Monthly archives: March 2008
The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang
Today should forever bury the notion that Dodger fans demand big-name players on their team.
Today, the sold-out Opening Day crowd gleefully cheered a bunch of guys who have yet to see their first free-agent contract, or earn their first million, or endorse their first sports drink or razor. For the most part, it wasn't the polite applause granted anyone wearing a Dodger uniform - the kind that late additions Ramon Troncoso and Angel Chavez received. It was full-throated appreciation for a bunch of guys we plucked anonymously from our own orchard.
Some of these guys still haven't spent a full season in the majors as starters, yet the crowd was familiar enough with them to know they are special.
Now, that doesn't mean that disabled infielder Nomar Garciaparra didn't get some of the loudest shouts of all. I'm not pronouncing big-name power dead. But the shouts for Garciaparra were exceeded by the shouts for Russell Martin. Butch Cassidy, move over: The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang is ready for fame, too. The message is clear: Dodger fans just want good players to cheer for, and if the team gets 'em young and cheap, that's copacetic, man.
In particular, I love that this affirmation came on a day that the Dodgers produced perhaps their best Opening Day pregame ceremony ever, a lovely procession in which a couple score of Dodger greats - and some beloved not-so-greats - gathered on the field at their old positions, opening with Duke Snider and concluding with Sandy Koufax. The vast majority of these players first put on their Dodger uniforms in obscurity and grew into value or stardom. Most of those honored came from the pre-free agent era, which explains their origin stories. But the point is that only in recent years did the idea of a marquee acquisition even become an issue.
Fans are superficial - they like winners. But they aren't remotely superficial enough to care where they come from.
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The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang won't win 'em all. As if to emphasize that point on an otherwise blissful day, newly crowned left fielder Andre Ethier went 0 for 4, with Giants centerfielder Aaron Rowand snagging Ethier's hard, low line drive in his final at-bat.
But it was something else to look at that lineup today and see legitimate offense at seven of eight positions - and that was before emergency third baseman Blake DeWitt - newly dubbed "The Solution" by Dodger Thoughts commenters - reached base three times and just missed cracking a home run in his first official major-league swing. It was something else to look at the Dodgers defensively and see legitimate defensive value at seven of eight positions - and that was before slick infielder Chin-Lung Hu replaced Jeff Kent in the late innings.
Yes, the team the Dodgers dominated in their 5-0 season-opening victory today was a team predicted to lose around 100 games (though seeing names like Randy Winn and Ray Durham, names that have broken my heart a time or two, made me anything but overconfident). The Dodgers will face tougher opponents, and they'll lose to some. But despite my purely subjective Spring Training angst, I am struck by just how happy I am about this team. I remarked to my brother during the pregame introductions that I could not recall the last time I so genuinely liked so many of the players on the roster. I hope that feeling lasts a long, long time.
Oh, and by the way, Rafael Furcal is alive and well. It's amazing what a difference a healthy hoof appears to make for him.
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One more note on fan reactions. The reception for Juan Pierre was perhaps surprisingly warm - no sign of the ire he generates online. But Jason Schmidt got some boos. I realize some of these people are intending to boo his contract or even his fate more than they are intending to boo the human being, but make no mistake - in the end, it's a human being getting the boos. And if we know one thing about Schmidt, it's that he's busting his tail trying to get himself back on the mound for the Dodgers. I know some think I make boos too taboo, but it just doesn't seem right.
The Dodgers seem to believe Schmidt will be back in due time, because rather than place him on the 60-day disabled list, they lopped one of their better minor-league relievers, Eric Hull, off their 40-man roster, according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise. The 28-year-old Hull might not have had a long career ahead of him, but he did have a 2.74 ERA with 81 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings in Las Vegas last year, so I'm guessing he will have something to offer someone else.
You Got To Be Startin' Something
Here are my choices for the top Opening Day pitching performances in Los Angeles Dodger history (from a list generated by Baseball-Reference.com):
3) Don Drysdale pitches a complete-game 11-inning 3-2 victory over Chicago before 67,550 at the Coliseum in 1960, throwing 164 pitches and striking out 14.
2) Hideo Nomo shuts out Arizona on 103 pitches in 2003, five years ago today.
1) I'm going with Fernando's 2-0 shutout over the Astros in '81. He only struck out five, but considering it was his first major-league start and that it came on short notice, I'm calling it the greatest.
Regrettably, Valenzuela arguably had the worst Opening Day starts too: Two years in a row, he was knocked out by the end of the third inning.
We've All Been There, Pierre
You really have to feel for Juan Pierre. First he looked like his dog died before the game when he found out he would not be the starting LF, and then he was flat-out embarrassed on the field just now.
Pierre hit a single through the right side, but then was immediately picked off. He did not even make a move back to the bag and honestly looked as though his mind was off someplace else and he didn't even realize there was a baseball game going on.
You know this has to be tough for him, losing his spot, and the Dodger fans certainly were not helping. He was booed as he trudged back to the dugout and one heckler yelled "Go back to Florida, please" as though he were begging.
Always a classy guy, Pierre just looks like his heart is broken right about now.
- Kevin Pearson, Press-Enterprise
The best of us have all felt this low, and so seeing it in another evokes two sides of the sympathy coin. We understand the feeling, but the feeling's not special. Each of us can choose which of those responses to emphasize.
You can never really get inside a player's head simply from reading his newspaper quotes - for that matter, you can't always get inside a close friend's head even after hours of conversation - but I haven't seen much evidence of Pierre realizing, as has been said all along at Dodger Thoughts, the outfield competition has never been all about him. He keeps wondering aloud how he could lose his position when he's been the same player he has been all along. (He's correct, by the way, in saying that he shouldn't lose his position because of a poor Spring Training, but as Joshua Worley wrote at Dodgerama, "Irrationality owed us.") Pierre seems to keep waiting for someone to explain it as something more than arbitrary or a blanket desire for something different.
At least in terms of what's been printed, Pierre doesn't voice any recognition that everyone realizes he's exactly the same player he has always been - but that what's happened is three better outfielders have come along. It's as if Bob's Big Boy weren't able to understand why people have started to buy burgers elsewhere, even though it's still got the same ol' Bob's Big Boy statue outside it always has. Pierre can't, at least publicly, acknowledge the fact that you can now get a better burger elsewhere.
Now, I'm not saying he should be able to. We all have our blind spots - I know I have mine. To this day, there are disappointments in my overall rich life that I have never come to terms with. Some I'm in denial about, others I'm in defiant disagreement with, and some I've accepted but never quite understood.
So I sympathize with the disappointment of a man who believes in himself, even as I sympathize - even more, in this particular case - with the decision that brought on his disappointment. Because you know what? Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are people too, people who believe in themselves, and people who deserve their greater chance to boost the Dodgers.
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Now, Monday is only the first day of the rest of the season, and there's no overwhelming reason to think that this demotion marks the last the world will ever hear of Juan Pierre. But I think there is something that, whether it needs to be emphasized or not, deserves to be emphasized.
The online analysts, the people who comment from outside the press box more often than inside, were right about this one. They're not always right, but this time, they were. They saw, based on what they observed from the players' performances, that Ethier was more likely to be a better player than Pierre. They recognized that many of the arguments being made on behalf of Pierre were flawed, if not twisted. They didn't accept that Pierre's demotion wouldn't happen, shouldn't happen, couldn't happen.
The conventional wisdom wasn't all it's cracked up to be.
For different reasons, writers both inside and outside the mainstream are targets because of where they write, as opposed to how they think. I think L'Affaire Pierre shows that targeting a type of writer misses the point. We should evaluate the arguments, not the medium they are made from.
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The Opening Day batting order differs from the weekend lineup we saw against the Red Sox, I'm presuming because of the left-hander (Barry Zito) the Dodgers will be facing.
Rafael Furcal, SS
*DeWitt is still penciled in, as the Dodgers are holding out the possibility of a pregame acquisition. Either way, I love that lineup from one-to-seven. I wouldn't mind interspersing the righties and lefties more, but the right guys are playing. Finally.
By the way, I'll be looking for Pierre to pinch-run for DeWitt in the seventh.
