Baseball Toaster Dodger Thoughts
Monthly archives: March 2004


Lima Time - And Jackson Time
2004-03-31 21:08
by Jon Weisman

Edwin Jackson and Jose Lima are lined up to be major-league teammates after all, now that Paul Shuey has ruptured a tendon in his thumb, knocking him out for approximately six weeks.

So who's your starter and who's your long man?

I've been on record saying that Jackson, who had a minor league ERA of 3.70 last year, could do well to ease into the season from the bullpen, saving his strength for the long haul of the season. That, as opposed to any Spring Training stats, would be my reason for putting Jackson there. (Will Carroll, among others, disagreed with me, saying that Jackson was better off preparing as a starter if that was to be his ultimate role.)

I don't know who Dodger manager Jim Tracy will choose. Frankly, I can see the case for both Lima and Jackson - although you have to wonder why Wilson Alvarez shouldn't also be considered.

How To Make Spring Training Stats Meaningful
2004-03-31 10:33
by Jon Weisman

... in just five steps.

Step 1: Include walks in box scores and batting statistics distributed by Major League Baseball and The Associated Press.

Step 2: Record and circulate play-by-play logs of Spring Training games.

Step 3: Compute a value, based on regular season statistics from the previous season or from previous seasons, to each player in the major league camps. With Win Shares, EQA, OPS+ and ERA+, the foundation is already there. Put Barry Bonds at 100 and Garth Brooks at 0.

Step 4: Adjust every exhibition statistic according to these values.

Step 5: Circulate these adjusted Spring Training statistics, which, while not perfect, would account for the vast differences in the caliber of competition of any exhibition game.

This process is long overdue, yet seems within reach.

And thus, we could prove such critical facts as whether Jason Romano's eyebrow-raising spring was merely something to be tweezed.

Longtime and even shortime readers of this site know that I put little credence in exhibition stats and am much more likely to evaluate Romano based on his regular season numbers throughout his career, which are pitiful.

The interesting thing about Spring Training at the outset of the Moneyball era is that Spring Training produces performances that are probably best evaluated by observation, rather than statistics. Spring Training leads people to use statistics in a most unsystematic manner – because the statistics are fundamentally flawed.

The time has come to improve Spring Training statistics so that they can be used as a compliment to observation. (And again, Moneyball advocates don't seek to eliminate observation, but encourage us to question what we are observing and place those observations in a quantifiable context.)

Until the statistical powers that be decide that Spring Training is worth the effort, however, I'd rather use regular season statistics, adjusted for level of play, to determine who the best prospects are.

* * *

For what it's worth, by those criteria, Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta might have improved the team this week by acquiring Jason Grabowski for cash and Jayson Werth for a promising reliever who was nonetheless far down the depth chart, Jason Frasor.

2003 Minor-League EQA Adjusted for Major Leagues
Romano .227
Grabowski .247
Werth .257/.223 (two teams)

Grabowski is a better-looking player than Romano, and he bats left-handed. As much as Dodger manager Jim Tracy has tried to stiff-upper-lip that the team does not need a left-handed hitter on the bench, he's fooling no one. Too many rival pitchers weaken against left-handed hitters, no matter who they are – and you need that option to force opponents to work through their bullpens.

"When we talk about readily available substitute players, this is the kind of guy we're talking about," Baseball Prospectus said of Grabowski in its 2004 annual. "Grabowski's a major-league-quality player – maybe even good enough to be a regular under the right circumstances. He can hit for a little average, has some pop with the bat, and has pretty good plate discipline. There are worse players starting all over the place at 1B and corner OF spots in major league baseball, many of whom make a ton of money. When teams like the Devil Rays run Jason Tyner out to the field, the Grabowski family is fully justified in throwing socks at the television in anger."

Werth, a right-handed batter like Romano and 34 days older, is a slighter improvement based on the EQA numbers. But Werth has shown a little more power in the minor leagues –he has 53 home runs and 174 walks over the past three seasons (majors and minors combined), compared to Romano's 13 home runs and 77 walks.

Of course, is it Romano that Werth will replace?

Dodger Bench Candidates (Six Slots Available)
Dave Ross
Jolbert Cabrera/Alex Cora (one will start)
Olmedo Saenz
Jason Grabowski
Jayson Werth

Bubba Trammell
Jason Romano

Jose Hernandez
Koyie Hill
Joe Thurston

According to press reports, the top five are in. Thurston and Hill will go to Las Vegas, along with Hernandez if he is willing (though I wouldn't say for sure that Saenz has made the team until it's official.) I had really thought Hill would make the team, based on his being a left-handed hitting catcher on a team that was depending on both its top-two catchers for offense, but Grabowski and Werth both can be emergency catchers if needed.

Based on previous track record, Trammell should grab the 25th spot on the roster from Romano. The team truly needs all the power it can get, and Trammell has much more of it than Romano.

But it's been clear for a long time how much the Dodgers like Romano, whereas Trammell has been downgraded to the guy they took a flyer on.

What's it gonna be, Jim and Paul? Power or personality? (Or another trade?)

Is it possible that DePodesta already has the enhanced Spring Training stat formula I've advocated – but isn't telling anyone?

An E-Street Thought
2004-03-31 10:32
by Jon Weisman

Eric Gagne = Clarence Clemons

Parlez Replay?
2004-03-31 10:28
by Jon Weisman

John's Dodger Blog interviewed MLB spokesman Matt Gould about why baseball is so afraid that controversial replays on stadium scoreboards will incite riots.

2004-03-30 10:16
by Jon Weisman

Folks, sorry for the silence caused by a) Monday's server problems and b) a sore neck today that I am trying to rest with time away from the computer. I know there is lots to talk about, with the new acquisitions of Jason Grabowski and Jayson Werth and such. Thanks for bearing with me.

Just in passing, though, wasn't I right in saying over a month ago that the Dodgers shouldn't have preemptively suggested that Edwin Jackson would start the season in the starting rotation - especially if they were going to let Spring Training performance affect the decision.

Jackson hasn't been officially dropped, but the writing is on the wall.

If he had to prove himself, then they should have let him prove himself. If he didn't have to prove himself, then they shouldn't be changing their mind now.

By the way - did you notice that the season started??? Hooray!

The Stooge Division
2004-03-29 10:09
by Jon Weisman

The talk is that it might take only 85 victories to win the National League Western Division in 2004 (and that it might take even less to win the American League Central). Certainly, there are many of fans out there who think this is their best hope.

Ultimately, this might just be talk. Given the unbalanced schedule in which teams play more games inside their division than outside, chances are still good that a 90-win team will emerge, even if that team isn't a truly great team.

Since baseball went to a three-division format, however, several teams have won divisions with fewer than 90 victories. Houston took the NL Central in 1997 with as few as 84 wins.

Furthermore, a sub-.500 champion is possible. In fact, it was only 10 years ago that we had one.

It has been largely forgotten because the 1994 major league baseball season ended with a strike in August. But here are the final AL West standings of that year, featuring the Texas Moes, the Oakland Larrys, the Seattle Curlys and the California Shemps:

American League West (1994 Final)


To put that in further perspective, here are the standings of the entire American League.

American League (1994 Final)

White Sox6746.5933
Blue Jays5560.47816
Red Sox5461.47017

Somehow, one division ended up with the four worst teams in the league.

On April 22 that year, the Angels were 8-8 on the season when they allowed a run in the bottom of the ninth and fell to Boston, 6-5. That was the last time an AL West team saw .500 for more than a month.

Which is not to say there was no pennant race. While Oakland struggled to play .250 ball for the first two months of the season, Seattle, California (as the Angels were still known) and Texas alternated atop the division. On May 23 the three teams were tied (virtually) for first place.

American League West (May 23, 1994)


As May became June, the Rangers emerged as division leaders by winning 8 out of 12, and on June 6, had a chance to move back to .500. Symbolizing the kind of season it was, Texas sent Roger Pavlik (1-2) to face the Yankees and Jimmy Key (7-1). Pavlik lasted an inning-plus, allowing seven runs, and the Yankees led 10-0 after four innings en route to a 17-7 victory.

However, the Rangers edged the Yankees in consecutive one-run games, 10-9 and 6-5, to move to .500 at 28-28. Two more victories over the AL Central-contending Royals put Texas at 30-28. Although the rest of the division had fallen firmly under .500 (and was in fact struggling to stay above .400), Texas, with consecutive wins over the league's best team and 12 wins in 17 games overall, appeared to give the AL West a legitimate team.

American League West (June 10, 1994)


The Rangers lost two games to fall back to .500, won again to reach 31-30, and then lost two more games. Their loss to Seattle on June 15, 5-2, dropped them to 31-32 – putting the AL West under .500 for good.

Texas caught the Mariners in a mini-run of their own. Seattle won a muy impressive five out of eight to pull within two games of the Rangers. The Angels kept pace and were only 2.5 games out.

For its part, thought-to-be-truly hopeless Oakland had won six out of eight – and 12 out of 23 – to pull back within 7.5 games of the lead.

While neither California nor Seattle could continue their push, the A's did. On July 1, Oakland de-cellar-ated with a 6-3 victory over Boston. With a record of 21-15 since May 22, the A's were within four games of the division lead.

American League West (July 1, 1994)


Five days later , Oakland reached second place, still four games out, and was three games out at the All-Star break, July 11-13.

The A's didn't get any closer to Texas until July 24, when they moved within two games of the Rangers. As late as August 4, the Rangers were 52-56, having gone 15-15 since July 1 and 19-18 since May 22, and held a 4.5-game lead in the division.

However, Texas did not win another game in 1994.

On August 5, the A's and Texas began a three-game series in Oakland.

  • The A's rallied from a 4-1 deficit to tie the first game, then won with a run in the bottom of the ninth.
  • In the second game, after Pavlik pitched seven innings of one-run, two-hit ball for Texas, the A's rallied with five runs in the bottom of the eighth off rookie Darren Oliver and Tom Henke and won, 6-4.
  • Oakland actually ended up with consecutive five-run innings off the Rangers, as home runs by Rickey Henderson and Scott Brosius keyed a five-run first inning and 8-3 victory in the third game.

    Texas' lead was down to 1.5 games.

    Both teams lost on August 8, but the A's gained a game on August 9. With the Rangers losing their sixth consecutive game on August 10, the A's had a chance to move into the division lead. Despite pitching a complete game, Steve Ontiveros was outdueled by Jason Bere of the White Sox in a 2-1 defeat.

    On August 11, with the Rangers off, Oakland still had a chance to tie for the division lead. The pitching matchup: Ron Darling (10-10) for the A's, Randy Johnson (12-6) for the Mariners. Seattle knocked out Darling after three innings, Johnson struck out 15 in a complete game, and Oakland lost, 8-1.

    And the next day, major league baseball went on strike, leaving Texas as division champion. (It has been written elsewhere, but not enough: There is no reason not to award division titles in a strike year, especially when individual champions such as home run titlists are crowned.)

    This was the majors' first season in the three-division format, so one consequence of the strike was that it reduced the potential backlash over a losing team entering the postseason, backlash that perhaps might have brought further realignment to baseball.

    But why were the teams in the AL West so bad?

    Texas had young stars in Ivan Rodriguez and Juan Gonzalez, and good players in their prime with Will Clark and Jose Canseco.

    Seattle had Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez and Johnson.

    Anaheim and Oakland had less noteworthy talent – which, if nothing else, should have made it easier for Texas and Seattle to perform better.

    But, then as now, Texas didn't have the pitching, finishing with a 5.45 ERA, 13th in a 14-team league, despite playing games in a ballpark that in 1994, did not favor hitters. According to Lee Sinins, the Rangers' ballpark factor was 89, when 100 or more favors hitters. According to, the park factor was 100. (These, along with Retrosheet, were the sources for this story.)

    Kevin Brown, the staff ace, struggled to a 7-9 record, a 4.82 ERA and only 123 strikeouts in 170 innings while allowing 218 hits and 50 walks.

    In fact, all four AL West teams were in the bottom half of the league ERA standings. Seattle and California did play in parks favoring hitters, skewing their pitching stats. But those teams couldn't take advantage offensively. Seattle was ninth in the league in OPS; the Angels were dead last.

    The poor performances by the four teams weren't a complete shock. As a group, the teams were below .500 in 1993 as well.

    1994 American League West Teams in 1993


    Ironically, after the strike was settled, the AL West nearly put all four teams over .500 in 1995.

    1995 American League West


    And unlike 1994, everyone remembers how 1995 ended. Randy Johnson, arms outstretched on the mound, celebrating a playoff victory.

    So fear not, fans of good baseball and the 2004 NL West and AL Central divisions. You might see a fine pennant race this year despite the teams' weaknesses, and it could even be a sign of greater things to come in 2005.

  • No DH for Weaver
    2004-03-28 11:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Still don't know what kind of pitcher he's going to be for the Dodgers - he allowed a single and a walk to retreads Tony Womack and Ray Lankford to start Sunday's exhibition game, escaping only when both were cut down on the basepaths - but Jeff Weaver may have already produced the finest plate appearance Los Angeles will see in 2004.

