Monthly archives: October 2007
Less Is More
Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus advances the argument that the Dodgers should hang onto the status quo rather than make a strong push to improve the roster through trade or free agency - taking it a step further by advising the team to say no to Alex Rodriguez.
Play. The. Kids. The Dodgers simply need to deploy their existing assets correctly, rather than seek help from elsewhere. To get a bit more specific about it, next year's lineup should look as follows:
That group would be significantly better than league average at two positions (catcher and second base), slightly better than average at three positions (shortstop, left field, and probably first base), about average in right field, and slightly below at center and third (though not for long in Andy LaRoche's case, especially with Nomar Garciaparra serving as his caddy). Overall, it's one of the better position player groups in the league. So then you take the money you're saving yourself on Luis Gonzalez and spend it on a mid-level starting pitcher, to round out a rotation with Penny, Lowe, Schmidt, and Chad Billingsley. Coupled with the great one-two punch in the bullpen, that is also an above-average group. That's it. You're done. You've spent next to nothing--and you still have a potential pennant winner on your hands. It looks like about an 88-win core that can creep into the 90s if the veterans stay healthy. ...
There is no bigger disconnect in baseball between the Dodgers' ability to develop talent and the front office's lack of appreciation for that talent.
Silver predicts the Rockies will fall into the trap of failing to improve a team that overachieved, but that Arizona and San Diego will tinker upward.
Reason To Believe
Seen a man standin' over a dead dog, lyin' by the highway in a ditch
- Bruce Springsteen
I couldn't have picked a much better night to go see the Boss than New Manager Night - not that I picked it. It just kind of fell in place at the last minute.
It was a night where I could feel my own age, as my back and legs struggled with standing in the general admission floor section, and feel the star's age as well. (Update: And I shouldn't neglect to mention the tattered venue, the Sports Arena!) Springsteen doesn't play as long as he used to, doesn't reach musically like he used to, doesn't strut like he used to, doesn't even spin stories like he used to. He can still rock, hard, man - just more of a sprinter than a marathon runner. But we're all getting old. In the first 10 seconds of the concert - literally 10 seconds, I kid you not - there was nearly a full-scale brawl in front of my vulerable nose. Who needs it, you know?
It was a night of simultaneously living in the moment and trying to recapture old glory. There were new great moments, like the "Spirit in the Sky"-infused rendition he gave of "Reason to Believe." But other times, I found myself integrating past memories from my previous Springsteen concerts (Sports Arena '84, Oakland Coliseum '85, Shoreline Ampitheater '87, Wiltern Theater '97, Staples Center '99, Fabulous Forum '02) into the live performance itself, something I'd never done before. Because it was better before.
Though the new album "Magic" is strong, there's no comparison with his old stuff. I wasn't setting out to be biased, but to compare the energy of a newer song Tuesday to "The Ties That Bind" or "She's the One" - or heaven help me, he played "Kitty's Back"! - there really is no comparison. Springsteen Live has peaked. What's good is that you can go to a concert and, unlike a baseball game, know you're going to get a win. But the best is behind us. Great show, not greatest show. There's no avoiding that yes, the Dodgers have more than a future than Bruce, however tenuous. Which I guess should be some consolation, for now.
In a way, the comparisons for Springsteen is with Magic Johnson and Vin Scully. When they go, they are going to be irreplaceable. My kids have already missed the best of them. They're going to have to hold out for their own treasures. Hopefully, this town can still provide them.
It's not as if these guys are dead yet. When Springsteen played "Born to Run" as an encore, I was savoring the words as if I was watching a farewell speech at Cooperstown. I was thinking, "This is it - this may be the last song I ever hear him play live." But he wasn't done. He wrapped up with a truly energized, guitar-driven burst of "Dancing in the Dark" - maybe the best the song ever sounded, followed by an Irish-tinged "American Land." It was awesome.
At the end of every hard-earned day, people find some reason to believe.
It appears I have to retract my comments below relating Grady Little's departure to the fortunes of the Yankees. It appears to have been in the works independent of Joe Torre's availability - though that still might well have been a factor.
And after I had been being so careful! My apologies.
We Were Told
We were told that Grady Little was on the same page as Ned Colletti and that Little's personality would be key to leading the Dodgers to victory.
How are we supposed to react when they tell us the same things about the next Dodger manager?
Dodgers Let Little Go Because Yankees Failed in Postseason
That's what it comes down to, right?
According to Tony Jackson of the Daily News, the Dodgers have called a 4 p.m. press conference where "they are expected to announce the firing of manager Grady Little after two seasons at the helm."
Whether this is the right move or not, let alone a righteous move or not, it really makes you wonder what the Dodgers' plan was had Torre not become available. And it reinforces the fact that the failings of the Dodgers in 2007 had more to do with the general manager than the manager. Because while Little could have done a better job, Ned Colletti could have done a much better job.
Dodger Thoughts, March 12, 2003:
I'm very happy these days - I have a wonderful wife and a wonderful baby, and you won't catch me regretting the choices I made that allowed those things to happen. But I do have frustrations, and those frustrations, I've come to realize, are played out each time the Dodgers do something. Anything. I'm not just talking about the 162 games; I'm talking about the offseason trades and the decisions to replace the dirt warning track with rubber and the removal of the sandwich station on the Club level of Dodger Stadium. I was raised in an easier time, where things were more often right than wrong, and I haven't shed my addiction to that time. I want things with the Dodgers to be right. That, essentially, is the genesis of this website - to deal with that want.