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The current 25-man roster (via the Press-Enterprise), with remaning questions:
Starting pitchers (5): Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Esteban Loaiza
Bullpen (6): Takashi Saito, Jonathan Broxton, Scott Proctor, Joe Beimel, Hong Chih Kuo, Ramon Troncoso
Catchers (2): Russell Martin, Gary Bennett
Infielders (7): James Loney, Jeff Kent, Rafael Furcal, Tony Abreu (to be replaced by Blake DeWitt or a new acquisition), Chin-Lung Hu, Mark Sweeney, Angel Chavez
Outfielders (5): Andre Ethier, Andruw Jones, Matt Kemp, Juan Pierre, Delwyn Young
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Decision Day (Until the Next Decision Day)
Future to the Back
If the Dodgers had still been playing in the Coliseum when William Errol Morris attempted to burn an American flag on April 25, 1976, Cubs shortstop Dave Rosello could have been the hero instead of Rick Monday. That's how little room there was in left field at tonight's "baseball Woodstock," as Charley Steiner called it.
That was one of many thoughts that crossed my mind during a kick of an evening at the Coliseum tonight, which proved to be just about everything we had hoped for as far as a journey to nostalgia and weirdness. (It also seems to have proved everything we might have feared as far as the effectiveness of the Dodger Stadium shuttle, because the line for the shuttle at about 9:45 p.m. - yes, I left the game early to get to the car - looked literally to be almost a mile long.) The tickets-sold number was 115,300, and yes, I'll be telling my kids someday that I was a part of it.
Upon arrival, the atmosphere was completely cheerful as I walked around the edifice where I spent many a Rams Sunday, and the view of the field was - what can I tell you - charming. I mean, we wouldn't want to make a habit of this, but it was just fun trying to anticipate what it would be like to play on a field so lopsided, much less to be among the people roaming on the grass behind right-center. Adding to the mystery was the fact that the 60-foot left-field screen was invisible to me from my vantage point high behind first base.
The big surprise was that the Dodgers completely abandoned the idea of playing left field: For much of the game, Andre Ethier moved to left-center, and Andruw Jones played rover. Jones even was on the receiving end of a 2-8 caught stealing.
Ballplayers were lining singles directly off the left-field wall; home runs were alternatively blasted and popped. Strikeouts were plentiful, perhaps because of the inconsistent lighting and lack of a batter's eye in center field. I feared for the health in the Dodger dugout jammed near the first-base line, as well as James Loney's inevitable pursuit of a foul ball.
We even almost got to see a triple play - should have seen one, in fact, as Jeff Kent sharply grounded to third base with two runners on, and the Red Sox went around the horn but failed to get the middle out.
And in between innings, there were numerous appearances by past Dodgers, though the highlight was the skyhook that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shot to Russell Martin. The best part of the pregame was, of course, the long ovation given to Vin Scully, who broadcast the Dodgers' first four years in Los Angeles.
An unfortunate throwing error by Blake DeWitt set up a three-unearned-run homer off Esteban Loaiza that gave Boston a second-inning lead that it would maintain the rest of the game, marring what was otherwise a fine performance by the third base under-under-understudy. But no, we weren't really wrapped up in who won and who lost.
Though we have one exhibition game left Sunday, along with some lingering roster decisions, I kind of feel like this was Opening Day, at least in the sense of revving my engine for baseball. If you have pictures from tonight's event, post them at the Dodger Thoughts group page at Flickr. Otherwise, hope you made it home in a timely fashion.
You bet, Vin - it's time for Dodger baseball.
Update: A sampling of pics from the Dodger Thoughts group page at Flickr:
Hey, the Dodgers Used To Play Here!
Let the festivities (and the honking) begin!
SOSG Takes on Dodger Front Office Elitism
First, quoting from Hymon's piece, regarding public transportation to Dodger Stadium:
City and county transportation officials have said they don't have the money to add new routes and that altering existing ones would inconvenience other riders. So the closest bus stop remains on Sunset Boulevard, down the hill from the park.
And the Dodgers aren't willing to foot the bill for new service.
"We think this should be done by the public," said Howard Sunkin, the team's senior vice president. "We've spent in excess of $150 million to restore the stadium, with more to come, and our fans are looking for public transportation."
The SOSG response (in part):
... let's look into that $150M:
Sunkin's haughty, elitist response is absolutely absurd and further reinforces how the Dodgers organization is out of touch with the common fan. Offering a public transportation option is more than a simple economic calculation; it's a business responsibility for a quality major league team who wants to take advantage of its large market fanbase. And it's not like the fans who are interested in taking the bus are net losses--not after buying $8 glasses of beer and $5 Dodger Dogs.
By the way, in Hymon's story, you might notice a certain Weisman quoted. He isn't me, but he is a big part of me ...
The SI Vault ... And Other Stuff
It's one of those things I never seem to get to, so I'm gonna get to it now in brief. As some of you know, Sports Illustrated has placed its archives online in searchable form at a place called SI Vault.
I could spend hours upon hours there, reading about ... Pedro Guerrero, for instance.
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I think this will work: I've set up a Dodger Thoughts photo group at Flickr for people to share their images from, say, Saturday's Coliseum game. Give it a look if you're interested.
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Ramon Troncoso pitched two shutout innings Friday against Boston. Troncoso could still sneak onto the roster, especially if Chan Ho Park is sent to AAA to build up his innings as a backup starting pitcher, as pitching coach Rick Honeycutt suggested to Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
Troncoso, 25, split time between A and AA ball last season, finishing with 39 strikeouts against 52 hits and 18 walks in 52 innings for Jacksonville. That's not exactly dominant, but last week, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com wrote that Troncoso was "sneaking into the picture as a middle reliever with a hard sinker and the early makings of a cutter."
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In this piece, Dennis Cozzalio gets to the roots of the name of his website, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule.
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Check out Tangotiger's Great Clutch Project:
So, you think you know who is the clutch hitter on your team? You think you know who you want at bat with the game on the line? Well, let's find out.
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All Dodger games are on XM Satellite Radio. And, as a special pre-Opening Day treat ...
For 48 hours leading up to Opening Day, XM Radio (Channel 120) will broadcast 412 songs about the sport, 27 songs about players, seven dramatic readings of baseball stories and various classic calls of historic plays truly an audio euphoria for every baseball fan.
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After my third child was born, Dodger Thoughts reader Andy Zicklin sent this clip of his son in, saying that I had this to look forward to. We'll see!
Hey, the Dodgers Are at Dodger Stadium!
The much-not-talked about season premiere of baseball at Mt. Lookout takes place tonight, with a rare - perhaps unprecendented - appearance of a designated hitter at Dodger Stadium, not to mention Jeff Kent finally making an appearance at second base and Juan Pierre fourth among outfielders in the starting lineup announced by the Dodgers this evening:
Rafael Furcal, SS
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Update: Joe Torre has named Esteban Loaiza the No. 5 starter, reports Brian Kamenetzky of Blue Notes.
Purely Subjective Spring Training Angst
For me, this was a long offseason. The Dodgers' flameout at the end of 2007 seems ages ago; the debate over who should play certain positions feels endless.
If you add to that the slow drain of healthy players from the team, well ... perhaps it's the wee-hour baby feedings, but I already feel a bit tired thinking about 2008. I don't think the Dodgers will fall on their faces this year, and I'm certainly eager for the season to start and for the chance to enjoy the games again, but the injuries feel like they're going to have a real impact.
The Dodgers, at best, are on plan E at third base, after an offseason that at various times pointed to Alex Rodriguez, Andy LaRoche, Nomar Garciaparra and Tony Abreu starting at the position. Remember when the Dodgers got nothing from catcher at the end of the 2004 season, or when center fielder John Shelby batted .183 in 1989. Short of Chin-Lung Hu continuing to make great strides at the plate while manning a new position, the Dodgers might have two automatic outs at the bottom of the lineup for an indefinite period.
On the mound, I all but guaranteed during the winter that Jason Schmidt would be in the starting rotation by this moment, albeit at a reduced performance level. Instead, Schmidt's out of mind if not out of sight. And it doesn't seem unrealistic to think that Jeff Kent or Takashi Saito are going to be touch-and-go all year.
All this has tempered my enthusiasm for Andre Ethier effectively seizing left field from Juan Pierre, or Hong-Chih Kuo quietly dazzling his way back onto the team, or the general emergence of the young Dodgers as core members of the lineup, rather than having to prove themselves. The team might struggle despite their talents.