    Facing St. Louis pitcher Woody Williams, a former All-Star, with two out and two on in the bottom of the first inning, Weaver fouled off pitch after pitch at 0-2 (about a half-dozen in all), laid off two balls just outside the strike zone, then hammered a three-run home run to left field.

    Williams was struggling when he faced Weaver, but instead of letting him off the hook, Weaver pretty much hooked him. The blast gave the Dodgers a 7-0 lead.

    Weaver is 4 for 19 in his regular season major-league career.

    Earlier in the inning, in which the Dodgers hit for the cycle and then some, Juan Encarnacion hit a mammoth two-run home run to left field. Pitchers would be wise to avoid low fastballs down the middle against Encarnacion - he really got full extension.

    Amid the first-inning fever, Shawn Green had a long triple to right-center field - don't know why Jim Edmonds was nowhere in the neighborhood. This wasn't the greatest swing you'll see Green have - so it was impressive that he hit the ball to the wall. Unlike Weaver, however, Green remains homerless for the spring.

    As I publish this, Weaver has completed three shutout innings against the Cardinals' regular lineup, one of the best in baseball.

    Predictions & Addition
    2004-03-25 16:02
    by Jon Weisman

    The inspiration for my wistful walk on the James Loney - Rookie of the Year limb arose from the predictions, which are running all week on the site's home page. More to come Friday.

    I've noticed that I don't have one consensus pick among the individuals. Fun for me.

    Let me know in the comments if you are checking out the home page on your own. We stay up late at night hoping to addict you - and plan to add more content there to fulfill those crazy dreams.

    I'd also like to take this opportunity to extend my welcome to All-Baseball's newest member, Alex Ciepley, formerly the (dare-we-say-it: groundbreaking) author of Ball Talk. Ciepley will publish his valuable insights via The Cub Reporter. Always great to make a key acquisition just before Opening Day. Welcome, Alex!

    Bert Convy: Actor, Singer, Host, Baseball Man
    2004-03-25 12:41
    by Jon Weisman

    If you've never heard of Bert Convy, first of all, you're too damn young. Second of all, you missed out an a unique personage in American entertainment history.

    Allow me to quote from a a 1976 article appearing on this Bert Convy tribute website:

    Just about everyone knows Bert Convy. Afternoons the ladies drool over his great, lean looks when he hosts Tattletales, and evenings their spouses envy his near physical perfection, his easy singing style and casual wit during frequent Tonight Show appearances. Recently, nightclubs have been added to his repertoire so the entire family can marvel at Bert's versatility.

    From film roles in such pictures as The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders (also featuring Bucky Dent!) to his own prime-time series, The Late Summer Early Fall Bert Convy Show, Convy was everything, I suppose, that Ryan Seacrest aspires to be - and more.

    Only today did I learn about Bert Convy, Baseball Player.

    According to this excerpt from Majoring in the Minors, a book by John Hall:

    Bert Convy played left field in minor league baseball. Bert threw and batted left handed. The teams he played for were the 1951 Klamath Falls, Oregon Far West League and the 1952 Miami, Oklahoma KOM League and Salina, KS Western Association. He lost his starting spot to a boy named Don Ervin and the Philadelphia Phillies moved him to Salina, Kansas of the Western Association later in 1952.

    Bert was introduced to Mickey Mantle in 1952 during one of Mickey's absences from the New York Yankees due to a bad leg. It was also reported they met in 1954. After seeing the body that Mantle possessed, Bert realized the physical and economic realities of the sport and got out. However, Bert was out of baseball for two years prior to 1954, so this author believes that the story had a whole lot to do with hype and the apparent lack of exceptional baseball talent.

    I hope my tone doesn't insult anyone with memories of Convy, who died in 1991. Thinking of him does bring a smile to my face. While he was alive, he always seemed to pop up in the most unexpected places - and this latest revelation, in my mind, adds to his legacy.

    The Tristram Shandy Nightmare
    2004-03-25 08:24
    by Jon Weisman

    I was about a 3.5 student in my four years in college. That number would have been higher if not for 18th-Century Victorian Literature.

    That class was to me what the 2004 season is about to be to the Dodgers.

    You understand this intuitively, but we might as state it for the record. The Dodgers are living the nightmare: arriving woefully unprepared for their final exam, desperate for a burst of divine energy. Or at least an easy test.

    I lived that nightmare once, just a few months after the Dodgers' last World Series title.

    I declared English as my major early in my sophomore year, but by the end I switched to American Studies. I switched because although there were some classes in English that I completely adored, there were others that offered me no love. The trigger was a class on literary theory, taught by Shirley Brice Heath, that at the time held less interest to me than 10 weeks of traffic school.

    American Studies was a flexible major that fit in basically any subject at the university as long as America was somewhere in the title. "Sport in American Life" was one of them, and in fact, I never took a class I didn't like in that major. But afraid of becoming too culturally ethnocentric, I would continue to venture outside the box for electives. Which led me, in my senior year, to 18th-Century Victorian Literature.

    More than 15 years have passed, but my memories of the class are these: 1) one boring 800-page book after another like Tom Jones, of which I would read about 100 pages before giving up, 2) my least favorite book of all time, Tristram Shandy, which I did manage to finish because it was so mesmerizingly dreadful, and 3) resignation and defeat as I would do the Stanford Daily crossword puzzle in class while my well-intentioned professor lectured, on those days that I could force myself to attend.

    To translate this into relevancy, my 18th-Century Victorian Literature classroom experience was as satisfying as the 2003-04 Dodger offseason.

    Finals approached, and I had holes in my knowledge of 18th-Century Victorian Literature as gaping as the Dodgers' offensive holes at first base, second base, shortstop, and if Adrian Beltre doesn't heal on schedule, third base. I went over my meager notes and borrowed those of classmates, but little penetrated. My brain wanted Vladimir Guerrero, but all it got was Olmedo Saenz.

    I sat down in a classroom on a March day not unlike today, and hoped for the best.

    The exam had two parts. Part 1, worth 50 percent of the test, was a list of short excerpts from the texts we (were supposed to have) read, excerpts you had to indentify and contextualize. I only recognized half of them, and gave answers of dubious worth to the rest.

    That meant I had about a 15 or 20 out of 50 going into the second half of the exam, the essay. If I scored perfectly on that section, I might reach a 70, or about a C-.

    I saw the essay question, and I knew that wasn't going to happen.

    At that time, Stanford did not give students Fs. Rather, if you didn't earn at least a C- in the class, you simply got no credit - no units. It was as if you didn't take the class at all. Many people, with grade-point averages and grad-school applications on their minds, actually preferred getting no credit than getting a C- or a C+ or whatever, and would drop a class during the final exam by not turning it in (or by turning in a piece of paper that said, "I drop this class.").

    Much of my time writing my essay that day was spent deliberating whether I should turn in my test or not. I had about a B in the class going into the final, so even if I flunked the exam, I probably had a good-enough flunk - an F+, so to speak - to earn a C- for the quarter. Did I want that on my otherwise A-/B+ record?

    The Dodgers don't have this choice. The Dodgers have a 2004 season ahead of them, and as much as some might like them to, they can't just drop the class. They're going to have to live with their failure to prepare, a failure born partly of nature and partly of nurture, and just hope for the best. Hope that the season isn't as hard as it looks, hope that it somehow caters to their strengths, hope that they aren't as unprepared as they seem, hope that they can suddenly grow smarter in the final moments.

    And ultimately, learn from it all and do better next time.

    I didn't drop 18th-Century Victorian Literature. I turned in my exam. Even in the doomed reality of the moment, I wanted the record to show that I took the class. I didn't go through all that tedium and low self-esteem to end up with no testimony of it. Better to finish poorly than not finish at all.

    D on the final, C+ in the class.

    Postscript: Three years later, I found myself in a graduate school program - in English. And I found myself taking literary theory. And I found on the syllabus a book written by a most vaguely familiar name. Shirley Brice Heath. I looked at her bio, and she had taught at Stanford. And then it clicked. Ah, we meet again, my enemy.

    Actually, I don't want to give the wrong impression: She was a very nice person and certainly worlds smarter than me. But it was amusing, as her book was lionized in grad school class discussions, for me to chirp up and say, "Shirley Brice Heath was the reason I abandoned English as a major."

    No regrets. You don't have to follow the conventional path to be happy. But your alternative had better be good. I do hope that Paul DePodesta finds the path away from the A's rewarding, and that he doesn't regret switching majors.

    Spit Take: James Loney, 2004 NL Rookie of the Year
    2004-03-23 21:19
    by Jon Weisman

    Predictions aren't worth spit, and I like to get more out of life than a loogie.

    But I just have this hunch ...

    ... that the Dodgers won't cobble together a major-league first baseman
    ... that Frank McCourt won't allow a trade for a productive slugger
    ... that James Loney is going to open up 2004 in Jacksonville on a tear
    ... that people will agonize over bringing him up at too young an age
    ... that Edwin Jackson's maturity will allow the Dodgers to turn to Loney in the absence of any other options
    ... that Loney will be called up in mid-June
    ... that Loney will be the second-best hitter on the Dodgers by the end of July
    ... that he will enter the NL Rookie of the Year race in the stretch run
    ... that he will shine for August and September, while Jackson tires from a long season
    ... and that James Loney will win the NL Rookie of the Year award by a nose over Kazuo Matsui.

    We haven't been expecting Loney until 2005, or late 2004. The odds are against anything more than a cup of coffee in September.


    Miguel Cabrera, age 19: 124 games, .754 OPS at Class A
    Adrian Beltre, age 18 (thought to be 19): 123 games, .969 OPS at Class A
    James Loney, age 19: 125 games, .737 OPS at Class A

    Miguel Cabrera, age 20: 69 games, 1.038 OPS at Class AA before callup; 87 games, .793 OPS after callup
    Adrian Beltre, age 19 (thought to be 20): 64 games, .995 OPS at Class AA before callup; 77 games, .647 OPS after callup
    James Loney, age 20: needs to do better than Beltre and Cabrera to win.

    But I'm gonna hock this one up.

    P.S. Just for fun, here are some quotes from Jason Reid in Times from Beltre's 1998 rookie season:

    June 25:
    On [Tom] Lasorda's recommendation, the Dodgers on Tuesday purchased the contract of double-A third baseman Adrian Beltre, whom scouts consider among the top prospects in the minor leagues.

    June 30:
    Lasorda has spoken with General Manager Jim Bowden of the Cincinnati Reds about acquiring Jeff Shaw, the 1997 National League "fireman of the year." Bowden is interested in rookie infielder-outfielder Paul Konerko, but would prefer rookie third baseman Adrian Beltre, who sources say is untouchable.

    July 1:
    The third baseman has often appeared confused at the plate during his brief tenure with the Dodgers. But Beltre is stirring excitement among club officials, who need something to feel good about.

    Former Dodgers Rodriguez, Ward Out of Work Again
    2004-03-23 15:16
    by Jon Weisman

    Henry Rodriguez and Daryle Ward, ex-Dodgers trying to make comebacks in 2004, will not make the Pirates' 25-man roster this spring.

    Part out of sentimentality, partly out of depression at the Dodgers' left-handed options, I wouldn't mind seeing Los Angeles give Rodriguez a late look - although in light of his four walks and one hit since 2001, Los Angeles probably shouldn't indulge that impulse.

    Ward's introspective period apparently didn't last, according to Alan Robinson of The Associated Press:

    "I know I didn't have much of an opportunity," said Ward, who hit 20 homers for the Astros in 2000.

    Manager Lloyd McClendon said it was difficult to give Ward any more at-bats given how poorly he was swinging the bat.

    "Take a look at the numbers - 22 at-bats, that's a pretty good opportunity," McClendon said.

    Update: Fred McGriff is on the outs too, according to the Tampa Tribune.

    Better Than Beltre, or Beltre II?
    2004-03-23 09:26
    by Jon Weisman

    Last October, during the playoffs, I compared 20-year-old phenom Miguel Cabrera of Florida with once-20-year-old phenom Adrian Beltre of the Dodgers. expands on that comparison in discussing what we can expect from Cabrera in 2004.

    Dodger Preview on Baseball Primer
    2004-03-23 09:12
    by Jon Weisman

    In exhaustive detail, Eric Enders reviews the 2003 Dodgers - truly a unique team - and previews the 2004 Dodgers on Baseball Primer.

    Dodger X-Ray: Follow-Up Interview
    2004-03-23 08:26
    by Jon Weisman

    Update: Will Carroll's 2004 Team Health Report on the Dodgers has been published on Baseball Prospectus.

    Carroll uses a traffic-light scale to summarize his ratings:

    Yellow CF Dave Roberts
    Green SS Cesar Izturis
    Yellow C Paul LoDuca
    Yellow RF Shawn Green
    Green LF Juan Encarnacion
    Yellow 3B Adrian Beltre
    Red 1B Robin Ventura
    Yellow 2B Alex Cora /
    Green Jolbert Cabrera

    Yellow SP Hideo Nomo
    Yellow SP Odalis Perez
    Green SP Jeff Weaver
    Red SP Kazuhisa Ishii
    Yellow SP Edwin Jackson

    Yellow CL Eric Gagne

    For more details, follow the link in the first paragraph to the story. In the meantime, here is my follow-up Q&A with my colleague.

