Baseball Toaster Dodger Thoughts
Monthly archives: April 2004


My Favorite Baseball Movie ...
2004-04-30 11:30
by Jon Weisman

... is being (unnecessarily) re-made, according to The Hollywood Reporter via Entertainment Weekly:

Billy Bob Thornton and screenwriters Glenn Ficarra and John Requa like movies with the word ''Bad'' in the title. The ''Bad Santa'' trio's next project, according to the Hollywood Reporter, is a remake of ''The Bad News Bears'' for Paramount, the studio behind the 1976 film and its two sequels. Thornton, currently on screen in ''The Alamo,'' would follow up his ''Santa'' role as a boozy department store Kris Kringle by stepping into the cleats of Walter Matthau, who starred in ''Bears'' as a beer-chugging, cantankerous coach of a team of Little League misfits.

The Bad News Bears does baseball better than any movie I've ever seen. The Bad News Bears Go to Japan does it worse than any move I've ever seen.

Off the top of my head, Eight Men Out is my No. 2 baseball movie, with The Natural, Bull Durham and Field of Dreams following shortly thereafter. Bang the Drum Slowly isn't the greatest, although the scene where that song is played in the locker room might be the most moving scene in a baseball movie.

Weaver Gets Piazza But Loses
2004-04-30 07:19
by Jon Weisman

The biggest risk that Jim Tracy took Thursday night was letting Jeff Weaver pitch to Mike Piazza with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, down by two runs. Weaver justified Tracy's confidence with a dramatic, Bob Welch/Reggie Jackson-like strikeout, only for Wilson Alvarez to falter in relief in the final two innings. I disagree with the move to let Weaver pitch to Piazza, but I'm not going to pick on Tracy when so many things have worked this year.

That said, this was a disappointing series - nearly a sweep at the hands of the Mets.

Weaver is the first pitcher that should audition to be a Dodger pinch hitter - more so than Darren Dreifort. He really seems to have a clue up there at the plate. He already has two doubles and a single in 10 at-bats this season, and I still remember his Spring Training home run.

It's Real, and It's Spectacular
2004-04-29 16:10
by Jon Weisman

He smashes pitches on the inside half of the plate like grapes in a vat.

He escorts pitches on the outside to right field like a gentleman - he might as well be laying his coat out over a puddle on the outside corner, protecting the dainty feet of a fair young maiden, the way he extends those tailing pitches such courtesy.

There is nowhere to pitch him now. His plate coverage is star-quality. It's dangerous.

So I'm declaring the wait over.

Spread the word.

A real ballplayer has arrived, and his name is Adrian Beltre.

And that talent isn't going anywhere.

No, the walks haven't come - only two so far this season. The cynical men on the mound aren't buying the news - it's April still, and many are seeing the graduated Beltre for the first time. Few of them are yet once-burned and even fewer twice-shy.

They're staying near the plate - and so Beltre swings. And he connects.

He can reach everything now and knows what to do with it. It's become instinct, like learning how to turn into a skid. It's become pure.

He's gone Gagne on us. So go gaga on him. His transformation is that profound.

As time passes, as the pitchers tinker, Beltre's production will fluctuate. The averages could go down - almost certainly will, even though he has not attained a 1.055 OPS this year from anything other than hitting everything really hard.

But I'm here to tell you, there's no fluke here. You can see it. Beltre is no longer chasing the game. He grabbed it with both hands, throttling it. Basic Training is over - no longer a scared, shaky private, he's officer material now. He used to be Swiss cheese at the plate - now he's Teflon.

And, by the way, only one error in the field so far.

I'm serious. Forget all that stuff about what motivates him, forget about first halves and second halves, forget about his appendectomy, forget about his age controversy. Forget the uncertainty. It's not the same guy anymore.

Visiting from out of town? Time you got clued in on what's happening in these parts.

Adrian Beltre is for real. He's a player. He's a Dodger, he's 25, and he's a star.

Individual Dodger Stat Pages
2004-04-28 15:52
by Jon Weisman

I'm adding, and Baseball individual stat pages for all the Dodgers to the bottom of the right-hand sidebar. Hope you find them useful. (Baseball Prospectus is switching servers this week as it implements its redesign, so those links may be out of whack for the short term.)

Open Chat: Dodgers-Mets (Wednesday)
2004-04-28 14:54
by Jon Weisman

Odalis Perez - stopper?

Not Done Yet
2004-04-28 08:42
by Jon Weisman

Jerry Crasnick reports on the Insider page of that Rickey Henderson is leaning toward returning to the independent Newark Bears, with the expectation that he would sign with a major league team at midseason, as he did with the Dodgers last year. In the meantime, he will earn $3,000 per month, plus expenses, playing for another former Dodger, Newark manager Bill Madlock.

"Go Rickey," is all I have to say.

Crasnick adds that 2003 Dodger first baseman Fred McGriff is working out with a trainer in Tampa and "hoping for a call," but that McGriff has no plans to go the Henderson independent league route. From the article:

"We're trying to get that right fit,'' said Jim Krivacs, McGriff's agent. "Fred's not the kind of guy who's just going to hang on. If he can't play, he'll be the first to shut it down and take it to the house. But we still think he can help somebody big-time.''

The Devil Rays gave McGriff a courtesy look in spring training, and he hit .250 in 20 at-bats. His best chance is probably in the American League, where he could do some part-time DHing. But he's 40 years old, and the longer he goes without a job, the worse his employment prospects get. It'll probably take a significant injury to a first-base regular for him to get that phone call.

Open Chat: Dodgers-Mets (Tuesday)
2004-04-27 17:08
by Jon Weisman

Some people might have given up on Tom Glavine last year, but he has an ERA of 1.00 in 27 innings this season. Two of those games came against the weak-hitting Expos, however.

Glavine starts against the Dodgers tonight. Feel free to chat about the game here in the comments.

Postgame update: Although I agree with Jim Tracy that with the Dodger rotation stumbling, an extra reliever is more valuable than a mediocre pinch-hitter, John Wiebe is right - the last reliever in the bullpen shouldn't be the one you turn to in a close game, when all the relievers have rested for two nights.

Postgame update 2 On the occasion of Mike Piazza's record-tying home run as a catcher, Rich Lederer looks at Piazza's career. Like always, Lederer goes deeper than anyone else in chronicling the Dodger that got away.

To Piazza’s credit, he is number one in OPS despite playing in two home ballparks that are among the toughest on hitters in all of baseball. He has a significant advantage over his peers in OPS adjusted for park effects.

A Full Season in 18 Games
2004-04-27 17:01
by Jon Weisman

What would you think of a player with these stats at the end of the year?

611 AB, .277 BA, .339 OBP, .432 slugging, .771 OPS, 87 runs, 85 RBI, 169 hits,
30 doubles, four triples, 19 home runs, 56 walks, 90 strikeouts, 19 out of 22 steals

Not bad, although I wouldn't mind some more home runs.

How about this pitcher?

162 IP, 4.22 ERA, 12-6 record, 155 hits allowed, 21 homers allowed, 70 walks, 117 strikeouts

Kind of mediocre. I could use more than 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings.

Anyway, in case you haven't guessed, these are the Dodger team stats through Monday. No real revelations - I just find it kind of fun when the team stats match the innings and plate appearances of full individual season - they become so easy to evaluate.

Stanford Graduate Might Become Dodger Minor League Director
2004-04-27 05:59
by Jon Weisman

Alas, not me. Just someone younger than me. According to the Times, Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta:

... says a player could help blend subjective evaluations with the statistical analysis in which DePodesta specializes. According to scouts from other organizations, he is interested in hiring A.J. Hinch or David McCarty, both of whom were high draft picks out of Stanford before falling into journeyman careers.

McCarty, last heard from trying to become a pitcher/hitter, is still with the Red Sox; Hinch is with the Phillies' AAA team.