There have been so many running storylines about the team this year - third base, left field, No. 5 starter, Dodgertown, China - that a huge chunk of the team has mostly been ignored. Hardly 10 words have been written this spring about Jonathan Broxton, James Loney or Russell Martin. Brad Penny and Derek Lowe are seemingly on auto-pilot. There's vague concern about Chad Billingsley, whom I've predicted would be the staff ace, but nothing focused.
If Delwyn Young wins a roster slot, it will be by default ... and if he doesn't hit in April, he could be taking the Cody Ross route out of town by May. Yhency Brazoban got no traction, and Jonathan Meloan wasn't even a presence. Greg Miller? I could go on ...
Despite jaw-dropping performances by the likes of Ethier and Clayton Kershaw, I feel like I've been munching on a steady diet of bad news this month.
If there's a lesson from this Spring Training, it's that we still, still, still need to practice patience. We need to be able to wait for Kershaw, even though he is already walking across the coals in bare feet. We need to wait for players to heal. We need to wait for management to make the bold but obvious moves. We need to remember that great players will slump.
With the season opener 75 hours away, even though the Dodgers have avoided making any significant mistakes over recent weeks or months that I can think of, I'm prepared for disappointment. It's not a place I expected to be. I keep needing to remind myself about the quality of the team.
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The Times has a flash illustration comparing Dodger Stadium and the Coliseum. And Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News passes along a Dodgers-supplied photo of how the Coliseum press box for baseball looked back in the day.
Hoffarth also has a feature on Vin Scully's memories of broadcasting there.
"It was a wooden structure, fastened to the roof of the tunnel, with an iron staircase going up to it, and it was very close to home plate," Scully recalled. "The strange thing was that even though the Coliseum was so big and formidable, those press seats made everything feel so intimate and close."
So close, that it reminded Scully of a game when a controversial play allowed him, of all people, to help resolve it.
"The Dodgers were playing the Milwaukee Braves, and there was a play where the batter topped the ball, dropped his bat, broke for first, and the ball ended up hitting his bat," Scully recalled. "Birdie Tebbetts, the Braves' manager, got into a heated argument with the umpires over it, and finally announced that he was protesting the game.
"As he was walking back to the dugout, he went by our booth and hollered up, `Vinny, do you have a rule book?' I said, `Sure,' and I dropped it down to him. He flipped through the pages, finally shook his head and said something along the lines of `Darn it.' I asked him what was the story. He checked the rule and said he was going to have to withdraw his protest.
"So over the radio, I announced that Tebbetts had withdrew his protest before he even informed the umpires that's what he was going to do. That's a one-in-a-million situation." ...
Torre Between Two Lovers, Feeling Like a Fool
That headline has nothing to do with this story - I just needed something. Anyway, Darren Everson of The Wall Street Journal asks, "Is Joe Torre Worth the Money?"
Frustrated by finishing fourth last season, tired of being the second-best team in town, the Los Angeles Dodgers made a major move last fall. They shelled out $13 million over three years...and hired, by one statistical measure, the sixth-worst manager in major-league history. ...
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Hey, the Dodgers Are in Southern California!
Disabled List Can't Keep Its Grubby Hands Off Abreu
Tony Abreu is headed for the disabled list, reports Tony Jackson of the Daily News, narrowing the Dodger third-base options to Chin-Lung Hu, Ramon Martinez and Blake DeWitt - just the latter two if Jeff Kent doesn't start Opening Day and the team doesn't make an outside acquisition.
Is Mike Edwards free? German Rivera? Tripp Cromer?
Out of Curiosity ...
If you're going to the 7:10 p.m. Coliseum game Saturday, what time are you planning on arriving?
Forty-Nine Other Ways To Love Your Dodgers
If you're here, you're 2 percent done with today's "50 Ways to Love Your Dodgers" list in the Times. Now, check out the rest ...
Update: Los Angeles magazine also has its "Why We (Heart) the Dodgers" section in this month's issue.
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Luis Gonzalez, starting right fielder? It appears to be happening. According to Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post, Gonzalez's 2,456th career game could bring the 40-year-old ex-Dodger his first start in the land for golden arms.
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Want Spring Training stats to mean something after all? John Dewan makes his case:
A few years ago we discovered that there is a way to use spring training stats to predict future performance. ... When we chose only those players doing exceptionally well in spring training, we found that about three-fourths of them performed better than their career average during the upcoming season.
Our definition of "exceptionally well" was slugging 100 points higher in spring training than their previous career slugging percentage. Here's the list of players who are currently 200 points higher so far this spring training. These 24 players might be heading for above-average seasons.
Click the link above to see which Dodgers are on the list. (Link via Baseball Think Factory)
Samples from the Candy Store
Baseball Hall of Fame photo galleries:
My take on Saturday's Coliseum exhibition game can now be seen at SI.com.
Nearly 115,000 people have bought tickets to see a baseball game. An exhibition baseball game.
Update: Joe Torre makes an impression on a lot of people, but I'm not sure anyone could articulate that impression as well as Eric Neel has for ESPN.com.
Looking Back on 2008 (Fill in the Blanks)
Will the 2008 Dodgers come apart in our hands like a crumb cake, or will they find the preservatives to cohere beyond their expiration date like a Hostess apple pie? Once again, as in previous years, I ask you to fill in the blanks in this sentence:
The Dodgers went xx-xx in 2008 because ______________.
And yes, if you need an extra x, take it.
Previously on Dodger Thoughts:
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The team released 2007 pleasant surprise Rudy Seanez today, saving themselves some salary and some heartache.
'That's Why They Call Me the Bison'
Tonight, myself and some others got an e-mail from a Ron Stilanovich promoting a series of videos called "Hardball Made Easy." I put them on my long-term To Do list, until I caught wind that one of the videos showed Matt Kemp acknowledging the "Bison" nickname that Dodger Thoughts commenters bestowed upon him on May 29, 2006.
Little did I realize that the videos would actually be a riot. Get ready for baseball's next Internet sensation.
Coliseum Game Parking
If you have any parking tips for the Dodgers' Saturday Coliseum game you feel like sharing, please feel free to do so here.
Also, remember that we just created a new Dodger Thoughts Ticket Exchange Thread, permanently located on the right-hand sidebar, that might be of use this weekend or this season.
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An update on former Dodger third baseman Adrian Beltre comes from John Hickey of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Beltre injured the wrist diving for a ball June 1 against Texas. The diagnosis at the time was a sprained thumb. After five games on the bench, Beltre returned to the lineup.
Beltre played most of the rest of the season, missing just eight of the club's final 107 games.
When the injury, which was supposed to heal with rest, didn't come around after the season ended, Beltre finally underwent an MRI exam at the urging of the team's medical staff.
The new diagnosis caught Beltre off guard. He had a torn ligament.
(Link courtesy of The Hardball Times)
Opening Day a Week Away
For the third year running, I've written a "Five Questions" preview on the Dodgers for The Hardball Times. I wrote it almost a week ago, which was a fine thing, because I sure would have had trouble writing it this weekend. (Trying to do a couple fine-tuning things on the piece this morning.)
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It's been hard to even find time to read about the Dodgers since my brood started numbering three, let alone blog about them. So without links, here's a super-quick status report on the Dodger roster, culled from the usual sources endlessly cited here. (Honestly: Where would Dodger Thoughts be without the beat writers?)
Most likely to succeed (5)
Competing for two spots (or hanging loose in case of more injuries)
Disabled list (3)
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... to everyone for their good wishes and great stories. Please continue chatting here or at the other Toaster sites. Talk to you soon.
Don't Drop the New Boy
Smooth as a Jamaal Wilkes jumper from the corner, unbelievably mellow as a summer afternoon (at least for the first two hours), our new boy has brought us serene amazement. A new season has begun, and we're dazed but not at all confused. Welcome to the lineup, little one.
21 inches, 8 pounds, 1 ounce, 10:50 a.m.
Welcome, First-Time Commenters
If you've never chatted at Dodger Thoughts before, how about making this your coming out day? Tell us a little something about yourself or what made you love the Dodgers or what your favorite kind of cloud is. Or just say hi.