If I could withdraw my nearly lifelong investment in the Dodgers, I think I would. They almost seem to be begging me to. But I can't. I'm in for a penny and a pound. Every time I thought of pulling out today, I thought of Russell Martin. As long as there are guys like him, guys that thrill me while wearing the Dodger uniform, I don't know that I can leave.
I believe they call this a dysfunctional relationship.
Update: It's now being called a Little resignation, but I think we can file this under "a rose by any other name ..."
Update 2: Tim Brown of Yahoo! claims that Little and Colletti had a falling out at the end of the 2007 season that set all this in motion. (Commenter CajunDodger provided the quick link.)
Update 3: Who's safe among the kids?
In my opinion, Martin, James Loney and Chad Billingsley are safe in their positions as starters. I think Matt Kemp is also, despite the negative press he got, because he just has so much talent.
Update 4: "Two years of special probation?" Doesn't that sound like the job description for Dodger manager? Instead, it's the punishment ex-Dodger Jose Offerman got for his summer bat-attack, according to The Associated Press.
Update 5: Did I mention lately that winning breeds chemistry?
Memo to Dodger Human Resources
General Manager, Los Angeles Dodgers
Owner, Los Angeles Dodgers
I think these guidelines apply, whether or not any change happens in the Dodger managerial or front office positions over the next week or month.
Update: This post came out even more tersely than I intended. So here's some emotion: I can't for the life of me understand why the Dodgers can't have people that fill these simple requirements.
Alex Rodriguez and the Ultimate Choice
This morning, in my car cassette deck (thanks to a tape sent to me from Dodger Thoughts reader Stan from Tacoma), the Dodgers finished off their June 11, 1971, 12-1 pasting of the Montreal Expos at Jarry Park.
The Dodgers scored a season-high eight runs in the second inning, while Al Downing took a two-hit shutout into the ninth inning before settling for the complete-game victory. With the game hardly in doubt, the Dodgers emptied their bench and featured the following defensive alignment in the ninth:
Bill Buckner, 1B
The Dodgers had 16 hits in the game, but the 22 1/2-year-old Garvey, batting eighth, it should be noted, went a meek 0 for 5. He wasn't robbed of any hits it was just a bad day (though Vin Scully, who broadcast all nine innings on the radio that day, noted that Garvey didn't let his poor offensive showing bother him on defense).
The performance lowered Garvey's season batting average to .231 and OPS to .700. He had had 146 plate appearances to that point and mustered 18 singles, seven doubles, one triple, four home runs and 15 walks. He went 1 for 4 the next game, then did not play again for the Dodgers until July 29. Garvey's career numbers through June 11, 1971: .309 on-base percentage, .376 slugging percentage, five home runs in 226 at-bats.
In this day and age, Garvey would be what is known as "a hole in the lineup." He was, if I may be allowed to oversimplify, Andy LaRoche, 36 years earlier.
The point of all this is not to suggest that LaRoche will be the next Garvey. The point is that if you have reason to believe a player will be good such as an impressive minor league track record and flashes of talent at a young age a slow start or even slow half-season isn't a reason to give up on a player.
Interestingly, the 1971 National League Most Valuable Player was a third baseman, and a name that has come up in Dodger conversation in recent days. Joe Torre hit .363 for St. Louis that season, with a .421 on-base percentage and .555 slugging percentage. His adjusted OPS of 171 almost matches the most recent adjusted season OPS (177) of a present-day third baseman, Alex Rodriguez.
Torre, who was 31 when the 1971 season ended, never had a season like that again, though he was productive for four of the next five seasons.
The point of all that is not to suggest that Rodriguez will be the next Torre, but just a caution that declines happen.
Now, if you think I'm forming an argument against the Dodgers pursuing Alex Rodriguez, you'd be wrong. Rodriguez is too great a talent not to consider adding to the team. I just don't want you to think I have blinders on about what can happen to great prospects or great veterans.
With that out of the way, I do want to address three of the chief arguments against signing Rodriguez. These are: 1) adding Rodriguez's salary would put too many eggs in one basket by leaving the Dodgers vulnerable if he were injured, 2) adding Rodriguez's salary to the team would prevent the Dodgers from making other necessary improvements to the squad and 3) adding Rodriguez would encourage a win-now philosophy that would renew the Dodgers' hopeless cycle of exchanging young talent for over-the-hill talent.
Note that all these arguments are fear-based. Fear that Rodriguez will get hurt. Fear that the Dodgers will be stupid. Having been an adult since before 1988, I understand those fears all too well.
As for Rodriguez getting hurt: Yes, it could happen. But he has a healthy track record he's one of the better bets in the game as far as being in the lineup.
As for the Dodgers being stupid: If the Dodgers are going to be stupid, Rodriguez's presence or absence isn't going to change that. If the Dodgers don't sign Rodriguez (which of course remains the vast likelihood), that won't make them any less desperate to improve the team or any more insightful in their approach.
We live in two different worlds with the Dodgers. For example: There's the reality in which we know that Juan Pierre should not start, and the reality in which we know that he will start. None of us can do much to change either universe. But I'm not going to sit here and argue that the Dodgers shouldn't pursue the best player in the game because it will screw up the franchise. Rodriguez is a solution, not a problem.
