Monthly archives: November 2003
Not Even in a Coma and They're Pulling the Plug
In an article about NFL owners salivating over the land of Chavez Ravine for a football stadium, Billy Witz of the Daily News writes that there is "the widespread notion that Dodger Stadium is nearing obsolescence."
Widespread notion? Gimme a damn break. Where is the evidence that a new stadium is necessary? Or is this just a convenient phrase to fuel a movement as ill-conceived as any in Los Angeles?
Why does Witz take the need for a new stadium for granted?
Witz does note that prospective Dodger owner Frank McCourt 1) has made several trips to Los Angeles since the announcement he would purchase the team and 2) the purchase must be completed by January 31, but 3) McCourt is under a Major League Baseball-imposed gag order until the purchase is completed.
This gag order? Also tremendously ill-conceived. But at least Witz writes:
Although McCourt is prohibited from commenting, his representatives - who have talked on background with reporters - are quick to phone in protests whenever speculation about a new stadium is published.
"It's kind of laying out there -- is he going to tear down the stadium, sell the land and build a park downtown?" one person close to McCourt said. "None of those issues are under consideration. Coming in there, he has no intention of doing anything to Dodger Stadium. His immediate focus is on bringing the Dodgers back to a World Series and whatever it takes to get that done is his priority."
This is a great message. And whether or not you agree with that, it's an important message. This word needs to be spread, so that craggy notions about tearing down Dodger Stadium are efficiently nipped in the Bud.
Of course, there remains the question of can we trust this message.
Meanwhile, Witz is so preoccupied with exploring the teardown of the baseball stadium to build one for football, that he doesn't take the time to talk to talk to the many, many people of Los Angeles who would contradict his opening suggestion that Dodger Stadium is dying. Folks, that's the story.
Presenting the National League West
Curt Schilling's departure from Arizona to Boston has altered the landscape of the National League West. But if you're like me, with so many departures from NL West teams already having occurred, that landscape is starting to go Monet on you.
To get things back into focus, please find below a grid of what the Opening Day rosters of the NL West teams look like today. I plan to update this grid as much as possible, so that you rosterfarians always have an overview of the division.
Because these rosters are current, they include players who might not be tendered 2004 contracts. So for now, Adrian Beltre is still a Dodger.
However, the rosters do not include any free agents, even those who might be likely to sign. So for now, Wilson Alvarez is not a Dodger.
As a result, you are going to see bare patches in the grass. The Dodgers currently have Mike Kinkade as their starting first baseman and Jolbert Cabrera in left field. But they're not alone in having problems to solve. San Francisco's current starting lineup includes Pedro Feliz, Neifi Perez and Todd Linden. It's possible they could open 2004 with all three filling those positions, but I'm sure most of the Bay Area hopes not.
You will also see some debatable choices. Mostly, those come in the lower echelons of the roster, where it's a struggle to fill out the teams. But you might also question things like Phil Nevin in left field for the Padres or Darren Dreifort on the mound for the Dodgers. Neither may be in the physical condition to play those positions. Again, this is my best guess of how things would look if this were April, but please write if you think someone is in the wrong place, or I'm stretching credibility, or if I left someone out.
My first comment: The division's pitching staffs - all the way down to the 11th men - seem closer to Opening Day condition than the rest of the rosters. Barry Bonds is the only reason that this isn't a five-team race as we speak. Thrust him aside, and I think San Diego has as good a lineup as any team. As for the reserves: Luke Allen is No. 3 on the Rockies' bench. Wilkin Ruan is No. 2 on the Dodgers. From Terrence Long to Cody Ransom, it is not pretty. Everyone has work to do.
Update: Hours after I finished this, a report emerged that the Diamondbacks had traded Lyle Overbay, Junior Spivey, Chris Capuano and Craig Counsell for Richie Sexson. I will make the appropriate changes forthwith. My sense is that Arizona will enjoy Sexson, but that they may have undervalued Overbay, who had an on-base percentage of .365 in 2003.
National League West Rosters - Updated November 29, 2003
By the way, Ross Newhan of the Times was all over how the Schilling trade would make it hard for the Dodgers to acquire Richie Sexson. You'd think he would have had at least some corresponding comment about how nice it is for the Dodgers that Schilling is out of their hair.
Hours after I finished this, a report emerged that the Diamondbacks had traded Lyle Overbay, Junior Spivey, Chris Capuano and Craig Counsell for Richie Sexson. I'm making the adjustments now, though the report says the players must pass their physicals first.
My sense is that Arizona will enjoy Sexson, but that they may have undervalued Overbay, who had an on-base percentage of .365 in 2003, and they now need a full-time answer at second base. Their bench is about as barren as the rest of the division's, but they can probably solve that cheaply.
Update (December 1): The Sexson deal is official, according to ESPN.com. The Diamondbacks also trade Chad Moeller and Jorge de la Rosa. The Brewers include reliever Shane Nance in their give-ups.
Also updating to reflect that Giants' pitcher Jesse Foppert is out for 2004 with Tommy John surgery. (Thanks to Bill Simms for the reminder.)
National League West Rosters - Updated December 1, 2003
All right, Dodgers. Sexson and Derrek Lee are spoken for. Maybe that's a blessing in disguise. Left field was Job 1, anyway.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! It's a
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
It's a family-oriented weekend for the Weismans, but I'll be back soon.
Odalis Out of the Park
Farewell, Warren Spahn - a pitcher truly underappreciated in this era ...
As for another lefty ...
In 2003, compared to the previous season, Odalis Perez improved his strikeouts per nine innings by almost 10 percent.
