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Dark Brown Thursday
2004-03-12 08:50
by Jon Weisman

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 168 points the day the Dodgers announced surgery for pitching prospect Greg Miller.

It was a triumph for bull market and Dan Evans skeptics who feel that stock in trade and stock in Miller should have been sold long ago, for those who warned that our portfolios are imbalanced.

When I first began investing in stocks in the 1990s, advisors coached me not to worry about the short term. Buy a stock that has long-term value, and even though there will be hiccups along the way, in the end you'll be better off if you just hang on.

I adhered to that philosophy for a while, which was a good thing, of course, as the decade came to a close and stock values soared. And I even had my exit prices in mind. I made huge gains in Cisco, for example, seeing it rise to around $80 per share. When it fell back below $70, I decided that once it got back to $70, I would sell a huge chunk. I put in a sell order at that price.

It got to $69.875 - and then began sliding for good.

So yeah, I ended up selling some off at a much lower price, while holding on to the rest in the hopes that some sort of recovery would come. Which it has, to a meager extent.

By that analogy, Dan Evans' sell price for Miller was probably about $100 a share, based on the belief that Miller had potential for great growth and dividends beyond what anyone on the market was offering. Now, Black Thursday (or at least, Dark Brown Thursday) has hit, and Miller's stock is sliding.

In the short term, it looks like the Dodgers held Miller too long. And like Cisco, it's possible Miller might never approach his previous percieved value again, though of course he could.

So here's the riddle.

You shouldn't hold onto every minor leaguer whose value is high, because some will flame out. And, you shouldn't let go of every minor leaguer whose value is high, because then your payroll will explode.

And you don't know the future.

The best you can do is approach every individual decision rationally. Just because you're sinking doesn't make it any better to grab for a leaky lifeboat.

My sense from this past offseason was that teams asked too much from the Dodgers. They asked for a top propsect in exchange for a player whose free agency was due this season. They asked for two top prospects for a player whose offensive skill set is far from pristine.

This may be my biggest moment as a Dan Evans apologist yet, but my sense is that it was better to bet on Miller, Edwin Jackson, James Loney, Joel Hanrahan and Franklin Guiterrez than bet on what Evans was being offered in return.

And I'll come right out and say that I don't know this to be true, as long as you concede that you don't know it to be false.

(My other sense is that Evans really had hoped and believed at one point that he could sign a free agent like Vladimir Guerrero.)

So now it's Friday. The stock market is down but not out. Greg Miller is down but not out. The Dodgers are down but not out. No one can sit on their hands forever, but that's not the issue.

The issue is not to counter disappointment with panic. You listen to offers, but you still hold out for the best possible deal. You still try to be smart.

At some point, the new Dodger general manager, Paul DePodesta, will make a move to improve the team. And as impatient as I am to see it, if it's not there to make yet, I'm glad he hasn't made it.

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