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Monthly archives: October 2008

 

2009 Minor League Staff Assignments
2008-10-31 14:11
by Jon Weisman

As announced by the Dodgers today. ... Welcome back, Lenny Harris.

Albuquerque Isotopes (AAA)
Manager – Lorenzo Bundy (third season in this position)
Hitting coach – John Moses (second)
Pitching coach – Jim Slaton (second)
Athletic trainer – Greg Harrel

Chattanooga Lookouts (AA)
Manager – John Valentin (Inland Empire manager in 2008)
Hitting coach – Luis Salazar (third)
Pitching coach – Glenn Dishman (second)
Athletic trainer – Yosuke Nakajima

Inland Empire 66ers (A)
Manager – Carlos Subero (managed White Sox' Birmingham/AA team in 2008)
Hitting coach – Jason Wood (first – played with Florida last year)
Pitching coach – Charlie Hough (third)
Athletic trainer – TBD

Great Lakes Loons (A)
Manager – Juan Bustabad (second)
Hitting coach – Michael Boughton (first)
Pitching coach – Danny Darwin (second)
Athletic trainer – Zachary Hoffmann

Ogden Raptors (Short-season A)
Manager – Damon Berryhill (managed Rangers' Bakersfield/A team in 2008)
Hitting coach – Henry Cruz (Inland Empire 2008)
Pitching coach – Chuck Crim (was a Dodger scout)
Athletic trainer – TBD

Arizona League Dodgers (Rookie)
Manager – Jeff Carter (second)
Hitting coach – Leo Garcia (first)
Pitching coach – Casey Deskins (third)
Athletic trainer – TBD

Dominican Summer League Dodgers (Rookie)
Manager – Pedro Mega (third)
Hitting coach – Tony Mota (third)
Pitching coach – Kremlin Martinez (fourth)
Athletic trainer – Luis Santana

Coordinators
Field coordinator – Mike Brumley (managed Ogden in 2008 and served as assistant field coordinator)
Hitting coordinator – Gene Clines (second)
Pitching coordinator – Rafael Chaves (first)
Outfield/baserunning coordinator – Rodney McCray (second)
Infield coordinator – Matt Martin (third)
Catching coordinator – Travis Barbary (third)
Field coordinator, Campo Las Palmas – Antonio Bautista
Catching coordinator, Campo Las Palmas – Jose D. Martinez Hernandez
DSL assistant – George Bautista
Senior advisor to player development – P.J. Carey (was Dodgers' minor league field coordinator)
Rehab coordinator/physical therapist – Dave Rivera
Strength and conditioning coordinator – Landon Brandes
Strength and conditioning coach – Stephen Downey
Strength and conditioning coach – Yousef Zamat
Pitching instructor – Aaron Sele

Based in Glendale, Arizona
Coordinator – John Shoemaker (managed Jacksonville 2005-2008)
Pitching – George Culver (GCL Dodgers pitching coach in 2008)
Senior hitting coach – Lenny Harris (Washington hitting coach in 2008)

On the AAA Broadcasting Beat
2008-10-30 10:21
by Jon Weisman

Back in 2006, I profiled minor-league baseball broadcasters Russ Langer of Las Vegas and Robert Portnoy of Albuquerque for SI.com. With the Dodgers switching their AAA affiliation from the 51s to the Isotopes for the coming season, it turns out Portnoy will in effect be replacing Langer when it comes to doing the play-by-play for the Dodgers' top farm team. Langer will remain in Las Vegas, which has become a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate.

Many of you are familiar with Langer through his longtime connection to the Dodgers and know how deserving he is of a major-league job. I'm definitely hoping for the same thing for Portnoy - we were pals at Stanford, working together at the school paper so many years ago.

This offseason, Portnoy started hosting a sportstalk show on Albuquerque's 101.7 FM (from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time). Check it out if you want to get a taste of the Dodgers' next AAA announcer.

Last Call at Vero
2008-10-29 15:49
by Jon Weisman

The final Dodgers Adult Baseball Camp at Vero Beach will take place November 1-7. Instructors for this session are scheduled to include Tommy Davis, Carl Erskine, Rick Monday, Joe Pignatano, Jerry Reuss, Bill Russell, Maury Wills and Steve Yeager.

The camp will resume at the Dodgers' new Spring Training playground in Arizona next year.

Still
2008-10-29 11:42
by Jon Weisman

I still can't get myself past the belief that if Rafael Furcal doesn't throw that ball away in the first game of the National League Championship Series, then the baseball world would have spent the past weekend treated to some of the warmest World Series weather you could ever want.

There Is a Choice
2008-10-28 07:38
by Jon Weisman

Even if baseball is this desperate for money, it needs to make a change. As I wrote in February, the amount of money Major League Baseball would leave on the table by condensing the regular season and starting postseason games earlier in the calendar and earlier in the evening would be made up by future earnings from better ratings and greater fan interest.

It's all about making the right investment.

I'm not suggesting baseball should be able to control the weather. I'm just suggesting that the sport can improve its odds - and at the same time, not feel so bad about having to suspend or postpone a game, since there will be more time to make things right.

With Penelope Cruz as Manny
2008-10-27 13:24
by Jon Weisman

It's strange, but I can't remember when I've had less interest at the outset of a Dodger offseason. That's partly the reason for my mini-vacation in recent days. It's not that I don't care what goes on with the team, but I've really reduced myself to a "wake me when something actually happens" state.

One thing I have wondered about, however, is the state of mind of the Dodgers and their fans should Manny Ramirez sign elsewhere. Having become addicted in a short time to his awesome display of talent, the mood around Dodger Stadium in his absence might be funereal. Might be downright angry. Might be hopeless.

I watched a movie this weekend, Elegy, which called to mind this dilemma. Elegy tries to offer a twist on a May-December affair between characters played by His Eminence Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz. One of the key points is that Kingsley's David is so enraptured by Cruz's Consuela, but also so convinced she will betray him, that he can't envision a future – with or without her. He's trapped. Who David was – his considerable talent and his thoughtful (if smug) personality – no longer matters, and when this Catch-22 inevitably leads to their breakup, David can't figure out where to go from there. (By the way, it's after this point that the movie's sad part comes.) Despite the talent in the Dodger clubhouse that Ramirez would leave behind, I suspect there will be a similar identity crisis if Manny suits up for another team in 2009.

Of course, an identity crisis pales in importance to a talent crisis, and it's how the Dodgers respond to the latter that matters most. One idea that has been floated by people like Andrew Grant at True Blue L.A. is that the Dodgers' best move in a post-Manny world might be to focus on pitching and defense. Even if the team loses Derek Lowe, the Dodgers have the resources to keep their pitching among the best in the National League. Meanwhile, Los Angeles has room for improvement on the defensive end, an improvement that could come more easily than trying to solve all the team's offensive problems. If you want to know whether better defense can make an impact, look no further than Tampa Bay. A Dodger team that smothers the opposition will contend, even if the core of the lineup is Russell Martin, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and James Loney.

Of course, I'm not against improving the offense – I believe in the importance of the home run as much as anyone. The defense-first approach is just something to consider. The question is, does Los Angeles have the stomach for it? Even though pitching and defense supposedly defined those glory Dodger teams of the 1960s that so many people look back upon so fondly, is 2009 destined to be a buzzkill without Ramirez?

A team pursuing this strategy needs the courage of its convictions. It needs to be assertive. It needs to sincerely and passionately make the case, because Spring Training offers too much time for others to fill in the blanks with their own assessment.

And then, the strategy needs to work. The 2003 Dodgers won 85 games, even though the second-best hitter on the team was arguably Jolbert Cabrera. The run prevention was that good. You can win that way. I don't know if the 2009 Dodgers can match the 2003 squad for keeping runs off the board, but I don't see any way that the '09 club, even without Ramirez, will be as offensively challenged as the '03ers.

Manny Ramirez would be great for the Dodgers in 2009. Frankly, the team could frontload a contract and, if it managed its finances properly, simply accept overpaying him in the later years of his deal as the cost of doing business. They could even pay him and trade him, just like the Red Sox did. But the Dodgers don't have to sign Ramirez to win. They just need to have an alternative that makes solid performance sense, that's convincing. No matter what happens, the Dodgers need credibility.

Penelope Cruz is the bee's knees, but you have to be prepared for life both with her or without her. Either way, you need a good reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Imagine Sterling Cooper without Don Draper
2008-10-27 08:42
by Jon Weisman

That's how Baseball Toaster will feel without Bronx Banter, but Alex Belth, Cliff Corcoran, Bruce Markusen, Will Weiss and Emma Span are moving on up, to the SNY side (forgive me for mixing my TV metaphors).

It was an honor, gentlepeople. Best of luck.

Ohfers
2008-10-24 08:17
by Jon Weisman

Bob Timmermann has a most interesting (and humbling) bit of Dodger trivia at The Griddle.

* * *

I wrote a short Mad Men-related item at Variety about Father John Gill, the season-two character named after one of the faculty at my high school.

Yep, This Is How It Starts
2008-10-22 20:01
by Jon Weisman

Jon Heyman of SI.com writes that "one (yes, one) person (that narrows it down) who's spoken to Dodgers people (we're talking an actual theoretical conversation) suggested that the team is considering proposing (I mean, heck, it could happen) a contract to Manny Ramirez that may come close to matching Alex Rodriguez's record $27.5-million average annual salary but on a much shorter term, perhaps only two years."

I mean, the qualifiers to that statement are deeper than the Grand Canyon.

However, that's enough for Heyman to write an entire column. And it's enough for ESPN.com to take the story and run:

Dodgers reportedly OK with Manny money over short term

ESPN's entire source for that headline? SI.com. SI.com's source? One person, who is not even a participant in the negotiations.

And yet the entire baseball world will now take it seriously.

Which means it's time for my annual reminder:

How To Survive the Hot Stove League Without Getting Burned
1) Rumors are not facts.

2) Teams and agents often float rumors to generate attention or to misdirect rivals. The media will report these rumors without much concern over how viable they are. The rumor is the news - whether it comes to fruition or not is not the media's problem (or so the media has decided).

3) A report that agents, players or teams "were talking" is meaningless. People talk all the time. It doesn't mean anything will come of it.

4) Any rumor attributed to an anonymous source is particularly useless.

5) Making judgments about a general manager based on a rumor reflects poorly on the judge.

6) Many deals, if not most, are never rumored, but spring up out of the blue.

7) Many Dodger Thoughts readers are eager to pass along rumors. If you are planning to post a rumor here, please check to see if it has been posted already. But whatever you do, don't take the rumors too seriously.

8) Hometown papers will often inflate the value of their own players, either on their own initative or that of their sources, and print particularly unrealistic trade packages.

I'm not telling you not to have fun with the Hot Stove. Have fun! I'm just saying that from my experience here, people take the rumors way too seriously, discussion gets heated, and the fun goes away. And that's what I'd like to avoid.

- Your Friendly Hot Stove Curmudgeon

Ng Won't Be Sleepless in Seattle
2008-10-22 12:30
by Jon Weisman

The Seattle Mariners have chosen Jack Zduriencik of Milwaukee as their new general manager over the Dodgers' Kim Ng and others.

* * *

Check out the Sons of Steve Garvey 2008 Dodgers Yearbook.