In 2003, Perez improved his ratio of groundouts to flyouts by 46 percent, to 1.99 - seventh-best in the league.
And yet, Perez' ERA did not go down in 2003. It rose 51 percent, from 3.00 to 4.52.
Perez walked a few more batters, but not many more. His walks per nine innings increased 45 percent in 2003, from 1.54 to 2.23, but that only amounts to an extra walk every other start.
Despite striking out more batters, and keeping the ball on the ground more often, Perez simply got hit harder. The batting average of opponents against Perez rose from .226 to .267 in 2003. Moreover, the slugging percentage of opponents rose from .347 to .442.
Some of that rise may be attributed to luck - balls eluding even the splendid Dodger infield. But you can't ignore the balls that only the fans in the outfield bleachers could catch.
Perez allowed a home run every 6 2/3 innings in 2003, compared to one every 10 2/3 innings in 2002. That's not just a flesh wound.
Perez's ERA on home runs allowed, on just the guys who hit the ball out of the park, was 1.35 in 2003. In 2002, it was 0.84. In other words, the increased home runs allowed account for more than half a run per game by themselves.
Further, with runners on base, Perez' home runs allowed nearly doubled - from eight in 2002 (283 at-bats plus walks) to 15 in 2003 (290 at-bats plus walks).
Perez is in his prime - he turns 27 in June. He may not be as good as he was in 2002, and the Dodgers may need to trade him to get some hitting help, but he should not be undervalued. He actually improved as a pitcher in some ways in 2003 from his All-Star season in 2002. If he can maintain or continue that improvement, and solve the home run crisis, you're once again looking at a potential All-Star.
The Murder of Dernell Stenson
David Pinto of Baseball Musings has been tracking the ongoing revelations surrounding the killing of Cincinnati Reds outfielder Dernell Stenson. They appear even more disturbing than you would have imagined. Scroll through Pinto's site to stay abreast - not to be a macabre voyeur, but to appreciate the full extent of this tragedy.
Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Quicker
The Dodgers re-officialized their 40-man roster Thursday, but this event is not of much significance.
The deadline to watch is December 7 - the last day the Dodgers can offer salary arbitration to their eligibles, notably Adrian Beltre. Any eligible player that the team does not offer arbitration cannot be signed by the Dodgers until May 1, essentially rendering that player gone.
Players who are offered salary arbitration have until December 19 to decide if they want to accept. If they do not accept, they can still negotiate with their existing team through January 8.
Throw the Ball Better
There are many who watched Adrian Beltre this year who believe that he is the best-fielding third baseman in the game. But with Beltre's 19 errors in 2003, it's a challenge to make the case.
How can such a good-looking player rack up so many miscues? Follow-through.
Of Beltre's 19 errors, 12 came on throws. In fact, Four of Beltre's 12 throwing errors came on plays in which the batter was awarded an infield single, but took second on a desperate throw by Beltre.
If Beltre can make his arm more consistent - and to be sure, he completes the spectacular pass on the run much more than he doesn't - he can knock his errors down to single digits.
In general, the 2003 Dodgers could have used more target practice. Just over half of Dodger errors this year came on throws. If you include the seven dropped throws, the total is 56 percent.
What follows is a chart detailing each of the Dodgers 119 errors in 2003: who made them, how they made them, and when they made them. Following the chart, you'll find a few more random Dodger errata.
Koufax! Koufax! Koufax!
The all-time Dodger Cy Young Award winner, as voted by 22 Dodger Thoughts readers from a pool of nine Dodger Cy Young award winners + 1 guy from 1916, is:
and his 1966 season.
Coming in second: Sandy Koufax (1965). Coming in third: Sandy Koufax (1963).
Koufax '66 (27-9, 1.73 ERA, 190 ERA+, 323 IP, 241 H, 19 HR, 77 BB, 317 K) won in a landslide, with 13 first-place votes out of 22. Koufax '66 was left off seven ballots entirely, but at least one Sandy Koufax season was selected on 21 of 22 ballots.
Five voters listed Koufax in all three spots on their ballot, three in the eventual order of finish.
The one and only race in this vote was for third place, to see if Orel Hershiser (1988) could sneak in to prevent the Koufax sweep. One vote would have changed things, but Koufax '63 edged Hershiser by two points.
Eric Gagne rode the recent memories of his 2003 season and his incredible statistics out of the bullpen to a fifth-place finish, while Don Drysdale (1962) grabbed sixth place by virtue of coming away with the remaining first-place vote.
Rube Marquard (1916) - born too early for the Cy Young award - got a second-place and a third-place vote, perhaps by virtue of the third-best ERA+ in the competition, to finish seventh, while Fernando Valenzuela (1981) grabbed a single vote to finish eighth. Mike Marshall (1974) and Don Newcombe (1956) ran out of time before they got any support.
Below are the standings - five points for a first-place vote, three points for a second-place vote, and one point for a third-place vote.
Some voters supplied great or at least revelatory comments with their votes. In the spirit of a secret ballot (secret to everyone else, anyway), I am running the comments without attribution. However, if you would like your name cited with your comment, just e-mail me.
1. Sandy Koufax 1965 - I was six years old, and I still remember it like it was yesterday! The Dodgers had absolutely no offense that year, and it didn't matter if Koufax was on the mound! (With the exception of Game 1 of the Series! He got hammered pretty hard)
2. Eric Gagne 2003 - I had mixed feelings about this one, until I saw his ERA, and the K's! I don't can't ever recall in my 44 years ever hearing of a pitcher more dominant. He literally walks in and the game is over!