Little Adrian Beltre
2004-04-27 05:52
by Jon Weisman

Someday you'll find it
The cockfight connection
The Alous, the Beltres
And me

Giants manager Felipe Alou has a connection with Adrian Beltre going back to the Dodger third baseman's childhood, according to Allison Ann Otto of the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

It has to do with roosters.

Alou has a long history with Beltre, including memories of holding Beltre as a baby in his arms.

Alou's brother, Matty, oversaw rooster fights in the Dominican Republic, and Felipe Alou once knew Beltre's father, who raised and sold roosters for the fights - a popular sport there and in other Latin countries.

"I remember his dad driving with me to go to some ballgame and he used to bring Adrian as a little baby in his arms," Alou said. "He used to tell me, 'I want this guy to be a big league player. I want him to be a real good big-league player.' "

Today, that's what Beltre is. Beltre's bat has found salvation in going to right field, as if the baptismal waters were there.

Dodger History and Its Keeper
2004-04-26 15:56
by Jon Weisman

According to Mark Langill, what saved Dodger Stadium, what made it complete in its incompleteness, was the rain.

"When you look at photos of the ballpark (construction) in early 1962, there were no pavilions," Langill said in an interview with Dodger Thoughts on Monday. "Torrential rains had really put a crimp on construction in terms of the timetable. Originally they were thinking they would enclose the ballpark, (but) they decided the view was so nice.

"In retrospect, it worked out so perfectly. I think because of the delays, they finally settled on the 56,000 number. I think if they had been able to build the park with no delays, it probably would have had a larger capacity."

As the publication editor and team historian for the Dodgers, it's Langill's job to know this.

Think about that. It's his job.

What a great job.

Even better for the 39-year-old Langill, who came to work for the Dodgers after covering them for the Pasadena Star-News (where I met him when I was a Star-News intern in 1987), the fates recently conscripted him to learn even more about the team. Last year, Arcadia Publishing approached Langill and the Dodgers with a proposal to produce a 128-page photo essay, to be printed in paperback form, on the Dodgers' history in Los Angeles.

The one book soon became two books, Los Angeles Dodgers and Dodger Stadium. Each came out this year, with about 200 images apiece and accompanying text, all put together by Langill (with the aid of many Dodger colleagues, he points out).

"This was just a project that came out of left field," Langill said. "It was a wonderful surprise. It was an excuse for us to dive into the archives and do the research."

If you consider yourself a passionate follower of the Dodgers, or a Dodger raconteur of sorts, know that in Langill you're about to meet your match. He's the kid that got the key to the candy store. In Dodger Stadium, he writes:

There is also a special place within Dodger Stadium, tucked away from the obvious landmarks and carefully preserved and packaged like a grandparents' cedar chest in a dusty attic. Assembled in a special storage area are rows of four-drawer metal cabinets, filled to the brim with manila-colored files and photos of Dodger players, executives, and press conferences. This is the heart of the organization with its roots in New York, a storied and colorful Brooklyn franchise that joined the National League in 1890.

Of course, that leaves a lot of candy to sort through. Langill looked for photos with versatility - that could convey more than just a moment, more than just a feeling. The images he selected had to have, for lack of a better expression, three-dimensionality.

"Imagine having 209 possible slots for photos and thousands to choose from," Langill said. "How do you choose, from a Sandy Koufax action shot to a Don Drysdale portrait, to an outtake. I just didn't want it to be the same photos that people have seen year after year."

You can deduce Langill's appreciation for the entire Dodger experience, as both insider and outsider, from the photos that he finally did settle on for the books. Alongside the indispensible shots – Kirk Gibson thrusting his arm in the air after his home run in 1988 – are images like these:

  • amid the controversy surrounding the property, the rise of Dodger Stadium's concrete in the regraded Chavez Ravine
  • Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett, young, with a Dodger Stadium center field in the background that's marked at the old distance, 410 feet from home plate
  • a sketch made when Dodger Stadium hosted ski jumping, of all things, at an international ski show in 1963
  • a full-sized basketball court laid out across the diamond in 1964 for two games: one featuring the Harlem Globetrotters, the other matching the Dodgers against Dick Butkus and the Chicago Bears.
  • at the dawn of the High Five, Dusty Baker and Reggie Smith holding their palms so high that it appears Tommy Lasorda won't reach them
  • the planned cover of the Dodgers' 1997 Division Series program that never was
  • a giddy Stan Williams helping to tear down the 40-foot screen after the Dodgers' last game at the Coliseum
  • Sandy Amoros delivering the lineup card to home plate as a Dodger in 1967, seven years after he retired – a member of the roster, thanks to the Dodgers, so that he could qualify for his major league pension
  • a pre-curly Don Sutton, holding his catch of the day from a Spring Training fishing excursion, looking as Opie as can be
  • Mike Piazza, after hearing the news he had been traded to Florida, holding Ramon Martinez' hand toward his chest while in the Dodger locker room
  • with the Coliseum lights turned down, in a tableau of matchlight resembling an army of fireflies, the fans' salute to Roy Campanella on Roy Campanella Night in 1959.

    "I really wanted to go for impact," Langill said. "I would decide on a photo, and then change it, and then change it, and then change it again."

    Even for a definitive Dodger expert such as Langill, there were worlds of history to discover. He recalled seeing a photo labeled, "The East-West All-Star Game," and not knowing what it referred to. With further research, Langill found that in 1969 and 1970, after the death of Martin Luther King, the Dodgers staged benefit exhibition games at the conclusion of Spring Training, with each major league team sending players to participate. They were real live All-Star games – and basically, no one knows anything about them. Langill, in fact, is still looking for a program from one of the games.

    Through the books, we also learn, as Langill did, how much of a work in progress that Dodger Stadium was during its construction in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and that Walter O'Malley was no small thinker – that his vision was influenced by none other than Walt Disney and Disneyland.

    "I think the thing that really blew me away was the degree that Walter O'Malley wanted to make that such a baseball showplace, to see all the ideas that he had," Langill said. "He wanted to have a musical fountain in left field, that would change colors if someone hit a home run. That was on the early drafting board – late 50s, early 60s.

    "The very fact that they imported a sound system that was from an Italian opera house. … He really, really wanted to make it something that baseball fans hadn't experienced before."

    O'Malley's views evolved during Dodger Stadium's first decade, Langill notes. In Los Angeles Dodgers, Langill quotes from a 1969 O'Malley interview with the Times that discussed the ballpark:

    We wanted this to be a showplace, and it is, but we've been here eight years, and most people have seen it who want to. Our attendance, you see, was inflated in the early seasons. The fact is that it was much larger than our wildest hopes. But it couldn't go on.

    Buses drop off loads of visitors here every day. They lean down and touch the grass, and walk out to the mound where Don Drysdale stands in those Vaseline commercials. And I have to hope that many of them will come back. But as the years go along, we're judged more and more as a baseball team. As in other baseball cities, our attendance will rise when a Drysdale pitches 58 scoreless innings or when we develop other great stars or when we get another guy with that word charisma. Attendance will also rise if we just have a team that plays well as a unit.

    For Langill, there is one constant throughout Dodger Stadium's history that transcends wins and losses, or even bobblehead giveaways (which began with Danny Goodman, one of the team's first hires when it move to Los Angeles).

    "I think as I've gotten older," Langill said, "I've had a unique perspective. I've gone from fan to journalist to member of the front office. The one thing that has always remained the same is I've always looked forward to going to the ballpark. No matter how the team was playing. I think over the years it's the ballpark experience, in terms of customer service, how the fans, the players, the workers, when they're all considerate of each other, that is so important.

    "I've seen so many new ballparks, and somehow when you have this state-of-the-art facility, somehow the fan experience gets lost in terms of how the workers treat the fans. They're leaving their place of work, they're spending a lot of money to go there, they also spent family time together. It sounds like a basic thing and you just have it as a throwaway line, but you really see that the human touch is so important."

