Monthly archives: February 2004
The Journal-News headline: "A Growing Sports Voice."
The first two words: Alex Belth.
Growing respect and recognition arrived Sunday for my all-baseball.com colleague and many other notables in the blogging community - congrats to all.
Alex, in particular, deserves recognition now for the superb series he orchestrated over the past week on Bronx Banter. It made his site look like The New Yorker and the rest of us like TV Guide.
Outs, Damned Spot
You need Dodger dirt. I need exercise. So while I send my creaky body out into the asphalt wilds, go straight to Rich's Weekend Baseball Beat. Then to The Bench Coach. Then to 6-4-2. You'll be in better shape before I am.
As for Ross Newhan ...
What would be so bad if the new general manager of the Dodgers took a page from "Moneyball"?
What would be wrong if Paul DePodesta, the former assistant GM of the Oakland Athletics, implemented a philosophy from rookie level up that borrowed from the A's offensive emphasis on patience, selectivity and mental approach, the key components of on-base percentage?
... you don't need to convince us. We've been waiting for you to convince yourself.
And we're still waiting for you to realize that Moneyball isn't about on-base percentage as a be-all and end-all, but about finding efficiencies and values in the game, wherever they might be found.
What a Coincidence: We Need a Medium-Fast Bowler
A ROOKIE South Australian cricketer who has never watched a baseball match has been identified as a potential US Major League pitcher. Chris Duval pitched a baseball for the first time at Adelaide Oval yesterday, clocking a speed and displaying a style that impressed talent scout and former New York Yankees player Pat Kelly.
But the 192cm youngster has learned he can pitch a ball at 137 km/h and could have a career in baseball.
Kelly, who scouts for the Los Angeles Dodgers, was alerted to his talent by SA fielding coach Nathan Davison.
Duval's first pitches clocked up to 137 km/h - or 85 mph, compared with about 90 mph from major league pitchers - "which is fantastic, taking into consideration that he'd never done it before."
Among other things, I wonder how they arrived at that figure of $38 million. Random, no?
If a team offered to acquire Darren Dreifort, in exchange for a minor leaguer, if the Dodgers paid part of the remaining $24 million on the final two years of his contract, how much should the Dodgers be willing to pay?
Serious and humorous responses welcome in the comments.
(A note about comments: Though it appears to take forever for them to post, the website is registering your them well before they appear on the site. Sorry for the hiccup.)
PECOTA and the Dodgers
Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus.com has an elaborate system called PECOTA for predicting player performance. What follows is a synopsis of how the PECOTA system predicted six Dodgers would do in 2003, their actual 2003 statistics, and the system's predictions for 2004:
The first set of numbers is the player's actual statistics; the EqBA, EqOBP and EqSLG are adjusted for league and park effects.
It's all grain-of-salt stuff, but I haven't thrown any numbers up here in a while, so I thought you might be interested.
Comment: PECOTA overestimated Beltre's 2003 offensive production, except for home runs. The improvement predicted for 2004 probably won't thrill Dodger fans.
Comment: Obviously, PECOTA didn't foresee a scenario where Green would have an injury that depleted his power but not his playing time. The 2004 prediction is close to the 2003 prediction.
Comment:The system honed in well on Izturis' 2003 on-base percentage. As with Beltre, PECOTA sees no great improvement for young Cesar in 2004.
Paul Lo Duca
Comment: PECOTA did well with the batting average and on-base percentage, but again, here was another case of a Dodger not bringing the power. The system thinks Lo Duca can return to double-digits in home runs this year – but sees no significant increase in overall slugging percentage.
Comment: Like Izturis, Roberts managed to undercut some very modest power predictions, but did slightly exceed on-base projections. The 2004 predictions don't offer much of a bounce.
Comment: Unlike the 2003 Dodgers on this list, Encarnacion surpassed PECOTA's predictions in power – but not in on-base percentage. More of the same in 2004.
For all the considerable math involved, the PECOTA predictions for 2004 in this very small sample deviate so little from the 2003 statistics that you could be excused for wondering why Silver goes to all the trouble. Nevertheless, it is sort of a reality check for those who think that these six players are likely to make great offensive recoveries this season.
While I was working on these charts, Baseball Prospectus pulled together some more projections for prospective Dodger starters at the plate and on the field. Looks like more of what you see above, with no real recovery on the horizon. Better seasons for Shawn Green, Dave Ross, Adrian Beltre and to a much smaller extent, Cesar Izturis are countered by declines at second base, center field and right field (assuming Green is moving to first). On the mound, BP predicts major tumbles for Hideo Nomo and Guillermo Mota.
Dodger Draft Philosophy
The preacher asked her
- Lyle Lovett, "She's No Lady"
The marriage of Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta and scouting director Logan White has gotten much attention this week - at The Bench Coach, 6-4-2, Baseball Musings, The Futility Infielder and Baseball Primer for starters.
Because others have written so much, my main reason for posting on this today is because I love Lovett's song and the opportunity to quote it. Beyond that, all I'm going to do is point to my Dodger draft coverage from June 3. I was fairly apoplectic that the Dodgers continued to use top draft picks on high school players instead of college players. Today, I look at those postings and think:
1) White does seem to have bagged some good prospects in recent drafts.
2) Was White smart to run counter to the trend of focusing on college players, figuring that as teams shied away from them, there would be better picks for him to make?
3) Or, did White just get lucky - and is the risk of drafting high school players, especially pitchers, as much as it ever was?
Two different draft philosophies can't work side-by-side, but if they can be melded into a stronger third approach, then so much the better. The story of the June 2004 draft will be the type of player the Dodgers draft.
Congratulations to the online baseball writers and websites, many of whom are friends of this site, that won Primeys. Ballots for several categories of the best baseball writing and analysis on the Web are cast by the readers of Baseball Primer.
I suppose this is like our version of the Cable Ace awards. For now, Internet baseball writers need a separate ceremony, but maybe we'll become the HBO of the Emmys. "It's not sportswriting - it's Baseball Musings."
Mondesi Earnings Dispute Drags on
Apparently, the dispute in which Raul Mondesi owes Mario Guerrero 1 percent of his career earnings, plus interest, remains shy of a neat and tidy resolution, according to Raul Tavares' Dominican Players.
Tavares said Guerrero denied a recent report that Mondesi had reached an agreement to fulfill the court-ordered payment, and that he (Guerrero) intends to press the case.
"Asked if he was not asking too much, [Guerrero] said that other players made the same deal and have paid him," Tavares writes. "He said that when Mondesi was a rookie in the Dominican Winter League he paid for his food and transportation; at the time Mondesi considered Guerrero his tutor and right hand, and now he refuses to talk to him or meet him."
Peace, Love and Moneyball
Moneyball author Michael Lewis reappears with a pitch-perfect article in this week's Sports Illustrated (not available online, unfortunately). The article is part clarification of his arguments, part rebuttal to his critics and part fascination with how many of his critics either misunderstood him or made no attempt to understand him.
Here's hoping you are encouraged to go out and find the whole article, based on these excerpts:
The point is not that (A's general manager) Beane is infallible; the point is that he has seized upon a system of thought to make what is an inherently uncertain judgment - the future performance of a baseball player - a little less uncertain. He's not a fortune teller. He's a card counter in a casino...
[The A's] don't score more runs because their on-base percentage is not, in fact, that great; it's much worse than it used to be. The market for major league players with a high on-base percentage has tightened, thanks, in large part, to Oakland's success. ... Anyway, the point is not to have the highest on-base percentage but to win games as cheaply as possible. And the way to win games cheaply is to buy the qualities in a baseball player that the market undervalues - and sell the ones that the market overvalues. ...
I had gone to some trouble to show that all the ideas Beane had slapped together were hatched in other people's brains. Indeed, any reader of Moneyball who had read Bill James, or followed the work of some of the best baseball writers (Peter Gammons, Rob Neyer, Alan Schwarz) or the two most sophisticated analytical websites, Baseball Prospectus and Baseball Primer, might fairly wonder what all the fuss was about: We knew this already. ...
On the fact that several baseball figures believed that Beane had written the book:
It was, in a perverse way, an author's dream: The people most upset about my book were the ones unable to divine that I had written it. Meanwhile, outside the Club, the level of interest and reading comprehension was as good as it gets. The Oakland front office had calls from a cross-section of U.S. business and sports entities: teams from the NFL, NBA and NHL, Wall Street firms, Fortune 500 companies, Hollywood studios, college and high school baseball programs. ... Every nook and cranny of American society, it seemed, held people similarly obsessed with finding and exploiting market inefficiencies. The people most certain they had nothing to learn from the book were in the front offices of other major league teams. ...
In business, if someone comes along and exposes the trade secrets of your most efficient competitor, you're elated. Even if you have your doubts, you grab the book, peek inside, check it out. Not in baseball ... baseball executives bragged that they hadn't read the book ...
Indeed, one way of looking at the revolution in baseball management is as a search for new Jackie Robinsons: players who, for one irrational reason or another, often because of their appearance, have been maligned and underestimated by the market.
Again, the point is not to accept everything that Michael Lewis says or that Billy Beane does as gospel. The point is to be open to learning - to sift what is useful and discard what isn't. Deliberately avoiding understanding of one side of the debate serves no purpose.
As a side note, those who would argue that Sports Illustrated isn't relevant anymore should at least tip a hat to the magazine for continuing to help Lewis foster an intelligent debate.
Jim Tracy: Contact the Make-a-Wish Foundation
Tommy Lasorda is interviewing managerial candidates ...
Lasorda says, “He seems to think he can manage the Dodgers. Well, just talk to those 212 guys who have been fired since I was managing the Dodgers. They’ll tell him how tough it is.”
Something still mystifies me about what happened with Shawn Green in 2003.
Whose decision was it to keep Green's injury a secret most of last season?
If you ask Ross Newhan of the Times, the decision rested only with Dan Evans - an evil, malicious Dan Evans at that:
Green stayed in the lineup despite the injury and became the focal point of criticism for the club's offense until The Times revealed in early September the reason for his struggle.