Meanwhile, if you want to chat about March Madness, head on over to The Griddle ...
Lost Episode 8 Chat Thread
Last one before the break ...
Dragging the Infield
An MRI revealed that Nomar Garciaparra has a microfracture in his wrist, reports Tony Jackson of the Daily News. While this doesn't rule Garciaparra out for Opening Day, it does add to the uncertainty.
For all the attention that the outfield has gotten this spring, third base is a bigger issue for the Dodgers, and with nagging injuries to Garciaparra and Tony Abreu to go with Andy LaRoche's more severe malady - not to mention second baseman Jeff Kent's tenuous health - it's unclear how the Dodgers will respond.
The fourth option at third base is to move Chin-Lung Hu there, which in some ways recalls the Cesar Izturis venture of 2006. The difference is that Hu would be more of a short-term stopgap at that position. Furthermore, the alternatives inside and outside the organization to Hu are so, so meager.
Blake DeWitt has also been mentioned by some, but considering how recently the guy was in A ball, it just strikes me as too huge a leap for him to make. Consider that the Dodgers are hesitant to do the same thing with Clayton Kershaw, then ask yourself whether it makes sense to throw DeWitt to the major-league wolves at this stage.
Ramon Martinez? We're past the expiration date.
I hate to bring up the outfield dilemma again, but I have to say I'd be more comfortable sticking Hu at third base and batting him eighth if Andre Ethier were playing instead of Juan Pierre - but that's also assuming Kent or even Abreu plays second. An infield that's half James Loney and Rafael Furcal, and half Hu and DeWitt, is a bit scary.
Basically, if the Dodgers want to try to sneak through the first month or so of the season with a combination of Garciaparra, Abreu and Hu, I won't object. But is it too early to wonder if bad health is going to sink the Dodgers in 2008? They haven't yet gotten a serious pitching injury beyond Jason Schmidt, but something is inevitable on that front.
That injury to LaRoche was just critical, simply critical.
Update: From The Associated Press:
"Blake DeWitt's got a hell of an opportunity to hang out with the big boys," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Wednesday.
Asked whether DeWitt is ready to play in the majors, Torre replied: "Some people are saying yes, some people are saying maybe. Nobody says for sure that he's not ready."
He lacks power, but has great discipline, and would fit very well into the spot of utility guy off the bench. He's also cheap, just entering his first year of arbitration, and can be easily abandoned once we no longer need him. Only problem is that with all of these pluses, he might actually require giving someone up to get him, instead of just eating his salary like we could with any of the other options.
Update 3: Some more roster notes from Ken Gurnick at MLB.com:
With the Florida and China squads reunited on Wednesday, the Dodgers trimmed two pitchers, optioning left-handers Eric Stults and Greg Miller.
The Dodgers did not officially make a move with reliever Yhency Brazoban, but they did leave him in Vero Beach, Fla., when they headed to Phoenix, where they resume their exhibition schedule this week. Brazoban needs innings to build arm strength after shoulder surgery, and the club wants him to shed about 25 pounds.
The same article talks nicely about limiting Clayton Kershaw's innings this season to protect his arm.
He's No 19-Year-Old Anymore
Happy birthday, phenom ...
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Remember me mentioning the Kilimanjaro Climb for Clean Water? The climb itself began Tuesday. My friend Brax Cutchin and his college roommate Marc Schiller have raised more than $30,000, enough to provide clean water for more than 1,500 people for at least 20 years. Donations are still welcome.
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From Rob Neyer at ESPN.com:
I would say that the last paragraph of yesterday's Cardboard Gods is the best thing you'll read this month, except I already said (or could have said) the same thing about last Friday's entire edition. So instead let me say this ... I have an editor at Simon & Schuster. I told him about Cardboard Gods. I have an agent at William Morris. I told him about Cardboard Gods. Smart young fellows, both of them. They had their chance. If somebody doesn't give Cardboard Gods a bigger audience, and soon, I'm going to sell my dog and do it myself.
Make a Day of It at the Coliseum
Partly to extend the celebration and partly to entice people to arrive early and mitigate parking problems, free pregame events for the Dodgers' 7:10 p.m. exhibition game at the Coliseum on March 29 will begin at 12 noon.
A festival will offer family-oriented baseball activities, including:
It's also worth noting that Dodgers have added extra restrooms for the event, including high-end "luxury ladies rooms" in addition to the facilities available inside the Sports Arena.
At 4:10 p.m., Coliseum gates will open so that fans can see both the Dodgers and Boston Red Sox take batting practice. Some standing room tickets remain for the game itself.
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The Dodgers Dream Foundation has gotten into the film business, co-sponsoring a San Francisco screening tonight of Carissa, a 25-minute documentary about a child abandoned to prostitution at the age of 12 who turned her life around, graduating from UCLA last year with law and business degrees.
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Farewell, Grapefruit League. Hiroki Kuroda, Clayton Kershaw and Takashi Saito are scheduled to pitch today. The Dodgers are then off Wednesday so that the team can reunite in Arizona Thursday.
Update: Saito with the win, Kershaw with the (three-inning) save. How soon before it goes the other way?
The Next Generation of Hershiser
I'm at least third in line (behind 6-4-2 and True Blue L.A.) in pointing this out, but USC's baseball team boasts one Jordan Hershiser, a pitcher/first baseman and son of the famous poker player Orel.
Jordan Hershiser graduated from high school in Texas before coming west for college. In this, his freshman season, he has allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits and two walks in 4 2/3 innings, with three strikeouts. He has also hit three batters.
He was born September 15, 1988. What a month for Orel that was ... I guess someone has to come home while he was pitching.
Hot Spring Training Isnít Reason for Ethier To Start
If it were Juan Pierre having the hot Spring Training and Andre Ethier struggling, that wouldn't change the fact that Ethier should play ahead of Pierre. So let's avoid using exhibition statistics to build Ethier's case for the starting job.
At best, the Grapefruit League numbers are a postscript. Ethier deserves to start because he had already proved prior to this month that he was the better player. Nothing that happened over the past 50 plate appearances against a grabbag of pitchers could affect that. (Or maybe you'd like to see George Lombard and his 1.577 OPS play ahead of them both?)
If you want to use Spring Training as a tiebreaker to decide a battle between two evenly matched players, that's one thing. But to lend more weight to them than you would give regular season performances is to make a deal with the evil spirit of your choice.
I realize that some people needed to see Ethier dominate Pierre in Spring Training (to this point, anyway) to be convinced of the younger player's relative value. That doesn't make it right, any more than it would be right for Pierre to grab the starting job back if he plays better between now and March 31.
Stick to the correct argument. It's nothing personal, and it's not a vendetta against speedy ballplayers. It's just this simple: Overall, Ethier has more value than Pierre.
Farewell, Vero Beach
In our dreams, we'll meet at the corner of Don Drysdale Drive and Vin Scully Way ...
Lose Weight Now, Ask Me How
The Dodgers announced the following major-league roster reductions, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com: Eric Hull, Lucas May, Xavier Paul, Matt Riley, Terry Tiffee, John Lindsey, George Lombard, John-Ford Griffin and Cory Wade. Gurnick also notes that Delwyn Young has a sore arm.
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Andre Ethier is turning heads with his Spring Training performance, writes Tony Jackson of the Daily News. Can anyone say, "Speed off the bench is good?"
* * *
T.J. Simers of the Times went out to North Carolina to catch up with former Dodger manager Grady Little. It's a straightforward column, bereft of Simers' usual shtick, and though it doesn't shed a whole lot of light on Little's departure from Los Angeles other than to suggest it was on his own terms, it leaves you feeling that Little is better off where he is now.
* * *
After throwing his first warmup pitch to the backstop, Takashi Saito made a successful Spring Training debut today, writes Kevin Baxter of the Times: 10 pitches, six strikes, three groundouts.
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Your Dodger Home Companion
When TV coverage of the Dodgers' game in Beijing last night fell through, I found myself getting ready to fall asleep with a Dodger game on the radio, and what a nostalgic sensation it was.
These days of universal TV coverage of the Dodgers have removed me from that experience of my youth, of Dodger bedtime stories. Admittedly, it was Charley Steiner instead of Vin Scully, and admittedly I also had the Stanford basketball game muted on the TV, and admittedly I also had a seriously pregnant gal lying next to me, but still, it took me straight back to my bedroom in Woodland Hills, when I would hear the play-by-play and imagine the rest as I lay me down to sleep.
