Monthly archives: July 2003
The relevancy of this entry will self-destruct in four hours (as of 9 a.m.).
Dan Evans, in today's Orange County Register:
"We're definitely buyers right now, without any question whatsoever,'' Evans said from Los Angeles. "We're out there trying to improve our club and if the right thing is there, we'll do the deal. We're definitely out there. We're being aggressive."I don't disagree with anything Evans said except the first sentence.
Improve the club? Yes. Look for the right thing? Yes.
Definitely buyers, without any question?
Here's a question. Why?
The Dodgers are five games out of a playoff spot. Reason to buy.
The Dodgers have played .303 ball (10-23) since June 21. Reason to sell.
I don't know how you can be resolved to go only in one direction.
Is the issue simply that the Dodgers, with the best, deepest pitching in baseball, don't have anything to sell? No team is desparate enough to overpay the Dodgers for anything?
I don't believe that the answers to those questions can be unequivocally affirmative.
I'm all for making a commitment, having a vision. But I fear a commitment made out of desperation.
If there is a great buyer's deal to be made, make it. But the choices should not just be 1) shop for the present or 2) do nothing. When your team has a winning percentage of .509 with two months left in the season, everything should be on the table.
P.S.: Wednesday, I commented that the Dodgers should be in on the action if the Reds are going to give players away, as they did reliever Scott Williamson. But for God's sake, guys like Aaron Boone may have their upsides, but be damn careful about getting in a bidding war for guys like Aaron Boone with teams like the New York Yankees. Jay Jaffe at The Futility Infielder has the East Coast look at a potential Boonedoggle.
Nothing Ventura, Nothing Gained
A headline with the word "Freeway" in it seemed too obvious. In a way, you have to wish Robin Ventura was traded to San Diego.
For many reasons.
Though the Dodgers gave up two marginal ballplayers in exchange, they will be spending about $1.5 million in salary, money that could be spent on the 2004 roster, for two months worth of playing time from a guy whose career may be over before Rickey Henderson's.
Ventura has an OPS more than 100 points less than last year's dubious July pickup, third baseman Tyler Houston.
Ventura's numbers are higher than Adrian Beltre's - but given Fred McGriff's non-return, you may see Ventura at first base more than at third base (with Jolbert Cabrera picking up more middle-infield time). And as a first baseman, Ventura offers you next to nothing.
Loyal reader Brian Greene writes, "Robin Ventura since June 1 (136 at-bats): .213, 1 hr, 19 rbi (OPS around .590)."
Robin Ventura has had a fine career. Past tense. He is better than Bubba Crosby, but does not improve the team enough to justify his acquisition.
Win Shares Follow-Up
Got this e-mail from Pete Simpson of Baseball Graphs, whose site I raided Tuesday for Win Shares data to use for my look at Cesar Izturis and Alex Cora. I had e-mailed Pete to ask if he had any further comments, and he did:
The Lost Cause Marches On
Is there a more brittle, prideful or insecure baseball player in the world than Raul Mondesi? From the Associated Press:
NEW YORK -- Two days after angrily leaving the New York Yankees' clubhouse, Raul Mondesi was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night for outfielder David Dellucci and two minor leaguers.Therapy, Raul. Please. Get some therapy.
Sale on Aisle 9
Speaking in a vacuum (And speaking of a vacuum, why is a vacuum insulated from noise when a vacuum cleaner is so loud? Does the vacuum cleaner suck the noise from the vacuum?)
What was I saying?
Oh yeah. Speaking in a vaccum about the Dodger chances for the postseason this year or any other, if the management-deprived Cincinnati Reds are going to start unloading players like cans of Doritos at the 99 Cent Store, the Dodgers should be on the phone. Whether it's for today or next year, if there's a bargain to be had, the Dodgers need to be shopping.
And as John Wiebe points out, you may think the Dodgers are approaching success as if it were Kryptonite, but they are not alone.
53 innings, 3 runs
L.A. ... 000 000 000 01 010 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 010 000 000 000 000 000-3
The Dodgers' current crawl through the Sahara matches their third-worst scoring streak of five games since 1900.
Here are the worst:
1) 1992, two runs in five games
2) 1984, two runs in five games (and three runs in six games)
3) 1961, three runs in five games (and three runs in six games)
Check out Michael Blake's View from the 700 Level for a recap of Tuesday's game and some more truly offensive numbers related to the Dodgers (and the Phillies). (Michael did a plug for me Tuesday, but I had already been planning on relying on him for coverage this week!)
Our Bob Hope Story
One of my earliest memories from childhood is the Weisman family's brush with Bob Hope, which took place when I was about four years old. My older brother, Greg, took the time Monday to write it up, and I hope you don't mind if I share it with you as well.
Scroll down to the July 28, 2:11 PM entry at "Ask Greg," the website where Greg answers questions about the television series he co-created, Gargoyles.
Shallow Hal Meets Alex and Cesar
This is the part of the blind date setup when you're forced to talk about the good personality.
On the field, Alex Cora and Cesar Izturis are beautiful to look at. But from a statistics standpoint, you need beer goggles to appreciate them.
Using the too-complicated-to-explain-but-trust-me-it-works Win Shares formula developed by Bill James, a website called Baseball Graphs has ranked every National League player, overall, by team and by position.
As a batter, Cora is the 20th-best second baseman in a 16-team league. Now that's hard on the eyes. Until you get to Izturis, who is the 26th-best shortstop offensively.
You know who has contributed more offensively to Dodger victories this season than Izturis? Todd Hundley. Wilkin Ruan. Guillermo Mota. Troy Brohawn!
Obviously, some of those guys have only a couple of at-bats this season. So what does that tell you? That Izturis is a black hole, sucking the life out of the Dodger offense. That his few positive contributions at the plate are negated by his many outs. His .250ish batting average is like a bow tie on a pig. With on-base and slugging percentages both below .300, he has no attractive qualities. He is the date from hell.
Ah, but, Izturis sure can field. He can field real cute, even. Cora, too. That's gotta be worth something when I go home at night, right?
According to Win Shares, Izturis is the top-fielding shortstop in the NL. Cora is the top-fielding second baseman. For that matter, Adrian Beltre is No. 2 in the league in fielding.
In fact, Izturis has more defensive value than any player in the National League, at any position. He is the Barry Bonds of defense.
And because of that, Izturis is the, well ... 11th-best shortstop in the NL. Cora is the 10th-best second baseman, better than Roberto Alomar, a recently speculated Dodger trade target. Which I guess goes to show you that while looks (on the field) don't give you everything, they count for something.
But when you're looking for a life partner, personality matters. And when you're looking for a baseball player, even a shortstop, offense is more important than defense.
I knew this a while back, actually, but watching the brilliant fielding of Cora and Izturis began to suck me into thinking that they were so good, so beautiful, that those looks were enough.
Dodger management claims that the pitching staff benefits from the stability of Cora and Izturis.
The Dodgers would be better off with Brian Giles at shortstop than Izturis. They'd be better off with Edgar Martinez at shortstop. And it appears they might even be better off with Jolbert Cabrera at shorstop.
Look again at the Win Shares stats for shortstop. Even as the best fielder in the game, Izturis has much less value than Rafael Furcal, Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, and others, even if you gave those guys no points at all for fielding.
Of course, those aren't the Dodger alternatives today. Cabrera is the Dodger alternative. But with these numbers, you can still make a case that even Cabrera - a somewhat clumsy infielder - is a better option at shortstop than Izturis. And long-term, you can question whether Izturis would ever improve enough offensively to justify his starting role.
No player that has registered any offensive value, from my examination of these numbers, has a greater ratio of defense to offense than Izturis, and Cora is close behind. Say what you want about the Dodger pitching or the Dodger Stadium park factors, there is no bigger run-prevention force in the game than Cora and Izturis - offensively and defensively. And that's as much of a problem as you may have feared.
CBS Sportsline is using unnamed sources to report that the Glazer family will buy the Dodgers, though the transaction isn't intended to be made official until the end of the season.
Keeping in mind that speculation fills the article, while one might be relieved that the new owners will be more concerned with delivering a winner than new upper-middle-class housing, we do seem headed for a chaotic offseason. Just a sample:
A Glazer ownership is likely to bring sweeping changes to Dodger Stadium, including the possibility of a front-office shakeup and, likely, a replacement for manager Jim Tracy barring a dramatic on-field turnaround during the season's final two months.If the new owners can't see that the biggest villain of the 2003 Dodger season is the ghost of Kevin Malone, then we're up Sisyphus Creek again. However, we're a long way from knowing what true and what's crystal ball.
Update: ESPN.com's Darren Rovell has idenitified the many significant hurdles that a Glazer purchase still faces.
Interviewing Internetter Alex Belth has done it again, getting a Q & A with Moneyball author Michael Lewis. Alex may even have something of a scoop: the interview concludes with the news that Lewis is considering a sequel.