    The fact that Dodger fans have grown concerned at times that the organization has lost sight of this mission – or that it might lose sight in the future – only encourages Langill in this belief.

    "The premise that they're concerned is a wonderful premise because they show that they care," he said. "I have absolutely no problem with fans playing the what-if game – the worst possible thing that could happen is indifference. … Whoever's in charge now is held to a high standard."

    As team historian, Langill enthusiastically aims to hold up his end of the deal. All requests for historical information, trivial or truly significant, flow through him, and he attends to them like they're a cause. Last year's remembrance of Roy Gleason, the Vietnam War veteran who had one at bat – a double – with the Dodgers before going to war, began with a simple phone call.

    Recently, an inquiry came from a fan who, decades before, had lost an audio record of KMPC highlights from the 1959 championship season. On a lark, the fan called the Dodgers to see if he might have a copy. In this case, Langill did – in his desk drawer, no less.

    "To me, that was great just to burn a CD and send it to him," Langill said. "He got quiet on the phone and cried a little, and said, 'You really don't know what this means to me."

    It might sound saccharine, but know that when you talk to Langill, he actually seems in awe of his job. Covering the Dodgers as a reporter was a dream job for him to begin with, so you can imagine what it must feel like for him to have found something that could be even better.

    "If you're calling the stadium and put on hold, you hear highlights," Langill said. "And that was a CD we produced in 2002. We were able to collect different highlights on audio from all different moments at Dodger Stadium and write a script that Vin Scully would read. You talk about an awesome responsibility. Let's just say I could write a story and know a million people could read it, but it's a really, really unique feeling knowing that Vin Scully is going to narrate a script that you're writing. When you hear him read your words it's just amazing.

    "I've learned just to appreciate every day so much. There comes a point and I probably passed it long ago, just realizing how fortunate I am to be there and just how lucky I am. I never lose sight of that. … I had a high school teacher that one day walked into the classroom and said, 'If you can find a job that you love, then you'll never have to go to work.'"

    Lucky for him – and lucky for us who get to take advantage of his work. These books show that Dodger Stadium is the only place for Langill to work.

    "I don't think people would want me to be doing their taxes or landscaping their yard," Langill said.

  • The Gomer Pyle Rankings
    2004-04-26 06:01
    by Jon Weisman

    What with back-to-back triples on Friday and home runs in the same day/week/month/solar system by Alex Cora and Cesar Izturis happening to come Sunday, the unexpected has gripped me like a taffy-dipped Kung Fu hand of G.I. Joe.

    So please enjoy the following ranking of not the best teams, nor the worst teams, but the most surprising teams. Many of these anomalies will self-correct, but they have made for an April that would no doubt bring Gomer Pyle to exclaim, "Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!"

    Yes, the Dodgers are one of the surprises - but not the biggest.

    Dogs and Cats, Living Together
    Detroit (11-8) - No, no, no - don't try to say you saw this start coming.
    Toronto (6-12) - Before wins over the weekend, Blue Jays' 4-12 start was particularly appalling.
    New York Yankees (8-11) - Amid 1-6 collapse against the Red Sox, overall team OPS is .692. The more things change for Kevin Brown, the more they stay the same.
    Texas (11-8) - Good record in a tough division. Finally, the Rangers' hitting is too good and their pitching isn't too bad.

    Seeing Is Believing
    Seattle (6-13) - Two five-game losing streaks can't have been expected.
    Los Angeles (12-6) - Dodgerkid predicted first place, but he'd predict snow in August 'cause he's that darn ornery!
    Florida (12-6) - Marlins proving themselves anew in strange fashion: 6-0 vs. Phillies, 1-5 vs. Atlanta.
    Cincinnati (11-7) - The big injuries haven't come yet, and/but they're winning despite being outscored on the year.
    Boston (12-6) - Red Sox' record isn't a surprise, but how they got it is: 6-1 vs. Yankees, 6-5 vs. others.
    San Francisco (7-12) - The year everyone decided that they'd always win, they stopped.
    Arizona (7-11) - If Diamondbacks were going to struggle, didn't expect it to happen until they got outside the division.
    Baltimore (10-7) - Competitive against Boston (3-2), but hardly brilliant against Toronto and Tampa Bay (7-5).
    Milwaukee (10-10) - A 5-2 record against St. Louis is pleasant news in Wisconsin.

    Second-Glance Surprises
    Chicago Cubs (12-6) - The surprise is that they're winning without Mark Prior, and they're winning in consecutive seasons.
    Montreal (5-14) - In March, looked like a last-place team, but not the worst team in the NL.
    Colorado (8-10) - That the Rockies are competitive at all is unexpected.
    Anaheim (11-8) - Better against A's than Rangers.

    Less Shocking Than They Appear
    Philadelphia (7-10) - A talented team with troubled leadership starting just the way you'd expect.
    San Diego (10-9) - Many saw them improving, but Padres still had to prove it on the field.
    Oakland (10-9) - Record drops toward .500 after sweep by Angels, but A's will recover.

    Par for the Course
    Houston (11-8) - Record isn't surprising, though early dominance of Roger Clemens is a little bit.
    Chicago White Sox (11-7) - Contending in the AL Central.
    Kansas City (6-11) - Many thought last year's success was a fluke, explaining why some improvements aren't helping.
    Minnesota (12-6) - After slow start, back where they belong in AL Central
    Cleveland (7-12) - In February, there was hope for the Indians, but that faded by the end of March.
    Atlanta (10-8) - Unlike the Giants, fulfilling non-collapse expectations.

    Hank, Dale, Bill and Boomhauer
    St. Louis (10-9) - Yep
    New York Mets (7-12) - Uh-huh.
    Pittsburgh (8-9) - Mm-hmm
    Tampa Bay (7-10) - Sure.

    The Worst Double Switch of the Year (or All-Time?)
    2004-04-24 07:16
    by Jon Weisman

    In the seventh inning against the Dodgers on Friday, Giants manager Felipe Alou inserted relief pitcher Jim Brower in the No. 5 slot - right behind Barry Bonds.

    Talk about making life easier for the Dodgers. It's bad enough for the Giants to protect Bonds with Pedro Feliz, who at least has a little spark to his bat. But Alou took Bonds out of the game completely with the move, because there was no way the Dodgers were ever going to pitch to Bonds with a series of Giants relief pitchers or pinch hitters to follow. And with such weakness in the No. 5 hole, the odds were against the Giants ever being able to take advantage of the intentional walks to Bonds.

    The Dodgers looked like they were going to get buried, but a - I'll say it here: shocking - home run by Shawn Green and great bullpen work engineered a rally. For the year: six games over .500; two runs in the black.

    Bonds' on-base percentage is .703!

    The Comics, the Red Sox and the War
    2004-04-23 16:14
    by Jon Weisman

    Get Fuzzy and Doonesbury, simulatenously and apparently coincidentally, have brought us moving, incredibly artful stories this week with characters that have each lost a leg in Iraq. There was already a football connection with B.D. of Doonesbury - now that there is a baseball connection, I feel good about posting about it. I've paused after each square within each comic, savoring each little chapter, before moving on.

    Update: It took me a day to realize I had posted this on the same day that the death of NFL star Pat Tillman in Afghanistan was reported. I don't have the words to make sense of it all, but I think I can say, sincerely, that Tillman will be in B.D.'s thoughts, as he and others who have fallen are in ours.

    Black Tie Optional
    2004-04-23 09:52
    by Jon Weisman

    As they begin their second homestand of the season, the Dodgers are like a guy in a tux who hasn't showered in three days. They're awful pretty until you get real close.

    For the Dodgers to have a 10-5 record while outscoring their opponents for the season by one run, 70-69, is strange at a minimum. It's also something to be concerned about, though perhaps not as much as it appears.

    The surface explanation is simple: The Dodgers have gone 5-0 in one-run games, while four of their five losses have been by at least five runs.

    The other five games, all victories, have been by 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 runs.