Maybe next week I'll wonder if the disruption to the preparation for the team's 2008 season was all worth it, but when I picture these guys, many of whom are Dodgers this weekend by fluke, in a once-in-a-lifetime situation, I get excited. I get as excited thinking about them joking with locals on the Great Wall as I do about them hitting a home run over the wall. Those who played in Florida on Friday will forget about that day in short order. Those who played in China (today, technically) will remember it forever.
From Ken Gurnick at MLB.com:
"Major League Baseball has opened an opportunity for China, but it's also opened an opportunity to Major League ballplayers like me," catcher Danny Ardoin said before batting practice Saturday. "I've been playing 14 seasons and I've never seen anything like this. The people work hard and the place is spotless. It's a different way of life here."
Despite the compressed schedule, it's been an unforgettable experience.
"On the bus back from the Great Wall, I was saying to Xavier [Paul], I'm from Mississippi and he's from Louisiana and I wish the boys back home could see us now," said John Lindsey, in his 13th professional season and still looking for his first Major League at-bat. "I'm sure my parents are proud that their baby is in China."
"Yeah, I'm from the country," said Paul, who hails from Slidell, La. "A lot of people from my hometown think this is Mars. You can't beat it. I really didn't expect Beijing to be so modernized. It's like New York or something."
Most of the players chalked up the few inconveniences to a unique life experience.
"The bus ride back from the Wall was an eye-opener," said reliever Mike Koplove. "Seeing how many cars, bicycles, horse-drawn carts, taxis, busses, everything," he said. "To see how big this city is and how old it is. I just wish I could have seen it from outside the bus. It's been amazing. I really wish there was more down time to experience what Beijing has to offer."
Chan Ho Park, who actually was prevented from signing autographs to his heart's content after the game, continued to make an unlikely impression on the Dodger brass, and though Esteban Loaiza continues to hold the inside track to be the No. 5 starter, health questions about Yhency Brazoban (see Tony Jackson in the Daily News) could conceivably open up a spot for Park as a long reliever.
Hong-Chih Kuo's two scoreless innings also pleased Joe Torre, who seemed inclined to forgive Chin-Lung Hu for his shaky offensive and defensive game. In the end, every Dodger starter reached base.
Another game tonight. Alas, I'll be watching it on television.
Welcome to China!
Unfortunately, it appears that Channel 9 isn't televising tonight's 10 p.m. game after all, so we'll have to settle for KABC 790 AM until Saturday.
In case you've ever wondered what would happen when you gun your engine into the red zone ... meet Jason Schmidt.
From Anthony DiComo at MLB.com:
Perhaps tired of waiting for the pain in his surgically repaired right shoulder to subside, Jason Schmidt has now chosen to ignore it. On the advice of his trainers, Schmidt will now defy convention and pitch - within reason - through whatever pain he might experience for the remainder of Spring Training. ...
Back in early February, after Schmidt had progressed enough to begin throwing off a mound, fatigue set in and the Dodgers shut him down for three days. That's the type of precaution that he says won't continue to occur.
"As long as they're not panicking," Schmidt said of the Dodgers training staff, "I'm not panicking."
Schmidtty, I'll always remember that home run you hit for us.
Lasorda Christens Billingsley: 'The Pitbull'
From Tommy Lasorda's World:
When Orel Hershiser reported to me in Vero Beach many years ago, the scouts said he had the arm, but not the heart to compete. I told Hershiser that when Dale Murphy hears the PA announcer say, "And now pitching for the Dodgers, number 55, Orel Hershiser," he can't wait to get his at-bat. So I told Hershiser that from then on I was going to rename him the Bulldog. And I told him that from that moment on I wanted him to think like a bulldog, act like a bulldog and pitch like a bulldog.
Well, you saw how his career turned out.
Now I have renamed Chad Billingsley the Pitbull. He has as good stuff as you'd want to see in a young pitcher. I wouldn't even trade him for a power hitter because he can win games for many years to come. ...
Lasorda also praises Andre Ethier, among others. And you can see a lovely picture of his wife, Jo, here.
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Congrats to skiers Bode Miller and Lindsay Vonn for giving the U.S. its first World Cup sweep in 25 years.
When Matt Kemp's Excited, I'm Excited
From Dylan Hernandez of the Times:
From the window of the Dodgers' chartered flight, Matt Kemp saw the mountains of Alaska draped in snow and clouds. From the same vantage point, he later saw Siberia. And the Friday morning workouts at Wukesong Baseball Stadium behind him, Kemp and the remainder of the Dodgers' 30-man split squad were on their way to see the Great Wall of China.
"This is fun, man," Kemp said. "I'm getting to see things I learned about in school."
Thursday Night Chat
Down below is a Lost chat thread for tonight.
Also, I have introduced a Dodger ticket exchange thread for readers here who want to swap tickets for upcoming Dodger games.
An image of a proposed West Coast Wrigley Field from decades back can be found at The Griddle.
Regular Dodger Thoughts chat continues here.
China Games To Be Televised
KCAL Channel 9 will televise the Dodgers' first game in China at 10 p.m. Friday, according to Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News, and FSN Prime will follow up with the second game 24 hours later.
Also, the Dodgers' final game in Vero Beach will only be available at MLB.com, Hoffarth said.
Update: At Inside the Dodgers, traveling secretary Scott Akasaki writes about the team's overseas trip.
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It could be just posturing by the team, but Kevin Baxter of the Times writes that "the Dodgers, who reportedly investigated several trade scenarios, (are) now saying they'll address their third base problems from within."
The disclosure comes in a short profile of Blake DeWitt, who had his second good outing in three games. "What's unlikely to happen is the left-hand-hitting DeWitt sticking with the big-league club despite his .333 spring average," Baxter says. "(But) even if he doesn't make the team out of spring training, he has given the coaches something to remember."
Baxter also notes that Tony Abreu was cleared to resume baseball activities and took batting practice and fielded grounders today.
Meanwhile, Tony Jackson of the Daily News notes that coach Larry Bowa has begun getting impatient with Delwyn Young, who made two errors today and has been struggling at the plate.
Sutcliffe Has Colon Cancer
In 1979, Lopes hit 28 homers and stole 44 bases in 48 attempts (.307 EQA) while Sutcliffe grabbed Rookie of the Year honors.
Best wishes to both.
Dodger Thoughts Ticket Exchange Thread
If you want to get or get rid of tickets to a Dodger game this season, you can leave a comment in this thread, which will be linked on the sidebar. Dodger Thoughts commenter BigCPA suggested it, and we'll see how it goes.
Lost Episode 7 Chat Thread
No spoilers. Remember, don't talk about show details until they've aired on the West Coast, and no talk about scenes from upcoming episodes.
Update: My Season Pass post on tonight's episode can be found here.
Twenty years? Yeah, that sounds about right.
Or maybe even 21.
Twenty-one years is the drought the Brooklyn Dodgers endured between their last National League pennant under Wilbert Robinson in 1920 and their first under Leo Durocher in 1941.
Between 1921 and 1929, the Bums finished once in second place, once in fifth place and seven times in sixth place. Between '21 and '38, the team finished above fifth place four times.
Over a two-decade period, the team finished at least 10 games out of first place every year but three. The collective record: 1,494-1,565 (.488), or in an average year, 75-78.
Brooklyn did this in an eight-team league. Five teams won pennants in that time. You know who won the most? Seven times in the 20 years, the Dodgers had to watch their New York rivals, the Giants, hoist the flag.
The team that a generation of fans in Brooklyn fell in love with - or eventually fell in love with - was dreadful. And you can go back even further to emphasize the point. From 1890 to 1940, Brooklyn won the National League five times and finished second just three others.
Since the fall of 1988, competing with as many as 15 other teams in the NL, the Dodgers have not won a pennant, it's true. But, thanks to a more liberal playoff system, there has been plenty of joyous moments. Four playoff spots. Three other finishes within five games of first place in the NL West. Countless thrills.
I won't suggest that there isn't frustration over being left out of the World Series, nor that there hasn't been embarrassment or anger over some of the events that have taken place since 1988.