3. Big D - Don Drysdale 1962 - I was too young, but this is my earliest memory of being a Dodger fan. He had a great season that year, and while the numbers don't look as impressive as Koufax's three Cys, I don't think anyone say he wasn't the most feared pitcher.
I think Sandy Koufax has to be the clear winner in your poll; the only question is which season. His combination of innings, ERA+, and strikeouts is simply unbeatable in this field (to say nothing in the rest of baseball history). I'll go with '66 because of the highest ERA+ and also because the guy's arm was about to fall off. My top 3 would be:
1st place - Koufax 1966
1. Koufax of 1966
Here's my ballot:
1. Don Drysdale
It was really hard for me to pick between #2 and #3. Gagne is pitching in an era where offense is tremendous, and Fernando and Drysdale didn't necessarily have to face off against someone like Barry Bonds. Gagne has shown sheer dominance all season. Drysdale is probably my favorite pitcher because of how he could just dominate games from top to bottom.
I only voted for Koufax once, out of fairness. But you could make an argument that he should occupy all three spots.
1. Koufax - 1966
Interesting topic, well presented.
Here's my ballot:
1. Koufax '65. Dominating season in as tight a pennant race any Dodger squad has survived. His perfect game on Sept. 9 sparked the Dodgers to a season-ending 16-4 run, with Sandy picking up 5 victories. Two stellar WS wins. (Yes, I'm taking postseason play into account - unlike the guidelines for the real CYA voting.)
2. Hershiser '88. Season really didn't pick up steam until the end, with the scoreless streak. (Come to think of it, LA's WS drive never had a distinctive "kick." Wins by month: 13, 14, 17, 16, 17, 16, 1.) What followed is a postseason of such brilliance we may never see again: 1.05 ERA in 42-2/3 innings! Getouttahere! 3-0 with a save! (That late-night hairball at Shea was NUTS to watch.) Three CGs in 5 starts. Stunning.
3. Gagne '03. I have never seen batters so baffled as they were this year against him. I love pitchers with dead-fish changes - and his goes 85 mpfh! (I'm a little torn about favorably comparing 80-plus innings of relief vs. 220-plus innings as a starter. Then again, he also pitched 77 games as compared to a typical ace starter's 35 or so - more than double the number of games that he could directly influence.)
Here's how other reference points would vote:
Bill James Win Shares: Koufax '66 (35 win shares), Koufax '65 (33), Koufax '63 (32), Newcombe '56 (27), Hershiser '88/Gagne '03 (25), Drysdale '62 (24), Marshall '74 (21), Marquard '16 (20 - Big Jeff Feffer had 32!) and Valenzuela '81 (17).
Neyer's lineups book has Koufax's 1966 season as the top by a starting pitcher, adding that the only contender is Dazzy Vance's 1924 campaign (28 wins, 262 Ks - 36 win shares). Top relief season is Marshall's, but the book was published earlier this year, before Gagne's feats.
#1 Sandy Koufax, 1963...I believe he threw 20 complete games that year? If true, that's sick!!! Where have all the tough-ass pitchers gone?
#2 Sandy Koufax, 1965...OK, this is probably the real first place. 383 K's... When the Dodgers took the field this year behind Sandy, the common saying became "We're gonna kick someone's ass tonight."
#3 Orel Hershiser, 1988...The Streak, the magic...I'm sentimental about this one. I sat behing the Dodgers dugout one glorious afternoon and watched Orel throw a 2-0 shutout during The Streak.
Since I'm feeling like Estragon in a production of "Waiting For McCourt," let's vote.
1. Koufax 1966
You came up with a great idea on your all-time Dodgers Cy Young poll. Here are my top three...
I thought about this all weekend and I came up with this ballot:
1) Sandy Koufax 1966
In my mind those three seasons are head and shoulders above the other candidates (because of production or in Gagne’s case number of innings). For what it is worth, I would put Gagne 4th and Hershiser 5th.
Abercrombie & Stitch
As has been discussed, Abercrombie is a tools player who is a candidate for becoming a pitcher if his career as a hitter doesn't pan out. However, the Dodgers do not appear ready to give up on Reggie roaming the outfield, even with his surgery.
From Gurnick's article:
With Double-A Jacksonville in 2003, Abercrombie hit .261 with 54 RBIs and team-highs in homers (15) and stolen bases (28). He also struck out 164 times in 448 at-bats, but showed late-season improvement in his pitch selection, according to Matt Slater, director of professional scouting.
According to Slater, Dr. Frank Jobe told the club that Abercrombie's running speed might actually increase with the reconstructed knee in much the same way some pitchers can throw faster after undergoing Tommy John elbow reconstruction.
Of course, speed hasn't been Abercrombie's problem. But whatever the future holds, I'm wishing him the best.
Mildly Cool and Amusing Notes
Rob Neyer writes:
Yes, OPS really is on the backs of Topps baseball cards, and I'm as surprised as you are. I don't know exactly what it means, but I do know you can't get much more mainstream than Topps. I also know that some of the purists, at both ends of the analytical spectrum, will recoil in horror at the thought of OPS appearing so institutionally. The Luddites hate OPS because Mel Allen didn't talk about it in the 1950s, and the Young Turks think OPS is just horribly simplistic.Lee Sinins writes:
Tigers MGR Alan Trammell says the team might pursue free agent SS Miguel Tejada.
I've made the rounds at the usual Internet honkytonks to see what expectations are for Kazuo Matsui, the Japanese shortstop who has announced he is coming to the United States next season.