BB: There is still a lot of time left this season for things to turn your way. Will you write an additional chapter for the paperback edition?As a roundabout way into discussing the book, the interview begins with a discussion of the chance that Moneyball could be movie material, and baseball movies in general. I was pleased to see them rate my favorite baseball movie, The Bad News Bears, as one of the best, and also agreed with their ranking of Bang the Drum Slowly as overrated (the only part of the movie that I really like is the playing of the song).
However, I was disappointed by their ambivalence toward Eight Men Out and at the way Lewis completely slammed The Natural. The biggest sin of The Natural is changing the ending of the novel, but evaluating the movie on its own merits, I think it is poetry - beautiful poetry. It isn't realistic in the common sense, but to me, it captures a very realistic sensation of the hopes that one places in the game, and of the mixing of reality and dreams.
Playing right-center field in a four-man outfield at my pickup softball game Sunday, I made 16 putouts in 13 innings. Isn't that remarkable? I'm not bragging about it - I just think it's amazing that so many people could hit the ball my way.
At the plate, things were shakier. I started out 0 for 4, robbed of a hit once but otherwise making very meek outs. I decided to change my approach, and told myself to go to the plate angry. Not desperate for a hit, but determined. I got solid hits the next three at-bats.
The day got hotter and tireder, and I finished only 3 for 9. What the hell, I'm still an amateur.
But the game really is a mental one, isn't it? It's not all about talent, but about how you use that talent. There are limits, but the limits shouldn't be players at their worst.
I cannot help but think that Dodger hitters have room for growth in their ability to produce.
I take these two concluding paragraphs from Mike DiGiovanna's Saturday game story in the Times as progress for the organization:
Batting instructor Jack Clark's job seems more and more tenuous in light of the Dodgers' offensive struggles Ñ they rank last in the league in batting, runs, hits, home runs, walks, sacrifice hits, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.
The World Series? That's the Easy Part
Update: Cincinnati edged Philadelphia in 10 innings Monday, 6-5. The Dodgers trail the Phillies in the wild card by three games. Pittsburgh shut out St. Louis, so the Dodgers are alone in fourth place.
It's the trickle-up theory at work. A team that passed them in the wild-card race has kept alive the Dodgers' wild-card hopes.
Despite scoring two runs in their past three games, the Dodgers gained a game on National League wild-card leader Philadelphia, which was swept by the charging Florida Marlins.
Florida is now tied for second with Arizona; the two teams open a series with each other tonight. Los Angeles heads to Philadelphia tied for fourth in the wild-card standings, but trailing by only 3 1/2 games. Now, only a sweep in the three-game series, beginning Tuesday, would knock the Dodgers out of realistic contention.
The Dodgers will actually arrive in Philadelphia before the Phillies, who today waste the top left-handed pitcher in the National League this season, Randy Wolf, against the Cincinnati Reds.
The probable pitching matchups for the Dodgers-Phillies series, the biggest of the year for the Dodgers since the June series with the Giants when first place in the NL West was a possibility:
The Phillies bring an offense that is vastly superior to the team the Dodger pitching just stifled, Arizona, but inferior to the team that battered the Dodgers the previous weekend, St. Louis. Philadelphia is 10th in the major leagues in EQA.
Face it - the Dodgers have lost only 11 percent of their games by four or more runs this season. For all their woes, they are in just about every game. And yet, they are almost a .500 team. They have every reason to think they can beat Philadelphia, and every reason to think that they won't.
With the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline three days away, perhaps the greatest complication that the Dodgers are facing is this: It will be for them to win the World Series as a wild-card team than it will be for them to become that wild-card team.
Think about it. In a short series, the Dodger pitching becomes even more difficult to contend with. A short series provides more rest for Brown, Hideo Nomo and Eric Gagne - a trio of pitchers that, right now, no team in the NL matches up with. The depth of the rotation - the Andy Ashby aspect - becomes a non-factor.
If the Dodgers made the playoffs, their first game will probably be against the team that they face this weekend, Atlanta - a team with the third-best EQA in the majors, but by one measure, only the 16th-best pitching. In other words, a team like St. Louis - only one that has arranged their scoring in a more efficient fashion.
The Dodgers would be underdogs, but just as they won four games out of six with the Cardinals this season, it is not impossible to imagine them riding their pitching to win one more game over Atlanta than they lose. And that's the thing - a playoff team can win the World Series by playing just one game over .500 per series.
No, the greater challenge for the Dodgers is making the playoffs. That requires the team to play much better than .500 ball. And it tests the Dodgers' non-existent depth.
I don't think the Dodgers can do it. With or without an improbable sweep of the Phillies this week, one that would pull the Dodgers within a half-game of the wild card, the Dodgers don't have playoff manpower on board or that they can acquire, given the state of the organization in 2003 and looking forward.
But the team won't be able to bring themselves to admit that. The wild card will seem within reach. And a World Series title will seem within reach - even more so. The temptation to make a move for a 2003 title run will be hard for anyone to suppress.
Once again, it will probably turn out badly. Once again, the Dodgers won't have been bad enough to become good.
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
L.A. 000 000 000 01 010 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 010 000 000-3
(And 44 innings, in case you don't feel like counting. A 0.61 ERA for each team.)
The Great Race Is Over
Remember when the Dodgers almost had more sacrifice hits than home runs?
On June 5, it was 35 homers, 32 sacrifices, and a great embarrassment hovered within sight. Since then, the Dodger sluggers (withhold laughter) have outdone the bunters, 34-11.
Maybe Odalis Perez's problem was that he spoke to American reporters.
Once again coming up with an interesting tidbit that the Los Angeles papers missed, Lee Jenkins and Robert Kuwada of the Orange County Register write today that "Kazuhisa Ishii criticized catcher David Ross to Japanese reporters for his pitch selection in the seven-run sixth inning" of Wednesday's loss to the Rockies.
In discussing the event, Jenkins and Kuwada insightfully note that "although Ross admitted he called the wrong pitch to Rene Reyes, Ishii did not shake him off and declined to explain afterward."
Reports have emerged that the Dodger clubhouse was seething after that defeat, but apparently Thursday's 1-0 victory was enough to defuse the tension. One day at a time, I guess.
"What happened was bad," Ishii said to the Register. "But I don't want to answer any questions about it. It's over."
Until tonight, at least. Perez takes the mound, coming off consecutive starts in which he allowed a combined 11 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings.
But those struggles came against the awesome St. Louis Cardinal lineup, which Baseball Prospectus says has the second-best offense in the majors. Prior to that, Perez shut out tonight's foe, the Diamondbacks, on three hits and no walks over eight innings. Arizona is ranked 20th.
Call Him Up
Is it possible - two days in a row with a Calvin Murray reference?
Tonight, the Dodgers face future Hall-of-Famer and current 1-game winner Randy Johnson. Murray, the Dodgers' AAA outfielder, is 6 for 15 lifetime against Johnson with two doubles and a home run.
How much does Johnson fear Murray? Johnson fears Murray like a childhood nightmare that he no longer remembers but one day could pop back into his consciousness and inflict terror the likes of which he has never experienced except on occasion, terror which if nothing else Johnson would possibly prefer to, well, eschew.
Ah, the sweet wretched refuse ...
As of today, no hitter on the Dodger bench started the season with the team.
If I made one accurate prediction this year, it was that the amount of time and energy people spent discussing who would make the back end of the Dodger roster would be time and energy wasted on players who would have next-to-no impact.
Nonetheless, on March 14, I took a mid-March look at who would make the Dodgers 25-man roster. At the time, Rodney Myers was ranked 41st on my list out of 41 players.
My comment on the guy above him, Calvin Maduro, was, "Filler for Las Vegas." Myers merited only a "Ditto."
Well, Maduro ended up becoming a Newark Bears teammate of Rickey Henderson, but Myers is now here, following Larry Barnes, David Ross, Steve Colyer, Chin-Feng Chen, Chad Hermansen, Wilkin Ruan, Alfredo Gonzalez and Victor Alvarez as players who answered affirmatively to my question, "See You Midseason?"
(For what it's worth, however, I ranked Tom Martin below all those guys. Who'd have thought he'd be the most impactfulescent of them all?)
Now, we're just waiting for Koyie Hill, Lindsay Gulin and Chris Clapinski. Not to mention spring hitting sensation Calvin Murray.
What of Quilvio Veras, you might ask? His last recorded statistics are with Estrellas, a Dominican Winter League Team. His stats on Baseball America indicate they were updated May 8, but I don't think that date reflects the league actually playing at that time. So after nearly making the Dodgers, Veras may have just quietly called it quits.
Rickey Henderson's average is down to .192, which isn't shocking. Drawing no walks in seven games, though, just shows you that nothing is sacred.
Baseball's all-time leader in walks had one seven-game streak in 2002 without drawing one - nothing longer. Nothing longer in 2001 as well, and I'm going to hazard a wild guess that if he doesn't walk in his next game, that will be the longest such streak of his 25-year career.
