top baseball prospect Robert Stock from Agoura High is skipping his senior year of high school and has already begun classes at USC, according to Alan Matthews of Baseball America. Stock will be eligible to play for the Trojans in the upcoming 2007 season.
"I have a grasp on it," Robert Stock said Wednesday night, "but I'm sure within the next week or so, it's really going to hit me that, 'Wow, I'm in college right now.'
"Missing my senior year in high school, not getting to take part in all these activities ... I will definitely miss not going to the prom with my girlfriend; I've known her since the sixth grade. And I'll definitely miss playing baseball with my little brother (Richard). I haven't played with him since I was little, and I definitely will miss that."
Stock, who was named Baseball America's Youth Player of the Year in 2005 as a 15-year-old, met early academic admission requirements based on several criteria outlined in Rule 188.8.131.52 of the NCAA's early admission program. Stock ranked in the top 20 percent of his high school class and has completed each of his core class requirements, except English. He also had the required GPA of at least 3.5 in each of his last four high school semesters. He then had to apply for a waiver from the NCAA that would grant him eligibility to play baseball at USC, which he received. His 1410 SAT score helped him overcome the final stumbling block of getting into Southern California through its Resident Honors Program, which allows about 30 elite students who have demonstrated exceptional maturity to enroll in the university a year early. ...
Stock has been the talk of amateur baseball for more than three years. His fastball was clocked as high as 90 mph when he was 14, and he has developed a penchant for performing well on the biggest of stages. He started on the mound for the West in August's Aflac All-American game and homered to center field in the seventh inning. This spring as a junior at Agoura (Calif.) High, Stock came down with an inflamed rotator cuff in his right shoulder and decided it was best to concentrate on hitting and catching this summer.
The move closes the door on a 2007 pro payday for Stock, but will allow him three years in college while still enabling him to be draft-eligible at age 19.
But why can't he still go to the prom? Agoura's not a long way from L.A. Do he and his girlfriend have to break up? Are there now rules against collegians attending high school proms? Is it a coolness issue? I'm not trying to pry...
Oh - maybe he already knows that USC's schedule conflicts with the prom. Bummer.
Gagne: Did I Say Hometown Discount? I Meant ... Well, You Do the Math
Score one for the skeptics. From Allison Ann Otto of the Press-Enterprise:
A day after saying that he would accept a discount to re-sign with the Dodgers, Eric Gagne backed off that statement.
"All I'm looking for is fairness," the 2003 Cy Young winner said. "Hopefully I'll get that. I want to be a Dodger. I've been here. I know everyone. I've been treated with respect."
As for a discount, he said, "I don't think that's the right word."
Maybe the word he's looking for is, "Inconceivable!!!"
There are bigger hurdles for Gagne remaining a Dodger than his battles with semantics. After presumably buying out his 2007 option, the Dodgers do have an exclusive window to negotiate with Gagne on a short-term, incentive-laden contract. But those negotiations will be hindered by doubt concerning Gagne's ongoing recovery from injuries. And once that window expires - either in December if the Dodgers take the risk of offering Gagne salary arbitration, or in January if Gagne declines the offer, they cannot resign Gagne until May 1.
Meanwhile, every other team in baseball will be allowed to talk contract with Gagne in the months leading up to Spring Training - which is the time that a team could make the most informed decision about him.
The rules that discourage loyalty between player and team are an ongoing problem for baseball. In the sport's efforts to make sure the player's most recent team doesn't have an unfair advantage in negotiations, baseball has legislated a decided disadvantage.
* * *
Except for the aforementioned Vin Scully and friends, and perhaps Padres manager Bruce Bochy, no one was at their best last night - not Brad Penny, not Grady Little, not Julio Lugo, not the umpires, etc. Given how many breaks were going the Dodgers' way during their winning streak, it's hard to be surprised by this. But it was just one game of one series, and the Dodgers still left town not only in first place in the National League West, but third in the National League.
In the face of latent theories of Padre domination, Ken Gurnick writes at MLB.com that this was the first home San Diego sweep of Los Angeles since 1999, and the first time ever that the Padres have swept three series in a season from the Dodgers.
As I've said before, the difference between a great player and a lesser player is in how many times they are great. None are always great; none are always terrible. Even the best Dodgers are somewhere below the best in the majors. But they will bounce back, and it's just a matter of how often.
* * *
Some late-season defensive stats were posted at Baseball Think Factory by Chris Dial. Dave Studeman of The Hardball Times calls Dial's numbers "probably the best fielding rankings available during the season."
In the comments of the thread, Mitchel Lichtman, who pioneered the respected but rarely public Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), wrote, "Chris' numbers are so close to UZR that I would swear that he hacked into my computer!"
How the Dodgers fare:
Above Average: Nomar Garciaparra
In case you haven't heard, the Tangotiger 2006 Scouting Report by the Fans for the Fans is back and ready for your participation. It's a compliment to attempts to evaluate fielding statistically, inviting you to bring your observations to the head of the class.
Praise Be To Vin
Vin Scully and his crew on Fox Sports Net covered tonight's ejections of Dodgers Julio Lugo, Grady Little and Brad Penny exceptionally, remaining professional throughout, offering measured but pointed commentary and yet never resting on an initial impression. Vin never acted superior or like he had all the answers (though if anyone had the right to, he did).
With Vin's analysis and the production team's replays from every angle, they went out of their way to report the story as calmly, clearly and thoroughly as possible, without histrionics or homerism, and I really think that needs to be noticed. In what was otherwise a dog of a game for the Dodgers, they provided a role model for any sports broadcasting team.
August 23 Game Chat
You can have it both ways if you want.
You can dream of dancing among the clouds when the Dodgers win 17 out of 18 and then dream of their graves when they lose four out of six, not to mention 10 of their past 11 to San Diego.
But the season is a marathon, and not even the champion wins every mile. The champions win despite their limitations, not because those limitations don't exist.
While it was surprising to see the Dodgers play .944 ball for nearly three weeks, they never stopped being a team that could drop two in a row to their closest division rival. The significance of the current series in San Diego is only that it reminds those who had forgotten that no one has unrolled a blue carpet for the Dodgers to reach the postseason. The Dodgers are going to have to run the marathon that much longer.
And they may yet lose. We know that all too well.
Still, if the Dodgers weren't 3-10 against San Diego, they'd be 3-10 against some other team. San Diego is 14-24 against the other National League West teams. It's not a mental block. It's baseball. If you take pleasure in the Dodgers taking out the National League ERA leader in Florida during the winning streak, you have to accept them losing to a No. 1 draft choice called up from the minors in San Diego during the brief losing streak.
In fact, there was a real positive to take from the latest loss Tuesday. Mark Hendrickson had his best game as a Dodger. Whatever advantages there were in facing the San Diego Padres offense in San Diego, California, at least Hendrickson showed he was capable of taking advantage of them, reinforcing the fact that he's not truly awful, just depressingly inconsistent and therefore merely mediocre.
Unfortunately, the Dodgers were at the disadvantage of facing Jake Peavy, still the Padres' most talented pitcher. As a statistical analysis by Rich Lederer last month on Baseball Analysts showed, Peavy has been very much the same pitcher that he was last year, despite his disappointing win-loss record - and now he has a much-needed stronger set of contact lenses to boot. (Vin Scully said on the broadcast last night that Peavy is legally blind without them.) To me, it's says more about the two teams that the Dodgers held San Diego to one run with their No. 5 starter than the Dodgers getting shut out by the Padres' No. 1.
The Dodgers are a package that reaches base at an above-average rate, sometimes gets good pitching, but struggles with the home run and occasionally gets hammered. This is a package that is going to win some and lose some. With six miles to go in the race, I don't know how one could know how it will turn out. All I know is that the performance against one team doesn't matter all that much.
In other notes:
"(Boras) is my agent," Gagne told Jackson. "I'm not his player."
Dodger general manager Ned Colletti didn't sound overcome with optimism.
"I guess we're open-minded," Colletti said to Jackson. "We'll see where the winter takes us."
According to Allison Ann Otto of the Press-Enterprise, Dodger manager Grady Little is happy to see the otherwise unproductive Green (below-average .258 EQA this season) go out of sight for a while.
"Anytime somebody gets rid of an ex-Dodger we appreciate it," Little said. "It seems like they've done a lot of damage against us."
Green is batting .439 (18 for 41) with two home runs and seven RBI against the Dodgers this year.
Some are wondering about the Diamondbacks trading Green while still in the race for the division title, but with players like talented rookie Carlos Quentin (from Stanford) having arrived and needing playing time, others are calling it addition by subtraction.
The truth is that in this perverted sports climate, the other team is never just allowed to be better, even for a day, let alone a series or a season. No, no. Blame must be affixed. Heads must be severed.
Once upon a time, losing brought a brief period of sorrow. Now it brings rage. The rest of the season, I fear, will not be much fun.
Let's not be like that.
Blake Is Upset at the Pilot Pen
Guess he'll be using Bic from now on.