Several forecasts projected Matsui to post an OPS in the neighborhood of .800 - not accounting for the park factor of the major league park he ends up in. That would be a significant but not catastropic drop from the .917 OPS he posted in Japan at age 27 in 2003.
Shortstops with OPS at .800 or above in 2003: Alex Rodriguez (.995), Edgar Renteria (.874), Nomar Garciaparra (.870), Derek Jeter (.844), Orlando Cabrera (.807), Miguel Tejada (.807).
The Raindrops concludes that based on the contracts given to Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui, Kaz Matsui will command something in the three-year, $5 million per year range. Apparently, teams do not need to additionally factor in the fee a major league team must pay for the right to negotiate with a Japanese player in Matsui's class, because Matsui is a true free agent. This last part was news to me.
I think Matsui is worth $5 million per year, but I'm going to stick to my overriding approach to the 2003 offseason. All other transactions must fall in line behind the importance of finding a quality power-hitting outfielder. If money spent on Matsui hinders the Dodgers in that quest, then it is money dubiously spent.
Kim Ng Interviewed on Baseball Prospectus
This interview of Kim Ng on BP's premium service would have been interesting even before the Bill Singer incident, which is good, because the interview by Jonah Keri was conducted before the Bill Singer incident and does not reference the Bill Singer incident. Which is just fine by me.
The Dodger vice president and assistant general manager remains a bit of mystery in Los Angeles - I'm sure there are many of you out there who have never heard her speak or even read a quote from her. I've only heard her voice once myself. So it's nice to get a little insight into her views.
Ng tells Keri that there are different ways to build a club and "you can't go in there and tear a team apart." Nevertheless, you can see from the quote below that the condition of the Dodger middle infield must conflict Ng as it does many of the team's fans.
I can say that I am a proponent of being strong up the middle offensively. It's something I saw with the Yankees having such great success, something I believe in. How you build a team also depends on the ballpark. In Dodger Stadium it's difficult to hit home runs, so you have to adjust to that. The people in place, ballpark factors, there's a wide variety of factors that differ with each organization.
Though the interview is full of insight, there were a couple of places where I would have liked to have learned more about Ng. At one point, she says:
Sometimes people think stats don't always tell the truth, and that's true. There are some players where stats don't do them justice. You'll see a player who has great instincts, who does the little things that don't show up in box scores like taking the extra base. I think it is important for people doing arbitration to have a feel for what players can do.
I wouldn't disagree with any of the above sentiments, but I would want to know how often Ng thinks that stats don't do a player justice, and how much value she assigns "the little things."
Few proponents of statistics want to use them in place of on-field observation - they want to use one to compliment the other. So it's good that Ng is keeping an eye on the field. But what does she think about the stuff that actually does show up in the box score?
Later, the following exchange occurs between Keri and Ng:
BP: The Dodgers have had a history of drafting high school pitchers, even though they carry a much higher risk that any other player's background. In general, do you favor high school or college talent?
Ng: I'd take the best available, signable player.
The fact that high school pitchers are a risk, despite the matter-of-fact way in which Keri presents it, is still a revolutionary concept in mainstream baseball. If, by her answer, Ng is telling us that she is not worried about that risk, that she's going to support drafting the best player regardless of age, then I'd like to know why. Or, if she's defining "best" in a way that factors in that risk, some clarity on that would be worthwhile.
Above all, though, Ng seems bright, resourceful and dilligent. She is going to be a big name in this game, and it's about time we got to know her.
The East-Coast 1Bs Are Hip I Really Dig Those Styles They Wear
Been meaning to examine the credentials of Derrek Lee and Nick Johnson, humble laborers in the Dodger rumor mill.
Derrek Lee, Florida, 1B
Nick Johnson, New York Yankees, 1B
You can't say the Dodgers don't have options.
All-Time Dodger Cy Young Balloting Still Open
We've had a good turnout already, but please know that you can still vote for the all-time Dodger Cy Young of Cy Youngs. Balloting will probably end in a couple days - around Tuesday night. E-mail your vote to ShiftyJ@aol.com. Remember, your e-mail address will be safe with me - I ain't got no one to sell it to.
An Ugly Story Winds Toward Conclusion
Somewhere in the mystic and decidedly un-P.C. writings of DodgerKid, I think there might a sound theory for why former Dodger no-hit pitcher Bill Singer seemed to seek out offending Dodger assistant general manager Kim Ng - in due process torching his own career and legacy: "This was probably Bill's way of picking her up."
In other words, Singer was intoxicated in more ways than one.
Anyway, though none of the Los Angeles papers have updated the story, North Jersey.com reports that no one among those who have employed Singer for all of 11 days, the New York Mets, has "voiced much support for retaining Singer." From Bill Madden of the New York Daily News, we can add a report that "there is 'no way' the embattled scout can survive the controversy."
A guiding philosophy for Dodger Thoughts is to always try to add insight rather than report the obvious, so I don't really have much else to add here. But if you want my opinion, firing Singer seems automatic to me.
I suppose if Singer were a player, or at least a valuable one, you'd suspend him rather than fire him - and pragmatically, I can live with the double standard. As for someone who had a week-old tenure as a scout to be so irresponsible, no, I don't think there's an argument for keeping him around. The Mets have every reason to be willing to risk losing the scouting insight Singer otherwise would have provided.
I truly appreciate that Singer has apologized (even if the apology came, according to Madden, after an attempt by Singer to explain away the incident by saying that "he had been on a low-carbohydrate diet, which caused him to suffer a chemical imbalance in conjunction with drinking alcohol"). The story can end with the apology, as far as I'm concerned. I'm judgmental, but my judgment is over.