Way Back!
2008-10-22 10:30
by Jon Weisman

On the occasion of Game 1 of the 2008 World Series, Dodger Thoughts reader Bigcpa was kind enough to pass along the rarely heard Don Drysdale call of the Kirk Gibson's homer in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

* * *

The publishers of The Bill James Handbook 2009 announced today the book's rankings of the top 25 players under the age of 30:

 1. Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers first baseman, age 24
 2. Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins shortstop, age 24
 3. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants pitcher, age 24
 4. David Wright, New York Mets third baseman, age 25
 5. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers left fielder, age 24
 6. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox second baseman, age 24
 7. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder, age 23
 8. Francisco Rodriguez, Los Angeles Angels pitcher, age 26
 9. Jose Reyes, New York Mets shortstop, age 25
10. Nick Markakis, Baltimore Orioles right fielder, age 24
11. Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals pitcher, age 24
12. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals third baseman, age 23
13. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher, age 24
14. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies shortstop, age 23
15. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners pitcher, age 22
16. Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox pitcher, age 24
17. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays third baseman, age 22
18. John Danks, Chicago White Sox pitcher, age 23
19. Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego Padres first baseman, age 26
20. James Loney, Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman, age 24
21. Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop, age 25
22. Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves catcher, age 24
23. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers first baseman, age 25
24. Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians center fielder, age 25
25. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds first baseman, age 24

To achieve his inventory, James ... employs two widely used statistics - Runs Created for position players and Runs Allowed for pitchers - as the basis for comparison. He makes several adjustments, including for injuries suffered during the year and the differences in predictability between pitchers and position players, and then takes into account the number of years the player should be at his peak performance.

About the Dodgers, James said that "they have very impressive young talent in Kemp, (Andre) Ethier, (Chad) Billingsley, (James) Loney and (Clayton) Kershaw, Broxton and Martin, but their issue is depth."

I'm not endorsing these rankings - there seem to be some obvious flaws - just presenting them for discussion.

Fall TV Top 10
2008-10-22 10:24
by Jon Weisman

I know the World Series starts tonight, but I haven't done any TV blogging in quite some time and just wanted to offer my fall 2008 top 10. These are the shows I'm most addicted to – although by the time you get to the bottom of the list, you'll see that addiction gets a liberal definition. Suffice it to say, I'm waiting for some midseason replacements to arrive, but in the meantime, this is what's dominating my TV watching.

1. Mad Men, AMC: Simply the most literate and rewarding work on television. Can't believe the season finale is already coming Sunday.

2. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Comedy Central: Four nights a week, it gives you bigger laughs and insight than you have the right to hope for.

3. Friday Night Lights, DirecTV: Has ditched the sensationalism and recommitted itself to meaningful stories. The great writing and performances, of course, have never left.

4. The Office, NBC: Strong out of the gate in fall 2008, with last week's "Baby Shower" episode filled with laughs from start to finish and even a Jim-Pamesque moment for Michael and Holly.

*30 Rock, NBC: Still waiting for the season premiere. Love it lots, but still not convinced this is better than The Office. Not that it matters.

5. Chuck, NBC: I tried this show three different times last season and just thought it was too silly. But through three episodes this season, Chuck has found its groove. A show that I always wanted to like, I finally do.

6. Pushing Daisies, ABC: Yes, it's super-sweet, but it's also super-smart. It's also tanking in the ratings, so I'm finding it important to enjoy it for the short time it lasts.

7. House, FOX: Its redundancy of formula can sap the spirit, but House and Hugh Laurie still do the procedural better than anyone right now. That's the case even though the show can't figure out how to best take advantage of its supporting cast.

8. How I Met Your Mother, CBS: Barely rises above the level of guilty pleasure, but I still watch every week. Ted is often downright unlikable. But some of the stuff works, and Neil Patrick Harris almost always saves the day.

9. The Big Bang Theory, CBS: I don't laugh out loud at Bang as much as others do, but to quote Kevin Bacon from Diner, "It's a smile."

10. Life on Mars, ABC: So far I've only seen the pilot – I'm a week behind and verging on two — but the juxtaposition of the '70s crime drama with an '00s hero seemed like it could work.

Farewell, Morning Briefing
2008-10-21 10:21
by Jon Weisman

Morning Briefing, the lighthearted creation of late Times staffer Harley Tinkham that has greeted readers of the paper's sports section almost my entire life, is an apparent casualty of the redesign that was unveiled today. Seems a shame, but I guess time marches on ...

As for the redesign itself - it's more nondescript than I expected, but it seems to accentuate the more minimalist Times we've had to get used to.

Price's Postseason: What Might Have Been for Kershaw and the Dodgers
2008-10-20 20:41
by Jon Weisman

Two scenarios, not the same but not so different...

Tampa Bay rookie David Price, 23 years old with 15 innings of major-league experience, faces J.D. Drew while trying to protect a two-run lead in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. Drew goes down on a 1-2 pitch that looked outside. (Was it an unchecked swing?) Price closes out the game. A nation celebrates Rays manager Joe's confidence in the kid.

Los Angeles rookie Clayton Kershaw, 20 years old with 109 2/3 innings of major-league experience, faces Ryan Howard while trying to protect a one-run lead in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series. Howard walks on a 3-2 pitch that seems to capture a chunk of the strike zone. Kershaw gives up a single and a sacrifice and is pulled. A nation mocks Dodger manager Joe's confidence in the kid.

Whatmighthavebeens are the devil's plaything, and I would start with Rafael Furcal's error in NLCS Game 1 anyway. But if Kershaw gets that strike-three call on Howard ... I sigh just thinking about it.

Turnaround of All Turnarounds: Willy Aybar
2008-10-20 10:37
by Jon Weisman

Of all the remarkable stories that make up the remarkable Tampa Bay Rays, is there any more remarkable than that of Willy Aybar?

The ex-Dodger third baseman, who on-based .448 in 26 games in 2005 and .364 in 79 games in 2006 (with Los Angeles and, after the Dodgers traded him, Atlanta), was beset by personal and physical problems in 2007 and missed the entire season. After spending three months rehabbing from substance abuse, Aybar broke the hamate bone in his right hand.

At one point, even his closest supporters could not reach him. I think many considered his career to be over. But not everyone. This past January, Tampa Bay took a chance on Aybar. It wasn't as if the Rays picked him up out of the scrap pile – they traded for him.

Tampa Bay wasn't immediately rewarded. In February – only eight months ago - Aybar was arrested in the Dominican Republic on domestic violence charges and faced three months in jail. The charges were dropped days later, not that that was entirely reassuring.

At the ballpark, at least, Aybar recovered. As a part-time player, he wasn't sensational, but he was solid, OPSing .737. But when Rays starting third baseman Evan Longoria went down with an injury in August, Aybar started 30 consecutive games and OPSed .898. And in the 2008 postseason, Aybar has been downright spectacular, posting a .988 OPS (11 for 30, two doubles, two homers). He went 4 for 5 in the Rays' Game 4 victory in the American League Championship Series, and in Sunday's pennant-deciding Game 7, he doubled, homered and scored two runs in a 3-1 win.

The Willy Aybar story, on and off the field, is far from over. Perhaps, with the Rays in the World Series, it will get the up-close-and-personal treatment. Whatever happens, I hope that his recovery on all fronts continues.

* * *

Here is an excerpt of my reaction to the Dodgers' trade of Aybar (from July 29, 2006). Though Aybar was traded for Wilson Betemit, my column focused on the differences between Aybar and the infielder the Dodgers hung onto, Cesar Izturis:

... I think about how Aybar was benched so that Cesar Izturis could play. Izturis is without a doubt the more spectacular fielder. But in many games, Aybar would make all the plays at third base that Izturis would make. And yes, in a few games, Aybar would make more plays than Izturis, because Izturis isn't perfect.

In the end, Izturis comes out ahead. But when you have the reptuation of being a better fielder, people tend to focus on the plays you make and forgive the plays you don't. For Aybar, it was the opposite. The differences get blown out of proportion. ...

Meanwhile, at his worst, Aybar hit home runs more often than Izturis, who celebrates them like birthdays. In fact, there isn't a single aspect of using the bat in which Aybar, at age 23, isn't already superior to the 26-year-old Izturis - and that factors in Aybar's summer slump. You don't know offensive slumps until you've seen Izturis.

Again, I get what Friday's trade was about. It was an attempt to balance prayers for 2006 with hopes for the future. I'm not complaining about that.

But another underlying truth about the trade - unless other moves are made - is that it was a final exchange of Aybar for Izturis. Given that Izturis was contributing almost nothing toward the team's current hopes, and that he realistically has no future with the Dodgers - as soon as Jeff Kent returns, Izturis is supposed to go to the bench if he hasn't already been traded - this is the trade that's bugging me.

And I don't even have the raging dislike for Izturis that some others have. I love his glove, and I'm dispassionately bored by his bat. He is who he is. A great-fielding No. 8 hitter. Just like the great-fielding 22-year-old the Dodgers have at AA Jacksonville, Chin-Lung Hu.

I don't know if Atlanta would have taken Izturis instead of Aybar, though it does appear that their primary goal was Baez and so the second player in the trade could have been either infielder. I also don't know if Izturis will yield a bigger prize in a few days or months. All I can say is that as I write this, I'd rather Aybar were still in the Dodger organization, for all his flaws, even if he were at AAA, than Izturis.

Of course, Izturis himself would soon be traded in the first Greg Maddux deal ... the same day as the arrival of Julio Lugo ... from Tampa Bay.

Peanuts Classics
2008-10-19 11:18
by Jon Weisman

Here's some footage I uploaded from an appearance by Dodger peanut vendor extraordinaire Roger Owens on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Will Sabathia Contract Have a CC Rider?
2008-10-17 15:45
by Jon Weisman

Or will Manny Manny Manny come on home with me?

Moneyball the Movie Is Alive and Well - With Brad Pitt
2008-10-17 10:00
by Jon Weisman

My Variety colleague Tatiana Siegel reports that the film version of Michael Lewis' book Moneyball is moving forward, with none other than Brad Pitt joining on to star. David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) will direct, and Steve Zaillian (Schindler's List, Searching for Bobby Fischer, American Gangster) will do the screenplay.

Yeah, I'm curious about what exactly they have in mind ...

Martin, Ethier Poised for Salary Jumps
2008-10-17 08:23
by Jon Weisman

In posting my 2009 payroll worksheet, I neglected to account for the fact that Russell Martin and Andre Ethier would probably be eligible for salary arbitration even though they have less than three years of service, per the MLB Players Association contract.

A player with three or more years of service, but less than six years, may file for salary arbitration. In addition, a player can be classified as a "Super Two" and be eligible for arbitration with less than three years of service. A player with at least two but less than three years of Major League service shall be eligible for salary arbitration if he has accumulated at least 86 days of service during the immediately preceding season and he ranks in the top 17 percent in total service in the class of Players who have at least two but less than three years of Major League service, however accumulated, but with at least 86 days of service accumulated during the immediately preceding season.

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard took this path to earning a $10 million salary this year, something that Andrew Grant of True Blue L.A warned back in February would have implications for the Dodgers.

Because of (Howard), there's no reason for Russell Martin, or any of our young players who are nearing arbitration, to accept a long term deal at any type of discount. Martin can easily point to Howard's deal and ask for six million or so in arbitration. With four years of arbitration coming up, how much does Martin stand to make for 2009-2012?

And again in March:

Players just a year away from arbitration realize that they're about to get paid, and have no reason to provide the team any type of discount. The more these stories come out, the sooner the Dodgers are going to have to wrap up their arbitration eligible players so we don't end up bleeding money by 2011. The Dodgers don't just have to worry about Martin and Broxton now. They need to look into wrapping up guys like (Chad) Billingsley, (Matt) Kemp, and even (James) Loney who we're pretty sure will be part of the team for years to come before they come close to their arbitration paydays. Again, we can thank Tal Smith and the Phillies for this whole mess.

No Dodger third-year player will get Howard's $10 million, but if eligible, Martin, Ethier and Broxton will definitely get seven figures. Mark Teahen, who had a 98 OPS+ in 2007 as a first baseman/rightfielder, ended up settling before his winter 2008 hearing for $2,337,500. He had two years and 155 days of service. Martin is at 2:150, Ethier 2:153.