In 25 at-bats with the Dodgers, Henderson has had only three three-ball counts - and none at 3-0 or 3-1. Here are the counts on which his at-bats have ended:
So far, for all of Rickey's knowledge of the strike zone, and even with him remaining a home-run threat, pitchers have been attacking him, getting ahead on the count. The ball still jumps off Henderson's bat, but so far, most of the time, it's jumping right into opposing gloves.
I didn't expect Rickey to run wild on the bases, but him not walking is like Wayne Brady not improvising. That's his game.
As in, The End Is ...
After today's 12:10 p.m. game against Colorado, the Dodgers voyage to Arizona and Philadelphia to play six games in seven days against their top two rivals for the National League Wild Card. Those games take the Dodgers to the July 31 trading deadline.
Though that wall we all know and love may have some writing on it, there is really no need to rush to judgment before those games are played out. But should the trip go poorly for the Dodgers, should they fall to a .500 record and find themselves seven or eight or nine games out of the wild card race, will they have the courage to concede the 2003 season and prepare for 2004?
News: Jesse Orosco traded to the Yankees
And here we are, World Series, Game 7...
At the plate, 44-year-old Rickey Henderson ...
On the mound, 46-year-old Jesse Orosco ...
The duel we've been waiting for all our lives. And then some ...
At the Corner of Thunder Road and Stadium Way
Talk about two great tastes that taste great together.
Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band are coming to Dodger Stadium on Sunday, August 17. Ticket sales begin (and, no doubt, end) Monday.
Did I call this, in a weird way? I doubt they'll play Wreck on the Highway, but in the shadow of lost seasons since 1988, you can bet the Dodger farm on Glory Days.
My Springsteen attendance record is as follows:
Sigh. It's so hard to be a saint when you're just a boy out on the street.
Ph.D in Rickey
I was only halfway through Aaron Gleeman's doctoral disseration on Rickey Henderson when I realized I would have to link to it. Then, at the end, came the twist - Aaron had chosen Dodger Thoughts as his Link of the Day. So double thanks, Aaron - for the recognition and for the great article.
Since I'm passing out the thankuze on this anniversary celebration, I'd also like to send some to my friends in the baseball blogging world - particularly John Wiebe at John's Dodger Blog, Christian Ruzich at The Cub Reporter, Michael at View From the 700 Level, Alex Belth at Bronx Banter and Gregg Rosenthal at Gregg's Baseball, Etc. Their links, along with links to other great blogs, are in the right-hand column - check them out and say hi to them for me.
And to Robert at Priorities and Frivolities: Goodness gracious! Get well soon.
Dodger Thoughts: 1.003 Years Later
The first post was writ as humble as the pie the Dodgers have been eating for the past 14 1/2 years:
Sunday, July 21, 2002The next day, 1.000 years ago, I wrote my inaugural "State of the Dodgers" address. Fascinatingly, the team has changed so little in the past year that I could pretty much rerun that column as fresh material today (which, essentially, is what I'm going to do).
Some excerpts from July 22, 2002:
So, with a Dodger team that overachieved in the first half of the season and has underachieved in the second half, what do you do?You kind of get the feeling that I might get a few more years out of those paragraphs. But in the midst of these eightysomething win seasons, there have been the emotional highs and lows that have made this site the therapeutic outlet I was looking for. I hope it's provided some enjoyment for the rest of you.
At the intersection of Memory Lane and Stadium Way, here are my favorite entries:
The Record They Broke
Here's the boxscore from the previous Dodger Stadium home run record. When the scoreboard announced Sunday that this record had been broken, I recalled the 1979 game, which I listened to on the radio, and realized this: Apparently, you don't set this record without a pitcher hitting a home run. Rick Sutcliffe then, Woody Williams now.
Final score went a little more the Dodgers' way then, however.
Beltre for Mora Rumors
I'm not passing on this rumor because I believe it will happen, but for the subtext. Ken Rosenthal of The Sporting News reports:
The Dodgers continue to target Melvin Mora, and the Orioles might be willing to take third baseman Adrian Beltre if they also received quality prospects in the deal.I think my cheek is actually quivering as I read this. Beltre could benefit from a different hitting instructor? Hmm - where have I heard that one before?
Rosenthal also passes along this story - seems apocryphal but I'll take it at face value.
Baseball men often will say of a washed-up player, "You couldn't trade him for a bag of balls." Technically, the Dodgers didn't trade for Rickey Henderson. But they did give up a bag of balls.
She will only be 10 months Tuesday, but my daughter has already established solid credentials in the game.
Making her third appearance of the season, she has yet to be outlasted by any starting pitcher she has seen all year, going 7 1/2 innings on Opening Day, 9 innings in May (admittedly, during a rapid-fire Kevin Brown complete game) and now 7 2/3 innings in a long slugfest.
She did start to suffer a small meltdown in the bottom of the eighth Sunday, enough that we decided to remove her from the game in the middle of an at-bat - with the count 0-2 to Adrian Beltre. However, she did see Beltre hit the Dodger Stadium record ninth home run before we headed off.
What a gamer.
As for me ... if there are any of you at all who pay attention to the "Games Jon Attended" standings, you may have noticed my big slump. Despite the Dodgers' overall .540 record at home, I've fallen to 7-8, and am winless since May.
You Earned It
Jocular were the St. Louis Cardinal fans that sat in the next aisle. And jockle they did after one of them caught a foul ball off a Redbird bat in the second inning with a single bare hand.
At first, an unaffiliated guy nearby started yelling for the fan to throw the ball back - until realizing that the Cardinal fan would want to keep a ball from one of his boys. Then, a guy from within the St. Louis Fan Clan exhorted this fan, who had made a terrific catch, to give the ball to a kid. In fact, he started an entire cheer that gained bipartisan Dodger/Cardinal fan participation - "Give it to a kid!"
I can't say that I understand the Oliver Twist element here at all. While it's cool to get any ball that was actually used in a major-league game, the value of catching the ball yourself trumps all associated values.
Plus, a "kid" has the rest of his or her life to get a ball. Who knows if a grown man will ever get another shot at one?
The guy kept his ball, and I was glad.
Five innings later, a foul ball came to the stands - in almost the exact same spot - and our new friend who had campaigned for the ball giveaway before was the guy who caught it now. The crowd immediately rose up to see if he would live up to his politics. And he did. He even eschewed a middle-aged kid (that would be a teenager) and found a true tyke.
More power to him, I guess. But for me, no amount of cheers or jeers will pry that treasure from my hands.
Players who were not on the 25-man-roster when the season began - Rickey Henderson, Jeromy Burnitz and David Ross - hit the first four of the five Dodger home runs Sunday.
Henderson has extended his godsend streak into Week 2 - providing not only a lift on the field, but the biggest excitement for the fans outside of an Eric Gagne appearance.
And the trivia! Here are two great Henderson items to take with you:
Burnitz, meanwhile, does look like he can hit the ball, but his outfield play remains a question. He's already making errors, and on plays I wasn't even worried about - balls hit in front of him.
Sunday, Jim Tracy backed off the idea of moving Shawn Green to first base when Dave Roberts returns - on the theory that Green has too much to worry about at the plate to take on a position change. This strikes me as hogwash - will a position change actually make Green more disappointing at the plate?
An alternate theory would posit that Green would be galvanized by making a move that might help the team. Because while Dave Roberts may not return at full-strength offensively, the Dodgers could really use his defense.
No, Rickey probably can't play every day - I disagree with Bill Plaschke's column Sunday that argued that the 95-degree heat was no excuse to keep Henderson on the bench - but the Dodgers probably will not want to bench Henderson too many games.
Until there is a new McGriff sighting, I think the choice of how to align the Dodgers when Roberts comes back comes down to whether you think the Dodgers will benefit more from having Roberts' defense in the lineup, or Ross' bat, since he would be the domino that topples on a Green move to first base.
I'll accept the idea that given the Dodgers' offensive needs, Roberts' defense isn't supremely important, but I'm sorry, I won't accept that the Dodgers' $15-million man can't handle a move to the easiest of all defensive positions.
How About a Little Pitching to Support That Offense
So we arrived at twilight Sunday expecting to see a sedate little opera, and instead we got Tommy.
Nine home runs - a Dodger Stadium record. And using your Dr. Hindsight goggles, you can see how it would happen. The vestiges of a warm, humid week. Odalis Perez pitching like a pyromaniac, Woody Williams flaunting his lead like a lottery-winner tipping with hundreds.
Most of all, you realize that the St. Louis Cardinals are more like Coors Field than Coors Field itself. They're like a high-altitude road show - snowflake pitching backed by an avalanche lineup.
Albert Pujols - forget it. And Scott Rolen - boy, did I underestimate him when the Rolen-to-Dodgers rumors flew last year. Sunday night, Pujols and Rolen scored six runs on three hits.
And Edgar Renteria - their shortstop, batting fifth - I now get Edgar Renteria. He puts up great numbers on offense and backs it by fielding like a dreamboat.