I'm perfectly willing to enter the season with LaRoche as the team's starting third baseman, but reality tells us that even if Rodriguez isn't signed, LaRoche won't have that status. He'll have to wait for someone to get hurt or earn it in that tedious way we've grown accustomed to.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers won't have this lineup next season, but they could:
Rafael Furcal, SS
You'd then have Juan Pierre, Tony Abreu, Mark Sweeney, Mike Lieberthal, Jason Repko and LaRoche coming off the bench or being traded for pitching help. Or, for example, you trade Kent to the American League and open up a spot for Abreu to shore up the infield defense.
For those who can't shake the real reality, put Pierre in Young's slot, and recognize that the defense has some soft spots no matter what the Dodgers do. Either way, you'd have an organization that can win now and for years to come. That's about as bulletproof as you can get if you're not stupid.
So the debate isn't about pursuing Rodriguez or not. The debate isn't about whether LaRoche is a legitimate third-base prospect. The debate is about being stupid or not.
I choose not being stupid. It's really not that hard.
There for the (Expensive) Taking
Scott Boras e-mailed The Associated Press to tell them that Alex Rodriguez had exercised his option to leave the Yankees and become a free agent.
I was wrong. I thought all along he would stay a Yankee. He still could, but now I doubt he will. (Maybe I can be wrong twice!)
I can't believe he will end up with the Dodgers for a number of reasons. Part of me doesn't want him to, so that I don't have to read seven years of newspaper columns here writing about how this great player is not clutch. But there certainly would be worse things in the world.
Have Mercy ...
It wasn't a kickoff return, but ...
"Oh my goodness!"
I have no comment on Joe Torre, Joe Girardi, Grady Little or Ned Colletti. No one has stated anything on the record regarding any change in their current status or non-status with the Dodgers, and so there are no reasonable conclusions to draw.
Making news out off-the-record comments is a dart toss, and making news out of "he didn't return messages" is feeble journalism.
This need to guess the story before it happens is motivated purely by a desire to be read or heard, and not out of any legitimate insight into the truth of a situation. Off-the-record is worse than unreliable, but people don't care if you're wrong. Speculation is accepted around the world like MasterCard, Visa and American Express. And yet it didn't save Pedro Martinez or Mike Piazza, or save us from Brett Tomko or Juan Pierre.
It's nobody's fault. It's the way of the world these days. But I don't have to like it. There is nothing to be gained from trying to guess a story before it happens except for the reporter who gets to say, "I got it first." Why should any reader care who got it first, when the thing hasn't happened until it happens?
And in the meantime, accusations and insinuations are tossed about that may be patently unfair. But after the dust settles, and someone is inevitably wrong, who will apologize? No one. Not even me.
Bring on Game 3 of the Series, and wake me when the rest of this nonsense is over.
A Nostalgic Return to the Coliseum?
There have been a number of little Dodger newsbits over the past 24 hours, but buried near the bottom of an article by Barry M. Bloom for MLB.com was this rather surprising morsel:
Several games in the annual preseason Freeway Series against the Angels may be staged at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Putting aside the erroneous implication that the Freeway Series is some sort of several-game affair when it has traditionally been no more than three games and could even be reduced to one in 2008, as Tony Jackson of the Daily News reports the idea of staging games at the Coliseum for the first time in 47 years forced me into a double-take.
I e-mailed the Dodgers this morning to see where this notion came from, and senior vice president of communications Camile Johnston replied.
"The stories about this are premature," Johnston said. "It is something being considered as part of the 50th anniversary celebration, but nothing is close to being finalized."
I have to say, I'll be following this story eagerly. It would be quite a treat to see first-hand the odd arrangement of baseball shoehorned into the city's football stadium, recapturing the Dodgers' first moments in Los Angeles.
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In other news, the Dodgers announced De Jon Watson has been promoted from director of player development to assistant general manager - player development. The promotion gives Watson input on transactions - which probably can't hurt, because according to Dave Studeman of The Hardball Times, no team in baseball in 2007 got less value from players signed to free agent contracts (including those signed before the 2006-07 offseason) than the Dodgers.
In addition, the team has made a few changes in the medical staff. Among them: Todd Tomczyk, who came to the team last season, was promoted to assistant athletic trainer. The Dodgers have hired Sue Falsone as a physical therapist - the first female PT in major-league history. Also, Brendon Huttman will be the Dodgers' strength coach, coming over from Cleveland.
Director of medical services and head trainer Stan Conte told Dylan Hernandez of the Times that the team needs to be "more proactive and be on the more preventative side." Of course, we knew this when Conte was hired, so this seems to be an admission that they needed to show better progress.
Hernandez has other health notes, including an update on Jason Schmidt.
(Schmidt) hasn't started throwing a baseball, but Conte said he is 'incredibly pleased' with his recovery. Schmidt will visit Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles in the middle of next month and could start throwing soon after.
I continue to believe that Schmidt will be in the starting rotation in April, but not at the level of performance he had with San Francisco.
(Image source: Ballparkwatch.com)
At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, if you were an employee high, high enough up the totem pole, you could choose from among certain works of art in the permanent collection to have in your office. You can imagine that when I was working there mid-pole and saw this was an option if I hung around for, oh, 10 or 20 years, it shot to the top of my list.