    JW: Does Adrian Beltre's yellow light relate still to fallout from his appendectomy - are we considering that an ongoing factor in his disappointing development? He's only missed seven games in the past two years.

    WC: Yes, it's still a factor. I look back three years, so it isn't weighted very heavily. Most of what led to it was his oddball comparables and some subjective reports that he's hidden injuries over the past couple years. He's risky - that's not really news - but it's determining how risky that's difficult. He's a low yellow, so it's something that should make you think just that extra second in a fantasy draft.

    JW: How close is Hideo Nomo to a red light? What are the odds he avoids the DL this year?

    WC: Very close. His quirky motion relies on shoulder flexibility, now compromised by surgery. I think he'll be effective this season with the home park disguising some of the effect. I wouldn't be surprised if he stiffens up at some point and spends a couple weeks on the shelf.

    JW: Shawn Green's shoulder injury is to his non-throwing shoulder, isn't it? Does that still affect his throwing, as you say?

    WC: Yes, it does. Everyone I speak to says his throwing is still off, which is probably the result of mechanical changes and balance. It's very much like what's going on with Rich Harden of the A's.

    JW: I definitely share your worry about Paul Lo Duca's potential loss of flexibility - but certainly, being flexible hasn't helped him in the last two second halves. My question is, does body mass actually help prevent you from wearing down, or is that a myth?

    WC: It's something we don't know. BP is currently designing a study to be done with one of the top research labs in the world to try and figure out how strength affects baseball skills. Until we get answers to this and other questions, we're guessing and we'll have hundreds of possibilities.

    JW: Where would Wilson Alvarez be on the health scale - closer to Odalis Perez or Ishii?

    WC: Ishii. Alvarez is inherently risky with all the mileage on that arm.

    JW: Is James Loney's wrist injury from 2002 the kind of thing that is more likely to recur after it has happened once?

    WC: He's another with the mystery 1B wrist injury. No one really knows what's going on there, but some come back, some don't. Loney sure looked good in spring training, but it's got to be a factor. The ones that recur tend to happen quickly, so I think he should be okay.

    JW: Jim Colburn is considered a pitching guru - but is there anything he can do to improve Darren Dreifort's mechanics at this point and give him a better shot at lasting?

    WC: Dreifort is one of those pitchers where if you made him mechanically efficient, he'd be ineffective. It's something I discuss in Saving the Pitcher - at some point, you can only tinker to a certain point. On Colburn, I'm not really sure where this "guru" reputation is coming from. He's a good coach, to be sure, but I haven't seen much in the way of results, have you?

    JW: Guillermo Mota has hardly pitched this spring - I believe they are saying tendinitis. Any further insight on him?

    WC: Triceps injuries can often disguise elbow problems. With a skinny, hardthrowing guy like Mota, that's a worry. They've been very conservative with him, which is smart. They're saying no structural damage, so that's surely a good sign.

    JW: Jeremy Giambi, the Dodgers' best hope for a left-handed pinch hitter, has been written off because of back problems. Are people writing him off too soon?

    WC: That's one for Harvey Dorfman or Jon Niednagel, not me.

    JW: Frank McCourt - any psychological issues? Anything on the CAT scan?

    WC: Ha! He's not Fox and that should make Dodger fans happy. I just hope he sells to good ownership in a couple years rather than default it back to News Corp.

    Bub's the Word
    2004-03-22 16:15
    by Jon Weisman

    Bubba Crosby and Scott Proctor, the guys traded for Robin Ventura, are surprising people from Fort Lauderdale to Fort Apache the Bronx by gaining the inside track to be on the same major league team as Alex Rodriguez, that is to say, the New York Yankees.

    Here's writing on Crosby, the former Dodger first-round draft pick, and here's the New York Times on Proctor.

    A Roll-the-Dicey Prediction
    2004-03-22 09:34
    by Jon Weisman

    Headline from Baseball America over the weekend:

    Crystal ball sees L.A. winning it all in 2007

    Writes Jim Callis:

    The NL West champion Dodgers are another club with a radically different look from the present. They've overhauled a moribund offense with free agents Nomar Garciaparra and Magglio Ordonez, plus prospects like first baseman James Loney, outfielders Franklin Gutierrez and Xavier Paul and second baseman Andy LaRoche. The pitching staff remains a strength, thanks to youngsters Edwin Jackson, Greg Miller and Joel Hanrahan and the addition of Barry Zito.

    The NL Championship Series features the Brewers and Dodgers on equal footing, as both required six games to advance past the first round. Los Angeles' pitching superiority is too much for Milwaukee, which succumbs in five games.

    The World Series goes the distance, with Halladay and Jackson facing off in Game Seven. Loney's two-run homer in the fourth inning opens the scoring before Rios cuts the lead in half with a solo shot in the sixth. The Blue Jays put runners on the corners with one out in the ninth, but Eric Gagne whiffs Wells and Delgado to give the Dodgers their first championship since 1988.

    The implication that the Dodgers might not only sign Zito, Garciaparra and Ordonez, but would resign Gagne after he becomes a free agent, might be as optimistic as the positive projections of the three young starting pitchers and four young position players.

    But hey, it's nice just to be considered.

    The Deal
    2004-03-20 19:50
    by Jon Weisman

    I need to do another Frank McCourt story today like a fastball to the skull, so I'll let Doug Pappas handle it. He links to and summarizes the terms of McCourt's Dodger purchase deal at Doug's Business of Baseball Weblog.

    Read Us Via Yahoo!
    2004-03-19 11:37
    by Jon Weisman

    You can now access content, including Dodger Thoughts, from your home page at Yahoo.

    If you have a Yahoo account, go to My

    Scroll to the bottom of the page and press "Choose Content."

    Go to the bottom of the next page and, under "Web and Internet," click the box and then the link that says "RSS Headlines (BETA)."

    Put "baseball" in the search box and check out all the choices.

    Thanks to Rob McMillin at 6-4-2 for helping engineer this.

    James at 19
    2004-03-19 11:26
    by Jon Weisman

    David Cameron of Baseball Prospectus on Dodger prospect James Loney:

    When the Dodgers announced him as a first baseman with the 19th pick in the 2002 draft, it was considered a tremendous gamble. Selecting a high school first baseman in the first round is rare enough - only five have been selected in the past four years - but taking one who was scouted almost exclusively as a left-handed pitcher appeared to be a major stretch. I had a chance to watch him in Vero Beach this week, and it is hard to believe that he was considered a better pitching prospect than a hitter coming out of high school.

    With most players his age, it is relatively easy to find a mechanical flaw in the swing or something that will need to be adjusted as he moves up the ladder, but Loney could sell instructional videos on hitting technique. He has a level, line-drive swing, but gets the bat through the zone very quickly, and his strength allows him to drive the ball consistently. His plate coverage is outstanding, allowing him to make consistently hard contact on pitches away and leading to a large number of opposite-field line drives. He already possesses major league power to right field, and can turn on good fastballs inside due to his impressive bat speed. Despite the mediocre walk totals last year, he is a selective hitter with a good approach at the plate. We still need to see him face consistent breaking balls and make the proper adjustments, but his skills suggest that it should be a fairly easy transition.

    His offensive package is about as good as you will find in a minor league player, and it is hard to find anything to criticize. We can nitpick over the need to draw more walks, but he is far from an undisciplined hack. He is the rare young talent who is a developed product and has the skills necessary to be a capable major league player quickly. Watching him take swings next to Robin Ventura, it was hard to make a case that Loney isn't already the Dodgers' best option at first base. Intelligent player development strategies will have Loney starting the year in Jacksonville, but it is far from a reach to suggest that he could be banging down the door in Los Angeles some time this summer.

    Lest you think that Baseball Prospectus has abandoned stats for tools, note that other parts of the article analyze Loney's numbers and find them encouraging, especially accounting for a slow 2003 start that can be traced to injury recovery.

    Please consider patronizing Baseball Prospectus if you haven't already. Some websites have articles that tell you all you need to know from a quick skim. But with Baseball Prospectus, you read.

    The Nod
    2004-03-19 10:02
    by Jon Weisman

    This is the best piece of writing I've read all day ... all week ... all month ...

    It's written by Alex Belth.

    Chances Are
    2004-03-19 08:42
    by Jon Weisman

    The Detroit Tigers deserve every chance to win the 2004 World Series. And they will get every chance to win it.

    That does not mean that someone like me, someone like you or someone with the media cannot comment on how unlikely it is that the Tigers will win. It does not mean that people can't evaluate whether or not the Tigers are making the decisions that will promote their chances of winning.

    When I hear people respond to criticism of the Frank McCourt ownership of the Dodgers, either here or in the press, by saying, "Give McCourt a chance," my skin crawls.

    McCourt has his chance. He has it - right now. And he's going to continue to have it for quite a while. It's not for anyone in the media to give or take away.

    He is not a victim, of a smear campaign or anything else.

    "Give McCourt a chance." It's as if the people saying it are John Lennon, the press is Richard Nixon and McCourt is peace. It's absurd.

    McCourt has his chance right now.

    The idea that the media can't criticize his performance, can't evaluate his decisions, just as if we were evaluating the ongoing efforts of any entitity to succeed, does not make sense.

    Edwin Jackson will have a chance to win 25 games this year with an ERA of 1.01 for the Dodgers. Based on what I've seen, I don't think Edwin Jackson will do so. Does that mean I am not giving him a chance?

    Readers are welcome to disagree with evaluations, here, in the Times or wherever. Recently, I have disagreed with sportswriters at the Times when they criticized Odalis Perez, when they criticized Dan Evans, when they criticized the hiring of Paul DePodesta. I felt their reasoning was flawed.

    I did not conclude that those writers have an agenda against these people - that they want them to fail - because there is no evidence of such an agenda.

    In fact, if there were to be any agenda at all, the much more likely scenario is merely that the Times columnists have opinions about what is in the best interests of the Dodgers. A winning team sells more newspapers than a losing team. A winning team is more fun to cover.

    Now obviously, there is a difference between me and the Times. Not too many people in this town of millions pay attention to what I say. On the other hand, if the city's largest newspaper opines that something is bad for the Dodgers, it could have influence. It might not, but it might. If Ross Newhan had been pro-Dan Evans, Dan Evans might still have his job today.

    That does not mean that Dan Evans did not have his chance to succeed. My criticism of the Times was that Dan Evans was succeeding - they just couldn't see it.

    Just because someone disagrees with you, just because someone might not appear to use sensible logic, does not imply evil intentions. I'm not naive enough to think that no one out in the vast media landscape has a bias, but it's a serious accusation, and you had better have a lot of evidence to prove it.

    Until you can prove a nefarious agenda exists, all bad logic is is bad logic.

    Why do I bring this up today, after a very welcome week of steering clear of any reaction to comments and actions by Frank and Jamie McCourt?

    Because I can't help but observe that $4 or $5 has already been quite enough to pay for the smallest bottle of water you can purchase at Dodger Stadium.

    I read the news that Dodger ownership is planning to raise the price of concessions and parking, I evaluate it, and I conclude that this will not promote building a better Dodger franchise.

    It will increase the McCourt revenue, but it will alienate a fan base that should be courted. Further, I don't believe that money will go toward improving the product on the field. Rather, I think it will go toward simply keeping McCourt afloat - which we shouldn't have to be worrying about.

    Believe me, you are welcome to tell me why I'm wrong. And McCourt will have more than enough chances to prove me wrong.

    But if people continue to respond to criticism of McCourt by saying that he's not being given a chance, my skin is gonna crawl right out the door.

    Update: In a show of good faith, I invite you to go to John's Dodger Blog to read John Wiebe's view of the parking increase, keeping in mind that my specfic focus about the latest news is more about concessions.

    Update 2: Raul Tavares at Dominican Players passes on the news that 22-year-old dauphin Drew McCourt has started work at Campo Las Palmas in the Dominican Republic.

    Update 3: Correction: Raul informs us that Drew McCourt was just on a two-day fact-finding mission in the Dominican, not starting work full-time there.

    All-Baseball Roundtable: NL East
    2004-03-18 16:20
    by Jon Weisman

    The Phillies may have the best talent in the National League East, according to the final divisional roundtable by your friends at, but what about their manager?

    Are you checking the front page for content regularly yet?

    Open Chat: NCAA Tournament
    2004-03-18 08:23
    by Jon Weisman

    While my biggest sports rooting interest is in a world of hurt, my second-biggest rooting interest is the classy well-oiled machine of college basketball, the Stanford Cardinal.

    Sure, the Stanford men's basketball team has gone 62 years without winning a national championship, and sure, its regular-season greatness in recent times has ended in tourney disappointment, like the Atlanta Braves (with one exception). But they sure do a lot of things right, making them a pleasure to root for.

    Perhaps Mike Montgomery mutters, like Billy Beane, "My s--- don't work in the playoffs."

