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About Jon
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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
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11) commenting under the obvious influence
12) claiming your opinion isn't allowed when it's just being disagreed with

Big Blue Bull Session
2005-01-14 22:22
by Jon Weisman

Can we come up for air now?

With most of the Dodger offseason moves completed - though there are no guarantees that this is the end - Jay Jaffe, who writes about baseball for his site, The Futility Infielder, as well as Baseball Prospectus, grabbed a nearby seat at the online pub so that the two of us could talk Dodgers.

What we realized is that 1) nearly three hours of instant messaging wasn't enough to cover the Dodger offseason and 2) it would still probably be plenty for anyone who was going to read this. So we decided to quit and publish while we were ahead. Part 1 of our chat appears here, and Part 2 appears at Jay's site. So come on and ease on down, ease on down ...

Jon: I'm trying to think of a clever way to start this ...

Jay: Ha ha ... "So, how about that Derek Lowe contract?"

Jon: The saying of the future. "How 'bout those Mets?" becomes "How 'bout that Lowetract?" Well, I'll bite.

In a nutshell, I was against signing Lowe at the outset of the offseason, I'm willing to believe that Paul DePodesta saw something that I didn't see initially, but in the wildest best-case scenario, I can't see the justification for risking four years at $36 million on Lowe. I have faith in DePodesta and feel he might be vindicated, but I wouldn't have done it for Lowe no matter what I discovered.

Jay: The concept of bringing him to the Dodgers is sound - Lowe was unlucky last year and isn't nearly so bad as his stats would suggest. As an extreme groundball pitcher who doesn't allow a lot of homers, he ought to do well in Dodger Stadium.

That said, this is a bad contract. The fact that it's backloaded a bit gives the Dodgers an opportunity to see if they can pawn him off after he mysteriously remembers how to win 15 games, but... I think this is a gamble that at best, they can wind up paying somebody a few extra mil to take him off their hands halfway through.

Jon: The thing about DePodesta for me is, even if I can see the logic in his moves, there are some in which I think the risk/reward ratio is too high.

Jay: I feel like DePo scrimped and saved all winter to cut himself the slack to do something a bit risky, and instead he bought Xt'Tapalatakettle (the big ugly head that Monty Burns gives the Simpson family).

Jon: Yeah, well, Monty Burns is probably more like a George Steinbrenner than a DePodesta. Perhaps DePo's idol will be of more value.

Jay: Frank McCourt isn't quite the Monty Burns character. Miserly and wealthy, but not obscenely miserly, and probably not as malevolent.

Anyway, most of DePo's moves have been sound. This one is off the reservation even given the fact that they can expect Lowe to be a League Average Inning Muncher (LAIM) instead of the least popular man in Massachusetts from April-September 2004.

Jon: Lowe will be earning eight figures in the fourth year of his contract, in his mid-30s. That's a big matzoball.

Jay: I mean, it's fine to get yourself an inning muncher when a week ago the Dodgers were looking at Edwin Jackson, Elmer Dessens and Wilson Alvarez as 3/5 of their projected rotation. But to overpay for what amounts to another Jeff Weaver, in terms of a performance niche, by a factor of 2-3x is just silly.

Jon: I agree.

Jay: As an aside, I've really started noticing the good, the bad, and the ugly about the L.A. Times coverage of L.A. since I took the Dodgers' Prospectus Triple Play beat on Baseball Prospectus. I liked much of Tim Brown's latest piece but found myself still disagreeing with a good amount of it.

Jon: I disagreed with some of it too, but I felt his approach, from the Times' standpoint, was so fresh. In a sense, I didn't feel I had to agree with it all, because at its core, the article was open-minded, which the columnists typically have not been.

Jay: I agree with you - I didn't mind disagreeing with some of the nits that could have been picked because the main thrust, that one win in October wasn't worth a bunch of stupid decisions to preserve the core of that team at all costs, was right on.

As for the L.A. Times in general, I can't think of a single NY writer as odious as either Bill Plaschke or T.J. Simers ... except for Mike Lupica on his bad hair days.

Jon: Plaschke and Simers were both better as beat writers. They're good reporters, and they had to rein it in a little bit, which was good.

Jay: Judging from their output over the past year, time has clearly passed them by. These guys beat DePodesta like a rented backup catcher and can't even acknowledge the fact that hey, they actually won something, in stark contrast to the preceding seven seasons.

Jon: Simers, I think I've figured out. Nothing less than unadulterated, unmitigated success impresses him - most recently represented in Los Angeles by USC football. Everything is black and white - and if you're not the best, you deserve ridicule. With some occasional exceptions made for honesty - such as when Milton Bradley had a forthright discussion with him. In a sense, I can even see where Simers comes from - but it's just way too cutthroat and nasty an approach for me. Ultimately, I think his columns are poisonous.

Plaschke simply is not governed by past opinions in his columns, not governed by anything but what he feels in that moment. And he's not the best logician.

Jay: Simers would probably play better in NY.

Plaschke would probably play better in some country where the concept of the two-sentence paragraph had yet to be introduced.

Jon: Okay, I'm going to speak up in defense of Plaschke on that one.

Jay: Knock yerself out.

Jon: For one thing, I don't think the one-line paragraph is inherently evil. And I think if you counted them up, he doesn't do it nearly as often as his rep indicates. I could be wrong.

Jay: Just pulled up his latest article and five of his first seven grafs are one sentence. That's just lazy.