The artist, R.B. Kitaj, passed away Sunday at the age of 74. From the obituary in the Times:
Peter Goulds, owner of the L.A. Louver gallery in Venice, met Kitaj in 1979 and maintained a fairly close association with him over the years. He presented a solo show of Kitaj's work in 2003.
"He was a very great artist because he found a way of making ideas rooted in the 19th century relevant to our time," Gould told the Times on Tuesday. "He took the major impulses of our time -- printed word and moving image -- and brought them alive with a sense of history and context that gave additional meaning to his paintings. Through his imagination, we are linked to a broader view of life. The paintings serve as entry points to imagination and invention."
A slight man with close-cropped white hair and beard and stern features that, one Times writer noted, "gave him the appearance of [an Ingmar] Bergman patriarch," Kitaj (pronounced Kit-eye) had a strong relationship with Los Angeles.
He had his first museum show here at LACMA in 1965, taught at UCLA in 1970 and met his second wife, Sandra Fisher, here the same year. A lifelong baseball fan, he also made portraits for Sports Illustrated magazine of figures including Dodger pitcher Sandy Koufax. ...
Messing with Perfection: World Series Pick
Southern California Fires
Are any of you, or your families, in jeopardy?
(Fire updates from the Times: As of this morning, 500,000 have been told to evacuate their homes.)
* * *
I noticed this in the morning but then forgot about it ... but you can read about it at Rob McMillin's 6-4-2. Ross Newhan in the Times reported on the promotion of the Angels' 29-year-old computer analyst Tory Hernandez from player performance analyst to manager of baseball operations.
"If our scouts are irreplaceable, Tory has been invaluable," former Angels general manager Bill Stoneman told Newhan. "Nothing will ever replace the human mind, but I don't know how we would operate without the computer."
Looking outside the window ... well, it does look like the end of the world, doesn't it ...
Paging Ricky Roma
Since 1901, the lowest adjusted OPS for a regular left fielder (minimum 502 plate appearances/140 games), according to Baseball-Reference.com, is Luis Polonia's 75 for the 1993 California Angels.
Juan Pierre's adjusted OPS last season for the Dodgers: 75.
There's talk that the Dodgers might move Pierre to left field in 2008 to hide his disastrous throwing arm. This should go without saying, but if Juan Pierre is your left fielder, you need a new left fielder. There aren't enough stolen bases in the world to make that move worthwhile.
Replacing Pierre with a better arm in center field would be undermined by the offensive hit, relative to the rest of baseball, that the Dodgers would take by moving Pierre to left. The fact that this is even being considered betrays the reality that Pierre doesn't belong in the starting lineup at all.
Entrusting Pierre with left field is like entrusting Shelley Levene with the Glengarry leads. Pierre in left is a call for help. Somebody needs to answer it, even if it's Delwyn Young.
P.S.: It has been 94 years since a left fielder went homerless for a season.
Farewell, Shav Glick
A legend at the Times passes on. One of the definitive sportswriters of the 20th century, and to my knowledge, one of the most generous in spirit.
He wrote his first bylined story, for the Pasadena Post, when he was 14. By the time he was assigned the racing beat at The Times, he was 48, had already spent 34 years covering other sports -- less three years for Army service during World War II -- and was gaining renown as a golf writer.
"In 1969, I was suddenly thrust into racing," he recalled a few years ago. " I had no background in racing as such."
And yet Glick and motor racing went together like biscuits and gravy. So taken with it was he that he made sure he covered the entire spectrum.
He was as likely to be at a sprint car race in Ventura as at the Indianapolis 500. He covered short tracks and super speedways, road racing and drag racing and midget cars. He was fascinated by unlimited hydroplane racing and, once in the dead of winter, went to La Crosse, Wis., to get a story about stock cars racing on ice.
In the 37 years he covered racing -- he was 85 when he retired in 2006 -- he had won more awards than some good drivers win races. He even had one named for him, the Shav Glick Award, given annually by sponsor Eagle One for distinguished achievement in motor racing by a Californian. The winners, chosen by a panel of sportswriters and public relations directors, represent various areas of racing but have one thing in common: Glick wrote often about each of them. ...
* * *
I also want to wish Sons of Steve Garvey a happy first birthday. Well done, kids.
The Rockies' Way
For SI.com, I wrote a column describing how the Colorado Rockies are anything but an overnight success.
Colorado's blinding 21-1 run over the past month obscures the fact that this was a team that had played .624 ball (58-45) over the three months prior to firing the turbo boosters. And the abrupt turnaround of a team that had posted losing records in the previous six seasons, including 76-86 in 2006, belies how timid a makeover the Rockies put themselves through during the previous offseason.And for those who would suggest that Los Angeles is too impatient a city to allow a team to build in this fashion, 1) I don't see that this is true, and 2) if it is true, look where it has gotten us.
Value what you have. That's my 2007-08 mantra.
Update: Controversy?! The all-time Los Angeles sports No. 49, according to the Daily News, is ... Tom Niedenfuer.
You sort of forget the good things he did do, before he became a bete noir.
Ken Davidoff of Newsday raises the possibility of disentangled Yankees manager Joe Torre coming from the Bronx to Chavez Ravine to replace Grady Little, then gets an anonymous Dodger insider to dismiss the idea:
There are currently three teams, not counting the Yankees, looking for managers: the Cardinals, Pirates and Royals.