    So what you have basically is a team that is splitting the blowouts while winning all the close ones. In other words, a .500 team that has had some luck. Or, given the fact that the blowouts have been slightly more blowy when the Dodgers lose, a .480 team that has had some luck.

    For years, the popular notion is that winning the one-run games is the sign of a champion, but more and more people are coming to accept that one-run victories are more the sign of luck than force of will.

    A team that wins a game by many runs dominated that game. A team that dominates many games is dominant.

    A team that wins a game by one run - could just as easily have lost. A team that wins many games by one run is like a coin that happened to land on heads a few times in a row.
    That being said, a team doesn't need to dominate to win its division, especially if it's the 2004 National League West. If none of the teams in the division are better than .500 in blowouts, then it is the team that happens to get the coin to fall their way that will emerge on top.

    That winning team could easily be the Dodgers, given the inordinate problems facing the competition, such as tonight's opponent. Even with Barry Bonds, the Giants have an OPS 35 points below Los Angeles.

    That being said, the Dodger starting pitching has to improve.

    3.20 Odalis Perez
    6.48 Kazuhisa Ishii
    6.55 Hideo Nomo
    6.89 Jeff Weaver
    7.88 Jose Lima
    5.93 Team

    Admittedly, they've played three games at Colorado and three games against Barry Bonds, but you know, they do that every year. As shocking as last year's extreme hitting deficiencies were, that any Dodger starting rotation could post an ERA of nearly 6.00 for any 15-game stretch is mindblowing.

    In doing so, Dodger starting pitchers are averaging less than six innings per start. If the struggles continue even over the short term, then Wilson Alvarez, who has picked up where he left off in 2003 with great numbers, should move into the rotation.

    Jim Tracy reportedly wants Alvarez in the bullpen as a lefty reliever, but Alvarez is used as a long reliever, facing batters from both sides of the plate. If you know Alvarez is going to end up in the game anyway, you might as well have him enter when the game is scoreless, rather than when the Dodgers are down by seven runs.

    Dodger Stadium will no doubt rehabilitate some of those poor ERAs - just as it will probably hasten Paul Lo Duca's decline from the .490s in batting average. But keep a close eye on which regresses to the mean more quickly: the offense or the defense.

    Choose Your Plague
    2004-04-22 11:43
    by Jon Weisman

    Today's game will start, it appears. No rain, snow or locusts - yet. But Alex Cora is batting leadoff.

    Update: I take it back. We have a rain delay at the start.

    Update 2:Though two errors behind him didn't help, Jose Lima was hit hard. If you can believe it, four out of five Dodger starting pitchers now have ERAs above 6.00! Meanwhile, Wilson Alvarez just completed his second inning of scoreless relief.

    The game is official, now in the sixth inning. At this moment, Paul Lo Duca and Adrian Beltre have the only two Dodger hits, off Shawn Estes.

    Update 3: Ugh. After six innings, the rain delay comes - too late to help. Although, I suppose, it could spare the rest of the bullpen.

    Roamin' Romano
    2004-04-21 10:06
    by Jon Weisman

    The Transaction Guy has the news that Tampa Bay designated former Dodger Jason Romano for assignment. If he isn't traded in 10 days, he will go through waivers. If no one claims him, he will become a free agent, but some team probably will put in a claim.

    Precipitation Preview
    2004-04-21 08:42
    by Jon Weisman

    The Dodgers' remaining two games in Colorado this week are in jeopardy. Rain is forecast to arrive in Denver this afternoon and continue through the rest of the week, possibly becoming snow.

    Dodger manager Jim Tracy already reset the starting rotation Tuesday so that Odalis Perez would pitch against the Giants in Los Angeles on Friday instead of in Colorado on Thursday. But the weather might have done it for him anyway.

    The Dodgers have two more trips to Colorado: a four-game series July 26-29 and a three-game series September 17-19. Any makeup games, of course, would mean an all-hands-on-deck situation at the Coors Field hitters' haven.

    If tonight's game is on, watch to see whether Paul Lo Duca's prediction, made to the Times after Hideo Nomo's last start, comes true.

    "He's struggling a little with his timing right now while trying to get back to where he was," Lo Duca told the Times. "But that last inning, he threw a couple of fastballs at 88, 90 [mph]. He made some big pitches when he had to. ... I looked at him and he looked back at me and said, 'My timing finally got there.' I really look for him to throw lights out the next time out."

    Update: As Bob Timmermann notes in the comments, there was that one lights-out game for Nomo in bad weather at Coors.

    Interest Rates Are Low
    2004-04-20 14:01
    by Jon Weisman

    Frank McCourt negotiates with the best of them. In a skyrocketing seller's market, the Dodger owner only had to pay "close to the $25-million asking price" for his new Holmby Hills home, according to the Times.

    I'm sure Bud Selig approves.

    If McCourt ever decides to invite the Dodgers over for dinner to the 20,000-square foot manse, located at the end of a 600-foot driveway (parking included), he can assign each member of the starting lineup his own bathroom, plus one for Jim Tracy.

    Even considering that $25 million doesn't buy what it used to (cough), the purchase seems a little extravagant to me.

    But what of it?

    In the Dodgers' latest ad campaign, on billboards and on television, we are invited to enjoy the adventures a family of five bobbleheads - Bob Bobblehead is the patriarch - going to Dodger Stadium.

    It's easy to see how the Dodgers came up with the idea. For a few years now, with no playoff games and few folk heroes for potential consumers to latch onto, the Dodgers have been selling the experience of going to the ballpark. They've been selling the hot dogs and foam fingers, rather than the competition. They've incorporated players like Eric Gagne into the ads, but in a fashion that indicates that it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you attend the game.

    Given the perceived disappointment in the Dodger W-L column, the approach has made sense. Add in the fact that in-stadium giveaways attract crowds in much greater numbers than a longshot chase for the wild-card, and you can see why the Dodgers cut out the chase and made the Bobbleheads, rather than the Gagnes, the marketing department's protagonists.

    No doubt, the Dodgers have researched where the tipping point is - at what point you have so many giveaways that they become self-defeating. But they don't appear to have reached that tipping point yet.

    If there is a flaw in this approach, it's that your team becomes less like a baseball team and more like an amusement park. It's about good times - and people love good times - but it's not about passion.

    People don't root for Magic Mountain. Many enjoy going, and a dedicated core will buy season passes. If you can fulfill the promise of a good time, you'll always have some level of success. Magic Mountain is a hugely successful operation.

    But people don't connect emotionally with Magic Mountain. They don't follow Magic Mountain on television or the Internet or in the papers. There's no stake in the success of Magic Mountain.

    The way the Dodgers are marketed, there's no stake in their success either. It's a good time, but that good time is linked with food and drink and souvenirs - everything that isn't on the field. Consider the irony, if you haven't already, that inevitably, the most consistent cheers at Dodger Stadium are for that rogue item, the beachball.

    The difference between Magic Mountain and the Dodgers is that the Dodgers have the potential to get fans invested in the fate of the franchise. Yes, there are a million things to do in Los Angeles, but because of that, there are few things that a broad spectrum of people care about. There is a vacuum of passion in the city and county.

    The experience of rooting for a baseball team in Boston or Chicago, where the people care about the team even when it loses, let alone when it wins, could be replicated in Los Angeles. This passion, which engenders higher television ratings, greater concessions - more money - is not absent. It's latent, waiting to be tapped.

    Instead of an ad campaign that revolved around bobbleheads, the Dodgers could do an ad campaign that revolved around desperation - the need for the team to win. An ad campaign where a real fan - not an actor or puppet dressed up in phony fashion like a fan - exults in a victory or falls apart at a defeat, and then starts all over again the next day. An ad campaign that says that the Dodgers need this win and explains why they need it. That would say today, "Okay - the Dodgers are 9-3 - unbelievable, but we need to keep it going. Every game counts. Ishii - you better throw strikes." Or something like that.