The Good, the Bad, the Drew
Debate has recently stepped up regarding the value of J.D. Drew. At this moment, I don't intend to offer a resolution, but just some information from Baseball Prospectus (some of which others have previously presented in the comments). The rankings refer to Drew's place among major-league rightfielders with 200 plate appearances or more:
On-base percentage: .374, ninth
Slugging percentage: .453, 19th
Equivalent Average: .280, 15th
Value Over Replacement Player: 18.3, 10th
* * *
The Things People Write About the Things People Say
How do you quote someone?
Two articles in the Times this week - one baseball-related, the other anything but - had almost nothing to do with each other except making me think about this question.
Progress Report on Gagne (Progress Being Relative)
Ken Gurnick of MLB.com checked in with Eric Gagne today. Just remember, if your glass isn't half full, maybe the answer is a smaller glass.
Gagne also has a 2005 elbow nerve operation and a 1997 Tommy John elbow reconstruction on his medical record, but he said the disk injury was the most painful thing he's ever experienced.
"I don't know what I did, no idea, but one day I'm on the floor, throwing up and crying like a baby," he said. "The worst night I've ever had, by far. Dr. [Robert] Watkins said it was really bad, but he said he got it all and he's confident I'll come back.
"I've already seen a lot of progress. I've gone from throwing up on the floor to walking, and now to almost running on a treadmill. Once in a while, I get a little pain down to the butt, but it doesn't go down my leg to my foot like it did when it happened. It's just a matter of time. There's no quick fix."
Gagne is six weeks into a back rehab he was told would take from three to five months. He said he will be working in the offseason with Phoenix-based physical therapist Brett Fischer, who helped Randy Johnson rebound from back surgery and stresses core exercises.
Gurnick also reported that infielder Julio Lugo isn't 100 percent - and hasn't been since he arrived in Los Angeles. According to trainer Stan Johnston, Lugo is suffering from a ligament injury near his right middle fingertip that prevents him from fully straightening the finger (which, sadly for him, presumably makes Lugo safe to heckle). The Dodgers, bless their hearts, are hoping surgery isn't required.
* * *
Dodger pitcher Chad Billingsley looked extra sharp the first three innings tonight, before leaving with the score tied, 2-2. He was going after the strike zone with tenacity and oomph, hitting his spots often and barely missing on other pitches. With two out in the bottom of the fourth, Billingsley had lowered his season ERA to 3.00 exactly (24 earned runs in 72 innings).
Billingsley struck out five in five innings and would have been in line for a victory had J.D. Drew gotten low enough to catch a dying quail by Todd Walker to drive in the tying run with two out in the fifth. Alas ...
Betemit's Bump in the Road
At least temporarily, the Dodger third-base blues are back: Infielder Wilson Betemit has fallen into a 4-for-25 slump with three walks and no extra-base hits (.401 OPS). His overall EQA as a Dodger, according to Baseball Prospectus, has dropped to .266, the same that Willy Aybar's was before they were traded for each other.
That being said, Aybar's EQA with Atlanta was .196 before he went on the disabled list.
* * *
Saito Was Huge Sunday
His ball hops like a boy bouncing off a trampoline.
Oh, and that Derek Lowe was pretty good, too.
But yeah, I got nervous after Kent's error. Really nervous. Not having a flatballer on the mound when things got scary made a nice difference.
Fear in New York?
The New York Mets are a lock for the playoffs, while the Dodgers have a mess of games to worry about before they get in, but that hasn't stopped Joel Sherman of the the New York Post from looking west:
The biggest threat to the Mets has the fewest homers in the NL, a 2006 dossier that includes 13 losses in 14 games to begin the second half and a manager best known as an October fool.
And, oh yeah, the Dodgers are not just a threat to the Mets in 2006. They are a threat to what the Mets could so recently envision being an era when they would dominate the National League. Los Angeles has the dynamic duo of financial resources and, perhaps, the majors' best young talent base.
"The Dodgers are a big-market team with a $100 million-plus payroll and they have better young players than the Mets have," said an NL GM. "Now [on] the Mets' left side of the infield [Jose Reyes and David Wright] are two of the best players in the game. But the Mets don't have depth in pitching and the pitching is old. But they do have the wherewithal to sign pitching every year."
In 2006, at the least, the Mets were cruising along under the belief that they were far superior to the rest of the NL competition. But as our NL GM said, "The Dodgers might have a better team than the Mets, right now."
Hey, it's an honor just to be noticed. But even if one were to dismiss this as worrying for the sake of worrying, there is still more nervousness coming out of the east.
With Pedro Martinez already on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right calf, fellow Mets starting pitcher Tom Glavine has come down with something potentially more serious, according to Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News.
Tom Glavine's health and his season are in jeopardy, a potentially crushing blow to the pitcher as well as to the Mets' World Series ambitions, the Daily News has learned. Sources said the southpaw has experienced coldness in a finger on his pitching hand, and that the cause of the alarming condition isn't yet known.
The 287-game winner is scheduled for a CT scan tomorrow, while an angiogram is planned for Wednesday.
Doctors are unsure whether the problem is related to a blood clot or possibly a "knot" in an artery near his left shoulder. Depending on the diagnosis, Glavine could miss little time or the rest of the season. The "knot" could require invasive surgery, while a clot might be able to be dissolved and limit the time lost. ...
Minus Martinez and Glavine, the Mets would be left with a rotation headed by Steve Trachsel, Orlando Hernandez and John Maine. Brian Bannister and Oliver Perez are available at Triple-A Norfolk, while 2005 first-round pick Mike Pelfrey is nursing a strained lat (back) muscle.
Fortunately for the Mets, they have enough of a cushion in the National League East to have until October to get their pitching staff back in order, whereas the Dodgers are still trying to ensure their plus-.500 status.
* * *
Baddest play of the year? It came after Greg Maddux's leadoff double in the second inning Saturday.
Bad decision: Having speedy, hot-hitting Rafael Furcal try to bunt the slow boat to China Basin, i.e. Maddux to third base.
Bad jump: Maddux was practically still in neutral when the ball was being bunted.
Bad bunt: Furcal bunted right to Giants pitcher Brad Hennessey.
Bad coverage: Pedro Feliz was playing in, anticipating the bunt, and shortstop Omar Vizquel was trailing Maddux, so Hennessey had no one at third base to throw to.
Bad throw: Hennessey then turned and threw the ball wide of first base and into right-field foul territory.
Bad block: With Maddux having scored and Furcal streaking toward third, Feliz couldn't block the one-hop throw from second baseman Ray Durham (who got the error).
Bad backup: Not really, but it certainly wasn't great. Hennessey got to the ball and threw home, but Furcal scored without incident.
Maddux, who added a sacrifice fly when he batted again in the inning, had a batting line of 1 1 1 1 and a 10-run lead before he faced Barry Bonds for the first time in the game.
* * *
Bonds, his back ailing, is not expected to play today.
Test Your Reaction Time
Contrary to unpopular belief, Brad Penny averages six innings per start. That doesn't make him an ace, but he's still better than average on the Dodger staff. For 2006, Dodger starting pitchers are averaging 5.77 innings per start.
A lot of us talk about wanting our starters to pitch more innings. But we look at the Dodgers, with perhaps the least durable starting rotation in team history and a relief corps that has only recently stopped being a heart attack, and what do we find?
So yeah, if a Dodger starting pitcher went an extra inning - on the dubious premise that he didn't give up a run in that inning - and the team were spared an extra inning from its weakest reliever, then yeah, that probably helps.
Mostly, though, I'm left thinking, maybe it's not such a big deal.
* * *
Ethie, Ethier, Ethiest
The nation learns about Andre Ethier. At least, the SI.com-reading nation:
How does a guy post better numbers in the major leagues than he did in the minors? How does a guy acquired in a giveaway trade end up carrying the offense of a postseason contender?
Also on SI.com is John Donovan's current all-rookie team, which features Ethier in the outfield, Takashi Saito and Jonathan Broxton in the bullpen behind Boston's Jonathan Papelbon and Russell Martin as a backup catcher to Seattle's Kenji Johjima.
* * *
"I don't know. We're going to get the radio talk show to take calls, do a survey and whatever they want me to do I'll do it."
- Little, on how he plans to deal with questions about the Dodger starting rotation (Allison Ann-Otto, Press-Enterprise)
What can I say? The man makes me laugh.
* * *
Update: Dodger farmhands Scott Elbert and Clayton Kershaw are Nos. 1 and 2 on Kevin Goldstein's list of left-handed pitching prospects in the minors at Baseball Prospectus today.
The Hot Seat Finally Finds Hendrickson
There were two schools of thought when Mark Hendrickson arrived in Los Angeles. He was either a nothing pitcher who was getting lucky this year, or he was a once-nothing pitcher who had finally arrived. (You can see what I thought here and here.)
As time passed, and Hendrickson showed himself unable to keep runners off base, more people came over to School No. 1. Today, there was probably a stampede.