The since-deposed Evans, who had allowed Green to absorb a summer of criticism by not revealing the injury, opted to protect his turf by trying to say that the injury had not altered Green's swing even as Green was saying it had. Asked if he is bitter at having had his integrity maligned, at basically being called a liar, Green said:
"I guess you could say I was fine with it in the sense that I understood what was behind it. With the contract and the years I've had, there's high demands on me. That's part of the job description. If you play with an injury, you play and live with it, and I try not to let my ego get so big that I worry about what people are saying.
"At the same time, I don't think it's realistic for someone to get in another person's shoes and try to say how that person is feeling. Dan had his reasons and so be it. I've turned the page on that."
If the criticism that Green absorbed last season was such a problem for Green, why was it bad for Evans to disclose the injury? How was it that Evans "allowed Green to absorb a summer of criticism?" Am I supposed to believe that Green would have liked his injury made public early on, but Evans stood in the way?
It doesn't track for me.
Gagne Part II: Is Salary Arbitration Biased?
"Arbitrators seem to have a fear of making big awards," Jon Heyman writes in Newsday. "Baseball needs independent arbitrators because the ones they use often rule as if they're afraid of being fired. One arbitrator was fired after voting in favor of Derek Jeter a few years ago, and another for voting in favor of Freddy Garcia last year."
If that's the case, then Eric Gagne's pique should be directed at Bud Selig, not Frank McCourt or Kim Ng.
Thanks to Rob McMillin for the link to this column, which passes along the off-the-record rumor that Dodger scouting director Logan White may lose his job.
2004-05 Free Agent Hitters
For those who can't help but look ahead, my new colleague, Bryan Smith of Wait 'Til Next Year, provides a helpful list of potential batting help during the 2004-05 offseason. Note that many rumored trade acquisitions for the Dodgers can come to the team less than a year from now without giving up pitching prospects.
Gagne Est Malheureux, Mais C'est la Vie
Why can't I work up any sympathy for Eric Gagne?
The part of me that savors the energy and dominance he brings to the ninth inning wants to feel bad that the Dodgers didn't give him the contract that he wanted, but that feeling never made it to the stadium.
The part of me that always wants to see Gagne in a Dodger uniform is mollified by the fact that he can't become a free agent until October 2006, by which time it's at least debatable whether the energy and dominance will still be there. (It probably will, but it's so far off.)
As someone perennially disappointed by his own salary, I understand Gagne's frustration and even his anger, yet when I hear him talk about the level of respect that he feels is lacking, my gut reaction is to scoff and tell him to get over it.
What hardened my heart?
The best answer I can come up with is that the baseball salary system is so patently illogical - like life - that I don't know if any player should be taking their contract issues personally.
Guys like Todd Hundley and Darren Dreifort will always make money than guys like Gagne in a system where the market fluctuates dramatically and where the front office can't or won't see the potential for injuries.
Plus, for every Gagne that appears to be underpaid, there is an, oh, let's say Mike Davis c. 1988 that gets overpaid. And - it's tired but it's true - you won't see those players showing any "respect" by returning their salary - not that the players union, which almost always has my sympathy, would let them.
There is another issue here concerning whether the Dodgers are shooting themselves in the foot by limiting Gagne to the ninth inning, but that's not really my point today - and I certainly don't want to have to get out the numbers again this morning to prove once more that Gagne can be effective in non-save situations.
Really, the issue is that baseball salaries are a force of nature.
Sure, the Dodgers could afford to be generous with Gagne and the fact is, maybe they will and Gagne's feelings won't be a problem anymore.
But in the end, the Dodgers don't get my sympathy when a player demands a salary beyond his worthy, and the team is pressured to capitulate. So I guess that's why Gagne's pain and suffering haven't penetrated my soul. When it comes to salaries, life just ain't fair, and a tough skin is in order.
If I were Gagne, starting today, I wouldn't dignify any questions about his contract with responses. I would suck it up and just focus on playing ball. I am optimistic that he will at least do the latter, and that's what I think is important.
This Was Only Supposed To Be About Rotisserie Baseball
I can't play Rotisserie baseball.
My allegience to the Dodgers is such that I don't want to be committed to rooting for a player on another team to do well, out of fear that his success would domino smack into the Dodgers' pennant chances, no matter how slim.
I can't stand for my rooting interest to be diluted. It's hard enough fretting about the boys in blue - the last thing I need is grief because some random player from Philadelphia or Baltimore went 0 for 4.
Beyond that, I guess I'm not sufficiently interested in the premise. Can I draft the players most likely to excel in whatever criteria the fantasy baseball league has created? Probably not. Do I care? No.
The thing I did love to do, back in my single days when I could, was play my own Strat-o-Matic baseball league. I would form a league of the top eight or 10 teams from the previous season, create a schedule, and manage both teams in every single game. I love picking lineups and I love in-game strategy. I think my peak was a 10-team, 60-odd game schedule, where I played more than 300 games.
Not that I was opposed to playing Strat against another human being - far from it - but I really got a kick out of my own universe. Shades of The Universal Baseball Association, Inc.
God, there was drama - both in the pennant races and in the statistics. For all of Strat-o-Matic's hard-earned mirror of reality, there was the year that Bruce Benedict led my league in hitting; there was the year Dante Bichette chased the Triple Crown. There was a Houston Astros team that went something like 11-1 in one-run games, snuck into the World Series, and rallied to beat a vintage Joe Torre Yankee team.
And again, none of this competed with the Dodgers of my reality, so all was well in the universe.
We're having a baby boy this summer. I've known this for a couple of months now, been wondering how or when to share it on this website. But as I write this, I realize that one of the things I look forward to - just one among many things that include books, hugs, ski trips, hugs, Dodger games, hugs and that essential game of catch - is sitting down with my boy and playing Strat-o-Matic. Not that I'll force it on him - and not that I won't give my daughter, now 17 months old, first crack at the game. But I've been wondering how to express to you all the excitement I have about my second child, and it occurs to me just now, near the end of this meandering bit of writing, that if I get a kid of mine hooked on Strat-o-Matic, even for just a month or a summer, it'll just be neat beyond description. And that feeling almost begins to convey my excitement.
Parenting is tiring stuff, let me tell you (and I'm scared to death of what happens when they become teenagers), but I've got no complaints. I love my wife and daughter and son-to-be-named-later. And I've got a day job that, while it isn't the most rewarding, allows me to get home every night and every weekend to be with my family. And I've got a baseball writing job that doesn't pay dime one but fulfills me in a way I never would have predicted. Give me a baseball season to go with my family - even if I can't go to or play as many games I used to - and that's the tops.
Comfort and joy is really all you need. Love, baseball and a nice boss bring me those things. In the words of Sam Cooke, "That's where it's at."
I'm lucky. I may be breaking too many rules about how to craft an essay, but I don't know if I've ever felt luckier.
And so, with a clean conscience, I respectfully decline the invitations I've received to play Rotisserie baseball (ah, there I go, bringing this all full circle), and I apologize in advance for the days off I'll be taking somewhere around August 4.
Catch a Rising Starter
The news from Dodgers.com is that until a trade for a hitter is completed, Plan A for the Dodger offense is to move Shawn Green to first base, Paul Lo Duca to left field and Dave Ross into the starting lineup at catcher.
Implied, but not stated, is that Juan Encarnacion would play right field and that Robin Ventura would start the season on the bench.
On one level, this may not be worth analyzing. Although Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta said that a trade is not imminent, it doesn't mean a trade isn't going to come.
On the other hand, what guarantee is there that DePodesta will find a trade worth making between now and April 5?
So what of this scenario?
Well, most of us know that Lo Duca's offensive value declines considerably if he's moved from catcher, where offense is rare across major league baseball, to left field, where outside of Los Angeles, people expect their outfielders to hit. Lo Duca had a below-average EQA of .257 last season, passable for a catcher but a figure that would place him 20th among major league left fielders with a qualifying 502 plate appearances.
Arguably, getting Lo Duca out of a three-hour crouch will help his numbers, and he might have one more career surge left, so the move to left might not be disastrous.
As it happens, Ross had about the same number of plate appearances (139) in 2003 as Ventura did as a Dodger (127). Ross had an EQA of .301 to Ventura's .269, hitting 10 home runs and seven doubles to Ventura's five and five. At age 26, Ross is also ascending, theoretically, while Ventura is 10 years older and presumably on the descent.
In Ventura's favor would be his superior command of the strike zone. He walked 18 times while striking out 25, while Ross was at 13 and 42. But that doesn't negate the power advantage that Ross seems to provide.
The X-factor is the fluke factor. It's a mystery how much of Ross' prowess was legit and how easily might he be solved as pitchers get to know him and as he piles up his own crouch fatigue. But in this case, the Dodgers are right to explore the potential of Ross over the fading ability of Ventura.
With all due respect to Ross, though, the Dodgers had better hope that better options than Lo Duca-to-left materialize.
Jacksonmania Can Wait
At least they haven't given him a nickname yet, like Dr. K.
The repeated statements by Dodger manager Jim Tracy that the 20-year-old Edwin Jackson will be a point in the starting rotation pinwheel raise questions, despite Jackson's memorable debut victory over Randy Johnson and his 2.45 ERA (163 ERA+) in four rookie appearances last season.
Jackson had a 3.70 ERA in AA ball last season, a mark I'm fairly certain that even Andy Ashby could have achieved. Even with all the promise and hallowed intangibles in the world, Jackson doesn't necessarily deserve an offseason upgrade from coach to first class.
That's not to say I don't see the arguments for making a Jackson No. 5.
He has the strikeout pitch, averaging 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings with Jacksonville and 7.8 with Los Angeles.
And it's nice to see Tracy not use the relatively meaningless competition of Spring Training instead of real game competition from the previous season to judge a player.
By essentially giving Jackson the spot now, the Dodgers remove the pressure for him to prove himself, while still testing him to see if he can pitch in the spotlight.
However, there is another approach the Dodgers could have taken with Jackson that I think would have been more effective. They could have said - more than that, they could have insisted - that the young righty would start the season on the major league roster, but in the bullpen, not the rotation.
They could have had him be like Wilson Alvarez 2003, waiting in the wings, instead of pushing Jackson out like an overeager stage mom.
