Baseball Toaster Dodger Thoughts
Monthly archives: June 2004


Memories ... Light the Pitchers of My Mind
2004-06-30 16:18
by Jon Weisman

Is tonight Hideo Nomo's last stand?

Nomo pitched against the Giants a year and five days ago. He threw seven shutout innings, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out seven, lowering his ERA to 2.41.

His ERA today is more than triple his ERA of a year ago.

Reputations Don't Drive in Runs
2004-06-30 00:01
by Jon Weisman

After Dave Ross slid like a runaway boulder into second base and Cesar Izturis gazelled it to first to avoid an inning-ending double play in the bottom of the eighth inning Tuesday, Paul Lo Duca came up in a 1-1 game, runners at the corners, two out, Shawn Green on deck.

Lo Duca is a contact hitter batting well over .300. Green is a slumping hitter hoping to stay at .260. Does draw a walk occasionally, though that's about it in his post-surgery world.

Giants manager Felipe Alou decided he would rather have Felix Rodriguez face Lo Duca. Most of the group I was with at the game felt the opposite, me very much included. We came to the conclusion that the only reason the Giants pitched to Lo Duca was because of the past-its-expiration-date reputation Green has as a dangerous hitter.

The last thing you like to do is load the bases with an intentional walk and leave your pitcher with no margin for error. But when the guy on deck is hitting like Shaq at the free-throw line, isn't he the one you want to take your chances with? When you need just one out, don't you want to go with the guy most likely to produce that out.

Definitely seemed that way at the time, and Lo Duca's game-winning hit did nothing to change that.

Back at home, we can look at the stats and see that thanks to his walks, Green's on-base percentage is the same as Lo Duca's - and higher than Lo Duca's against right-handed pitchers. Given that a walk would have been as damaging as a hit with the bases loaded, it was more than fair that Alou went after Lo Duca.

Let's close with a hypothetical, however. Dave Roberts was apparently nursing an injury and unable to play Tuesday. Say the bases do get loaded for Green. Does Dodger manager Jim Tracy let Green bat, or does he pinch-hit Roberts, who has a higher on-base percentage, who can draw a walk as well as beat out an infield hit?

You can be fairly certain that Tracy would leave Green in to bat - even if he believed Roberts would have the better shot to win the game. Tracy would be hoping for the hit that would turn Green's season around, and beyond that, Tracy doesn't want to have to face the grand jury investigation that would arise from pinch-hitting for a $16 million-a-year player.

No. You don't go seismic in the middle of the game.

Nevertheless, the day is coming. Tracy sees the lemon in Green and is just waiting to squeeze the lemonade. You don't get the sense Tracy really thinks Green (who, incidentally, loafed it like Roman Meal on a foul fly ball to right field early in Tuesday's game) is coming around, but rather that Tracy is keeping Green at No. 3 to humor him, to placate him, however temporarily. And though Tracy may believe - perhaps rightfully - that without a productive Green, the Dodgers don't stand a chance, you sort of feel like Tracy is eager to try to see just how far the Jayson Werths and Jason Grabowskis can take him.

Just a couple more 0 for 4s like tonight, and those Dodger fans impatient for Green to drop in the order may finally get see it happen. It won't be a happy day - far from it. And it's not like anyone else besides Adrian Beltre is any kind of pyromaniac in the batter's box. But for too long now, as noted baseball critic Gertrude Stein would be happy to tell you, with Shawn Green, there's been no there there. And Jim Tracy can see the emptiness as well as you and me.

Take a Deep Breath
2004-06-29 16:38
by Jon Weisman

Though it won't remain so for the entire season, tonight's game is dimensionally the most important game of 2004 so far for the Dodgers, and may well be the most emotional.

Note: Giants starter Jerome Williams has been scratched with tendinitis and replaced with Noah Lowry. Significantly, Williams is a righty but Lowry is a lefty, so expect lineup adjustments from Dodger manager Jim Tracy.

Funky Happenings in October
2004-06-29 16:35
by Jon Weisman
The Most Obscure but Memorable Dodger Competition
2004-06-29 12:06
by Jon Weisman

The challenge: Name the most obscure Los Angeles Dodger of all-time.

It should be a Dodger whom you haven't thought of in forever but rings a bell when his name pops into your head.

Rafael Landestoy, German Rivera, Reggie Williams, Shawn Hillegas, Mike Ramsey, Angel Pena - these are a few names that might give you an idea of what I'm talking about. But I challenge you to do better.

Loan Beltre If You Must, But Don't Lose Him
2004-06-28 15:36
by Jon Weisman

LOS ANGELES DODGERS: Losers of five straight at this writing, four of the five at Giants, which hurts. They will never outhit their pitching, so this little run at relevance has all been a Hollywood fantasy. Should be looking to deal Adrian Beltre to whatever contender is dumb enough to take him; resigning him would be folly. Would you buy a used car from this player?

- Steven Goldman, Baseball Prospectus

Steven Goldman hardly ever writes a sentence that I don't actively enjoy - never mind agree with - but he's gone flippant-and-a-half with this one. In a world that drools over three months of Carlos Beltran, allow me to present Adrian Beltre.

2004 Value Over Replacement Player
32.7 Beltre
27.2 Beltran

In his seventh season but only 25 years old, Beltre is much removed from the 1995 Hyundai stage. He has hit 36 home runs since last year's All-Star Game. Yes, if you're going to acquire a 2004 free agent whose last name begins with B-E-L-T, you could do a whole lot worse than the belter named Beltre.

And now, people are starting to speculate that teams will get that opportunity.

Two major trades have been completed in the past week - Beltran to the Astros and Freddy Garcia to the White Sox. Wags wonder what Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta is going to do - not only which players he might pursue, but also whether he will be a seller at the trading deadline instead of a buyer.

More than once in the past, I've suggested that the Dodgers should be sellers, even with a playoff spot in reach, to end the cycle of always being almost good enough but not quite. This year, the competition in the National League West, if not the entire league itself, is far less intimidating, so I'm not going to be so quick to wave the white flag.

As DePodesta himself said, however, a continued slide by the Dodgers could make their choice obvious. And so, though the question up to now has been how much the Dodgers should be willing to pay to resign Beltre, others are beginning to ask whether the Dodgers should be willing to trade Beltre for prospects.

Three thoughts:

Thesis: Having stood by Beltre so long while waiting for him to truly blossom, seeing him sent away would be particularly painful - as if the Dodgers had traded a 25-year-old, seventh-year-in-the-bigs Sandy Koufax in mid-1961.

Antithesis: The Dodgers basically never trade present talent for future talent, older talent for younger - so the curiosity of it, much less the potential, is fascinating.

Synthesis: The obvious solution to this riddle also basically never happens: The Dodgers trade Beltre for prospects and then resign him when he becomes a free agent after the season.

Why doesn't this happen? One thing is that the odds are against it - with 30 teams to choose from, a bigtime free agent resigning with his old team just isn't in the percentages.

However, the percentages skew dramatically in favor of such a return when a large-market team is involved. Now, we still don't know how large-market the Dodgers under Frank McCourt will act, but let's face it, Los Angeles is probably not competing with Kansas City, Milwaukee, or Montreal/San Juan/Northern Virginia/Cassiopeia for major free agents.