Still, the reason that Hendrickson's spot in the Dodger rotation hasn't really been in jeopardy was that unlike Chad Billingsley, Hendrickson wasn't wild. Prior to coming to Los Angeles, Hendrickson had walked more than three batters in a game just once this year. Furthermore, in 2005, Hendrickson walked 2.5 batters per nine innings.
Hendrickson's main task when he was acquired was to provide enough innings to cut the Dodger bullpen a break, and independent of how many runs he was allowing in the process, that's what he did. Although Billingsley has never pitched fewer than five innings for the Dodgers, his control problems preserved a fear that he would.
But with today's third-inning knockout, Hendrickson has now walked 16 in his past 21 1/3 innings. My guess is that the control problems are an aberration, but the improvement that Billingsley has shown could force a reevaluation of Hendrickson even if one assumes (much less fears) he'll find the strike zone again.
The Dodgers are not skipping any starters with Thursday's off day, but when Hendrickson's next turn in the rotation comes Tuesday in San Diego, it could be Aaron Sele taking his spot.
Of course, Sele had his own problems today. As far as today's game goes, if Hendrickson, Sele and Giovanni Carrara are going to get blasted, it might as well be in the same day.
At a minimum, I think Billingsley is safely the No. 4 starter for a while.
* * *
There's talk that with Elmer Dessens coming off the disabled list later this week, James Loney would go to Las Vegas until rosters expand September 1. The problem with that is that Loney is the only left-handed bat off the bench when a right-handed pitcher starts for the opposition.
Giovanni Carrara or Ramon Martinez are the guys who should come off the roster, because Dessens and Julio Lugo render them practically irrelevant. But those are potentially more complicated transactions. Carrara, for example, can't be optioned, but he could voluntarily accept an assignment to Las Vegas.
* * *
Do the 1972 Miami Dolphins open the champagne with the news that third baseman Wilson Betemit will not go undefeated as a Dodger starter?
The Dodgers' Date with Destiny
Why does the best Dodger 18-game run in 107 years and best National League run in 20 years feel so unreal?
It's the dissonance with the overall season winning percentage, for one thing. A .533 team playing .944 ball after an .071 stretch is hard to wrap the brain around. It's easier to digest this stuff earlier in the season or when your team was playing better beforehand. When you're a freshman, you can dream of getting a date with the head cheerleader. When you're a senior with not much to show for it, what are you supposed to do when the head cheerleader suddenly knows your name?
My feelings toward the Dodgers' run also reflect that I probably spend a little too much time thinking about when the Dodger run will end and what will happen when it ends.
Don't get me wrong: I'm happy. It has been one lovely walk among the clouds. But I guess I've taken the "not getting too high during the highs" philosophy to heart.
The suddenly smokin' starting rotation of Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Greg Maddux, Chad Billingsley and (cough) Mark Hendrickson could easily have a succession of bad outings. None of them is so consistently dominant that a five-game losing streak couldn't return as fast as a trail of ants in your kitchen.
"If everyone is doing real good, you don't want to be the guy that sticks out," Derek Lowe told Bill Plunkett of the Register Tuesday night. "If everyone is saying, 'They're pitching great but ...' You don't want to be the 'but ...' guy."
Assuming no pun intended, the question for the Dodgers will be how quickly they can find a "but" guy when others start doing poorly. That will depend on players digging even deeper within themselves, focusing more, executing with more precision, than they have already.
The best part of the Dodgers' current situation might be that they can truly taste the postseason, but at the same time, they have no reason not to be humble. Last place was so recent, second place is still so near, and recent victories have come so late in the game, often by thin margins. There's no reason for the Dodgers to think they can coast yet winning has given them this glorious second wind.
The Dodgers will slump again before the season's over. Bank on it. We know how bad they can be. But the comfort will be in knowing how how good they can be, too. We know how dramatically they can turn things around if they just keep trying.
What did I do when the head cheerleader suddenly learned my name? My answer was: Get a crash course in learning to drive a stick shift so that I could take her to a Dodger game in my brother's Scirocco. There was some grinding of gears, and we were both soon looking for something new, but I'm still happy it happened.
* * *
And the Winner Is ... Billingsley No. 3
Seven innings, three singles, one walk, nine strikeouts.
(Note: those following the Cubs-Astros game, in which Chicago has used all 25 players through 18 innings, can continue in tonight's original game chat thread.)
Astacio, that is.
The Three Chad Billingsleys
1) Wild pitcher manages to bail himself out of trouble: June 21, July 13, July 28, August 10
"We live in a cynical world," Jerry Maguire said, and it's true. It's hard to find faith in the first of these Chad Billingsleys, hard to believe that it is internal guile and not external luck coming to his rescue.
Of course, it's some undefined combination of the two.
Billingsley does have some tangible things going for him that help diminish the damage of walking an astonishing 4.6 batters per six innings. When batters do make contact, more than half the balls they hit are on the ground. Among National League pitchers who have thrown 60 innings or more this season, Billingsley ranks 13th in that category. And when the ball gets in the air, the damage isn't too bad, either: his opponents' slugging percentage of .383 is 15th.
Those stats only encourage the seat-of-the-pants argument for Billingsley to trust his stuff more, which is all well and good except for 1) it's easier said than executed and 2) the question of whether that trust will backfire, with an increase in slugging percentage allowed. Billingsley's batting average allowed on balls in play, .277, is perhaps unremarkable, but if anything, it shows that luck has been a bit on his side.
It's possible that in some of his outings, Billingsley has walked the right guys, that the reason he gets out of some of these jams is that he knows which batters to go after. I'm not saying this is what happens all the time - Grady Little's avuncular chats at the mound don't usually come after Billingsley has walked Albert Pujols - but there have been moments where Billingsley has clearly picked his battles.
Billingsley could be the rare pitcher who wins despite high pitch counts. There is an exception to every rule. It's not as if any other Dodger starter is regularly turning in complete games, so there's no reason for Billingsley to be held to that standard. While his longest outing is seven innings, his shortest is five. I don't see a lot for him to be ashamed about there.
But we live in a cynical world. We don't want to bank on Billingsley being an exception to the rule. We want him just to rule, period. That tough out he gets with the bases loaded, we want him to get before the bases are loaded. Those bloopers and bleeders that every pitcher allows - let the leadoff batter be the one who hits them.
To some extent, we would rather see Billingsley challenge the batter and give up a home run than shy away to a walk. Not because the homer isn't more painful, but because we believe that Billingsley has the talent, more often than not, to get the batter out when he does go High Noon on them.
But for that to work, we have to be willing to accept the wounds that come with the dares and double dares. All of us. Billingsley's stuff is good but not overpowering. Simply throwing strikes won't provide a shield. That's a daunting reality for anyone to face in a pennant race (a reality that will have a manager considering his alternatives from time to time).
We live in a cynical world, and Billingsley lives there with us. Hopefully, that doesn't rule out any happy endings.
* * *
Why ... Why, That's a Closer By Committee
The noive, I tells ya. The utter noive.
Not Takashi Saito, not Jonathan Broxton, not even Joe Beimel or Brett Tomko, but Giovanni Carrara got the save for the Dodgers last night. He came into the game in the eighth inning with a three-run lead, retired the side on 16 pitches, and faced the ninth inning with the same three-run lead.
The Lance Carter debacle of April 30 in San Diego taught us the perils of assuming a big ninth-inning lead is an automatic save, so it was not without some risk that Carrara returned to the mound.
Now, I can't explain the living organism that is Carrara, thrice coming to Los Angeles with no credentials and pitching well at the outset of each term of service (21 1/3 innings, 22 baserunners, 21 strikeouts, 2.95 ERA this season), except to say that relievers simply have ups and downs, and Carrara takes that to an extreme.
Right now, he's in the ups. So rather than be a slave to the single closer mentality, or even the single backup closer mentality, Dodger manager Grady Little let Carrara stay in. And why not? There would be time enough to do something if Carrara got in trouble.
Carrara got the first two men out in the ninth before giving up a home run and a bunt single, bringing the tying run to the plate. On the verge of victory, the Dodgers edged closer to defeat.
With the tying run came to the plate, I would have activated my backup plan and brought in another reliever. Instead, Carrara got pinch-hitter Wes Helms to ground out, and instead of a devastating loss, the Dodgers won their Los Angeles-record 16th game in 17 attempts.
I believe you use your best relievers first if they are able to pitch. So Broxton, who didn't pitch Sunday, would have been my first choice to commence the eighth inning. But once Carrara was in the game, I didn't see the need to take him out until he got in trouble.
I'm not trying to take anything away from the Dodgers or Little to talk about how easily Monday's nice victory could have become a heartbreaker. Fortunately for the Dodgers, that's not a storyline they have to deal with this morning.
Little simply felt that Carrara could do the job, part of a season-long pattern in which, by and large, Little has displayed the valuable willingness to give players greater responsibility (as well as take it away). That flexibility has helped the Dodgers in 2006. Saito himself came out of the minors to become the team's No. 1 closer after Eric Gagne went out for the year. But Saito can't do it every day - and moreover, he shouldn't have to.