Not that the Dodgers didn't put on a show of their own, but you have to put in context with their opponent. I guarantee that when the Rockies arrive in town today, the offensive fireworks will defuse. I'm so confident, I'm not even going to look up statistics that will support my case and make it more credible to you, the discerning reader :)
Time to Revisit the Shuey Trade - But Not Today
Evaluating the Dodgers' acquisition of Paul Shuey became more complicated Friday, when the Cleveland Indians' traded former Dodger prospect Ricardo Rodriguez, along with outfielder Shane Spencer, to the Texas Rangers for outfielder Ryan Ludwick.
I hope to look at all this sometime soon - but I just don't have time right now. In general, you may have noticed that my entries in the past week have become more rushed. The reasons: a very busy time at work, and the recent development of my daughter into a crawler and pull-herself-upper. I hope you'll bear with me as I try to get ahold of my schedule without sacrificing these primary needs.
Heck - I couldn't even pause long enough to make that last sentence as articulate as I wanted it to be.
Thanks for understanding.
The Price of Admission
Sometimes, you get rewarded for staying home. Though Friday's Dodger game may have been one of the most entertaining of the season, it was fun to be able to see the TV coverage in the Dodger dugout of Rickey Henderson playfully demonstrating his home run swing to his new teammates. The festivities even encouraged Kevin Brown to show off, of all things, his home run swing - a little Air Home Run competition, if you get the idea.
I Like Mine with Relish
Two observations I made during the 23 pitches Rickey Henderson saw in his Dodger debut Thursday night.
One, Rickey periodically stretches his mouth wide open like he's warming up to swallow a hedgehog.
Two, his swing still has a snap like a Gray's Papaya hot dog.
Insert Play on Words Using the Word "First" Here
It's funny - sometimes I just check the Dodger coverage of the Orange County Register as an afterthought. Nothing against the paper, but with the Angels as its local team, the Register doesn't devote a lot of space to the team up the Golden State Freeway.
Concise or not, beat writer Robert Kuwada sometimes hits more relevant territory than some of his competitors. Today, Kuwada reports that Shawn Green will start playing first base sooner than people might expect (perhaps before Mike Piazza, I might add).
Sad but poetic, the Register now requires registration. But for complete Dodger coverage, it may well be worth it.
Ironically, Green on Thursday made perhaps the nicest catch I've seen him make all season - a sliding grab of Scott Rolen's shallow fly with one on and two out in the eighth.
You've Got Gas
I got a kick out Bob Pool's article in the Times Thursday on the Union 76 station in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. In case you missed it, click here.
I take it that the price of Dodger Gas hasn't risen the way the price of a Dodger Dog has.
Reflected in the Spotlight
Dodger outfielders: Shawn Green, Jeromy Burnitz, Rickey Henderson, Mike Kinkade, Paul Lo Duca, Jolbert Cabrera.
Dodger third basemen: Adrian Beltre.
While all eyes will be on Burnitz and Henderson beginning tonight, in one respect, their arrival in Los Angeles has made Beltre even more pivotal.
Beltre's on-base percentage, a sorry .286, is at its highest level since he went 2 for 4 on Opening Day in Arizona. I leave it to you to decide whether that makes your hot corner 1/4-full or 3/4-empty.
Should Henderson or Burnitz falter, the Dodger outfield could fall back on Cabrera, Kinkade and Lo Duca (which is to say, Dave Ross catching so Lo Duca can play outfield) - all of whom have are at least average major league hitters in 2003. If and when Dave Roberts and Fred McGriff return from injuries, even more options will be available. Dodger manager Jim Tracy will have plenty of opportunities to mix and match combinations.
But barring a trade, there is still no alternative to Beltre, the guy I continue to pull for more than any other Dodger. He's become my Timmy Lupus. And eventually, the camera is going to focus back on him.
A Super Week for Clark Kent
In November 1989, the Daily News promoted me from 29-hour-a-week part-timer to full-time status. My first assignment after the promotion was to do a feature on a senior swingman for the Kennedy High School basketball team in Granada Hills. Not only was the guy a 20-plus-points-per-game scorer, but he had also hit a game-winning home run as a junior in the City 4-A baseball championship.
The guy wasn't talkative, but he was polite. I massaged a decent story out of it, concocting some sort of Superman theme: mild-mannered on the outside, but heroic when it counted.
I'm gonna cut to the chase because this is a busy day at work - the guy was, and is, Garret Anderson. And I'm amazed at his calm evolution into a true baseball star. I've covered plenty of guys who have since made it big - heck, I once took a final exam with Mike Mussina in an Omaha hotel conference room during the '88 College World Series - but the idea that my first story as a full-timer, that soft-spoken guy I interviewed in the Kennedy gym, is the reigning Home Run Derby champ and All-Star Game MVP, 14 years later? It really makes me happy. Guess it would have been cooler if I had been in Chicago this week to cover it all, but what can you do?
Way to go, Garret.
Correction: Bob Timmermann of the History Department at the Los Angeles Pubilc Library writes:
Jon,Thanks, Bob. I'm sorry for the mistake, but am going to believe/hope that I had it right back in '89.
Will Someone Please Think of the Children?
And here I was, preoccupied with the parents here in Los Angeles. Sadly, Monday's trade was more costly than we realized, according to the Florida Times-Union:
"The Jacksonville Suns' prospects for a second-half Southern League title took a big hit yesterday when the Los Angeles Dodgers traded second baseman Victor Diaz and pitcher Jose Diaz (no relation) to the New York Mets for outfielder Jeromy Burnitz."
Jeff Elliott writes that Victor Diaz "was named the Southern League All-Star Game's Most Valuable Player on Tuesday after hitting a two-run home run and a single at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville." Hope the Suns didn't plan a bobblehead night for him.
Meanwhile, the New York Post makes Joselo Diaz out to be something of a child - although isn't that the pot calling the kettle ebony:
July 15, 2003 -- Newly acquired minor league pitcher Joselo Diaz overslept and missed a start when the Vero Beach Dodgers were - ironically enough - facing the St. Lucie Mets a month ago, The Post has learned.
Save and Sane
Andrew Baggarly of the Riverside Press-Enterprise had two interesting notes today.
The first note was that both Paul Quantrill and Tom Martin each appeared in their sixth consecutive game Sunday, something that no major-league pitcher did last season.
It wasn't exactly punishing work for Quantrill (74 pitches) and Martin (61 pitches), so I wouldn't make too big a deal out of the exertion, especially with the All-Star break beginning today.
At the same time, that looming All-Star break should have made the Dodgers more liberal with their use of the well-rested Eric Gagne. With the bases loaded and one out in an eighth-inning tie Friday in Colorado, Gagne should have been brought in to pitch instead of Quantrill.
Yes, Canada's other pride did throw a borderline 3-2 pitch that could have gotten him the strikeout he needed, instead of the walk he abhorred, but I still would have gone with someone less likely to go to 3-2 in the first place and someone more likely to blow two batters away in a tie game.
And please, don't give me that nonsense about it not being a save situation again. Tie or not, that was the biggest save situation of the game.
Essentially, to go into Colorado on a Friday, knowing that your best pitcher will not be pitching Monday or Wednesday at a minimum, and only use him for one inning, is a waste - one that might have cost the Dodgers a game.
The second note was this: although March hope Joe Thurston has been making progress at the plate, he is a remarkable 0 for 10 in stolen base attempts this season. Thurston's OPS at Las Vegas, I might add, is still an unremarkable .718.
Baggarly writes, "Though GM Dan Evans said that several teams inquired about Thurston last year, the Dodgers couldn't give away the second baseman now." I don't believe that literally, but the sentiment is understood.
Joey Ballgame and David Eckstein are struggling. It's a rough year for Team Moxie.
Do the Giants Have the Pitching?
San Francisco strengthened its bullpen late Sunday by acquiring former Dodger Matt Herges from San Diego. This is Herges' fifth National League team in 16 months.
Not that every little bit might now help, but if I were the Giants, I'd be more worried about their starting pitching behind Jason Schmidt than their bullpen. The ERA for San Francisco starters is 4.09 - including Schmidt's 2.37. The Giants' bullpen ERA is 3.70.
Either way, the Giants have real pitching worries. Their ERA away from pitching-friendly Pac Bell Park is 4.41. Of course, the San Francisco offense still packs a punch.
Arizona is looking pretty ship-shape these days, but here are two quick thoughts on what might stop Arizona from completing its comeback and winning the National League West: 1) Randy Johnson struggles like Kevin Brown 2002. 2) The rookies that have led the Diamondbacks' rally to this point fade as opponents figure out their weaknesses, and the veterans aren't able to keep up the slack.
The race isn't over for the Dodgers, but they do need some serious dominos to fall in line.
New Blood - First Reaction
I am irrationally jazzed about Rickey.
That the 44-year-old Hall-of-Famer-to-be is a no-lose pickup for the Dodgers has been discussed here at length. (Here and here, for example.) Henderson may struggle to hit .200, but he will walk, and he will spark. Think about this: the man will be perhaps the greatest offensive player ever to wear a Dodger uniform (challenging Frank Robinson, among others, for that award). No, he's not that player on the field any more, but he's not Rafael Landestoy, either.