On the other hand, Casey Kotchman only got $1.45 million from the Angels despite a 119 OPS+ in 137 games. Mets outfielder Ryan Church ended up with a $2 million deal coming off a 114 OPS+ season.

Though Martin is in many ways the backbone of the Dodger youth movement, Los Angeles might derive a short-term benefit this offseason thanks to his decline from 2007 to 2008: his slugging percentage falling from .469 to .396 and his defense becoming less impressive. On the other hand, Ethier emerged as the team's best non-Manny hitter.

Don't hold me to these numbers, but it seems to me that both these players will earn at least $2 million next year, whether they go to arbitration or make a deal before their hearing.

As for Broxton, who passed the three-year mark this season, he can look at the 2008 contract of lesser talent Scott Proctor, worth $1,150,000, and realize that's the worst he can do.

Interestingly, Kim Ng is reportedly an expert at handling arbitration hearings, but she might not be around to do so this winter.

Trading Aces
2008-10-16 17:27
by Jon Weisman

At It Might Be Dangerous... You Go First, Paul DePodesta uses the reports that Padres ace Jake Peavy might be traded to talk about the philosophy of dealing star players.

We are looking to get better.

It's really that simple. We're not trying to trade certain players, and we're certainly not looking to move players just to move them. As with any off-season or trading deadline, we're assessing the market value for our players to see whether or not that value surpasses their value to the Padres. If you have something you value at one million dollars, it would be foolish to refuse to consider selling it for twenty million dollars. On the flip side, it would also be foolish to sell it for anything less than one million. The thing that makes the market work is that each player has a different value to virtually every Club.

Furthermore, no one player makes a great team. This has been proven time and time again in baseball. We don't need to look any further than the 2008 Padres that went 63-99 with Jake Peavy ...

This, of course, doesn't mean that trading a star player ensures success. What it does show, however, is that trading a star player can buoy a team. That is what we're exploring.

As far as Jake's particular situation, we have him under contract for the next four years with an option for a fifth year. Our task, then, is to determine whether what we would receive in exchange for him would outweigh the benefits of having him for those five years (presumably some player(s) we would get in return could be of service for more than five years, so that needs to be factored in as well). Make no mistake, however - we place tremendous value on Jake's presence here. That is why any offers for him in past years and every day up until this writing have been rejected. ...

In short, we are charged with fielding the best possible team in both the short and long terms. Believe me, we wish we could put together a dynamic team comprised of players who would remain as Padres for the duration of their careers. On a personal level, we don't enjoy trading players. I don't know any executive who does. However, that just isn't the reality of today's game. Because of that fact, the best organizations out there can't really believe in the concept of "untouchable", because one can lose great opportunities with such blinders.

So, to answer the most basic question: are we going to trade Jake Peavy? We'll see if someone offers us a compelling deal that makes us better.

I've made a similar point on a number of occasions, saying that characterizing a team as a buyer or a seller is a false dichotomy. Teams are just looking to get better, the most efficient way possible.

Ng Reportedly Reaches Lightning Round in Seattle
2008-10-16 13:01
by Jon Weisman

Seattle has apparently narrowed its general manager search to Dodger exec Kim Ng and two others, according to the Seattle Times (link via The Fabulous Forum).

It's not clear, however, that she has the inside track for the job.

The Mariners are bringing back Jerry DiPoto, Tony LaCava and Kim Ng as they begin the final round of interviews today for their vacant general manager's job.

DiPoto, 40, is director of player personnel for the Arizona Diamondbacks. LaCava, 47, is assistant general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Mariners are expected to talk to two candidates today, believed to be DiPoto and LaCava, and conduct at least one more interview on Friday as they pursue a replacement for Bill Bavasi, who was fired in June. Both DiPoto and LaCava are said to have flown into Seattle on Wednesday, from Arizona and Pittsburgh, respectively. ...

Both men are said to have presented the Mariners with extensive, highly-detailed lists of the management team they would like to put in place. At least one team president and three general managers have telephoned the Mariners to express support for LaCava, while several top executives from Arizona and other teams have done the same on DiPoto's behalf. ...

David Cameron of U.S.S. Mariner says the "smart money is on LaCava."

As expected following the Dodgers' run to the playoffs, Ned Colletti will return as Dodger general manager in 2009, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Times.

Farewell, Condolences and Many Happy Returns
2008-10-15 21:55
by Jon Weisman

In a series in which not enough went right, on a night when almost nothing did, I still found myself nursing hope in the ninth inning.

And then once again, a fly ball from the Dodgers went all the way to the wall without going over. And that told the story.

That's the season. My despair came Monday. Tonight, I'm inclined to say that it was a good ride while it lasted. Not all of it, certainly. I could live without some of the frustration. But I'll have good memories. Most of them, of course, will be those that I shared with you. Thanks again - in my mind, you folks are a World Champion baseball community.

* * *

I had planned on saving this for Thursday, but I know people are already eager or anxious to talk about 2009. So here's a rough 2009 payroll worksheet, with my usual caveat that most figures are estimates (some are wild estimates) but will be updated as information comes in. Feel free to leave any corrections in the comments, and I'll update sometime Thursday.

This is not a prediction of the 2009 Opening Day roster. Again, it's just a worksheet, based on what the roster could look like if next season started tomorrow:

*Rough salary estimate

Starting Pitchers (5)
$10,000,000 Hiroki Kuroda
$9,250,000 Brad Penny
*$475,000 Chad Billingsley
*$415,000 Clayton Kershaw
*$400,000 James McDonald
*Total: $20,540,000
Note: Team can buy out Penny's 2009 option for $2,500,000

Bullpen (7)
*$2,500,000 Takashi Saito
*$1,300,000 Scott Proctor
*$750,000 Jonathan Broxton
*$425,000 Hong-Chih Kuo
*$420,000 Cory Wade
*$410,000 Ramon Troncoso
*$400,000 Scott Elbert
Total: $6,205,000

Also on 40-man roster:
Mario Alvarez
Yhency Brazoban
Greg Miller
Justin Orenduff
Eric Stults

Starting Lineup (8)
$17,100,000 Andruw Jones
*$700,000 Russell Martin
*$625,000 Andre Ethier
*$600,000 Matt Kemp
*$600,000 James Loney
*$410,000 Blake DeWitt
*$400,000 Tony Abreu
*$400,000 Chin-Lung Hu
Total: $20,835,000

Bench (5)
$10,000,000 Juan Pierre
$1,200,000 Pablo Ozuna
*$600,000 Jason Repko
*$410,000 Delwyn Young
*$400,000 Danny Ardoin
Total: $12,610,000
Note: Team can buy out Ozuna's 2009 option for $200,000

Also on 40-man roster:
A.J. Ellis
Lucas May
Xavier Paul

Disabled List
$12,000,000 Jason Schmidt

Also Paying ...
$50,000 Gary Bennett (buyout of $900,000 option)
Note: Kansas City is responsible for $500,000 buyout of Angel Berroa's $5,500,000 option for 2009.

Working total: *$72,240,000

It seems possible that the Dodgers might have in the neighborhood of $50 million to help improve this collection of players. Top issues:

  • The outfield spot that would be held by Jones and Pierre.
  • The DeWitt-Hu-Abreu (or if you prefer, Ivan DeJesus, Jr.) infield next to Loney.
  • The pitching slot held by Penny.

    Might the Dodgers add a $10 million player, a $15 million player and a $25 million player in terms of 2009 salary? We'll see ...

  • But At Least I Have a Husband
    2008-10-15 15:40
    by Jon Weisman

    I just want to tell you all good luck. We're all counting on you.

    * * *

    Phillies at Dodgers, 5:22 p.m.

    Once in a Lifetime
    2008-10-15 08:48
    by Jon Weisman

    Into the blue again ... same as it ever was ...

    October 15, 1988

    Tonight, One Night
    2008-10-15 06:30
    by Jon Weisman

    The idea that Chad Billingsley has something to prove tonight, that his pride or manhood or dignity are on the line, is nauseating to me.

    The idea - with the circus of brushback pitches now behind us - that if Billingsley doesn't pitch well, it will stigmatize him for the entire offseason if not beyond, is contemptible.

    I believe Billingsley will do well tonight. I know he will try. I'm sure he learned something from his last start, though I'm not sure precisely what the lessons were. But he's a great young pitcher who had a fine season, and even if he had something to apologize for in his last start, that chapter should be closed.

    Billingsley, and the Dodgers as a whole, are not seeking redemption tonight. They are seeking to win a game and earn the right to play another. Though many no doubt will, fans and the media should not look at tonight's game as one that will decide this team's legacy. The Dodgers' legacy is what they do, not what they fail to do.

    Don't make this game into something it's not. Don't even give one night the potential to destroy what was accomplished over an entire season. Tonight's game is not about character. It's simply about hoping to experience that joy of victory at least one more time before the sun sets on 2008 and, like 28 other teams, you try to do better next year.

    My Takeaway
    2008-10-13 21:11
    by Jon Weisman

    In between the bitter gloom of walking out of my office at 4:15 p.m., realizing I had left my tickets to tonight's game at home and spending the next 95 minutes in the car, and the same feeling upon seeing the Dodgers turn over a lead for the third time in four NLCS games, there was a moment I'll never forget.

    Casey Blake homered to break the 3-3 tie, and the crowd erupted. I was holding my 6 1/2-month-old son up in the air, and he was shouting his lungs out, right with everyone else. The little man roar. It was priceless.

    The White-Knuckle Ride Continues
    2008-10-13 16:00
    by Jon Weisman

    The Dodgers have outscored their playoff opponents by an average of 5.67 to 3.17 runs per game, yet a loss tonight puts Los Angeles on the brink of elimination.

    A win creates an all-new best-of-three.

    I've got no idea what to expect tonight, especially with Derek Lowe going on short rest, but I'm prepared to be on the edge of my seat with every pitch. (No, I'm not talking about beanballs.)

    Nearing the top of the roller-coaster again ... and looking down ...

    * * *

    Phillies at Dodgers, 5:22 p.m.

    Big Game Hunting
    2008-10-12 22:10
    by Jon Weisman

    The real story tonight is the Dodgers' Game 3 National League Championship Series victory, but I do have to get this out of the way. I don't really want to hear Shane Victorino complaining that Hiroki Kuroda threw at his head.

    UntitledDespite being a card-carrying member of baseball's Pacifist Society, even I felt the Dodgers had to show some kind of retaliation in the third inning tonight. And the picture to the right is why.

    The Dodgers had been pitched tough inside all series, but that's no sin. Among other things, Manny Ramirez had a Brett Myers pitch go behind him - but supposedly, that slipped. Okay. Then tonight, Russell Martin got hit by a Jamie Moyer pitch in the first inning, but it was a sub-80s changeup that loaded the bases. Even though a potential beanball war had been a significant topic of discussion Friday night and Saturday, Moyer is absolved.

    But with this pitch that you can see to your right, enough was enough. This one was heading for Martin's chin if not his eyes, and this was the one that moved the needle beyond intimidation into something worse. This was the one that passed the limit of making excuses, to the point where it seemed clear to everyone that the Phillies did not care whether a Dodger got hurt. Paramount for the Dodgers was to win the game on the field. But until the Dodgers sent a Phillie spinning to the dirt, nothing was going to stop Philadelphia from continuing to make the Dodgers duck and cover.

    I am not endorsing hitting people with pitches. I am not endorsing throwing at someone's head. But Victorino and the Phillies had no right to complain. It started with them. They don't get to throw at Martin's face and then be offended.

    I'm hoping that now, it's over. While the Dodger Stadium crowd (already energized by the five-run first-inning and 6-1 lead in a critical Game 3) seemed eager to see the benches empty, I was petrified. I don't want to see players from either team ejected. I want to see baseball.

    For the most part, the umpires kept the situation under control. But something occurred to me for the first time tonight as I watched those six black-suited men try to keep about 70 people at bay. In theory, major league baseball doesn't want a fight to break out. Assuming that's the case, should the sport allow stadium security to step in and help keep the combatants apart?

    On first glance, this might really seem excessive. It's just a game. But I'm not talking about having bobbies with billy clubs raising cain. I'm just talking about having more people to separate the two teams, because if the fight doesn't break out in the first few seconds, it won't unless it's given the opportunity to. Tonight, there were almost too many pockets of tension for the umpires to police.

    At some point, if the chaos got really out of control - you know, chairs thrown, knives drawn, Jets and Sharks – security probably would get involved. I'm just wondering about whether security should be preventative instead of reactive. (Unless, of course, baseball really doesn't mind that much if some punches get thrown.) I just would have hated to have seen ejections and suspensions - or worse, injuries - that could have been prevented. It seems awkward, maybe even untenable, especially because fighting isn't a rampant issue in baseball like it is in hockey, but I'm wondering if it would be better for the sport to have security help the umpires keep the peace.

    But enough about the extracurriculars - let's talk about the Dodgers' win. After Rafael Furcal made a nice tag to help nab Chase Utley on a somewhat surprising steal attempt with Ryan Howard at bat in the top of the first inning, Furcal helped the Dodgers jump on an ineffective Jamie Moyer with a leadoff single. Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez also singled to give the Dodgers an early lead for the third straight game, and one Nomar Garciaparra strikeout after Martin's first hit-by-pitch, Casey Blake looped one to right to score a second run.

    With two out, Matt Kemp got the count to 3-0 before striking out on a pitch that was probably too close to take, but then Blake DeWitt, after being down 0-2, drove a no-doubter bases-loaded triple to right - and suddenly, the mojo of the Cubs series had returned. Every Dodger starting position player reached base, with Furcal answering the Phillies' second-inning run with a home run, his first since May.

    Kuroda might have been even better tonight than he was a week ago in the NLDS clincher. He retired 13 consecutive batters from the third inning through the end of the sixth. But just like last week, he couldn't get out of the seventh. It was frustrating, because after giving up a leadoff double to Utley, Howard reached on what appeared to be a catchable fly ball that Ethier didn't get a good read on and shied away from, and then Burrell looped a weak 140-footer to cut the Dodger lead to five and bring Joe Torre out of the dugout with two runners on.

    Though Cory Wade once again put out the fire, he ended up throwing 33 pitches tonight, which limits what he can bring in relief of Derek Lowe in Game 4 Monday. The Dodgers will have Hong-Chih Kuo, Clayton Kershaw, Greg Maddux and Joe Beimel to help get the game from Lowe to Broxton, so that might be sufficient, but it was just such a shame that two near-outs prevented Kuroda from cruising past the seventh.

    With the home team 11-0 in Phillies-Dodgers games this year, not only Game 4 but Game 5 on Wednesday would seem to remain critical for the Dodgers. But neither game is a gimme. Though Lowe is a decent bet on three days' rest, it's hard to know what he'll bring - and his opponent, Joe Blanton, will have had a week off since pitching six innings of one-run, seven-strikeout ball in the Phillies' NLDS clincher over Milwaukee. Meanwhile, Game 5 offers a brilliant matchup between Cole Hamels and Chad Billingsley that, no matter how much one esteems Billingsley or believes in his ability to recover from his Game 2 debacle, can't remotely be painted as a lock for Los Angeles.

    On the other hand, if the Dodgers manage to get the series back to Philly, things could turn in their favor. Kuroda vs. Myers in Game 6? Lowe vs. Moyer (would it still be Moyer?) in Game 7? The road is still the road, and it will be all hands on deck in Game 7 if it gets that far. However, even if the Dodgers don't sweep the Los Angeles games, I wouldn't count them out.

    But the Dodgers certainly need to win at least one of their next two, and their fans will feel heeps better if a win somehow comes Monday. Things are gonna be even more intense at 5:22 p.m. tomorrow than they were today. Get your rest ...

    One Last Look Backward, And Then Forward
    2008-10-12 14:35
    by Jon Weisman

    In the 2008 National League Championship Series, Rafael Furcal has as many hits as game-changing errors. Casey Blake has one walk, one single and one giant Almost.

    But the guy I want to preach patience for most of all today is Matt Kemp.

    A lot of folks have grown frustrated with Kemp, such as the estimable ToyCannon at True Blue L.A.. Kemp is 1 for 7 in the NLCS and 3 for 20 in the postseason. All three of Kemp's hits have been doubles, and he also has two walks, but I understand that a .527 OPS is not enough to make people feel better. It hasn't been a great October.

    However, I guess what I don't want is for the heightened intensity of the playoffs to cause people to lose faith in Kemp. Kemp is a streak hitter. He's looked bad countless times for the Dodgers - he did set the team single-season strikeout record, after all - and then come back to post remarkable games.

    Some of Kemp's failings are more inexplicable than others. Sometimes he gets himself out, but other times, you have to tip your hat to the pitcher. It's not as if Kemp is alone in tipping his hat to Cole Hamels or Brad Lidge or any of the Cub pitchers who came into October with sterling seasons. Kemp has struck out seven times in the playoffs, but that's the same as Russell Martin and one fewer than Andre Ethier. As a team, the Dodgers have struck out 22 times in their past two games.

    In any case, I truly dispute the notion that he's been hopeless at the plate.

  • With runners on second and third in the first inning of the NLCS, Kemp went to the fourth pitch of the count and then drove the ball to right-center field. It was an out, but it showed a hitter who wasn't trying to do too much, who was just trying to get that hit. In fact, Kemp has gone to right a few times in the series, including his one hit, a flyball double just inside the line.

  • In the ninth inning of Game 1, Kemp made a bid to tie the game off Lidge with a deep out to center field. Perhaps it wasn't quite in the Manny Ramirez or Blake class of near-home runs, but Shane Victorino had to go back to get it.

  • In Game 2, Kemp got off to an 0-for-3 start that included a first-inning strikeout with two runners in scoring position. But instead of letting that undermine the rest of his game, he drew consecutive walks in the fifth and seventh innings. It was his two-out, none-on walk in the seventh that set up Blake's potential game-tying homer.

    Again, it has been anything but a successful series for Kemp, but he's not lost. He has taken some bad swings, but he has also put the bat on the ball with runners on base and been drawing the occasional walks. In short, he's been Kemp. He's not Willie Mays, but don't let the times he looks awful lead you to believe that he can't look good.

    Kemp is a metaphor for the Dodgers in the NLCS. The bad has outweighed the good, but the good is still there, ready to be tapped.

    * * *

    With the exception of James McDonald, the Dodgers should have a full bullpen to back Hiroki Kuroda today. Hong-Chih Kuo has had two days off, as have Jonathan Broxton and Greg Maddux. Cory Wade threw only three pitches Friday and Joe Beimel 12.

    Kuroda himself hasn't pitched in exactly a week. The Dodgers will of course be hoping that he can pitch more shutout ball, but if the Phillies cash in opportunities the way that Chicago couldn't, Joe Torre can't hesitate to go to the relievers, even though Derek Lowe will be pitching on three days' rest Monday. The Dodgers need to get this victory today before they can worry about problems they might or might not have tomorrow.

    * * *

    Other tidbits:

  • Take away Carlos Ruiz, Cole Hamels and Brett Myers, and the Phillies are batting .208 in the NLCS.

  • When the Dodgers fell behind 2-0 in four playoff series from 1995-2006 - a total of eight games - four of those defeats were by one run.

  • Dodger middle-infielders Furcal, Blake DeWitt and Jeff Kent are 1 for 18 with no walks in the NLCS. DeWitt does have two RBI.

  • In the NLCS, the two teams' bullpens have pitched 14 1/3 innings without allowing a run.

  • Update: Scott Proctor will have season-ending surgery, reports Tony Jackson of the Daily News.

    * * *

    There should be a beautiful sunset tonight. When the game starts, the scoreboard will say 0-0. Let's have some fun.

    Phillies at Dodgers, 5:22 p.m.

  • Lineup Change
    2008-10-12 12:13
    by Jon Weisman

    Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness has the starting lineup of the Dodgers' first game against Jamie Moyer - on July 10, 1986:

    1. Bill Russell RF (RF?!)
    2. Steve Sax 2B
    3. Ken Landreaux LF
    4. Enos Cabell 1B
    5. Jeff Hamilton 3B
    6. Reggie Williams CF
    7. Mariano Duncan SS
    8. Jack Fimple C
    9. Orel Hershiser P

    In that game, Davey Lopes started at third base for the Cubs over Ron Cey. Greg Maddux made his major-league debut for Chicago two months later.

    * * *

    Speaking of obscure but memorable Dodgers, minor-league coach Garey Ingram and two others have been let go by the team, reports Tony Jackson of the Daily News.

    Motivating With 'Dre
    2008-10-11 20:18
    by Jon Weisman

    On the flight, there was some discussion about the way we played in Philly. There was some venting and some frustration, mainly that we didn't execute and take care of business back there.

    We need to come out tomorrow night with the swagger and the chip on our shoulder and know we can beat these guys and know we're a better team. We believe that and we have to have that in our minds. We have to show no doubt, show that we're not intimidated or fearful. We have to play like it's zero-zero, even though it's not. What's happened in the past is over.

    - Andre Ethier

    Love-30
    2008-10-10 20:12
    by Jon Weisman

    The loss was a bummer, but the main reason I'm keeping this short and not writing longer about Chad Billingsley, James McDonald, Brett Myers, that outfield wall or anything else is just because it's been a long week. Not meaning to abandon anyone or anything.

    Big game on Sunday.

    Omen? Nemo
    2008-10-10 12:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Dodger Thoughts, September 18, 2007:

    I do keep thinking about that error Rafael Furcal made 11 days ago in San Francisco. The team was on such a roll before that inadvertent stumble. For me, so much changed from that point on. It's been uphill ever since.
    The irrational part of me worries about a repeat. Not just because Furcal's error Thursday pivoted a win into a loss, but the idea that it could be a harbinger of the good times no longer rolling.

    That being said, I'm not overcome by a doomsday feeling. I'll be on the edge of my seat today the same way I was for Game 1.

    * * *

    Dodgers at Phillies, 1:35 p.m.

    Some computer-bound folks found this link useful.

    Mother of Phillies Manager Manuel Dies
    2008-10-10 10:49
    by Jon Weisman

    From ESPN.com:

    June Manuel, the mother of Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, died Friday, the Phillies announced.

    The Phillies have not said whether Manuel will manage Game 2 of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The game is set for Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET.

    Manuel's pregame news conference Friday was canceled. He was on the field for batting practice earlier Friday.

    Manuel said of his mother in a 2005 Mother's Day postcard for MLB.com: "I can't imagine a better person in the world than my mother. I hope everybody's mom is like mine. She's been very special to me, and I've been very lucky to have a mother like her."

    My sincerest condolences to Manuel and his family.

    One Rock 'n' Roll Too Many
    2008-10-09 20:18
    by Jon Weisman

    Yep, that's what happens.

    Manny Ramirez's 400-foot-plus drive in the first inning gets in one run but stops just short of being a two-run homer.

    Shane Victorino's extra bit of hustle forces Rafael Furcal to hurry himself into an error.

    The Phillies knock two out of the park; the Dodgers hit two drives in the ninth that don't quite have enough.

    And by slim margins like those, Game 1 of the National League Championship Series goes to Philadelphia. The Dodgers had their mini-victories; the Phillies had a few more.

    Derek Lowe had two odd things happen to him tonight - a collision at first base with Victorino, and a bad swing that might have tweaked his right hand. Whether those were factors in taking down what had been another smooth, groundball-filled start, we'll have to rely on whatever he might say in the postgame to find out. (As commenter BHSportsguy pointed out, the preamble for the Phillies' three-run sixth was when Lowe gave up two-out hits to the Nos. 8 and No. 9 hitters in the fifth.)

    Cole Hamels weathered a rougher first few innings than Phillie fans might have liked and, like Lowe in the NL Division Series, outlasted his 2-0 deficit. Citizen's Bank Park did not play like a bandbox when the Dodgers were batting, and you can bet Hamels had something to do with that.

    The Dodgers did do a lot that was right tonight, and even if they're mulling that Furcal error that might have cost them the game, they should still feel good about themselves. I still believe Game 1 was one the Phillies needed more than the Dodgers. So much for that luxury, though. Friday's Game 2 isn't do-or-die for Los Angeles, but things are a whole bunch of serious now.

    Here We Go - Again!
    2008-10-09 17:07
    by Jon Weisman
    The Dodger Thoughts 2008 Postseason Guide - NLCS Update
    2008-10-08 21:30
    by Jon Weisman

    It's Official: Kuo On, Saito Off
    Hong Chih-Kuo has officially replaced Takashi Saito on the Dodger roster for the NCLS, the team announced Thursday morning.
    Previously: The Dodger Thoughts 2008 Postseason Guide

    Has it only been a week since our last playoff series opener? I think we've lived half a lifetime in those seven-plus days. In any case, here are some news and views on the Dodgers heading into Thursday's National League Championship Series opener against Philadelphia.

    Catchers (2): Russell Martin, Danny Ardoin

    Martin seemed rejuvenated in the NL Division Series – a likely cause being the off days he received heading in. In the past 14 days, Martin has played 38 innings of baseball. That doesn't guarantee anything, but Dodger fans will embrace his rest. In six career postseason games, Martin has a .930 OPS, and he'll bat cleanup in Game 1. Ardoin remains an emergency catcher.

    Infielders (8): James Loney, Blake DeWitt, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Nomar Garciaparra, Angel Berroa, Jeff Kent, Pablo Ozuna

    Loney had three hits in the NLDS, but two of them were game-winning blasts. It seemed like he might be benched against a left-handed starter like Cole Hamels, but he has been given the start in Game 1. (Hamels' career numbers are actually worse against lefties.) The same rationale will also help keep DeWitt in the lineup and an eager Kent on the bench, though you could see Kent appear in a game in a double-switch.

    On the left side of the infield, Furcal made his case for Comeback Player of the Week honors by reaching 7 out of 15 times in the NLDS after seeing first base only three times since May 5. He's a huge presence at the top of the lineup, but who among us isn't still holding their breath with every move he makes. (Side note: That RBI bunt single in Chicago was the kind of thing a lesser player would have been vilified for attempting - let's hear it for execution.) His mate at third base, Blake, had a fairly quiet NLDS - three singles, no walks – but as someone who slugged .531 on the road this year, he might have a home run lurking inside him for Philly.

    Garciaparra wasn't needed at all in the NLDS, but he'll have his chances off the bench this time around. One wonders if a rested Garciaparra might be the first choice as a backup to Furcal, but if recent form holds, Berroa will be the first infielder off the bench defensively. Ozuna stands by.

    Outfielders (4): Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Juan Pierre

    There might be a good amount of early series chatter about the struggles Ramirez has had at Citizen's Bank Park: .264 on-base percentage, .647 OPS - and whether Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel, who managed Ramirez in AAA, has some unique hold on him. All three of Ramirez's career homers at the ballpark came in 2005. My guess is that Ramirez's Citizen numbers relate to small sample size, but it will certainly be a story if the Phils can hold him down. (It's not that Manuel is fearless - he did walk Ramirez intentionally four times this year.)

    Neither Kemp nor Ethier earned any Star of the Game honors against Chicago, but as quiet series go, they made some noise. Ethier went 1 for 10 but walked four times, seeing 62 pitches (4.4 per at bat). His discipline in Game 1 set up Loney's series-seizing grand slam, and his long fly to right with two on in Game 3 came close to being the capper on the NLDS itself. In the first minute of the post-series celebration, Torre gave Ethier an unmistakably encouraging pep talk, hands on both cheeks like a father boosting a son. Despite his .100 batting average, Ethier did not fade in the NLDS, and a rebound seems more than plausible in the coming week.

    Kemp only reached base twice in the NLDS, both times hitting doubles. He struck out five times, and made hearts skip when a Game 3 flyball nearly went over his head. It was not a good series for him. But how many times has he looked bad and then quickly stunned you with a huge game? For those of you who care about Ramirez's sub-par showing against Philadelphia this year, Kemp OPSed .908 against the Phillies in 2008.

    Pierre was 0 for 1 against Chicago and doesn't figure to get much more playing time, barring the unfortunate. A homer-happy park like the Phillies play doesn't help Pierre at all, whose warning track is the infield dirt. But there's still potential pinch-running heroism in his future.

    Pitchers (11 of these 12): Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Clayton Kershaw, Jonathan Broxton, Joe Beimel, Cory Wade, Chan Ho Park, James McDonald, Greg Maddux, Takashi Saito, Hong-Chih Kuo

    Lowe has assumed the role of staff ace even though Billingsley had the better overall year. No one's complaining, as Lowe has been superb since August 6: a 1.41 ERA including the postseason. In that time, Lowe has also gotten better fielding than usual - he hasn't allowed an unearned run. That's critical to his success. It's hard to imagine a scenario in which a healthy Lowe does not start Game 4 on three days' rest, setting himself up for a potential Game 7 start on regular rest - except for the unlikely prospect of the Dodgers being up 3-0. But be prepared: If CC Sabathia can have a bad game against the Phillies, so can Lowe.

    Should the Dodgers hold Lowe out for Game 5, that would set up their Game 2 starter, the 24-year-old Billingsley, to start Game 6 as well. The Eyes-on-the-Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio answered questions about his October physical and mental makeup with outstanding work in Game 2 against Chicago. Billingsley has thrown only 119 pitches in the past two weeks, so odds are good he'll continue his postseason second wind.

    Kuroda has gotten swept up in the post-NLDS praise for Dodger starting pitching. If he was a bit underrated heading into that series, perhaps he has been a bit overrated coming out of it. He was often in trouble against Chicago, particularly because of his difficulties in closing out hitters with two strikes. The Phillies don't figure to let him off the hook so easily. That being said, Kuroda did leave with a shutout intact and will benefit from pitching the upcoming Game 3 once more in front of a fervently supportive Dodger Stadium crowd.

    As close followers of the Dodgers know by now, the fate of lefty Kuo will affect the fate of lefty Kershaw. Kuo seems to have the green light to pitch against the Phillies but won't be used on back-to-back days - meaning that means Kershaw will be on call in relief in at least one of the opening two games of the series. That doesn't preclude him from starting Game 4, but again, you have to ask yourself, do the Dodgers put a 20-year-old who has at this point not pitched in a game since September 28 into a start when they could use Lowe? It would potentially be the stuff of legend, but the Dodgers will be blessed if they haven't needed to make the most out of Kershaw in relief before then.

    Torre has shown some interest in making Maddux the third right-handed reliever, setting up Wade and Broxton, especially if Saito is left off the roster. But given the probability that Beimel and Kershaw or Kuo will help shoulder much of the bullpen work for the Dodgers (with McDonald and Park as the long relievers should events go badly or long), it wouldn't be a surprise for Torre to hold Maddux back for a Dodger Stadium Game 4.

    A final word about Saito: It's my feeling that reports of his demise as first-choice Dodger closer have been exaggerated. Yes, if his health or mechanics are bothering him and the team decides he can't pitch, that's one thing. But too much has been made about the results of his Game 2 outing in Chicago. He entered the game with a 10-1 lead in the ninth inning, meaning he had one principal mission on each pitch: throw a strike. On eight of 13 pitches, he succeeded. Yes, three of those pitches were ripped for hits - by the Cubs' No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters. But it's only because Saito's health is a concern that this was even an issue.

    In the next game, Broxton, who followed Saito in Game 2 by allowing a walk and a line-drive out before striking out the final two batters - closed out the series with tremendous authority, striking out three of four. And suddenly, the man whom for two months I had to repeatedly defend against questioning that he could be a closer was declared by the whole world to be one.

    I couldn't be more gratified or happier for Broxton. But I don't see this changing of the guard here to be any different than what we saw two months ago. In my opinion, if Saito were to be 100 percent in the NLCS, then Broxton pitches the eighth and Saito pitches the ninth (except in a situation like we had Saturday, when Broxton breezed through his portion of the eighth and there was no reason to take him out). Or to put it another way: As thrilling as Broxton was in Game 3, he's still going to have outings like he had in Game 2. That being the case, would he still be the closer over a healthy Saito? Seems unlikely.

    Of course, in the end most of this is irrelevant for me. I'm no fan of the closer title to begin with. The beauty of the Dodger bullpen is that in a given situation, a healthy Kuo might be better than any of these guys. My point is that with Broxton and Saito, there's been a lot of bandwagon hopping, in both directions. The fact is that most of the time, these guys are great but fallible relievers. Injuries will dictate their usage, but if they're healthy, the Dodgers should be comfortable with any of them.

    But enough about the bullpen ...

    Summary

    I continue to be struck, if not slightly haunted, by how easily the postseason could have been different. If the Cubs bring in left-handed reliever Sean Marshall to face James Loney in the fifth inning of Game 1 ... if you take away just one of their errors in Game 2 ... if Martin is out by a hair instead of safe in the first inning of Game 3 ... that's how easily the Dodgers could have been sweptees instead of sweptors. (For another example, consider what might have happened had the Angels made one fewer mistake in any of their Boston games.) The Dodgers truly did dominate the Cubs and I don't think what I'm saying takes anything away from that, but you don't have to work hard to play a game of "what if" and come up with an opposite result.

    The Phillies and Dodgers each have huge weapons. There is easily a scenario in which all four games are close, the teams are practically even - and yet one team sweeps all four. That's how it went in Los Angeles in August, with the Dodgers winning four games in a row - two in the bottom of the ninth - by a combined six runs. The Phillies' sweep later in the month came more handily, though one of Philadelphia's wins required runs in the bottom of the ninth and 11th innings.

    If you look at the head-to-head results in the regular season, the situation resembles that of the Dodgers' subtle advantage against the Cubs - when Los Angeles lost, it lost close games; when it won, it won more easily. In other words, Philadelphia was the better regular-season team. Combine that with their home-field advantage in the NLCS, and they deserve favorite status.

    But two counterpoints remain in the Dodgers' favor. First, the return of Furcal. Second, the possibility that the Dodgers can pitch much better than the 5.48 ERA they allowed against the Phillies during the regular season.

    The Dodgers have room for improvement against Philadelphia. Will they improve? And will that improvement be more than any improvement the Phillies might have? We'll have to play the games to find out.

    As for Game 1, I do feel the pressure is more on Philadelphia. The cost to the Phillies of losing with Hamels at home is greater than the cost to the Dodgers of losing to Hamels on the road. No doubt the Dodgers want to get a victory at the first opportunity, but they know that if they come home with a split, they'll be thrilled, and the Phillies will be worried.

    The eyes of baseball will be on the Dodgers and Phillies starting Thursday, and the hearts of the teams' fans will be in their throats. For the Phillies, the real pressure starts immediately; for the Dodgers, it doesn't come until Friday at the earliest. But when it comes ... watch out.

    We're Getting Closer
    2008-10-08 11:59
    by Jon Weisman

    Inside the Dodgers has the Dodger starting lineups for Games 1 and 2 of the upcoming National League Championship Series. And Jay Jaffe has an exhaustive (and free) series preview at Baseball Prospectus.

    Calm-Before-the-Storm Notebook
    2008-10-08 09:49
    by Jon Weisman

    I don't care if it's one bad apple, 100 or 1,000. Dodger fans have to dial back their venom against opposing fans at Dodger Stadium. There have been too many complaints to ignore. There needs to be a zero-tolerance policy for physical or verbal abuse (particularly cursing) at other fans, and Dodger Stadium security has to be more proactive in dealing with these incidents.

    Waiting for someone to call the Dodger Stadium hotline with a complaint is not enough. Hire more security if you need to. You've still got five more days to prepare.

  • Dodger fans might have a chip on their shoulder about the team not getting enough respect before or during the Cubs series, but now it's the Phillies who have a right to complain, writes Tim Malcolm at Phillies Nation. Personally, I'm with Malcolm in that I'd be happy to fly under the radar.

  • Don Mattingly helped convince Dodger hitters to work the counts, relates Ross Newhan in the Times. I think it's great, but it's not as if that's not something many of us have been wanting for years.

  • Kim Ng will interview for the Seattle Mariners general manager job, but she has competition, reports Larry Stone of the Seattle Times.

  • They Were the Champions
    2008-10-07 13:59
    by Jon Weisman

    Not quite sure how the '81 Dodgers avoided a lifetime ban after this. Good thing Judge Landis wasn't around ...

    The singing! The eye makeup! The striptease! The Steinbrenner elevator jokes! And an appearance from Madame!

    And still this was better than this year's Emmys. Thanks to Duk at Big League Stew at Yahoo! Sports.

    October 7, 1977
    2008-10-06 21:11
    by Jon Weisman

    Maybe Dodger manager Tom Lasorda is right. Maybe there really is a Big Dodger in the Sky.

    What else can account for what went on in the nut house they call Veterans Stadium in South Philly Friday afternoon?

    The Dodgers were dead. They were losing to the Phillies, 5-3, with two out in the ninth inning of the National League's World Series preliminary. Eight straight batters had grounded out off relief pitcher Gene Garber, who was making it look easy. A crowd of 63,719 was screaming for the Phillies and jeering the Dodgers.

    That was the scene, as described by Times sports editor Bill Shirley, 31 years ago Tuesday.

    In the third game of a five-game NL Championship Series that was split 1-1, the Dodgers had scored two runs in the second inning (losing a potential third run when Steve Yeager was thrown out trying to score on pitcher Burt Hooton's double). The Phillies came back to take a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the inning during one of the most famous meltdowns ever by a Dodger pitcher.

    Wrote Shirley:

    Hooton walked (Ted) Sizemore to fill the bases. Hooton thought he had the next bater, pitcher Larry Christenson, struck out on a 1-2 pitch, but umpire Harry Wendlestedt did not agree. He called it a ball, and Hooton stormed around the mound in disgust. Then he lost his cool and his rhythm. While the notorious Philadelphia fans screamed and taunted him, Hooton walked Christenson, Bake McBride and (Larry) Bowa in succession to force in three runs. The fans loved every minute of it.

    Hooton was yanked in favor of Rick Rhoden after walking four straight batters on 21 pitches. With the bases still loaded, Rhoden got (Mike) Schmidt to foul out to catcher Steve Yeager - on one pitch.

    Lasorda said he did not think the crowd affected Hooton. The pitcher did not stick around to explain but some of his teammates said they thought it was probably a combination of the crowd and and the call on the pitch to Christenson. It was not a professional performance for a major league pitcher.

    The Dodgers weren't down for long, tying the game in the fourth on hits by Ron Cey and Dusty Baker (each of whom hit grand slams - the Dodgers' last in the playoffs for 31 years - in the previous two games). Once again, however, the Dodgers lost a chance for more. With the bases loaded and one out, Rhoden (who had three homers in 1977) hit a fly ball to right field, and McBride threw Baker out at the plate - rather easily, according to Shirley, despite Baker's attempt to jar the ball loose from catcher Bob Boone.

    Rhoden pitched 4 1/3 shutout innings in relief, and the game remained tied until the eighth inning, when the deuces went wild for the Philles, who combined two hits with two Dodger errors to score two runs. Poised to win the game was Garber, who nearly six years later, would be the on the mound facing R.J. Reynolds in the next decade's most memorable regular season Dodger game.

    Garber got the first two outs. Facing defeat, Lasorda sent up 41-year-old Vic Davalillo, who had been out of the major leagues for nearly three seasons before the Dodgers signed him out of the Mexican League as a free agent in July, to bat for Yeager. The oldest player in the majors, Davalillo was batting .313 with no homers and no walks, so the Phillies knew he wasn't a power threat.

    What they didn't know is that he would bunt - a perfect bunt that he beat out for a single.

    Davalillo was followed to the plate by Manny Mota, just a few months shy of 40 himself. "Between the two of them, Vic Davalillo and Manny Mota are old enough to be dead," wrote Charles Maher in the Times. Yet in 49 games, Mota was 15 for 38 with a homer, 10 walks and no strikeouts. (His OPS was 1.021.)

    Mota hit a long flyball to left field. Deep - but not deep enough. Catchable - but not catchable enough for Greg Luzinski, who got turned around and bungled the ball against the left-field fence. Mota got a double, and when Sizemore let Luzinski's throw into the infield get away, Davalillo scored to cut the Dodgers' deficit to one. Mota landed at third.

    Davey Lopes came up. Shirley:

    Lopes smashed a ground ball at third baseman Mike Schmidt, who already had made several marvelous plays. But this time, it appeared the ball hit a seam in the artificial turf and bounced off his glove to shortstop Larry Bowa.

    Bowa fired the ball to first, almost catching the speedy Lopes, but umpire Bruce Froemming called him safe. On instant replay, it appeared Lopes got at least a tie. Anyway, Mota had scored the tying run and the Phillies were screaming at Froemming.

    It was a day for everyone to get flustered. With Bill Russell now at the plate, Garber threw the ball away trying to pick off Lopes, allowing the speedy leadoff man to reach second base. Russell, who would win the 1978 NL pennant for the Dodgers over Philadelphia with a series-ending single up the middle, presaged his feat by knocking a Garner pitch to center field to drive Lopes in with the go-ahead run.

    In the bottom of the ninth, the Phillies would get their own two-out chance when reliever Mike Garman hit Lusinski with a pitch. But Richie Hebner grounded out to Steve Garvey at first base, and the Dodgers had come away with an absolutely stunning victory.

    After the game, Times writer Don Merry's focus was on Phillies manager Danny Ozark.

    While Dodger manager Tom Lasorda was center stage, attempting to explain the weird events of the ninth, Ozark leaned limply against a wall, periodically putting a hand to his face. Then he would stare at the ceiling as if he were asking the man above why him? ... why his team?

    While Lasorda discussed his rapport with the heavens, Ozark was feeling like a man exiled to hell. ...

    "I certainly won't forget about this one for a while," the manager admitted. "This is a time I think I can bite a six-penny nail in half."

    The Dodgers wrapped up the NL pennant the next day, with Tommy John, who had won 20 games with a 2.78 ERA (138 ERA+) in his second season following the surgery that would bear his name, throwing a complete-game seven-hitter. But Game 3 remained the one etched most firmly in the memory of those who lived through that series.

    Jim Murray of the Times deserves the final word.

    The things that happened to the Phillies should only happen to Idi Amin. Manny Mota, who hit his first home run in (five) years the other day, thought he detected a trend. Normally, in this situation, Manny perceives his job to poke one through the hole into right field and keep the rally going. This one he wound up on as though it were the head of a guy trying to creep in his bedroom window.

    I wish I could tell you what happened to that ball. I think Greg Luzinski tried to eat it. It hit the wall, hit his stomach. It ended up some place between first and second base with several Phillies running after it and Manny Mota creaking into third.

    Right there God got fed up with the Philies. I mean, He and the Dodgers had done all they could for the home nine. I mean, when you part the waters and they just stand there - well, there's a limit. ...

    L.A. had done its level best to gift-wrap the National League pennant and put it under the tree for the Phillies – "To Philadelphia With Love, from Burt, Billy and the Guys."

    Never have more generous gestures been made than the Dodgers made for the Phillies. It was heart-warming, an act of selflessness and concern for your fellow man that allowed the Dodgers to walk in several runs, error in a few more. They were the most considerate guests you ever saw. They tried to come home from second standing up on shallow flies and short hits, they messed up double-play balls, they threw the ball in the dugout. You couldn't ask for nicer guys to come visit. They never thought of themselves once. They threw runs at the Phillies like bridal bouquets. The way they were going, you figured they wanted to be able to take this game off their income tax as a charitable deduction. Deducted: one National League pennant, worth, perhaps, $500,000 to a inning team.

    The Phils, the ingrates, would not take it. The mink didn't fit right. The new Rolls was the wrong color. Nobody was going to make charity cases out of them, by God. They spurned the Dodgers' best efforts to make them rich. ...

    That's how it ended. Dodgers 6, Phillies 5. Thursday, here they go again.

    * * *

    Back to the present: A commenter has hooked us up with Vin Scully's call of the ninth inning of Dodgers' National League Division Series-clinching victory Saturday, including "the one sweet, beautiful, marvelous" final out.

    Meanwhile, Tony Jackson of the Daily News passes this along:

    It does appear that the Dodgers' Game 4 starter will depend largely on whether Hong-Chih Kuo is healthy enough to be on the roster for this series. If he is, he'll be the second lefty in the pen and Clayton Kershaw probably will be the fourth starter. If Kuo isn't a go, Kershaw will likely have to be the second lefty in the pen, so Greg Maddux would get the nod in Game 4. Lefty relievers are vital in this series because the Phillies have so many dangerous lefties in their lineup, beginning and ending with N.L. MVP candidate Ryan Howard, who had a monster September.

    Presumably, however, Derek Lowe remains a candidate to start Game 4 on three days' rest, which make sense, because thanks to off days, the Dodgers could follow with Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Lowe on regular rest if the final three games are needed.

    Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, has more on Kuo.

    With Kuo and that left elbow of his, the Dodgers never know for sure. In fact, the departure time for Tuesday's team flight was pushed back an hour so the club can first put Kuo through a morning simulated game as a final test before a roster is submitted Thursday.

    Kuo, who has had four operations on his elbow, has pitched once in the past four weeks because of discomfort in his triceps area just above the elbow. He has said the area doesn't bother him throwing but tightens the following day. So even with the simulated game, club officials really won't know about Kuo until Wednesday's workout at Citizens Bank Park.

    Nonetheless, Kuo and the club were relieved on Monday that the elbow felt fine after being put through his first bullpen session in three weeks on Sunday. Kuo said he threw hard off the mound and felt fine Monday.

    "I'm ready," said Kuo.

    * * *

    Jackson reported that every NLCS game except Game 2 will start at 5 p.m. Pacific time.

    Let's See Vin Scully Broadcast on TV During the NLCS
    2008-10-06 12:16
    by Jon Weisman

    Need more be said?

    Your 4 1/2-Day Work Week
    2008-10-06 06:18
    by Jon Weisman

    Looks like the first three games of the National League Championship Series have been given start times. I haven't seen these officially announced, but I have seen them from SI.com and Tony Jackson of the Daily News.

    Game 1: Thursday, 5 p.m.
    Game 2: Friday, 1 p.m.
    Game 3: Sunday, 5 p.m.