The only question about Carrara on Monday was whether he could get the outs in front of him, not whether he should be pitching in an inning that happens to be the ninth.
* * *
All the papers had news of the latest season-ending surgery for Dodger outfielder Jayson Werth, but Al Balderas of the Register had the most detail.
The mystery surrounding Jayson Werth's injured left wrist has been solved.
Werth underwent surgery Wednesday at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where Dr. Robert A. Berger repaired a split tear in the ultra-triquetral ligament.
The procedure, coupled with the removal of scar tissue, will keep Werth in a cast that extends above his elbow for about six weeks. He will begin physical therapy at that point and should be ready for spring training.
"The doctor told him that he will be 100 percent after the surgery," Dodgers trainer Stan Johnston said. ...
"According to Werth, this physician is one of the few wrist specialists who has seen this type of thing and has recognized it," said Johnston, who has not yet spoken directly with Dr. Berger. "It's not something that is out there and everybody knows about."
* * *
Baseball Prospectus spotlights the Dodgers' 1-0 victory over the Giants on Sunday, with the most interesting tidbit for me being that six Dodgers went into the game slugging .570 or better during the recent hot streak.
Am I the only one who for the past few days has been seeing question marks where apostrophes should be on BP articles? It's the kind of thing that happens when people are sending stories from different computers and they're not transfering right. Update: Apparently, I was the only one. Problem solved.
Update 2: Dodger Thoughts commenter John Stodder delivers his own recap of Sunday's game, "A Perfect Sunday Evening at Dodger Stadium," at From the Desert to the Sea .... I love how burdened he is by the storytelling responsibility.
(O, muse, give me the wit and skill to write this post that people indifferent to baseball might enjoy it!) ...
It wasn't just that Maddux was perfect. It was the efficient way he achieved perfection. Maddux no longer possesses a real fastball. The Dodgers have several pitchers who can throw the ball 95-97 miles an hour. Maddux fastest pitch is about 85 mph. What Maddux can do is aim the ball exactly where he wants to aim it, and vary the speed of the ball enough so that the hitter can never feel confident that if he just swings in a certain location, he'll hit the ball hard. And, he threw strikes, almost exclusively, so the batters knew that if they didn't swing, they'd be struck out.
As it happened, Maddux only struck out four, but he didn't have to do more than that to completely dominate the Giant hitters. They would swing at his first or second pitch, and hit it weakly, right at somebody. He needed a few good defensive plays to help keep runners off the bases, including another one of his own. Bonds almost hit a home run off him in the seventh, but it didn't go quite far enough, and it was caught for an out.
It is hard to convey to a non-fan how amazing the following statistic is: In his eight innings, Maddux threw 68 pitches, and 50 of them were strikes. (In the same number of innings, Schmidt threw 114 pitches.) Most starting pitchers are taken out after they've thrown 100 pitchers, and they usually hit this threshold by the sixth or seventh inning. The high ratio of strikes to balls is amazing. If you divide these numbers by the eight innings he pitched, an "average" inning by Maddux last night consisted of only 8.5 pitches (to get three hitters out), of which 6.25 of them were in the strike zone. That is a level of finesse you just never see. In his 20-year major league career, I doubt Maddux has ever pitched with such precision. Nor have many other pitchers, ever.
(Tip from SoCal Sports Observed at L.A. Observed)
August 14 Game Chat
1-0, Long Ago
The last 1-0 extra-inning win for the Dodgers over the Giants prior to Sunday ended not with a bang, but a bruise. (Thanks to volunteers with Retrosheet and Bob Timmermann for passing this along.) Coincidentally, the game marked the first major league starts for Ron Cey and Davey Lopes, half of the Dodgers famous infield of the 1970s.
It was September 22, 1972. In the bottom of the 11th inning, San Francisco starting pitcher Jim Willoughby allowed two-out singles to Tom Paciorek and Cey (in his first game of the season and third of his career). He then walked pinch-hitter Manny Mota intentionally (with first base occupied). Batting for Bill Russell, Wes Parker, in the fourth-to-last game of his major league career, was hit by a pitch to win it.
Despite having to deal with six San Francisco baserunners in the first three innings, Don Sutton went all the way for the Dodgers, striking out 11 in 11 innings, allowing three hits and walking four. The Giants got a walk and a Russell error (his 29th of the season) in the first but stranded them. In the second, after reaching on a Cey error, Garry Maddox stole second but was thrown out at home trying to score on a Bobby Bonds single. Chris Speier and Ken Henderson led off the third with a walk and a single but were left in scoring position.
Sutton then retired 18 Giants in a row and 25 of his final 27. He was allowed to bat with two on and two out in the seventh inning but grounded out.
Attendance for the game, which featured two teams eliminated from the division race, was 20,622.
Making his major league debut, Lopes led off and went 0 for 5. So Russell, Cey and Lopes started together in the infield for the first time in this game. Steve Garvey was still a struggling third baseman who lost playing time to Cey over the season's final two weeks. Garvey began 1973 as a reserve and even started in left field for several games before moving to first base for good in June.
Just to finish this tangent, on June 13, Paciorek started at first base but moved to center field when Willie Davis left the game in the top of the fourth. Garvey replaced Paciorek at first, and was together in an infield with Cey, Russell and Lopes for the first time ... for all of three innings. After batting for Mota in the bottom of the sixth, Lee Lacy stayed in the game at second base, and Lopes moved to center field.
In the second game of a doubleheader June 23, Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey started together as an infield for the first time.
Update: Aside from the 1973 New York Mets, the Dodgers can become the team that was in last place the latest in a season before winning a division or league title, Mike Carminati writes at Mike's Baseball Rants. Admittedly, the significance of last place has changed as baseball has expanded.
Share the Insanity
Greg Maddux and Russell Martin - I see them as a key combo for the Dodgers for the next 20 years, don't you?
I suppose Maddux pitched tonight more like the crafty veteran that he is, but he might has well have been a dominating 11-year-old in the Little League World Series: a mind-bending 68 pitches (18 balls) in eight innings, retiring the final 22 batters he faced. Maddux had me signing the papers suspending my ban against letting a starting pitcher bat in the eighth inning when you need a run - because his pitch count was so low and performance so good that the chances of him throwing two more shutout innings were strong - but the Dodgers declined the offer.
As it turned out, perhaps surprisingly, it didn't matter. Brett Tomko and Takashi Saito completed the 10-inning, 98-pitch shutout. (Given time, I'd try to find out the last time the Dodgers won an extra-inning game in fewer than 100 pitches.) Martin, who doubled for the Dodgers' first hit in the third, then crushed the hanger from Vinnie Chulk for the game-winning homer, stealing the national rookie spotlight from Andre Ethier.
It was perhaps the most magical game of the season. I think of how the Dodgers dropped that devastating extra-inning game in San Diego early this season - and how much has changed since then.
Is Toby Hall still hoping to get out? I hope he's figured out how to enjoy the ride.
Update: Thirty-two pitches out of the strike zone in 10 innings. I still can't believe it.
Working for ... Well, You Know
I shelled half a bag of peanuts left over from Saturday's game at the kitchen sink this morning.
Turns out, that's a much more interesting activity to do at the ballpark.
My team has run a cost-benefits analysis of the effort, and the results are not encouraging.
* * *
Ex-Dodger infielder Willy Aybar is headed for the Atlanta disabled list with a broken hand, according to The Associated Press. (Thanks to Andrew Shimmin for the pointer.) Aybar reportedly hurt the hand in his first game with the Braves and tried to play through it. Once a Dodger, always a Dodger.
* * *
Andre Ethier made two throws from left field that helped save the chance at two Dodger victories this week - holding a runner at third and nailing a runner at second. Julio Lugo has done the same thing, nailing runners at third and home on groundouts. Worth remembering.
Of course, despite Lugo's game-winning run Thursday and game-winning RBI on Friday, Ethier appears a tad more potent with the bat. Today, Bill Plunkett of the Register provided some history about how Ethier learned to hit left-handed pitchers - it was thanks in part to his dad's willing arm:
Most fathers would bend over backward to help their son chase his big-league dreams. Byron Ethier was willing to become a "south Pa."
Ethier, a natural right-hander who played infield for two years in junior college, taught himself to throw left-handed so that his left-handed son, Andre, would not be intimidated by left-handed pitching.
"When I was in Little League, all you faced was righties, righties, righties," said Andre, a Rookie of the Year candidate with the Dodgers. "I guess one day he decided to learn how to throw left-handed so he could pitch to me that way and get me used to it for high school and college when you'd start seeing more lefties.
"He never could put too much behind it. But it was good enough to throw strikes and I could get some swings, get used to the different look."
Bryon's lefty lessons started with soft tosses. He gradually moved back as he got better at it. By the time Andre was in high school, his father had backed up nearly to the regulation distance and even managed to "put a little spin on it" to simulate a left-hander's curveball. ...