Jackson is certainly one of the top 11 pitchers on the Dodger organization and should be on the roster. But by placing him in the bullpen, at least in April, the Dodgers would avoid setting this young man up for a disappointment that could come despite everyone's best intentions.
Jackson would have time to ease into the season under the tutelage of Jim Colburn. He would avoid heavy early season innings that could fatigue him come September (and, with evidence growing that younger arms under stress are more vulnerable to long-term injury, put his entire career at risk).
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Fernando Valenzuela was pushed into the Dodger starting rotation in February 1981, even after a 1980 September whose brilliance caught everyone off guard.
I'm not saying the world will end if Jackson is in the rotation now but out of it in May. Furthermore, scenarios could develop, of course, where the Dodgers don't have a choice but to make Jackson a starter right away. A trade of Odalis Perez here, an injury to an Alvarez, Hideo Nomo or Kazuhisa Ishii there, Darren Dreifort's ligaments and cartilage everywhere, and we're no longer talking about how quickly Jackson is starting, but how quickly the even younger Greg Miller could be.
No doubt, Jackson has talent. He could simply prove too good to hold back. But no one is too good to hold back in February.
By placing Jackson in the bullpen for now, by creating the opportunity for him to succeed, rather than creating the expectation for that success, the Dodgers would be choosing a quiet, prudent path that could be every bit as rewarding as the klieg-light red carpet walk past Joan Rivers' scorning, pulled-back eyes that they have now laid out for him.
Play 'Humbug Soup'
The Score Bard encourages us to spoon out "what the Dodgers have with DePodesta."
Angell in Our Midst
Your list of Maine's all-time best sports figures overlooked Shirley Povich, a 17-year-old Bar Harbor caddie who wangled a ticket for himself to a 1923 Giants-Yankees World Series game at the Polo Grounds. The next year, he covered the Fall Classic as a reporter for The Washington Post and in 1926 became the paper's sports editor, at age 20. His "This Morning" column ran six days a week for the next 47 years, winning him international acclaim and a flood of reader mail addressed to Miss Shirley Povich. ...
Stumbling across this letter was like running into a lifelong influence at the mall. Followed by the ode to the home of Vin Scully Way, it was simply a feel-good issue. (Well, except for that whole University of Colorado football ugliness.)
Frank Del Olmo Dies
Just last month, I met Times associate editor and columnist Frank Del Olmo for the first time, so to speak, when we both appeared by phone on KCRW-FM the day that baseball approved Frank McCourt's purchase of the Dodgers. I know that doesn't mean that I knew Del Olmo better than anyone at all - I was just another longtime reader, for all practical purposes - but I can only say that it adds to my shock and sadness at the news that Del Olmo died of a heart attack in the Times offices this morning, at the age of 55. Del Olmo was a writer of great integrity, and from all that I can tell, a man of great integrity. My heart goes out to his family and friends.
Found: $3 Million
Paul DePodesta: In the immortal words of Toyota, "What will you do with all the money you save?"
Eric Gagne lost his salary arbitration case, leaving the Dodgers with $3 million more for 2004 than they might have expected to have.
Will it go into the team or into Mr. McCourt's loan payment?
My most recent Dodger salary chart is here. The team payroll is still at about $88 million.
Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Hundley
With Todd Hundley, as Jim Tracy so gingerly told MLB.com's Ken Gurnick, suffering "a little setback" - unbekownst to the public, he had another back surgery in November, then reinjured himself during rehab - the spotlight turns to Koyie Hill.
Like Hundley, Hill is a switch-hitter - and even more so than Hundley, Hill is a catcher. Whether he can provide any punch from the left side of the plate remains to be seen. I'd also say the chances of non-roster candidate Jeremy Giambi making the team became even more assured.
As for Shawn Green, who is "not 100 percent healed from his offseason shoulder surgery," according to Gurnick, I certainly take no vindication - but we can't say we didn't have fair warning, thanks to Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus. That being said, let me clarify that the conclusion I drew, based on Will's help, was that Shawn Green would be productive again - but not without, you know, suffering little setbacks.
In Green's words, to Jason Reid of the Times: ""I'm seeing progress. It's not going to be perfect all of a sudden because I'm still working through the surgery. With all the rehab, I'm hoping it should be 100% by the time the season starts."
All of the above led Tracy to speculate to Gurnick that Paul LoDuca might again see outfield time. Maybe so, but I simply don't believe that general manager Paul DePodesta isn't going to acquire another outfielder or first baseman before Opening Day.
There is actually a paid sportswriter in Los Angeles not bending over backwards to ignore the fact that Paul DePodesta is a qualified baseball man. Bob Keisser is his name, and Rich Lederer has the story on an early edition of Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT.
Gammons Ho? No - Gammons Hoax!
Clearly, adding comments to the site has inflicted irrevocable harm on what little remains of my free time. But it has been a very interesting first week:
1) For all I know, ESPN's Peter Gammons may love Dodger Thoughts, but no, that was not him telling me so in the comments Wednesday. Was I excited when I first saw the comment? You bet. Am I more jaded now? Double down.
Eric Enders writes:
It's probably just the disgruntled Kevin Malone posting from his office at The Master's College.
Am I the only one who finds this line from his bio comical?
"He has successfully developed winning teams in baseball and now brings a host of interpersonal and managerial skills to be used in a Christian environment to produce eternal rewards."
2) The results of the Eric Gagne salary arbitration poll at 9:12 p.m. Wednesday: 11 say Gagne will win, 5 say the Dodgers will win.
For more about the consequences on this hearing, I refer you back to this piece.
3) Last year, some of you may recall, I got so little contrary feedback that I worried I was only preaching to the converted. But over the past 24 hours, I've gotten healthy disagreement on two points: the significance of Tim Wallach being hired as batting coach, and the pitfalls of trying to manufacture runs.
Let me just say one thing: If you feel the Dodgers need to bunt more because you're frustrated when they waste a leadoff hit and then lose a game by one run, you are basing your reaction too much on anecdotal evidence. I'm not saying never bunt. But bunting first as a philosophy for offense will be about as effective doubling up on cologne to try to woo the girl next door.
If someone wants to forward a link to one of the studies that helps disprove the merits of snowball, I'd be appreciative.
As for the hit and run, as I've written before, it's a great weapon, but there's no reason to expect players who can't reach base in the first place to execute the hit and run properly.
Gagne v. Dodgers - Who Will Win?
Let's give this comment feature a real test.
Eric Gagne is asking for a 2004 salary of $8 million in his arbitration hearing. The Dodgers are offering $5 million.
Who do you think will win? (Not who should win.)
Post your vote in the comments below.
For those who were less than enthralled with Bill Plaschke's Tuesday column in the Times on the hiring of Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta, "With Luck, the Dodgers Won't Crash", Aaron Gleeman more than sympathizes. And he's got the research to back it up.
For another take on DePodesta, catch up with Jay Jaffe of The Futility Infielder today if, like me, you're still running a few days behind.
Brave New Era Greeted Tim-idly
While many view the position of hitting coach as baseball's equivalent of the Vice Presidency in pointlessness, I chafe at the idea.
The Dodgers had the worst hitting team in baseball in 2003, yet many had trouble assigning any blame to hitting coach Jack Clark ...
... even though people were quick to praise Jim Colborn for mentoring the top-flight pitching staff.
... even though his lineup of talent, much of it young or in its prime, suffered a performance decline from 2002.
... even though Clark's credentials to be hitting coach in the first place - one season managing the independent Class A-level River City Rascals and one season as the Dodgers' Class A hitting instructor - resembled Bob Dylan's acting resume.
No one has proven to me that baseball players, even grown-up major leaguers, don't need refinement or repair when it comes to swinging the bat. There are technique coaches in every sport; there are mental and intellectual advisors in every walk of society. Tony Gwynn might not have needed a hitting coach - he was a born hitting coach. But few are like Tony Gwynn.
Jack Clark deserved to lose his job. And in August, he lost it.
The Dodgers hired George Hendrick as a truly interim replacement, but one of the lost stories of the winter was the fact that this atrocious offensive team not only failed to upgrade offensively on the field for 2004, it failed to hire a hitting coach.
Tuesday, the team finally did so, in disconcerting fashion, by picking the under-credentialed Tim Wallach.
Wallach spent 1997 as the Dodgers' Class A hitting coach in San Bernadino. The biggest position player to come out of that team - and I wasn't even going for a double entendre before looking this up - was Angel Pena, whose career major league on-base percentage (.256) barely exceeded his 228 pounds.
Wallach then spent a couple of months at the end of '98 as San Bernadino's manager (Mickey Hatcher, who started the season, went out around the time of the initial Fox purges). According to The Associated Press, Wallach later coached at Cal State Fullerton and managed Anaheim's Class A team in Rancho Cucamonga.
The mainstream media is quick to jump on Paul DePodesta's young resume and question his qualifications to be general manager, yet no doubt they will accept this justification for Tim Wallach's first coaching job above A ball, from Dodger manager Jim Tracy, as easily as hearing that water is wet.
"Tim is a quality baseball man and a quality human being,'' Tracy told AP. "I am excited about him joining us and working with our ballplayers. Tim possesses a great deal of hitting knowledge and he will be a great addition to our staff.''
I am not saying that Wallach can't or won't succeed. I just don't understand why anyone would believe that he would.
Especially - and here's the twist - DePodesta.
"We are very pleased to be able to add such a well-respected baseball man to our coaching staff,'' DePodesta told AP. "I know that Jim Tracy and the rest of his staff are happy to welcome Tim back to the Dodgers."
The quote from DePodesta is so trite, so subjective, so old school, it is stark in its conventionality.
It's almost as if DePodesta himself is making the case that the hitting coach doesn't matter. That, or this isn't a decision where he's going to pick a battle with the established thinking that says you simply find a "well-respected baseball man" to fill the Rupert Giles role of training Dodger mound slayers.
It's as if DePodesta has either not studied the issue, or studied and found out that your batting numbers will be the same with coach Rod Carew or coach Rod Serling.
In any case, here I am, at odds on the first day with the hip young general manager that I am so prepared to like, the only general manager that assuages the backstabbing that I feel Dan Evans received.