No, the biggest reason that elite free agents don't return to their former teams is that no matter how logical a trade for prospects might be, the wound lingers, the scar having, in some way, been dumped, rejected, cast off, bade farewell. Face it - if Ric Ocasek ever dumped Paulina Porizkova, then to Paulina, Ric Ocasek would finally start to look like ... Ric Ocasek.

And yet, the scenario is potentially so rich for everyone. Beltre gets to experience a pennant race in another city, then returns a richer man to a richer (in talent) Dodger team, with the chance to build a huge career in a great city.

If an igloo somewhere is hiding a cold reality that says that Beltre won't be taking the Dodgers to the playoffs in 2004, it's a shame that the team and Beltre will probably make the worst of it for 2005 and beyond.

For now, I still want to buy my used cars from Beltre.

2004-06-28 11:21
by Jon Weisman

While I catch up from a weekend of chores galore, enjoy Rich Lederer's review of Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue on Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT.

(Alternate headline: Claire-itin)

Catharsis - A Breath Mint for the Soul
2004-06-25 15:06
by Jon Weisman

Thanks for indulging this morning's entry. Just to be clear, it wasn't surrender. The series just left a bad taste in my mouth.

Things could get worse before they get better, with Jason Schmidt pitching for the Giants against Barry Zito tonight. The Dodgers, meanwhile, face an Angel team with a bullpen that, while it has no Eric Gagne, might be every bit as good.

Interestingly, though, Baseball Prospectus rates the Dodger offense above the Angel offense in EQA, .271 to .254. Here's a simplistic position-by-position comparison (without injured Darin Erstad or suspenjured Milton Bradley):

C: Lo Duca .285, B. Molina .256
1B: Green .269, Quinlan .255
2B: Hernandez .317 (Cora .292), Kennedy .218
SS: Izturis .266, Eckstein .259
3B: Beltre .308, Figgins .288
LF: Werth .293, Guillen .289
CF: Roberts .313, Anderson .301
RF: Encarnacion .259, Guerrero .336

The 7-1 margin for the Dodgers is misleading - among other things, Guerrero so dominates the right-field matchup, and Werth's number is based on a limited number of at-bats. On the other hand, the Dodgers are making a killing at second base, and they are actually better off at first base than their cross-I-5 rivals. With no designated hitter this weekend, could the Angels stuff Jeff DaVanon (.310) at the cold corner?

Tonight's starter for the Angels, Jarrod Washburn (7-3, 5.18 ERA), has the second-most deceptive won-loss record in baseball this season. And the Angels' defense on the left side of the infield is no match for that of the Dodgers.

Let's play tonight's game and see what happens.

Oh, and by the way, the Wilkin has landed - in Wichita. More details on the bumpy minor league ride here.

2004-06-25 09:23
by Jon Weisman

Blah. Blah blah blah. Blah blah, blah blah, blah blah blah blah. Blah.


Can't Wait To Get Our Boys Home
2004-06-24 12:25
by Jon Weisman

After today's 4 p.m. start, the Dodgers are home for 13 of their next 16 - with the road games in Anaheim. The team won't leave Southern California again until July 15, three weeks from now.

Today's Game

Update: Shawn Green third, Adrian Beltre fourth in today's lineup, with Jayson Werth batting seventh and Milton Bradley still sidelined with his injury.

Felipe Alou and Barry Bonds apparently don't consider this a day game after a night game - he's playing.

Michael Eisner, Meet Shawn Green
2004-06-24 08:57
by Jon Weisman

Shawn Green has become a CEO with middle management standards.

There exists something I would call, "The Executive Suite Conundrum." When you reach the executive suite, as Green did by signing his nine-figure contract, you become more vital than the average employee. You earn perks and respect. You can be quirky - even have a spectacular failure or two - because when you're hot, you're smokin'.

The conundrum appears when your performance consistently ceases to justify your salary. What should the Board of Trustees do? Demote you or offer you the latitude to fix things based on your past success?

Green clearly feels that he should retain a key to the executive washroom.

Green is frustrated because, on a few occasions, Dodger manager Jim Tracy has cautiously moved him up, down or out of the lineup. Green is frustrated because he says it isn't helping.

"I haven't got to the point this year where I've been locked in, so obviously nothing has helped," he told the Orange County Register.

It does not seem to occur to Green, publicly at least, that his movement from the cleanup spot isn't entirely designed to help him, but reflects the fact that he is not doing a cleanup job.

Tracy doesn't want to fire Green - he just wants someone else to run the company temporarily because Green has become an ineffective CEO.

Green's response? He says he's not really that ineffective.

"Things have been getting better the last month," he told the Times. "I had two bad games."

Green seems to define a bad game as one in which he fails to reach base. It does not seem to occur to Green that a cleanup hitter has to do more than get singles here and there. The CEO needs higher standards.

Green has an on-base percentage of .366 and slugging percentage of .438 in June. That's good - if you're Cesar Izturis. As it is, Green's June OPS of .804 does not even put him in the top 100 in the majors.

It's probably safe to say that, as a cleanup hitter, Green has had more than a few bad games in June.

Green and Tracy both, somewhat unbelievably, continue to deny that Green's shoulder is an issue, according to the Daily News. Tracy seems to think the problem is a mechanical flaw. Green isn't so sure.

Either way, it adds up to Green saying there is nothing specifically wrong with him, nothing that won't be cured by more at-bats. But for some reason, as far as Green is concerned, those at-bats have to be in the cleanup spot.

Look, it's tremendously humbling to be demoted. Many people would rather be fired than demoted. But when you're on a team, you need to look beyond your own pride. Does Green see that this isn't all about him?

Adrian Beltre is a better hitter than Green right now. Even Juan Encarnacion is a better hitter than Green right now.

Green needs to stop being frustrated with his manager regarding the lineup. Tracy has no vendetta against Green - in fact, it's all too clear that if Tracy wants to keep his own job beyond this year, he's probably going to need Green to produce.

If Green starts hitting with authority again, wherever he is batting, Tracy will be the first person to want to reinstate him as the cleanup hitter. And the fans will be thrilled.

But the CEO has had enough latitude. It's time for results. Hit a few home runs, and then we can talk.

I say all this with the knowledge that in all likelihood, Green's pouting will force Tracy to give in on this war of wills and put Green back at No. 4 in the lineup sooner than later.

* * *

If you follow this link to Shawn Green's batting chart on and click on "2004 Season," you can see the locations where Green has hit the ball.

Try, for starters, Dodger Stadium. In 122 at-bats, Green has had seven hits that have reached the warning track or deeper - three doubles and four home runs. He has had three fly-ball outs that have reached the warning track, and about five others near the vicinity - roughly 350 feet from home plate.

That means in 107 out of 122 at-bats at home, 88 percent, Green hasn't really even shown high school power.

In 16 at-bats in San Francisco's SBC Park, Green has a double to the 309-foot mark in the right-field corner, a 350-foot flyout to center field, eight grounders to the right of second base, and six strikeouts.

Things are better at San Diego's Petco Park, with a home run, a long fly out and two doubles in 10 at-bats - all in April. But that's really about it.

In Green's defense, he reaches the 350-foot mark with about the same frequency as he did two years ago. In the 2002 season, Green had 278 at-bats at home. He had 18 home runs, 12 doubles, two singles and 12 flyouts at or near the warning track, meaning that 84 percent of his at-bats fell short.