* * *
The Dodgers and Angels are both 60-56 this morning. Los Angeles has the third-best record in the National League and the eighth-best in the American League.
Hey, Look - Pregame Quotes
I mean, why not, right?
Wilson Betemit will play against "certain lefties," Grady Little said.
"We're in a situation where we've got so much talent in the infield, everybody needs to play."
So, Betemit's relative struggles against lefties in general provide an opportunity for Julio Lugo, like him or not, to start at third.
Little said the Dodgers would not skip a starting pitcher despite next week's off day, but hinted that there could be a skip after that.
"I certainly didn't see (his best) last night," Little said of Chad Billingsley, who walked six in five innings Thursday, "but we certainly don't expect he'll be on a constant decrease in pitch count."
When asked about whether the outing served as a learning experience for Billingsley, Little said with a dry laugh, "He's had a lot of opportunities to get that point across, to tell you the truth."
Little clearly likes Billingsley, but it's possible that Aaron Sele could start again (in place of Billingsley or Mark Hendrickson) before the season's over. Little seems a little concerned about Billingsley's workload relative to his age. Brett Tomko, however, will remain a reliever, Little said.
Little will also watch the workloads of rookies Andre Ethier and Russell Martin, but there's no question about their everyday roles. A day off for Ethier will only be for rest.
That's it. Great night for a game - let's play one.
Lo Duca-Penny Detritus
The post-Dodger career of Guillermo Mota, who was designated for assignment by Cleveland today: 138 1/3 innings, 134 hits, 61 walks, 120 strikeouts, 5.14 ERA. His strikeouts remained respectable, and he even had a streak of eight shutout innings less than two months ago, but he became what so many relievers become - unreliable from week to week. Still, don't be surprised if he ends up back in the majors somewhere.
In general, it's been a rough year for some of the other guys in the Paul Lo Duca-Brad Penny trade (with Lo Duca's year being another story unto itself). Playing for AAA Pawtucket in the Red Sox organization, Hee Seop Choi (.708 OPS) has been slumping amid his own injury troubles this season. He cleared waivers Thursday after Boston designated him for assignment August 1 and has been outrighted to Pawtucket.
Joe McDonald of the Providence Journal had a profile on Choi earlier this week:
Even before he went on the disabled list July 7 with a knee sprain, Choi wasn't having a season deserving of a call-up. Realistically, if he was healthy, it wouldn't really matter what numbers he was putting up. The fact is he would be in Boston right now because of all the injuries.
One thing for sure, David Ortiz wouldn't have played first base on Friday. Choi may not be the solution to the Red Sox' problems, but he could be an answer.
Red Sox vice president of player personnel Ben Cherington had a closed-door meeting with Choi and PawSox manger Ron Johnson late Friday night, and Choi said yesterday that the meeting went well and he understands what is expected of him.
He rehab has been slow going, but he began to take swings two weeks ago. He said after yesterday's PawSox game that he hopes to be back in the lineup next week. ...
The Sox could desperately use his services. His bags are packed and he's ready to go, but he'll have to get healthy first. By that time, however, he may not be needed.
Juan Encarnacion, who may qualify as the forgotten man in the trade, has a .786 OPS for St. Louis. The sixth player involved in the July 2004 trade, 25-year-old Bill Murphy (later passed along to Arizona in the Dodgers' acquisition of Steve Finley), has a 5.68 ERA with 68 strikeouts, 36 walks and 84 hits allowed in 77 2/3 innings as a swingman for AAA Tucson.
* * *
Match.com, Eat Your Heart Out
For Slate on Thursday, Neal Pollack wrote a funny piece about what it was like to move to the town of his favorite baseball team, the Dodgers, for the first time. Among other amusing and PG-13 tidbits (You talk to your spouse with that mouth?! Oh, you do ... never mind), there was this:
... In addition to the occasional bonus tickets from my friend, I split a 25-game package with a paralegal named Craig who I met on the Dodger Thoughts bulletin board. ...
So I got a little curious and checked the archives. Sure enough ...
34. NPB 2006-03-06 11:01:03
There was a response about an hour later, though not from "Craig," which I suppose might be an alias. Or, the first responder didn't like Pollack's deodorant.
* * *
From Rob Neyer of ESPN.com:
What if Nomar Garciaparra were healthy enough to play every day, all season? Just wanted to see if you were paying attention, because of course the Dodgers -- like the A's with Frank Thomas -- are lucky to have gotten what they have from Garciaparra considering his salary (small) and his injury history (big). What's more, the Dodgers have been exceptionally fortunate with Russell Martin and Andre Ethier, both of whom are enjoying the seasons of their lives. But the Dodgers also have been unlucky. They have the second-best run differential in the National League -- which makes me feel good about myself, as the Dodgers were my preseason pick for the World Series -- but thanks largely to a 9-15 record in one-run games they're just now establishing themselves as real contenders.
On Paper, They're Champions
You're the general manager. Your team is 50-50 on the season, in playoff contention but by no means a lock. It has had both lengthy winning streaks and losing streaks. Your manager tells you that you need to improve your team's chemistry.
You take a look at your team's starting lineup:
What do you do?
* * *
Our Favorite Gibson Is Kirk
I've linked to less important stories, and I've even on occasion linked to more poorly sourced stories. That doesn't mean I should or shouldn't link to this one.
All I can say is that when I see Dodger Stadium and Mel Gibson in a headline on Defamer, I figure that someone's going to bring it up. So I just want to say, duly noted. (And that the commentary on the difficulty of the Dodger Stadium trivia challenge every game made me laugh.)
Streaks Fall Apart; The Winning Cannot Hold
It's just one game, so I'll make just one comment. (Plus a P.S.)
Letting Derek Lowe bat with two runners on in the bottom of the seventh and two out, even when he's pitching well, isn't worth it for reasons I've discussed lots of times here. It's just not good to throw away a scoring opportunity to gamble on a starting pitcher holding a team scoreless in the late innings. Nothing against Lowe's winning performance in a losing effort, but the focus should have been on what was likely to happen.
That doesn't mean the Dodgers would have won the game, as the lost scoring opportunity in the bottom of the eighth proved. But they would have been a better shot, I think.
And then in the ninth, it just got nutty, in the allergic way.
P.S. Brad Hawpe ohhhhwns the Dodgers: OPS comfortably over 1.000.
Okay. Back to reality. Time to start over. It's baseball.
Talk About Making Up Ground ...
Dodger Thoughts, August 8, 2002:
As of 5:30 p.m. today, the Dodgers are 9-18 in their last 27 games (a easy-to-calculate .333 winning percentage), yet if the season ended this second, they would be playing in a postseason game. How this will play out remains to be seen, but it does give me an opportunity to talk about one of the most roller coaster regular seasons of my life.August 12, 2002:
Just some footnotes and minor corrections on Thursday's entry.April 22, 2003:
Meanwhile, over at Dodgers.com, Ken Gurnick interviews Tommy Lasorda about one of the most memorable comeback seasons in Dodger history - 1982.By the way, the Dodgers made no big midseason transactions in 1982 from what I can discern or recall. Their rally (and ultimately, their downfall) was homegrown.
Their big stretch drive move was to activate Manny Mota for his final career at-bat. Mota was unable to repeat his 3-for-7 performance in 1981, instead grounding out in the 13th inning while batting for Mike Scioscia on September 1, 1982.
* * *
A winning streak isn't just about games; it's about moments within games. It's a fine line between the penthouse and the outhouse.
This is how the battle of eviction went Tuesday night.
I know the hero doesn't usually come until the end, but this is how it felt.
Oh, and a quick message to the scoreboard folks - calling Andre Ethier "Andre the Giant" after a big at-bat doesn't work for me. I mean, I know what you're going for, and I'm not the most militant San Francisco Giants hater, but that's just putting the wrong image in my head.
* * *
Because of the Dodgers' winning streak, SI.com twisted my arm to get me to write about them:
"It is the same old story with the Dodgers these days," announcer Vin Scully remarked during Monday's game in Los Angeles. "You give them an inch, and they take a whole ballgame."Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus has more, pointing out how the schedule helps explain the Dodgers' changing fortunes.
No Mention of Kelly Leak?
The most shocking thing to me about this Rick Reilly column on SI is that it doesn't mention The Bad News Bears:
This actually happened. Your job is to decide whether it should have.
In a nine- and 10-year-old PONY league championship game in Bountiful, Utah, the Yankees lead the Red Sox by one run. The Sox are up in the bottom of the last inning, two outs, a runner on third. At the plate is the Sox' best hitter, a kid named Jordan. On deck is the Sox' worst hitter, a kid named Romney. He's a scrawny cancer survivor who has to take human growth hormone and has a shunt in his brain.
So, you're the coach: Do you intentionally walk the star hitter so you can face the kid who can barely swing?
