Baseball Toaster Dodger Thoughts
Monthly archives: January 2003


YouÕre in Mediocre HandsÉ
2003-01-31 08:42
by Jon Weisman

Never trust people selling you insurance. (Except for my man Gary Shepard Š heÕs excellent.)

Ron Coomer, a 36-year-old third baseman returning to the Dodger organization after a nine-year absence - via a non-roster contract signed Thursday - is past the point of being a candidate for the major league roster. The short rise and steady decline of his career OPS stats:

1995: .779
1996: .851
1997: .762
1998: .701
1999: .731
2000: .732
2001: .706
2002: .662

He also averaged an error every 32 innings at third base last year Š that works out to 45.5 per 162 games.

From Ken Gurnick at

Needing third-base insurance for Adrian Beltre, the Dodgers Thursday signed former All-Star Ron Coomer to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training camp.

Mike DiGiovanna of the Times used the word ŅinsuranceÓ too. IÕve noticed more than ever that at this time of year, reporters throw around the word ŅinsuranceÓ most casually. I hope State Farm doesnÕt view insurance this way.

Beltre, in his worst season, couldnÕt hit or field worse than Coomer. (Well, now he couldnÕt. In 1998, at age 19, BeltreÕs OPS was .647.)

I donÕt mean to disrespect Coomer - heÕs got 88 more major-league home runs than IÕll ever have - but he isnÕt insurance. HeÕs a gallon jug of water after your house has been leveled. If Beltre gets hurt and Coomer is your answer, weÕre talking The Day After.

It might be possible that Coomer provides insurance for the DodgersÕ AAA affiliate. It might be possible that he provides a needed body for Spring Training split-squad days. ThatÕs it. Coomer doesnÕt even merit consideration for the dubious Dodger bench.

WeÕll no doubt revisit this in April after Coomer hits a dozen homers in Spring Training.

Charmed, IÕm (Sort of) Sure
2003-01-30 10:37
by Jon Weisman

Charmed, IÕm (Sort of) Sure

Since 1991, IÕve been keeping track of how well the Dodgers do when I attend games versus when I donÕt. IÕve been faithful at it, and have only been betrayed by a couple of computer crashes.

Here are the numbers:
(Note: I have seen the Dodgers on the road a couple of times in this period, but IÕm still only going to compare to their home record.)

2002: 46-35 (.568) overall, 16-14 (.533) with me
2001: 44-37 (.543) overall, 20-17 (.541) with me
2000: 44-37 (.543) overall, 14-9 (.609) with me
1999: 37-44 (.457) overall, 20-21 (.488) with me
1998: 48-33 (.593) overall, 20-22 (.476) with me
1997: 47-34 (.580) overall, 43-31 (.581) with me
1996: 47-34 (.580) overall, 35-26 (.574) with me
1995: 39-33 (.542) overall, 16-10 (.615) with me
1994: 33-22 (.600) overall, 19-11 (.633) with me
1993: 41-40 (.506) overall, 4-5 (.444) with me
1992: 37-44 (.457) overall, 17-19 (.472) with me
1991: 54-27 (.667) overall, 26-12 (.684) with me
Total: 517-420 (.551) overall, 250-197 (.559) with me

Prorated over a 162-game season, the Dodgers would win 90.5 games with me attending, 89.2 games without me.

Given the fact that I enjoy attending games against good opponents rather than bad ones, this statistically irrefutable evidence of my value is sort of cool. On the other hand, I tried to avoid days that guys like Kevin Gross or Tom Candiotti would pitch when I could (though I always seemed to end up seeing Candiotti anyway.)

My luckiest year appears to be 1995, while in '98 I could hardly buy a win.

I spent most of 1993, by the way, in Washington D.C. in graduate school. The years of 1996-1997, on the other hand, were marked by much time spent being single and unemployed in Los Angeles. In any case, I know I'm not Vin Scully, but 447 games in 12 years is a little impressive, isn't it?

* * *

Whenever I come home from a game, again almost without fail, I write a one-line summary of what was memorable. I skimmed them last night and picked out some of the more fun or interesting entries:

April 17 Dodgers 7, Braves 5 with Mom (2), Dad (2), Grandma Sue (1). StrawÕs 2 homers rally team from 4-1.
April 29 Phillies 7, Dodgers 3 with Gary (1), Greg (5), Beth (2). Stadium clears out on night of King riots
June 30 Padres 2, Dodgers 1 with Dad (16), Greg (10), Beth (5). Harris PR, Javier PH, LasordaÕs an idiot.
July 3 Dodgers 2, Phillies 0 with Dad (18), Mom (12). A running, leaping Astacio hurls 10-K 3-hitter in debut.

June 7 Dodgers 7, Expos 1 with Dad (4) Mondesi homers, Offerman on fire, Nomo pitches out of bases full in 1st
July 16 Marlins 5, Dodgers 2 with James (3), Robyn (1). This team has no backbone.
Sept. 22 Dodgers 6, Padres 5 with John (2), Mary (1). Dodgers score 4 off Fernando, have to squeak by.

April 9 Dodgers 3, Mets 2 (14) with Jim (1). More feeble offense - 26 out in a row combined by the two teams. Piazza GW single.
June 30 Rangers 3, Dodgers 2 with Dad (24). Witt hits first AL P HR in 25 years. Mondesi, Piazza HR. Never led.
July 25 Dodgers 8, Phillies 1. Piazza, Karros 3RHR, 4RBI. Park 8 IP. Kid throws away foul ball, gets hit.
Sept. 7 Dodgers 9, Marlins 5 with Dad (32) This time up 5-0 and hanging on. Zeile GS, on base 11 straight times.
Sept. 21 Rockies 10, Dodgers 5 with Eileen (4), Lance (3). Piazza HR out of stadium, Mondesi HR, 5-1 lead, roof caves in.