It hasn't been a lost 20 years, however. We've got plenty to cherish from the past two decades. And even if we haven't had the ultimate prize in a long time, well, if Brooklyn could make a go of it, so can we.
Istanbul's Not Constantinople
Why did Chavez Ravine get the works? That's nobody's business but the U.S. Geological Survey.
* * *
Either Tony Abreu is too dumb to know he would benefit from playing in Spring Training games, or he's unable to play. My guess is that he's not that dumb. So why does he have to have his toughness questioned each time he finds himself injured, as Kevin Baxter of the Times reports?
Abreu missed much of last summer with an abdominal injury that required surgery in October. But problems have apparently lingered, limiting Abreu to three at-bats this spring. That has also led many in the Dodgers organization, most of whom haven't seen Abreu play, to quietly question his toughness.
So, after a 2007 season in which he was accused of malingering, he had surgery - because, you know, that's what you do when you're lazy and weak. And now, while players all around him kick back and nurse injuries, Abreu is being singled out again.
Maybe I'm an idiot. Maybe Abreu really is that dumb, weak and lazy. Or maybe, just maybe, the guy's really hurt. Of course, that's probably impossible - he hasn't been really hurt since ... the last time he was really hurt.
Good thing Joe Torre's around to manage the clubhouse. Oh, wait ...
Update: You might remember - after all, it was only three days ago - that the Beijing-bound Torre specifically told Abreu that his recovery was important. From Dylan Hernandez in Monday's Times:
With Andruw Jones by his side to translate, Torre spoke to infield prospect Tony Abreu, who rushed himself back from an injury only to hurt himself again in his spring debut Friday. "I just let him know that we want to get him well," Torre said.
As if the Dodgers don't know this well enough already, nothing kills this team faster than rushing back from an injury. Whoever in the organization is whispering behind Abreu's back should can it.
Update 2: Tony Jackson of the Daily News comments in a more straightforward manner about Abreu. But Jackson raises the issue of whether the Dodgers need to go outside the organization to get a third baseman. (He writes off Blake DeWitt as an option, though no one ever thought DeWitt was an alternative for April to begin with.) But is what's out there a significant improvement in the short-term over someone like Chin-Lung Hu?
Overnight Dodger Open Chat
Because I can't have an American Idol post on top of the site ...
Best Night Ever for American Idol?
Though they weren't all genius, I thought this might have been the best night of American Idol in my 5 1/2 years of watching what is mostly a time sinkhole. Particularly in the first half, I was surprised I was even capable of enjoying the show that much, and even though I don't live and die with the Beatles, I do like them, and I was pleasantly surprised that for the most part, tonight's singers didn't ruin their songs.
1958: The Case Against Dodger Stadium
VOTE NO on "B" - Unless you want to GIVE MILLIONS OF YOUR TAX DOLLARS... and MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF CITY OWNED LAND ... to a private commercial team for BARS, HOTELS, RESTAURANTS, AMUSEMENT PARK, APARTMENT HOUSES, STORES, SHOPPING CENTERS, -- as well as baseball. ...
Over at The Griddle, Bob Timmermann has reproduced the argument against Proposition B, a referendum to approve the trade of 300 Chavez Ravine acres to Dodger owner Walter O'Malley, along with financial considerations. Click the link to see the rest. And make plans to check out Timmermann's talk April 3 at the Vin Scully-defeating Los Angeles Central Library "about the political battle of bringing the Dodgers to L.A."
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Update: Lasorda on pitch counts, courtesy of Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise:
"You can take a pitch count and you know what to do with it," Lasorda said, noting how he kept Ben Sheets pitching past his limit against the Cubans in the Olympics. "I'm not going to listen to anybody about innings and limits. But I want to do the things Joe wants me to do and carry it through."
Sheets pitched in the Olympics in 2000, at age 22. He made 102 major-league starts from 2002-2004, then 63 from 2005-2007.
But putting Sheets aside ... Tommy is still Tommy, isn't he?
Update 2: A scouting report on the Dodgers from FoxSports.com/Lindy's.
And You Thought the Dodger Clubhouse Had Issues Ö
From Pete Thomas of the Times:
Hero, Big Bear, Fajita, Sockeye, Marlin, Hunter, Dasher, Trapper, Earp, Shy Girl, Monty and Babe....
They're just some of the huskies pulling sleds from Anchorage to Nome in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
The mushers cherish their dogs and vice-versa, but dogs are dogs and that sometimes makes life tough for mushers.
For example, reigning champion Lance Mackey had to leave his lead husky, Hobo, behind because Hobo picked a fight with Larry, another husky, before the start of the 1,100-mile race.
"It's like having a car without a steering wheel," Mackey told the Anchorage Daily News.
What's worse, one of Mackey's female dogs is in heat, so for the male dogs, racing becomes secondary.
"All they want to do is turn around or stop," Mackey said. "Even my neutered males are interested in this female, so that's what we're dealing with."
Revisiting The Dodger Thoughts Comprehensive, Non-Definitive 2005 Minor League Report
In September 2005, when life was somehow simpler, I took the time to snapshot every player in the Dodger minor leagues that I could find. It's pretty amusing to revisit some of those comments today.
Martin Released (No, Not Him)
While Clayton Kershaw and Blake DeWitt were moved up to major league camp (though neither is supposed to make the Opening Day roster), the Dodgers reassigned Mario Alvarez, James McDonald, Jon Meloan and Justin Orenduff to minor league camp and released Tom Martin.
The latter move removes one hurdle in the way of Hong-Chih Kuo making the team in the bullpen, where Joe Torre seems determined to slot him. It strikes me as similar to the final season of Darren Dreifort, when the Dodgers determined that Dreifort getting up to pitch more often but for less duration would be easier than having him try to go as a starting pitcher every five days - not that Dreifort and Kuo are the same pitcher.
'Public Enemy No. 1'
Clayton Kershaw - catch him while you can ...
Vin Scully and the rest of us get our first look at Kershaw's curveball.
Update: Here's the postgame desconstruction, via Ken Gurnick at MLB.com.
Andy, Might I Suggest a Visit to HotWheels.com
Spin City, take me away...
"You start rehab with video games," he said. "Not a bad rehab."
- Andy LaRoche to Ken Gurnick at MLB.com.
The Crazy Thing Is ...
A year ago, Nomar Garciaparra wasn't even considered physically capable of playing third base. Even as the Dodgers questioned the abilities of Wilson Betemit, they dismissed the idea of moving Garciaparra to third and having shining prospect James Loney play first base in April 2007.
The idea that Garciaparra couldn't play third base at all was absurd - but so is the idea that he can play it every day. So even if Garciaparra busts out a strong comeback season at the plate, the idea that he can do it while playing six or seven games a week is even more pie-in-the-sky. Tony Abreu therefore could be critical, though Abreu right now comes with his own set of physical concerns, not to mention the responsibility of backing up 40-and-a-day-year-old Jeff Kent.
Delwyn Young has come on strong defensively this spring, enough to posssibly consider him as a backup to Kent and maybe even a third-stringer at third. (Amid my ongoing dismissal of Spring Training stats, it's worth asking whether exhibition fielding is actually meaningful, in contrast to exhibition hitting - which Young doesn't happen to be doing at the moment.) And there's always the option of using Chin-Lung Hu around the infield. (You can keep your Ramon Martinezes.)
As far as a trade goes, well, the Dodgers should be able to stand pat into April. In a month's time, they should have hints of whether Garciaparra looks competent and the timing of LaRoche's recovery. Dodger Thoughts commenters like Eric Enders pointed out Friday that the estimate of eight to 10 weeks for LaRoche might be optimistic, depending on the severity of his injury. Regarding the ulnar collateral ligament that LaRoche tore, the Kerlan-Jobe (as in Dr. Frank) Orthopaedic Clinic writes:
Third base was going to be a low-expectations position in April for the Dodgers even before yesterday. Whoever played figured to bat no higher than seventh in the Dodger lineup. We'll never know what LaRoche could have done if he won the position, but there was a strong chance that he wasn't going to win it - if for no other reason than the team's recent tradition of breaking in young players like Loney, Russell Martin, Andre Ethier and Chad Billingsley after May Day. So not much has changed in the short term.