No objective formula would generate Tim Wallach, an All-Star but not a Hall of Famer, a coach whose experience wouldn't fill Don Zimmer's combat helmet, as the person to rescue the worst hitting team in baseball.
Either I've been wrong all along and the hitting coach doesn't matter, or DePodesta is signaling that some areas are exempt from philosophical change.
Over at Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT, check out Rich Lederer's first-hand report on the younger brother of Dodger pitcher Jeff Weaver, Long Beach State pitcher Jared Weaver, who struck out the first 10 USC Trojans he faced Friday.
He Could Have Been Popeye the General Manager Man
Just a quick note to those who I owe e-mails from the long weekend: My e-mail is currently AWOL, but I hope to get back to you as soon as I can.
Did I read correctly in the Times today that Frank McCourt interviewed Steve Garvey for the GM job? Isn't that like nominating Phil Donahue for President?
The Dodgers have a general manager and a manager and a pitching staff and a right fielder and a catcher, if not two, and a dedicated fan base in a major media market.
Just like the Yankees.
The two teams also share a lack of a second baseman, and I think one could consider Kenny Lofton vs. Juan Encarnacion a wash. Lofton gets on base more, but his defense gives that advantage back. (I say this knowing that Encarnacion may play more left field than center field this season.)
Because Shawn Green is coming off an injury, I am also going to pair him with left fielder Hideki Matsui, instead of Green's proper counterpart, Gary Sheffield.
So in this great, great universe of ours, all that separates the Dodgers and the Yankees, the two principal newsmakers of the past weekend (a weekend that leaves me playing catchup after having virtually no access to the computer, newspaper, radio or television), are four human beings.
Dave Roberts :: Gary Sheffield
Just four hearts short of a flush.
Because the Yankees are now the best team on paper in baseball, the job for new Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta, in theory, is to overcome this gap.
In fact, though, the Dodgers are not competing against the Yankees. Not today. They are competing against the four other teams in the National League West, whose rosters look like this. With shortstop and third base in the NL West considerably weaker than Jeter and Rodriguez, the gap between the Dodgers and its regular season competitors narrows to two human beings.
1B: Ventura :: Sexson :: Helton :: Nevin :: Feliz
The gaps here are so big that if DePodesta does nothing to address them, the Dodgers could finish with a losing record.
But one solid acqusition puts the Dodgers back in the race. And then, we see how carefully they can pitch to Barry, Ryan and Luis.
And if that goes well, then we can worry about the Yankees.
The situation is bleak but not hopeless, and Dodger fans should feel relieved that, if nothing else, the Dodger general manager position has been freed from its cage. The team can finally get in the game.
In the meantime, don't be surprised if the Yankees go after Karl Malone or Gary Payton after the NBA wraps up its season to fill the team's second base slot.
New Location for Dodger Thoughts
Welcome, everyone, to the new home of Dodger Thoughts.
First, thanks again for all your support of this site, and welcome to the many new readers that have come in recent days and weeks. Site readership has practically doubled since the New Year began, and it has probably quintupled since the end of the 2003 season. I hope to continue to justify your clicks and bookmarks.
If you've come this far, then you now know that the day has come for you to reset your bookmark list. Dodger Thoughts has become an official member of the All-Baseball.com network, featuring many of the best baseball writers around. This site is joining The Cub Reporter and The Transaction Guy by Christian Ruzich, the Will Carroll Weblog, Alex Belth's Bronx Banter and Mike's Baseball Rants along with fellow new members Baysball, Peter J. White/Mariner Musings and Bryan Smith/Wait Til Next Year.
The new URL for Dodger Thoughts is http://www.all-baseball.com/dodgerthoughts. I am also pleased to announce that I have registered the www.DodgerThoughts.com domain name. Typing in that URL should take you directly to the new All-Baseball.com location.
My approach to Dodger Thoughts won't be affected by the move; my goal is still to try to find insight about the team and the game when I can ... and keep my mouth, or fingers, shut when I can't. But I do hope that the closer link with these fine writers will yield additional benefits, perhaps through collaborative efforts or by building respect as a group for what I think has become a worthwhile outlet for baseball coverage.
I'm also pleased to say that for the first time, you will be able to add your comments directly to Dodger Thoughts postings. I'm not shutting my e-mail door - not by a longshot - but I'm all for creating a Dodger Thoughts community and dialogue for anyone who's interested. Of course, just play by the rules of decorum that we've come to appreciate - keep it cool and keep it clean. (Although I use profanity all too regularly offline, I do hope to make people of all ages feel welcome at Dodger Thoughts, so please refrain from using it in your comments.)
You'll also see that the new site comes with a search function, which I hope will make it easier for you to find past articles on any subject I have covered since my first post in July 2002.
We'll be tinkering a little bit over the coming days as everyone settles in at their new sites - there's still some tweaks in the look and the functionality of the site that we'd like to make. So be patient - but feel free to offer suggestions.
For now, I will be using the nice, long weekend to have a nice, long weekend. Look for new content at this new location on Tuesday. Until then, have a great weekend, and get ready for pitchers and catchers to report to Vero Beach next week!
Yeah, I'll admit it - I'm a sucker for people who approach their jobs by asking, "If we weren't already doing it this way, is this the way we would start?"
That's one of the sentiments expressed by purported Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta in a Credit Suisse First Boston Thought Leader Forum speech that has been circulating around the Internet recently.
DePodesta doesn't advocate change for the sake of change. In some instances, the answer to the question above will be affirmative. But life changes, information grows, and most of all, we don't know everything. DePodesta's question combines humility with a determination to do better. It's the right attitude to have.
Technically, at least, the Dodgers have other general manager candidates to replace Danglin' Dan Evans. One who would like to be considered is Jim Bowden, former general manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
Although his name grew familiar to many of us during his 11 years with the Reds, let's not forget that Bowden was once a boy wonder like DePodesta. Until Theo Epstein came around, Bowden was the youngest general manager in big-league history, hired at age 31 - the same age DePodesta is now.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports Weekly wrote a column about Bowden this week, in which the following quote appears.
"It would be fun to go to a big market, though, and have a chance to win year after year," Bowden told Nightengale. "If I can be creative with a payroll in the forites and fifties, I can be creative with a budget in the hundreds.
"I look at the Dodgers, and think, how can you have the best pitching staff in the league and score less runs than the Tigers? Come on. You've got to do something."
I look at Bowden's words, and wonder what kind of wall I can build to keep him out of Los Angeles.
First of all, creative is a nice mantra to bandy about, but Bowden creatively presided over a team that had six losing seasons out of 11, including the past three, most of the time in the National League's weakest division. Of course, the payroll limitations Bowden cites are legitimate, but for him to brag about his record is silly.
As far as the second half of Bowden's quote, many people would agree. One of those agreeing would be Dan Evans.
The idea that Evans didn't think something should be done to improve the offense is preposterous. No, he didn't succeed yet, and his signing of OBP-challenged Juan Encarnacion (a former Bowden acquisition) raised questions anew about his ability to do so.
On the other hand, Evans reduced the payroll, nurtured the farm system - and oh yeah, built that great pitching staff, the accomplishment many find it so easy to dismiss. He laid the groundwork to acquire some hitting, which he no doubt could have done had Frank McCourt's ownership approval needs not interfered.
Now, it's one thing for you and I to shoot the breeze, in conversation or in print, and say that the Dodgers need offense. But for a baseball executive like Bowden to take simplistic pot shots at a counterpart, without any evidence he could do the job better - that guy needs his ego balloon popped.
Combine Bowden's statement with the incident back in 2001, when Bowden tried to big-time Evans by refusing to discuss business at baseball's winter meetings until Tommy Lasorda was in the room, and Bowden sounds like the big-headed spawn of our last general manager debacle, Sheriff Kevin Malone.
"I don't want to sound arrogant or brash, but there's no doubt in my mind that I can turn the Dodgers into winners again," Bowden later tells Nightengale. "If I did it in Cincinnati, I sure can do it in L.A."
You had two division titles in 11 years at Cincinnati, Jim. Even the Dodgers can match that - with more than twice as many winning seasons to boot.
Guess how you sound.
Not like someone who would come into a situation with the ethic and flexibility to best determine how to improve a baseball team.
Nightengale writes that Bowden "definitely" deserves at least consideration for the job. Maybe you just need to get to know Bowden for that to become apparent. Maybe you just need to not challenge Bowden when he says that under him, the Reds "finished in first place three times," when it only happened twice. In any case, Nightengale doesn't make a very good case for Bowden with this article.
There are three threads spooling with the Dodger general manager position. There is the incumbent, Evans, who is not perfect, but who in less than three years on the job has removed much of the organizational dead weight and made the idea of long-term success possible.
There is his boss, McCourt, whose sincerity in telling us that Evans is a candidate to keep his job is dubious. (I guess McCourt would argue that he is no different than Democracy itself, which this year will tell George W. Bush whether he can keep his job.)
And there are the candidates. I honestly don't know that much about DePodesta. I've read Moneyball and I've read his speech and I've paid attention to the success of the Oakland A's and what other people say about him, but I'm not going to be the one to argue that I possess a wealth of knowledge about DePodesta. I know he has a bright mind and a sabermetric mind - which to be clear, doesn't prize one stat or another over all else, but factual knowledge over all else.
I don't know if DePodesta is the answer. But yes, based on the information I have, I'd rather that the clumsy McCourt take a chance on him than any other outside candidate.
If I'm wrong about DePodesta, I'll do the Sucker's Walk - with McCourt leading the way.
A Farm Report
While I try to find the time to put together an entry on generalmanagerdom, enjoy this review of the Dodger farm system by ESPN.com's John Sickels.
DePodesta Era To Begin
Peter Gammons of ESPN.com reports that Paul DePodesta will be hired as general manager for the Dodgers this weekend. (Thanks to Jason Harris for the timely alert.)
Gammons has been wrong before, but I have the feeling he's right this time.
I have all the hopes in the world for DePodesta, I really do, but Evans deserved better. He rescued a sinking ship and was poised to raise the sails, only to have someone drill a hole underneath him.
May you live in interesting times, as they say ...
(Before leaving with his $500,000 salary and his dignity intact, Dan Evans signed Guillermo Mota to a one-year contract for $1.475 million, leaving Eric Gagne as the Dodgers' only potential salary arbitration case.)