Still, I can't help suggesting that, on his own, Singer get counseling for the latent alcoholism or racism that created this mess. Not to satisfy me - I don't matter - but to make the best of a bad situation for himself.
Not Nice to Not Meet You, Frank
Frank McCourt, it's time for you to get your butt to Los Angeles.
Doesn't matter whether your purchase of the Dodgers takes 10 more minutes or 10 more months. Doesn't matter whether it's your purchase alone or you and 100 partners.
You say you're going to be the Dodgers' new boss. (You did say that, right? We didn't all just imagine it?) Fine. You've got a crowd of people here anxious to have a new boss.
Now it's time for you to get yourself in front of a camera. In front of a reporter's notebook. In front of somebody.
Or do you care even less about the Dodgers and their fans than News Corp. did?
If you intend to bring glory back to the Dodger franchise, Frank, then Step 1 is for you to come to Los Angeles and tell the people so.
If you intend to have a generous approach to payroll, then come to Los Angeles and tell the people so. If you intend to have a conservative approach to payroll, then come to Los Angeles and tell the people so.
If you intend to preserve Dodger Stadium, a high-functioning city treasure, rather than embark on a real-estate swap that will make Mayor Jim Hahn's crackpot scheme for LAX look like genius, then come to Los Angeles and tell the people so.
In the absence of such a visit, in the absence of any statements on these issues, I can only assume the worst about your intentions, Frank.
When Arte Moreno announced that he would purchase the Angels, he didn't wait for the purchase to be completed to introduce himself to the fans, to make a statement about his philosophy of ownership. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that Moreno said the kinds of things Angel fans wanted to hear. But it's not as if Moreno said that he didn't care if the Angel franchise lost money - far from it. He said he was committed to making money by building a better baseball operation, and a better baseball operation includes winning. This is near-treasonary talk in the Bud Selig woe-is-the-owner era, and was damn impressive.
It's too soon to tell whether Moreno will succeed with the Angels, but at least we believe he is trying. What are you doing, Frank? Not much, far as we can tell, except balancing your checkbook while a couple of represenatives come out here on your behalf - and themselves say nothing about the Dodgers.
What if this ownership change does drag out for months, Frank? We already know that News Corp. has given up on the team. While the team is in escrow, do you acknowledge that life goes on out here, and that there is a 2004 season to deal with? Do you just let general manager Dan Evans become the Dodger pinata while you hide away in Boston?
Make me feel bad about writing this column, Frank. Make the people of Los Angeles feel good about you.
Get yourself out here and tell us why you're buying this team.
Last Call Comes Early
In response to Monday's challenge to Frank McCourt, an e-mail thread between Dan Reines and Jon Weisman:
Dan: Jon, you said what I'd been thinking. I've got some serious doubts already.
I feel like I'm all dolled up and nursing a Manhattan at a restaurant bar, watching man after man walk through the door and wondering which one's the blind date. And it's getting late, and I've been waiting nearly an hour, and the bartender keeps asking if I want another, and I'm really starting to wonder if I've been stood up.
Frank McCourt, don't stand me up! I'm a sure thing, baby, a rebound! All you have to do is buy me dinner, open the door for me, treat me nice. All you have to do is not be Rupert Murdoch. That's it, Frank. It's so easy.
Please don't tease me, Frank. Please don't be cruel. I'm really vulnerable right now.
Jon: Thanks, Dan. I guess I'm like the jaded divorcee who is starting to think that all the good ones are taken, and the rest ain't worth even a one-night stand.
Dan: Yes. And your sister just met a really nice guy named Arte, and that hurts as much as it helps, doesn't it?
I could go on all day with this metaphor, Jon. It just feels right.
Jon: Oh, it feels right now, Dan, but what about in the morning?
Dan: Screw the morning, Jon. I'm drunk and haven't had a man in seven months.
Okay, I think I found the limit to this metaphor. Hm.
In times like this, I turn to my guiding principle: "What would Bill Singer do?"
Jon: Yeah, that pretty much kills it. Sigh.
Interview with a Banterer
Rich Lederer of Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT has a series of interviews going with online baseball writers, and his latest, with Alex Belth of Bronx Banter, is terrific. Here's an excerpt that'll make you jealous, in which Alex talks about his first job in the film industry, working as an intern for Ken Burns' documentary, Baseball.
RWBB: Which celebrity encounter had the most impact on you?
Alex: Without a doubt, Buck O'Neil. He came into town for a screening in the spring of '94, and it was my job to pick him up at his hotel and escort him around the city for the afternoon. I was already familiar with how special he was from what I had seen of him in the movie, and he was even more charismatic in person. You know that saying about how a person can light up a room? I've run into a lot of actors and celebrities, but Buck O'Neil was the first person I ever met that I could say that about.
I picked him up at his hotel on Park Avenue. He was wearing a suit and looked elegant. It was a sunny afternoon, and he was easy to be around, naturally charming. We hailed a cab and headed over to the Jackie Robinson Foundation to meet with Rachel Robinson. What I remember most about that cab ride were Buck's hands. They were enormous. Like mitts. They looked like Rodin sculptures, I kid you not. I could barely take my eyes off of them.
Do take the time to check out the entire interview, which also eloquently connects Alex's relationship with baseball to his relationship with his father. Turns Field of Dreams a bit on its ear.
Vote for the Dodger Cy Young of Cy Youngs
With Eric Gagne winning the Dodgers' ninth Cy Young award Thursday, I got to thinking of who would win a Cy Young ballot between those nine pitchers.
Then I decided to hold an actual vote.