For the long term ... well, Garciaparra & Co. need to show they can hold down the fort for as long as it takes for LaRoche to show signs of returning. It's a similar situation to that of the team's No. 5 starting pitcher. If the Dodgers have a losing April but LaRoche and Jason Schmidt look ready to help by June, how much patience will general manager Ned Colletti have?
Utter Deflation: LaRoche To Have Surgery
Nomar Garciaparra (right wrist) and Andy LaRoche (right hand) each got hurt today. X-rays on Garciaparra were negative; they haven't been reported regarding LaRoche. Silence isn't golden.
Jason Schmidt will open the season on the disabled list, Joe Torre said, according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise.
Jeff Kent and Takashi Saito are also still out for the time being, but Hong-Chih Kuo might pitch Saturday, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
Tony Abreu went 1 for 3 in his return to action.
Update: Yep - bad news. Tony Jackson of the Daily News says LaRoche "has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb and will need surgery, which Ned said will take place in the next couple of days, probably in Los Angeles." He's going to be out for weeks, maybe months.
I feel a tingling in the back of my neck, a tingling of both excitement and nervousness.
Amid speculation that he is being considered more seriously for a spot in the starting rotation in April, Clayton Kershaw is going to get a start next week, according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise.
At MLB.com, Ken Gurnick neatly sums up the dilemma.
The Fernandos come along about once a generation. The Dodgers thought they might have had another one in Edwin Jackson, who debuted on his 20th birthday in 2003 and beat Randy Johnson. But a quick flameout (he's trying to rebound after a trade to Tampa Bay) makes Jackson the poster child for rushed talent wasted.
If the Jackson debacle isn't enough to make management cautious, there also are the cases of high school left-handers Greg Miller and Scott Elbert, whose promising careers have been slowed by injuries.
So management must weigh whether Kershaw is one of the five best starting pitchers in the organization on Opening Day, against whether his career is best served with more seasoning. It's entirely likely that both are true.
My guess is that Kershaw begins 2008 in the minors - that Esteban Loaiza at least gets April to fill Schmidt's shoes if Hong-Chih Kuo can't. And don't forget about James McDonald.
But the road is being paved for Kershaw to come up sooner than later - and if another Dodger starter gets injured, look out.
* * *
Second baseman Tony Abreu gets back on the ballfield for today's exhibition.
Upset! Los Angeles Chooses Historic Book-Thingy Over Vin Scully
Los Angeles magazine is staging a March Madness-like competition where the greatest treasures of Los Angeles battle each other (in a vote) - and in a matchup that should have been a walkover, the downtown Central Library upset Dodger legend Vin Scully.
I mean, it's a nice library and all, and we've got Bob there (he just happened to be the one to pass along the news), and it's not like I don't have a Master's in English hanging 10 feet away from me, but ... what's the deal? Come on!
The upset derailed a potential Elite Eight matchup between Scully and In-N-Out Burger - but not even that should have slowed Scully's run to the title.
Bonkers! Humanity has been let down.
And let this be a lesson to me. I didn't vote, and now I must hang my head in shame. I didn't do my suffrage, and now we all suffer.
Lost Episode 6 Chat Thread
No spoilers. Remember, don't talk about show details until they've aired on the West Coast, and no talk about scenes from upcoming episodes.
Watch The Spectacular Spider-Man on Saturdays
My brother Greg's latest series, The Spectacular Spider-Man, premieres with two episodes Saturday morning - in Los Angeles, they will air on the CW (Channel 5) at 10 a.m. Greg wrote the pilot and is supervising producer.
Here's some background from ComicBookResources.com:
Weisman said that when the series begins, Spider-Man will be new on the scene but not brand new. "He's been Spider-Man for about four months," Weisman said. "It's not the first time he's ever spun a web, it's not the first time he's ever stuck to a wall. He's got the basics down. But he's been fighting muggers. Things have been pretty easy. So the theme or our show is the education of Peter Parker. We are going to teach this guy some lessons, in every sense of the word." ...
Things Are Tough All Over
Nothing's automatic, not even when you have Johan Santana. Perhaps the popular pick nationwide to win the National League, the New York Mets are learning early on that health will be a huge wild card in their season.
As David Lennon writes in Newsday, in the wake of Moises Alou undergoing hernia surgery:
How desperate is the Mets' injury situation now? It's much easier to simply list the healthy position players on the team's projected roster for Opening Day, which, by the way, is March 31.
So here they are: David Wright, Jose Reyes and Ramon Castro.
Sound like the makings of a National League East champion? That might win you a 3-on-3 pickup basketball game, depending on Castro's post-up skills. But the Mets, who already are on the hook for $140 million this season, aren't beating many division rivals if they have to piece together a lineup from aging New Orleans Zephyrs and rejects from Pros vs. Joes, even with Johan Santana.
Joe seemed to indicate that Tony Abreu would be first in line to replace Kent if it came to that (during the regular season). Delwyn Young has been getting a lot of playing time there, but Abreu has been battling an abdominal injury and hasn't appeared in game yet - he is expected to make his Grapefruit League debut this weekend. Joe also said Ramon Martinez wouldn't be a candidate, calling him "more of a supporting guy." But Joe didn't rule out asking Nomar to play 2B, even though it hasn't come up yet. "I never rule anything out," Torre said.
Hurtin' Hears a Hu?
Simultaneous injuries to Jeff Kent and Tony Abreu leave Delwyn Young, Chin-Lung Hu, Ramon Martinez and Angel Chavez as the team's second basemen for now. Neither Kent nor Abreu is expected to be out for too long, but considering both spent time on the disabled list in 2007, it's something to keep in mind for the regular season. We may see Hu as a starting second baseman sooner than we think.
Kent's hamstring twinge is expected to sideline him for at least a week, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Times. Abreu, who according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise has weakness in his right leg, might play this weekend.
Today, Young played second base with Hu at shortstop. Reportedly, Young continues to unexpectedly shine on defense.
If it were summertime, would we see Nomar Garciaparra at second?
In other blurbs:
Cycling for the Hit
If you're game enough to navigate the streets of Los Angeles and the hills of Chavez Ravine, well then yes, there is a parking spot at the end of your pedaling rainbow.
A Dodger Thoughts commenter Tuesday passed along this post from StreetsBlog Los Angeles wondering where you could safely lock your bicycle at Dodger Stadium. I asked Josh Rawitch of the Dodgers, and he replied that "Indeed, we allow bicycles to park at the top of lot P to the left of the gates."
Hey, if you can get there, at least it's a downhill ride home. Good luck!
* * *
Chan Ho Park and Eric Stults have been named as the scheduled starting pitchers for the Dodgers' two games in China. Even though the Dodgers have said his current injury condition isn't serious, Hong-Chih Kuo is not throwing off a mound right now, jeopardizing his chances of making the season-opening rotation.
The Dodgers will probably need a fifth starter for the first time this season on April 8, though they could use one as soon as April 5. Kuo still has some time left to try to unseat Esteban Loaiza, but it's not as if we want to rush Kuo onto the mound.
Welcome Back, Yhency (And Esteban?)
It was just an inning, but it was nice to hear about Yhency Brazoban's return to the mound tonight: three batters, two strikeouts, one groundout.
Meanwhile, Esteban Loaiza also had a good day, pitching two scoreless innings. Last week, Ken Gurnick told us at MLB.com that pitching coach Rick Honeycutt had altered his delivery, prior to Loaiza's poor Spring Training debut:
"Flat": That was the word right-hander Esteban Loaiza used after allowing three runs (two on a homer by Javy Lopez) in two innings Friday. ... Loaiza blamed his Friday problems on a tweaked delivery, suggested by pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. The adjustment changes Loaiza's knee raise to force hip turn, generate lower-body power and greater pitch velocity, but his fastball hovered around the mid-80s and he sounded uncomfortable with the delivery change.
"It's what Honeycutt wants me to do," Loaiza said. "I was too rushed on it, just did it in the bullpen two days ago and took it into the game and I wasn't my normal self. Next time, I'll have a good idea what I'm doing and not have things in my head. [Brad] Penny, [Derek] Lowe, [Tanyon] Sturtze, [Scott] Proctor are doing it [the knee raise]. If I'm not comfortable with it, I won't bring it into the game."