    Anyway, this is a resilient Cardinal team that doesn't blow out many opponents but might just have the extra gear (or coping mechanism) that Stanford has lacked in previous years to go all the way. So, with apologies to Dodger Thoughts reader Dan Reines, here's hoping.

    In fact, for the first time in about 20 years, I'm not filling out a March Madness bracket. Instead, I'm channeling all my mental energy toward rooting for Stanford. (I'm putting in practice my aversion to fantasy baseball here - not that that has served me well.) No diversions with hoping my upset pick of a No. 13 seed comes through. No picking an opposing No. 1 seed to the Final Four, only to be torn when that team does make it and faces the Cardinal.

    I'm watching just for the sport and the psychosis of being a Stanford fan.

    Meanwhile, if there are any other college basketball fans of any sort among the Dodger crowd, I'm opening the door. I realize there isn't much local interest in the tourney, but consider the comments below your March Madness chat room.

    Open Chat: Dodgers
    2004-03-18 08:22
    by Jon Weisman

    The floor is open here as well if you want to stick to the Big Blue Wrecking Crew. Any Dodger Thoughts of your own that you want to share? Pitch them in the comments below and see who swings.

    Slap and Gap Hitters Won't Cut It
    2004-03-17 12:05
    by Jon Weisman

    Within even a pitcher's park, there are places where hitters can thrive.

    Dayn Perry of Baseball Prospectus notes that while Dodger Stadium clamps down on offense, it does so in very specific ways.

    Perry borrows statistics from the 2004 Scouting Notebook by STATS Inc. that illustrate the effect Dodger Stadium has in various offensive categories. (The following numbers are based on the past three years, with the numbers indicating what percentage of the league average occurs in games at Chavez Ravine.)

    92 - Batting average
    82 - Doubles
    52 - Triples
    99 - Home runs
    103 - Walks
    106 - Strikeouts
    93 - Batting average, left-handed hitters
    95 - Home runs, left-handed hitters
    92 - Batting average, right-handed hitters
    101 - Home runs, right-handed hitters

    As you can see, Dodger Stadium reduces batting average by a little and doubles and triples by a lot, but hardly impacts home runs at all.

    Therefore, Perry concludes, the team should not pursue hitters whose strengths are limited to singles, doubles and triples. The park suppresses those numbers too dramatically.

    Rather, the Dodgers should prioritize hitters who can draw a walk and hit home runs. (If they can knock out some two-baggers to boot, that's gravy.)

    As an example, Perry suggests rumored Dodger target Adam Dunn, the Cincinnati outfielder. His slugging percentage from home runs alone is .283, which is near Sammy Sosa (.309) territory. And, nearly 61 percent of Dunn's slugging percentage comes from home runs, meaning that his slugging percentage is less likely to fall if he comes to Los Angeles.

    "That's quite a bit of power devoted to only homers," Perry writes, "and it's why, despite hitting from the left side, the Dunn of '03 might be a nice fit in L.A. Granted, his component power numbers from 2003 are out of step with his previous two seasons in the majors, but his recent self illustrates the profile quite nicely."

    Dunn, only 24, also walked 128 times in 2002 and 74 times in 2003. Dunn's health might be a concern, but at the right price, he could be a good pickup.

    All-Baseball Roundtable: AL East
    2004-03-17 11:22
    by Jon Weisman

    Where would the Dodgers finish in the American League East? This question is not answered in the AL East preview, but just about every other question about the division is.

    By the way, Los Angeles would be battling Baltimore for fourth.

    Jackie's Greatest Play
    2004-03-17 09:03
    by Jon Weisman, the superb historical website, announced updated features today, including a search function, 360-degree views of memorabilia and classic moments for the Dodgers in the sports pages. Here's the Times covering the Dodgers Game 7 victory in the 1965 World Series, with a great subhead, "Alston Leans to Left and Koufax Proves He's Right," and sidebar, "Lament of a Loser: 'Koufax Good, but Dodgers Kind of Lucky, Says Zolio Versalles." (I do wish you could blow up the pages to make the articles easier to read, though.)

    What caught my eye most of all today was an in-depth interview with Don Newcombe on the 1951 season, in particular the 1951 must-win regular season finale, in particular particular, an entire page devoted to Jackie Robinson's greatest defensive play.

    Tied in the standings with the Giants, who were defeating the Boston Braves, the Dodgers fell behind the Phillies, 4-0 in the second and 6-1 in the third. They rallied to 6-5, only to trail, 8-5, in the 8th. A pinch-hit, two-run double by Rube Walker made it 8-7, at which point Newcombe got himself ready to pitch in relief, even though he had thrown a shutout the day before. Furillo then singled home Walker to tie the game.

    Newcombe shut out the Phillies in the 9th, 10th and 11th innings. In the 12th, the Phillies loaded the bases with two out. As New York Daily News sportswriter Dick Young wrote:

    Eddie Waitkus shot a low, slightly looped liner to the right of second. It seemed ticketed for the hole, labeled Hit..... Game....Pennant.....But Robby diving face-first speared the ball an instant before he hit the ground. As he struck, his elbow dug into his stomach and he lay there in a crumpled heap. Many fans failed to realize he had held the ball until, in his pain, Robby rolled on his side and flipped the pill clear.

    And here he lay, for several minutes, while trainer Harold Wendler administered to him, trying to restore Jack’s breath, and clear his dazed head. Finally Robby wobbled to his feet and walked off the field to an ovation....

    Robinson won the game in the bottom of the 14th inning with a home run.

    I've barely communicated the depth that has to offer. Believe me, it's more compelling than anything you can read about the present-day team.

    Some Lowfalutin Dodger Thoughts
    2004-03-17 08:30
    by Jon Weisman

    Things I wanted to write about in a depth-free environment:

    Guruvy: Pitchers sign with the Dodgers even though they have no chance for making the team, just to work with pitching coach Jim Colburn. Coaches matter. I firmly believe hitting gurus are out there. The Dodgers will give Tim Wallach the chance to prove he is one, but they can't accept mediocrity.

    Hi, I'm Duaner Sanchez, and I'm Expendable: "Rookie Edwin Jackson, slated for the fifth spot in the rotation, was scheduled to follow (Kazuhisa) Ishii," writes Tony Jackson in the Daily News. "But Tracy went with reliever Duaner Sanchez instead because he didn't want to risk injury to Jackson in the wet conditions."

    In Garcia Da Vida: I'm not ready to buy into the Luis Garcia hype yet; it's gonna take me well past Spring Training to believe he's more than this year's Larry Barnes. And in one sense, he's less - Garcia is another right-handed hitter on a team catastrophically desperate for lefties.

    Dodger Blue Cross: With Guillermo Mota sidelined for more than a week, how many Dodger pitchers have some sort of injury question mark next to their names? At least five: Mota, Hideo Nomo, Tom Martin, Paul Shuey, Greg Miller. Odalis Perez had better keep the blisters of 2003 away.

    Playing With My Head: We know it's a shame that with all the sports radio stations around, the Dodgers are broadcast on a news station that has mismatched priorities. By the way, is anyone else discombobulated that you no longer can expect sports reports on KFWB and KNX at 15 and 45 past the hour?

    On Paper: 2004 vs. 1988
    2004-03-16 08:44
    by Jon Weisman

    Meaningful and meaningless, all at once ...

    On paper, the 2004 Dodger starting lineup is as strong or stronger on offense than the World Champion 1988 Dodgers at catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base and right field. Only at left field and center field is there a projected deficit, as well as at the far end of the bench. (And we know what a key role the bench played in 1988.)

    On paper, the 2004 Dodger pitching staff matches or surpasses the 1988 staff at four of five starting slots. In the bullpen, you can make the case on behalf of the 2004 pitchers in five positions, although relief ERAs fluctuate significantly.

    Now, some of the 2004 Dodgers are on the downswing, but so were some of the guys in 1988. For a real caveat - as if you needed one - there's this: Magic not included.


    OPS+ is on-base plus slugging percentage relative to the league, with 100 being average. Courtesy of

    Position2004 Dodger2003 OPS+1988 Dodger1987 OPS+1988 OPS+
    CPaul Lo Duca92Mike Scioscia9188
    1BRobin Ventura101Franklin Stubbs8792
    2BJolbert Cabrera105Steve Sax8895
    SSCesar Izturis61Alfredo Griffin7950
    3BAdrian Beltre89Jeff Hamilton4780
    LFJuan Encarnacion101Kirk Gibson130149
    CFDave Roberts74John Shelby102108
    RFShawn Green117Mike Marshall109119
    BenchBubba Trammell54Mike Davis11255
    BenchDave Ross135Rick Dempsey51130
    BenchAlex Cora68 Dave Anderson6589
    BenchJason Romano(-47)Mickey Hatcher10296


    ERA+ is ERA relative to the league, with 100 being average. Courtesy of

    Position2004 Dodger2003 OPS+1988 Dodger1987 OPS+1988 ERA+
    SPHideo Nomo130Orel Hershiser130148
    SPOdalis Perez89Tim Leary83115
    SPEdwin Jackson163 Tim Belcher167115
    SPKazuhisa Ishii104 Don Sutton9286
    SPJeff Weaver73Fernando Valenzuela10079
    RPEric Gagne335Jay Howell71161
    RPGuillermo Mota204Alejandro Pena113176
    RPPaul Shuey134Brian Holton92197
    RPTom Martin114Jesse Orosco86123
    RPWilson Alvarez170Shawn Hillegas11181
    RPDarren Dreifort100Tim Crews160107
    All-Baseball Roundtable: NL Central
    2004-03-15 15:41
    by Jon Weisman

    Today's preview by the players takes you to a dreamscape where one must find reasons not to favor the Cubs to win the flag.

    In Memoriam: Roxie Campanella
    2004-03-15 10:53
    by Jon Weisman

    It's a Gruel, Gruel World
    2004-03-15 10:28
    by Jon Weisman

    When your modest expectations for a left-handed bat off the bench are Todd Hundley and Jeremy Giambi, and neither player has the backbone (almost literally) to stay healthy, Oliver Twist starts to look like Richie Rich.

    The Dodger roster is shaping up to be the opposite of Musical Chairs: too many seats, not enough orbiting kids.

    Here's how the roster projects today, with players meriting further discussion in italics:

    Starting Rotation (5): Hideo Nomo, Odalis Perez, Kazuhisa Ishii, Jeff Weaver, Edwin Jackson

    Bullpen (6): Eric Gagne, Guillermo Mota, Paul Shuey, Tom Martin, Wilson Alvarez, Darren Dreifort

    Opening Day Lineup (8): Dave Roberts, Cesar Izturis, Adrian Beltre, Shawn Green, Paul Lo Duca, Juan Encarnacion, Robin Ventura, Jolbert Cabrera

    Bench (6): Dave Ross, Bubba Trammell, Alex Cora, Jason Romano, Olmedo Saenz, Koyie Hill

    Next in Line: Jose Lima, Joe Thurston, Steve Colyer, Chin-Feng Chen

    Ishii will probably start the season in the rotation and may even stay there - he still has more strikeout potential than Lima, Perez or Weaver. But with a multitude of candidates and a dearth of leeway, Ishii figures to be on a shorter leash than in previous seasons.

    It was probably my imagination, but Dreifort appeared depressed during his inning of work. He had a chance for an at-bat Sunday and some double-duty practice, but went out for a pinch-hitter.

    Ventura gets the Opening Day starting nod based on the likelihood that the Padres' starting pitcher will be right-handed. That's the only criteria, and there are certainly other options. Ventura was signed to be a bench player, and in any semblance of an ideal world, that's what he would be.

    Cora still doesn't have a Spring Training at-bat but could start the season as a reserve. If he gets a rehab assignment instead, Thurston will earn his spot. I watched Thurston on Sunday's exhibition telecast - he made good contact with his bat and with his hip, but is a hacker all the way. And, he got picked off at second base. He'll do well at this point if he can match Wilton Guerrero's career.

    I can't say for sure how many hits Romano, the teacher's pet, has been racking up in the late innings of Spring Training against minor-league pitching, but I know it's a fair amount. Out of options, Romano has nonetheless taken advantage of this opportunity to build up appearances and play himself onto the roster - the team really wants him to succeed.

    Saenz continues to be my pick over Jose Hernandez for the endowed Ron Coomer Memorial Professional Right-Handed Hitter Chair.

    With Giambi's injuries, the Dodgers may be even more inclined to play catcher Lo Duca at catcher and first base, and have to be more inclined to find an alternative source for left-handed fuel. This spot could also go to Thurston - and hell, it'd be fun, albeit damaging, to see James Loney out youngify Jackson - but right now, Hill remains the best solution.

    Lima got through four innings Sunday in 42 pitches, but against a AAA-level lineup. Certainly, the Dodgers want him as insurance and may placate him by including him in the bullpen. Even so, though he has said he won't go to the minors, he would do well to wait out Ishii, Dreifort or Alvarez if that turns out to be his only option. In fact, once the Dodgers pass two early season off days on April 8 and 12, they may decide to go to 12 pitchers and add Lima.