And does anyone love the game more than Rickey does? He may not win the Dodgers a playoff berth, but he adds juice - and for the major-league minimum salary. Truly one of the most exciting Dodger acquisitions in my memory - no matter what he does.
Jeromy Burnitz - well, let's say at a minimum, my excitement is a little more adulterated. Here are some quick thoughts. I'm hoping Rob Neyer, Aaron Gleeman or one of the other smart guys out there will come through with some hardcore analysis of the trade, but until then, here are the initial reactions inside Weismandom.
1. Initial reaction: Ugh. That was based on the misery of his 2002 season, in which he OPSed .668 for the New York Mets.
2. Subsequent reaction: Hmm. Based on the fact that Burnitz has turned it around this year. No, he hasn't made the Mets a contender, but he has OPSed .925, with 18 home runs - eight more than any Dodger has in 2003. Pretty impressive turnaround at age 34.
3. EQA, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus: .300. That's higher than every Dodger except slugging Guillermo Mota (.353). Paul Lo Duca leads the Dodgers at .285. Brian Jordan is second at .282. Shawn Green is down at .262 - near the major league average. If Burnitz keeps it above .300, that would be enough to make a difference.
4. Yep, he really does spell it "Jeromy."
5. Who did the Dodgers give up? Three guys, 23 or younger, that might be major leaguers in 2005 or 2006, but none with stardom ensured. Two of them are pitchers, but even though John Wiebe quickly e-mailed me to say that both are striking out nearly a man per inning, I think he would agree that none projects as a frontline starter. Meanwhile, Victor Diaz is a decent-hitting second baseman, perhaps a better prospect than Joe Thurston, but I don't know if you can go much further. Put simply, in recent years, Los Angeles has traded better prospects than this.
6. The Dodgers only have to pay $2 million of Burnitz's salary, and he'll be a free agent at the end of the season, which means they might get at least one draft pick in compensation. (I'm a little hazy on the current state of those rules - feel free to write me with a clarification.)
7. Burnitz doesn't have the upside of a Brian Giles, or even an Aubrey Huff, but the Dodgers didn't have to give up Odalis Perez to get him. (Robert Tagorda compares Burnitz to Giles at Priorities and Frivolities, also noting Burnitz's poor performance historically at Dodger Stadium.) Is Perez + Burnitz > Giles? Maybe not, but you can make the case.
8. Burnitz has crushed right-handed pitching this season - thank God the Dodgers attended to that need. Burnitz's OPS vs. RHP in 2003: 1.001.
9. Against lefties, he is at .774, which isn't bad by Dodger standards. However, those are good days to make sure Mike Kinkade - or Henderson - is in the lineup. (See #12.)
10. Burnitz also has a dramatic home-road OPS split: .718 at home, 1.136 on the road.
11. Major downside #1: Burnitz doesn't walk anymore. Although he drew 99 walks in 2000, his totals have declined to 80 in 2001, 58 in 2002 and only 21 in 2003. Burnitz was out for a month (April 22 - May 23) after a pitch broke a bone in his left hand, that's still not a lot of walks for a team that needs them. His OBP, .344, is nothing spectacular.
12. Major downside #2: his defense. Burnitz has become a liability in the outfield - and until Dave Roberts returns, might even be asked to play some center. A defense of Green in right, Burnitz in center and Lo Duca/Kinkade/Henderson? Man, the Dodgers had better keep the ball on the ground. Another reason to sit Burnitz against lefties.
13. Before Roberts or Fred McGriff come back, the Dodgers still don't have a lot of lineup flexibility against righties. On days that Henderson does not play, you might still see Cesar Izturis or Alex Cora up high, where they don't belong. But by August, perhaps you'll see something like this.
Roberts, CF Lo Duca, C Green, RF Burnitz, LF McGriff, 1B Beltre, 3B Cora, 2B Izturis, SS
Henderson, LF Roberts, CF Green, RF Lo Duca, C McGriff, 1B Beltre, 3B Cabrera, 2B Cora, SS
Even putting my excitement about Rickey's intangibles aside, I'm probably way too optimistic about him. He wouldn't help every team, but boy, I do think he helps the Dodgers. The Dodgers got an OBP guy and an HR guy, and still have the same pitching. I'm not usually very positive about midseason trades by the Dodgers, but I think they've found a balance between the needs of 2003 and the needs of 2005. Did they get enough for the three prospects they gave up? I don't know, but I think they're in the ballpark.
I can already feel the buzz coming when the season resumes Thursday. Never would have imagined that Rickey Henderson would someday be a Dodger. And never would have imagined that a guy like Jeromy Burnitz could actually help a team I'm rooting for by playing for it, as opposed to stiffing against it. But such is the state of the extremely strange Dodgers.
Answered and AskedSo it looks like hitting coach Jack Clark will be sticking around for a while. Fair enough.
But what was he getting at with these comments to Jason Reid in the Times today?
"Some of my frustrations were because of a lot of the ways things were handled personally with me, where I was told things were going to happen for me, and they never [did]," Clark said. "The reasons why? I never knew. All I knew was, I just never got phone calls returned. I never got answers for things, for what was going on, so I could make decisions in my own life.No follow-up explanation came from Reid, so I guess the Secret Story of Dan Evans will wait to be revealed another day. And maybe it should stay secret, for all I know. But if it is meant to be private, why would Clark tease Reid and Reid's readers like this?
Evans isn't returning phone calls because of some "things he had going on from the move from Chicago." That move was more than two years ago. Don't you find that strange?
Ill-Winds on the Mondesi Front
Looks like the rejuvenation of Raul Mondesi has come up short, according to this New York Times article.
Please know that all my sincere best wishes go to Ron Coomer. According to Ken Gurnick at MLB.com:
Utilityman Ron Coomer will fly to Minneapolis Friday for further tests on the cause of blurred vision and pain in his jaw.The fact that such conditions had to be ruled out is frightening - so frightening that I will resist the urge to joke that what Dan Evans told Gurnick was more frightening. I'll just say it's strange.
According to Gurnick:
General Manager Dan Evans said Coomer's uncertain availability impacts his approach in trade talks, but not as much as the official news that Jordan is done for the year.I'm really, really sorry, but could Coomer really have any impact on a single trade talk, trade whisper or trade scrawl on a napkin?
Anyway, best wishes, Ron.
The Clark Bar
I didn't expect such a big news day today, otherwise I would have held out on revisiting Jack Clark. But on Thursday, I got great feedback on the past, present and future of Dodger hitting coach Jack Clark, and I don't see any compelling reason to hold back on it. So let's get to it.
From Kent Whitaker of Newcastle, Maine (the only person in his county who wears a Dodger cap, he says):
...a quick thought about replacing Jack Clark. If the team doesn't significantly improve in the second half, I'm all for letting him go. I wonder if Rick Down would be available (hitting coach for NYY). He was with the Red Sox last year and seems to have a good track record. Did Ron Jackson leave the Las Vegas 51s to become the Red Sox hitting coach this year? The Sox are hitting close to .300 as a team right now. That isn't too shabby.Down is quite an interesting nomination, to say the least; he was the Dodger hitting coach in 1999-2000 under Davey Johnson and the runner-up to Jim Tracy to replace Johnson as manager. In those two seasons - admittedly with some different personnel, like Gary Sheffield - the Dodgers hit 187 and 211 home runs and had OPSeses of .759 and .772. I wonder how Tracy and Down would get along...
Here's letter No. 2, from Clay Landon of Los Angeles:
... Lots of rhetoric here, only a little research - so you might want to edit judiciously. (Editor's note: just touched up a word here and there.)Clay makes convincing points to me everywhere but his last paragraph. Fun is a judgment call, but Garvey's resume offers little indication he could nurture some more on-base percentage out of the Dodgers. But that's a quibble - I thought it was a terrific letter.
I also sought opinions about batting coaches at Baseball Primer's Clutch Hits. Here are some selected postings:
The Texas Ranger's Rudy Jaramillo also has stellar reputation, given his work with (currently) Hank Blalock, Michael Young, as well as Juan Gonzalez, A-Rod (with whom he spent 8 years working on his swing) Jeff Bagwell, Sammy Sosa et al. (Hell, he got Gabe Kapler to hit in 28 straight games - and for that he is a genius.) That all of those players go out of their way to thank him is a pretty strong endorsement.And from "Rally Monkey":
Jack Clark the hitter:Jack Clark the hitting coach::Joe Morgan the player:Joe Morgan the broadcaster?What I am relieved to find in this discussion is that the question of who should be the Dodger hitting coach should not be dismissed. There are alternatives to consider.
To me, the most compelling reason to retain Clark is that the best candidate may not be available in midseason. I don't know that an interim hitting coach would be helpful to the Dodgers.
Part of me also thinks that perhaps Clark shouldn't be judged until the end of the season. But who else in baseball has that luxury? Do the players? Does the general manager? If the Dodgers were last in the league in wins, would Tracy's job be safe?