Jon: I guess I'd just say that it's the least of my worries. He can write haiku for me if he makes sense doing it.

Jay: It's like nails on a blackboard to me. Unless it's done with extreme care, it's the sign of an utterly vapid line of reasoning, one that can't even find a sentence to support it.

Jon: Well.

The sentence might be in the next paragraph.

I think.

Or maybe the one after ...

... that.

Jay: Here's what I think.

He can't be bothered.

Like high-powered magnets, his thoughts are too weighty to put side by side.

Deal with it.

Jon: Hey, that's good stuff!

Jay: I could do his job without wearing more than a bathrobe and a hangover.

Jon: Don't we?

Jay: Oops, I've revealed too much ;-)

Jon: Back to the team?

Jay: Sure.

Jon: Before we give away all our nasty secrets?

Jay: Right.

Jon: I want to relate the Lowe contract to the Paul Lo Duca trade. I'm generally pro-DePodesta but I'm gonna get some of my misgivings out of the way first.

Lo Duca-Guillermo Mota for Hee Seop Choi-Brad Penny - this was a sound trade in terms of value. But I don't think the potential increase in value was large. Meanwhile, by combining this trade with the Steve Finley pickup, he redistributed the Dodger assets oddly. Five OF/1B, zero catchers. To me, that's a significant risk to get the reward he's looking for.

Now, of course, Finley worked out superbly, so perhaps it's good that he had a surplus there. Insurance. And although the Dodger catchers didn't hit down the stretch, neither did Lo Duca. If Penny doesn't come down with to me (although some would disagree) a freak injury, the trade is a huge success. So there is part of me that wants to give DePodesta some slack even when I don't automatically see the wisdom.

Lowe is really testing that for me, but I'm not gonna lose sleep over it.

Jay: The Lo Duca deal should have worked out better on the field. Off the field, it gave them a lot more flexibility this winter, which is I think what his true priority was.

I mean, there's no reason to think, based on his minor league track record and his previous year in the bigs, that Dave Ross struggles to get across the Mendoza Line. There's no reason to think that given enough playing time, Hee Seop Choi can't live up to what he did in FLA. And I don't think Penny's injury could have been predicted either.

I do like some of what I saw out of DePo in the aftermath. The promotion of Yhency Brazoban to Mota's role was sheer brilliance that spoke volumes about the organization's capabilities for scouting and instruction, especially when contrasted with the Yankees. The Finley deal was a decent one that made him look smart, and ain't it funny that they're getting an even better catching prospect back from the Snakes now.

Jon: I agree, and I think your point about Ross is well taken. And I should add that I was completely not enamored with acquiring Finley.

Jay: The Finley wasn't overwhelmingly necessary in that they had a competent centerfielder in Milton Bradley, and that Finley's not an especially good hitter due to his low OBP. But it certainly gave them an experienced player who'd been through his share of races before, and that may have helped in its own small way.

But let's face it, the walkoff, get-off-my-property-and-away-from-my-division-title grand slam - against the Giants, no less - makes everybody look smart.

Jon: So again, not that Paul's a saint, but I don't think he can be easily dismissed. Be skeptical all you want, but don't dismiss him.

Jay: Agreed, DePodesta is hardly infallible, and many of his moves take time to unfold, time that the instahacks clearly aren't willing to grant him. But he's clearly about the process, and if the process is sound, the results have a much better chance not only of turning out well, but of being sustainable to insure future improvement.

Jon: So on that note, having conceded he's probably smarter than me, I'm gonna get my third and I think final disagreement of DePodesta out of the way: Adrian Beltre was worth going after harder. Even if he tapers in 2005, I think the next five years from Beltre will be outstanding.

Jay: While I don't dismiss the possibility that Beltre might be outstanding over the next five years, the investment in J.D. Drew is a much sounder one.

1) He has a consistently solid and nearly outstanding track record as a hitter, with a ton more plate discipline than Beltre.

2) He's cheaper than Beltre would have been.

3) The out in his contract after two years shouldn't hurt the Dodgers at all. If he performs so well that he'd rather chance the market at 30 and toss 3/$33, hey, DePodesta's not going to stop him and I probably wouldn't either.

Jon: I will say the escape clause doesn't bother me either, and if it helped bring Drew in, great. If Drew has two great years with the Dodgers and then they suddenly have $30-plus million to spend, life is good. Once you're willing to go five years on Drew - that's the big decision - the escape clause is ancillary.

I do think that Beltre being a great-fielding third-baseman, plus the possibility so easily dismissed by so many - that at age 26-27, Beltre might even be better than he was in 2004 - makes him the better pick, even at more dollars.

Jay: I think it's virtually impossible for Beltre to improve on what he accomplished last year. Some players peak a couple years early, there's no denying it, and frankly I think Beltre might be one of them.

That said, as an excellent 3B in the field, he's got a bit more inherent value than Drew, assuming the latter plays a corner position either next year or eventually once he loses a bit of speed.

Jon: Well, you know, a 20 percent decline in HR next season still leaves Beltre at about 40. Plus, his walks figure to go up. That's a fabulous player.

Jay: Yeah, but we're also talking about a guy who for the previous three years - years that have their caveats, sure sure - who struggled to keep his OBP above .300 and who suddenly gained an extra .200 of SLG. Gains like those have "regress" written all over them.

Jon: I hear it. But 62 HR since August 1, 2003. When does the guy get some credit for being more than a flash in the pan?

To read Part 2, follow this link to The Futility Infielder ...

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