    Colyer has not had a good spring but should stay on the ready, particularly with the fragile health of fellow lefties Alvarez and Martin.

    Chen is 3 for 7 since solving his visa problems - maybe he'll sneak on somehow with a late run.

    Finally, a word about Izturis. He batted second Sunday, as appears to be the plan. In the first inning, he sacrificed with Wilkin Ruan on second base - giving up a critical out to move a speedy runner 90 feet. He later came up with Joe Thurston in scoring position and two out, and made the third out. If Dodger manager Jim Tracy thinks he can hide a weak hitter in the No. 2 slot either by making him a full-time bunter or simply hoping for the best, it's probably wishful thinking.

    Late in Sunday's game, Izturis singled Ruan from first to third. The wishful thinking will no doubt continue.

    2004-03-14 08:08
    by Jon Weisman

    If former Dodger general manager Dan Evans was such a miserable person to work for and with, as Sandy, tipster to The Bench Coach, insists, how come people weren't quitting left and right the way they are now under Frank McCourt?

    Ross Newhan of the Times and ex-Dodger Eric Karros fire arrows at Evans for not pursuing Karros more aggressively to solve the Dodger first-base vacancy. Neither one considers the idea that despite the team's weakness at that position, signing a below-average first baseman who is Robin Ventura's age and who gains most of his value by hitting baseball's minority party, left-handed pitching, solves nothing.

    Instead, it's all about Evans' lack of people skills and "mystery plan" - even though the plan was no mystery - acquire a real hitter, not a Xerox of a Xerox of a hitter. How conveniently people can forget that the roadblock to improving the offense did not come with Evans, but with ownership.

    Meanwhile, McCourt is out there saying things to the Times like, "The idea that there's a panacea — you just grab one guy and everything's solved — I think is a little bit misguided."

    Putting aside the bullheadedness of this statement - even new general manager Paul DePodesta, taking his time to find the right deal, would have to say, "It's not a panacea, Frank, but you have to start somewhere" - once again, you have to question where McCourt gets his media savvy. The PR agency of Foot, Inmouth and Stickit?

    We know isn't coming from senior vice president of communications Derrick Hall. He's gone.

    It's no irony that the idea that one guy isn't a panacea originates with Frank McCourt.

    Pitchers: 11 or 12
    2004-03-12 10:03
    by Jon Weisman

    How many pitchers should the Dodgers carry on their roster: 11 or 12?

    You decide. Leave your answers in the comments.

    Dark Brown Thursday
    2004-03-12 08:50
    by Jon Weisman

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 168 points the day the Dodgers announced surgery for pitching prospect Greg Miller.

    It was a triumph for bull market and Dan Evans skeptics who feel that stock in trade and stock in Miller should have been sold long ago, for those who warned that our portfolios are imbalanced.

    When I first began investing in stocks in the 1990s, advisors coached me not to worry about the short term. Buy a stock that has long-term value, and even though there will be hiccups along the way, in the end you'll be better off if you just hang on.

    I adhered to that philosophy for a while, which was a good thing, of course, as the decade came to a close and stock values soared. And I even had my exit prices in mind. I made huge gains in Cisco, for example, seeing it rise to around $80 per share. When it fell back below $70, I decided that once it got back to $70, I would sell a huge chunk. I put in a sell order at that price.

    It got to $69.875 - and then began sliding for good.

    So yeah, I ended up selling some off at a much lower price, while holding on to the rest in the hopes that some sort of recovery would come. Which it has, to a meager extent.

    By that analogy, Dan Evans' sell price for Miller was probably about $100 a share, based on the belief that Miller had potential for great growth and dividends beyond what anyone on the market was offering. Now, Black Thursday (or at least, Dark Brown Thursday) has hit, and Miller's stock is sliding.

    In the short term, it looks like the Dodgers held Miller too long. And like Cisco, it's possible Miller might never approach his previous percieved value again, though of course he could.

    So here's the riddle.

    You shouldn't hold onto every minor leaguer whose value is high, because some will flame out. And, you shouldn't let go of every minor leaguer whose value is high, because then your payroll will explode.

    And you don't know the future.

    The best you can do is approach every individual decision rationally. Just because you're sinking doesn't make it any better to grab for a leaky lifeboat.

    My sense from this past offseason was that teams asked too much from the Dodgers. They asked for a top propsect in exchange for a player whose free agency was due this season. They asked for two top prospects for a player whose offensive skill set is far from pristine.

    This may be my biggest moment as a Dan Evans apologist yet, but my sense is that it was better to bet on Miller, Edwin Jackson, James Loney, Joel Hanrahan and Franklin Guiterrez than bet on what Evans was being offered in return.

    And I'll come right out and say that I don't know this to be true, as long as you concede that you don't know it to be false.

    (My other sense is that Evans really had hoped and believed at one point that he could sign a free agent like Vladimir Guerrero.)

    So now it's Friday. The stock market is down but not out. Greg Miller is down but not out. The Dodgers are down but not out. No one can sit on their hands forever, but that's not the issue.

    The issue is not to counter disappointment with panic. You listen to offers, but you still hold out for the best possible deal. You still try to be smart.

    At some point, the new Dodger general manager, Paul DePodesta, will make a move to improve the team. And as impatient as I am to see it, if it's not there to make yet, I'm glad he hasn't made it.

    Beane Throws to DePodesta - Complete
    2004-03-11 15:50
    by Jon Weisman

    The first transaction between Paul DePodesta's former and current employers has occurred: minor-league infielder Jose Flores comes to the Dodgers from the A's for cash.

    Can't help but notice that Flores has a near 1:1 ratio of 503 walks against 508 strikeouts, in a minor-league career of about 4,000 plate appearances. That's about a walk every two full games - very nouveau riche for the Dodgers. Flores, who turned 30 last year, does not have much power, but still might compare favorably on offense to Joe Thurston.

    Sorry about the content shortfall today: busy times. Hope to catch up tonight or tomorrow, including thoughts on Dodger teenager Greg Miller's impending arthroscopy.

    All-Baseball Roundtable: AL Central
    2004-03-11 11:00
    by Jon Weisman

    The look at the Schadenfreude division, the American League Central, is here for your perusal.

    All-Baseball Roundtable: NL West
    2004-03-10 16:52
    by Jon Weisman

    Our preview of the 2004 division races on turns to your favorite division and mine: the National League West. Here's hoping you make the home page another regular stop on your daily routine.

    The Dreifort Imperative
    2004-03-10 08:29
    by Jon Weisman

    The problem of Darren Dreifort is about as easy to solve as that famous 1,500-piece jigsaw puzzle, "Coastal Fog at Night."

    I mean, what do you do? Where do you start?

    A year ago Thursday, I explored the popular notion that Dreifort should try to salvage what's left of his career by adding full-time pinch-hitting to his pitching duties.

    The discussion was inspired by the intent of Milwaukee's Brooks Kieschnick to do the opposite - add pitching to his hitting duties.

    Interestingly, with the 2003 season behind us, we can see that Kieschnick succeeded more than he failed.

    Kieschnick's pitching was below average, with an ERA of 5.26 and an ERA+ of 83. But keep in mind that Kieschnick was the last man on the staff, and his ability simply to eat up 53 innings that otherwise would have gone to the next-to-last men on the staff had some value in itself.

    Further, according to Baseball Prospectus, Kieschnick had a positive VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) of 0.3, which means that while he wasn't as good as the average major leaguer, he was as good as any minor leaguer that might have filled his spot.

    On top of that, Kieschnick managed to turn in a pretty stellar year as a reserve hitter, OPSing .967 and OPS+ing 145, thanks to seven home runs in 70 at-bats. His VORP on offense was 11.9, higher than, for example, Colorado's Larry Walker.

    Anyway, in looking last year at Dreifort's hitting abilities, I saw that despite his Wichita State pedigree of 25 home runs in 314 at-bats, and his occasional home run with the Dodgers, Dreifort was as much of a major-league hitter as Anna Nicole Smith is an actress. He had never had an OPS over .600. His career OPS is .517.

    "Even with extensive batting practice, even if he is truly healthy, it stretches credibility to imagine that Dreifort could raise his hitting skills to the point of being more than an emergency batsman," I concluded back then. "There are many better hitting pitchers out there today.

    "Too bad. It looks like he's going to have to earn that salary on the mound."

    And that, we all know, is a tough proposition.

    When Dreifort does pitch, he has moments of brilliance before finishing with an average ERA. The oxymoronic combination of Dreifort's flashes of talent and degenerating physique puts the Dodgers in a very tough spot.

    Dodger manager Jim Tracy cannot look at Dreifort to be a starting pitcher, nor even as a thrice-a-week reliever in the Paul Shuey mold. Instead, what Tracy has in Dreifort is a pitcher who probably needs two days off one week, five days off the next week, and perhaps two weeks on the disabled list the next month, before restarting his cycle.

    To make use of Dreifort's talent when he is active, the Dodgers might have to carry 12 pitchers on their roster. And for that effort to be worthwhile, either Dreifort or that 12th pitcher, who would be someone like Steve Colyer, has to provide more value than the reserve hitter he would replace.

    And so, we now turn to examine the candidates for the final bench spot on the Dodgers. Guys like Joe Thurston, Olmedo Saenz and Jose Hernandez.

    Earlier this month, I identified Saenz, for example, as a dark-horse candidate to make the team and even contribute. He had an above-average OPS+ of 113 in 178 plate appearances with Oakland in 2002.

    But Saenz can't pitch.

    And this is really the conundrum for the current Dodgers. Who is more valuable to have on the roster - Dreifort or Saenz? Colyer or Saenz?

    Let's look again at Brooks Kieschnick. He produced four Win Shares last season: two as a hitter, two as a pitcher.

    Dreifort, in 60 innings with an ERA of 4.03 last year, produced three win shares as a pitcher, none as a hitter. If he can average three innings a week, taking into account at least one stay on the disabled list, Dreifort might get 80 innings this season and four Win Shares.

    If he can hit at all - which, again, is questionable, but maybe he can do better than Daryle Ward - Dreifort might generate a fifth Win Share.

    Colyer, who enters the picture as the heir apparent to Tom Martin as the lefty specialist, had two win shares last year. Martin had four, which might be a reasonable expectation for Colyer in 2004.

    Can Saenz, or Thurston, or whoever, as the last man on the roster, generate more win shares than the modest totals of the 12th Dodger pitcher?

    Not necessarily.

    Five Win Shares is tough to come by off the bench. Mike Kinkade only got two in 2003. Ron Coomer got zero.

    Perhaps this is will all become moot for the Dodgers. Perhaps Dreifort will be on the disabled list so much that he will essentially remove himself from the equation. In general, major-league rosters are in flux.

    But while Dreifort is healthy, he may have worthwhile value as a 12th pitcher. And if he can hit - hit at all - that only adds to it.

    The Dodgers should have this in mind when they schedule Dreifort's duties in 2004, in games and in practice. He doesn't even have to hit as well as the worst position player on the 25-man roster to be worth splitting into two.

    All-Baseball Roundtable: AL West
    2004-03-09 09:43
    by Jon Weisman

    We're taking a look at the 2004 division races in a series of roundtables. First up: the American League West.

    In Memoriam: Spalding Gray
    2004-03-09 08:32
    by Jon Weisman

    A unifying accident ...

    Often, when you do a long run of a play, in this case Our Town, you have what I like to call a unifying accident, in which something so strange happens in the play, that it suddenly unites the audience in the realization that we are all here together at this one moment in time. It's not television. It's not the movies. And it probably will never be repeated ever again.

    It happened as I was speaking of the dead and I say, "And they stay here while the earth part of them burns away, burns out....They're waitin' for something they feel is comin'. Something important and great...."

    As I say this, I turn and gesture to them, waiting, and, just as I turn and gesture, the little eleven-year-old boy playing Wally Webb projectile vomits! Like a hydrant it comes, hitting some of the dead on their shoulders! The other dead levitate out of their chairs, in total shock, around him and drop back down. Franny Conroy, deep in her meditative trance, is slowly wondering, "Why is it raining on stage?" The little boy flees from his chair, vomit pouring from his mouth. Splatter. Splatter. Splatter, I'm standing there. My knees are shaking. The chair is empty. The audience is thunderstruck! There is not a sound coming from them, except for one little ten-year-old boy in the eighth row. He knows what he saw and he is LAUGHING!

    At this point, I don't know whether to be loyal to Thornton Wilder and go on with the next line as written, or attempt what might be one of the most creative improvs in the history of American theatre. At last I decide to be loyal to Wilder and simply go on with the next line, and I turn to the empty chair and say: "Aren't they waitin' ... for the eternal part of them ... to come out ... clear?"

    - Spalding Gray (1941-2004), Monster in a Box

    A brilliant, tragic man.

    And also this morning, I remember another remarkable performer who has passed away, also at the age of 62, Paul Winfield.

    Concern Is Not Revolt
    2004-03-09 07:18
    by Jon Weisman

    If a son tells his father he's been playing too fast and loose with the family finances, does that mean the son doesn't support the father?