I sympathize that Clark was hurt badly this spring, but I also question his thought process in taking a motorcycle ride without a helmet just before Opening Day. The accident wasn't his fault, but he certainly could have mitigated the outcome.
The Dodgers scored some runs in St. Louis, and figure to score some more in Colorado. But let's see how they do when they get back to Dodger Stadium. If the Dodgers are serious about trying to win in 2003 - if they make a move toward that end - than I still don't think I see how you can justify having that offense managed by Jack Clark.
This question is not independent of ones like the Odalis Perez-Brian Giles question. All of the Dodgers' moves need to reflect a consistent direction.
Odalis on the Block
The Dodgers continue to test-offer Odalis Perez in trade for a slugger. Perez has been apparently been offered to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for star outfielder Brian Giles, the Times reports today.
The Pirates, who are only 6 1/2 games out of first place in the strangely weak National League Central Division, are holding out for the Dodgers to add two top pitching prospects, Edwin Jackson and Greg Miller.
The pros and cons of a trade like this are well-trod in this space - is the present so promising that the future should be plundered? Are you into deficit spending?
I will say this - Giles would be under contract at a reasonable value through 2005 - this is no rent-a-player boondoggle. And with Perez's injury history and somewhat inconsistent performance in 2003, there is reason to wonder whether he will perform as well as Giles over the next 2 1/2 years.
In the Long Beach Press Telegram, Bob Keisser takes an unusual position for a newspaper columnist covering the Dodgers in midseason. He actually says that it's time for the Dodgers to rebuild.
Keisser expands on a longtime belief of mine: not only that the Dodgers need to rebuild at some point, but that Dodger fans will accept a rebuilding plan if it's laid out for them. They will accept any direction as long as there's some direction - it's the annual misdirection that is so frustrating. Writes Keisser:
Dodgers fans get blasted for a variety of things, but they're not stupid. They're booing because they know a team with postseason ability when they see one, and they don't see one. In a way, management is almost mocking Dodger fans with this charade. A fan will tolerate a lineup featuring names like Kinkade, Coomer, Ward and Cabrera if they know it's a step on the road back, but not when someone is selling it as a contender for October.The Dodgers need to get their timing together. Can they envision replacing the youth and reasonable salary of Perez in the starting rotation, or will they be simply be exchanging one problem for another, creating a big hole in an aging rotation that they don't have the prospects to fill?
My sense is that the Dodgers will not become a World Series team unless, at least one time, they make decisions that prioritize "next season" over "this season." Brian Giles is a great player, but with the current talent level on this team, I don't know that he can put the Dodgers over the top. And though he may continue to be productive in coming years, he's going to need a supporting cast.
If you subtract Perez from the Dodger starting rotation, it has no current member whom you can project contributing in 2005. Ashby and Alvarez - no way. Brown - dubious with his age and recent injuries. Nomo - great now, but as great as he's ever going to be; all downhill from here. That means you might need to come up with as many as five new starting pitchers in the next 20 months. And you're talking about trading away three candidates in Perez, Jackson and Miller.
I'm not sure it's worth it. I'd like to get Giles, but I think I'd need to hold out for a lower price.
If ever there was a day I've produced too much content, this is it. Hope I didn't sacrifice quality for quantity (assuming there was sacrificable quality to begin with).
Although real estate magnate Alan Casden is not the leading candidate to purchase the Dodgers, if you care at all - one way or another - about where the Dodgers play their home games, then you need to read Roger Vincent's A-section story on Casden in today's Times.
Dodger Bidder Would Raze Stadium, Put One Downtown
Even those who love Dodger Stadium as much as I do would admit that there are flaws to the Dodger Stadium experience. But do these flaws, cited by Casden to Vincent in this article ...
A downtown stadium could help solve some of these problems. As Vincent writes, "Dodger fans don't necessarily arrive late and leave early because they want to, [Casden said]; it's because nearly all of them arrive by car and must fight their way in and out of a few stadium entrances." Even if you have the experience using side routes into Dodger Stadium that I have, this is true (as I've written before).
However, any connection between other elements on the list and a stadium demolition are ridiculous. If the food is bad, you don't tear down the stadium - you reassign the catering contract. You don't tear down a stadium to fix a bathroom.
I don't want to be guilty of ignoring the weaknesses of Dodger Stadium. But the principal problem with the stadium is getting people to and from it efficiently. Whoever buys the Dodgers from News Corp. would be better served investing in solutions for these transportation issues than turning the Dodgers' home upside down.
The capital chaos that tearing down Dodger Stadium and building a new stadium elsewhere would bring is neither smart nor necessary.
Love and Kisses from Fresno
Gregg Rosenthal caught the Dodgers' AAA team, the Las Vegas 51s, in Fresno Wednesday night in the first game of his baseball-punctuated cross-country drive. Read about his fun day - including his star turn on the Fresno Stadium "Kiss Cam" at Gregg's Baseball, Etc.
While I'm at it, I'd like to throw some attention Aaron Gleeman's way. If bloggers were measured in OPS, Aaron would be up there with Albert Pujols. In particular, I'd check out the July 8 entry about Mike Cameron on Aaron's Baseball Blog.
All-Star MVP Outfielder Comes to Dodgers?
The odds that the Dodgers will acquire a ballplayer born in the 1950s continue to increase.
ESPN Insider led me to this article in the Newark Star-Ledger by Akilah Nelson, in which Dodger spokesman John Olguin is quoted as saying, "At this point, we have not committed a scout to watching (Rickey Henderson), but we may be looking at that option not too far down the road."
Nelson writes that the Dodgers would be the first team to show serious interest in Henderson, who was the MVP of Wednesday night's Atlantic League All-Star Game.
"The Dodgers are a respectable organization," Henderson told Nelson. "If they are interested in me, I am interested in them."
Note that Henderson used the first person in speaking about himself.
Meanwhile, one of the players that I identified on June 30 as a logical target for the Dodgers, Boston outfielder Trot Nixon, was nearly acquired by the Dodgers in a deal that would have sent Odalis Perez to the Red Sox, according to the Times. Nixon has hit four home runs in his past eight games. Did Kevin Brown's injury and/or Perez' near-no-hitter scuttle the deal? Or just a realization that trading your youngest starting pitcher was too scary.
Could Florida third baseman Mike Lowell reappear in the radar screen? Think about this - the worse he performs, the harder it will be for the Marlins to stay in the wild-card race and the less teams will have to offer in exchange. It's not the end of the world, but Lowell is hitless in his past 19 at-bats and 7 for his past 44 (.159 average) with six walks and two home runs. (His OPS in that stretch still cracks the .700 barrier, which is more than most Dodgers can say.)
You Might Want to Close Your Eyes, Ma'am
Last night I was out driving
As we wait for the last hubcap from this crash to spin silent, we may witness more historic catastrophe tonight.
No Los Angeles Dodger team has ever lost 14 out of 16 games, but on national cable television this evening in St. Louis, the 2003 edition can become the first.
In the midseason collapse that essentially cost the Dodgers a playoff berth in 2002, the Dodgers lost 12 out of 15 in July before rallying to finish 3 1/2 games out of the wild card. The Dodgers today sit the same 3 1/2 games out of the wild card, meaning any kind of rally at all will necessarily get them closer, but it takes a brave mind to look at this accident scene and conclude that their season hasn't been totaled.
And as such, I greet the new day.
Sometimes I sit up in the darkness
Reader Participation Time!
I am soliciting thoughts on what the Dodgers should do regarding their batting coach position.
Should Jack Clark be replaced or not?
If so, who should replace him and why?
Special points for those who can identify replacement candidates with real credentials. Find the Dodgers someone with a proven track record as a batting coach. Whenever teams need a new pitching coach or front office help, they hire Dave Wallace away from the Dodgers. (Seems like it happens every year.) So, who is the hitting equivalent of Dave Wallace that the Dodgers can grab?
At the same time, I will also be eager to see those who can make the case for keeping Clark.
Send your responses to ShiftyJ@aol.com. I hope to share the results on this site soon.
Don't be shy - the more responses I get, the better a dialogue we can have on this site. Thanks!
Dan Evans, to Ken Gurnick on MLB.com:
"Part of our problem is that we've got limited ability to make moves in the off-season because of emotional decisions of the past, so the decisions we make now won't be emotional."For more about "emotional problems," I urge you to consult this public service announcement, brought to you by the Kids in the Hall.
No. No One Is This Bad
The worst offensive team in baseball through June 30 has actually, truly, unbelievably, managed to find a way to slump in July.
The pitchers of four major league teams have an OPS in 2003 higher than .504.
The Dodgers will score more runs. The Dodgers will start to more games. How much more, I don't know. But seriously, what we're seeing simply is not real.
Invest in Rickey
Recent tumult in the markets has put Dodger stock (NLWEST: LAD) in jeopardy of being delisted from the divisional exchange, but the bears are holding out hope for a third-quarter rally.
On May 29, this headhunter suggested that the Dodgers consider bringing in some new blood: a seasoned white knight by the name of Rickey Henderson.