This week, we learned that essentially, Loaiza has rejected Honeycutt's suggestion.
Loaiza said he abandoned a tweak in his delivery, went back to his usual mechanics and felt better than he has since prior to last year's neck and knee operations.
"I just stayed tall and drove the ball down," he said. "I wanted to keep throwing, but Joe Torre said that's it. I was more relaxed today, going back to me delivery. I felt great. I wasn't happy with the results last week, and I didn't want people to be thinking negative stuff about me."
Finally, Dylan Hernandez of the Times rounds up the hopefully minor ailments of pitchers Hong-Chih Kuo, Takashi Saito and 2007 first-round pick James Adkins.
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I'm pretty far past the age of getting addicted to video games - blogging pretty much eliminates the time for that - but my son, the car fanatic, likes to go to HotWheels.com, and I've found this game strangely entrancing. I have even played it a couple times after he goes to bed.
For those of you who care ... I'm welcoming entertainment chat back to the comments of Dodger Thoughts.
The time I'm devoting to this site as well as Season Pass at Variety has made keeping things going at Screen Jam challenging. The traffic is so far down at the latter site that I end up having to tell readers at Dodger Thoughts about a new post if I want them to see it. So I've begun cutting out the middleman and referencing my entertainment posts here. Screen Jam might make a comeback at some point, even get a sporadic post if I really think it mucks up the works here, but for now, much of its content will fold into Dodger Thoughts or Season Pass.
I apologize to those who might find the return of entertainment chat distracting, but I hope you can understand the dilemma. I hope it goes without saying that the Dodgers will remain by far the top priority at Dodger Thoughts.
A Chilling, Thrilling Dodger (Exhibition) Debut for Kershaw
Dodger prospect Clayton Kershaw made his debut in a Dodger uniform tonight, and here's what happened (thanks to various site commenters for the play-by-play):
I mean, I don't know how often you get on the edge of your seat for a Spring Training game, but that would've done it.
LaRoche has a home run. Starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda pitched two scoreless innings, allowing two baserunners.
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Here's a posting at Season Pass about how the movement to save Friday Night Lights has taken a charitable turn.
Matt Kemp at the Natural History Museum
What Juan Pierre Means for Joe Torre
Pierre in the morning, Pierre in the evening, Pierre at suppertime ...
In this Juan Pierre feature by Tony Jackson of the Daily News, I offer my opinion that many Dodger fans simply don't think he's one of the three best outfielders on the team. Jackson talks about how people notice "the fact he rarely walks, they point to his lack of power, and they point to his water pistol of a throwing arm," but Jackson also shows the case people make on Pierre's behalf.
The case is as familiar as it is problematic:
1) Pierre has a superb work ethic. Problem: I still don't quite understand why a player who has to work hard just to be mediocre is more valuable than a player who doesn't have a famous work ethic but is already better.
2) Pierre's not a good enough hitter to draw walks, so the lack of walks aren't his fault. That doesn't change the lack of walks.
3) Pierre was a World Champion with the Marlins with 2003. Correlation equals causation?
4) Pierre is a better fit for the current Dodger lineup. Actually, it's been shown through research that this isn't true - for example, at Baseball Musings we see that a lineup with Andre Ethier in left field will improve the Dodger offense compared to last season.
5) Pierre shouldn't be penalized because the Dodgers had other problems last season. Why Ethier should be penalized for them isn't clear.
If you focus on what Pierre can do, you can make it look nice. But if you spend as much time focusing on what Andre Ethier can do, Pierre simply doesn't come off as well. It's nothing personal.
That being said, the cause is becoming a tiresome one to fight - it's like looking for a rainy day to picnic. If Pierre is to end up in left field for the Dodgers - and it's still not a done deal - well, that's just going to have to be something they overcome, like a bad call for the umpire. I don't want to spend the season upset about it.
But I've been thinking a lot lately about how long Joe Torre's honeymoon will last in Los Angeles. I tend to think fans and the media will expect winning from the get-go. That might be an unreasonable expectation, even for a good team, in a division as tough as the 2008 National League West, but nevertheless, I think that a Torre backlash is waiting to happen. Once people who are preoccupied with his star quality see that he has blind spots like every other manager, the focus figures to turn from his strengths to his weaknesses. The backlash might not come right away, but it usually comes. The 2008 race might be too challenging for it not to.
I think the fastest way for Torre to become unpopular in this city - not just for readers of this site, but on a widespread basis - will be to play Pierre regularly in a losing cause.
That's not to say the Pierre choice will determine whether the Dodgers win or lose. In fact, if the Dodgers are winning while Pierre is playing, it will only reinforce some of the arguments made on his behalf above.
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Update: TCPalm.com produced an interactive farewell to Dodgertown. Says editorial/online graphic audience Chris Arnold: "We have a timeline of the stadium and team, photos through the years, quizzes and videos of legends talking about their memories of the stadium."
Lopes To Be Treated for Cancer
Best wishes go out to former Dodger Davey Lopes, who will be undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. Folks are optimistic about his recovery.
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I say this in all sincerity I think it's a shame that the Dodgers are going to lose a sightseeing day in China because their departure date had to be rescheduled. If you go all that way, you want to be able to smell some sightseeing roses.
The Wire and In Treatment: The Drama of Fallibility
At Season Pass, I compare the differences between the flawed characters of HBO series "In Treatment" and "The Wire."
International Split Squad
Here's the list of China-bound Dodgers, as announced by the team today. The games are scheduled for 10:05 p.m. Pacific Time March 14 and 15.
An ideal starting lineup from this group? Maybe ...
As far as I know, the Dodgers and Padres could agree to use a designated hitter for these exhibitions, though I've heard nothing about one.
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At Cardboard Gods, Josh Wilker offers the case for Reggie Smith as the most underrated player of the 1970s.
Rocket Fuel Malt Liquor
Opposing hurlers hit an anemic .104/.133/.108 against them for an OPS of .241, the fourth-lowest ever. (And given how pitcher hitting has steadily declined over the decades, it probably really is the fourth-lowest in all history, not just since 1957.)
The best part? Did you notice that .104 batting average and .108 slugging percentage? Why yes, that isolated average of .004 is the lowest ever. In 352 plate appearances, they allowed one stinking double. That's it.
The slugging percentage is the second-lowest ever. The 1972 Orioles held other pitchers to a .106. It's also the 14th-lowest OBP. Sure, you're supposed to get the pitcher out, but one stinking double in 162 games? Damn!
Young Dazzles at Second Base
Fans and beat writers near and far (well, okay, mostly far - from near, anyway) are raving about the defense of Delwyn Young at second base today for the Dodgers. As Tony Jackson of the Daily News wrote, Young "made two lunging plays to his left in the first inning, then made a spectacular play behind the bag in the third, getting the runner at first each time."
Folks are speculating that Young's reemergence as a viable infielder (keeping in mind this was just one game) could allow the Dodgers to keep Tony Abreu playing regularly in the minors and dispense with Ramon Martinez-types. The qualification is that no one seems ready for Young to be a backup at shortstop.
But do the Dodgers really need anything more on the 25-man roster than an emergency shortstop, as long as Rafael Furcal is healthy? Furcal is an everyday player - last year, of course, he was all-too everyday. If Furcal got hurt, then you could call up Abreu or Chin-Lung Hu as a replacement. If you needed someone mid-game, well, worse things have happened than shift a third baseman to short for a few innings.
Of course, we're getting ahead of ourselves. It's still only March 1; we may still want Abreu on the roster at the end of the month. It's not as if there isn't room for both Abreu and Young on a five-man bench, if you start Jason Repko in the minors.
Mostly, it's just nice to see Young getting such positive exposure.
In other news:
Update: Ross Porter offers this appreciation of Shawn Green at Real Sports Heroes.
Shawn has been scheduled to be our "Real Sports Hero" on March 20th on KABC for several weeks now, and still will be, only now as a retired player. In that vignette, I say that what he has done off the field may be more significant. While playing in Los Angeles, Green donated one and a half million dollars in six years to support the development of four baseball fields in the city. The money also went for the purchase of books for local elementary schools and youth community programs. ...
Jon Weisman's outlet
for dealing psychologically
with the Los Angeles Dodgers
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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Thank You For Not ...
1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity