Baseball Toaster Dodger Thoughts
2009-02-02 16:45
by Jon Weisman

Dodger Thoughts is moving.

I'm not a big drinker, but I always wanted to be a regular at a bar. I guess you could thank Cheers for that, although I think the dream transcends a single origin. The dream of belonging, of being recognized, of being heard, being appreciated.

One summer day in 2002, with fulfilling this dream being the farthest thing from my mind, I started talking in a tiny room to almost no one in particular. Talking to myself, mainly. Over the next year, I'd see people on the street and nod a hello, sharing a conversation every few weeks or so. I started to know folks around the block.

In 2004, I moved shop to a bigger neighborhood and, in a sense, opened the doors. One by one, visitors started to make their presence known. It was a time when a handful of guests still seemed like riches, and under no illusions that we amounted to anything significant, you could feel a warmth. At the end of July that year, those of us who were there bonded over what for us was a cataclysmic event. We bonded over a mutual, natural belief in seeing the light during an uncertain time.

The following year, I joined a smaller band of shopowners in yet another neighborhood, that to me has always felt a little less urban, a little more pastoral. A colony. It wasn't that life slowed down – if anything, it became exponentially busier. But we really flourished here. It has been a fecund setting, with utterly unexpected growth. Deep, personal friendships have sprung from conversations reminiscent of a endless late-night college dorm room, reminiscent of the bar of one's dreams.

And I'm not just a regular. I'm Sam Malone. It might seem arrogant for me to write that, but believe me, it feels humbling. Because without the good grace of my customers, I'd still be the guy talking to himself in the tiny room.

Perhaps it could be like this forever. I don't know. Part of me remains curious to find out. But there's another part of me that's ambitious. The part of me that has wanted things when I could only dream about them, now has a chance to go grab one of them.

Tonight, Dodger Thoughts is moving downtown, where it will begin being hosted at this link by the Los Angeles Times. (Imminently, will direct you there as well.) The dive bar is headed for CityWalk, and I can understand where a regular might find that notion disappointing or dispiriting. Dodger Thoughts was more than words, and even more than a community. Thanks to Baseball Toaster, Dodger Thoughts was a place.

But there's also something to be excited about, because for all that we might sacrifice in intimacy, we stand to gain something very important. Blogs have come a long way in the past seven years, from being something that nearly no one had heard of, to being a dirty word, to slowly being considered part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

The Times, for all its many struggles – just this past Friday saw the piling on of more - is still the biggest stage in Los Angeles, in California, in the West, and one of the biggest in the U.S. And I am eager for Dodger Thoughts to be on that stage, to bring something positive there. (As Michael Schneider noted today at Franklin Avenue, there is still reason to be invested in the Times.)

The bottom line is that I'll be writing about the Dodgers for the Times, and though it's a different Times than when I first had that dream 25 years ago, it's still meaningful to me.

Some enjoy Dodger Thoughts just because it's about the Dodgers, and that won't change. Others enjoy Dodger Thoughts for something more, something that represents the best potential of what online conversation in the 21st century can be. The idea of introducing more people to the community of Dodger Thoughts, I think, is worth risking the sanctity of the site for.

The bar is turning pro. I hope you'll all stay regulars.

* * *

There are two main transitions for the move to the Times to make note of.

One is the potential immediate introduction of a number of new commenters, which could bring something of a culture clash. As always, I hope you will use patience and consideration toward any new visitors – and for that matter, to any old ones. The Dodger Thoughts "Thank You for Not …" guidelines will still be in place, and an ongoing emphasis on these will go a long way.

The second issue will be more vexing for some. The Times requires all comments to be reviewed before they are made live. There will be multiple people behind-the-scenes with the ability to do this, so in many cases, the approval will come quickly. But at odd moments and in odd hours, there will be delays.

I assure you that no one is more concerned about this than I am, but I urge you to see this from a big picture. It shouldn't affect your enjoyment of other people's comments. They will all come. At Baseball Toaster, you never knew exactly when the next comment was coming, and so the Times will be no different.

As for your own comments, this will require a little more patience. The comments will come, and they will come in the order that they were made, and so in the end, though the flow might be more staccato, the substance of our conversations doesn't need to change.

For example, I've studied the quantity of comments that come in the wee hours, which are the ones that are going to most delayed, and it's a tiny percentage of what the site does overall. That can be a great time to comment, but in the end, if you find that your 2 a.m. comment doesn't appear until 5 a.m., just remember that when it does appear, it will get a wider readership, and that it's all part of a bigger plan. In any case, I ask for your patience as we work the kinks out.

(I'll still have my day job at Variety, in case you were wondering.)

* * *

I can't leave without thanking Ken Arneson for making Baseball Toaster possible, and for all the other Toaster writers for being so great to work alongside. It is really a strong feeling. We'll always have our Paris of the Internet.

For more information on the fate of Toaster, please go to Fairpole.

Molly Knight KOs Joba Chamberlain
2009-02-02 11:20
by Jon Weisman writer and Dodger Thoughts bonne amie Molly Knight showed Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain who's boss.

More from Knight's Super Sunday at her blog.

This Chat's on Me
2009-02-01 10:49
by Jon Weisman

You don't have to go home, and you can stay here.

Lambo Draws First Blood
2009-01-31 08:48
by Jon Weisman

For those who haven't heard, Andrew Lambo has moved to the top of the Baseball America Dodger prospect list. In 2008, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound 20-year-old outfielder from Newbury Park followed an .807 OPS for Class A Great Lakes by going 14 for 26 with three homers for Jacksonville.

Here are the Dodger farmhands with the best tools, according to BA.

Best Hitter for Average: Lambo
Best Power Hitter: Josh Bell
Best Strike-Zone Discipline: Ivan DeJesus
Fastest Baserunner: Devaris Gordon
Best Athlete: Gordon
Best Fastball: Josh Lindblom
Best Curveball: Scott Elbert
Best Slider: Travis Schlichting
Best Changeup: James McDonald
Best Control: McDonald
Best Defensive Catcher: A.J. Ellis
Best Defensive Infielder: Gordon
Best Infield Arm: Pedro Baez
Best Defensive Outfielder: Jamie Hoffmann
Best Outfield Arm: Xavier Paul

Make It Happen: Inside-the-Park Home Run Derby
2009-01-30 20:54
by Jon Weisman

Spurred on by a joke by Dodger Thoughts commenter Jim Hitchcock, fellow commenter Humma Kavula had a nifty idea today.

Oh, I absolutely would watch the inside-the-park-home-run-derby. How about this...

Eight kids from around the U.S. are chosen as fielders. Put an age limit on it -- ten? Twelve? Point being, these are kids. (Pitcher remains a batting practice pitcher.)

Major Leaguers hit long fly balls and then run the bases. He must keep running until he crosses home plate. Kids field and try to tag him out. Major Leaguer gets five outs.

Each time around the basepaths, one presumes, he would get slower and slower, increasing the chances of running out of gas...

...yes, yes, I would watch that.

I would too. Let's get the lawyers to draw up the release forms and test it out at Dodger Stadium.

More reaction from Eric Stephen:

The only change I would make is to eliminate the need for a tag out. Just make the kids throw it into a general area before the batter/runner crosses home plate for the out. I don't want to see Pete Rose III obliterate a little kid who's trying to tag him.

Dodgers To Come on Down
2009-01-30 11:56
by Jon Weisman

While it's not true that Andre Ethier's arbitration case will be settled in the Showcase Showdown, the Dodgers' winter caravan will take the team to a taping of The Price Is Right on Wednesday. A full schedule of the week of community events can be found here.

Initial Gesture of 2009
2009-01-29 20:00
by Jon Weisman

The Dodgers' starting catcher will have "J. Martin" on the back of his jersey this season, writes Ken Gurnick of Russell Nathan Jeanson Coltrane Martin is doing so to honor his mother, whose maiden name is Jeanson.

(This should come as interesting news to Dodger publications director Jorge Martin, I'd say.)

Gurnick's feature on Martin also brings us one of the Dodgers' initial "fresh start" pieces of 2009.

Martin believes this also is the time he puts his game back on track. Those who had seen his first two seasons in the Major Leagues, and even those watching him for the first time, sensed something wasn't quite right in 2008.

Although still an All-Star and postseason starter, Martin wasn't the same player or person as the National League's Gold Glove and Silver Slugger catcher the previous year.

Speculation ran the gamut from a hidden injury to a swollen ego. Whenever asked, Martin said nothing really had changed.

But not anymore.

"I understand completely why people thought that," Martin said this week. "A lot had changed in my life. I think it's just part of growing up and maturing. I'm finally just taking responsibility and taking control of everything.

"If you watched me play the game, you couldn't question my desire or intensity. But things like nutrition, my preparation, my rest -- I wasn't 100 percent in those elements." ...

Oops, There Goes Another Rubber Tree Plant
2009-01-29 09:52
by Jon Weisman

Dave Cameron writes at Fangraphs about not giving up on propsects who hit a rough patch: "Don't judge a player with a long history of success on one bad season. Talent shines through, even if not immediately."

* * *

Keith Thursby of the Daily Mirror points out that the 1949 Los Angeles Angels might have been more of a major-league team than the 1949 Chicago Cubs.

Little Big Mac
2009-01-28 20:21
by Jon Weisman

While I was filled with self-involvement in promoting my book, seemingly every other Dodger blog wrote about the offhand revelation by Dodger pitching coach Rick Honeycutt (to Ken Gurnick of that James McDonald would start the 2009 season in the bullpen.

My first reaction is that I don't think decisions like this are finalized in January, but I don't have a problem in principle with continuing to break McDonald into the majors as a reliever, as long as the Dodgers retain an open mind about him as a starter.

There's certainly no reason to worry about the Dodger bullpen depth. The Dodgers already have a mix of great young arms and moxieful veterans. While you always look for ways to improve your team, there's very little the Dodgers can do now that's meaningful.

I'll talk some about the Dodger starting rotation soon.

Webkinz Wowzers
2009-01-28 20:16
by Jon Weisman

My kids like Webkinz.

There are nine Webkinz days on the 2009 Dodger Stadium promotions schedule.


Lost Episode 3 Chat Thread
2009-01-28 19:55
by Jon Weisman

No spoilers.

It's Coming! 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die
2009-01-27 20:20
by Jon Weisman

UntitledI'm pleased to announce that my book, 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, is on its way to the printers and is on schedule for publication in April.

I really think you're going to like it. Throughout last year, I applied the Dodger Thoughts approach of research and reflection (and joy!) to every aspect of Dodger history and the Dodger experience. The result was something that I think will be a lifelong companion to what you've seen here online. The goal was to make the book meaningful to old and new fans alike, and I was constantly finding new insights into Dodger people and events you'd think you knew inside and out.

Former Dodger owner Peter O'Malley was kind enough to write the foreword for the book, and also gave permission for me to use numerous old photographs, many of which have not been published in decades, if ever. Some of them just made me shake my head with delight.

The readers of this site were never far from my mind when I wrote the book. You are among the most dedicated Dodger fans in the world, and I aimed to satisfy. I'm hoping you'll think I did.

Anyway, here are some early ordering tips:

1) If you would like to attend a Los Angeles book release gathering in late April, don't order the book yet. You can buy the book directly there.

2) If you can't make the gathering and would like to pre-order the book online, do so directly from the Dodger Thoughts link on the left.

3) Eventually, the book will be in bookstores and you can buy it in person, though I don't know right now that you'll find it many places outside of Southern California and New York.

You won't want to miss such chapters as "The Sweetheart From '88" or "The Head-Spinning, Allegiance-Shifting, Authority-Defying Leo Durocher." Get excited for your copy (and your friends' and family's copies) of 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.

Farewell, John Updike
2009-01-27 11:06
by Jon Weisman

John Updike, the author of Rabbit, Run, which I have long considered my favorite novel, died today.

Updike, who also wrote the famous farewell to Ted Williams, "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," was a significant influence on my writing and the way I express my feelings toward life. "On purely literary grounds, he was attacked by Norman Mailer as the kind of author appreciated by readers who knew nothing about writing," The Associated Press noted today. Maybe so, but I'll still take him.

Here's the conclusion from his short story, "The Happiest I've Been."

"There were many reasons for my feeling so happy. We were on our way. I had seen a dawn. This far, Neil could appreciate, I had brought us safely. Ahead, a girl waited who, if I asked, would marry me, but first there was a vast trip: many hours and towns interceded between me and that encounter. There was the quality of the ten a.m. sunlight as it existed in the air ahead of the windshield, filtered by the thin overcast, blessing irresponsibility - you felt you could slice forever through such a cool pure element - and springing, by implying how high these hills had become, a widespreading pride: Pennsylvania, your state - as if you had made your life. And there was knowing that twice since midnight a person had trusted me enough to fall asleep beside me."

Graphic Blandishment
2009-01-27 09:52
by Jon Weisman

Brian Cartwright ran a study on catcher basestealing prevention for Fangraphs. "The task is to seperate the catcher's ability to throw out base stealers from that of the pitchers they are teamed with," Cartwright wrote. Among his findings …

1) New Dodger backup Brad Ausmus has been trending sharply downward in effectiveness, though the low rate of stealing attempts against him implies that opponents haven't realized it.
2) Henry Blanco, signed for cheaper dollars by the Padres on the same day the Dodgers agreed to terms with Ausmus, has the best caught-stealing percentage for a catcher over the past six years. "At age 36, Blanco has shown no signs of slowing down, having a normal CS% over .500 in 3 of the past 4 seasons," Cartwright said.
3) Dodger starting catcher Russell Martin fared above-average in the study, with a normalized caught-stealing percentage of .325 that ranked sixth in the majors last season.

In the comments on the study, Dodger Thoughts reader Xeifrank questions its viability.

  • Matt Kemp makes sabermetric news again. Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts looked today at the effect of a hitter's groundball rate on his BABIP (batting average on balls in play), and he noticed that Kemp had the lowest groundball out rate in baseball in 2007 and nearly repeated the feat last season.

  • Jay Jaffe, who said his first impulse would have been to vote Jeff Kent into the Hall of Fame if given a ballot today, examined Kent's career at length for Baseball Prospectus and concluded him to be almost the definition of a borderline candidate:

    Kent was a very good player for a long time, and an often misunderstood one. His lack of charisma and his businesslike approach made him an easy target, though his humorlessness should never have been confused with a lack of passion for the game. From this vantage point, he looks to be a borderline Hall of Famer at best. Even with no particular love lost for him as a fan—one who spent years rooting against him as a Giant before settling down and appreciating his uneven virtues with the Dodgers—I'll admit that this still contradicts my gut instinct, but then that's one of the reasons for the five-year waiting period before a player reaches the ballot. Nonetheless, I strongly suspect he'll find his way into Cooperstown in due time, and if that's the case, it will hardly be the crime of the century.

  • Dodger Blogs Ready for 2009
    2009-01-26 22:10
    by Jon Weisman

    Something that has become acutely apparent is how deep the Dodger blogosphere has become and how high the standards are. It's not just me and old stalwarts like 6-4-2 and Dodger Blues. (Yes, we're the aging veterans on the roster.)

    The team and press blogs, Josh Rawitch's Inside the Dodgers, Tony Jackson's Inside the Dodgers and Diamond Leung's Press-Enterprise blog, along with the Times baseball writers on The Fabulous Forum, have emerged as indispensable sources for information and insight. Blue Notes became the go-to site for player interviews and really developed a smart, gracious style and outlook.

    Eric Stephen's surge onto True Blue L.A. has been exciting, and helped it keep pace with the analysis and sharpness provided by Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness and Fire Ned Colletti Now. The Sons of Steve Garvey have grown up fast.

    Baseball Savvy boasts a well-defined point of view and longstanding credentials as the champion for a Sandy Koufax statue at Dodger Stadium. Dodger Sims regularly updates the cold, hard projections about the 2009 Dodgers. The Trolley Dodger and Blue Heaven are particularly fun on the historical side.

    And this isn't even everyone.

    I like to think Dodger Thoughts is a big deal, but it sure isn't the only game in town. Reading all these other sites is a real kick in the pants, and while I might take it easy in these final few days of January, I know I'm going to have to be at the top of my game to keep pace with these other great sites. What a remarkable time to be a Dodger fan.

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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