Forget about the Pirates and Royals. The Cardinals, to the contrary, would present great appeal to Torre. He is immensely popular in St. Louis, thanks to his terms as a player (1969-74) and manager (1990-95). Hall of Famer Bob Gibson, who is on the Cardinals' payroll, is probably Torre's best friend in baseball.
But the Cards appear likely to bring back Tony La Russa for a 13th season, so that's probably out.
Would any team jettison its current manager to go after Torre? Here's a guess for conspiracy theorists: the Dodgers. Owner Frank McCourt is a Boston native, so he knows all about Torre. Current manager Grady Little is under scrutiny for a tough 2007 season, during which the young and veteran players failed to peacefully coexist.
Imagine the Dodgers bringing in a Brooklyn native to end their World Series title drought of 19 seasons. That would strike a blow in the Southern California public relations battle with the Angels. And Torre could hang out with Billy Crystal and other Hollywood types.
Alas, on the condition of anonymity, an official intimately familiar with the Dodgers shot down that idea yesterday, vowing that the club would stay with Little. But keep an eye on the situation.
Meanwhile, Times editorial researcher Paul Thornton suggests, in the shadow of the team's 50th anniversary celebration of its arrival in Los Angeles, that the Dodgers are truly getting back to their Brooklyn roots ...
Maybe the Dodgers' two decades of mediocrity is just a return to form. After all, the Brooklyn Dodgers didn't win a World Series until 1955 their seventh decade as a franchise finally knocking off the hated New York Yankees. Then-owner Walter O'Malley plucked the Dodgers from their borough in 1957 and moved west; the L.A. Dodgers played their first season in 1958 at the L.A. Coliseum and began winning in a hurry.
In just the team's second season on the West Coast, the Dodgers won the 1959 World Series spoiling Angelenos with an accomplishment that took Brooklynites several generations to enjoy. The Dodgers won it all again in 1963. And '65. Again in '81. And '88. The team appeared in the Fall Classic three more times in the 1970s and also 1966. For 30 out of the team's 100-plus years, the Dodgers and their L.A. fans gorged themselves in Yankee-like victory and established a so-called "tradition of excellence."
A short-lived tradition, we might now add. Perhaps the Dodgers' move west didn't take the Brooklyn blood out of the Hollywood-adjacent Dodgers after all. Fifty years later, the Dodgers are finally the Bums once more.
Thirty years ago today, my first truly passionate, start-to-finish season as a Dodger fan ended when Reggie Jackson hit three home runs to lead the Yankees over the Dodgers in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series.
Despite that disappointment, it was a glorious year for me. All those '77 Dodgers swept me off my feet. With one exception - see if you can guess - I loved everyone from Steve Garvey (dutifully obeying new manager Tommy Lasorda's instructions to hit more home runs) to John Hale. Reggie Smith, Ron Cey, Dusty Baker, Manny and Vic, a flawless pitching staff for someone on the cusp of their 10th birthday, 1977 was a year-long gift.
The National League playoffs went our way, of course. Then it turned against the Dodgers in the World Series, but I don't recall being devastated. I recall feeling that we'd be right back where we belonged the following year.
The '77 season was too long ago for me to have many day-to-day memories. There was the game Garvey had three doubles and two homers. There were these bookends: Don Sutton allowed a home run to the first batter of the season, and the regular season finale saw Baker improbably homer off J.R. Richard to give the Dodgers baseball's first 30-homer quartet. (This was also the year Richard became like a giant to me he struck out 14 in that game and ferociously dominates the Dodgers in my mind.)
Mostly, it's just images, of Garvey's forearms, of the somewhat matching 'fros of Smith and Sutton, of Davey Lopes stealing second, and so on. Of watching Cey and Baker hit grand slams on consecutive days in the NLCS on our five-inch black-and-white kitchen-table TV, and of being in my cousins' living room on what had to be a weekend, watching John pitching a complete game to clinch the NL pennant.
There was one more year of near-bliss in 1978, mostly spoiled by Jackson's hip, before 1979 brought my first real disappointment upon becoming a serious fan, with the team drowning in last place in July before scrambling to finish with 79 victories. The 1980 season was a thrillride that ended with a thud, and the 1981 season brought the first World Series title of my life, but the year was marred by the strike. And you can fill in the blanks thereafter. There have been lots of good times in the past 30 years, but when it comes to 1977, nothing feels bad - not even Reggie's home runs. It was a great year to become a full-fledged Dodger fan.
Still Feeling Kind of Mopey
Just about the only thing I can think to talk about with regards to the Dodgers right now is to wish Olmedo Saenz a belated but proper farewell, thanking him for all the good memories he provided us. It was a disappointing 2007 season, despite his one shining moment, but all in all, we did well by him.
Dodger Thoughts continues to be a struggle for me this month, for a number of reasons (that may not interest you at all, to be sure). The season ended on a dreary note. There isn't much in the way of offseason moves to talk about. Other sites have, quite properly, taken the lead in hosting MLB playoff chat.
It would be the perfect time for me to resume writing Dodger historical pieces, which I quite enjoy - or at least update that dang neglected Dodger Thoughts sidebar - except for my endless complaint of not having enough time to do so. My daughter ventured into Kindergarten this year with a start time an hour earlier than her preschool. That used to be some pretty prime Dodger Thoughts territory for me, but instead blogging cuts even further into my relaxation time or sleep.