But in 2002, when he connected, he really connected. He got doubles and home runs. In 2003, the home runs fell, though the doubles rose. This year, both categories have dropped.

* * *

I like Shawn Green. I like him.

Excuses are sour milk to him. He was hurt last year and he soldiered on.

But his home run totals since 2003 are:

2 - June 2004
3 - May 2004
4 - April 2004
7 - September 2003
1 - August 2003
3 - July 2003
2 - June 2003
3 - May 2003
3 - April 2003

Admittedly, on the Dodgers, you do have to lower your standards some. The entire offense smacks of middle management.

But those are not the home run totals of a cleanup hitter.

Just Vapors, Now
2004-06-23 17:22
by Jon Weisman

In footnote fashion, the news arrived from Ken Gurnick of that the Dodgers released Wilkin Ruan from Jacksonville.

The actual date of the release is vague - as if the thin, speedy Ruan disappeared in a contrail.

Role Reversal
2004-06-23 14:14
by Jon Weisman

4/25/03 Dodgers 8.5 games behind Giants
6/18/03 Dodgers 0.0 games behind Giants
7/08/03 Dodgers 8.5 games behind Giants

5/12/04 Giants 8.0 games behind Dodgers
6/22/04 Giants 0.5 games ahead of Dodgers

What happens next?

I still don't think the Giants have the pitching depth to sustain a division-winning record nor the organization depth to significantly improve.

But they are more than pesky.

Tonight's Game

Will, This Is What Jon's Listening To
2004-06-23 09:12
by Jon Weisman

Emboldened by the musical entries on the Will Carroll Weblog, I'm actually going to careen off-topic and describe what I'm listening to in my car this week.

Nothing current, I warn you. It's a mixed tape I made in March 1988, during my junior year in college. Join me in the Wayback Machine for ...

The Year of Living Effulgently
The title of the tape was a combination of one of my favorite movies and a word I learned directly from one of my favorite writers, Roger Angell.

Side A
Spare Parts, Bruce Springsteen Longtime readers won't be surprised to find a lot of Springsteen on this tape. I had spent the previous quarter of school in France, and was relieved that someone was able to get be a tape of the just-released Tunnel of Love album. There was such a crispness to this song that even though it wasn't my favorite, I liked the way it kicked off the tape.

Man in the Street, Joe Jackson From his live with a silent audience album, Big World. Not the best Joe Jackson song of all time, but one of the most interesting.

Bring It on Home to Me (Live), Sam Cooke A stirring, life-changing performance, preceded by a desperate, fervent "You Send Me" intro - not the entire song but a portion of it, and not the sweet happy version you customarily hear. From the indispensable Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963.

Straight to My Heart, Sting On the tape, this song rubs onto Bring It on Home to Me with no break - an accidentally great segue.

Hiding Out, Pete Townshend I love Townshend's solo stuff.

On My Own, Frances Ruffelle In November 1987, my friends and I got off a train in London's Victoria Station at 7:20 p.m. We walked outside, and there was a theatre with a show starting at 7:30. I was stunned by the idea that I could just step off the train and be at a London show minutes after arriving in town. We checked into the nearest affordable hostel/hotel, dumped our bags, and raced back to get student tickets. Unfortunately, the show was Starlight Express, the pseudo-roller disco musical which does not hold up well at all. The next night, however, we went to see Les Miserables, and like it or not, I was blown away. And I fell in love with Eponine, the ingenue, who dies with her love for Marius unrequited, consoled with only the worthless knowledge that she was heroic. I can't tell you how much I wanted to step in and sweep her off her feet. Perhaps in some way I did - I married a woman whose unrequited dream was to play Eponine on Broadway. This is her ballad.

The Boy in the Bubble, Paul Simon I liked to think, singing in my car with this song, that I actually could make myself sound like Paul Simon. I liked to think it, but it was completely delusional.

All for Leyna, Billy Joel There are a couple of mixed tapes I have with Billy Joel songs that don't quite hold up, I don't think. It's not that they're bad songs - they just don't seem to fit anymore.

Where the Streets Have No Name, U2 This probably needs no explanation.

Real Love, Lone Justice Anyone remember lead singer Maria McKee? Cool, unforgettable sound. I had actually expected to find Sweet Sweet Baby on this tape when I listened this week - both songs are great.

All Mixed Up, Tom Petty Like Wade Boggs, it was just one hit after another for Petty.

Side B
Because the Night (Live), Bruce Springsteen Natalie Merchant did a great cover, albeit with some lyrics changed, of this song, originally written by Springsteen and released by Patti Smith. My loyalty remains with Bruce.

Solid Rock, Dire Straits The Making Movies album has only seven songs, most of which are like 30 minutes long. Then there's this one, about 3 1/2 minutes, and it just, well, rocks. Solidly.

They Dance Alone, Sting Weird to listen to Sting singing about political prisoners and torture today.

Gypsy, Suzanne Vega Based on the lyrics of the song itself and the description Vega gave (when I saw her in concert) of the person she's singing about, I am nothing like him. But it's such a pretty song, I still wish it were about me.

All That Heaven Will Allow, Bruce Springsteen Bruce sings about Julianne. Love this song, but can hardly claim it for myself - my brother dropped down to one knee in the middle of a restaurant and sang it to his future wife when he proposed.

I'm One, The Who The Who was the unifying band of my high school friends. I'm proud to say that I saw them in concert in 1982 at the Los Angeles Coliseum on their farewell tour. That's right - farewell tour. (Opening acts: future Coen brothers music guru T-Bone Burnett, and the Clash, who performed so dysfunctionally that they were booed off the stage.)

Industrial Disease, Dire Straits At the Winter Olympics or some major event, Katarina Witt used the instrumental opening of this song in her long program, punctuating each crash of the cymbals with an incredible jump. Wish I had a tape of it. Figure skating could really use more good rock 'n' roll.

Suspicious Minds (Live Dress Rehearsal), Elvis Presley For a long time, I loved this song without knowing its title, and spent several excursions to record stores trying to find the Elvis album with "Caught in a Trap" on it. Fortunately, one of the Elvis albums I did buy, a live recording of a dress rehearsal of his Hawaii concerts, had this on here. It's not quite as good as the normal version, but I still like it. At some point in this rendition, I think he brings a kid - possibly Lisa Marie - on stage with him.

Rip This Joint, The Rolling Stones Great song. One of those songs you have to be careful not to get a speeding ticket while listening to it. College friend Joe DeMattia introduced it to me. Haven't seen Joe since 1992 - he probably won't show up at our 15th reunion this fall, but here's hoping that he does.

A lot of this, frankly, is still my taste, 16 years later. Most of the music my wife and I buy today is Raffi or the Wiggles. I haven't bought a new CD for myself in at least a year. No - I take that back - I did get Lyle Lovett's newest. Dar Williams and Aimee Mann might have been the only ones I purchased in 2003. Music radio stinks in Los Angeles - the demise of, what was it, 101.9 I think, really hurt. There's a new station down the dial in the 105 area that I've given a try - occasionally something pops up there. Will Carroll is always raving about how great some song is, but I don't like a lot of what I hear now - and when I do like something, so many stations today don't tell you the names of the song they play. Sort of like having Rick Monday as your deejay. I would download some songs from iTunes, like Will, if I knew what to download.

Hopefully, by the time my daughter is a teenager, I'll find a way to be, like, 10 percent cool again.