Bard Scores Again
The Score Bard has updated his website, The Humbug Journal with a great new look - and redrawn his world-famous Periodic Table of Blogs. Dodger Thoughts has cleverly been moved to the La slot. (Lanthanum is "silvery white, malleable, ductile, and soft enough to be cut with a knife.")
Much more than a blog, The Humbug Journal is like recess breaking up another slow day in class.
The Youth Market
Raul Mondesi's agreement with Mario Guerrero, that bound him to pay a percentage of his career earnings to his former coach, is symptomatic of a widespread effort by Dominican Republic coaches to get a greater "return on investment" for their efforts in tutoring childhood ballplayers, according to baseball writer and broadcaster Carlos J. Lugo:
Lugo, who told me in an e-mail that Mondesi "had actually signed a written agreenment with Guerrero," according to other news reports, put the case in perspective:
What's in the background of this (not specifically in this case in particular but in general) I think is more interesting. Our country is transformed into a baseball player factory or some sort of assembly line. Everywhere you can see young kids playing ball, and the sad part is that they're not exactly playing for the fun of it (as I did and as you did) but trying to become professional baseball players.
As a consequence, an informal industry has arisen around the MLB teams academies and operations. The lack of a more formal or structured development chain - like school or little leagues in the U.S. - resulted in some kind of "informal development chain" that started in disorganized little league teams, where the "coach" gave the basic training to the kids until they approached 15 to 17 years of age, an age when they show if they're signable...
These "coaches" are the first ones looking for some sort of "return on investment," and what they're doing lately is signing some sort of formal contract where they get the player to share one fraction of their signing bonuses, or, if they're as wise and lucky as Guerrero, hit the jackpot with a guy that eventually make it to the big leagues and becomes a regular player.
A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for a local publication about the "Little Leagues" in the San Pedro de Macorís area ... and was kind of surprised to what I found. My goal was to do some research and see where guys like Pedro Guerrero, Sammy Sosa, Tony Fernandez or Alfonso Soriano came from, and how it is. What I found was a bunch of "coaches" trying to explain me how this nine-year old child had good hands and a good bat and was "projectable" to be a great shortstop and a chance to be signed in six or seven years.
Those people are pretty much doing the same thing as Mario Guerrero, identifying guys with athletic ability and trying to produce a pro-baseball player and see if they can make good money in the process. I don't know if this is unethical because that's "their job," that's what "they do," but there's no doubt that money is a more important factor than it was 10 or 20 years ago.
Aside from having my curiosity about Dominican Republic baseball renewed this week, my immediate thought upon reading Lugo's report was about coaches, kids and parents in the United States. Somewhere, there must be a youth coach, one who previously only dreamed of a paid trip to Williamsport, Pennsylvania and some national television exposure with the Little League World Series, now dreaming of getting a renewable early-bird fee for sheperding a future major leaguer. Will U.S. coaches now dream about becoming so valuable as baseball instructors that they will try to convince parents of nine-year-old children to sign long-term deals giving the coach a percentage of their career earnings?
On the one hand, it seems far-fetched. On the other, this country certainly has families who can't afford the flat fee for extra baseball tutoring but would be willing to gamble on future earnings. After all, 1 percent is still only 1 percent.
Mondesi Forced To Pay 1 Percent of Career Earnings
Ex-Dodger Raul Mondesi has been forced by a Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic court to pay 1 percent of the money he has earned in his baseball career, plus interest, to former major leaguer Mario Guerrero - an amount totaling more than $1 million.
The story tip comes via e-mail from Raul Tavares, rapidly becoming a Dodger Thoughts Dominican correspondent. According to the report published on the official Dominican League website, Guerrero initiated his case in 1998, based on a verbal agreement he made years before when he became Mondesi's coach and advisor. Tavares added that bank accounts in Mondesi's name have been frozen.
A story on Listin Diario reports that Guerrero and Mondesi made their agreement before Mondesi, currently looking for a major league job, signed with the Dodgers in 1988. Mondesi owes approximately $640,000 in salary and $422,000 in interest, the site reports.
Guerrero previously won a similar case against another former Dodger, Geronimo Berroa, according to Tavares.
Here is a link to the story in Spanish - the humorous Google translation, in which Mondesi becomes a "Domincan gardener" instead of "El jardinero dominicano," should be here, if I could get the link to work. You may have to hunt for it - though I'm sure the American wire services will pick up the story soon enough. Or, you can try translating the story on Systran.
Update: For more on this story, see Wednesday's Dodger Thoughts posting.
In other news from Tavares:
According to Tavares, Perez said that he regrets the situation that arose from his comments on the team's offensive woes, and that he does want to remain a Dodger, but that management thinks of him as a distraction.
Tavares said that Perez did stand by his comments, because he said the truth, even if no one wanted to hear it.
In his last effort to come back, he and the fans had a very sad experience, so this time many fans did not want him to come back because of the success Licey was having this season ... [Rodriguez] did not want to make his debut in a large stadium, in fear of the fans' rejection.
I've been a fan of Henry since he was a rookie in the Dodgers organization. Henry is now in the best shape of his carreer and very muscular. His swing is shorter than before; he has improved his batting against left-handers.
In the playoffs he hit two HR in a game, one of them traveling a long distance and clearing a wall - it was lost in the lights. It could have landed in the second deck of the Yankee Stadium.
If You're Feeling Really Blue ...
A Stanford Man in the House
Ruben Amaro, Jr., who played on Stanford's first College World Series championship team in 1987 when I was a sophomore there, has interviewed for the Dodger general manager position.
With none on and one out in the bottom of the 10th inning in an elimination game against Louisiana State, and the Cardinal facing a 5-2 deficit, Amaro walked and later scored on the greatest hit in Stanford history, a grand slam off Ben McDonald by freshman Paul Carey.
Amaro is the assistant general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. He had an OPS of .663 in 485 major league games with the Phillies, Angels and Indians. Interestingly, his career batting average was .001 higher than his father's.
And that's what I know, so far...
Update: "If I think that Ruben Amaro is only being interviewed because he is a minority, does that make me a cynic?"Dodger Thoughts reader Chris Hamilton asks. "Looks like McCourt has just about wrapped up the GM search."
$10 Million Left
Twenty-two players, $89.75 million.
That's where the Dodgers stand in salary committments today, with players signed and players destined to be signed via arbitration or contract renewals.
Kurt, the author of Arrive in the Third, Leave After Seven, e-mailed me a link to a syndicated Vero Beach Press Journal interview with Dodger owner Frank McCourt. The Q & A contains the usual McCourt platitudes, Florida style, but McCourt does reiterate that "I just wanted to assure the fans we're going to have a $100 million payroll and this is a major market team."
It's not the $120 million we would have expected six months ago, but even without a trade, the Dodgers have approximately $10 million to spend. While they may not want to bump against that limit in February, that's still a big nugget. Were they to trade Odalis Perez' $5 million salary, they would have even more room.
Ostensibly, three slots on the 25-man roster remain. If Darren Dreifort (or anyone, for that matter) starts the season on the disabled list, four slots remain. At least one of those slots, if not two, will go to a minimum-wage pitcher, like Steve Colyer or Edwin Jackson. That leaves $9 million to $14 million to spend on two hitters, or on a single hitter if you keep a low-cal guy like Joe Thurston or Jose Hernandez.
Something can still be done.
Dodger 2004 Salary Commitments
*$6.25 million minus Yankee contribution of $1.5 million
Additional Dodger 2004 Salary Estimates
One Step Removed
Twice in the past week, including Monday, ESPN.com's Rob Neyer has cited work on Baseball Primer for his column on platoon splits and the idea that in order to hit lefties well, you must be able to hit righties well (which I elaborated on here).
Insightful thinking is getting noticed, at least in the baseball world. Congratulations to MGL, Steve Treder and others whose work has been recognized (although hopefully not misappropriated) by Neyer and others.
Insightful - and Funny
Read Kevin Modesti in the Daily News today. But don't challenge him to a fistfight.
Oh Henry! Returns
A very late but very great Winter League season enabled ex-Dodger Henry Rodriguez, who has only one major-league hit since 2000, to receive a non-roster invite to Spring Training from the Pirates last week.
Given the annual flux of the Pittsburgh roster, which also will take a chance on humbled Dodger washout Daryle Ward, this isn't a huge surprise. But there is an interesting story about it, courtesy of Carlos J. Lugo, a Dodger Thoughts reader who is a television broadcaster for the Estrellas de Oriente ballclub as well as the Dominican Winter League on Fox's cable networks.
Reporting on the DWL for Baseball Prospectus, Lugo wrote that Rodriguez ...
... was clearly overweight and out of shape and he couldn't even made the (Licey) team for the season opener, even though there are many spots available early in the season. Licey's manager Manny Acta acted very politely regarding Rodriguez, and refused to discard the possibility of him joining the club later, saying that he just need more time to get back in shape.
The season went on for Licey, and Rodriguez wasn't even mentioned in conversations regarding the team, and when the outfielder finally appeared at the end of the season, people thought it was just a good gesture from Acta and the Tigers' front office to let him play a few unimportant games. As expected, Rodriguez looked overmatched, hitting just .200/.273/.550 in 20 at-bats, and the line wasn't worse because he had a two-homer game at friendly Julian Javier Stadium.
When the playoffs started manager Acta surprised everybody when he named Rodriguez his everyday leftfielder, but at the end Acta was right because Rodriguez was useful in the playoffs, hitting three home runs, two of them in key games, and had an incredible Final Series hitting .579 with two home runs, eight runs batted in, a double and four walks. As expected, Henry was named the series MVP.
There's no doubt that Henry is in much better physical shape than two years ago, and according to him, his troublesome back is not bothering him for the first time in the last few years. He showed good power during the post-season with five home runs in 18 games played, and his pitch recognition and plate discipline during that time was the best I've seen in him.
Although banking hopes for a comeback on a couple of playoff series for Licey is a little dicey, with Rodriguez' birthday only 18 days before mine, I'm rooting for his attempt at a career renaissance. Look at me, rejuvenated as a sportswriter after a long absence - although admittedly without a six-figure salary or anything thereabouts.