    See, most of you who are reading this site are invested in the Dodgers, thick or thin. And it's that investment, more than anything else, that creates a money-spending, ratings-boosting, lifelong fan.

    If an ad campaign to build passion sounds manufactured, consider that nothing is more manufactured than an interest in bobblehead dolls. I'm not putting them down - a cute little toy is, after all, a cute little toy - and it's the perfect gateway drug for the young or new fan. But just because you offer bobblehead dolls every few games doesn't mean you can't offer something more.

    A bobblehead doll fills space in a bookshelf. A passion for the team fills space in the soul.

    What the Dodgers are missing is the leadership - the ignition - to set that passion aflame. What the Dodgers are missing is the Norma Rae, the Howard Beale. They've got a Tripper Harrison "It just doesn't matter!" philosophy - what if they got Tripper to say "It just does matter!"

    There was Tommy Lasorda, for all his flaws, but his time has passed. They need a new diehard.

    This is hindsight, but I realize now that Frank McCourt could have been the man.

    Others would have been better-suited, but yes, it could have been McCourt. And without going the high-spending, Arte Moreno route.

    Rather than repress the doubts concerning his finances, McCourt could have embraced them. He could have said:

    "I've worked all my life. I've built up some assets, some property. It's not worth as much as your team, the Dodgers, but it's worth enough for someone to take a chance on me, to loan me the money so that I might fulfill a dream of owning a championship baseball club.

    "I could retire now if I wanted. Instead, I'm risking it all, everything I've worked for in my life, to try to make that dream come true. I tried it in Boston, but they said I wasn't ready. Now, I'm ready.

    "I'm stretched out to the limit. If this doesn't succeed, I'll go broke. I'll lose it all. I need to make this work. I need this team to win."

    And then, McCourt could have rented an apartment. Or sat on a flagpole. He could have set an example of no-holds-barred commitment, taking a chance that others would follow suit.

    Instead, with interest rates low, McCourt went house shopping.

    I'm not slagging McCourt here - no need to rise to his defense. There are very few flagpole-sitters among us. I'm just saying using him as a way to illustrate that there really is an opportunity to ignite passion in the Dodgers - revenue-generating passion - and it's with some disappointment that I see this opportunity being ignored.

    How to Spend Your Dodger Off Day: TV, Music & Books
    2004-04-19 10:01
    by Jon Weisman

    Longtime friend and frequent writing partner Chris Leavell has produced Are We Cannibals? - airing tonight as part of "Culture Shock Week" on the National Geographic Channel at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. You should watch it.

    Chris and I met nine years ago while working on the short-lived sitcom, If Not For You. We got our first big breaks in television doing punch-up on scripts for that show, along with Brax Cutchin, who became another close friend. Brax is a musician first and foremost, and is in Tennessee today as part of his "Somewhere America" tour. He'll be back in Southern California in May. His latest CD, The Length of the Day, is on sale now. You should hear it.

    Meanwhile, a grad school friend of mine, Liam Callanan, beat me (damn him!) in getting a novel published. Frankly, it was no contest. The book, The Cloud Atlas, takes place in Alaska and is a fictionalized exploration of a little-known aspect of World War II - Japan's experiment in launching bombs at the United States via hot-air balloon. You should read it.

    Happy Shares
    2004-04-19 08:43
    by Jon Weisman

    Like the wind at your back, like air conditioning on a blazing summer's day, like a sneak-attack kiss from your best girl, winning lightens your step, makes you feel like you're walking on a cushion of air. You glide through space like the puck in an air-hockey game - waiting, of course, to hit the wall or be slapped back in the opposite direction - but glide nonetheless.

    If the Dodgers are your team, each win they pile up serves two purposes, lifting your spirit in the present and cushioning any blows in the future. You want them to win every game, but a loss is easier to swallow after a 9-3 start.

    You know I'm intrigued by the Bill James-developed concept of Win Shares, which has caught on in many sabermetric circles. Since shortly after the Dodgers completed their three-game sweep over the Giants on Sunday afternoon, I've been thinking of the pasbermetric concept of Happy Shares.

    There are two aspects to the feeling you get when your team wins - and for that matter, the sadness you feel when your team loses: the sweetness (or bittersweetness) and the duration.

    Take Kirk Gibson's "She is gone" home run in '88. The intensity of the euphoria it produced was near the maximum - tempered only by the fact that the Series wasn't on the line. The duration of the good feeling would probably also have been the maximum had it been a Series-winning blast. Coming in Game 1, the home run still gets duration points, but it's reduced by the fact that the Dodgers still had angst and pressure beginning the next day. On the other hand, the fact that the home run is still celebrated today reinvgorates it on the duration scale.

    Reserving the right to adjust them, I'm assigning these values (My instinct is to create a Happy Shares scale from -100 to 100.):

  • Gibson HR: Sweetness 45 + Duration 49, Total: 94

    In contrast, take Bobby Thomson's "shot heard 'round the world" in 1951. I wasn't around to experience it, but I think it's safe to say that for Dodger fans, the blast packaged maximum desolation and that this desolation remained for months, if not years.

  • Thomson HR: Sweetness -50 + Duration -50, Total: -100

    Obviously, I don't need numbers to tell me that Gibson's home run made Dodger fans happy and that Thomson's made them sad. What the Happy Shares system might offer, though, is a way to understand how meaningful the moments in between are - to compare moments between seasons.

    Take Sunday's victory. Pretty good on the Happy Share scale, especially for April. A comeback victory with a barrage of home runs. A sweep over the Giants. A 9-3 start to the season. It's tainted by Jeff Weaver's collapse in the sixth inning and the fact that the game was so nearly lost. The duration of the good feeling will last at least 48 hours, until the next time they play - and it might even last beyond that if it buoys me through a loss.

  • Dodgers sweep Giants; go 9-3 in 2004: Sweetness 10 + Duration 5, Total: 15.
  • Adrian Beltre's opposite field three-run home run in the sixth gives Dodgers the lead: 5 + 3, 8
  • Juan Encarnacion's goes back-to-back: 3 + 1, 4
  • Dave Ross gives Dodgers three HR in a row: 4 + 3, 7

    And then, just to take a few moments from the past to compare:

  • Dodgers win final three games in 1980 to tie Astros: 40 + 20, 60
  • Dodgers lose Game #163 behind Dave Goltz: -30 + -20, -50
  • Wilkin Ruan gets his first two career hits in one inning, 2002: 4 + 2, 6

    That's right - I'm happier about Ruan's two hits than Encarnacion's home run Sunday, but Beltre's home run Sunday is the greater moment for me.

    Don't worry; I'm not going to spend the rest of the season, or even the day, rating every Dodger moment. My desire today is to express the good feeling I have about the team having the best record in baseball, even though it came on the heels of three very narrow victories - the narrowness indicating the thin margin of error the Dodgers have as much or more than any championship mettle.

    I'm feeling 15 about the Dodgers. No, it ain't 94, but it's better than -100.

    Actually, I feel like 15 doesn't adequately express my feeling - and frankly, Kirk Gibson raises something in me more than a 94.

    Let's multiply everything by 5.

    I'm feeling 75 about the Dodgers. No, it ain't 470, but it's better than -500.

    (Beltre HR: 40, Encarnacion HR: 20, Ross HR: 35, Dodgers tie Astros in 1980: 300, Dodgers lose 1980 Game 163: -250, Ruan's two hits: 30)

  • 3 0 0 3
    2004-04-16 21:56
    by Jon Weisman

    Don't think I've ever seen anyone have the line that Milton Bradley had tonight. Three RBI groundouts (plus a walk). Credit Dave 2 3 1 0 Roberts as set-up man. The Dodgers found a way to beat Jason Schmidt.