Reilly makes it seem obvious that you don't walk Jordan, and I don't disagree, but I think Reilly places a lot more shame on being the batter after an intentional walk than I would. If the league atmosphere is supposed to be so relaxed, why is there such importance attached to what Romney would do at the plate? The beauty is that he's playing, period.
I understand Romney taking the strikeout hard, but if Jordan had gotten an unintentional, full-count walk, would that have made him feel better? Or is the hope/assumption that Jordan would get a hit and the strikeout wouldn't matter?
I don't think Jordan should have been walked, but I also don't think that anyone did Romney any favors by making a big deal out of it, or what happened next. The best thing people could have done would be to just treat the at-bats like any other.
But I still can't believe there was no mention of the final inning of The Bad News Bears.
Whose Hat Should Mike Piazza Wear in Cooperstown?
If you have an opinion, take this poll at MetsBlog.com. No, Florida and San Diego are not options.
Nineteen Years Later, Here's Greg
Greg Maddux's first start at Dodger Stadium took place July 24, 1987. He gave up a single to leadoff hitter (!) Dave Anderson and a two-out homer to Mike Marshall in the bottom of the first, then a walk to Anderson and a two-run homer by Ken Landreaux in the fifth to fall behind, 4-3. But in the top of the seventh, pinch-hitter Dave Martinez led off with a single and Andre Dawson homered, and Maddux ended up credited with the 6-4 victory.
Current Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt started the game for Los Angeles. Tim Leary took the loss.
I used to think of Maddux as someone you had to get to in the first inning if you were going to get to him at all. But I realize I think that way about many elite pitchers, and I don't really know if it ever had any basis in fact.
* * *
It's a Miracle, A True Blue Spectacle
... because this site and I are too old not to have made a Barry Manilow reference.
Shoot, what can I tell you? Ten pretty wins, all in a row. It's been an unexpected streak. It's not accompanied by the euphoria or light-headedness that came with the Dodgers' last 10-game winning streak in 2003 - a streak in which that year's holy smokes pitching staff held the opposition to 15 total runs. This year, it's a little bit more like, "Huh? Okay."
You know what this streak makes me think of? When I was on the eighth-grade basketball team, a 5-foot-1 reserve wearing glasses that one of my teammates called "even uglier than your last pair," I was playing in the fourth quarter of a game we were trailing by a hefty amount. An opposing player dribbled along the left sideline toward halfcourt, and I took a charge. (Pure Michael Cooper.) I looked to the ref to see that I got the call, then stood up and looked over to my dad in the stands.
He wasn't cheering ferociously. He wasn't even applauding. He was smiling and shaking his head, as if he couldn't quite believe he raised a kid who was drawing desperation offensive fouls.
We didn't win that game, but I can't say it wasn't worthwhile.
The Dodgers' win streak has been worthwhile too, obviously. Nothing like turning that frown upside down. There's still the problem of what will happen over the final 50 games of the season. This streak doesn't eliminate all the team's woes, just like the 1-13 stretch did not eliminate all the team's whoas. But it's been a fast and fun lesson in managing the ebb and flow of a season.
(I've noticed, by the way, that I have this habit in my concluding paragraphs of offering a conceding thought, then following it up with a counterpoint that's more important. "While that may be true, what's more important is this." I've been doing it so much that it's started to annoy me. I need to work that out.)
* * *
Ricky Ledee pinch-hit for Dodger pitcher Brad Penny in the bottom of the eighth inning Monday; less than 60 minutes later, he was a New York Met, claimed off waivers.
Though no one in the papers addressed the rationale of the release beyond it clearing a roster spot for Nomar Garciaparra (who still might not return from the disabled list until later this week), I have to assume that Dodger general manager Ned Colletti had been trying to trade Ledee but received no interest - then didn't blink when the Mets showed themselves willing to pick up the remaining $500,000 or so on Ledee's contract.
This is different from the more typical release of a player following him being designated for assignment. The Dodgers didn't receive a player in exchange for Ledee, but they found a taker.
The Associated Press mostly discussed the claim from the Mets' perspective, but what this would seem to reflect from the Dodgers' point of view is that the Dodgers prefer James Loney as a left-handed bat/backup first baseman/last-ditch outfielder to Ledee. While it might have been prudent to let Loney play every day in the minors and retain Ledee's corpus as insurance in case another outfielder got injured, I can't argue with Colletti's logic.
Sure, Now That They're Winning, They Get Their Own Channel
Dodgers On Demand, an ongoing cable television channel dedicated to the Dodgers, will be unveiled at a press conference Wednesday, the team announced today.
"Dodgers On Demand is a free On Demand channel solely from Time Warner Cable that will provide the most access to the Dodgers that any media outlet can offer," says the press release. "From classic games and past and present player profiles to highlights and press conferences, Dodgers On Demand will be the ultimate Dodger Channel and will be updated with new information continuously. Dodgers on Demand will also be a year-round channel and won't stop programming when the season ends."
Time Warner, as many of you are no doubt aware, has taken over Adelphia and Comcast cable households in Los Angeles. Anyway, guess I won't be getting the channel, so you'll have to tell me about what it's like.
* * *
Nomar Garciaparra was named a finalist for the National League Comeback Player of the Year award, according to The Associated Press. I wasn't aware that the nomination process was so formal, but there you go.
* * *
The Dodger press notes, with a tip to the Elias Sports Bureau, indicate that a Dodger starting pitcher has been the victor in six straight road games for the first time since 1978. Fancy. It's the second-longest streak in the majors in the past 10 years, trailing only the 2003 Seattle Mariners.
* * *
Jeff Kent is back from the disabled list ... no official word yet on whose roster spot he is taking.
Update: Elmer Dessens is not on the roster on Gameday, and James Loney is. Presumably, Dessens has gone on the disabled list.
* * *
Toby Hall Meets Denise Huxtable
"Obviously, it's a different world here compared to where we came from."
- Toby Hall, speaking to Bill Plunkett of the Register. Whitley and Dwayne Wayne nod approvingly.
Loney's Second Effort
Dodger first baseman James Loney is trying to follow Angels infielder Howie Kendrick's example in taking advantage of his second shot at the big leagues.
Despite going 5 for 22 in his past five games, the 23-year-old Kendrick has a 1.035 OPS since his return to the Angels lineup June 26. Kendrick is batting .403 in that stretch, though he has only two walks in 64 plate appearances.
More recently, since his late-July callup, Loney is 7 for 19 with five extra-base hits, three walks, one strikeout, a .455 on-base percentage and a .737 slugging percentage (1.182 OPS). A diving catch robbed Loney of another extra-base hit in his final at-bat Saturday.
It's just a small stretch of games, and Loney could still find himself back in Las Vegas for few weeks with Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra scheduled to return from the disabled list this week, but he's making it a tough decision.
* * *
It's Not About the Deadline Deals
The heroes of the Dodgers' eight-game winning streak have principally been the Dodgers who were here before the July trades. Not that the new guys haven't helped, but mostly, the existing crew has gotten its act together.
A simplistic recap:
Andre Ethier: triple and homer
Martin: tiebreaking homer, tiebreaking double
Wilson Betemit: 3 for 4
Furcal: two singles, double, 4 RBI
Kenny Lofton: single, triple
Olmedo Saenz: two-run homer
Lofton: homer, two singles
Ethier: double, two singles
Ethier: four mentions
By the way, the Dodgers have gotten above-average starting pitching in five of the eight games. Give all the credit in the world to Maddux for his no-hit performance, but Billingsley, Lowe and Penny (and to a lesser extent Aaron Sele and Mark Hendrickson) very much helped turn this beast around.
* * *
From Bob Timmermann with a pointer from reader Bluetahoe: The last team to follow an eight-game losing streak with an eight-game winning streak was the Chicago Cubs, who lost 8 straight from May 10 through May 18, 2001 and then won 12 straight from May 19 through June 1.
* * *
Update: Tony Jackson's Daily News game lead was really harsh on Billingsley. I know the guy has struggled some, but sheesh.
With a stiff wind at his back and the threat of a minor-league option hanging over his head, Chad Billingsley took the mound against another highly-touted rookie Saturday night. The only difference between him and Florida's Josh Johnson was that at times this season, Johnson had actually pitched like he belonged in the majors.
Billingsley's last five starts: 29 innings, 25 hits, eight runs (seven earned), 20 walks, 21 strikeouts (6.5 K/9), 2.17 ERA. Points deducted for the walks, but otherwise, that's pretty swell.
At the end, Jackson speculates (incorrectly, I think) that Mark Hendrickson could be cut when Jeff Kent or Nomar Garciaparra gets activated. Can you imagine? Dioner Navarro and Jae Seo for Toby Hall? I don't see that happening - especially when Hendrickson has pitched just about as phlegmatically as one would have reasonably expected (which is to say, at times like he belonged in the majors).
More likely, someone from the active roster gets stashed in Las Vegas or on the disabled list until the rosters expand in four weeks. Elmer Dessens' ankle or Giovanni Carrara's stomach, for example, would have qualified had Kent been ready today.