5/15 Expos 4, Dodgers 2 - the night of the trade
6/12 Dodgers 2, Rockies 1. Foul Ball!!! Mondesi HR in 5th ends perfect game, Young HR in 8th.
6/13 Rockies 4, Dodgers 2. Triple Play!!!
6/24 Dodgers 6, Angels 5 (11). Beltre debut: 2 for 5. Luke gets winning run.

4/5 W Arizona 8-6 (11) Mondesi Day! 3-r HR in 9th, 2-r HR in 11th
4/23 L St. Louis, 5-12. GRAND SLAM RECORD - 2 by Tatis in third inning!
5/22 W St. Louis, 10-7. McGwire hits the roof and clears the park on one of two HR
8/28 L Chicago, 0-6. SosaÕs 54th in 7th off Dreifort breaks 0-0 tie. Farnsworth 2-hitter. Shutouts!
9/12 L New York, 10-3. Gagne sharp through 5 2/3, 3-2 on Piazza, then all lost.
9/22 L San Francisco, 5-4. Bullpen loses lead for Valdes. FOUL BALL #3, off Mondesi in 2nd!

7/17 Dodgers 9, Pirates 6 Dana, Robyn, Gwin. Dreifort HBP on foot with bases loaded for go-ahead run.
9/27 Giants 4, Dodgers 0 Dad, Mom, Dana, Greg. Prokopec gives up HR and 3-R 2B in 4th. Too many food lines are closed.

5/27 Dodgers 5, Astros 4 (12) Dad Dreifort 1H through 7IP, then Berkman 2-R HR in 8th and 12th. Dodgers 3 in bottom 12th (Berkman error). FOUL BALL
5/28 Dodgers 11, Rockies 10 (11) Dad LoDuca 6 for 6! Dodgers rally from 8-3 deficit.
6/24 Padres 6, Dodgers 1 Dana, Lenny, Lisa. Dreifort 0H through 4, out by 6. Eaton pitches three-hitter.
7/6 Mariners 13, Dodgers 0 Dana, Sky, Jon F., Elizabeth, Seth. Ichiro homers in first at-bat. Garcia 5 1/3 no-hit innings.
8/14 Expos 4, Dodgers 1 Park nono through 5 2/3, shutout through 8th, but Shaw allows four in ninth. 10 walks for Dodgers wasted.
8/30 Dodgers 5, Rockies 4 Dad. Dodgers hang on despite Park and ShawÕs rocky performances, HeltonÕs foul balls (60+ in series).
9/23 Giants 2, Dodgers 1 Bonds #67 wins it

4/2 Giants 9, Dodgers 2 Bonds 2 HR, Brown pounded
4/3 Giants 12, Dodgers 0 Bonds 2 more HR, Nomo & Mulholland pounded
4/4 Giants 3, Dodgers 0 Dodgers scoreless for 25 innings
5/26 Dodgers 5, Brewers 3 Green hits 10th HR in 7 games
8/28 Dodgers 1, Arizona 0 Perez HR in 5th wins it. He goes 8 innings.

Two games from 1997 deserve elaboration. Yes, in one that I saw, a young boy got a foul ball, threw it away, and was punched by his father.
And the one saying Todd Zeile was on base 11 straight times? Is that possible? Todd Zeile???

Two-Trick Loney [Yep Š IÕve
2003-01-29 10:44
by Jon Weisman

Two-Trick Loney

[Yep Š IÕve decided to try out headlines. And IÕve decided to start with a really poor one.]

Time to mix in some optimismÉ

These are the DodgersÕ top draft picks from 1980-2001:
1980 Ross Jones
1981 Dave Anderson
1982 Franklin Stubbs
1983 Erik Sonberg
1984 Dennis Livingston
1985 Chris Gwynn
1986 Mike White
1987 Dan Opperman
1988 Bill Bene
1989 Kiki Jones
1990 Ron Walden
1991 Todd Hollandsworth
1992 Ryan Luzinski
1993 Darren Dreifort
1994 Paul Konerko
1995 David Yocum
1996 Damian Rolls
1997 Glenn Davis
1998 Bubba Crosby
1999 Jason Repko
2000 Ben Diggins
2001 Brian Pilkington

DoesnÕt look like any of those names will be immortalized along the outfield walls at Chavez Ravine. (The memory of how the Dodgers lost a coin flip with the Mariners for the first pick overall in 1993, and had to settle for Dreifort instead of Alex Rodriguez? Just punch a hole in my chest, grab hold of my heart and squeeze.)

But wait Š didnÕt I say something about optimism?

In 2002, the Dodgers carried on by drafting James Loney, a first baseman/pitcher who, according to ESPNÕs John Sickels, was projected to take the mound in the pros. Given the current conventional wisdom that betting on a high school pitcher to succeed is like shooting amoebas in a barrel Š wisdom that the Dodgers have done more than their share to justify Š this looked like another awful, awful pick.

These were SickelsÕ comments on Loney in June, right after the draft:

On the mound, he features a 90-93 mph fastball, with more velocity likely as he matures physically. His curveball and changeup were good enough for high school, but will need sharpening at higher levels. He walked 28 in 54 innings, so his command needs work as well. At the plate, Loney offers plus power from the left side, but will have to prove that he can hit for average and get on base against good competition. Loney has tremendous raw potential both on the mound and at the plate, but will need careful and patient handling either way.