So here are the candidates. I've added a 10th from the pre-Cy Young Award era to round out the ballot.
Rank your top three choices. Your winner will get 5 points, second place 3 points, third place 1 point.
E-mail your vote to ShiftyJ@aol.com. Your e-mail address will be safe with me.
I will tally the votes and let you know the results in a few days.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com. ERA+ is a player's ERA relative to the league average that season - the higher the number, the better it is.
Rube Marquard, 1916: 13-6, 1.58 ERA, 169 ERA+, 205 IP, 169 H, 2 HR, 38 BB, 107 K
Don Newcombe, 1956: 27-7, 3.06 ERA, 130 ERA+, 268 IP, 219 H, 33 HR, 46 BB, 139 K
Don Drysdale, 1962: 25-9, 2.83 ERA, 128 ERA+, 314 IP, 272 H, 21 HR, 78 BB, 232 K
Sandy Koufax, 1963: 25-5, 1.88 ERA, 161 ERA+, 311 IP, 214 H, 18 HR, 58 BB, 306 K
Sandy Koufax, 1965: 26-8, 2.04 ERA, 160 ERA+, 336 IP, 216 H, 26 HR, 71 BB, 382 K
Sandy Koufax, 1966: 27-9, 1.73 ERA, 190 ERA+, 323 IP, 241 H, 19 HR, 77 BB, 317 K
Mike Marshall, 1974: 15-12, 2.42 ERA, 141 ERA+, 208 IP, 191 H, 9 HR, 56 BB, 143 K (21 saves)
Fernando Valenzuela, 1981: 13-7, 2.48 ERA, 134 ERA+, 192 IP, 140 H, 11 HR, 61 BB, 180 K
Orel Hershiser, 1988: 23-8, 2.26 ERA, 148 ERA+, 267 IP, 208 H, 18 HR, 73 BB, 178 K
Eric Gagne, 2003: 2-3, 1.20 ERA, 335 ERA+, 82 IP, 37 H, 2 HR, 20 BB, 137 K (55 saves)
Just in passing, did you know that Gagne has pitched 82 1/3 innings in 77 games in consecutive seasons? Dodger manager Jim Tracy told the Daily News, however, that he thinks Gagne can handle more innings next season.
I Said It Before and I'll Say It Again
The Dodgers need to improve their offense against right-handed pitching more than left-handed pitching.
More names are being dropped in the trade rumor pool - today, it's the Daily News whispering about Magglio Ordonez, who's a prince at the plate to be sure, and Richie Sexson.
Rich Hammond of the News also mentions Jim Edmonds, but caveats it by saying that "the Dodgers primarily are coveting a right-handed corner outfielder in addition to a first baseman."
I'm not gonna shoot the messenger here, but can I just reiterate the following?
Dodgers vs. RHP in 2003: .647 OPS, 1 HR every 49 AB
Any offense is going to help the Dodgers, but offense against right-handed pitchers is going to help more. Now, it's fine if you find a right-handed batter who slugs it out against same-side pitchers, as Ordonez and Sexson do, but to rule out Jim Edmonds not because of age or cost, but because he swings the bat left-handed? Let's wise up.
Magglio Ordonez, Chicago White Sox, OF
Richie Sexson, Milwaukee, 1B
Dan Evans and Billy Beane Converse - Film at 11
The Times picked an odd moment to catch Billy Beane fever.
Splashed atop the Times sports section today, above even the Lakers (which is saying something in this era), is this news:
Apparently fed up over speculation that Billy Beane has been campaigning for his job, Dodger General Manager Dan Evans confronted his Oakland A's counterpart during a phone call last week, a baseball official said Wednesday.
For such major play, the story fails to ask, let alone answer, two relevant questions:
1) Is Beane campaigning by promoting himself, or by denigrating Evans?
2) Whom is Beane campaigning to? Prospective Dodger owner Frank McCourt, McCourt's staff, or the media, or anyone who will listen?
I honestly don't know what to make of the story. Because the above questions aren't addressed, I can't tell if the story reflects Beane's sportsmanship, or Evans' paranoia, or if it's merely trying to legitimize the Beane-to-Los Angeles rumors.
According to the (unidentified) official, Beane assured Evans during the call that he hasn't been campaigning for the job, and Evans supposedly accepted that answer. The two have had trade discussions during the general manager meetings here this week.
Nevertheless, sources said Evans has also expressed concerns about Beane's campaigning to other baseball people.
So, Beane said he wasn't campaigning. This assertion is not refuted by anyone anywhere in the story. Rather, sources tell Ross Newhan and Jason Reid that Evans is still concerned about the campaigning. That's something else.
The implication is that Evans has reason to remain concerned, but nothing else is presented in the article to explain why.
As far as the campaign angle of the story goes, it boils down to enough people have repeated a rumor, so it must be true. However, as much as we read about people (including Evans and Beane himself) having heard the rumor that Beane has campaigning, no one actually steps forward in the story claiming to have heard Beane's alleged stump speech.
I'm as intrigued by Billy Beane as the next guy, but I think this story is underreported, especially for a lead story in the sports section. The news is that Dan Evans spoke to Billy Beane about a rumor he heard. I'll grant the possiblilty that the rumor is true. But the article doesn't confirm that it's true, nor does it begin to analyze the significance of it being true.
National League Cy Young Award
Take two identical teams of 24 players. Add Gagne 2003 to one team and Schmidt 2003 to the other. I think Schmidt's team wins more games.
Dodger Thoughts - proud to be a member of the Score Bard's wonderful Periodic Table of Bloggers, completed under the gun this November 12 after being highlighted during the construction phase by Instapundit.