Open Chat: Dodgers-Giants (Tuesday)
2004-06-22 17:48
by Jon Weisman
Defending Tracy
2004-06-22 10:03
by Jon Weisman

It looks bad that Guillermo Mota was left in to allow the winning hit in the bottom of the ninth Monday night.

But there isn't a bottom of the ninth at all if Dodger manager Jim Tracy backs away from his confidence in Jayson Werth, who delivered his third hit of the game, an RBI single off a right-handed pitcher.

During Monday's telecast, Werth's hits were always followed by closeup shots of him, looking wary. Very wary. If he married Mary Worth, they'd be Mary and Wary Werth.

The guy doesn't celebrate his hits. He is focused. He is big and athletic. He has power. He deserves to play. Tracy would get less grief from the media if he played Dave Roberts full time, but he is bucking conventional wisdom by giving Werth a chance to prove himself, recognizing that the singles-happy Dodgers could greatly use more power, and I'm glad to see it.

There is a moment when a new acquisition stops being "Who the hell is this?" to the average fan and becomes "I like this guy." Mota certainly went through it - last year, after his outstanding performance overwrote his controversial run-ins with Mike Piazza. Now, Werth is crossing that threshold - thanks to Tracy.

Now, if Juan Encarnacion sat instead of Roberts, I wouldn't mind, though it's still unproven who is more effective against left-handed pitchers.

And, when he does start on the bench, if Roberts pinch-hit against right-handed pitchers before Robin Ventura, especially leading off an inning, I certainly wouldn't mind.

That being said, Tracy was a pretty successful puppetmaster in the top of the ninth. He gambled that one of his first two pinch-hitters, Ventura or Jason Grabowski, would get on, so that Roberts could then pinch-run. Arguably, Roberts' presence on the bases helped unnerve Giants reliever Matt Herges, who wild-pitched him to second and allowed him to score the game-tying run.

As for the bottom of the ninth, I don't think one could have predicted the Mota meltdown, especially after he retired the first two batters. By the time it became apparent, Wilson Alvarez was rushed to warmup. Alvarez is a long reliever/starting pitcher. It's fair for Tracy to think that perhaps Alvarez might not be more effective, rushing into a bases-loaded, do-or-die situation with maybe 180 seconds of bullpen work, than Mota, who did in fact induce a ground ball from Cody Ransom. Unfortunately, that grounder went up the middle.

You can make the case that Eric Gagne should have come in, though.

The Dodgers did not produce with men on base, leaving 11 stranded. Shawn Green went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts. Should Tracy brave Green's passive-aggressive wrath and again try moving him from the cleanup spot? Perhaps. Should Tracy have pulled Mota from the game? It seems apparent now.

But put Monday's loss on the players who did not perform, not the manager. Or, at least spread both the credit for what went right as well as the blame for what went wrong.

A tough loss it was, with Barry Bonds out of the game if it had headed into extra innings.

Frying Pan, Meet Fire
2004-06-21 16:47
by Jon Weisman

The need to communicate has been relentless with the Yankee series, and a breather is definitely in order. Instead, we get a four-game series with the Giants! Oxygen - I need oxygen.

The pitching rotation gods have spared the Dodgers from seeing Jason Schmidt in this series - a considerable break. Instead, the Dodgers offer the pitcher with the better ERA in the first three games, starting tonight with Odalis Perez (2.88) vs. Kirk Reuter (5.03).

I still think the Giants are a mirage, because despite a Barry Bonds-led offense, they continued to be outscored on the season (341-352). Nevertheless, the Dodgers need a series split to leave San Francisco in first place.

In fact, thanks to Bonds, the Dodgers are facing a better offense this week than they did this past weekend. The team EQAs:

.271 New York Yankees
.272 Los Angeles Dodgers
.276 San Francisco Giants

Barry Bonds is at .472, with the next-best Giant hitters, Michael Tucker and Marquis Grissom, at .302 and .292.

Bonds is slugging .789, which means that he gets almost as many bases per at-bat swinging (0.789) as he does walking (1.000). However, another way to look at it to notice that Bonds has 26 singles and 27 extra-base hits in 147 at-bats, which means that when he swings the bat:

64 percent of the time he swings he gets zero bases
18 percent of the time he swings he gets one base
18 percent of the time he swings he gets more than one base

In other words, with four out of every five swings of the bat, Bonds gets one base or fewer.

Better folk than me have analyzed this situation, but yes, you can get away with pitching to Bonds, and no, that doesn't mean that you will.

Comparison No. 1: Marquis Grissom (243 AB, 48 singles, 26 extra-base hits)

70 percent of the time he swings he gets zero bases
20 percent of the time he swings he gets one base
11 percent of the time he swings he gets more than one base.

Comparison No. 2: Shawn Green (243 AB, 40 singles, 23 extra-base hits)

74 percent of the time he swings he gets zero bases
16 percent of the time he swings he gets one base
9 percent of the time he swings he gets more than one base.

The difference between Barry Bonds and Shawn Green, if one can over-simplify for a moment, is that in one out of every 10 swings, Bonds gets an extra-base hit when Green makes an out.

Baseball is quite a game, isn't it?

(Do I need to say that this is an Open Chat for tonight's game - or would that have been implicit?)

A-Rod, Nancy Bea and Hayward
2004-06-21 16:06
by Jon Weisman

Alex Rodriguez struck out three times Sunday (against Jose Lima x2 and Eric Gagne), doing so for the first time since July 2, when the Angels' John Lackey executed the trifecta himself. ...

A propos of Saturday's comment on the Dodger Stadium atmosphere, I did hear Nancy Bea Hefley playing organ at the end of the first inning Sunday - need to check on whether she has or will get the green light to play more. They certainly could afford to turn the volume up when she plays. ...

I also noticed infrequent updates Sunday on what players had done at the plate that day, but not with any consistency. ...

Of all the celebrities shown on the left-field scoreboard Sunday, I was most excited to see a brief glimpse of Thomas Carter, outstanding in so many projects, including two dearest to my heart: The White Shadow, as James Hayward, and Hill Street Blues, as both an actor and director. Carter is a six-time Emmy nominee and three-time winner. You can have Jack - I'll take guys like Thomas Carter anytime.

Final Pitches
2004-06-21 15:49
by Jon Weisman

From the New York Times:

The full-count changeup was a foot outside, and Hideki Matsui, the tying runner who could break Eric Gagne's consecutive-saves streak, took the pitch. After the plate umpire, Jeff Kellogg, called it a strike, Joe Torre recalled anothe game-ending dagger in the Yankees-Dodgers rivalry.

"Sometimes people get caught up in the moment," Torre, the Yankees' manager, said Sunday after their 5-4 loss at Dodger Stadium. "I guess some people are still wondering if that pitch to Dale Mitchell (to complete Don Larsen's perfect game) was a strike."

From Eric Enders, per my request:

First, there's no way the Matsui pitch was a foot outside the strike zone that was in effect for this game. It was maybe 10 inches off the plate, and 4 inches outside the home plate ump's strike zone. It wasn't a strike, but they're overstating things.

In 1956 there was no centerfield camera, so we really have no way of knowing whether the Dale Mitchell pitch was a strike. In the existing footage it looks highly questionable, but it's far from conclusive. From what I've read, almost everyone who witnessed it thought it was a bad call. Few of them made a big deal out of it, since it didn't really matter in the grand scheme of things.