Well, the Dodgers immediately decided that Loney was a first baseman. They sent the 6-foot-3, 205-pound 18-year-old to rookie ball in Great Falls, and he hit .370 in 47 games (170 at bats), with 22 doubles, three triples, five home runs, 30 RBI, an on-base percentage of .457, a slugging percentage of .624, and an OPS of 1.081. He struck out 18 times against 25 walks. He dominated.

IÕm not kidding when I say that within 47 games, some Dodger first-round picks have already become busts. So I think itÕs okay to celebrate LoneyÕs debut even without regard to whatÕs to come.

Before 2002 was over, the Dodgers promoted Loney to Class A ball in Vero Beach Š remarkable for an 18-year-old - where he had an OPS of .744 before a pitch broke his wrist and ended his season.

Uh, yeah. Broke his wrist.

Sports Weekly says that Loney is expected to be fully recovered for Spring Training, but that injury is just the thing I needed to temper my pleasant surprise at what otherwise seems to have been a wonderful pick. More than one source has said that Loney is the best hitting prospect from the 2002 draft.

If he has recovered, one could see him doing Vero Beach again in 2003, Class AA Jacksonville in 2004 with a taste of the big leagues at the end of the year, and becoming a candidate for the first-base job, at age 21, in 2005. Other than Paul Konerko, this is the most promising hitter the Dodgers have drafted with their top pick in more than 20 years.

Of course, Konerko got traded. Of course, thereÕs the injury. Of course, thereÕs also the fact that such a fast track has brought us mixed results with Adrian Beltre.

But since almost every Dodger draft of the past 10-20 years has earned ridicule, let us give praise while we can. All hail James Loney.

The Giants just signed Jose
2003-01-28 13:05
by Jon Weisman

The Giants just signed Jose Cruz, Jr. (.754 OPS) - giving themselves what I would now call an excess of mediocre outfield compliments to Barry Bonds: Marquis Grissom, Marvin Benard, Ruben Rivera. If they move Ray Durham to center field from second base, I think they're going to have a truckload of salary and not all that much production in right.

Reggie Sanders (.779 OPS) remains a candidate to join the Dodgers. Unless he signs for nothing, though, I can't see it. If he does join, I guess the guy that would have to leave the roster to make room would be Mike Kinkade.

The current Dodger bench:
C David Ross
1B Todd Hundley
IF Cesar Izturis
LF Daryle Ward
1B/LF Mike Kinkade
UT Jason Romano/Terry Shumpert/Quilvio Veras/Jolbert Cabrera

So, the trade becomes P
2003-01-28 12:45
by Jon Weisman

So, the trade becomes P Ruddy Lugo and LF Luke Allen for LF Daryle Ward and IF/OF Jason Romano.

Bottom line, IÕd still rather keep the pitcher. But I guess for now, IÕll just wait and see.

Romano, acquired from the Rockies for Allen just after Ward was acquired from the Astros for Lugo, joins Terry Shumpert and Jolbert Cabera in the group of multi-position bench candidates. Romano had a .802 OPS in hitter haven Coors Field, .562 everywhere else. IÕm not impressed, though IÕll grant that Romano is only 23.

Here is great newspaper analysis, courtesy of the TimesÕ Mike DiGiovanna:

The speedy Romano can play center field, second base and shortstop and could be a right-handed complement to center fielder Dave Roberts if Romano improves against left-handed pitching -- he was four for 29 against left-handers last season.

What DiGiovanna doesnÕt provide us is any reason for anyone to think he can make that leap.

Dan Evans told Ken Gurnick at that the Dodgers were wowed by Romano in a September series, with "highlight-film defensive plays at two positions."

"That one game confirmed what the scouts said. That he's a terrific prospect," said general manager Dan Evans. "It heightened our awareness of his abilities."

Even if that "one game" is a legitimate reason to acquire a player, one thing the Dodgers already have is sound defense up the middle with Alex Cora, Cesar Izturis and Dave Roberts. What they need is hitting and starting pitching.

Meanwhile, press sources have touted WardÕs acquisition as having down-the-road value Š positioning him as a replacement for Fred McGriff in 2004. Again, IÕd like to see the evidence that he can be that player.

IÕve criticized the DodgersÕ January moves, and in doing so I worry about a rush to judgment. Each day Evans makes a move, IÕm analyzing a roster that is unfinished in his mind. And Dan probably would be better than me at predicting how players will perform in the future. Would I have known a year ago that Dave Roberts would be effective? No, but Dan Evans did. So I do want to cut him some slack.

What scares me, though, is that I do think IÕm hearing some rationalizations for these moves that donÕt hold water. Jason Romano platooning with Dave Roberts? Wilson Alvarez as health insurance?

I feel that there is a fear of not making moves, of going into Spring Training with too little offseason action and too few names that baseball fans have heard of. Outside of the Karros/Grudzielanek/Hundley trade, I donÕt really see any offseason moves that improve the organization. (And even that trade only improved the Dodgers by exchanging two albatrosses for one.)

IÕm not saying there were other moves to be made.

The Dodgers look like an 81-win team, overbudget with limited talent in the minors. Perhaps to the rest of the world, the Dodgers look like a 90-win team, overbudget with limited talent in the minors. In either case, I donÕt think anyone sees them as a potential World Champion Š either of the Yankee or Angel ilk.