    If Dad tells Junior that this struggling family needs to change its ways - meaning that everyone in the family should start buying Quick Pick lottery tickets on a daily basis - do we conclude that because it's change, it must be change for the good?

    The significance of Ross Newhan's article in this morning's editions of the Times is not the individual departures of Dodger executives Bob Graziano and Kris Rone. Rather, it's the added spotlight shed on the possibility that Frank McCourt's finances are a house of cards - and not a full deck at that.

    Let me narrow down the key part even further:

    ... a business plan based on a best-case scenario. If that best case doesn’t totally evolve — and seldom do all of the pieces fall in place in baseball — [there is concern] about McCourt’s long-term operating potential given the level of the debt servicing in his highly leveraged purchase of the club.

    If there is anything to critique about this article, it is its credibility. Nothing against Newhan, or his unnamed source, but until a source goes on the record, there is always going to be doubt about its veracity. Not because the source wishes to spread misinformation, but because the information might not be proven to begin with.

    But the concern the article raises is serious, unnamed source or not. What happens to the Dodgers if McCourt's plans go awry - hardly an idle concern in Dodgerland?

    The Dodgers can do better as a franchise, no doubt about it. I am not rooting against Frank McCourt to make that happen. I have said repeatedly that for the sake of the Dodgers, I hope my worries about him are unjustified. And the trial is ongoing - the verdict does not come today or Wednesday or next week.

    But does that eliminate the right to monitor the operations of the team in the interim? McCourt has near-unfettered control over the team at this point; he is hardly being prevented from having his chance. Does one's faith in McCourt have to be completely blind?

    If you have any doubt, consider this: when he came to the team, Kevin Malone deserved support and a chance as well. Kevin Malone was encouraged to make changes.

    The Dodgers can do better as a franchise, no doubt about it. They can also do worse.

    Update: Bob Bryant from Birds in the Belfry published a recollection of his personal/professional dealings with McCourt. An excerpt:

    As the Director of Operations for the facility, I attended a number of meetings with Frank, and his lovely wife Jamie, and found them to be earnest, but totally incompetent people.

    Graziano and Rone Concerned? Them and Everyone Else
    2004-03-08 22:18
    by Jon Weisman

    However, sources familiar with the situation said that both (departed Dodger executives Bob Graziano and Kris Rone) questioned the viability of a business plan based on a best-case scenario. If that best case doesn't totally evolve — and seldom do all of the pieces fall in place in baseball — Graziano and Rone were concerned, the sources said, about (Frank) McCourt's long-term operating potential given the level of the debt servicing in his highly leveraged purchase of the club.

    - Ross Newhan in the Times

    Newhan also expresses concern in his article that the Dodgers still haven't added a hitter, but a poor offense is still more easily solved than chaos.

    Spring Training Is 1950
    2004-03-08 05:48
    by Jon Weisman

    Far away from the action, I feel the warmth and glow of a new season.

    The Dodgers are an East Coast institution.

    There's no major-league baseball in California.

    No live radio, except on the weekends.

    No live television, except in a blue moon.

    No idea of what the players look like or of what shape they're in, except from static newspaper images or news(reel) footage.

    No idea of what hot-shot rookie (insert name like Franklin Gutierrez) looks like at all.

    Pitchers pitch and hitters hit without guarantees; they need this job.

    The smell of the grass, the crack of ball against bat and glove, are felt only in imagination.

    For an audience far away from the action, writers write about the warmth and glow of a new season.

    Now Facing Eric Gagne, James Loney
    2004-03-05 15:38
    by Jon Weisman

    This would have been fun to see ...

    James Loney went 5-for-5 over the first two exhibition games, but his real test came at 11 a.m. Friday.

    He had to take batting practice against Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne.

    ... especially because Ken Gurnick's story doesn't tell us how Loney did.

    Perhaps more relevantly, though, Gurnick quote Gagne as saying that he wants to take it easy this spring, pitching in "no more than five or six games," in order to be fresh come September.

    Ten BP Dodger Tidbits
    2004-03-05 08:30
    by Jon Weisman

    From Baseball Prospectus 2004, which arrived from Amazon on Thursday.

    1) If James Loney's "wrist problem proves to be an anomaly and not an omen, he's as good a bet to make a quantum leap this season as anyone" on their list of Top 50 Prospects. Loney was ranked 25th.

    2) Franklin Gutierrez "is one of the best hitting prospects in the game despite only intermittent command of the strike zone ... The comparisons to Juan Gonzalez are a little overblown, but only a little. Gutierrez has a better chance at a 500-homer career than any player" on the Top 50 list.

    3) Chin-Feng Chen: "Normally, .281/.360/.530 looks pretty good. In Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League, it's pretty mediocre, especially when comnig from a 25-year-old who plays below-average defense. Chen isn't much of a prospect anymore, but could probably help the Dodgers as a bat off the bench."

    4) Koyie Hill's plate discipline "deteriorated into nothing in 2003 (we suspect you're detecting a theme) and his status as a prospect is likely to follow if he doesn't get himself back on track."

    5) Jason Romano is "described by one scout as 'Joe Thurston, but without the talent.' "

    6) Wilson Alvarez "was arguably the best pitcher in the National League in the second half, posting an ERA of just 1.77 in more than 70 innings of work. All the caveats about overweight pitchers who have trouble staying healthy should apply to Alvarez, but at the right price and in the right home park he could be a decent back-of-the-rotation starter."

    7) Andy Ashby: "Some people actually have to buy a ticket to win the lottery; others win by coming to the Dodgers in their early 30s, masquerading as a good investment."

    8) Steve Colyer "is a sinker/slider guy with some moderate control problems and decent K rates throughout the minors. He doesn't exactly have an out pitch, so it's unlikely that he'll pull Brendan Donnelly and start dominating major league hitters."

    I had rated Colyer highly Monday, but with this second look, I am having a few second thoughts. Still, he could be a semi-effective lefty.

    9) Jason Frasor "is a poor man's Billy Wagner - a pitcher who can bring the heat, but gets ignored because he's 5' 10" at most. ... There's little reason to think he can't contribute at the major league leavel, though he'll be lucky to have half of Wagner's career."

    10) Joel Hanrahan "succeds with exceptional command of four solid pitches. ... He's not as good (or) as dominating as Edwin Jackson, or as young as Greg Miller, but he's in the same ballpark in terms of promise."

    Bonus) Hideo Nomo's Equivalent Strikeout Rate "has dropped by more than 25% over the last two seasons, variables that PECOTA thinks will contribute to a sizable bump in his ERA, as well as a decrease in his innings."

    The book is about 600 pages - what I've given you there is about a page or two at most. It's worth a purchase.

    * * *

    Around the net today, The Bench Coach offers good entries on James Loney and Tim Wallach, while 6-4-2 discusses the departure of Dodger executives Bob Graziano and Kris Rone. Rob McMillin has the same thought I had: "Man, would I love to hear what Rone's 'philosophical differences' were."

    And if you want to see someone picking the Dodgers to win the NL West, for whatever reason, go to DodgerKid.

    Make Opening Day a National Holiday
    2004-03-05 08:20
    by Jon Weisman

    The movement to create National Pastime Day, a national holiday to be held each year on Opening Day of the baseball season, has begun at Athletics Nation, and Tyler Bleszinski wants my support.

    He's got it.

    Maybe he can get the U.S. Supreme Court behind it. Listening to NPR on the way home from work last night, Nina Totenberg was continuing her series on the release of the papers of late Justice Harry Blackmun. Totenberg found a note, passed between two justices during hearings on October 10, 1973, of national importance. The note read:

    Vice President Spiro Agnew has resigned.

    Mets 2, Reds 0.

    Looking at Retrosheet, the score was an update just after the first inning of the final game of the National League Championship Series. Big stuff for the highest court in the land.

    (By the way, I once got to visit the real "highest court in the land" - a full-length basketball court near the Supreme Court offices. But I digress)

    National Pastime Day - the time has come. (Actually, the time has probably already passed, but maybe it can come again.)

    The Evolving Dodger Thoughts Stance on Steroids - Day 3
    2004-03-04 16:28
    by Jon Weisman

    Still A Work in Progress

    I appreciate the compliments I've received for this humble project, especially this one - compliments that must be shared, for this has been a collaborative effort. But we're not done yet.

    Here is some of the feedback I've gotten in the past 24 hours.

  • In Wednesday's comments, reader Will Albers writes that "it's absolutely unquestionable that misuse of steroids can cause serious health damage. Even usage under doctor's observation has serious risks." While I am quite sympathetic to his conclusion (and it happens that I had read the Outside article he refers to), it's clear that many people in fact are questioning this conclusion and coming up with different answers. It is too simple to call all such people "ridiculous and irresponsible."

    In any event, I'm optimistic that the position I am slowly coming to accounts for people making either conclusion. And locating the common ground in this volatile issue is key. I want a stance that as many people as possible can agree on.

  • Later in the comments, a reader named Rowdy correctly identifies an issue requiring consideration: the effect of MLB's steroid policy on not only MLB players, but college and high school students. (And I suppose, frighteningly enough, junior high kids as well.) Rowdy points out that there are detrimental human rights consequences that come with drug testing, whether the testee is clean or not. Essentially, he argues that if you're going to drug-test, you had better have a good reason - it shouldn't be, "Why not?" It should not be, "I test because I can."

    So in that respect, having a no-steroids policy is not the same as having a no-balk policy. The analogy I drew Wednesday doesn't work, because a no-balk policy doesn't put people's rights and psyches at risk.

    That being said, I'm still in favor of a steroids ban, because in my mind and the minds of many other people, the potential harm of steroids has not been disproven. (Is this an unfair, guilty-until-proven-innocent approach? We can debate that further if you want.)

    So you do need testing, but there should be cause for testing. Now, the criteria for determining cause ... that's going to be tricky and is certainly a hot-button issue today, especially with today's news in the Times that "an industry source confirmed Wednesday that Major League Baseball was gathering information with the intent of invoking a never-before-used 'reasonable cause' provision that allows for immediate drug testing of any player suspected of using steroids." Defining "reasonable cause" - hmm.

  • Over at Will Carroll's site, commenter Mike raises the issue that "most steroids are illegal/require prescriptions." For me, contriving a position on what baseball's approach to drugs is difficult enough. I'm inclined to let the legal issues take care of themselves. Is there an issue where baseball needs to be a narc? I don't think that that's the case. But certainly, if baseball were to make the public act of punishing a player, one supposes that law enforcement could make appropriate investigations on its own. And in the reverse case, if the courts conclude that someone illegally used steroids, baseball can incorporate that result into its own decision for punishment.

    Okay, so here's where I am now:

    Current Beliefs

    1) No one should use steroids, drugs or supplements that could be potentially harmful to the body, short-term or long-term.

    2) No one should be pressured to use these supplements by the idea that they need them to stay competitive.

    3) There is debate in the scientific community about how harmful steroids are. (Indeed, steroids are prescribed to promote health in certain cases to people of all ages and ilks.) They might be harmful to athletes, but some respected people say that you cannot conclude that they are harmful to athletes.

    4) In the face of this confusion, it is not automatic that baseball should ban sterioids.

    5) However, there is sufficient risk that steroids are harmful for baseball to take measures to eliminate them from the game.

    6) A ban on steroids should have the support of both management and the players.

    7) That support should manifest itself in a punishment structure that is carefully vetted, and that includes both reprimand and, if appropriate, rehabilitation.

    8) In particular, the institution of drug-testing has serious human rights consequences. Therefore, methods for eliminating steroids from the game, such as drug-testing, should be instituted with the greatest care possible to protect those rights.

    9) Punishment should not be applied retroactively - someone who broke a current or future rule, before that rule was enacted, should not be subject to reprimand.

    10) Baseball is a game in which unfair advantages are frequent. Dodger Stadium works against hitters, baseball in Colorado works against pitchers, the first half of the 20th century worked against African American ballplayers, beer prices work against the consumer. There is no call to break out asterisks for statistics compiled by players who might be found to have used steroids. The record book is the record book.

    I kept the list at 10 - not going after a Commandment angle, but it's a good number.

    This certainly is not my favorite issue to discuss on Dodger Thoughts - you know I just want to talk about the game - but I sort of like the idea of dealing with this all at once and then getting it out of the way, so that each time the issue comes up, there's something of a ready response at hand. Maybe we'll be done with this before you know it. (We can dream, can't we.)

    If you're getting tired of these posts, I understand. But I still urge your participation. If you have any suggestions, comments or criticisms, please continue to send them along in the comments.

  • More Details on McCourt Purchase
    2004-03-04 11:33
    by Jon Weisman

    "A classic example of how a cash-poor but property-rich real estate owner can buy a bigger property without spending much money at all out of pocket, if the seller really wants to unload the property," is how Dodger Thoughts reader Bob Timmermann summarizes the Los Angeles Business Journal article, "McCourt Turns a Classic Double Play: Treats Dodger Deal As Property Gambit," on Frank McCourt's purchase of the Dodgers from News Corp.

    "It’s the kind of deal that gives hope to the Everyman who has always dreamed of owning a major league sports franchise – especially those who watch late night 'no-money-down' infomercials," begins the article itself, written by Danny King.