The Mitchell pitch seems like it was one of those that often gets called a strike when it shouldn't - a half-hearted check swing on a pitch that's almost, but not quite, over the plate. The batter doesn't go around enough for it to be called a swing, and the pitch is not quite close enough to be a strike - but the combination of the two is usually enough to get him called out.

I did a little bit of research, and here's what people said:

Rube Walker: "I have to say that Babe Pinelli's called third strike on our final batter, pinch hitter Dale Mitchell, was actually a ball." (from Danny Peary's "We Played the Game")

Pinelli: Mitchell "thought it was a lousy call, but he was crazy to take it. Pictures later proved that it was a strike." (from Glenn Dickey's "The World Series.")

Pinelli: "It was a fat pitch. No hitter will see a much better strike." (N.Y. Times, 10/9/56)

Pinelli: "It was a fast ball. It was right over the middle -- an easy call. It was the first perfect game I've ever seen, of course." (L.A. Times, 10/9/56)

Frank Finch, L.A. Times: "It looked a little outside, but Mitchell took it." (L.A. Times, 10/9/56)

Fred Lieb: "It was a pitch shoulder high, and Mitchell stood at the plate grousing at the umpire's verdict." ("The Story of the World Series")

Dale Mitchell: "'The ball was this far outside,' said Dale, measuring a distance of almost a foot." (N.Y. Times, 10/9/56)

Here's one of my favorite baseball facts: The two rarest things ever to occur in the World Series were Larsen's perfect game and Bill Wambsganss's unassisted triple play in 1920, a line drive off the bat of Clarence Mitchell. So both of these extremely rare events were the result of an out made by a Dodger batter named Mitchell.

Go Rashomon
2004-06-21 08:48
by Jon Weisman

Kurosawa could only give us four viewpoints of the same incident in Rashomon, but today we more than double that total in our coverage of Sunday's Yankee-Dodger game.

The Dodger Thoughts piece can be found just below. But don't miss the posts by Baysball, Bronx Banter, Will Carroll Weblog (Will Carroll and Ken Arneson), Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT (a wonderful Father's Day tribute) and Wait Til Next Year.

Update: Mariner Musings is on board.
Update 2: So are Mike's Baseball Rants, TwinsFanDan on the Will Carroll Weblog and guest Jay Jaffe.

In addition, we have a guest appearance by Dodger Thoughts reader and Society for American Baseball Research member Bob Timmermann, whose piece appears right here:

By Bob Timmermann

The two Joses facing off Sunday evening were a contrast in expectations. The Dodgers' Jose Lima started this season with no guaranteed job and nothing much to look expect beyond a possible spot as a long reliever. The Yankees' Jose Contreras started this season expected to live up to the expectations of his rich contract and to take up a spot in the Yankee rotation that had been occupied by the likes of Andy Pettite or David Wells.

Lima pitched Sunday's game as if he were just out to have a good time. Contreras, weighed down by an up and down season and with the names of his absent family members who had to remain behind in Cuba sewn on to his glove, seemed to be heading for an appointment with a dentist.

The expectations faced by Lima and Contreras mirror the expectations faced by their respective teams. The Dodgers were predicted to finish in the middle of a weakened NL West, yet they have stubbornly clung to the top of the division despite the challenges of the upstart Padres and the defending champion Giants. The Yankees are expected to run through the American League like crap through a goose (to borrow a phrase from General George Patton). And after a slow start, the Yankees have started to show some of the offensive firepower that was expected of them.

But I am still wondering what would happen to this Yankees team if it doesn't fulfill its expectations and deliver the first 21st Century championship to The Bronx. Will pitchers like Contreras be sent packing? Will Hideki Matsui decide that it's better to go back home to Japan, where the expectations of one entire nation compound the expectations placed on him by Yankee fans and management.

Meanwhile in L.A., just what expectations are there? As far as I can tell, there is just one. It's not to win the World Series. It's not to win the NL West. It's not even to earn the wildcard. The expectation is that with a lead in the 9th inning, Eric Gagne will close out the game. And on Sunday, that's what happened.

Just as expected.

P.S.: As long as we're doing links here, don't miss the impressive analysis of trade candidate Freddy Garcia on Mariner Musings. And The Raindrops passes along this link to a Leone For Third report from a Baseball Prospectus pizza feed in San Diego, where Padres general manager Kevin Towers said (bluffed?) that "the Padres are not interested in trading for Carlos Beltran, and are only involved to drive up the price for Los Angeles."

Rashomon Project: 'Yankees Suck' Is a Figure of Speech
2004-06-20 21:02
by Jon Weisman

In 1769, the first European land expedition party through California came upon a river, which they christened "Nuestra Señora de los Angeles de la Porciúncula." By 1781, a settlement was established there, which was named "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciúncula" or "The Town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels of the Little Portion." The official name of the city founded there was shortened to "El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles" and came to be known by its shorthand version, "Los Angeles." (Source: Los Angeles Almanac)

By sheer happenstance, the second of the two words in this village's name started with a vowel, which made it ideal, 200 years later, for basketball fans in Boston, baseball fans in San Francisco, and others to initiate and perpetuate a cheer, "Beat L.A." Conversely, the second initial of the various sporting rivals of El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles is not a vowel, rendering "Beat S.F." or "Beat N.Y." insufficiently melodious for effective use.

As a result, fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball club have had to find other ways to confront their opponents. This past weekend, facing the New York Yankees for the first meaningful games in 23 years, some Dodger fans began chanting, "Yankees Suck," which spread fairly effectively through the stadium at an intermittent rate, though by no means a relentless one, at least on Saturday or Sunday.

What was so interesting at the ballpark Sunday, sitting in the stands, standing in the food lines, walking through the aisles, was how many Yankee fans one could hear responding to this cheer by citing evidence that the Yankees, in fact, do not suck. As if this were an epsiode of Law & Order, they objected, pointing out, for example, that the Yankees have the best record in baseball, that they have won more World Series titles than any other team and more league championships than any other team. The literalness with which they responded to this chant could only have been exceeded if they had also pointed out that no, in fact, the Yankees do not purse their lips and use their saliva in an inhaling fashion to enjoy a lollypop, nor do they perform oral sex on other men, that in short, they really do not suck.

There's no denying the obnoxiousness of the "Yankees Suck" cheer, any more than the obnoxiousness of the "Beat L.A." cheer. In general, I'm from the cheer-for-your-own-team school for a number of reasons - some vague feeling that it's impolite to jeer or boo, some vague fear that negativity toward the other team will incite its players to do better. But grudging respect is pretty clearly the subtext of these types of cheers, and I found it hard to believe, all annoyance aside, that the Yankee fans didn't enjoy the "Yankees Suck" cheer deep down - for the very opportunity it provided them to point out how great the Yankees are.

And so, for all of the electricity the night offered, it was also all very civilized. No roughhousing that I could see. Time after time, the "Yankees Suck" cheers would fade, the momentum of the game would shift, and a "Let's Go, Yankees" chant would rise up among the transplants. Not once did one group try to shout down the other. Yankee and Dodger fans, taking turns. Global politicians, take note.