So I wonder whether Dan Evans fears going into Spring Training and having the press write, ŅThis team canÕt win it all, and Dan Evans is not doing anything about it.Ó Is he trying to get the angle to be, ŅThis team canÕt win it all, but at least Dan Evans is trying to do something about it?Ó

Luke Allen gets traded only because acquiring Daryle Ward makes him expendable. Daryle Ward is acquired because heÕs started some games, had one stretch where he hit some homers, sat on a major league roster for a couple of years, and because he might be a not-awful first baseman in 2004.

Neither trade does anything to get the Dodgers closer to the World Series. In fact, by adding payroll and subtracting minor league pitching depth, I think it takes the team farther away.

Why Š and I truly mean this Š bother?

More signs of worry about
2003-01-27 11:15
by Jon Weisman

More signs of worry about the Dodger starting pitching - on the heels of my January 24 entry - from

(Dan) Evans said he is not done tinkering with complementary players, and indicated there is enough concern over the health of Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort that he wouldn't mind finding another pitcher like Wilson Alvarez, who signed a minor-league contract with the Dodgers last week.

"We're not done. We have other things cooking," he said. "There are free agents out there and trades possible. I wouldn't be surprised if we make another move in a week or 10 days. We want to bring in players who will add to our versatility and depth.

"There are a number of things out there and I won't limit it to one area, but we don't know how Brown and Dreifort will be at the end of March."

Another Wilson Alvarez? I hope they've got something better on the hot stove than that. If not, then that's all the more reason not to trade a promising minor league starting pitcher for a backup leftfielder...

So, the DodgersÕ backup centerfielder
2003-01-27 11:05
by Jon Weisman

So, the DodgersÕ backup centerfielder is: Shawn Green. Or Brian Jordan.

That is one conclusion you can draw from the teamÕs latest acquisition Š Houston Astros leftfielder/first baseman Daryle Ward.

True, worrying in January about the DodgersÕ backup centerfielder is a bit of folly (I do think it's weird that the backup in center is the starter in left or right). But if itÕs any consolation, the acquisition gives me other things to worry about, too.

Daryle Ward is not a terrible player, necessarily. HeÕs only 27 years old, and in 2000, he homered 20 times in 264 at bats.

But compare his 2002 stats to those of Eric Karros:

Ward: .276 batting average, .324 on-base percentage, .424 slugging percentage, .748 OPS, 12 HR, 72 RBI
Karros: .271 batting average, .323 on-base percentage, .399 slugging percentage, .722 OPS, 13 HR, 73 RBI

Pretty scary, huh?

Ward was the slightly better player (in slightly fewer at-bats). And Ward is projected a backup, whereas Karros was a starter.

But Ward is a truly mediocre defensive player. A left-hander, he hits lefties poorly. He did most of his damage at home, and HoustonÕs Minute Maid (nee Enron) Park is a much better park for hitters than Dodger Stadium. He makes $1.35 million this year Š not a small amount for a bench player these days.

Will the trade help the Dodgers reach the playoffs this year? I doubt it.
Will the trade help the Dodgers reach the playoffs in coming years? I doubt it.

I can understand the temptation that Dan Evans and the Dodger management faced. The Dodger bench right now is really an embarrassment. Ward will probably shine by comparison. And again, heÕs not too old to improve.

But Ward plays the same positions as Mike Kinkade, the same as Luke Allen, the same as Chin-Feng Chen. Will he do so any better? Maybe. Will he do so so much better as to make a difference? Again, I donÕt think so.

Ken Gurnick of quotes Evans as saying that he had tried to find a replacement for Marquis Grissom, last year's complimentary centerfielder.

"But we didn't find a perfect fit for center field," Evans told Gurnick. "It's more important to have a presence on the bench. We like Ruan and Hermanson as right-handed hitters who can play center field and be a fifth outfielder perfectly fine."

What would have been more important than Ward's presence on the bench? Building for the future.

In exchange for Ward, the Dodgers gave up minor league righthanded pitcher Ruddy Lugo (apparently, those double-Ds are natural). Lugo was 11-3, 2.84 last year between high Class A Vero Beach and Double-A Jacksonville, with a 100-39 strikeout-walk ratio in 120 innings. Lugo was a ways from being a lock for the Dodger rotation, and may never pan out. However, I find it discouraging that the Dodgers find ways to discard their minor league starting pitchers as if theyÕre never going to need them.

Over the past two years, that has been the Dodger way. They say theyÕre building from within, but I donÕt really see a commitment Š especially to young pitching. They are all too seduced by the lure of marginal improvements to the big-league roster.

To make room for Ward on the 25-man squad, the backup centerfielder spot that Chad Hermansen or Wilkin Ruan would have claimed will have to go to Ward. Hence, Jordan and Green become the DodgersÕ second- and third-most experienced centerfielders behind Dave Roberts. No big deal. But I think the move betrays conflicting goals by Dodger management.

If they were going to acquire someone for the bench, I think the Dodgers should have acquired someone who could hit a little and play either third base or center field Š because the Dodgers are woefully thin there Š or someone who could hit a lot. Ward does neither.

Better still, the Dodgers should be hoarding starting pitchers, instead of giving them away, in commitment to a plan to win in 2004 or 2005.

In the 14 Z years since Kirk Gibson, the Dodgers have refuse to rebuild, and they sorely need to. As IÕve said before, the DodgersÕ goal used to be to win the World Series. Now itÕs to somehow sneak into the playoffs one year and get lucky.