I am Tantalum: "rare, grey, heavy, hard but ductile, metal with a high melting point."
Go with the Old Guy?
Because the following potential trade acquisitions for the Dodgers cited in the press today are logical enough from a rumor standpoint, they are worth a quick review.
Although his salary and age scare me, Jim Edmonds looks like the best fit, at least compared to Carlos Lee and Paul Konerko.
Jim Edmonds, St. Louis, OF
Carlos Lee, Chicago White Sox, OF
Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox, 1B
By the way, Jim Edmonds' EQA at age 27 was .296.
My feeling is that you've got a better shot predicting a winner of the 2012 presidential election than predicting the Dodgers' key acquisition for the 2004 season.
On a quick count, there are 309 free agents that have opted onto the Do Call list and are waiting to be contacted by an operator near them about exciting offers that will change their lives. Add in the many players who will not be tendered a contract by teams that want to avoid salary arbitration. And then there is the remainder - nearly every other major leaguer and minor leaguer - that does not have a no-trade clause and is available for barter.
Oh yeah - and we can't bank on anything about the Dodger owner or general manager for 2004.
Honestly, there are so many possibilities out there, would it surprise you that much to see Mary Carey or Arianna Huffington at Vero Beach next March?
In August, I talked about the holes that the Dodgers needed to fill for 2004, and not much has changed since then. Paul Quantrill pulled an apparent Jody Reed, turning down a guaranteed $3.1 million to join the free agent flood. Adrian Beltre again tantalized with a power-heavy (but nearly walk-free) second half, perhaps reinserting himself in the plans of a Dodger team with many holes to fill and few other third basemen to choose from. Other than that, the state of the team today is like it was when it was still pretending to contend three months ago.
I've also discussed the Dodgers No. 1 need being a power-hitting left-fielder, more than the admittedly problematic areas in the infield.
Beyond that, is there really much more to talk about on November 10?
Case-in-point update: ESPN.com predicts the Dodgers will sign Miguel Tejada ... and Javy Lopez. With the Dodgers already sporting Paul Lo Duca and David Ross behind the plate, if they end up signing Lopez - even assuming that Lo Duca or Ross must have been traded to create an opening - it will have been because the team threw a dart that landed on Lopez' name.
I've been meaning to write about Christian Ruzich, but have been paralyzed by an inability to say something meaningful. I am very late to talk about this, for which I am sorry.
Christian, the Cub Reporter, and his father both lost their homes in the Southern California wildfires. Christian and his family are all okay, which is an immense relief, but pretty much all of their possessions are no more.
Alex Belth of Bronx Banter, Jay Jaffe of The Futility Infielder and Will Carroll are among those who have spoken to Christian since the news came, and the sense I get from their conversations is that Christian's spirits are remarkably positive.
There are many ways you can express support for Christian, including donating to his recovery efforts via Paypal (click the Paypal link on his site), but perhaps the best thing you can do is visit The Cub Reporter and enjoy his excellent work from the past seasons. When they write the history of baseball blogging, Christian will be considered one of the pioneers.
On that note, I'm happy to report that Alex celebrates his first anniversary with Bronx Banter today. Alex has managed to create a blog that is among the most thoughtful and literate on the web, delivering pieces on all of baseball without sacrficing his focus on the New York Yankees. He and Christian are among those at the core of my support system in the blog world. I wish them both the best.
Who Deserves the Gold Glove?
Besides the usual "Who got robbed?" debate and the struggle to find a winner-take-all defensive statistic, I think people began to realize that the criteria for choosing a Gold Glove winner aren't even clear.
Should the Gold Glove go to the best defensive player, or the player who has the most defensive value?
This question evolves from the fact that three-fourths of the Dodger infield - Alex Cora, Cesar Izturis and Adrian Beltre - led the league at their positions in fielding win shares, but did not lead in any other defensive statistical category.
Because the Dodger hitting was so poor in 2003, a higher proportion of the team's win shares came from pitching and defense. Compared with a heavy-hitting team like the St. Louis Cardinals, which won the same amount of games in 2003, the Dodgers derived more value from an individual fielder, or perhaps more precisely, even an individual fielding play.
Put more simply, if you had two players with the same exact fielding stats, the one on the Dodgers would have more fielding win shares than the one on the Cardinals. He'd have more fielding value.
Therefore, a player with more fielding value on one team is not necessarily the better fielder.
That does not mean value should be dismissed. A player's goal is to help his team win games - that is the underpinning of the Win Share philosophy. A player who boasted the most fielding win shares, even if he was not the most talented fielder in the league, was the most valuable.
Do you see the problem? Whom do we think should win the Gold Glove? Edgar Talent, or Alex Value?
This question even affects the old ironic line that historically, in order to win a Gold Glove, you have to prove yourself as a hitter. This has come about because hitters generally get more attention than fielders. In order to be noticed as a fielder, you have to be first noticed as a hitter.
Many, including me, have found this disheartening, and have assumed that expert fielders like Izturis and Cora wrongfully become de facto ineligible for the Gold Glove because of their poor hitting. After all, it's not like Mike Piazza's shaky defense has prevented him from winning the Silver Slugger 10 times.
But if the argument for giving Cora a Gold Glove is his defensive value, then think how much more value he would have on defense if he hit better. You wouldn't have to platoon him, pinch-hit for him, bench him. Just about the only thing missing from Cora's defense (the value of it) is his offense.
But back to the main topic. What's the Golden answer? Skill or value?
Pragmatically, of course, the people who decide the Gold Glove don't make it this complicated. They are going on looks, with perhaps complimentary help from the worst fielding statistic of them all, fielding percentage.