Today, with Dave Roberts and Brian Jordan out and Wilkin Ruan struggling (not that Ruan has been given enough time to succeed or fail), the Times reports that the Dodgers "are keeping an eye" on Henderson. The 44-year-old outfielder would sign for the major-league minimum.
Henderson's statistics with the independent Newark Bears - .349 average, .498 on-base percentage, .608 slugging percentage, 1.106 OPS - translate to a major-league equivalent average of .288. That is higher than any Dodger player except for Dave Ross. (Henderson's batting average is exactly the same as it was when I wrote about him six weeks ago.)
Shawn Green leads the Dodgers with 28 walks. Henderson could join the team tomorrow and probably end up as the team leader by season's end.
Henderson could lead off some games, threaten havoc of the bench in others. I'm all for testing out the youngbloods like Ruan, but with an offense that makes the prisoners in The Bridge on the River Kwai look fat and sassy, are you telling me that Henderson couldn't help?
Would signing Rickey smack of desperation? Yes.
Would it be a smart as hell? Yes.
Would it be fun as all get out? Yes.
A lot more fun than watching Fred McGriff not attain 500 home runs? Yes.
Good players, cheap. That's the stuff.
Nomo Should - and Will? - Be an All-Star
Hideo Nomo's omission from the All-Star team is glaring, and could easily have been avoided. Outfielder Brian Giles should have been Pittsburgh's representative instead of reliever Mike Williams, thus making room for Nomo. Preston Wilson of Colorado could have been dropped to make room for Giles.
Nomo, I suspect, will still make the team - in injured teammate Kevin Brown's spot. (Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus on Brown: "It's hard to gauge how his amazing pain tolerance will affect his comeback, but abdominal injuries are notoriously slow healers and there's no way to work around them.") There will be a huge movement to include Florida's Dontrelle Willis, who along with Nomo has been both a phenomenon and a success, but I expect the rosters to shuffle enough between now and July 15 to include both.
But we'll see. As my cousin James would say, "Weisman - you're always wrong."
In passing, I want to voice my support for including a representative from each team in the All-Star Game. It is my firm opinion that many people - especially younger fans - tune into the game first and foremost to see their team colors represented. With rosters of 32 per team, there's no reason this desire can't be accomodated. It's simply a matter of choosing the right guy.
Shawn Green got slammed for not diving for a ball hit to right field, and Glenn Hoffman got slammed for not waving Green home to score.
The slammers missed the point connecting the two events, and it's the same one I've been making since Game 2 this season: Green's speed is nothing but a memory.
If it still existed, Green would have been close enough to make a dive to save Odalis Perez's no-hitter, and Green would have been fast enough for Hoffman to send home without reservation.
Green still has an arm, and who knows, he may still have a bat, but his legs are going ... going ...
Rocking the Baseball World
Actually, Evans did make a trade, although it measures 1.1 on the Richter Scale.
Sunday, the Dodgers sent that inexplicable March pickup, Gookie Dawkins, to Kansas City for two minor leaguers: shortstop Victor Rodriguez and left-handed pitcher Scott Mullen.
According to Baseball Prospectus, Rodriguez has a higher Major League Equivalent Average than Dawkins, .225 to .216. However, Rodriguez is 2 1/2 years older. Mullen has a 4.41 ERA in 32 2/3 innings for AAA Omaha.
This Is Not Dan Evans' Mess
With emotions raw over the state of the Dodgers, let's remember that their problems are no overnight occurence.
When Dan Evans arrived in Los Angeles:
There is a dichotomy in the current era of major league baseball. Certain teams, such as the Yankees and Braves, make the playoffs every year. Other teams, such as the Diamondbacks and Twins, go from abysmal to accomplished in nothing flat.
The Dodgers are in the middle - and yes, it has all the feel of a treadmill. The team's makeup has evolved under Evans, to the point where its pitching is incredible and its hitting is indigestible, but the overall talent of the team remains roughly the same.
Though Evans does have the responsibility of improving that overall talent, it's simply unfair to deny the history working against him.
Is Evans alone among general managers in facing hurdles? Of course not. But are other GMs doing much better than he is in 2003? Not really.
The Chicago White Sox acquire Roberto Alomar and Carl Everett. Arizona acquires Shea Hillenbrand; the Red Sox acquire Byung-Hyun Kim. The mighty Yankees acquire ... Ruben Sierra and Karim Garcia? None of those moves will put a team into the playoffs.
The only way for the Dodgers to truly get better is to get good players cheap - primarily through smart drafting and smart signings. Kind of a difficult task in July. The trade market is sludge right now, and if Evans, who has made poor midseason trades in the past, doesn't see a deal that will help the overall talent level of the Dodgers, he is right to hold off - until the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, or until the offseason if need be.
No one thought the Dodgers entered 2003 with the most talent in baseball; not many more thought they would make the playoffs. Just because the talent that the Dodgers do have is distributed in an easily identifiable way doesn't change the lack of overall quality in the organization. This has been true since March: Any postseason success for the Dodgers in 2003 will be a premature gift. And that was the truth before the fragility of Dave Roberts, Fred McGriff, Brian Jordan, Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort asserted itself.
If there is a good trade to make, Evans should make it. But don't assume that there is one. This team has had problems to solve that go back years and years.
That Was a Happy Fourth
Many, many thanks to Larry Stewart of the Times for his kind writeup of this site July 4:
Sometimes, There Just Isn't a Door to Close
J.A. Adande of the Times this morning became the latest person to ask why Dodger closer Eric Gagne is being brought in when the Dodgers are tied or trailing.
The answer is simple. If the ninth inning arrives at a Dodger home game without a save situation, then there will never be a save situation. There can never be a lead to protect in extra innings when you're the home team.
So, if you're not willing to pitch Gagne in a tie game, you've banned your best relief pitcher from appearing the rest of the night. That's not a good long-term strategy.
As a secondary point in discussing Friday night's Dodger loss to the Diamondbacks, Adande raises a more legitimate question - should Gagne have been saved for the 10th to face the heart of the Arizona order, rather than being used against the bottom third of the order in the ninth. Maybe so. But if you're going to use that logic to start timing Gagne's appearances, then you should be willing to use Gagne even more flexibly throughout the game.
Basically, until this week, the Dodgers set-up relief has been the best in baseball. Were that not the case, however, then the best time to use Gagne would not necessarily be in a ninth-inning save situation, but the most pressure-packed situation, whatever the inning.
Nevertheless, many people have apparently decided that because Gagne has pitched poorly in a few non-save situations, that he should never be used at such times. Hmm. Since the Dodgers' last save situation for Gagne came June 21, I guess they should have sent him to Maui for a couple of weeks.
Let's look at Gagne's pitching in the 11 games in which he hasn't gotten a save:
Gagne's ERA in those games is 5.84 - not good. On the other hand, that one-third of an inning against Atlanta accounts for half the earned runs he has allowed. Remove that game, and Gagne's non-save ERA is 3.00. Gagne has pitched shutout ball in seven out of 11 non-save situations - hardly constituting a misuse of his abilities. The idea, as Adande writes, that Gagne "just seems out of his element in a non-save situation" is one I can understand Adande arriving at emotionally, but the numbers just don't support it. And even if Gagne were out of his element, he's still the best the Dodgers have.
As Vin Scully often points out, when Gagne allows runs to score, it's simply shocking because of how rare it is. But at some point, you need to snap out of it. One of the things that Dodger manager Jim Tracy has consistently done right this year has been his use of Gagne. I'm sure that Tracy would be all too glad to only use Gagne with a ninth-inning lead, but you can't wait forever for one to come.
Waxed On and Waxed Off
Flipping channels Thursday night during the first commercial after San Diego's Ryan Klesko hit his second big seventh-inning home run against the Dodgers this week, you might have come across Pat Morita attempting to catch a fly with chopsticks in The Karate Kid.
"Man who can catch fly with chopsticks can accomplish anything," Morita counsels Ralph Macchio. Of course, Morita's character, the old, wise Mr. Miyagi, had never reached this state of grace. And then Macchio's Daniel Russo, that little upstart, takes his own set of chopsticks and snatches a fly in about 10 seconds.
Seems like the Dodgers have been trying to catch that fly for quite some time now. It's getting to the point where you wouldn't be surprised to see the fly itself take two baseball bats, squeeze them together and pinch the Feeling Blue Wrecking Crew.
Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of the Padres' sweep of the Dodgers this week was the dominance of the San Diego bullpen. With Trevor Hoffman sidelined, the Padres entered the series with a bullpen ERA of 4.97 - more than twice as high as the Dodger bullpen ERA of 1.97. However, San Diego relievers pitched 9 1/3 innings of one-run ball, while their Dodger counterparts allowed five runs in 11 innings. These three losses were not a microcosm of the Dodger season - they were a mockery of it.
Padre relievers struck out only three in those 9 1/3 innings, indicating that the Dodgers were getting their chopsticks on the ball. Nevertheless, Los Angeles barely brushed the wings of the high-flying fifth-place Padres.