Lugo also writes that Jose Offerman, born one year to the day after Rodriguez, "still has the same virtues of years ago - good plate discipline and solid contact - and he's hitting for a little more power now than in the past. Offerman is in very good physical shape, and if a team could live with his defensive shortcomings, he's not a bad gamble as a bench player."
Update: Offerman signed a minor-league contract Monday with the Minnesota Twins.
* * *
Coincidentally, I received an e-mail over the weekend from another Dominican Republic reader, Raul Tavares, who has been a fan of the team since the World Series title year of 1981 and follows the games on DirecTV.
Tavares describes himself as "a Dodger fan in heavy pain," over the Frank McCourt purchase for the team, but had an interesting encounter recently. He writes:
As you may know, the Dodgers have a training facility here that it's called Campos Las Palmas, which has developed such great players as Pedro Martinez, among others.
Well, yesterday was the final game of Caribbean World Series, in which my other beloved team, the Licey Tigers, beat Puerto Rico, 4-3. In that game, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Ralph Avila, senior consultant for the Dodgers, and the best part was meeting Luchy Guerra, Assistant Director of Minor League Operations. We spent about three innings talking Dodgers baseball.
She told me that she hopes that the Fox-McCourt transfer would be less traumatic than the O'Malley-Fox. I told her that I cried watching the press conference. She also told me that GM Dan Evans had a meeting with his staff and told them not to worry about him.
McCourt certainly has some good soldiers under him - or at least, some people who want to keep their jobs. In any event, how nice for Tavares that he could have that lengthy chat with Dodger management.
Only If He Hits Righties Does He Hit Lefties
Ever have one of those moments where one of your lifelong assumptions is turned on its ear?
That happened to me Friday, at least on a baseball level.
I'm writing this still somewhat in a state of disbelief, but I wanted to share with you the discussion that's going on.
The inspiration for the discussion is ex-Dodger Eric Karros, whom Oakland signed to be a part-time first baseman. Rob Neyer wrote about the deal on ESPN.com. The justification for the signing is that, although Karros' numbers against right-handed batters are poor, he hits lefties very well, and is ideal for a platoon.
Karros vs. LHP, 2001-2003: 207 AB, .904 OPS
So, here's the revolution.
The best way to look at how a right-handed major league batter will perform against left-handed pitchers ... is to make sure you give heavy emphasis to his stats against right-handed pitchers.
I am really going to try to give you the shorthand version of this. For one thing, a carpal-tunnel like fatigue is taking over my typing fingers, and for another, I'm not looking to convince you in one shot. I'm content to let this simmer for a while.
Studies performed by Bill James and other sabermaticians - MGL on Baseball Primer is another notable source - indicate that over time, the ratio between a right-handed batter's OPS against righty and lefty pitchers is consistently 1.09 to 1.
In a given season, or even in given seasons, there will be aberrations. Because most pitchers are right-handed, players get relatively few at-bats against southpaws, thus skewing the sample sizes.
But the stats guys are trying to assure us that overtime, right-handed batters will regress to this Platoon Golden Mean.
Thus, while there's no denying that Karros enjoyed a dramatically better performance against lefties in recent years, the odds are that his platoon gap will revert to normal in coming years. And since he has more at-bats against righties, his stats against righties - as poor as they are - represent the norm.
So, if you're picking a hitter to go against a left-handed pitcher, you'd be better off picking a player who had proven success against righties than a player like Karros.*
Finding this hard to accept? I did. It's intuitive, for me at least, to assume the human frailties involved in picking up a piece of wood and swinging at small ball coming very fast would affect different players differently. The arm that the opposing pitcher uses to throw that ball is clearly a variable, so certainly, some batters would respond better to left-handed pitchers than others.
My instincts battled what I was reading all afternoon, with the result being that I pumped the guys on Baseball Primer with questions. You can read more some of their responses in this thread, but let me boil them down for you.
No one wants to demean my intuition, but the numbers just don't back it up. Over time, a right-handed batter with a .500 OPS against righties will do 109 percent better against lefties (.545), and a right-handed batter with a 1.000 OPS against righties will do 109 percent better against lefties (1.090). The fact that the first guy might be coming off a year in which he posted a .800 OPS against lefties, and the second guy might have gone .700 against lefties - to borrow from Meatballs, it just doesn't matter! At least as far as predicting the future is concerned.
Digesting that? Here's something else: It doesn't work the same in reverse. If you want to predict the performance of a left-handed major league batter against right-handed pitching, you can rely a little more confidently on his personal platoon split - if you are looking at several seasons worth of at-bats. To make a prediction based on one to three seasons of at-bats, instead of multiplying the player's overall OPS by 1.09, multiply it by 1.20 - the league average platoon ratio for lefty batters.
Steve Treder's explanation on this matter was particularly helpful (and note that it applies to major leaguers only).
"The best explanation is this: there are many fewer LHP than RHP," Treder wrote on Baseball Primer. "So while all RHB must learn to hit RHP reasonably well even to make the majors, it is possible for a LHB who hits RHP well to make the majors even though he never masters hitting against LHP. The demographics of handedness allow many LHB to practically never face LHP."
"Here's another way to think of it: there are RHB who can't hit RHP, but they never make the majors," he added. "LHB who can't hit LHP often do make the majors. So RHB and LHB at the major league level aren't exactly comparable populations."
I really find this extraordinary. Think about the impact this revelation, if one accepts it, would have on your player personnel decisions - both as you plan a season, and as you plan for a pinch-hitter to face a southpaw in the bottom of the ninth. Where you might have picked the Karros-like hitter with the gaudy platoon split, you now have more reason to want with the guy whose past numbers against lefties are a little softer, but whose numbers overall are stronger.
Counter-arguments to this theory may well rise, and we should keep an eye on them. But when this kind of evidence is presented, even if it counters my way of thinking for 20 years or more, I have to take notice.
*MGL adds, in reading my first draft of this post:
"What you should encourage people to do if they want to predict how a RHB will perform versus a RHP or a LHB is to use his overall stats and do the appropriate adjustments (for a RHB who faces 65% righties and 35% lefties, multiply his overall OPS by 1.05 to predict his OPS v. lefties and divide by 1.03 to predict their OPS v. righties)."
Very Idle Speculation
Lonnie Wheeler of the Cincinnati Post wants Frank McCourt to acquire Ken Griffey, Jr., saying that both teams would be doing each other a favor.
Of course, Wheeler also hypothetically plucks Dodger prospects like fruit at the Farmer's Market - if it were that easy, the Dodgers would have all kinds of outfielders to pursue. (Although, who knows - with Dan Evans' future in doubt, anything could happen.)
Anyway, among other things, Wheeler doesn't seem to realize who Walter Alston - an Ohio native - was.
"The other thing is that it hasn't really worked out for Junior since he returned to his hometown four years ago," Wheeler writes, "but you can fix that in a flash. All you have to do is give him his old number back. He was the best player in the game when he wore 24 for the Mariners. When he got here, though, Tony Perez didn't want to unretire the old double-dozen, and the problem is that Junior is just not a 30 kind of guy, no matter what his old man wore. Looking at your roster, I see that the Dodgers don't have a 24. Perfect. It's a marriage made in Tinseltown."
You'd think it would have occured to Wheeler to see if the Dodgers' 24 was retired as well.
More Memories I Need to Share
Three voices I can hear in my head, clear as day.
My late paternal grandfather, saying, "How are ya, champ?"
My late maternal grandfather, teaching us French by saying, "Parlez-vous francais? Chevrolet cou-pay?"
Vin Scully, doing a Farmer John commercial voiceover and saying, "Braunschweiger."
Murph, Jill, Nick and 'The Earnest Guy'
I promise to getting back to talking about ballplayers soon. But I'm fascinated by Bob Timmermann's e-mail to me, revealing the complete lyrics to "It's a Beautiful Day for a Ballgame."
Let's go! Batter up!
The fans are out to get a ticket or two
It's a beautiful day for a home run,
We're going to cheer
There he swings!
This is it!
It's a beautiful day for a ballgame
It's a beautiful day for the ladies,
We're going to cheer
Timmermann, who raised an e-mail eyebrow at the verse about the ladies and their dishes, also adds:
Some of those verses were never played to the best of my knowledge.
Back in the days when the Dodgers were on KFI, they switched around the verses. Or sometimes they would play more of the song if they had time to kill.
Back in the days when a player hit a home run and Vin would say, "For that home run, Union 76 is proud to donate two $20 books of Union Oil Auto Scrip to the Boys Club of Downey in the name of Willie Crawford ..."
And the only games televised were from San Francisco or Sunday afternoon road games.
Dang I'm old.
Not much older than me. Timmermann's reminiscences immediately brought to mind the Union (not Unocal) 76 commercials during Dodger telecasts of the 1970s. They took place at a fictional gas station. There was father figure Murph, ingenue Jill, trouble-finds-him Nick, and the "earnest guy," whose name Timmermann and I forget but who was played by future CHiPs hot-rodder Larry Wilcox.
You guys remember those? I do seem to remember seeing the Jill actress get some roles beyond pumping gas - if anyone knows her name, or Nick's, or Earnest Guy's character name, or has any other recollections of these commercials, feel free to share.
Rotoworld.com has published a print version 2004 preview issue, for which I have contributed a feature. Despite the Dodgerhood currently atop of my baseball writing resume, this feature is on Barry Bonds.
Gregg Rosenthal, late of Gregg's Baseball, Etc., is Senior Editor of the publication and worked yeoman hours writing and editing to help get it done. And, Aaron Gleeman of Aaron's Baseball Blog also dug in for the cause: His showcase piece is a Top 100 Prospects feature. Gleeman will also be writing a weekly column for Rotoworld.com.
Parochial connections aside, the magazine looks packed with information for both the fantasy player and the general fan, so give it a look. You can order it online, or look for it at that quaint local establishment they call a newsstand.
Writing that makes you stop and think - what more could you want?
Perhaps I should be worried that the new blogs are going to steal readers from me, but more important is my goal with this site, which is simply to pass along what I take to be worthwhile information. It was never a rule that I had to be the author - so may the best work win.