Make no mistake: Fans of both teams really wanted to win this game. The shared history of the two teams, the fact that Sunday's attendance was another near-record crowd at Dodger Stadium, capping a record for a three-game series here (more than 165,000 fans), the fact that this was the rubber game of the series, was all part of the zeitgeist - the stakes were defined. Sunday meant one game in the standings for either team, but meant even more in terms of pride, in terms of self-esteem. With division rivals looming on the schedule for the week ahead, the loser of the game was destined to forget about it within a day, but the winner would be welcome to crow about it until October.

For the first few innings, I wondered what they were saying about the game, and in particular the Dodgers, on ESPN. Though the Dodgers perform on national television from time to time, there is an unavoidable reality that in baseball, the Yankees are Broadway, and the Dodgers hadn't performed on Broadway in 23 years. The Dodgers have an outstanding defense, for example, but no one outside the pueblo would ever notice until Cesar Izturis' Ozzie-like backhanded stop of a high hopper Friday night - against the Yankees. Dodger fans have been staying to the end of the game, to see Eric Gagne pitch, for about two years now, but as far as Newsday writer Jim Baumbach was concerned, when the Dodger fans remained in their seats until the very last pitch Friday, this was "unheard of in Los Angeles."

No - it was plenty heard of in Los Angeles, actually. But it was unheard of in New York. Anyway, it's heard of now. And - no surprise - it happened again Sunday.

After the start-of-game shadows gave pitchers Jose Contreras and Jose Lima a false sense of security, both pitchers were tagged with rough innings in the second and third, respectively, with Lima emerging ahead, 4-2. The Dodgers missed a chance to extend their margin in the bottom of the third inning when Milton Bradley inexplicably did not go from second to third on a groundout to second base by Shawn Green, leaving him one base short when Paul Lo Duca launched a one-out deep fly ball in the next at-bat.

As lively as the first three innings were, the middle three were tame. The biggest cheer from the crowd came during the KissCam segment in between innings, when the Cam focused on a man and a woman, and the woman turned - not to kiss the man to her right, but instead the woman to her left.

The game reignited in the seventh inning - and there was no relief from its intensity at that point until the game ended. The flames were kindled when, after Lima gave up a leadoff single to Jason Giambi, Dodger manager Jim Tracy forced us to go through the motions of Darren Dreifort and Tom Martin, rather than going straight to Guillermo Mota - even though you could sense that Mota would need to bail the team out anyway.

A key play in the inning came when ex-Dodger Gary Sheffield, target of half-hearted boos by some, hit a vicious sinking liner at Dodger left fielder Dave Roberts. Roberts had a chance to make a diving attempt, but in doing so would risk the ball skirting past him for what would probably have been a triple. Instead, Roberts played the ball for a single, holding Giambi at second. Though the tying runs were on base, there was some relief in knowing that Dreifort was past his biggest challenge. And indeed, Jorge Posada hit into a routine double play.

All Dreifort had to do was get past Hideki Matsui. But wait - I forgot - Matsui is left-handed, so of course Martin had to face him and give up an RBI triple that barely missed being a home run. Now, finally, Mota could come into the game and retire pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra on a fly ball.

Then, just minutes after Roberts played a ball conservatively in left field, he came to the plate and lined one to left field himself. Only this time, the left fielder, Matsui, charged the ball even though it was an automatic double. The ball sped under Matsui's glove, and Roberts, untethered, raced around the bases with time to spare before Matsui could retrieve the ball. The Dodgers led, 5-3, and the crowd danced on air.

(And see, if ever there was a time for the "Yankees Suck" cheer, this was it - as this was a sucky play by Matsui. But it didn't come. So you can see my point. It's not meant literally.)

In the top of the eighth, in an event obviously but altogether effectively staged since the stadium cameras were trained on it from the start, Dodger owner Frank McCourt gave Jack Nicholson an LA cap to replace the yellow-Laker-colored NY cap he was wearing. Nicholson promptly disposed of the cap like it was a stinky rag, and everyone laughed - yes, it's a ballgame here, a rivalry, not a war, and ain't that how it should be.

In the eighth, the crowd got nothing less than a memory it could keep forever. Eric Gagne vs. Alex Rodriguez. Hey, turns out you don't need to pay $5,000 for ringside seats to see a heavyweight prize fight - you can just go down to Dodger Stadium.

Inherting a runner at second base from Mota, Gagne got his first two strikes on Rodriguez with identical 89-mph breaking balls. He then struck out A-Rod on nothing less than a pure challenge pitch, a sandblasting 96-mph 2-2 fastball in the heart of the zone that I can still feel the wind from.

Gagne came right after Giambi leading off the top of the ninth and allowed a home run, cutting the lead to 5-4, and of course, even though the homer could be explained away as Gagne pitching to the score, not messing around with a batter who wasn't the tying run, it was completely realistic now that the record-setting save streak was about to end. Too bad the Tony Awards just passed, becaue what a story that would be for Broadway, huh?

If you want to measure the quality of a baseball game by how nervous you get that the team you are rooting for might lose, this was one high-quality baseball game. I don't know if it came across that way on its various broadcasts, but man, I cared deeply about what was going to happen next.

Sheffield grounded out, hard (is it ever anything less with Sheffield?) to Adrian Beltre. Posada flied out, medium-deep, to Roberts in left center. And up came Matsui, who had the big hits both Saturday and Sunday, yet now, because of his error, found himself in need of redemption. Classic Yankee Bernie Williams was on-deck to pinch-hit in case Matsui got aboard.

Matsui took the count to 3-2, then took a pitch that, from my angle on the second level between home and first, looked high and outside. It seemed that home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg took a moment to think about it - before he rang Matsui up. "Home-team call!" someone exclaimed bitterly. Like that has never, ever happened in the Bronx, I suppose.

Out we walked from our seats, "Yankees Suck" being shouted by a few people here and there. Out we drove from our parking spot, "Yankees Suck" being shouted by a guy smoking from behind the wheel of his pickup truck.

I'll clarfiy it for the record. The New York Yankees lost two of three games this weekend. They made some mistakes in this series - Classic Yankee Derek Jeter making more than one with his bunting and baserunning. But the New York Yankees most certainly do not suck.

As it turns out, however, neither do Los Dodgers del Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles.

2004-06-19 21:35
by Jon Weisman

From Game Chatter on Baseball Think Factory:

Posted by BobT on June 19, 2004 at 04:28 PM (#687847)

Vin Scully loves applesauce.

Posted by Eric Enders on June 19, 2004 at 04:28 PM (#687850)

The last few minutes of this Game Chatter resemble a Larry King column.

The Admiral
2004-06-19 21:05
by Jon Weisman

So, Hideo Nomo pitched six shutout innings Saturday, allowing one hit, one walk and hitting one batter in his most encouraging outing of the season.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, his scoreless stretch came after a first inning in which he allowed four runs, enough to put Los Angeles in a hole from which they wouldn't recover on a cloudy, increasingly humid New York-like summer day.

Nomo had two outs, the bases empty and two strikes on Alex Rodriguez and was one pitch away from a 10-pitch 1-2-3 inning (thanks to Jeter's silly caught stealing with a favorable count on the American League's best hitter) when Rodriguez drew a full-count walk.

The next batter, Jason Giambi, fouled off seven pitches in a 13-pitch at-bat that ended in Nomo's second walk and seemed to completely turn the tide. Gary Sheffield lasered a single up the middle, and then Hideki Matsui golfed a three-run home run over the short fence in right field, and Nomo was done.