Unless Daryle Ward has the right biorhythms or astrology, I donÕt see how he will help toward either of those goals.

Are the Dodgers planning on
2003-01-24 09:57
by Jon Weisman

Are the Dodgers planning on trading some of their pitchers, or are they just concerned that they arenÕt healthy?

The team will carry 11 pitchers on its roster this season. Currently, the Dodgers have five starting pitchers in Brown, Perez, Ishii, Nomo and Ashby, five relievers in Gagne, Quantrill, Shuey, Carrara and Mota, plus Darren Dreifort. Their only real need right now is for a lefthander to substitute for one the aforementioned relievers, who are all righties.

Unless É

1) The team plans on trading from its surplus of starters or righthanded relievers to bolster the offense.
2) They donÕt feel that the pitchers they have now are healthy enough to endure this season.

The Dodgers have signed such lefty relievers as Pedro Borbon, Jr. to non-roster contracts to fulfill the slot that Jesse Orosco most recently handled. But the recent addition of Wilson Alvarez, an injury-plagued and ostensibly washed-up lefthanded starter, has me wondering.

Alvarez has won 88 games in his career and threw a no-hitter, but he had to sit out the 2000 and 2001 seasons before going 2-3, 5.28 in 23 games (10 as a starter) with lowly Tampa Bay last season.

General Manager Dan Evans told the press that envisions Alvarez as a candidate to replace swingman Omar Daal, now with Baltimore. But thereÕs a key difference. Daal was healthy Š Daal was insurance. Alvarez is anything but. Plus, they already have six starting pitchers on the roster before you even get to Alvarez.

With a non-guaranteed contract, of course, Alvarez may be nothing more than a flight of fancy. But he only amplifies the imbalance on the Dodger roster: lots of dubiously healthy starting pitchers.

If Alvarez actually can pitch, what can we expect? Dreifort and Brown are untradeable because of their contracts. Nomo and Perez pitched too well last year to trade at this point. And in the current economy, itÕs hard for me to imagine anyone wanting to take on the contracts of Ashby and Ishii before the late-summer pennant push, even if those two pitch well.

The only role for Alvarez right now is to take the lefthanded short relief slot (which in itself implies that Mota or Carrara will be traded Š I donÕt think either would be heading back to Las Vegas.)

Unless Š and this is the big one - the Dodgers already suspect that at least one of their starting pitchers will not be ready to take the mound in March?

This is my hunch. Further, IÕll make Kevin Brown my head huncho.

Shav Glick in the Times
2003-01-24 09:56
by Jon Weisman

Shav Glick in the Times today raised a point that I am surprised I haven't seen mentioned before. When Barry Bonds comes up to the plate, will new Chicago Cubs (and former San Francisco Giants) manager Dusty Baker pitch to him?

I just found a nice
2003-01-23 16:44
by Jon Weisman

I just found a nice - and very up-to-date - Dodgers depth chart graphic on CBS Sportsline.

The Dodgers have signed some
2003-01-23 14:48
by Jon Weisman

The Dodgers have signed some players to non-guaranteed contracts to create more possibilities for their very weak bench. (See and scroll down to my January 8 entry).

Terry Shumpert, 36, plays seven positions. Though his OPS in 2000 and 2001 was near .800 and in 1999 it was near 1.000 Š all as a reserve Š it fell last year to an unimpressive .676.

Quivio Veras, a 31-year-old infielder, has more of a pedigree as a starter. He has always had speed but hasnÕt always hit. In 2000 he had a fine OPS of .822 in 84 games with Atlanta, but that fell to .687 in 71 games in 2001. He missed 2002 because of knee surgery.

Shumpert and Veras, though not stars, offer some useful alternatives to Jolbert Cabrera. I canÕt say for certain that they would be better. Cabrera is younger and healthier (though he did suffer a gunshot wound to his buttocks a couple of years ago!) and also plays infield and outfield, like Shumpert. But Shumpert and Veras have probably had more productive moments.

In other bench news, Ken Gurnick of reports, as I sort of suspected, that the Dodgers would like to keep a third catcher in David Ross, since Todd Hundley squats behind the plate at everyoneÕs collective peril. Hundley would be more likely to fill the role of lead left-handed pinch hitter vacated by Dave Hansen.

IÕm also dropping Wilkin Ruan and Luke Allen back down to Las Vegas. In this week's analysis by USA Today Sports Weekly of the Dodger farm system (which I hope to address soon), I saw that Ruan really doesnÕt look like heÕs ready to hit in the majors. Hermansen may not be ready either, but heÕs a little further along. Allen looks the most ready, but he doesnÕt play center field. To use Allen would leave Dave Roberts without a true backup in center field (Shumpert is also more of a leftfielder). My suspicion is that the Dodgers see no better option than to let Roberts go for 150 games in center Š but theyÕd still want to have some sort of backup who can play the position.

So hereÕs a revised look at the makeup of the Dodger bench (certainly not the final revision):

Todd Hundley, C/1B, .722 OPS
Mike Kinkade, 1B/LF, 1.083 OPS
Cesar Izturis, SS, .556 OPS
David Ross, C, ,985 OPS (in 10 at-bats, including his home run off Mark Grace)
Chad Hermansen, OF, 651 OPS
Terry Shumpert, IF/OF, by a hair over Cabrera and Veras.

I hope to look at some recent signings to provide choices for the pitching staff next.