    Some of the information in the article is old news, but there are also good details and perspective about the deal. King writes that "Fox is essentially funding all but $175 million of the purchase price," that McCourt received $25 million in a loan from Bank of America, and that it's possible that Fox's payments on its television deal with the Dodgers might be front-loaded, further reducing McCourt's initial cash outlay.

    King adds that McCourt's commercial property, 24 acres in Boston's Seaport District that is ripe for development but currently used for parking (and as collateral for a Fox loan of $125 million), is on the market, at a value of $100 million or $200 million, if not more. This promises a great return for McCourt, but King also quotes a source who says that "with Boston’s commercial property market in a three-year downswing and a number of competing properties on the market, McCourt’s timing could be better."

    The good news for Dodger fans is that, according to King, "Depending on the schedule of Fox’s broadcast payments and the size of the third party’s equity investment, McCourt could very quickly do something that Fox claims it was never able to: make a profit."

    However, McCourt may have to sacrifice his parking lot income in order to fulfill the demands of his purchase. And whether any profit will be pumped back into the organization still remains to be seen.

    I'm sure Rob McMillin of 6-4-2 will have his own thoughts.

    Update: Kurt at Arrive In The Third, Leave After Seven adds, via e-mail:

    I saw this a while back, a Boston business writer talking about what Frank McCourt is selling back east. My wife, who used to live in Boston, is familiar with the property and questions how much a developer could do with it and how "prime" it is. Anyway, just passing this along as some more background, and hoping McCourt proves my skepticism wrong.

    Book Recommendation: Baseball Prospectus 2004
    2004-03-04 10:08
    by Jon Weisman

    ... aka, my latest transparent appeal for a pittance of the proceeds. Copies are shipping now, and many in the baseball community will be eager for a discussion, so now's the right time to pull the trigger on a purchase.

    Not Jon's Dodger Blog Returns ...
    2004-03-04 08:48
    by Jon Weisman

    That is to say, John's Dodger Blog - back from hibernation...

    And to add to the surfeit of morning reading, enjoy "Citizen O'Malley" on Mudville Magazine. (Thanks to Eric Enders for the tip, which reminds me that I don't check out MM enough.)

    Off the Air in the Dominican
    2004-03-04 08:16
    by Jon Weisman

    More interesting news out of Raul Tavares' Dominican Players. In recent years, Major League Baseball game telecasts have been an almost nightly event on free Domincan Republic television, according to Tavares, but now those broadcasts have been suspended, because:

    "...the company that had purchased the rights owes US$2.0 (million) to MLB. The biggest bank here tried to negotiate a deal but the price was to high.

    So now, if you don't have cable, (and by the way, (we) only have METS, BRAVES and CUBS games) or satellite, you will have to go to a Sport bar to see the games.

    In a subsequent e-mail, Tavares writes:

    The former company that held rights to MLB games in DR was "Deportes en la Cumbre." This company also had NBA TV games. Deportes en la Cumbre belongs to Baninter, one of the major banks here. Last March, this bank and his owner, Ramon Baez Figueroa, were accused of having two banks, one for the public records and the other for money laundry, so all the companies belonging to this group were closed or managed by the goverment, and the owner of the bank and two others were in jail.

    So back to baseball: Since they had a big debt with MLB, the rights for TV were cancelled. Other companies tried to buy the rights, but an agreement has not been reached yet, so no MLB games are going to be televised on open TV here.

    A different entry by Tavares offers excerpts from an El Caribe interview with Dodger third baseman Adrian Beltre, an interview perhaps most noteworthy for the fact that the interviewer is beloved Dodger coach Manny Mota. (Translate the entire interview using Systran, but be afraid, because the site translates "Manny Mota" into "Manny Speck.")

    (Update: James Flanigan recommends

    (Play-By-) Play Ball
    2004-03-04 07:11
    by Jon Weisman

    Aaron Gleeman has a first-rate diary of the first five innings of Wednesday's Dodger Spring Training Opener. Two samples:

    We just learned that Jeff Brantley cannot pronounce "Paul DePodesta." He's 0-3 so far and I think he may have just given up.

    Brantley on Bubba Trammell: "When you play left field, they expect you to hit 35-40 home runs and I don't think Trammell is the guy to do that."

    Number of major league left fielders who hit 35+ home runs in 2003: 3
    Number of 35+ home run seasons by a left fielder in Dodger history: 2

    * * *

    Masao Kida comes on for the Dodgers. Franklin Gutierrez (another LA prospect being considered for my Top 50) makes a great diving catch on a sinking liner in right field. The Dodgers have a whole lot of guys wearing numbers in the 70s on the field right now...

    Wilkin Ruan makes another diving catch in center field to end the inning. The difference between the two catches is that Ruan got a really bad jump on the ball, which forced him to have to dive for it, while Gutierrez played it very well and the only way he could have made the play was to dive. Of course, they'd both look the same on Baseball Tonight.

    Read the whole thing, especially if you missed the game, and get your Dodger season underway!

    The Evolving Dodger Thoughts Stance on Steroids - Day 2
    2004-03-03 15:33
    by Jon Weisman

    Subtitle: A Work in Progress

    [Click here for Day 3 Update.]

    The initial feedback, including articles for reference, has been helpful in my pursuit of a clearer position on baseball and steroids. Here's where I am, 24 hours later:

    Current beliefs

    1) No one should use steroids, drugs or supplements that could be potentially harmful to the body, short-term or long-term.

    2) No one should be pressured to use these supplements, either, by the idea that they need them to stay competitive.

    3) There is debate in the scientific community about how harmful steroids are. (Indeed, steroids are prescribed to promote health in certain cases to people of all ages and ilks.) They might be harmful to athletes, but some respected people say that you cannot conclude that they are harmful to athletes.

    4) In the face of this confusion, it is not automatic that baseball should ban sterioids.

    5) However, for the same reason that baseball is welcome to ban corked bats and balks, baseball is welcome to ban steroids, regardless of the inconclusive knowledge of their effects.

    6) Eliminating the pressure to use a supplement that you suspect others are using, as explained in statement 2), a supplement whose health effects are undetermined, is a valid reason for a steroid ban.

    7) If baseball is going to have such a ban, it should have the support of both management and the players.

    8) That support should manifest itself in a punishment structure that is carefully vetted, and that includes both reprimand and, if appropriate, rehabilitation.

    9) Punishment cannot be applied retroactively - someone who broke a current or future rule, before that rule was enacted, should not be subject to reprimand.

    10) Baseball is a game in which unfair advantages are frequent. Dodger Stadium works against hitters, baseball in Colorado works against pitchers, the first half of the 20th century worked against African American ballplayers, beer prices work against the consumer. There is no call to break out asterisks for statistics compiled by players who might be found to have used steroids. The record book is the record book.

    This list of 10 beliefs is not etched in stone - so again, I welcome further commentary that might lead me to expand the list, contract it or alter it in any way. Thanks.

    [Click here for Day 3 Update.]

    A Worthy Sarahnade
    2004-03-03 15:00
    by Jon Weisman

    The writing of Sarah Morris has been hit-and-miss with me. She has a passion about the Dodgers and a diligence in trying to cover them well, but I think that sometimes she can't get past her own preconceived notions about the game. She's still learning (and aren't we all). The good news is, she is open-minded and determined to learn.

    Today, she scored a hit. A couple of hits, in fact.

    Not only was she able to provide perspective on former Dodger general manager Dan Evans and a brief interview with his replacement, Paul DePodesta, but she also had the integrity to politely disagree with the recent column on DePodesta by her benefactor, Bill Plaschke of the Times.

    It was Plaschke's column about Morris that put her on the map and helped pave the way for her current recurring column, Sarah's Take, on But while acknowledging her friendship with Plaschke, Morris was able to critique him and his column objectively:

    Plaschke believes the writer should take a stand and not worry whether he or she is right. I do not exactly agree with his ideas, but his philosophy has some merit.

    I was disappointed and upset with his article about the Dodgers hiring DePodesta. He expressed prejudice against the young and people who use the computer.

    DePodesta is young but probably has new ideas about putting together a baseball team. Older people do not like the young assuming they cannot do their jobs because of their advanced age. We young people do not like people thinking we cannot do our jobs because we are too young. I know experience is the best teacher, but bright and fresh ideas can be beneficial to the field. Come on, Plaschke, you have never eaten a 32-year-old Dodger Dog.

    So what if DePodesta likes to use a computer? Nowadays if you do not use a computer, you are behind. Using a computer does not make a person a "computer nerd." I take offense at this phrase.

    If DePodesta wants to use a computer to help him evaluate players, he might be able to do a better job than Fred Claire, Kevin Malone, and Dan Evans. The Dodgers need to improve this process to win their first playoff game since 1988.

    Criticizing someone you have a fond relationship isn't exactly a rite of passage, but it's a difficult task that is worth recognizing when it is done with calm, cool class. It's a good moment for Morris - and I'm sure Plaschke feels the same way.

    While Others Limber Up, Dodgers Limbo Up
    2004-03-03 09:05
    by Jon Weisman

    Definitely getting mixed signals on Shawn Green moving to first base. Jason Reid reports in the Times that "Green probably won't open the season at first base unless the club acquires an All-Star caliber outfielder."

    "Green is scheduled to start at first in today's Grapefruit League opener against the New York Mets," Reid adds, "but some in the organization doubt Green will become a full-time first baseman because of his reluctance to make the switch and how the situation might affect his performance at the plate."

    As down as I am on Green's defense in right field - he got poor jumps on balls last year, his speed is down and his only asset is his arm - it doesn't make sense to move him to first if it a) weakens the Dodger defense there, b) weakens the Dodger defense in left field (with Paul Lo Duca or Bubba Trammell) and c) weakens Green's offense.

    Step one for Los Angeles still has to be the acquisition of a legitimate power bat. But if that bat is an outfielder, it's worth noting that you haven't solved problems a) and c) above - and if the new guy is a poor-fielding outfielder, you haven't solved problem b) either.

    There is no doubt we are still looking at a player, and a team, in limbo.

    Nevertheless, faced with the problematic alternative of an aging Robin Ventura getting 400 at-bats at first base, the fact that Green is probably going to have to learn to play first base sometime in his career, and the faith that someday, our prince (of an outfielder) will come, Green might as well continue training at first base for the time being.

    The Fourth-Next-Best Thing
    2004-03-03 08:46
    by Jon Weisman

    The best thing is to be at the game.

    The next-best thing is to watch it on television.

    The second-next-best thing is to listen to it on radio.

    The third-next-best thing is to watch a play-by-play account on the Internet.

    But if you're like me, you'll be following today's Dodgers-Mets exhibition opener via the fourth-next-best thing: Game Chatter on Baseball Primer.

    I thought about having my own chatterbox here, and in fact you're welcome to make your own comments about today's game here if you like. But I'm not sure that two spots are better than one.

    Anyway ... Welcome to Spring Training!

    2004-03-02 16:56
    by Jon Weisman

    Is Jim Tracy a scientist, a mad scientist, or just plain mad, wonders an open-minded Jeff Angus at Management by Baseball ...

    (Thanks to Repoz at Baseball Primer Clutch Hits for the link.)

    Asking for Your Help
    2004-03-02 16:26
    by Jon Weisman

    The different issues commonly lumped under the "Steroids" banner confuse me.

    My oft-stated goal on this site is to add insight to any consideration of the Dodgers and baseball - and keep my mouth shut when I don't have said insight to offer. As a result, you've probably never read any words from me here about supplements, or whatever the appropriate words are. (See - I'm not even comfortable with the language.)

    We still don't know for sure how big this story is going to become, not even after the allegations in today's San Francisco Chronicle, allegations that The Bench Coach eloquently addresses. But something's up.

    So what I'm going to do is this. I'm going to present my papier-mache thoughts on the subject. And then, if anyone wants to provide feedback, I'll use that feedback to build upon those thoughts. One man's opinion, formed by committee.

    It's my own little experiment - it may go nowhere, but we'll see. Here goes:

    Thread 1: Language

    1) I'm not clear on the language. I know calling everything "steroids" is a gross oversimplification. I want to be precise (without being incoherent). What exactly are the things we talking about here?

    Thread 2: Where's the Line?

    1) I think no one should use drugs or supplements that could be potentially harmful to the body.

    2) I think no one should be pressured to use these supplements, either, by the idea that they need them to stay competitive.

    3) However, it may not be clear which supplements are harmful and which are harmless.

    4) Thus, it is not clear where to draw the line on these supplements.

    5) Unless you feel that supplements that are harmless should be banned as well.

    6) Except then, how do you know where to draw the line? Even Gatorade is a supplement if you want to define it that way, right?

    Thread 3: Punishment

    1) If someone has been found to use a supplement that was not explicitly banned by baseball, there should be no sanction, should there?

    2) Does baseball in fact have rules forbidding usage of the substances currently under investigation in the BALCO case?

    As you can see, there's a lot of ignorance on these topics at Dodger Thoughts Central. If you have your own insights, please add them in the comments below.