    Odalis Perez (8 innings, two hits, 10 strikeouts) simply dazzled - it was the Perez of 2002 and one of the best-pitched games of any major leaguer in the young 2004 season (game score 87). Eric Gagne, who seemed to have Barry Bonds struck out on a 72-mile-per-hour pitch at the knees, instead allowed his first home run (and runs) since August 20.

    But the Dodgers have won seven out of 10. They are the only National League West team with more runs scored than allowed.

    Giants Preview
    2004-04-16 15:11
    by Jon Weisman

    Some quick notes on the second-place Giants.

  • The Marquis Grissom Renaissance has extended into April 2004: .353 average, .421 OBP, .676 slugging, 1.098 OPS, three home runs, four walks and three strikeouts.

  • Ray Durham is off to a good, .941 OPS start as well, but injured his quadriceps Tuesday. He was listed as questionable for tonight's game.

  • Neifi Perez is, well, overachieving with a .704 OPS.

  • The rest of the non-Barry Bonds crew has been downright awful. J.T Snow, Michael Tucker, A.J. Pierzynski and Edgardo Alfonso have OPS marks between .558 and .360.

  • Players batting in the batting slot behind Bonds in the eight games he has started this season are 5 for 34.

  • As a team, even with Bonds, the Giants are being out OPSed, .761 to .707.

  • San Francisco's bullpen has an ERA of 5.28, with 42 hits and 18 walks allowed in 29 innings, against 15 strikeouts.

  • Mondesi Salary Withheld
    2004-04-16 15:03
    by Jon Weisman

    The dispute that resulted in a Dominican Republic court ordering Raul Mondesi to pay Mario Guerrero 1 percent of his career earnings, previously reported on Dodger Thoughts in February, has reached a new level: Mondesi's current team, the Pirates, are withholding his salary.

    According to The Associated Press, not only are Mondesi's bank accounts frozen - so is Mondesi himself.

    "I froze when they called me in the office to tell me that I won't be paid for these first two weeks, and possibly not for future weeks until the problem is resolved," Mondesi told The Associated Press by telephone from New York, where his team is playing the Mets.

    Pirates VP of communications Patty Paytas said the team is putting Mondesi's wages into an interest-bearing escrow account until the case is resolved.

    Despite the fact that most if not all legal decisions on this case have gone against him, Mondesi still expects a thaw to end the freeze.

    "I have no agreement with Guerrero, and he never taught me anything," Mondesi said. "I'm not going to give him a cent of my money."

    2004-04-16 12:22
    by Jon Weisman

    Alex Belth is talking dogs on Bronx Banter.

    I do love Dodger Dogs - the only thing they lack is consistency. I like 'em really grilled - and more often than not, I grab the all-beef (nee jumbo) dog, which is more consistently good.

    Outside of Chavez Ravine, my favorite hot dog spots are The Wiener Factory on Ventura near Van Nuys and Carney's, either near Ventura and Coldwater or Sunset and Crescent Heights.

    I also loved The Wienery in Woodland Hills, but it's been about five years since I've been. Is it still there?

    I've heard about a new place in Encino called The Stand - has anyone tried that?

    Rubin's, at Ventura and Sepulveda, and Pink's on La Brea are overrated.

    As you can see from the comments at Bronx Banter, there's one out-of-state dog that I heartily recommend: Gray's Papaya on 72nd and Broadway. (By the way, I've been to the downtown Gray's Papaya and didn't think it was as good.)

    Who's Got Your Back?
    2004-04-16 08:38
    by Jon Weisman

    I figured it out. If you were batting in front of Alex Cora and the pitcher's spot, would you be inclined to take a walk?

    Such is the dilemma facing Adrian Beltre right now.

    In Thursday night's second inning, with one out, Juan Encarnacion and Paul Lo Duca on second and third base and Cora and Hideo Nomo on deck, Beltre swung at a pitch near the outside corner. He made a good swing, lining the ball to right field. It was a borderline pitch, but I'm sure Beltre was thinking like Kelly Leak against the Yankees - a walk, and the inning would be dead.

    Third-base coach Glenn Hoffman and Lo Duca were apparently thinking the same thing. If the Dodgers didn't score at this moment, how would they score with Cora and Nomo coming up? Lo Duca, whom Vin Scully noted had run gingerly to third base on Encarnacion's double, tagged up and took off, even with Brian Giles catching the ball on the run in medium right field.

    Giles could have thrown the ball from Petco to Jack Murphy and still had a shot to beat the tumbleweed gait of Lo Duca. Instead, Giles fired it on the fly right to catcher Ramon Hernandez, nailing Lo Duca with at least 10 feet to spare.

    As it happens, Cora had a triple and a double to key the Dodgers' rally to a 7-5 victory - and good for him. However, I'm disinclined to think he has turned a major corner.

    In fact, the signs of life from Cora seemed to discombobulate Beltre. His final two at-bats featured six pitches - all for strikes and four looking (one swinging).

    I still like how Beltre looks at the plate. In his second at-bat, he showed good plate discipline in working the count to 3-2, then turned on a pitch on the inside half and drilled it to left - again, into the glove of an outfielder.

    But Beltre ended up 1 for 11 in the series, making this weekend in San Francisco a major test of his ability to try to hack his way out of the apparent slump with bad swings, and instead maintain patience and perhaps work a walk or two to restart the momentum.

    Even if Cora is an inning-killer, Beltre needs to stay in his zone.

    Dodger manager Jim Tracy could attempt to solve the dilemma with a lineup change. He won't alter much with the Dodgers winning two out of every three games, but as many before me have observed, the idea that Cesar Izturis bats second in the lineup and Beltre bats seventh is barely tenable.

    * * *

    Hideo Nomo looked like a man in his ninth hour of slogging with bags of cement. Five innings, six hits, two walks, two home runs, no strikeouts, no velocity. If this were Spring Training, it would be easier to believe he is building strength through a dead-arm phase. But this looks more like a pitcher in need of more offseason.

    * * *

    Unlike Rob McMillin, I thought Eric Gagne's outing was a positive one.

    First of all, seeing that Tracy didn't wait to use a rested Gagne in the middle of the eighth inning with the lead disappearing was like watching your kid learn to clean up her toys on her own. (Last night, that's exactly what mine did in the bath - she put all her toys away at the end. Of course, once she was finished, she started to take them out again, but I snatched her out of the tub before she undid her fine work.)

    Secondly, Gagne got the key out in the eighth inning despite literally almost no warmup.

    True, Gagne got no strikeouts and allowed some hard-hit outs in his 1 1/3 innings. But he had good velocity and good location and threw strikes - a total of four balls to a total of four batters.

    As disconcerting as the eighth-inning reduction of the lead was - and think how much worse it could have been if Phil Nevin hadn't inexplicably gotten himself thrown out at second with none out and a runner on third base - it was good to see Gagne get some work before the San Francisco series.

    * * *

    Tonight, in the series opener against the Giants, the Dodgers face Jason Schmidt, who had a 1.44 ERA against them in 31 1/3 innings in 2003, allowing a .183 batting average and no home runs. It will be the first start of the season, however, for Schmidt, who has been recovering from elbow surgery and shoulder soreness.

    * * *

    Jason Romano is 1 for 7 with a walk for Tampa Bay.

    Jolbert Cabrera is 0 for 5 with Seattle.

    Steve Colyer has an ERA of 12.46 in 4 1/3 innings with Detroit.

    Toronto recalled Jason Frasor, but he has yet to pitch.

    Weisman Shares
    2004-04-15 10:08
    by Jon Weisman

    The Dodgers' 5-3 start has been driven by a very small number of players.

    The best starting pitching has come from two average starts from Kazuhisa Ishii.

    The hitting has been Paul Lo Duca, Adrian Beltre, a little Milton Bradley and one meaningful night of Shawn Green.

    The bullpen has been lovely, but how much credit can you allot to a group that plays one-third of the games.

    The seven-player bench has four singles and two walks total.