Reactions to the news that
2003-01-22 10:42
by Jon Weisman

Reactions to the news that Dave Checketts, former impresario of the New York Knicks, New York Rangers and Madison Square Garden, is going to try to buy the Dodgers:

1) I don't know much about Checketts, but I do know that he presided over most of a most chaotic decade for the Knicks, a decade that has been about as unrewarding to them as it has been for the Dodgers. The Knicks have made it to the NBA Finals twice in the time since the Dodgers made it to the World Series.

Checketts did hire Pat Riley when Riley still made a difference as a coach, but later clashed with him. Checketts then hired Don Nelson, then fired him in midseason and gave the job to assistant Jeff Van Gundy. Checketts also clumsily contacted Phil Jackson about coaching the Knicks during 1999, the one season that Van Gundy was leading them to the Finals.

2) One of the Dodgers' strengths right now is that they seem to have refound some stability and sanity in management. To upset that now would be devastating, unless Checketts is like a Jerry West - which I have no reason to believe that he is.

3) Am I in love with News Corp./Fox owning the Dodgers? Of course not. But I think the most painful part of the Fox era has passed. Whatever the next era is, I pray that it begins less painfully.

I asked New York sports sufferer James Gray to comment on Checketts. Here's his e-mail:

checketts was a disappointment to me when he ran the knicks. he seemed to
show an amazing capacity to build a contender, but that's about all.
consistently, he put together squads that were one or two pieces short and
made a few AWFUL moves as knicks' gm that kept them from winning it all. he
did the same thing in utah, assembling a squad that would win 55 games every
year but never had a decent center or two-guard. it should be said in his
defense that he clearly cares about winning--and the rangers did win the
stanley cup during his tenure--but something tells me he'd give you a team
in l.a. that comes up a hair short. he is the man, after all, who got the
knicks charles smith and thought john starks was a championship-quality
shooting guard (2 for 18, game 7, finals).

Hi - There's an interesting
2003-01-21 11:06
by Jon Weisman

Hi -

There's an interesting article today about Jim Tracy, comparing him to 23-year Dodger manager Walter Alston. But the most interesting thing I found was this: Tracy is 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.

This may be an innocuous detail on the surface, but Tracy always struck me as so mild-mannered, it never occurred to me that he is in fact bigger than most of the players on the team. (Yes, ballplayers are getting bigger, but 6-3, 205 is still big.) I would have thought he was closer to my size.

I'm sure that it's more important that Tracy is smart and not dumb, and I'm sure there have been plenty of smaller managers that have been successful, but I would think bigger is better in terms of leading a team. Maybe I'll look up the top managers in baseball history and see if I can find out their sizes. (I know, as if anyone really cares...)

Another question is, where would short but stocky fall in this spectrum? Tommy Lasorda, anyone?

Is time running out on
2003-01-14 13:37
by Jon Weisman

Is time running out on the careers of those five consecutive Rookies of the Year the Dodgers boasted in the 1990s?

Eric Karros (1992)
Age: 35
Career 162-game average: .268, 27 HR, 99 RBI, .782 OPS
2002 stats: .271, 13 HR, 73 RBI, .722 OPS

Mike Piazza (1993)
Age: 34
Career 162-game average: .321, 40 HR, 125 RBI, .964 OPS
2002 stats: .280, 33 HR, 98 RBI, .903 OPS

Raul Mondesi (1994)
Age: 31
Career 162-game average: .276, 30 HR, 94 RBI, .822 OPS
2002 stats: .232, 26 HR, 88 RBI, .740 OPS

Hideo Nomo (1995)
Age: 34
Career 33-game average: 13-10, 3.96 ERA
2002 stats: 16-6, 3.39 ERA

Todd Hollandsworth (1996)
Age: 29
Career 162-game average: .278, 16 HR, 62 RBI, .778 OPS
2002 stats: .284, 16 HR, 67 RBI, .807 OPS

WhoÕd have thought that Nomo would be in the best shape of the five? Piazza is still productive, but is definitely starting to slide. Hollandsworth continues to have his usefulness in small doses. Karros is tumbling from mediocrity to uselessness.

And then thereÕs Raul Mondesi, making $13 million this year, and only 31 years old! He should be in his prime!

In my life, only once have I bought a jersey replica T-shirt with a playerÕs name on the back. That player was Raul Mondesi. This guy had everything. He is as disappointing a player to me as I have had in my life as a baseball fan.

Off to Snowmass for the long weekend. Dodger Thoughts will return Tuesday, January 21.

How lucky are the Dodgers?
2003-01-13 11:57
by Jon Weisman

How lucky are the Dodgers?

The Dodgers missed making the playoffs in 2002 by 3Z games and in 2001 by four games. They were the fifth-best team in the National League in 2002 and 2000, and of course there are four playoff spots to be had. That, by one definition, is not very lucky.

But IÕm not sure they werenÕt lucky to even be that close.

A teamÕs record in one-run games is one indicator of luck, on the theory that those are the games where a bad break or a good break will make the most difference. In 2002, the Dodgers led the National League with a 33-15 record in one-run games. The Dodgers were 30-28 in 2001 and 25-21 in 2000 Š not bad. I would attribute much of the improvement in 2002 to Eric Gagne. Again, record in one-run games at best is only correlative to luck, but I think itÕs been safe to say that the Dodgers have not been exceedingly unlucky.

Another indicator of luck is something called the Pythagorean Standings. Baseball analyst extraordinaire Bill James devised a formula in which he found he could predict what a teamÕs won-lost record was simply by using two numbers Š runs scored and runs allowed that season Š and plugging them into a formula. Presumably, a team that won more than the formula predicted was lucky and/or overachieved, and vice versa. In 2002, no team in baseball was off by more than eight wins or losses from this formula.