    That's right: Day game during the week, night game on the weekend, and less than a day between games 1 and 2.

    The American League Championship Series begins Friday night.

    * * *

    I've seen some tsk-tsking about the white rally towels the Dodgers gave fans to wave during Saturday's NL Division Series finale, as if they were beneath us. Perhaps in theory that's true, but it's not as if the Dodgers haven't been doing gimmicky giveaways for years. (I have the old towels to prove it.) That includes blue thundersticks at one point, which were really the nadir: so unpleasant as to become self-defeating.

    I'm pro-organ, anti-wave, etc. But at some point I think we can become too holier than thou. The towels were a unifying tool that absolutely contributed to the energy we all felt Saturday, yet didn't get in the way of anyone just trying to watch the game (except perhaps for distracting the players on the field). Sure, we might have had good energy without them, but attending a baseball game isn't a closed-book final exam. As gimmicks, they were fun for thousands who liked them and fairly harmless for those who didn't.

    Some people thought the Dodgers crossed a line with the giveaway, but I didn't. If they're good enough for the 1970s Steelers, they're good enough for me.

    Rinsing the Champagne
    2008-10-05 09:34
    by Jon Weisman

    Mercy, the excitement. Russell Martin flying in the air to congratulate an ebullient Manny Ramirez on scoring from first base on James Loney's double at the start of Saturday's National League Division Series finale. Jonathan Broxton in full roar after striking out Alfonso Soriano to end the game. The fans. It was some night.

    Make no mistake - there was tension. Martin nearly got himself thrown out at third base on Ramirez's first-inning single - I'm told replays indicated he was out - a play that could have turned the entire evening around.

    Beyond that, one of the weird aspects of Saturday's game was that Hiroki Kuroda was getting two strikes on numerous hitters without being able to close them out. The crowd would rise, waving their rally washcloths, but the batters kept making contact. My brother and I looked at each other at one point and said to each other, "This isn't working."

    Then in the fifth inning, after surviving by getting outs at just the right time (the Cubs left six runners on in the first four innings), Kuroda got hot. He got his first strikeout of the game to close out a one-two-three fifth, then whiffed the final two batters in a perfect sixth.

    That Kuroda was getting hotter as the game went on set up Joe Torre for a potential series-changing trap. Leading 3-0, the Dodgers had Blake DeWitt on third base with two out and Kuroda due up. Kuroda had passed the 90-pitch mark, which meant that he only had about 20 pitches left in him - the equivalent of one inning. But impressed by the previous two innings, Torre let Kuroda bat for himself.

    The worst happened. Kuroda struck out, then got only one out in the top of the seventh, leaving with runners at first and second (admittedly, Ryan Theriot reached on what could have been ruled an error on Rafael Furcal). Suddenly, the Cubs had the tying run up.

    The reason that Torre could have pinch-hit for Kuroda is the reason he was able to get by without pinch-hitting for him. Cory Wade, once again, did the job, retiring Soriano and Mike Fontenot (the latter on a flyball over a hesitiating Matt Kemp's head that he jumped to catch.)

    From the moment he brought Wade into the game, Torre managed the bullpen perfectly. He didn't worry about roles. He didn't worry about what inning it was. He just looked at who was most likely on the staff to get the next out. He used Wade until it was Broxton time (after the Cubs finally scored with two out in the eighth, and had the tying run at the plate again), and instead of taking Broxton out just because it was the ninth inning, he kept him in.

    This was not a vote of no-confidence in Takashi Saito. It was recognition that you don't take out a pitcher who has his best stuff and has only thrown six pitches, just because it's the Closer Inning.

    Some Broxton games are better than others. This was one of his best. Hopefully, it was on a big enough stage for people to remember.

    * * *

    You always hear talk about hitting with runners in scoring position. But a huge key to this game was the Dodgers' pitching with runners in scoring position. Think about it: the Cubs stranded runners on second or third in the first, third, fourth, seventh and eighth innings of a 3-1 loss. The Dodgers dominated this series, but this was a game won by a razor-thin margin.

    The Dodgers only needed to use seven pitchers to get their 81 outs, including Saito, who got none. Wade and Broxton pitched in every game of the series, a luxury they won't have in the next round. But do not fear. The team has weapons it didn't even use this past week.

    * * *

    In speaking with Tony Jackson of the Daily News, Ned Colletti passed some credit for the NLDS victory to his scouts.

    "There are two unsung heroes in all this, and they are (special assistants) Toney Howell and Vance Lovelace," Colletti said in the clubhouse as champagne sprayed in all directions around him. "They were (advance scouting) those guys (the Cubs), and they did a wonderful job learning them and finding out everything about them. Toney was on them for a couple of weeks, and Vance was there for eight or nine days. They brought that information to the coaching staff and the manager, and they executed it to a T. Toney and Vance have a love and a passion for it, and they apply that day in and day out.

    "I hated to say goodbye to Toney and Vance, but they have moved on to watch a couple of other clubs now."

    * * *

    So, remember when it looked like Rafael Furcal would not play again for the Dodgers this year, and it looked like his best chance for returning to the team might be on a one-year, prove-himself-again contract? With the playoffs, Furcal is reemerging as an elite free agent, which might mean Dodger fans should enjoy him while they still can. Ramirez, Furcal, Derek Lowe - three leading cogs that all might be on their way out after this month.

    * * *

    From Tom Singer at MLB.com: "Of the previous 21 teams to sweep Division Series, only nine went on to LCS triumphs, six of eight in the AL but only three of 13 in the NL."

    * * *

    So who was your NLDS MVP? Ramirez had the best numbers, but Loney had the crushing hits in two of three victories.

    Final Four!
    2008-10-04 23:09
    by Jon Weisman

    Whoosh! There it is.

    I never stopped worrying. Didn't prevent me from enjoying the game, or the week, but until the end, I could see fortune taking a U-turn.

    But the Dodgers never broke, and hardly bent. They won the heck out of this series. (And they did it with only 18 players. Joe Beimel still hasn't played in a postseason game with the Dodgers, and James McDonald, Clayton Kershaw, Chan Ho Park, Nomar Garciaparra, Pablo Ozuna and Danny Ardoin weren't needed either.)

    More on Sunday - enjoy the celebration!

    Hall of Fame
    2008-10-04 17:45
    by Jon Weisman

    The last Dodger game I went to was my 300th victory since 1991, when I began keeping track of my record at Dodger games I attended. Though I did not get the game ball, I'm hoping that my career 300-236 record will get me to Cooperstown. After all, that is the benchmark, isn't it?

    Unless my postseason record (1-9) is held against me:

    1977 World Series Game 3 - L
    1981 NLCS Game 2 - L
    1983 NLCS Game 1 - L
    1995 NLDS Game 1 - L
    1995 NLDS Game 2 - L
    1996 NLDS Game 1 - L
    1996 NLDS Game 2 - L
    2004 NLDS Game 3 - W
    2004 NLDS Game 4 - L
    2006 NLDS Game 3 - L

    Hopefully, tonight will begin to change all that.

    * * *

    Cubs at Dodgers, 7:00 p.m.

    Thunder Road (Reprise)
    2008-10-04 09:05
    by Jon Weisman

    Casing the promised land ...

    Dodger Thoughts, July 28:

    Yes, the Dodger lineup is infused with youth. Young players are everywhere - in the lineup, in the rotation, in the bullpen. It's not that Colletti and Torre don't want the youth to do well. It's that at the sign of trouble, they don't believe. They're on a roller coaster that they want no part of. In their perfect world, there is no youth.

    They're addicts, and they can't stay on the wagon. Veteran talent is the drug and it feels so good, even if they wake up emptier than before. The Dodger leadership doesn't have the backbone to stand on its own two feet. ...

    Maybe it's because of Manny Ramirez, a savior rising from these streets. Maybe it's because Nomar Garciaparra and Jeff Kent are just too gimpy. Maybe it's because the younger players just haven't given them much trouble lately - though it's not as if we might not see James Loney coming off the bench in a Game 4 on Sunday.

    But in this pursuit of the pennant, five of the Dodgers' eight starters are 26 or under: Loney, Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Blake DeWitt. In the batting order, they're five of the top seven. Kent and Garciaparra aren't being forced in. Two months ago, would you have believed it?

    The Dodgers' dysfunction doesn't center on trade talks. It centers on leadership that hides its eyes as the kids grab the car keys, yet doesn't bat an eye when Grandpa's shaky hand and squinty eyes take the wheel. Colletti and Torre might say they like their team - they might insist that they do - but they don't.
    Maybe it's only because of Ramirez. But I think Ned Colletti and Joe Torre like their team now.

    The real test will come once the Dodgers lose a game or two. If the Dodgers have to go back to Chicago or find themselves in a deficit against Milwaukee or Philadelphia, and Kemp goes 1 for 4 with two strikeouts, will they panic?

    When life is good, Torre and Colletti love the kids. When there is doubt, the veterans benefit - not because they are better, but because they are veterans.
    I don't think Torre and Colletti will panic. I think they've turned the corner. It might have taken them longer than it should have, but I think they know who their team is now. That doesn't mean we've seen the last of Juan Pierre ever. That doesn't mean the young players should be cocky. (Andre Ethier to Dylan Hernandez of the Times: "I have to compete for a starting job again next year.")

    That doesn't mean that the grownups like Torre and hitting coach Don Mattingly aren't getting credit, as Tony Jackson of the Daily News notes:

    A major difference in the series thus far has been the Dodgers' ability to execute quality at-bats throughout the lineup. They worked (Ryan) Dempster for 109 pitches in his abbreviated Game 1 start, then made (Carlos) Zambrano throw 108 in 6 2/3 innings in Game 2 - although the Cubs' defensive ineptitude behind Zambrano was responsible for at least part of that.

    "I think we're taking a solid approach up there," Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake said. "Donnie has talked about having good at-bats up and down the lineup, a good approach and making pitchers work to get outs."

    That approach has long been a hallmark of Torre-managed teams, and Torre tried to instill it from the first day of spring training. But the Dodgers are a younger club than what Torre is used to, and it took several months for those young players to one, buy into it, and two, learn to execute it consistently.

    Mattingly, who took over as hitting coach at the All-Star break, was a big part of that process, which is now all but complete.

    "I think Donnie has been mainly responsible," Torre said. "He not only gets them to do the physical work, but he also gives them an understanding of why they're doing the physical work. It's just a thought process. My feeling is that he makes things less complicated. He utilizes his experience of being a player."

    Mattingly, who also occasionally dropped in to assist former hitting coach Mike Easler during the season's first half, quickly picked up on certain tendencies.

    "There were some games where it almost looked like we were having panicked at-bats," Mattingly said. "You're going to fall back into that from time to time, I don't care who you are. (But) I feel like we are getting better as a team."

    But I think the hierarchy is clear. Performance first, experience second. Either that, or the Dodgers have decided that their kids have grown up enough. Just in time...

    The Dodgers' pitching can win any playoff series. Underdogs? Sure. DOA? No way. The team is one game out of first place, and you know what? I'm too old to thumb my nose at that. The Dodgers should go for it. And they can do it without sacrificing the future, without being desperate. If they fail, it won't be because they weren't experienced enough. It will be because they weren't talented enough. And the talent is there. It has been there all along. Show a little faith - there's magic in the night.

    Manny Was There All Along
    2008-10-03 08:30
    by Jon Weisman

    This sort of continues the thought from Thursday's pregame thread: Regular-season victories don't necessarily reflect the quality of a team.