The suggestions in this space more than once this week were for Nomo to work out his problems from the bullpen in a mop-up situation - and darned if I wasn't right. In the top of the second, Nomo relieved Nomo and pitched rather brilliantly through the seventh, hitting his fourth career home run, believe it or not, along the way.

Most every Yankee fan I talked to was nervous about this game because New York was starting a fella by the name of Brad Halsey in his major league debut. I felt the odds were much in the Yankee favor, because pitchers never before seen in the majors seem to have a hell of a fighting chance to outfox the opposition, especially pitchers with a 2.52 ERA in AAA ball.

Sure enough, Halsey pitched well. He allowed a run in the first that was something of a gift to the Dodgers, thanks to Rodriguez's sluggish pursuit of a slow ground ball by Jayson Werth, who came around to score the run. Hardly daunted, Halsey allowed nothing else except the homer by Nomo. Halsey was doing the right thing in challenging Nomo - got beat on a pitch - but again regained his bearings and completed 5 2/3 innings.

By the third inning, I recollected to the people I went to the game with that there was an Admiral Halsey and suggested, based on this younger Halsey's command, that we start calling him "The Admiral." Now, pacing is key in attempting to christen a nickname. I didn't use it again until Halsey came out of the game in the sixth, when I said, "The Admiral pitched a nice game." I mentioned it once more toward the end, and by the time we were walking to the car, others in the group were referring to Halsey as "The Admiral" as if they never knew him any other way (which, admittedly, they hadn't for long, since no one had heard of Halsey before Friday.)

At this point, I would no sooner call this Yankee pitcher by his name than I would call Yogi Berra "Lawrence." The Admiral did the Yankees proud Saturday. Sunday, it will be the battle of the Joses - Lima and Contreras.

Leaps and Bounds
2004-06-19 21:04
by Jon Weisman

Attending my first game of the current homestand Saturday, I was gratifyingly stunned to find the Dodger Stadium right-field scoreboard presenting on-base percentage and slugging percentage for each batter during every plate appearance. Progress, my friends, progress.

Next stop: park-adjusted stats like EQA. Perhaps in 2009? Realistically, it could be a long, long while. You might say, nobody knows what EQA is - why would they bother putting that up? I guarantee, however, there were people at the game today who didn't know what OBP and SLG are. So how might they learn? They ask around until someone explains it to them. Word spreads, and soon everyone knows. Viral education - it's pretty simple and effective when you think about it.

Additionally, the auxillary scoreboards beneath the Loge Level are showing, for the first time, live pitch counts, pitch by pitch, broken down into balls, strikes and strike percentage - along with live ERA updates. Good stuff. Seeing Nomo's ERA rise above 8 after Hideki Matsui's home run was charming - seeing pitch count updates more than a few times an inning was downright useful. Nice to be catching up to the rest of the baseball world - in this respect, anyway.

One thing that has been lost in the shuffle is that the scoreboards are no longer updating you on what the players did in their previous at-bats during the game. If you want that information, you have to keep score or have good short-term memory. I'd find a way to bring this information back to public view.

I have to admit I wasn't bothered much by the stadium music on this day, except on a few cases when there was, as Joel Goodson's father said in Risky Business, "a preponderance of bass," as well as in the middle of the game, when a feature called "Dodger Jukebox" asked the crowd to choose one of three "popular" songs to hear.

"Nancy Bea," my brother shouted.

I missed organist Nancy Bea Hefley when I thought about her, every two or three innings, but had to concede to myself that I don't spend a lot of time at the game thinking about the music, whatever it is. It did make me sad when "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" began and Nancy Bea appeared on the scoreboard during what has become her only in-game performance, and you realize that this is like Willie Mays being relegated to pinch-hitting status.

2004-06-18 22:24
by Jon Weisman

Are the NBA Finals too fresh in my mind, or did the Dodgers look like the Detroit Pistons against the Laker-Yankees this evening? Faster, crisper, more energized - it was a pick-and-roll/rebound/fast-break 6-3 Dodger victory in the first regular season game ever between the two teams.

As you know, Vin Scully has no trouble praising the game's heroes, no matter what team they toil for. But the Dodgers earned Vinny's most earnest and passionate rhapsodies tonight.

Jeff Weaver overcame a Saget's worth of bloopers in the top of the third to pitch six solid innings, and recent Dodger Thoughts bashee Darren Dreifort retired the side in order in the seventh. But it was Cesar Izturis (defense), Adrian Beltre (offense) and Guillermo Mota (strikeouts) who sent Scully full square into a reverie of admiration.

And then, Eric Gagne. Imagine a seven-year-old spying Superman on a fly-by. That's how you have to hear Vinny's call on the final pitch of the game - a called strike three, of course.

"Oh, yes! Oh my gosh, what a pitch! That's amazing! That's not fair. After a 97-mile-per-hour fastball, you can't tell, but that pitch was in the 60s ... a rainbow curve."

Newhan To Leave Times
2004-06-18 20:57
by Jon Weisman

Baseball columnist Ross Newhan, who has been with the Times since 1967, has accepted a voluntary buyout offer and will leave the paper, though he will remain for at least the remainder of the baseball season, according to Kevin Roderick at L.A. Observed.

The Tribune Company is ordering layoffs of 60 Times staffers if that number of people do not accept the buyout, according to Roderick. The comments attached to the various entries on L.A. Observed have contained a no-holds-barred discussion of the situation.

Dodgers-Yankees by the Numbers
2004-06-18 15:25
by Jon Weisman

1 The number of times the Dodgers have beaten the Yankees in the World Series in my lifetime.

1.43 Mariano Rivera's ERA in 2003-2004.

1.59 Eric Gagne's ERA in both 2004 and 2002-2004.

1.91 Guillermo Mota's ERA in 2003-2004.

2 The uniform number of Tommy Lasorda, who became Dodger manager in 1977, the first full season that I religiously followed a pennant race, a pennant race culminating in a Dodger-Yankee World Series. A manager who, despite that initiation, I never learned to adore.

3 Game 3 of the 1977 World Series was the first postseason baseball game I ever attended. What I remember from that game without doing any research is that there was a moment of silence before the game to honor Bing Crosby on the day of his passing, and that Dusty Baker homered in a Dodger loss. Looking at the box score, I can see that Baker's three-run home run dramatically tied the game in the third inning, but that the Yankees pushed across single runs in the fourth and fifth to back Mike Torrez's complete-game effort.

3.1415926535897... What will be on the Yankee faces if the Dodgers win at least π-1.1415926535897 games this weekend.

4 The over/under on both the number of runs the Yankees figure to score against Hideo Nomo on Saturday and the number of innings he will pitch, given his performance this season. Alex Belth of Bronx Banter says he thinks Nomo "will be fine." Harumph.

4.5 The approximate size in inches of the black-and-white TV screen on which I watched Bob Welch's electric strikeout of Reggie Jackson in Game 2 of the 1978 World Series.

5 The average number of hours of a cross-country flight, which is what I was on, traveling from Boston to Los Angeles, when the airline pilot reported that Pedro Guerrero and Steve Yeager had hit back-to-back home runs to give the Dodgers a 2-1 victory in Game 5 of the 1981 World Series.

6 The number of consecutive World Series games the Yankees defeated the Dodgers in from October 13, 1978 through October 21, 1981, before the Dodgers won four straight to take the '81 Series.