With that, I point you once more to The Bench Coach and his thoughtful piece on the passing of Negro League veteran Ernest Burke.
He's gone now, this simple man who played a game that did not honor him, who fought for a country that did not love him. Others will follow, as the living history of the Negro Leagues -- a glorious and embarrassing part of our past -- fades from memory in a string of small, cluttered stories on the AP wire.
"Will anyone notice?" the Coach asks in his conclusion about Burke's passing. Well, thanks to the Coach, I did.
It's a Beautiful Day for a Dodger Thoughts Notebook
For a Dodger Thoughts notebook today.
It's a beautiful day to discuss Vinny,
1) Oh yes, the new regime will win some points with me and many others if it brings the original version of "It's a Beautiful Day for a Ballgame" back to kick off radio broadcasts.
2) If I hear one more person criticize Dodger general manager Dan Evans for assembling the worst-hitting team in the majors without acknowledging that he assembled the best-pitching team in the majors ... well, then I must be reading T.J. Simers in the Times. Simers did well to pursue an interview with Dodger owner Frank McCourt yesterday, and McCourt did well to call him back. But talk about two people ill-suited for a useful conversation.
3) Robert Fiore sends this e-mail with a note in response to my discussion of Vin Scully.
Once I ran into Jon Miller on his way into the press box at Dodger Stadium and said to him that according to the unwritten law of baseball that the Dodgers must always have the best broadcaster, I fully expected him to be here when Vin Scully retires. He laughed and said, "Give me a call!" I don't suppose it means anything, but I personally think he's the best there is right now.
4) Fiore adds this:
Well, profit for the Los Angeles baseball Dodgers is certainly the only way this would ever happen. My first reaction to Fiore's suggestion was that I didn't think it would happen and didn't think it should, but the idea is growing on me as I think about it. After all, some of you will also recall the Brooklyn football Dodgers.
5) The readership of Dodger Thoughts does include people living in proximity to a bayou. Felton Suthon of New Orleans, looking ahead, sent me an e-mail discussing the possible 2006 Dodger lineup. Here it is in short form, with ages in parentheses.
C - Dave Ross (28)/Koyie Hill (27)
Yeah, it sort of peters out, doesn't it. Of course, the pitching, with some combination of Edwin Jackson, Greg Miller and the like, could look better than the hitting, giving Suthon reason to be optimistic. "I know projections like this are barely worth the paper they are written on," he writes, "but there is a glimmer of hope that this could work out."
There is a glimmer - in the nebulous sense of the word. Even if you fill out the outfield with two Shawn Greens, you don't have very much guaranteed offense in the above lineup. That being said, it's a starting point. Thanks to Evans, the Dodgers have the flexibility to build a contender for years to come.
Suthon asked if I read Joe Sheehan's Baseball Prospectus column on the Dodgers Wednesday, and I had. Sheehan was on the money from the start.
"I have no emotional attachment to the Dodgers or Evans," Sheehan wrote. "However, the idea that Evans, who inherited a nearly impossible situation and has put the franchise on much more solid ground than it was when he arrived, could somehow find his job in danger just as his work could begin to bear fruit strikes me as patently unfair."
McCourt has said that he has a plan for the team. Well, guess what - Evans has a plan, too. It's clear what the plan is and has been clear for some time to anyone who was willing to look beyond the next minute to see it. Clear the contractual dead weight, create a foundation of pitching, build the farm system, then use available dollars to get the hitting you need.
Evans was ready to take his plan forward, only to be thwarted by the McCourt purchase. The glimmer of hope is that Evans brought enough sanity to the organization that he has made it easy for his successor to fulfill the promise and grab the glory. But we'll have to see about that.
"Los Angeles collectively has given us one big bear hug," Frank McCourt tells MLB.com.
Look, Frank - over here! Over here!
Yeah, that's right - me! The one with arms folded. The one not participating in your collective bear hug.
Oh - and hey, look - there's people on my left, people on my right, people in front of me and people behind me. They're not hugging you either.
Frank, I know there are people who have responded positively to your opening comments, who think that your trashing of Dan Evans' position as Dodger general manager despite the stability and discipline he has brought to the team is welcome, who believe you when you say you're going to bring a championship to Los Angeles.
But you insult us when you make statements that deny that there has been any skepticism and discontent greeting your arrival.
Don't start your ownership tenure by implying that Dodger fans who are nervous about you don't matter. It's not a good way to go.
Make Sure It's Wood
"If the Dodgers can sign (Greg) Maddux for a reasonable price (which is unlikely considering that his agent is Scott Boras), they'd be in a position to deal another starter for a bat. Actually, for Darren Dreifort, they might literally be able to get a bat."
- from Dodger Blues
Seattle Blogs to Dodgers: 'Take Our Gillick, Please'
When the rumors of the Dodgers' interest in Pat Gillick as a potential general manager first appeared, I asked writers for two Seattle blogs to comment. I think what you'll find is, at a minimum, although Gillick has been in charge of winning ballclubs in other cities, as the Times points out, he may be no improvement over Dan Evans.
First, here's David Cameron from U.S.S. Mariner:
I've been Gillick's harshest critic the past few years, and wouldn't be "too thrilled" either if I were in your shoes. However, for what (former Dodger executive) Bill Bavasi has done to our club this offseason, I believe you guys deserve everything that comes your way, including fireballs from heaven incinerating Dodger Stadium.
Hmm - sounds promising. Cameron mercifully backpedaled from the last point, but U.S.S. Mariner definitely is not pro-Gillick. Here, in this post from November, was a list of their complaints:
1. He didn't manage his budget well, spending lots of money on bad players.
Meanwhile, Stephen at Mariner's Wheelhouse had this to tell me:
I'm probably not going to be as anti-Gillick as [U.S.S. Mariner] - though I certainly don't think hiring him would be a good idea. More like a mini-disaster than a mega-disaster.
The big problem is that Gillick is old school all the way, and is scornful of the newer ideas. There are some concepts for which he gets left in the dust - not understanding replacement value players and overvaluing veterans in their 30's. If hired, he will probably bring respectability. I think he's established that he has the "old school" game down as well as anyone, and right now that would be enough to compete.
The bigger issue is that he will greatly delay the needed transition to modern thinking. He is not open at all to SABR-type of thinking, and is openly scornful of Beane. (But that seems as much influenced by personality conflict - Gillick doesn't think Beane treats other people with proper respect and doesn't like statements that were attributed to Beane in Moneyball.) Gillick will not build or develop SABR skills in the organization, and may drive out capable people who might be there who do have those skills. So it will take that much longer for the organization to get properly oriented into a modern management mode, and the pit the team is in may be that much deeper after he leaves.
I can't see Gillick staying on the job for more than three years. Then he will want to hand the reins over to someone who thinks like him. If his ownership is not sophisticated baseball, Gillick will likely have a Svengali-type of hold on him, where they absolutely and implicitly trust and support him in any activities, particularly if he is also having on field success (and competing in the NL West he is likely to be successful, at least initially).
I think (Dodger assistant general manager) Kim Ng is an interesting variable in that. I don't know enough about her to assess whether she would complement Gilliick in those areas. ... (but) I can see where a Gillick-Ng tandem could work out well, and make a good transition into a full GM role when Gillick leaves in about three years. ...
On the positive side, he avoids the disaster signings, and will keep payroll flexibility. His biggest "disaster" was (Jeff) Cirillo, and, frankly, the Cirillo deal was pretty defensible at the time. Third base was an obvious position to upgrade the roster, and Cirillo looked to be a definite improvement over Bell. And Piniella had his fingers into trading for Cirillo, as well.
He will build and strengthen organizational scouting, as that is his strength. It may be at the expense of SABR skills though, instead of blending the skill sets.
Gillick would also not to do a Tejada or Vlad signing. He's a "spread the money around" type of guy. And frankly I agree if the money is wisely spent. Even if the big signing is a Barry Bonds, it leaves the team too vulnerable to an injury. SF, frankly, has been lucky that Bonds has been durable.
Hiring Gillick would be bad, but not an unmitigated disaster. There are a lot of worse hires that can be made, and that will be made.
This morning, The Bench Coach has more on the GM situation. By the way, Coach, Mrs. Dodger Thoughts and I enjoyed reliving all of SportsNight on DVD a year ago.
Although Beane can't help but intrigue, no one has yet proven to me that, after this crippled, truncated offseason, Evans doesn't deserve another year on the job. However, I realize this is beside the point now.
Joey Ballgame: Forgotten, But Not Gone
Got the following letter (unsigned):
To his credit, Frank McCourt has said all of the right things since he became the new owner of a once successful and storied franchise. The skepticism that I felt as a fan has been contained somewhat even as spring training approaches and we still have the same rally-killer extraordinaires preparing to dazzle us with another exciting season of first-pitch swinging, warning track flyballs we grew to love last season.
I read that the Dodger signed Jose "K" Hernandez. I am a bit confused and I am hoping that you may be able to shed some light on the subject - the subject being 2B. I do not understand why Jim Tracy hasn't given Joe Thurston a chance to prove himself? I know Cora is a whiz with the glove but he neutralizes his excellence in defense with his nonexistent bat. Whatever the Dodgers might lose by replacing Cora's glove with Thurston will be reimbursed with a legitimate hitter who makes contact and is never an easy out. Thurston had a great year in Vegas two years ago and it was a shock to everybody when Thurston did not make the club out of spring training. Did we miss something here? I don't think Dodger fans, including myself, will be able to tolerate a lineup that had Beltre, Cora, Izturis and the pitcher in succession. That is a guaranteed inning and a third of allowing the opposing pitcher to gather himself and gain momentum. Dave Roberts would be the only hitter who made an effort to work the pitcher. Every other starter did not feel obliged to do the same and we had 1-2-3 innings galore.
Paul Lo Duca was frustrating to watch. At one point, Lo Duca was on pace to match Jose Offerman's infamous 42 errors. Offerman was a shortstop and Lo Duca's a catcher. I think that the breakout season that Lo Duca had a couple years ago has now had a negative impact on him. Lo Duca apparently is thinking he is one adjustment away from becoming the offensive juggernaut he was a few years back. He hits absolutely weak grounders to the left side and barely has enough strength to send shallow pop flys into the outfield. With Karros and Grudzielanek gone last year, Lo Duca more than picked up the slack in hitting into inning ending double plays.