    Teams like the Dodgers had a higher percentage of their talent in the minor leagues or on the disabled list than other teams. (I think that's true - I haven't done any kind of study.) This includes but isn't limited to the notion of kids like Clayton Kershaw or Blake DeWitt only playing partial seasons in the majors. In a sense, Manny Ramirez was in the Dodger organization the entire year, except that most of that time he was playing in the minor leagues (form of: Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris) or rehabbing on the disabled list (shape of: Andy LaRoche's thumb ligament).

    So when you start getting into the conversation about whether or not the Dodgers deserve to use a five-game series to overturn a 162-game campaign, consider that the Dodgers were in fact better than their record showed - not because they were unlucky, but because of how the way talent flowed through their admittedly idiosyncratic spigot. Teams win games, but organizations win seasons.

    None of this will mean anything if the Dodgers lose their next three games, and who knows what it will mean in 2009 when the faucet gushes at least some of the '08 Dodgers down the drain. But for now, you can say that the dominating Dodgers of the past two National League Division Series games, they've been there all along.

    * * *

    Nice NLDS on-base percentages:

    1.000 Angel Berroa (1 for 1)
    .600 Manny Ramirez
    .500 Andre Ethier
    .455 Rafael Furcal
    .444 Casey Blake
    .333 Pitchers

    * * *

    For those of you wondering if he would remain MIA, the news comes that Brad Penny will rejoin the Dodgers this weekend to work on rehabilitating his shoulder, reports Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise.

    In postgame conversation, the Dodgers said nothing was wrong physically with Takashi Saito. It's not that I don't believe them, but I'll still be holding my breath about him until I next see him pitch.

    Considering the Dodgers led by eight runs heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, it was interesting to see every member of the Dodger bullpen warm up at some point over the final two frames, except, I believe, Joe Beimel. In addition to Cory Wade, Jonathan Broxton and Saito entering the game, I also recall seeing Chan Ho Park, James McDonald, Clayton Kershaw and Greg Maddux throwing. Of course, some of these guys haven't been in a game in nearly a week, but it was still a bit unusual.

    Wade really keeps doing the job, doesn't he?

    * * *

    Guest comments at Bleed Cubbie Blue:

    1) "Maybe we've all been dead for 40 years and this is hell."

    2) "I will see you on Tuesday for Game 5. Rich Harden and Ted Lilly will get this back to Chicago and Ryan Dempster will redeem himself ... hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

    Hale, Hardy and Still Humble
    2008-10-02 21:47
    by Jon Weisman

    The bottom of the ninth inning will remind the Dodgers of their fallibility, but 'tis a mere scratch in their fans' Chicago bliss. What a pair of games for the Dodgers. I mean - these are the Dodgers, right? For 8 1/2 innings, there was hardly anything for me to comment on other than the gaping wonderment on my face.

    Chad Billingsley was sensational, the execution on offense was sensational (that hit-and-run in the second inning was straight outta '88), the whole night was ... what's the word? Oh - sensational.

    Gonna keep it short tonight, but there's one thing I want to add. And I completely, entirely do not mean it as a putdown. I'm only pointing it out as fair play.

    Every crowd shot in the ninth showed empty seats in the stands. Many Cub fans stayed, but plenty left. And why shouldn't they - pushing midnight on a school/work night and down by nine. Sure, they missed out on something and might have missed out on more. But leaving was a valid choice. And fans everywhere make it. Everywhere.

    Saturday, some Dodger fans will leave early, but it's actually possible they'll be doing it with a smile sweeping across their faces ...

    Mutts
    2008-10-02 16:00
    by Jon Weisman

    With the winningest teams in the American League and National League both losing their playoff openers Wednesday (and needing to win three out of four to stay alive), there's been the usual talk about how unfair postseason baseball is.

    And it's true. You do play 162 games to get home-field advantage, and you can lose that advantage in one night. You can be the best for six months, and then gone in four days. The top regular season teams often don't win the World Series.

    But that's the sport. Just like a No. 1 seed can go out early in March Madness. Just like an undefeated team can lose the Super Bowl to a multi-defeated team.

    Since 1903, the major-league baseball regular season has existed as a ticket to the postseason tournament. And whether that postseason tournament has two, four or eight teams, that has always been what you need to win in order to be crowned champion.

    It does require a certain amount of luck and good timing to go with your talent, but it's not as if some bait-and-switch is being pulled. We all know the rules going in.

    This could easily become a moot point within a few days, of course. But the goal is get to the postseason, and then win the postseason. Having the best record in the regular season is a means to that end, but not the only means. Baseball has made a pact to reward the team that wins the October showdowns, regardless of that team's pedigree - even if it's a mutt. Whoever is the 2008 World Series champion will have nothing to apologize for.

    That being said, in theory it doesn't have to be this way. What do you think? What changes would you make to baseball's postseason? Would you want to make it longer - perhaps cutting from the regular season to keep us out of November? Want to do away with the playoffs entirely, and go with one league, 30 teams? Or is it better to leave well enough alone?

    * * *

    Bill Simmons of ESPN.com offers this lengthy, personal counterpoint to the controversy surrounding Manny Ramirez's departure from Boston. Set aside some time for it ...

    * * *

    Dodgers at Cubs, 6:30 p.m.

    I Don't Wanna Go To School
    2008-10-02 08:29
    by Jon Weisman

    October losses make me feel my age. October wins make me feel like a boy again.

    I like feeling like a boy.

    * * *

    Al Yellon passes along the Cub fan perspective at Bleed Cubbie Blue.

    Nervous time begins again at 6:30 p.m.

    Loneygetto: Dodgers Rally and Then Some
    2008-10-01 18:50
    by Jon Weisman

    In the top of the fifth inning, after Rafael Furcal walked with one out, I remarked to myself that Ryan Dempster's pitching performance was Bevenesque - as in Bill Bevens, who walked 10 batters in Game 3 of the 1947 World Series against the Dodgers but came within one out of a no-hitter before losing. As omens go, it was ... inconclusive.

    Dempster entered the fifth with four walks and a boatload of pitches thrown, then proceeded to walk three more: Furcal, Manny Ramirez (who was down 0-2) and Andre Ethier (redeeming himself after striking out with the bases loaded on a 3-2 diver in the third.)

    James Loney came up. He was 0 for 2, and then 0-and-2. Did I believe? Yeah, I believed. Kinda. Sorta.

    And then, he hit it. The ball's in the air … it's not gonna get out … but it's still going … I'm watching the outfielder … it's still going … Edmonds out of room!!!! It's gone!!!!

    The Dodgers took the lead. I mean, it was fairly astonishing. The Dodgers took the lead. I thought back to 1977: the grand slam by Ron Cey in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, followed a day later by another slam by Dusty Baker in Game 2. But wait, the Dodgers lost the Cey game.

    It was still the middle of the fifth inning. This game wasn't over. If the Dodgers had been down two, I'd have been saying there was plenty of baseball left. Up two, the song remained the same - if more than a bit happier.

    Still, I told myself, "Don't make an error behind Derek Lowe, and it'll be fine."

    Two batters later, an error on Casey Blake. Man.

    But as far as the fates were concerned, the night really turned on Loney's slam. In the first half of the game, Mark DeRosa was eking out a two-run homer in the corner, while Russell Martin was falling just short. In the second half of the game, either of two drives by Jim Edmonds could have been extra-base hits but failed, and Martin got himself a homer in the ninth after all.

    Oh, and Ramirez drove a ball at his ankles into the left-field bleachers in the seventh. And Blake DeWitt scored following a big leadoff double in the eighth.

    Cory Wade, Jonathan Broxton and ... Greg Maddux, they all protected Lowe's lead, combining to shut the Cubs out eight innings out of nine.

    It actually happened. It was the Dodgers' night. It was the Dodgers' night.
    * * *

    Update: From the postgame quotes ...

    Manny, on that home run, you're bent over, you're stumbling out of the batter's box, your helmet is coming off, your pants are falling down, and you hit it out. How do you do that?

    MANNY RAMIREZ: First, I want to thank Joe for cutting my hair.

    Friday Night Lights: Alive and Well
    2008-10-01 18:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Nobody died.

    Really, that's the main difference between the season-three premiere of Friday Night Lights and that of season two. Well, that and the fact that the show's no longer on NBC, but Dillon, Texas looks and feels just as pastorally resplendent on DirecTV's 101 channel — assuming you have access to it — as it did bouncing around NBC's primetime lineup.
    Continue reading...

    Rapid Heartbeat Warnings Begin Now
    2008-10-01 13:11
    by Jon Weisman

    Even if your team wins a baseball game 20-0, you'll suffer at least 24 mini-defeats before the game is over. That's the minimum number of things that can go wrong for a baseball team in an 8 1/2-inning victory. If you want to count each time your hitter gets a strike or your pitcher throws a ball, that bumps the total into the hundreds.

    The last time the Dodgers played a Game 1, one infamously large thing went wrong for them, along with about 200 others of various sizes. However, the winning team, the New York Mets, also had almost 200 things go wrong. The official final score was close and implicitly eventful: New York won, 6-5. But the score beneath the score, which also went in the Mets' favor, was more a Paul Westhead-coached Loyola Marymount game; in other words, a Colossus of a roller coaster.

    On a good day, baseball has one-tenth the amount of actual scoring that basketball has – but that doesn't tell the whole story. If baseball counted all its jump shots, hook shots, free throws, dunks and three-pointers in its point totals – not to mention how we hang on the outcome of every single pitch – you'd have a truer idea of just how crazy it is to pin your faith on such an uncontrollable affair. (Lawler's Law does not apply.)

    So here we go again, ladies and gentlemen. Once more, baseball and hope will pick us up and spin us around like poor saps in a Warner Bros. cartoon. And once more, in the end, it will boil down to a single digit: one win, or none.

    Get ready. It's going to be a crazy ride.

    * * *

    Dodgers at Cubs, 3:30 p.m.

    Update: It appears you can get live coverage online here. Or try this. (Thanks to the commenters for their suggestions.)

    Gathering Spots
    2008-10-01 11:57
    by Jon Weisman

    Places you won't have to convince anyone to put the game on:

    The three Barney's Beanery restaurants are hosting Dodger viewing parties, with Ken Landreaux appearing in West Hollywood, Bobby Castillo in Pasadena and Rudy Law in Pasadena. Dodger Dogs will be sold for $2 each.

    Rush Street on Washington Boulevard in Culver City will also have a baseball-themed day with food and drink specials.

    McDonald Replaces Troncoso on Roster
    2008-10-01 09:44
    by Jon Weisman

    The Dodgers are trying to catch lightning in a bottle, adding James McDonald and his 0.00 ERA in six September innings to their playoff roster at the last minute in place of Ramon Troncoso, the team announced this morning.

    McDonald struck out 141 batters in 141 minor-league innings this season, but gives nearly two flyouts for every groundout he gets. As far as right-handed relievers go, the Dodgers now have this:

    Takashi Saito
    Jonathan Broxton
    Cory Wade
    Chan Ho Park
    James McDonald
    Greg Maddux

    I am excited for McDonald, though I still wonder if Troncoso or Proctor would be better additions to the roster than McDonald and Park, because of the whole flyball issue. I also think there's an argument to be made that the Dodgers should have added a position player in place of a pitcher if they think Derek Lowe will start Game 4.

    But the back of the roster is certainly not worth quibbling about. I am ready to dance with the guys the Dodgers have brung.

    Jon Weisman's outlet
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    About Jon
    Thank You For Not ...

    1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
    2) personally attacking other commenters
    3) baiting other commenters
    4) arguing for the sake of arguing
    5) discussing politics
    6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
    7) using sarcasm in a way that can be misinterpreted negatively
    8) making the same point over and over again
    9) typing "no-hitter" or "perfect game" to describe either in progress
    10) being annoyed by the existence of this list
    11) commenting under the obvious influence
    12) claiming your opinion isn't allowed when it's just being disagreed with