    This is purely subjective, but so far, on a Weisman Shares scale of zero to 10:

    9 Paul Lo Duca (hitting everything in sight, just not out of the park)
    8 Adrian Beltre
    6 Wilson Alvarez (five shutout innings - like one good start)
    6 Milton Bradley
    5 Kazuhisa Ishii
    5 Guillermo Mota (four shutout innings)
    5 Hideo Nomo (better to have one good and one bad game then two mediocre games)
    5 Dave Roberts (walks, singles and steals, but no extra-base hits in 2004, 44 in 999 career at-bats)
    5 Jeff Weaver (see Nomo)
    4 Eric Gagne (three shutout innings - can't get into enough games, but look out in San Francisco)
    4 Shawn Green (a 2 until Tuesday)
    4 Odalis Perez
    4 Duaner Sanchez (saving the staff like the last bullpen guy is supposed to)
    3 Juan Encarnacion (.597 OPS)
    2 Jose Lima
    2 Darren Dreifort
    2 Cesar Izturis (.567 OPS)
    2 Robin Ventura
    2 Tom Martin
    1 Alex Cora (.420 OPS)
    1 Jose Hernandez
    1 Jason Grabowski
    1 Dave Ross
    0 Chin-Feng Chen
    0 Olmedo Saenz
    0 Jayson Werth

    Jackson Scuffles
    2004-04-14 09:47
    by Jon Weisman

    Tuesday night, Edwin Jackson gave up a grand slam to ... Hiram Bocachica.

    "Maybe I won't send him to face Barry Bonds this weekend," thinks Jim Tracy.

    Jackson left before speaking to the press after the game. Las Vegas manager Terry Kennedy had positive things to say about Jackson, who allowed six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings, trying to battle his way through the rough inning, but also reminded us how young Jackson is (via the Las Vegas Review-Journal).

    "He really is a very inexperienced professional pitcher. I had Kerry Wood and he had to work through it," said Kennedy, who managed Wood when the right-hander was with the Iowa Cubs. "Nobody is immune to the lessons on the ballfield."

    Ironically, Joe Thurston, whose 2003 season we all hope Jackson is trying not to emulate, homered in the ninth inning Tuesday.

    Look, we're all still excited about Jackson, and this was just one game. But Jackson's 2003 season didn't justify Jim Tracy's high expectations for him before Spring Training this year. Jackson was a 19-year-old pitcher who had some great games - and some not-so-great games.

    He may earn a spot in the Dodger rotation before the year - or even the month - is through. I guess what bothers me is that now there is this almost unavoidable angst attached to him. Rather than viewing Jackson as someone who learning his trade - rapidly, in fact - we feel disappointment. And it's all so unnecessary.

    I suppose I'm part of the problem. I just shouldn't have written about Jackson at all today. Let him study in proper obscurity.

    As a postscript, even accounting for his Hiram homer, I think Edwin Jackson is making better use of his college-age years than Trevor Ariza. Hmm ... 42.6 percent from the field, 50.4 percent from the free-throw line, 6.5 rebounds per game for a Pac-10 also-ran? I guess the lure of minor-league basketball is strong.

    * * *

    In his first at-bat after I wrote that Adrian Beltre had not stuck out this season, Beltre swung and missed at strike three. Of course. However, it was his only swing and miss on a night that he also doubled. He has now whiffed at four pitches out of 97 this season.

    Game Telecast Confusion
    2004-04-13 16:56
    by Jon Weisman

    Because Fox Sports West and Fox Sports West 2 have other committments, tonight's Dodgers-Padres game is scrambling for an outlet.

    The Dodger fan forum has some information. Please add any further information you might have in the comments.

    Update: Fox offers this list.

    Keep Your Chin Chen Up
    2004-04-13 10:44
    by Jon Weisman

    Chin-Feng Chen, the Adrian Beltre of Las Vegas (okay - maybe I'm stretching it), has been promoted to the majors again to replace reserve outfielder Jayson Werth, who is apparently headed for the disabled list.

    Like Beltre, Chen is trying to put past disappointment behind him with a torrid first week, OPSing 1.119.

    Nick Christensen of the Las Vegas Sun points out that if the promotion were to stick, it would harm Chen's pursuit of ... Las Vegas' all-time home run and strikeout records. He also notes that Chen has become a little skittish.

    "I don't think he believed me at first, because we screw around with him so much," joked 51s manager Terry Kennedy when asked about Chen's reaction to being promoted.

    86 for 89
    2004-04-12 12:16
    by Jon Weisman

    Adrian Beltre has looked marvelous, by reports from fans on this site and the media, and by my own observations watching Sunday's game on television.

    He is taking outside pitches to center and right field instead of trying to pull the ball - and jumping all over pitches in his wheelhouse, the inside half of the plate.

    He has walked only once all season. But amazingly, even for this young season, he has yet to strike out.

    Beltre has had 25 plate appearances so far this season: 11 hits, one walk and 13 fly-ball or ground-ball outs (including a sacrifice fly and a reached-base-on-error).

    He has hit on every count there is:

    Counts on Beltre Plate Appearances, 2004
    0-0, 0-1 or 0-2: 9 PA, 3 for 8 with a HR and SF
    1-0, 1-1 or 1-2: 7 PA, 4 for 7
    2-0, 2-1 or 2-2: 4 PA, 1 for 4 (HR)
    3-0, 3-1 or 3-2: 5 PA, 3 for 4 with a HR, 2B and BB

    0-0, 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0: 7 PA, 3 for 6 with two HR and SF
    0-1, 1-1, 2-1 or 3-1: 8 PA, 4 for 7 with a HR and BB
    0-2, 1-2, 2-2 or 3-2: 10 PA, 4 for 10 with a 2B

    I'm not surprised that Beltre has gone to two strikes in 40 percent of his plate appearances (10 out of 25) - but it's pretty shocking that he's made contact in 100 percent of those situations. That's not the image of the Beltre we know, diving at and missing low-and-away pitches, Raul Mondesi-style.

    Even more remarkably, out of 89 total pitches seen this season, Beltre has swung and missed at only three.

    Last April, Beltre struck out 17 times.

    So, yeah, one walk in 25 plate appearance concerns me. But this isn't any ordinary lack of plate discipline. If Beltre can be a power hitter who makes contact, who resists trying to pull a bad outside pitch, he may force pitchers to pitch much more carefully to him. And then, the walks - and in turn, the complete player we've all been waiting for - may yet arrive.

    Of course, San Diego and Colorado don't offer the most challenging pitching staffs in the world. But Beltre's great first week came in pitching-happy Dodger Stadium, from a hitter who batted .209 at home in 2003 and .225 in 2002. And frankly, there aren't a lot of great pitching staffs in baseball. Who would you pick in the National League: Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, maybe Florida?

    Is this Wade Boggs-like bat control by Beltre just a first-week apparition? We'll see what happens, beginning Tuesday in San Diego.

    The Warning Signs
    2004-04-11 11:47
    by Jon Weisman

    Good for the Dodgers that they've won four out of five against NL West competition, critical because it's in the division and because it's not the best group in baseball.

    As I look deeper into the box scores, here's what concerns me at the outset.

    Season totals:
    Shawn Green: 2 walks
    Paul Lo Duca: 2 walks
    Adrian Beltre: 1 walk
    Alex Cora: 1 walk
    Juan Encarnacion: 1 walk
    Cesar Izturis: 1 walk

    Lo Duca and Beltre are hitting with authority, and Izturis has his .300 average (all on singles). But when the batting averages normalize, walks need to be drawn to sustain the offense.

    On the plus side, Dave Roberts has five walks and Milton Bradley has three. Five NL teams have drawn fewer walks so far, including the Barry Bonds-led Giants. Bonds has five, and Marquis Grissom, of all people, has four. The rest of the Giants has six combined.

    2004-04-10 22:40
    by Jon Weisman

    An hour ago, I turned on my computer for the first time in eight days. Still haven't read a newspaper in that time. Needless to say, I'm a little behind.