Regarding Kent, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com quotes Dodger manager Grady Little:
"This time around," Little said Saturday, "we'll make darn sure he's ready before we put him in. We gambled a couple weeks ago and lost the gamble. We'll make sure we have a better chance this time and hold off a day or two more -- Monday at the earliest.
This time around. Good thinking.
"He said he feels like he's ready to go. He's been talking about [returning] the last couple of days. If it's not by Monday, he'll probably come in the office with a shotgun, and it won't be a casual conversation."
Nonetheless, Little has reason to be hesitant. Kent originally suffered a strained oblique muscle more than a month ago on July 3. He missed six games leading into the All-Star break and returned to the lineup on July 13. He played five more games, went 3-for-16, then conceded the pain was increasing, and he was placed on the 15-day disabled list July 18. He was eligible to be activated Wednesday. If he returns Monday, he will have missed 24 games and played hurt in five more.
Little still believes Kent will return before Nomar Garciaparra, who is eligible to be activated from the DL with a sprained knee on Wednesday. Little said Garciaparra still isn't ready to make quick cuts required to run the bases, which might be an indication that he will require more than the original 15 days to return.
A Long-Distance Dedication from Mudville
Today, randomly, on one of the XM radio channels coming though DirecTV, I heard Casey Kasem reciting "Casey at the Bat." It was priceless - everything you'd expect it could be. If only I had a recording of it ...
On that note, happy birthday or thereabouts to Bob Timmermann's cat, Casey. May he be well burnished for another year.
* * *
Periodic Table of the Dodgers
Didn't the Dodgers have good chemistry when the season began? I thought that's what we were told, but apparently not.
From Tony Jackson of the Daily News:
The Dodgers brought a six-game winning streak into their series with Florida, during which the bullpen had combined to allow just two runs over 19 innings.
The surge coincides with a series of roster moves in which the club acquired (Elmer) Dessens, activated Brett Tomko from the disabled list and traded (Odalis) Perez and Danys Baez.
"I think it's the result of the personnel changes as much as anything," Dodgers bullpen coach Dan Warthen said. "The guys are getting more comfortable with each other. Early in the year, nobody spoke. There were just a lot of very quiet individuals."
There was that big long winning streak in May, but that's ancient history.
I'm sure Warthen meant well. People can't resist trying explain winning with chemistry, even though it's so much more likely that winning results from more individuals having decent-to-productive days at once.
If chemistry explains the success of the Dodgers, who are trying today to achieve the perversely impressive feat of following an eight-game losing streak with an eight-game winning streak, then they are probably way too combustible.
It All Adds Up
* * *
Has there been a greater alphabetic distance between the first two hitters in a Florida Marlins lineup than Alfredo Amezega and Dan Uggla? I venture to say not - unless Reggie Abercrombie has batted leadoff followed by Josh Willingham!
A Near No-Hitter and the Illusion of Control
Here's how I jinxed Greg Maddux's no-hitter attempt: I turned the TV sound up.
I started following Thursday's rain-delayed game online with Gameday just before leaving a frustrating day of work, listened on the radio in the car, and then turned on the television at home, but with the sound down so that it didn't seem like I was ignoring my kids - which would have been a particularly feeble bit of behavior given that it was my sweet-faced, ebullient son's second birthday. Frankly, I can't believe my Pride and Joy No. 2 is 2, and I didn't want to throw that out the window.
The good thing is that I guessed right on his present - a $6 red Corvette and a set of five $2 Hot Wheels that he's a year too young for, but that won't be hard for me to keep an eye on since he doesn't seem to ever want to let go of them. There wasn't much more for him from us than the cars, about a thousand hugs and a birthday cupcake - we learned from his older sister that extravagance is wasted on anyone under the age of 3. Seemed like we had struck the right balance.
In fact, I needed it to be his birthday to rescue me from the ill temper I left work with. It was a healthy slap to remind me how the job isn't worth crying about. Then, as Maddux moved past the fourth and fifth innings without allowing a hit, I had something else to capture my imagination. With Andre Ethier having tripled and singled, I even began fantasizing about the outside chance of seeing a cycle and a no-hitter in the same contest.
That was okay. I was enjoying watching what I could see of the game in silence. But with two out in the sixth inning, I realized that I might want to write about it Thursday night and decided I should turn up the sound to hear what the commentators were saying. The final out of the sixth came on the next pitch - the last pitch Maddux would throw in the game. Within minutes, the rains had come, hastening his departure and the end of his no-hit bid.
I had looked ahead. I had started counting my chickens. I had only gotten to one chicken, but it was enough.
Some of you might think of me as a rational person, but I'm not. I'm someone who tries to make rational sense of the world a lot of the time, but at my core, I'm disturbingly irrational. Really, I'm a child disguised as a man. Sometimes I think I'd just as soon have not grown up. I want things to be the way I want them to be. While I know I don't affect the outcome of a game, I want to believe that I can.
As I sit here today, I will tell you I believe that a no-hitter happens when a certain group of people don't screw it up by jinxing it. And since we don't know exactly who's in that group, we should all play it safe. We don't say the words "no-hitter" while one is going on (except for the broadcasters, who have the right as part of their job); we don't make any assumptions at all. We just hold steady and hope.
But I was not vigilant.
* * *
Maddux, on the other hand, was very rational Thursday. He somewhat sadly validated my belief that you don't decide to leave in a starting pitcher for the late innings based on his credentials at the start of a game. You have to take into account that the trauma of the game can make him worse than your relievers. So rather than take that risk, Maddux told Dodger manager Grady Little to remove him.
"I've gone back out after a delay in the second or third inning, but never after six innings," Maddux told Steve Henson of the Times (among others). "I didn't want to be selfish."
I can't help wondering, if it had been Brad Penny who suggested not returning to pitch after six no-hit innings and a rain delay, whether some people wouldn't have called Penny selfish and gutless for wanting to preserve his individual stats while allowing the Dodger bullpen to risk taking the loss. Penny's attitude isn't an issue for me, but maybe I'm crazy.
In any case, I don't think selfishness was anything to worry about. Unless Maddux felt that he was at risk of injury - and in all the articles I read this morning, that did not come up - I don't think it would have been selfish for him to head out to the mound for the seventh, backed up in the bullpen. If and when he gave up a hit, Little would just take him out right then.
Where it would have been tricky, though, is if Maddux had walked someone. The 40-year-old looking for his first no-hitter since Little League had walked three before the rain delay, and maybe this was where he felt vulnerable. If he has trouble finding his rhythm after the delay and walks the leadoff guy in the seventh, well, okay. If he walks two, suddenly everyone's in trouble, and people would be wondering if the bid for history was worth it.
Unlike me, Maddux wasn't about to fool himself into thinking he had control - even though he's the one guy who arguably did.
Looking back, the unfortunate non-rain delay before the game (the equivalent of worrying about what might go wrong at the expense of appreciating what was going right) didn't help matters, but one could also call to task the Dodger offense for managing only two runs on seven hits and no walks off Reds journeyman Eric Milton, thus failing to give a cushion to Maddux (himself with a journeyman's ERA entering the game). It's very surprising that three runs was enough for the Dodgers to win Thursday.
In the end, it was a day worth celebrating. The Dodgers won their sixth in a row, Maddux made a scintillating debut, everybody's happy ... to the extent they allow their irrational selves to be.
* * *
Two more tidbits: First, Bill Plunkett of the Register solved the mystery of Dodger reliever Takashi Saito feeling unbalanced last week. You'll recall that Saito got blasted in a relief appearance, then was unavailable to pitch Saturday against Washington.
Dodgers reliever Takashi Saito revealed the secret to his success - his socks.
The Japanese right-hander said balance is "the most important thing" in his delivery. Maintaining that balance starts at the bottom.
"That's why I'm wearing five-finger socks," Saito said through his interpreter, giggling when he lifted his foot for verification. "I use them to grip the ground better."
Saito said many Japanese pitchers wear the socks that have separate tubes for each toe. He laughed when asked if he would try to persuade other Dodgers pitchers to wear them.
Using pantomime, Saito pointed at Jonathan Broxton and Mark Hendrickson and indicated they were large enough for staying grounded not to be a problem.
Meanwhile, Allison Ann Otto of the Press-Enterprise found another Dodger trying to find the right equilibrium:
Reliever Giovanni Carrara hasn't pitched since July 28 because of food poisoning.
"I ate some bad Chinese food," Carrara said. "I'll never do that again."
Is it that easy? See, it's part of today's theme. It's all about craving control you don't really have.
* * *
Almost forgot ... Bob Timmermann of The Griddle passed along this in the comments:
Ted Turocy of Retrosheet believes that last night's 3-5-1 DP was just the second one in the last 50 seasons. Before that, no one knows very well.
Carlos Delgado (of Florida then) hit into one against Arizona last year on July 20.
Brandon Webb was the pitcher.