The Dodgers won three more games than expected in 2002 and four games more than 2001. In 2000, they lost two games more than expected. By the way, the Angels won four fewer games than expected in the 2002 regular season, which makes their postseason triumph as a wild-card team a sliver less of a surprise. Had they won the expected number of regular season games, they would have won their division.

I will now concede that I have a personal bias that I bring to this discussion. It is my feeling that the Dodgers have done better the past two seasons than they had a right to expect, that they were even farther away from being a true champion than one might perceive. IÕm sure there might be other numbers out there that counter this feeling, but I donÕt really see them.

Does that mean things will go downhill this year? Of course not. The elements that might be most responsible for the DodgersÕ relative overachievement, Eric Gagne and Jim Tracy, are still there. Also, I donÕt think that general manager Dan Evans is under any illusion that the Dodgers are where they need to be. My perception is that Evans is constantly evaluating personnel and no one is sacred: not Eric Karros, not Adrian Beltre Š no one. I think EvansÕ weakness so far is that in midseason, he has found players from other teams to be more attractive than they really are, and ill-advisedly traded prospects for them. But I have not been greatly discouraged by his offseason moves in 2001-2002 or 2002-2003.

However, though you can look at someone like Beltre and say he hasnÕt maximized his potential, I donÕt think you can look at the Dodgers of the past two years and say they havenÕt maximized their potential. I think fans of the Dodgers would do well to brace themselves that the team is overdue to underachieve. Positive developments like the recovery of Darren Dreifort or a fine season from Fred McGriff might only be enough to keep the Dodgers over .500.

I think the Dodgers have taken positive steps in the past couple of years, but they serve to help illustrate how far the team had to go.

The Dodgers have no lefthanders
2003-01-10 14:52
by Jon Weisman

The Dodgers have no lefthanders in their bullpen - Jesse Orosco will celebrate his 46th birthday with the Padres - so somethingÕs going to have to change.

Here are the projected relievers:

Eric Gagne, RHP, 4-1, 1.97 ERA, 52 saves
---->Unless success went to his head, no reason for this to be a fluke Paul Quantrill, RHP, 5-4, 2.70 ERA ---->He and Nomo were the only Dodgers to pitch better after the All-Star Break Paul Shuey, RHP, 5-2, 4.40 ERA ---->Those are his Dodger stats, after going 3-0, 2.41 with Cleveland Giovanni Carrara, RHP, 6-3, 3.28 ERA ---->Good at keeping his own runners from scoring, but often allowed othersÕ in Darren Dreifort, RHP, Injured in 2002 ---->He makes $11 million and doesnÕt want to relieve, but may have no choice Guillermo Mota, RHP, 1-3, 4,15 ERA ---->He and Carrara most likely to be traded to make room for a lefty

More likely than not, the bullpen will be a strength this year. There are no weak links in the bunch. Shuey got off to a terrible start as a Dodger, and Carrara slumped at times, but otherwise, this is a solid group. I wouldnÕt expect the bullpen to falter unless the Dodger starters falter, forcing the relievers to pitch too much too often.

Not having a lefty in a division with Barry Bonds, Todd Helton, Larry Walker and Luis Gonzalez is problematic, so I expect a move to be made. The fact that Bonds homers off everyone wonÕt keep people from pointing out the Dodgers need a lefty reliever. That said, Gagne, Quantrill and Shuey are capable of getting left-handed hitters out. IÕd like to have that lefty and expect to get it somehow, but what IÕm trying to say is that the Dodgers have bigger worries in their starting rotation and bench (if not their starting lineup) than this.

2003-01-09 11:15
by Jon Weisman

Let's get right to our preview of the Dodgers' starting rotation.


Here are the projected starters:

Odalis Perez, LHP, 15-10, 3.00 ERA
----25 years old and outstanding last year; opponents had OPS of only .605
Hideo Nomo, RHP, 16-6, 3.39 ERA
----Fortunately, team eased off after he threw 254 pitches in two early Sept. starts
Kevin Brown, RHP, 3-4, 4.81 ERA
----Anyone's guess whether he has a good year left
Andy Ashby, RHP, 9-13, 3.91 ERA
----Was very good before All-Star Break in 2002, declined thereafter
Kazuhisa Ishii, LHP, 14-10, 4.27 ERA
----Wasn't even that good when he was good

The story with the rotation is simple. The Dodgers have depth in the sense they have six starting pitchers, including Darren Dreifort, but four of them had injury-plagued seasons in 2002 and the other two have had serious arm troubles in the past.

Dreifort is said to be 100 percent now, but of the six, he's best suited to work out of the bullpen, so I'm putting him there for now. But no doubt, even if he doesn't begin the season in the rotation, he will find himself there at some point, much as Omar Daal did last year.

I would say that each member of this rotation has the talent to win 12-15 games - and if they all do that, the Dodgers will contend. But this is definitely not a staff like an Oakland or Atlanta, where you can count on the good guys being good and the great guys being great. If Brown is done, and if Ashby is done, and if Ishii and Dreifort don't recover and improve, and if Nomo and Perez tail off ... look out.

Coming up: The bullpen.

Okay Š back to the
2003-01-08 15:30
by Jon Weisman

Okay Š back to the pre-Spring Training analysis of the Dodgers. As Chris Leavell pointed out to me yesterday, I have every reason to be excited about the Dodgers right now Š they are undefeated in 2003!