    Fred Claire's Book
    2004-03-02 08:59
    by Jon Weisman

    Dodger manager Joe Morgan?

    It might have been, Doug Krikorian of the Press-Telegram points out in his notes about Fred Claire: 30 Years in Dodger Blue, the new book by the former Dodger general manager (written with Steve Springer of the Times).

    I hope to have my own copy of the book to read and review soon. In the meantime, Kirkorian writes:

    Apparently, (Tommy) Lasorda after the 1983 season was seriously entertaining an offer from George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees, and informed Claire, (Al) Campanis and (Peter) O'Malley that he wasn't going to sign a new contract.

    The Dodgers immediately began looking for a new manager, and Claire recommended Joe Morgan, who was 40 and had just completed a season playing with the Philadelphia Phillies.

    But moments after O'Malley had reached Philadelphia president Bill Giles to seek permission to speak with Morgan, Lasorda called O'Malley and said he had changed his mind and would re-up with the Dodgers.

    And so it was that the world came this close to losing Morgan as a sometimes thoughtful, sometimes mypoic commentator (not to mention chief mocker of Moneyball).

    One thing I've noticed about Claire over the years is that he has taken the criticism, which usually telescopes to the Pedro Martinez-Delino DeShields trade, with class. He offers explanations - Jody Reed's bizarre contract refusal, the approval of the trade by Lasorda and Dodger scout Ralph Avila, but he recognizes that the responsibility for making the trade still rested with him.

    It struck me this morning that Claire is something like the Dodgers' Jimmy Carter, a leader whose mistakes were more immediately apparent, and certainly real, and whose virtues only materialized in the public eye after his tenure?

    (P.S. Buy the book through this link, and I'll get a pittance, they tell me.)

    Why We Should All Be Glad March Doesn't Matter
    2004-03-01 22:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Jason Romano homered off Jeff Weaver on Monday.

    Jeromy is getting ready to tell me to eat my heart out.

    Roster Competition 2004
    2004-03-01 09:12
    by Jon Weisman

    Spring Training: A event, a time and a place to enjoy - and not take too seriously.

    Those of you who were with me a year ago may recall my mixed feelings about March player evaluations. On the one hand, any sight of players on the field is a sight for sore eyes. On the other hand, much of the hyperventilating that comes over who will be the 25th man on the roster - the histrionics over Ron Coomer vs. Quilvio Veras - is energy better spent worrying about more important matters like, say ... diet and hygiene.

    Additionally, Spring Training competition brings the tragic overemphasis on exhibition statistics, in which Joe Journeyman builds a .390 average over 50 at-bats and is deemed a Dodger savior. (Last year, guys like Veras, Terry Shumpert and Calvin Murray auditioned as such.)

    Nevertheless, here I am, diving into the discussion of who will be Los Angeles Dodgers this season. We do have to pick a roster, after all. So here is a March primer at the outset of March on the candidates to make the Dodger 25-man squad, based on the list of invitees to Spring Training. (Trade rumors not included.)

    Locks (19)
    Starting Pitchers (4): Hideo Nomo, Odalis Perez, Kazuhisa Ishii, Jeff Weaver

    Swingmen (1): Wilson Alvarez

    Bullpen (4): Eric Gagne, Guillermo Mota, Paul Shuey, Tom Martin

    Catchers: (2) Paul LoDuca, Dave Ross

    Infielders: (3) Adrian Beltre, Cesar Izturis, Robin Ventura

    Outfielders: (3) Juan Encarnacion, Dave Roberts, Bubba Trammell

    Infielder-Outfielders (2) Jolbert Cabrera, Shawn Green

    That leaves six spots open.

    Most Likely to Succeed (5)

    Alex Cora, IF: He appears on track to recover enough from his broken arm to at least be a benchwarmer.

    Jeremy Giambi, IF-OF: His contract is not guaranteed, but few Dodgers have his offensive potential.

    Koyie Hill, C: The guy is ready to contribute, Todd Hundley is ailing, and with Lo Duca moving around the field again, a third catcher is an asset.

    Edwin Jackson, P: As pointed out Sunday and as I discussed in February, saying that a spot in the starting rotation is Jackson's to lose offers no guarantees. But unlike Thurston, Jackson doesn't seem likely to take anything for granted.

    Darren Dreifort, P: He's upright and on the field. While he doesn't deserve that contract, he does deserve a roster spot when he can pitch. Being Darren Dreifort, however, he is never a lock. At this point, you ignore his salary and just limit him as much as necessary to keep him healthy.

    Next in Line (9)
    Steve Colyer, LHP: Flame-throwing lefty, 25 years old, at the major-league minimum salary (or thereabouts)? If there were a rookie pitcher that I'd hand a spot on the roster now, it'd be this guy.

    Joe Thurston, IF: From the favorite to the underdog. If Thurston has the Spring Training in 2004 that he was supposed to have in 2003, he could himself back in the Dodger plans, at least as a backup. But he really did have an awful 2003.

    Jose Lima, RHP: He doesn't strike batters out anymore (32 in 73 innings with Kansas City last season), but otherwise he comes in younger and with better credentials than Wilson Alvarez did a year ago. Despite the success Alvarez had, I still don't see great value in a team like the Dodgers committing to paying Lima for a season. Is he willing to accept Alvarez's 2003 minor-league assignment and serve as insurance if everyone else is healthy in April? Or will he be like Ron Coomer and force the Dodgers' hand?

    Jose Hernandez, IF: Had a resurgent 2002 with 24 home runs and a 121 OPS+. Last year, he still hit 13 home runs, but his other numbers were so awful that he fell to a 61 OPS+ - the same as that of Izturis. In particular, Hernandez does not hit right-handed pitchers. I can't believe I'm saying this, but he may be a poorer Coomer than Coomer - just the kind of guy to hit four home runs in March and have everyone buzzing, setting up a season of uselessness.

    Olmedo Saenz, IF: Getting no publicity right now as a roster candidate, the 33-year-old Saenz had a 113 OPS+ in 2002 before missing much of 2003. Doesn't hit the home runs that Hernandez does, but sort of resembles Jolbert Cabrera - some doubles, some walks and a disproportionate number of HBP (42 in 1,076 career plate appearances). My official dark horse.

    See You Mid-Season? (11)
    Todd Hundley, PH: As with Dreifort, Hundley's injuries and contract obscure the value that he does provide when you throw the dollars out. He has power and he draws walks. The contracts are already signed - nothing you can do about it - but at this point, I'd rather have a month of Hundley than a year of Jason Romano and his ilk.

    Jason Romano, IF-OF: Late-inning replacement (granted, at many positions) with no offensive value.

    Wilkin Ruan, OF: Ten walks, seven HBP and 12 extra-base hits in 461 professional plate appearances last season. I like Ruan more than Jason Romano, but there isn't much rational reason for it, beyond his 42-for-49 stolen base totals.

    Troy Brohawn, LHP: Good enough to make the team when healthy, but still in the recovery stage.

    Chin-Feng Chen, 1B-LF: Yeah, we know, he can't play D. But you look at his 2003 AAA numbers and they're not that bad: .360 on-base percentage, .530 slugging. His minor league EQA of .294 translates into a major-league EQA of .245. By comparison, Ruan's numbers translate to .208; Thurston's to .210. According to Ken Gurnick of, Chen's February visa problems leave him with no chance of making the team - but he deserves to be at least a candidate for the bench if anyone's hurt.

    John Barnes, OF: Not to be confused with Larry Barnes, this outfielder OPSed .323 for Class AAA Nashville in the Pittsburgh organization in 2003. He had the 10th-best major-league EQA - .259 - in the Pacific Coast League. He turns 28 in April. This year's Bubba Crosby/Chad Hermansen?

    Shane Victorino, OF: Had a weird year as a Rule 5 draftee from the Dodgers by the Padres. Now back with Los Angeles, the Hawaiian is still only 23 - but like so many Dodger minor leagues, is a singles hitter without much walks or power. Still more promising at the plate than Romano.

    Masao Kida, RHP: Could fill same role as last season - spot help for a game or three.

    Greg Miller, LHP: To paraphrase Kool & the Gang, "Salivation time - come on!"

    Joel Hanrahan, RHP: Had better numbers at Jacksonville last season (2.43 ERA, 130 strikeouts in 133 1/3 innings) than Edwin Jackson, but will no doubt start the season in Las Vegas. Somehow, at 22 years old, he's the grandpa of the Dodger pitching prospect triumverate.

    Willy Aybar, 3B: Not ready for prime time, but third base is the Dodgers' thinnest position. If Beltre goes on the disabled list, the phone could ring for Aybar, who turns 21 on March 9. Posted a major-league EQA of .200 from his .763 OPS at Class-A Vero Beach in 2003.

    September Callups (2)
    Franklin Guiterrez, OF: The slugging outfielder cooled briefly after a hot 2003 start at Vero, then played well (.984 OPS) during a short stay in Jacksonville. Even if the plate discipline isn't quite there, at least the power is. Just turned 21.

    James Loney, 1B: Ballyhooed, but I have this half-irrational fear his career will be like Todd Hollandsworth's. Some power, some plate discipline, but not enough of both?

    Fodder (4)
    Bill Simas, RHP: Ah, nothing says "Dan Evans era" quite like the signing of a White Sox retread. Simas, 32, sizzled in Las Vegas in 2003 with a 1.96 ERA in 46 innings and has a career major league ERA of 3.86. Could be on someone's major league roster - just not this one.

    Rodney Myers, RHP: In two crucial games, allowed four runs in one inning September 1 and no runs in three innings September 21. Always nice to have that roulette option in the Dodger casino.

    Tanyon Sturtze, RHP: Lost 18 games for Tampa Bay in 2002, then went 7-6 in 2003 with Toronto - with ERAs over 5.00 in both places. That qualifies him to make the Las Vegas roster.

    Rick White, RHP: Okay, in 2002, allowed two earned runs over 22 innings for St. Louis. Guess that buys you a second look even after a 5.78 ERA in 2003. The 35-year-old's career ERA is 4.20 in 390 career games.

    Check Back in a Year or Two (9)
    Andrew Brown, RHP: Acquired from the Braves in the Gary Sheffield trade, he struck out 129 in 127 innings with Vero Beach (4.11 ERA) last season. Twenty-two years old and a legitimate prospect, not a throw-in.

    Yhency Brazoban, RHP: Acquired from the Yankees in the Kevin Brown trade. With a 2.83 ERA in 28 2/3 innings for Class A Tampa, he's the best player in the world named "Yhency."

    Agustin Montero, RHP: In the Dodger organization since 2000, but I've never heard his name until today. Does that reflect badly on me? Maybe. Pattern in recent seasons has been decent numbers at one level, followed by a midseason promotion and ensuing decline in stats. Twenty-six years old, he'll return to Las Vegas.

    Jason Frasor, RHP: Career minor-league ERA of 2.92, including 1.85 at Vero Beach (24 1/3 innings) and 2.95 in Jacksonville (36 2/3 innings). Huge strikeout totals in both places, finishing with 86 Ks in 61 innings.

    Brian Falkenborg, RHP: ERAs of 2.74 and 2.94 the past two seasons in 26 games (23 starts) with Class AAA Tacoma. He's 26 years old and listed at a Michael Cooperesque 6-foot-6, 195 pounds.

    Reggie Abercrombie, OF: Recovering from anterior cruciate ligament surgery, Abercrombie is the all-tools, no-plate discipline mascot. He had a .212 major-league EQA in 2003: hitting for power but walking 16 times against 164! strikeouts.

    Hong-Chih Kuo, LHP: Recovering from his second Tommy John operation and third surgery in five years, the Taiwanese Darren Dreifort (Kuo got a $1.2 million signing bonus in 1999) didn't pitch in 2003 and has thrown 36 professional innings since 2000, but still raises hopes the same way Dreifort does. Of course, Kuo is a decade younger.

    Orlando Rodriguez, LHP: He's been moving up the organizational ladder despite low innings totals, but might finally see his first return engagement this year, at Jacksonville.

    Russell Martin, 3B: We've come all the way down to the bottom to find a home-grown Dodger prospect who knows what ball four means. The 21-year-old Quebec native has 58 bases on balls (against 55 strikeouts) in less than 500 professional plate appearances. Say "Amen!"

    Fodder's Fodder (4)
    These guys are in fact invitees - otherwise, they really, really wouldn't be on my radar.

    Ryan Kellner, C: A minor-league backup catcher, with a .228 batting average and 72 walks to show for his 341-game career, but he gets to spend Spring in Dodgertown - so who am I to criticize?

    Edwin Bellorin, C: Vero Beach's catcher last season, Bellorin, 22, has shown little offensively so far.

    Ricky Bell, 3B: I'm not even a USC fan, but who else can you think of besides the great Trojan running back? Well, try this fella, who OPSed .629 for Vero Beach last season - and made 47 errors.

    Luis Garcia, 1B: For Class AAA Buffalo last season, a .591 OPS.

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    About Jon
    Thank You For Not ...

    1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
    2) personally attacking other commenters
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    4) arguing for the sake of arguing
    5) discussing politics
    6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
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