Baseball Toaster Dodger Thoughts
Jon Weisman's outlet
for dealing psychologically
with the Los Angeles Dodgers
and baseball.
Frozen Toast
Google Search
Dodger Thoughts

02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

09  08  07 
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

The July Trades: Despite a Hazy Outcome, A Clear Rationale
2004-09-01 09:52
by Jon Weisman

On April 16-17, Eric Gagne allowed runs in consecutive appearances.

They came a day after he had thrown all of 12 pitches on April 15, following four days of rest from April 11-14.

They came with Guillermo Mota on the roster.

They came without an uproar of any kind.

* * *

On August 18-20, Eric Gagne allowed runs in three consecutive appearances.

They came following rest on August 16 and 17. They came following a stretch in which Gagne made one appearance, totaling 23 pitches, in seven days (August 11-17). They came 15 days after Gagne had allowed his last earned run.

They came without Guillermo Mota on the roster.

And the reaction was as if someone had taken an axe to the Statue of Liberty.

The Dodgers have destroyed their bullpen. They've ruined Eric Gagne!

* * *

A few years ago, I wrote and edited for an Internet news service focusing on technology coverage. The publisher was a savvy businessman, who found the capital to build the company and who kept it alive even during the dot-com plunge. He knew as much about journalism, however, as a camel knows about an igloo.

Early on - but after I had taken the job, unfortunately - the publisher articulated his philosophy about how you write a news article. He felt quite strongly about it, in fact. He believed that first, you write the story with the point of view you want to convey, and then, you call to get quotes from sources that will fit what you have already written.

I can't begin to describe how appalled I was. It was the journalistic equivalent of "I'm gonna fit in this size-2 dress even if it kills me." (The more cliched version of this is, "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.")

Such has been the case with much of the discussion of the Dodgers since July 30. Many pundits believed that the Dodgers had made a mistake in trading Mota and Paul Lo Duca - and so they were going to find a way to back up that opinion if at all humanly possible.

The fact is, the Dodgers did weaken their bullpen when they traded Mota. No one can deny that. However effective Yhency Brazoban and Giovanni Carrara have been since Mota's departure, having them in combination with Mota would be glorious.

The other fact is, the Dodgers surely weakened their catching in parting with Lo Duca, the key element of the trade for the Florida Marlins.

But those facts needs to be put in perspective. Today is September 1. The first day of a new month. Let's use this occasion, shall we, to put to rest the notion that the trade was unjustified.

Tonight, in the heat of a pennant race, the Dodgers will start a pitcher with an 8.06 ERA, Hideo Nomo. The Dodgers traded Lo Duca and Mota precisely so that this tightrope act would not occur. Instead, they designed that spot to go to a pitcher with a 3.02 ERA, Brad Penny.

In other August moments, the Dodgers started a pitcher whom they wanted to demote to the bullpen, Kazuhisa Ishii, and a pitcher who himself wanted to be demoted to the bullpen, Wilson Alvarez. They regularly started a journeyman in Jose Lima.

I like Nomo's chances to lower his ERA tonight, especially against the Arizona Diamondback lineup. Ishii has had consecutive solid starts. Lima has been respectable. Alvarez had half of a good month.

But truly, with a starting rotation ERA (4.27) that is eighth in the National League - worse than possible playoff opponents St. Louis, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and San Diego, despite the nurturing environs of Dodger Stadium - how can anyone fault the Dodgers for wanting Penny?

In case it has gotten lost in the shuffle, I determined August 1 that I wouldn't have made the Lo Duca-Mota trade. "Overall," I wrote, "the Dodgers have won the trades on paper. They have acquired more talent than they have given up. But I'm not sure I'm going to argue in favor of the trades any more, because I'm not sure that they've won the trades by enough."

In other words, I felt that the Dodgers risked too much for the potential reward. I felt very much that the Dodgers might come out ahead, but that it was definitely a wait-and-see, and that they almost as easily could come out behind (especially in 2004, as opposed to 2005, 2006, etc.).

However, the fervor with which any Dodger ill gets blamed on the Lo Duca-Mota trade has made my summer in the "Keep Lo Duca" camp truly uncomfortable.

News flash: Even with Mota, Gagne has and would have been vulnerable to a stretch where he would give up - gasp - runs.

Even with Lo Duca, the Dodgers would have been vulnerable to nights of no production from their catching.

And if had Penny not been acquired, and any existing Dodger starting pitcher had gone down with injury, how stretched out would the pitching staff be then?

Beyond that, I've noticed that the July trades tend to be thought of as separate entities: 1) Penny/Hee Seop Choi, 2) Steve Finley. But shouldn't they be evaluated as one, since they were clearly done in concert with each other?

As far as their 2004 roster is concerned, the Dodgers gave up a decent hitter, especially for a catcher, and a superlative reliever. In return, they got two hitters and a pitcher.

Choi and Penny haven't produced much for the Dodgers. But Finley, on the other hand, has been in center field what Mota was for the bullpen. Finley has been the ace setup man for Adrian Beltre.

The Dodgers are currently on the losing ends of the combined trades because Penny, after pitching eight shutout innings in his first apperance with his new team, got hurt, and Lo Duca, after homering in his first appearance with his new team, did not. Had the reverse occurred, the Dodgers would be clear winners. Had neither player gotten hurt, the Dodgers would be just fine.

So is there any way at all people can stop asking, "How could the Dodgers have traded Lo Duca and Mota?" Because the explanation is clear, and has been clear from the get-go. They wanted a starting pitcher and more left-handed power. They paid a lot, but they got a lot. Brad Penny, Steve Finley and Hee Seop Choi constitutes a big haul.

The only notable event is that we simply haven't seen all of this haul in action for the past three weeks.

As someone who was at best ambivalent about losing Lo Duca, I hardly expect everyone to like the trade. But those who judge should at least bring in all the facts.

Comment status: comments have been closed. Baseball Toaster is now out of business.