But wait until you see the bench. Here are the projected reserves:
(Note: OPS is on-base average plus slugging percentage. This is a handy figure to measure a batterÕs overall production, incorporating hits, extra-base hits, and walks. Anything above 1.000 is superb; anything below .700 is poor.)

Todd Hundley, C/1B, .722 OPS
---->Will no doubt be subject of much derision this year Mike Kinkade, 1B/LF, 1.083 OPS ---->I have high hopes for him Š perhaps too high Jolbert Cabrera, IF/OF, .382 OPS

I'll get back to the
2003-01-07 12:01
by Jon Weisman

I'll get back to the 2003 Dodgers soon, but I am cutting in to comment on the two players elected to the Hall of Fame today - both ex-Dodgers - Eddie Murray and Gary Carter. Both are completely deserving, although Carter had to wait until his fifth year of eligibility. Carter is at a level just below Mike Piazza as a hitter, and since Piazza will retire as the greatest hitting catcher of all time, that's saying something. And Carter was much better defensively. Murray played at a high level of excellence for close to 20 years. The Dodgers acquired Murray toward the end of his career, not too differently from their newest first baseman, Fred McGriff. McGriff is a Hall of Fame candidate but is a level below Murray.

I covered about two dozen major league baseball games as a reporter, and only three at Dodger Stadium. But one of my most memorable experiences involved Murray and Carter. To put it in context, Murray retired with a terrible reputation with the media; Carter retired on quite different terms.

I had patiently waited 30 minutes in the Dodger locker room before a game to interview Carter and had just begun to interview him when Murray directed me to leave the locker room. There is a rule that reporters have to leave the locker room x minutes before the game starts. I had never seen this rule enforced until Murray tried to. Carter, realizing how long I had waited and knowing I wasn't asking a lot, let me finish the interview.

The rule is there for a reason, and I don't begrudge its existence. I will easily give Murray the benefit of the doubt that he was probably doing what he thought was right for the team. At the same time, I was doing my job in a professional manner and it would have been nice if he had tried to work something out with me instead of trying to kick me out, no questions asked.

I am confident that no doubt some unfair and/or inappropriate things were written about Murray during his career. However, I also tend to believe that he was similarly flawed in his dealings with reporters, and that whatever was written about him in Baltimore or anywhere else, he deserves some responsibility for his reputation as a curmudgeon with the media.

The postscript to this is that today Ken Daley, the Dodgers' main beat reporter for the Daily News, wrote an article very critical of Carter, based on incidents that occured the same year:

Daley implies that he didn't vote for Carter for the Hall of Fame for these reasons. I think the moral of the story is that unless you have a situation like Pete Rose or Joe Jackson, it's best to judge HoF candidates on their on-the-field merits as much as possible.

Here We Go
2003-01-06 14:27
by Jon Weisman

Here we go - it's time for Dodger Thoughts, 2003. Allow me to skip the preamble and just start churning content!

The Dodgers open the season in March for the first time, I believe, with a road game in Arizona on Monday, March 31 at 12:05 p.m. Pacific Time. The Dodger home opener is also against the Diamondbacks, one week later at 1:10 p.m.

I'm going to start off this week/month/year by going over the Dodger roster and lineup.

Here are the projected starters: (Note: OPS is on-base average plus slugging percentage. This is a handy figure to measure a batter's overall production, incorporating hits, extra-base hits, and walks. Anything above 1.000 is superb; anything below .700 is poor.)

1. L Dave Roberts, CF .718 OPS
----Solid, and did well enough against LHP to deserve full-time chance
2. R Paul Lo Duca, C .731 OPS
----Had a more demanding, less productive year than in 2002.
3. L Shawn Green, RF .944 OPS
----So streaky: Barry Bonds one day, Barry Williams the next
4. R Brian Jordan, LF .807 OPS
----His whole season was in September: 30 RBI, .967 OPS
5. L Fred McGriff, 1B .858 OPS
----Had .946 OPS, 28 HR vs. RHP; .620 OPS, 2 HR vs. LHP in 2002
6. R Adrian Beltre, 3B .729 OPS
----Most promising Dodger since Mondesi Ð can he avoid being bigger disappointment?
7. L Joe Thurston, 2B .967 OPS
----196 hits in minors last year, but will he get half that in majors this year?
8. S Alex Cora, SS .805 OPS
----Surprisingly useful at plate, but Dodgers may still go with Cesar Izturis (.556)

The best thing about this lineup is the mix of lefties and righties - it's a really good balance. I do think first base will be an improvement over last year, if the Dodgers platoon McGriff with Mike Kinkade (1.083 OPS, 1.219 OPS vs. LHP).

But Green is still the only hitter in this lineup that scares you, and he only scares you during his hot streaks. Similarly, Jordan and Beltre are each good for a couple of streaks of their own each year, but have been inconsistent. The other five players, even at their best, aren't going to kill you. There is room for improvement across-the-board - no one in this lineup exceeded their potential last year - but with the exception of Beltre and Green, it would be more likely that the players would see a dropoff. That's what's scary.

The biggest question mark is Thurston, who has only 15 career plate appearances. There's nothing to suggest he won't have some struggles - unless you think the Dodgers are due for some luck.

Next: The bench.

Dodger Thoughts went silent with
2003-01-03 12:49
by Jon Weisman

Dodger Thoughts went silent with the birth of my daughter in September. However, I look forward to restarting very soon.

Jon Weisman's outlet
for dealing psychologically
with the Los Angeles Dodgers
and baseball.
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About Jon
Thank You For Not ...

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