I'm hoping things rebound in November, after the playoffs end and after I've culled some of the new prime-time TV shows that I watch partly for work reasons and partly out of curiosity and interest. I'm wary of what kind of news the Dodgers will make, but there should be more to write about. Still, the Angels should have a more interesting offseason, with the combination of new general manager Tony Reagins and added input from manager Mike Scioscia. Skimming the Times today, the odds seemed greater that the Angels would pursue Barry Bonds than Alex Rodriguez.
I should be more excited about the 2008 Dodgers. In one sense, I can't wait for the season to start. But I sort of feel like I'm stuck in line at the DMV, waiting to take a driving test that I should pass, but you never know ...
It's incredible to think that if Takashi Saito doesn't give up an improbable home run to Todd Helton, the best story of 2007 wouldn't have taken place. The Colorado Rockies have become No. 1 on the Law of Averages' Most Wanted, and like any great outlaw story, they've become easy and fun to root for even though we're among their kills. They're chiefly responsible for any good feelings I've had about baseball this October.
I don't think there's much the Rockies did during the last offseason to make themselves NL champs other than to recognize the value in what they had. Most of my waking thoughts about the Dodgers form a silent prayer that they somehow do just that.
Field and Stream
Ballots have been tallied for the 2007 The Scouting Report, By the Fans, For the Fans," with the Dodger contingent available here.
All-Time Los Angeles Uniform Numbers at the Daily News
Others have attempted this kind of thing in the past, but it's always fun to try to fill out a roster of the all-time best to wear every uniform number. The Daily News is running the numbers now for Los Angeles athletes - check it out.
Previously on Dodger Thoughts: "The All-Time Dodger Alphabet Team"
Report: Dodgers Heading Back to KABC
The Orange County Register has concluded that the Dodgers will bring their English-language radio broadcasts back to KABC 790 AM after an 11-year absence.
The announcement is to be made during KABC's Doug McIntyre program. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is scheduled to talk on air about the deal at 11 a.m. Monday. ...
KABC subscribers to a listeners club got the news first. Although not named, sources said it does refer to the Dodgers. Negotiations had been ongoing for several months.
The e-mail said: "On Monday, October 15, turn your radios on by 8:30 A.M. during McIntyre in the Morning as TalkRadio 790 KABC makes a major programming announcement. Then stay tuned for Al Rantel's 11 A.M. program as the news (and excitement) continues!"
The move would end the Dodgers' uncomfortable fit with otherwise all-news KFWB 980 AM. KABC is not a sportstalk station either, however. I'm not a listener, but a quick look at the current schedule indicates that most affected by the Dodgers would be Al Rantel (6 p.m. - 9 p.m.) and Mark Levin (9 p.m. - 11 p.m.).
Meanwhile, I know a number of oldtime fans will grow nostalgic at the idea of the Dodgers and Paul Harvey (11:45 a.m. - 12 noon) being reunited again. (Man, Harvey is almost 90.) And now you know some of the rest of the story ...
A Gagne Lament
It pains me to see Eric Gagne mauled by opposing batters and Boston Red Sox fans. It's like watching someone else mistreat my old dog.
I'm not close enough to the situation to know whether most of the anger is directed at Gagne himself or at Boston management for using him, but I think it might be the former. From what little I've seen, Gagne doesn't look at all comfortable on the mound - which immediately makes me wonder if he is once again pitching while injured. This became a habit, of course, in Los Angeles, and given the fact that Gagne had good numbers with Texas before Boston acquired him, it would be my first guess.
In any event, Gagne has become the anti-Dave Roberts for the Red Sox. He has become to Beantown what Danys Baez or Roberto Hernandez were in Los Angeles. He has become fortune's fool, and even though he left the Dodgers for greenbacker pastures, it only makes me sad. I sure hope this isn't the way Gagne goes out. I'll never forget my amazement at how automatic he was and the excitement he brought Los Angeles.
Dodger Fan Fiction
Open chat continues in the thread below this one.
You know those stories where people take turn writing one sentence at a time? How about a baseball game?
I'll write the first line, and people can take turns adding to it. The only rule: You have to wait for someone else to write before you add another sentence. If two people publish simultaneous and/or contradictory events, we'll just have to reconcile them somehow.
It's time for Dodger baseball, with the Los Angeles Dodgers taking on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the final game of the 2008 World Series.
October 13 Open Chat
This thread is for non-fan fiction chat.
To participate in today's group fan fiction, click this link.
Grandma, What Big Eyes You Have
So, I think a lot of us are realizing how hard it is going to be for the Dodgers to win the National League West next season.
Not that there was that grand a difference between Los Angeles and the two NLCS finalists during the regular season - again, we're basically talking about a win a month. But the Dodgers certainly aren't lapping the field.
The Rockies, Diamondbacks and Padres all battled injuries in 2007, yet all finished ahead of the Dodgers. Outside of the Alex Rodriguez longshot, there isn't a whole lot the Dodgers can do in the free agent market to make a huge difference. There are definitely things that can go right for the Dodgers in 2008, but are they stuck until Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald or some such start making an impact ... maybe not until 2009?
Considering Colorado's slow start to 2007, for example, is there really much reason to think they'll do worse in 2008?
It's going to be some pennant race next year - that just about seems certain. Based on what is likely to happen during the offseason, what do you expect the 2008 NL West standings to be?