* * *
Dodger Thoughts reader ToyCannon, who organized our night at Dodger Stadium, passes along this appeal:
Platelets/Blood appeal for Sean Reader
Anyone who gives blood or platelets on a normal cycle and has time, a HUGE Dodger fan is fighting for his life and could use your help. The family would greatly appreciate anyone who is able to donate platelets to do so. They only have a shelf life of 5 days so when a child is losing his platelets he sometimes has to wait for platelets to come available I'm not exaggerating when I say it can be the difference between life and death. This boy has been fighting Leukemia for 18 months now.
Sean lost a lot of blood last week (the doctor said "I've never seen a living person with such a small amount of blood in them.")
These procedures need to be done at Children's Hospital (on Sunset, near Normandie). They are open Mon-Sat.
The phone number for the Childrens Hospital Blood Donor center is 323-669-2441.
* * *
Finally, I'm scheduled for another interview, this time on Baseball Beat with Charley Steiner (without Charley Steiner, but rather with substitute host Chuck Wilson) on XM Satellite Radio's MLB Home Plate, XM 175, at 11:05 a.m. Update: The interview got moved up to 10:30 a.m.
August 3 Game Chat
Padres Wanted Guzman
"In his search for a third baseman, (San Diego Padres) General Manager Kevin Towers even called the rival Dodgers," wrote Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune. "'We asked them about Joel Guzman,' Towers said. Guzman, 21, was playing left field in Triple-A, but the Padres, who employ former Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta, believed Guzman could play third and that he would be available cheap. On Monday, the Dodgers traded Guzman and a Single-A outfielder for Julio Lugo, a free agent-eligible infielder."
It probably would have taken more for the Padres to get Guzman. The Dodgers wouldn't want a potential mistake staring them in the face 19 games a year. The Dodgers' last trade with San Diego was the epic acquisition of Widd Workman for Jim Bruske on July 23, 1998. Los Angeles hasn't traded with San Francisco since 1985 (Candy Maldonado for Alex Trevino).
In the same Padres notebook, you can read about ex-Dodger Chan Ho Park's recent struggle with lower intestinal bleeding that caused him to lose "half of his blood volume," according to Krasovic. The Padres expect a full recovery soon.
As We Race Toward the Ban of All Betemit Puns ...
A young fan in Cincinnati, down near the dugout, 40 minutes before game time, wonders wistfully if her team can do better than Edwin Encarnacion at third base. Edwin's a good man, a decent man, but even so, is it possible he can't satisfy her? She breathes deep; she can't think of anything else ...
Waitin', watchin' the clock, it's four o' clock, it's got to stop
* * *
P.S.: I made a guest appearance today online at Outsider Radio with Brandon Rosage.
It's not out of the question that the Dodgers' 2006 Most Valuable Player will be Andre Ethier.
Ethier leads all Dodger regulars in OPS (.941), trails only Nomar Garciaparra in on-base percentage (.389 vs. .398) and trails only semi-regular Olmedo Saenz in slugging percentage (.551 vs. .553, Garciaparra is at .535). Garciaparra and Ethier are almost in a dead heat in equivalent average (EQA), the league- and park-adjusted measure of total offensive value per out: .313 vs. .312.
Garciaparra has 90 more plate appearances than Ethier, so he remains the team MVP favorite, pending whether he can come off the disabled list with his pre-All Star-break bat.
VORP for Dodger Rookies (through Monday)
In Marginal Lineup Value rate (MLVr), "an estimate of the additional number of runs a given player will contribute to a lineup that otherwise consists of average offensive performers" according to Baseball Prospectus, Ethier is fifth in the NL (minimum 250 plate appearances), behind only Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Miguel Cabrera and Chipper Jones. Garciaparra is 10th.
* * *
Lewis Leader e-mailed this Associated Press story by Sean Farrell connecting Jackie Robinson and Russell Martin through Martin's father:
Robinson's minor-league debut with the Montreal Royals in 1946 was commemorated Sunday by the International League's Ottawa Lynx, who wore throwback uniforms during their game against Norfolk to honour the team that finished 100-54 and won the Little World Series over Louisville.
A pre-game ceremony was held with two of the late Hall of Famer's teammates that season, pitcher Jean-Pierre Roy and outfielder George Shuba. Then the father of current Dodgers catcher Russell Martin - a native of Montreal - performed the U.S. and Canadian national anthems with his saxophone.
The elder Martin was a two-year-old living in Montreal when Robinson broke the colour barrier in the International League, one year before doing the same in the majors with Brooklyn.
"I don't know if Russ would be where he is today if it hadn't been for Jackie Robinson," said Martin, whose parents saw Robinson play at Delorimier Stadium 60 years earlier. "He was an inspiration to me and that's where my love and passion for baseball began."
* * *
Among other interesting observations, Rich Lederer points out at Baseball Analysts that current hit-streak king Chase Utley was a Dodger draft pick in 1997, before enrolling at UCLA.
Lederer watched Utley play as a Little Leaguer:
Chase and my son Joe played youth baseball for Long Beach Little League. Joe played on the Dodgers. Chase played for the Pirates. One of Chase's teammates was Sean Burroughs, who just may be the best Little League player ever. Joe and Chase are two years older than Sean and neither played on the LBLL All-Star teams that Burroughs spearheaded to World Championships in 1992 and 1993.
My son's team was coached by a real estate agent and me. The Pirates were coached by an attorney and Sean's dad, Jeff, the 1974 AL MVP. Needless to say, the Dodgers never beat the Pirates in those years. Jeff was a terrific coach and the Pirates had more talent than the rest of the league combined.
I can remember Utley's tryout like it was yesterday. You could tell that he was special. Everything Chase did stood out. He roped a handful of line drives from the right side, then crossed over the plate and repeated the same feat from the left side. The kid had star written all over him.
The Dodger record for players used in a single season is 55 by the 1944 Brooklyn team. (You remember them, don't you?) In Los Angeles, the record is 53 by the 1998 squad, featuring Mike Metcalfe, Will Brunson and Manuel Barrios.
The 2006 Dodgers are up to 45 players with Julio Lugo's debut tonight, and Greg Maddux will make it 46. In-house candidates to put the Dodgers over the top, particularly as September pinch-hitters, pinch-runners, defensive replacements, spot starters and bullpen help, include:
47) Andy LaRoche
But the Dodgers would have to make further adjustments to their 40-man roster - and may need to be more aggressive with outside acquisitions. Can they do it???
On the Last Trip to Cincinnati ...
May 6, 2005, courtesy of Retrosheet:
DODGERS 1ST: Izturis was hit by a pitch; Choi homered [Izturis scored]; Drew singled to center; Kent homered [Drew scored]; Bradley walked; Saenz was hit by a pitch [Bradley to second]; Ledee doubled to center [Bradley scored, Saenz scored, Ledee to third (on throw)]; Phillips doubled to right [Ledee scored]; BELISLE REPLACED WILSON (PITCHING); Penny out on a sacrifice bunt (first unassisted) [Phillips to third]; Izturis grounded out (second to first); Choi walked; Drew walked [Choi to second]; Kent doubled to center [Phillips scored, Choi scored, Drew scored, Kent to third (error by Griffey)]; Bradley was called out on strikes; 10 R, 6 H, 1 E, 1 LOB. Dodgers 10, Reds 0.
Here's a link to the Dodger Thoughts game chat that night. What a happy crew ...
* * *
Jose Cruz, Jr. bids farewell to the Dodgers by being designated for assignment. The Dodgers have until August 10, the anniversary of his Dodger debut, to trade or release him.
Cruz OPSed 1.004 last September. That didn't hold up this year, not surprisingly, though he did have a .942 OPS in 80 plate appearances against lefties this season.
* * *
The Drive To Make Up Five ...
... begins tonight in Cincinnati with (cue announcer) Aaron-ron-ron-ron Sele-le-le-le.
Sele has been pounded on the road this year despite allowing only one home run. In five starts (plus a relief appearance) he has lasted 26 1/3 innings and allowed 51 baserunners and a .905 OPS. Kind of how I expected his entire season to go, but the ride has been more nuanced than that.
I had originally assumed that Greg Maddux would replace Sele in the rotation, but for the moment it's Chad Billingsley who becomes the even man out. Still, any of the following could happen in the coming hours and days:
1) The Dodgers cut loose one of their six outfielders and keep Billingsley on the roster as a 12th pitcher.
2) The Dodgers send down Billingsley to AAA Las Vegas for now and watch to see how Sele performs today before deciding whether to keep Billingsley down there until rosters expand in September.
3) The Dodgers commit right away to letting Billingsley have a final one-month tutorial in the minors before calling him up in September to stay - for a long, long time, hopefully.
4) Mark Hendrickson falls and can't get up.
I don't have any strong feelings about this. I want to see Billingsley pitch and learn before my eyes - he's second on the team in walks despite being eighth in innings - but it's just a few starts at most we're talking about. With all the hubbub behind us (until the next hubbub), I've cleared the palate.
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Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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