    Long ago, we planned a family vacation for the past week. I knew that I might miss some exciting Opening Week baseball. I knew I would miss my grandmother's 94th birthday.

    I was hoping that my absence during Final Four weekend would guarantee a Stanford appearance - but so much for positive superstition.

    I did not expect the semi-makeover of the Dodgers, nor that the Dodgers (and Tigers, for that matter!) would be 4-1 when I returned to the Internet.

    And I certainly did not expect that my mother would suddenly have to have a pacemaker in the middle of said vacation.

    Fortunately, everything and everyone seems to be in the bst shape possible.

    It's certainly weird to return like this, feeling a certain responsibility to be on top of the Dodgers and yet knowing little more about them than I do about the Loch Ness Monster.

    Milton Bradley is a Dodger. Franklin Gutierrez, Jason Romano and Jolbert Cabrera are not. Shawn Green is a first baseman. Adrian Beltre is apparently unhappy about batting seventh, but has three home runs. Jeff Weaver and Kazuhisa Ishii pitched ... well?

    One of the more heartening experiences of my return was to see the (non-spam) comments on the website. I feel fairly confident that I can skip trying to retrace the past week through the local papers, and just go through the 40 comments on my farewell entry as my principal source of catch-up material. Thanks for the great discussion.

    Frankly, I don't know how I'm going to approach catching up. I will probably just hit the ground running, but at some point I'm sure a reflection on the transactions of the past week will become relevant.

    Here are the questions I have on my mind:

  • What's the reaction, locally and nationally, to the Dodgers' start?
  • What were the involved players reactions to the trades?
  • How desolate was it after Opening Day, and how much of that negativity was erased on Day 2?
  • Who is the NL West favorite now?
  • How did Edwin Jackson take his AAA assignment?
  • Are we happy?

    Missed you all ... good to be back.

  • Extended Spring Training
    2004-04-02 21:44
    by Jon Weisman

    You can imagine how much I regret the timing, but Dodger Thoughts will be offline for the next week, returning the week of April 11.

    Seems a shame to miss the Opening Week excitement, but I guess this'll keep me from putting too much emphasis on the first few games.

    Anyway, enjoy the first week, and enjoy the writing of my colleagues as well as my friends linked on the sidebar.

    April Flowers
    2004-04-02 08:56
    by Jon Weisman

    The Dodgers' April schedule, with opponents' projected records according to Baseball Prospectus:

    Six games vs. San Diego (84-78)
    Six games vs. Colorado (73-89)
    Six games vs. San Francisco (82-80)
    Three games vs. New York (76-86)
    One game vs. Montreal (79-83)

    That's a sub-.500 opposing schedule. Unfortunately, BP pegged the Dodgers at 75-87. Now, I don't mean for you to take the projected records without salt grains, but the gist is this: If the Dodgers want to beat those projections, a good start before they take on the best of the NL Central and NL East wouldn't hurt. (Smothering any mojo the Padres and Giants seem to hold over the Dodgers would help as well.)

    Rob Neyer said on today that the Dodgers are "a 78-win team that has the potential for complete collapse." You have to agree with him in the sense that it is more likely for the starting pitching to falter than for the current offense to get hot - despite Dave Roberts' guarantee that "this offense will be a whole lot better than last year." (Someone may need to supplant Roberts himself in the lineup for that guarantee to be fulfilled.) Smart acquisitions could work wonders - but how smart will the Dodgers be able or allowed to be?

    While we wait for that answer, Opening Day approaches. The season is about to start. Though pennants are not won or lost in April, they are nudged in one direction or another. It will simply be one day, one game, one inning, one at-bat at a time. Make good pitches; make good swings.

    Soon, it won't be about predictions. The game will be out of our heads and onto the field.

    Teams will score nine runs and lose one day; score one run and win the next.

    Injuries will come at the most expected and most unexpected places.

    There will be good luck and bad luck.

    Small events will trigger larger ones. Game of inches.

    And then, slowly but surely, though, trends and reality will emerge. And we'll finally see what the 2004 Dodgers are.

    Papa Aaron, Chicago, 1930
    2004-04-01 14:30
    by Jon Weisman

    You won't find my Grandma Sue watching The Sopranos or reading the latest post-Puzo installment of The Godfather, though she did make an exception for Road to Perdition a couple of years ago because she loves Paul Newman.

    "You know when I saw that movie, I wanted to break the screen. The people mentioned they had a crooked accountant!" she told me. "They were all such a bunch of ignoramuses."

    They, meaning The Mob. The Al Capone one. My Papa Aaron was the Outfit's accountant from around the time he and Grandma married (January 26, 1930) until Repeal.

    And Joe Batters (AKA Tony Accardo) almost threw my grandfather out an upper-storey window.

    "It was just before Repeal, and they called him downtown. They had an office in one of the fancy buildings on Michigan Avenue. He was still doing their books, but I think at that point he was ready to leave," Grandma told me.

    "They called him into the office. They thought he was cheating them. Can you imagine Aaron cheating those hoodlums?"

    Papa Aaron is Aaron Weisman, my grandfather. He died in 1994, without ever discussing this history with me. He was the man who taught me poker and someone I could always talk sports with, but this stuff was off limits. My grandmother, Sue - still very much alive and in her fifth decade of volunteering at the museum where I now happen to work, even as she turns 94 next Thursday - is only slightly more willing to talk about it. (She'd much rather ask me how Shawn Green is going to fare this year - she's very concerned.)

    Nevertheless, over the past month, my sister, Robyn, has begun drawing out some details and compiling some of the family history - colorful to our generation, deadly serious to that of my grandparents.

    It's not baseball, but you might find it interesting.

    March 7: "Such a bunch of ignoramuses . . ."
    March 8: Addendum
    March 8: Filthy People . . .
    March 18: She'll Never Forget His Twisted Arm . . .
    March 18: One of the Nobodies . . .
    March 23: Repeal
    March 23: Some Other Comments From My Dinner with Grandma
    March 29: Sine Die!
    March 29: Very Interesting . . .

    Legend has it that Grandma Sue's father was a bootlegger who would dress his daughters up in church clothes on Sunday mornings and use them as his cover while transporting alcohol during Prohibition. I'll be waiting for Robyn to get confirmation and/or elaboration on that.

    Me, I grew up in the Kevin Arnold-like suburbs. How things change.

    More More More
    2004-04-01 11:29
    by Jon Weisman

    Folks, the home page now features quick hits by all members of the family, including even me. Content will be coming at a much more frequent place - with plenty of room for your comments. Get on board and let us know what you think!

    Trader Paul Sends Colyer to Tigers
    2004-04-01 09:33
    by Jon Weisman

    Paul De Podesta has found a new, non-Oakland-or-Toronto trading partner: the Detroit Tigers. Continuing to exchange pitching for position players, the Dodger general manager traded Steve Colyer to Detroit for Cody Ross.

    Ross, a right-handed hitting 23-year-old outfielder, will probably add outfield depth at AAA - at least until DePodesta decides that Jason Romano isn't worth the Jim Tracy infatuation. "Don't call me Dave" Ross has averaged 18 home runs in the past three minor league seasons and was eighth in the International League in EQA in 2003.

    Baseball Prospectus suggests in its 2004 yearbook that the Tigers found Ross expendable because of his height (he's listed at 5-foot-10). Ross also had a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

    Certainly, the Dodger pitching depth isn't what it was a week ago, with Colyer and Jason Frasor gone and Paul Shuey injured. My sense is that DePodesta believes that mid-caliber relief pitching is more easily found than mid-caliber hitting, at least in Los Angeles - and that DePodesta feels that right now, with the chance for a big offseason acquisition lost, the best way to improve the Dodgers is incrementally.

    At the same time, it's interesting that DePodesta would rather have Cody Ross than a combination of Colyer and Bubba Trammell.

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    About Jon
    Thank You For Not ...

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