At Their Mercy
Tony Jackson of the Daily News starts speculating about the Dodgers' offseason plans today. I'm still not ready.
I'm feeling a little fatalistic these days and disinclined to agonize over what the Dodgers should and shouldn't do. While there are nuances to any individual moves, in general the approach the Dodgers should take seems so obvious, and has been discussed here so many times, I don't really feel like belaboring it. They either get it or they don't.
This is a critical offseason. The Dodgers, despite their missteps, have a strong core to build upon. At the same time, the National League West has clearly been strengthening as well. The temptations that have waylaid the Dodgers in the past will reemerge, and the main consolation is the hope that somehow, some way, the right lessons from 2007 will have been learned, and not the wrong ones.
* * *
In this MILB.com story about Jonathan Meloan being named the minor leagues' AA reliever of the year, Dodgers' minor league pitching coordinator doesn't rule out Meloan starting in the majors at some point.
"Jon is extremely strong and aggressive on the mound, and a lot of us in the organization felt that he would get to the big leagues faster if he was in the bullpen." ...
Still, Reed won't rule out a return to the rotation for the burly righty, saying that while his best long-term projections are as a reliever, he has the ability and flexibility to become a successful starter.
"I wouldn't rule out him going back [to starting]," Reed said. "There were many times this season where it looked like Jon could have helped out the big club right away. Where a player ends up all depends on the player himself. Jonathan Broxton has the stuff to be a starter, but he's doing well in the 'pen, so why move him? Chad Billingsley is just the reverse.
"If he keeps progressing at this rate, this young man has a very good chance at a roster spot with the Dodgers come Opening Day."
* * *
The Dodgers will bid to be a host for the 2009 World Baseball Classic, according to City News Service.
* * *
Anyone who can't find the joy in the upcoming Rockies-Diamondbacks playoff series ... all I can say is, their loss. Short of the Dodgers playing for the National League Championship, this is about as fresh and interesting and entertaining a combination as the NL could have produced.
Update: Average age per plate appearance, courtesy of David Pinto at Baseball Musings.
Arizona had the third-youngest offense in baseball (age 26.5). Colorado was seventh (27.8). The Dodgers were 17th (29.6).
Working My Way Back To You Babe
So far, I'm enjoying the offseason. Stanford beat USC. I got away for a couple of days. I even read a book. And then, it turned out I had temporarily developed instincts.
I felt so underqualified to make Division Series predictions that I didn't even link to them last week, but I ended up going 4 for 4 at SI.com.
Now what do I do for an encore?
October 8 Open Chat
October 7 Open Chat
October 6 Open Chat
I think I'm going to continue through the weekend this postseason vacation I stumbled into, especially because the game chats on the other Toaster sites are alive with flavor.
The A-Rod Countdown Has Not Started
Some useful information provided Tuesday by Dodger Thoughts commenter Bhsportsguy relating to the idea of the Dodgers somehow shocking us and ending up with Alex Rodriguez:
1. A-Rod can opt out of his contract 10 days after the conclusion of the 2007 season; the latest that would be is November 11, 2007.
2. Players can begin to elect to become free agents for a 15-day period after the season concludes. So if the season ends on November 1, the period is between November 2-16.
3. Free agents can begin talks with other clubs starting on the 16th day after the end of the season. So, that would be November 17 in this scenario.
4. Not really related, but the last date for teams to file their reserve lists for both their minor and major league rosters is November 20. (This is in regards to the Rule 5 draft.)
5. December 1 is the last day for teams to offer arbitration to ranked free agents to be eligible for compensation. (List usually comes out around the end of October.)
6. Not really related to this topic, but the Rule 5 draft will be held on December 6.
7. Player deadline to accept arbitration is December 7.
8. For those on Mark Hendrickson watch, the last day to tender a contract is December 12, but that decision will probably be made prior to November 20 for roster protection considerations.
9. If a team signs a ranked free agent prior to December 1, the team that lost the player will get compensation. (But there will be fewer ranked free agents due to changes made in the last CBA.)
So, there is nothing that can happen between now and at least the first week of November. So kick back and enjoy the playoffs; the Hot Stove won't get its first logs for a few more weeks.
* * *
Enter the True Blue World Series contest and win your choice of a Matt Kemp, James Loney or Russell Martin t-shirt.
As some of you might know, I grew up a Rams fan. My dad's family moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1950 and got Ram tickets almost immediately, keeping them until 1982. We spent one season trying to get from Woodland Hills to Anaheim before giving them up and devoting ourselves to the Dodgers a decision I have never regretted.
I continued to follow the NFL closely through the 1990s, carving time out for it without a second thought, but eventually as my life got more complicated, it became one of the things I phased out. I haven't watched a regular-season NFL game from start to finish in a few years now.
I was thinking yesterday that if it had been the Dodgers who had moved away from me, I probably would have stopped being a baseball fan. It's not that I don't love the sport of baseball more than the sport of football, but my passion for the Dodgers is probably more important. If I still had an NFL team to root for, I'd still be with the sport. And frankly, my life would be a little easier. How much less of a logistical nightmare is it to devote Sundays, Monday nights and the occasional Thursday or Saturday to watching games than six or seven days a week.