If Kevin Brown were to go on the disabled list, that would put two starting pitchers and two starting outfielders in storage, in an organization that has little depth to begin with. With the Dodgers clinging to playoff contention, the demand for a trade will resound like a sonic boom.
But it's a vicious cycle, man. The reason the Dodgers are always trying to crawl into the playoffs and not charging is because they have always sacrificed their future for their present. They have never felt bad enough about themselves to give up, and as inspiring as that is, it's also problematic.
I don't oppose a trade, but once more, I can't help wondering whether it wouldn't be better if the Dodgers, for once, were sellers at the trade deadline and not buyers. Don't you ever get tired of paying a mortgage, Daniel-san?
- Will Carroll, Baseball Prospectus.
The construction of the second sentence is a little awkward - the two thoughts within it wouldn't seem to require the word "while" - but the message is still a somber one.
Lowpoints of '88
At first glance, there were hardly any.
In all, the 1988 Dodgers had 10 losing streaks of three games, but nothing longer. They had five losing streaks of two games. That was it.
However, though happy memories of October prevail in our minds, there were stretches in '88 that vexed fans of the soon-to-be World Champions. Believe it or not, Franklin Stubbs, Jeff Hamilton and Alfredo Griffin didn't get the job done all the time.
From May 11 to May 22, the Dodgers went 3-8.
From June 6 to June 17, the Dodgers went 4-8.
From July 27 to August 9, the Dodgers went 3-9.
The rest of 1988, the Dodgers went 84-42 - .667 ball. I might add that they won the National League West despite, as a sign of things to come, a team OPS of .552 in September.
Having lost eight of their past nine games, the 2003 Dodgers are in their worst streak of the year. Tonight against the San Diego Padres, the Dodgers will field a lineup that will put the hallowed feebleness of the 1988 team to shame.
And yet somehow the 2003 team is one that has had winning streaks of 10 games and eight games.
This year's Dodgers are traffic-jam frustrating, but they sure are interesting. Count Rugen ("I'm sure you've discovered my deep and abiding interest in pain.") appears to have them on his Machine, draining one life away from them at a time.
All recent evidence to the contrary, I don't quite believe that Westley dies here.
Grimm Dodger Tales
Am I the last guy to figure out why managers kick dirt onto home plate? It wasn't until I saw home plate umpire Ted Barrett bend over to sweep away the dirt left behind by Jim Tracy's two swipes of the foot Tuesday night that I clued in. What a petulant if hoary baseball tradition that is...
Onto my typical schizophrenic recap ...
The Lumpy Bell Curve of Attendance: There are 48 seats in front of my row in the Loge Level of Dodger Stadium leading up to the Big Dropoff. Throughout the game, I charted the number of bodies filling them, to offer my faithful readers of when people arrive and depart.
7:03 - 05 (National Anthem)
Given the six runs the Padres scored in the top of the seventh, this section held it together pretty well. (If you're wondering why I haven't charted the bottom of the ninth, although I did stay until the end, please see the rule about leaving early in my previous entry, "We Show Up.")
Cannons & Peashooters: Ryan Klesko's leadoff home run in the seventh was estimated to be 449 feet. Also throughout the game, I charted the distance of every ball the Dodgers hit over the infield. Here's how they ranked:
*denotes a hit. WHAP stands for Weisman Halfway Accurate Projection.
Basically, for an entire game, as I feared and yet sickly hoped might happen at the outset of this experiment, no Dodger reached the warning track, and only a handful hit balls that would have left your average city park softball field.
The Dodger Stadium scoreboard noted that Padres pitcher Brian Lawrence led the National League in groundball outs in 2002 - so this is even less of a surprise.
They're On To You: Jolbert Cabrera, he of the eight hit-by-pitches in 160 plate appearances, ran to first base holding his elbow after an 0-2 pitch came too far inside in the bottom of the fifth. However, Barrett called him back to the plate. Barrett did not rule that Cabrera hadn't tried to get out of the way; he said that the pitch missed Cabrera entirely and called it a ball. Cabrera argued (joined by Tracy), then struck out.
It Loomed Large Then: With one out in the top of the sixth, Xavier Nady of the Padres on second base and the Velcro peeling away from the Dodgers' 1-0 lead, Donaldo Mendez hit a routine grounder to second baseman Alex Cora. Immediately, everyone assumed the play would be at first and Nady would advance. But Cora threw a BB past Nady and nabbed him at third. Great play - smart and well-executed.
Today's "Green Means Stop" Observation: In the bottom of the sixth, Green hit a grounder to Mendez, who sent a no-respect, slow, high lob to first base to put out the now-lumbering Dodger outfielder by two steps.
Vestiges of Optimism? In the top of the seventh, with Klesko's tying home run in the books and runners on first and third, the Dodgers played the infield back for Gary Bennett, ready to concede the go-ahead run and ask themselves to score three to win. I'm sure some people might have questioned this, but the offensive depression hasn't gone so far to my head that I did.
The Uniform Changes Everything: Fans largely booed San Diego's Dave Hansen, Dodger career leader in pinch hits, when he came up to bat in the seventh. Makes no sense to me - this guy did everything the Dodgers ever asked of him except hit in his one full-time opportunity in 1992. I'm sure glad Manny Mota didn't finish his career with another team.
Falling Further Down the Organizational Ladder? Dodger coach Glenn Hoffman served as the warmup catcher for Tom Martin in the top of the ninth.
Fast and Furious: I scoreboard-watched the Angels' 7-5 victory over the Rangers, and was amazed at how fast the innings flew by. The teams finished their 12-run, 16-hit game in 2:16.
Better than Jose Gonzalez, 1991: My attendance at the game was rewarded with a Jason Romano plate appearance. Called strike. Called strike. Whiff.
The Dodgers' post-game radio guest was: No one.
First of All
Happy July ...
Home runs by the Dodgers in 2003: 49
Home runs by the Dodgers in June: 15
Now that that's out of the way ...
The Dodgers are still a winning team.
Jim Tracy is right about that. No matter how you slice it, however exceptional you think the Dodger offense, the Dodger pitching has more characteristics of exception.
Can the Dodgers improve their team? Yes. We addressed that Monday. Improve, not save. The Dodgers don't need the sizzle of a Heather Locklear to boost their numbers. A solid talent like Phil Hartman, rest his soul, will do quite nicely. Or the unsung brilliance of a Brad Garrett, assuming Brad can hit right-handers. (Just make sure that the Dodgers don't acquire Ted McGinley.)
Today, let's remind ourselves that the three losses in a row and six out of seven are an aberration. There is an offense worse than the Dodgers, and it's that of Dodger opponents.
Dodger runs: 277
Dodger OBP: .306
Dodger SLG: .359
Dodger batter strikeouts: 469
Dodger pitchers whiff 2.3 extra batters per game - 8.3 per game total. That means that Dodger fielders only have to get about 18 outs per game, while the fielders of Dodger opponents have to get 20. Who wouldn't like to have two extra outs per game to work with?
Dodger ratio of ground balls allowed to fly balls allowed: 1.58
When Dodger pitchers do allow bat to hit ball into fair category, more often than not it is going in the neighborhood of three quality fielders: Adrian Beltre, Cesar Izturis and Alex Cora. The Dodgers are pitching to the team's strengths - 1) the strikeout, 2) the ground ball. That is a winning formula. That is Gatorade, not GatorGum.
Here's where it's going wrong: the two categories where the Dodger offense trails even Dodger opponents:
Dodger home runs: 49
Dodger walks: 202
The walks, of course, are mainly the fault of Kazuhisa Ishii and Hideo Nomo, who alone have freebied 110. Ishii has allowed 60 walks and 30 runs. I really want to research how many times that 2-1 ratio has been achieved in history. Ishii is the pitching equivalent of Eddie Gaedel. Imagine how many times Gaedel would have walked in a full-time career, and imagine how rarely he would have scored. Ishii may have an average personality off the field, but on the diamond he is truly a circus act.
How are these most negative of Dodger negatives this mitigated?
Dodger total bases via hits: 960
Dodger HBP + walks + SB - CS: 268
Still, the total of these categories is closer to break-even than someone rooting for a division winner might hope:
What does the above not include? Bases on errors, for one thing. Bases on sacrifices, extra bases on a hit and run, bases scored on a groundout. Those bases can make a difference. Something tells me that the Dodgers are less likely than their opponents to take an extra base on a single to the outfield to score a run, but more likely to get the strikeout they need to prevent a run.
If the Dodgers made no roster moves for the rest of the year, what would happen? Would the great pitching outlast the bad hitting? No one can answer conclusively. There is an explanation for both to continue, and there is an explanation for either to recede.
Change for the sake of change is the last thing the Dodgers need. Whatever new peg the Dodgers acquire should be a damn good fit. He needs to hit right-handed pitching. Period. Otherwise, don't even bother.
Because, believe it or not, the Dodgers are doing a lot of things right that you wouldn't want to mess up.
Jon Weisman's outlet
for dealing psychologically
with the Los Angeles Dodgers
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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