Philosophically, I'm leaning toward skill, on the theory that if you took the skilled player from St. Louis and moved him to Los Angeles, my addled mind tells me that you'd have a player with the same amount of skills but more value.
I'd be interested in hearing arguments pro or con. At the least, although you can make a case for three Dodgers winning a Gold Glove, I don't know that you can say any of them got robbed.
Dodger Stadium: 'Where the Sheets Never Get Cold but Are Always Dirty'
Now that the 2003 baseball season is over, and before we confront 2004, return with me now to 1962.
A simpler time. A time of promise.
A time when Milton Berle compared sparkling new Dodger Stadium to a concentration camp.
As I wrote last month, Walteromalley.com offers not mere hagiography of the longtime Dodger owner, but a rich resource of untold or unremembered history about the Dodgers. Among the artifacts is an exchange of letters between Berle and O'Malley in June 1962.
Many of you know that Dodger Stadium, though a jewel, opened without any drinking fountains - sinful in a world before people dared sell water in small plastic bottles. (Reminds me of the time I was inspired to sell a sixth-grade classmate a Ziploc of air.) However, free de l'eau was a scant worry for a bigtime Hollywood comedian.
Buoyed by a level of familiarity with O'Malley and a stature in Los Angeles that few, if any, could have possessed, Berle decried the lowdown dirty depth of his Dugout Level seats, the absence of promised wait service for refreshments, the ill-considered location of his parking spot atop the stadium, and an elevator that came all too infrequently and all too full of folk. "If I wanted to faint, I couldn't find a place to fall," Berle wrote.
But that was just the warmup act. Suffice it to say, few would have crafted the following words in a letter to Walter O'Malley with the expectation of a response:
Who hired the usherettes ... Eichman?? Walter, I don't think you want your Stadium run like a concentration camp with Dachau damsels. Some of the usherettes are exceedingly discourteous and don't know the first thing about O'Malley hospitality. For example, the dugout level section is screened in and I feel like a cooped-up Jewish chicken. Well, that isn't too bad. It protects me from walking around with an extra ball! But if Ruth and myself have to be cooped in and guarded by female Storm Troopers, I think it's out of line.
As a primary example of usherette injustice, Berle describes what happened when called over by his friend Stan Musial for a chat. "As I was standing there shaking his hand, Mrs. Hitler tapped me on the shoulder and said: 'You'll have to go back to your seat.' "
The complaints continue for a second typed page before concluding with the following dead serious comedic threat: "Walter, don't make me go back to rooting for the Angels, Heaven forbid! They can't even play pinochle ... because the Cards are in St. Louis!"
Two days after the Berle letter was written, O'Malley replied with more remorse and candor than perhaps you can imagine any baseball owner possessing.
There is so much that you write in your letter that I know in my heart is true that I can only give you and Ruth my personal apology.
Let's face it, we opened a new park which was not completed with elevators that were not running properly, with a traffic program that left much to be desired, and with an entirely green staffing crew.
In passing, O'Malley described one of the unanticipated problems he faced. Dodger Stadium's attendees actually treated the ballpark like their new home.
The public went on a sightseeing binge to see the stadium that they voted for. They felt they had a proprietary interest inspecting every nook and cranny and our procedures broke down in such overwhelming demands. We are still waiting for the inside and outside indicators on the elevators, the fans are now installed but not working, and the telephones.
The Dodgers were already addressing other problems, schooling ushers and usherettes in (I particularly like this phrase) "courteous common sense." And those of you who still get stuck in traffic leaving the ballpark will appreciate this counter to the Darwinistic impulse of the California driver: "We have finally enclosed the parking lots with posts and this has kept people [from] jumping the curbs with their cars which resulted in a horrible traffic snarl."
As you can see from the word inadvertantly omitted from the previous sentence, either O'Malley or his secretary were in quite the hurry to get this letter out. In fact, another apparent problem facing the new Dodger Stadium was the owner's increasing struggle to articulate a coherent thought. More strange sentences followed in O'Malley's letter, such as, "This ball park is like the old boarding house where the sheets never get cold but were always dirty."
And in regard to Berle's complaint about not being able to chew the fat with Stan the Man, O'Malley traces the admonition - in confounding fashion - to fear of a Black Dodger scandal.
Unlike the Coliseum where all my friends could gather in my box behind home plate and chat with the players in the runway, this is a regulation park and whether you and I understand the rule or not it is a strict baseball rule that players are not supposed to talk to the spectators before, during or after a game. This rule is frequently violated and we make no attempt to have it enforced because we do not have the gambling here that bothered ball clubs in some other cities.
What in the name of Hollywood Stars Night is O'Malley talking about? If the Dodger ushers were making no attempt to have this frequently violated rule enforced, Berle would be happy as a Catskills clam. Uncle Milty must have thought O'Malley's letter was ghostwritten by Yogi Berra, or maybe Norm Crosby.
In the end, Dodger Stadium deliverance came down to one Hollywood Turf Club buddy asking another for a little peace, love and you know, understanding - explicitly as far as being a spectator, implicitly with regards to Strunk and White.
Milton, as you know, we value the friendship of you and Ruth and this is a time in our break in period when we will ask our friends to put up with some things until we can actually get around to correcting all the faults and killing all the bugs (and I don't mean moths).
"A time in our break in period ..." Yes, we've come a long way linguistically from "Dachau damsels" in two 1962 summer days. Nevertheless, 41 years later, that old boarding house with warm, dirty sheets, Dodger Stadium, lives on.
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