At the last NFL game I went to, about 10 or 15 years ago in Anaheim, I was stunned by how bored I was. The stoppages in play made baseball seem fast-paced by comparison. For most of the game, there's a play, and then you wait a minute for the next play. Nevertheless, I know there are thrilling moments and thrilling games that I'm missing by cutting the NFL out of my life.
And then there's a game like Monday night's San Diego-Colorado thriller, and football becomes the last thing on my mind.
* * *
So, you know that home-plate camera on the Dodgers' Prime Ticket telecasts? The one that gives you a mostly dirt's-eye view of the plate that is mostly useless. Would that have come in handy at the end of the game?
I wasn't able to watch all of the game on TV, but I thought the TBS announcers were an improvement over the usual postseason gasbags. They were low-key until they weren't supposed to be, instead of treating every pitch like they were introducing pro wrestlers. And considering how many exciting plays there were, they really kept their cool.
But what a great way to finish the regular season, and what a wide-open postseason the National League has. Monday, Alex Belth asked me who I thought would win, and my reply was that the postseason picture had changed so much at the last minute, I hadn't even begun to think about it. Given that the Dodgers are out of it, I don't know when I've been more interested in the NL playoffs in recent years. (Bad Altitude and The Griddle have more on the game, the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs.
I'll be rooting for the Cubs, because of how long my dad has been waiting for them to return to the World Series. (He attended the last Cubs' World Series appearance, as a 10-year-old in 1945.) But I definitely have a soft spot for Colorado, a state I love visiting with a team that has provided baseball a great story.
* * *
I updated the salary information in Monday's post a little bit, mostly with more payments to discarded players. Still not sure about everything. One major question is whether Rafael Furcal was getting paid (including bonuses) $9 million in 2007 and $17 million in 2008, or $13 million each year. I can't find any evidence that it's not the latter, but feel free to point me to it.
Furcal also is owed a deferred $4 million in 2009, after his contract expires.
Update: I cleared up my confusion about Furcal. His salary for 2008 is $13 million. He gets that bonus of $4 million at some undetermined point before the 2009 season - I'm going to put that down for 2009 itself.
* * *
Song I have fallen in love with: "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," from Bruce Springsteen's newest album. That and "Falling Slowly" from the Once soundtrack are my two favorite songs of the year.
* * *
Update: From Tony Jackson of the Daily News:
Tony Abreu will undergo surgery tomorrow to repair a sports hernia. He is expected to be fully healed in six to eight weeks and then resume his normal offseason conditioning, which should leave him fully ready to go by the start of spring training. ... The MRI on (Rafael) Furcal's left ankle showed nothing serious, he won't need surgery, and he is expected to be at full strength by the start of spring training after resting and rehabbing during the winter.
That answers a lingering Furcal question, and here's hoping that all the doubts about Abreu will be taken care of.
2008: A Space Odyssey
Here's a working draft of the Dodger roster - emphasis on "working." There will be changes, from minor leaguers coming on and dropping off the 40-man, to possible major offseason transactions.
I'm expecting Jason Schmidt to start the season on the active roster, but with below-optimal effectiveness. As far as backup starting pitchers, it's pretty wide open, from buying out Randy Wolf and resigning him to a lower deal, to James McDonald coming up after Opening Day.
I truly don't expect Mark Hendrickson to return, because he has been pulled out of the Dodger starting rotation three times in 15 months, and he would command a salary of over $3 million - much more than any Dodger reliever. The Dodgers are not lacking for his type.
I've got Nomar Garciaparra listed as the starting third baseman because if nothing changed this offseason, I believe that's where he'd be. But I'd be quite surprised if he held that role by the end of May. In general, third base is the most obvious place for the Dodgers to attempt to improve themselves - though it is certainly way too soon to give up on Andy LaRoche.
I think Delwyn Young made a very strong impression on the Dodgers in September, and if the Dodgers don't acquire another outfielder, I think Young will compete with Andre Ethier for playing time. At a minimum, I see Young filling Olmedo Saenz's role as top pinch-hitter off the bench, along with Mark Sweeney.
Otherwise, the Dodgers' offseason starting lineup seems pretty obvious. ... The backup catcher and the back of the bullpen could be anyone. ... Jason Repko will have an uphill battle to stay with the team. ... Chin-Lung Hu, who has yet to draw a walk in the majors, will probably begin 2008 in Las Vegas.
The idea that Chad Billingsley, Matt Kemp, James Loney, Russell Martin and Andre Ethier will combine to earn roughly $2.5 million next season is a remarkable advantage for the Dodgers. Let's hope they don't boot it.
Corrections on the salaries below greatly welcomed:
Starting Pitchers (5)
Minor Leagues/Disabled List/Headed Out
Starting Lineup (8)
Minor Leagues/Disabled List/Headed Out
Also Paying ...
Working total: *$91,450,000
*Rough salary estimate
* * *
My special Wild-Card Playoff Day edition of Fungoes at SI.com focuses on the Colorado Rockies' storybook season - with the final chapter yet to be written.
October starts today. But October, for the Colorado Rockies, is both tantalizingly close and unfathomably far.
Jim Tracy's Managerial Career - Over?
The ex-Dodger skipper's job is on the line and is not likely to ever become the fish who saved Pittsburgh, according to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and should enter retread status.
That doesn't mean a team won't take a chance on him, but with his weaknesses exposed, getting the next job will be harder than getting the last one.
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About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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