I'm sure Joe Thurston will get some at-bats in Spring Training 2004, but basically, the Dodgers wanted to hand him the job in Spring Training 2003 and he didn't hit. Okay - that was just Spring Training - an audition, not a full-fledged reflection of one's ability. I, for one, thought at the time that the Dodgers would have been better off keeping Thurston on the major league roster. In any case, Thurston then went and had a worse season in Las Vegas than he had in 2002. So it's hard to fault the Dodgers for being skeptical about him. Thurston had a .746 OPS in AAA - maybe Los Angeles is more his style than Sin City - certainly he deserves a chance to show what he can do at Vero Beach - but why should anyone assume that his OPS as a big-leaguer wouldn't drop to Cora's .625 level.
Thurston also only walked 31 times in Las Vegas - hardly reason to hope he would work the count like you correctly assert the Dodgers need.
Let's get rid of the Lo Duca-Offerman comparsion right at the start: Lo Duca made three throwing errors after the All-Star Game. Certainly, everyone wonders where his power went and whether it will ever come back, and yes, hitting into 41 double plays in the past two seasons hasn't helped any. There is a real incentive for the Dodgers to play David Ross more to see if they can get more production out of the catcher position. But, let's not forget that Lo Duca is a catcher, and above average among his brethren. It's not Lo Duca's job to carry the offense. It's the Dodgers' job to find offense to surround him. Catcher is probably the Dodgers second-strongest position on offense.
McCourt has said "all the right things?" I guess he has said some good things, but not all. And I'm still worried about what he hasn't said.
New Dodger (and Angel) Blog
Rob McMillin, an almost daily correspondent with me during the process approving Frank McCourt's purchase of the Dodgers and creator of the McCourt Timeline, has made the logical move to start his own blog, 6-4-2 - covering both the Dodgers and the Angels. Now he won't have to rely on me, The Bench Coach or the Dodgers.com Fan Forum to get his messages out.
For a quick introduction, click to his comparison of Dodger general manager Dan Evans with Oakland GM Billy Beane.
By the way, I assume that the "2" in 6-4-2 is for two teams, but I will say that a good 6-4-2 double play is one of the most exciting plays in baseball.
Update: Apparently, the 6-4-2 title was an accident, but I persuaded McMillin that it was a happy accident. Also, McMillin has a post in which he reports Angels general manager Bill Stoneman referring specifically to the Dodgers' pursuit of Vladimir Guerrero, providing "confirmation independent of the Times reports."
Updated NL West Rosters
I didn't have much to change in this latest National League West roster update, but I do have these thoughts.
Of course, upon a trade or free agent signing, I get to rewrite all of the above.
National League West Rosters - Updated February 4
Do you think non-roster invitee Jose Hernandez would beat out Joe Thurston? Maybe...
Cart ................................ Horse
Don't get overwrought about the Dodgers' interest in Greg Maddux.
More than likely, it will go nowhere.
If it goes somewhere, despite the people who will be up in arms because the Dodgers upped their arms, it would simply facilitate a trade of another starting pitcher for a power hitter, which is what everyone wants anyway.
Of course, signing Vladimir Guerrero would have been much simpler, but what can you do?
Brooklyn Battle II
The news of the New Jersey Nets' plans to move to Brooklyn is old, but not so old that I have to ignore it, especially when an insightful article comes along. And so, as Walter O'Malley and Robert Moses look on with great interest, the more things change ...
"Ten days ago Bruce Ratner announced he bought the Nets for $300 million with the idea of rehousing them in a massive complex in downtown Brooklyn," Brian Braiker writes for Newsweek.
"But locals in the abutting Prospect Heights and Fort Greene neighborhoods are promising to fight the plan, which could force between 350 and 900 Brooklynites (depending on whose count you believe) from their homes. They claim their ouster would be illegal and that the project would bring more traffic to already-overburdened streets, ruining the hardscrabble flavor unique to the ethnically and economically mixed area."
Disney Hall architect Frank Gehry has been hired for the project, which would also include office and residential spaces.
On these kinds of issues, there are three main areas for contention.
1) What are the merits of the project, functionally and aesthetically?
The first two questions are negotiable, but the third is fundamental.
If the answer to No. 3 is "yes," then give the people a fair voice and everything should be resolvable.
On the other hand, if the answer to No. 3 is negative, then there's no point in dickering with Nos. 1 and 2.
I'm going to argue that yes, the city does have the right to disrupt the few to serve the many. After all, at some point, any violation of one's property can be addressed through compensation - no property is infinitely valuable. Just don't kill anyone for it.*
That might settle the philosophical question, leaving the admittedly difficult negotiations of the other questions. Perhaps those negotiations end in a stalemate, and the project does not happen. But there is no reason not to talk.
I've posted this entry because it relates back to the Dodgers' Brooklyn roots. When I apply it to what Frank McCourt might propose to do in Chavez Ravine, I get uneasy. In fact, I get queasy.
Let's just say that in the case of Dodger Stadium, a stalemate might be the result we live with.*
*What if tearing down Dodger Stadium gives me a heart attack?
When I'm 64 I Can't Get No Satisfaction
"Are the Dodgers becoming MLB's version of the Clippers?" ESPN asks in ranking the Dodgers 64th among baseball, football, basketball and hockey teams in its Fan Satisfaction Ratings.
These rankings are more debate fodder than anything else: ranking the Dodger on-field talent 88th, one notch below the 4-12 Oakland Raiders, is like saying that I'm fatter than some bloated guy on Venus. Or thinner. However that works.
Anyway, until this year, you wouldn't have even considered the Dodger-Clipper question above. I'll even add a another: Which organization offers its fans a brighter future, the Dodgers or the Clippers?
In general, Los Angeles doesn't score too impressively on this chart. The Lakers are 31st, the Kings 48th and the Clippers 86th. On the other hand, the Angels are a robust sixth.
It won't be as a third baseman and it won't be because he's so cuddly and lovable, but Gary Sheffield deserves to be a Hall of Famer, according to Rich Lederer at Rich's Weekend Baseball Beat.
Cash vs. Class
The Bench Coach draws a compelling analogy about new Dodger owner Frank McCourt's search for a general manager while keeping Dan Evans on the job:
McCourt respects Evans like Charlie Sheen respected Heidi Fleiss. He got what he wanted or needed from Evans, and now he hopes to dump the GM on the first available street corner.
It is true that Evans has acted in the Dodgers' best interests throughout his tenure as GM, a fact that seems lost on McCourt (as well as the Times' Ross Newhan and others in the LA media). ... What McCourt is probably doing is trying to get Evans to walk away from the last year of his contract by publicly embarrassing him rather than have to pay Evans to not work for the Dodgers.
Somewhere in the ether, there's an argument that the $500,000 that the Dodgers would have to pay Evans this year if he doesn't quit is better re-allocated for the player budget, or the concession budget or, yes, even to pay off McCourt's loans to buy the team.
The counterargument? If you have any talent at all, how eager are you going to be to come play or work for the Dodgers and McCourt. The man had the team for a day before humiliating his first employee - and in turn, himself.
Where do I not sign?
Let Vin Make the Call
Over the years, we've probably heard Vin Scully talk about everything there is to talk about - except one thing.
The next Vin Scully.
In my mind, of course, there will be no replacing Vin. I'm well aware Vin has his detractors - people who tire of flubs he makes at the microphone, or who aren't drawn to his style. I accept that some feel that way.
For me, there has never been, nor will there every be, anyone who gives me more joy in listening to the broadcast of a sporting event than Vin.
Vin has been on my mind this weekend, ever since the announcement that all 162 Dodger games will be televised this season. Because there is no indication that Vinny's travel schedule will expand, this year we'll receive even more of our ongoing preview of life without Vinny.
I think we've all wondered about Vin's successor from time to time. I've been in the Al Michaels camp for years; I also still enjoy Jon Miller and Bob Costas. Not everyone in the Dodger audience would agree, but it doesn't really matter; none of those three seem likely to come.
Anyway, this weekend - for the first time, oddly - I started wondering whom Vin would recommend as his successor.
It's a question, because of his nature, that Vin would probably never answer on the record, but I still wonder.
I wonder if, among his unparalleled talents, if Vin has the ability to spot greatness in other broadcasters.
It seems like he would, wouldn't he? Think of Roger Angell, the consummate (albeit East Coast myopicized) baseball writer for The New Yorker. Fiction Editor at the magazine for years, Angell is certainly capable of spotting writing talent. But could he find the Next to be the most literary of baseball scribes?
I don't know (although I have a hunch about Ben McGrath over there). My gut tells me that one artist can pick out another artist. But I don't know. Is it possible that Vinny might not know exactly what makes him so great, or perhaps perceive greatness in another that isn't really there? That he would do as poorly picking a replacement for Dodger broadcasts as Magic Johnson coaching basketball?
Is it possible that one foggy day, way back when, Vin recommended Rick Monday? Seems like heresy to think it.
Certainly, I don't think any of Vin's remarkable poetry has been passed to Monday, tenured as a Dodger broadcaster without any spark of brilliance because he twice rescued flags, one American, one a 1981 National League pennant. Nor do I even think Vin has profoundly molded Ross Porter, likeable in his literal, earnest, Barney Fife kind of way, any more than Andy Taylor trained Barney to be his equal in Mayberry.
When the season finally comes that Vin doesn't ask us to "pull up a chair," I don't expect a new No. 1 from outside the organization. More likely, Porter would become the No. 1 announcer, Monday the No. 2, and the Dodgers would search for a new No. 3. Or, perhaps Porter and Monday would take over the TV coverage, and the Dodgers would hire a 3-4 duo for radio.
Here's what I think. Assuming Vin's fingerprints are not on Monday's hire, the Dodgers should let Vin choose his own successor. Have Vin listen to the tapes, have Vin meet the men or women applying for the job.
It's simple, really. Let Monet pass on his own brush.
Who knows, maybe Vin will spot some 22-year-old, fresh out of college, with crackling talent and an ethereal magic with words, who will bring true joy to Dodger fans for another 50 years.
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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