7.41 Jeff Weaver's average number of strikeouts per nine innings in 2004, the best rate of his career.

8 The number of years of interleague play before the Dodgers and Yankees met, as Dodger and Yankee fan (yes, it's true) Jay Jaffe points out in his must-read preview of this weekend's series. (.002 the difference in EQA between the two teams)

9 The number of All-Stars my cousin, Yankee fan James Gray, must see in the Yankee batting order before he can relax - and focus on the pitching staff.

13.52 Eric Gagne's ratio of strikeouts per nine innings since 2002.

17 The number of home runs in 2004 by the Dodger bench of Jason Grabowski (5), Jose Hernandez (4), Olmedo Saenz (3), Jayson Werth (3), David Ross (2) and Robin Ventura (0) in 350 at-bats - an average of one homer per 20.5 at-bats - a better rate than every Dodger starter except Adrian Beltre.

18 The number of strikeouts by Ron Guidry in a 1979 Strat-o-Matic baseball game (played with 1978 statistics), as the Robyn Weisman-managed Yankees smothered the Jon Weisman-managed Dodgers in Jon's bedroom.

20-20 The vision that Reggie Jackson did not have when he lost a Davey Lopes fly ball in the sun in the sixth inning of Game 4 of the 1981 World Series, setting the stage for a game-tying single by Bill Russell en route to an 8-7 Dodger victory.

40 The number of home runs Shawn Green is on pace to hit in the 2003-2004 seasons combined.

42 The number of home runs Shawn Green hit in 2002, his first season as a Dodger without Gary Sheffield.

44 The uniform number of ... Ken Landreaux, who caught the final out of the Dodgers' 1981 World Series victory in Yankee Stadium, as ESPN researcher Mark Simon recalls. (God help me, I'm doing this one from memory and I'm suddenly having second thoughts as I walk out the door - I hope I'm right.)

145 The number of pitches Dodger rookie Fernando Valenzuela reportedly threw in his complete-game, nine-hit, seven-walk, six-strikeout enduranceaganza over the Yankees in Game 3 of the 1981 World Series.

447 The numbers it takes on a telephone to spell HIP, which is what Reggie Jackson used to block a Bill Russell throw and spark a Game 4 rally that evened the 1978 World Series, 2-2. Perhaps the first true moment of appalling sports injustice that I experienced in my life.

163,653 The Dodger Stadium record for tickets sold for a three-game series, set April 23-25 vs. San Francisco this year, an average of 54,551 per game.

Friday's Game

Open Chat: Orioles-Dodgers (Thursday)
2004-06-17 16:43
by Jon Weisman
Open Chat: Orioles-Dodgers (Wednesday)
2004-06-16 16:46
by Jon Weisman

Irony: Odalis has never pitched in, oh, Dallas.

Tonight's Game

After Thursday's Game: LACMA Party
2004-06-16 14:33
by Jon Weisman

For something fun and different from your usual postgame activity, come to the free All-Night Party at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Thursday.

The party starts at the same time as Thursday's Dodger-Oriole game but continues until 7 a.m. Friday. Art, music, prize giveaways, booksignings, men, women, a guy in a Babar costume - it'll be a cultural feast with a frolicky twist.

Click the links above for more details, including how to RSVP at no obligation or cost to reduce your waiting in line to enter. (Fair warning - at last year's LACMA all-nighter, the lines were immense until about 2 a.m.)

If you haven't discovered LACMA yet, it really is a great place with a tremendous amount to offer - a truly unsung part of Los Angeles. If you have discovered the museum - well, it'll be hopping something fierce Thursday night.

No Clutch or No Luck
2004-06-16 09:46
by Jon Weisman

Shlomo Shizgal asks in an e-mail:

Do you have any ideas to explain the following combination of Dodger team stats, relative to the other NL teams?

Batting Average - 2nd overall
On Base Percentage - 7th overall
Slugging Percentage - 6th overall

Runs Scored - 14th overall

The answer seems simple enough: the Dodgers have not had much clutch hitting. Which may be no more than bad luck.

By definition, clutch hitting (or the act of hitting when runners are on base) exists. However, I'm a convert to the belief that 99 to 100 percent of ballplayers do not have a specific talent for it. I don't believe that clutch-hitting stats among individuals are consistent from year to year.

Shizgal's stats might indicate that the Dodgers have greater potential to improve their scoring ability than previously believed. On the other hand, it is possible that in this given year, 2004, most Dodgers do and will continue to collectively choke up with runners on base. (Juan Encarnacion could be, as they say, the exception that proves the rule.)

How about we call this a dialogue before I emphatically draw a conclusion here. Gentlemen, start your comments.

Unhold That Thought
2004-06-16 08:13
by Jon Weisman

It's Adaptation, Dodger-style. It's a view into the process. Dodger screenwriter Jim Tracy and his doppleganger, Jim Colborn, simultaenously supporting and counfounding themselves.

Usually, Dodger fans see only the end of the inner management conversation - a decision to hire someone, to fire someone, to start someone, to bench someone.

With the Untitled Hideo Nomo Project, we've entered the collective Dodger mind in messy, uncompleted thought.

Back and forth Tracy and Colborn go, writing over each other's dialogue, acutely aware that Nomo is not performing and unsure how to proceed. From the Times, the Daily News and, you can piece together the different forces pulling at the Dodger manager and pitching coach.

Let me take the writers away from the script and try to act as therapist.

Tracy and Colborn say that you don't give up on a guy who has pitched so well over the past two seasons, figuring he will come around. Consider a middle ground, however. Consider, as we've said before, a move out of the starting rotation, so that Nomo can enter a game at less meaningful point and prove that he can piece together two solid innings, then three solid innings, then four solid innings, then five solid innings. However long it takes.

Tracy and Colborn say that they have few other options to replace Nomo with. Consider that you only need one option to succeed. Consider that Edwin Jackson can certainly produce an ERA lower than Nomo's 7.56. Consider that however concerned you are with the development and psyche of the 20-year-old Jackson, you were willing to test those by placing him in the starting rotation in March. Replacing the obviously ailing Nomo offers considerably less pressure.

A therapist doesn't dictate how a client should act. A therapist helps a client see more clearly so that the client can better choose how to act.

Provided they are not backed into a stubborn, defensive corner, Tracy and Colborn know what to do. The next act is already in their heads. They just need to let it out. Right now, we're watching the journey.

And After That ...
2004-06-16 07:49
by Jon Weisman

... the Dodgers might possibly confront the growing calamity that is Darren Dreifort - apparently healthy, sufficiently rested, yet allowing a 5.06 ERA and 1.6 baserunners per inning.

Dreifort allows few extra-base hits, but in case you haven't noticed, he's a poor man's Kazhuhisa Ishii. Dreifort has given up 8.1 hits and walked 6.4 batters per nine innings this season. Ishii is at 7.0 hits and 6.1 walks per nine.

It's not just that Dreifort isn't pitching to the level of his extraordinary contract. He's barely pitching to the level of the major league minimum contract.

And yes, Tom Martin has been even worse. More than two baserunners per inning. Lefty batters, his specialty, have an OPS of .958 against him.

Open Chat: Orioles-Dodgers (Tuesday) + Las Vegas Blues
2004-06-15 16:58
by Jon Weisman

Tonight's Game

"Bad times down on the farm," writes Eric Enders in an e-mail pointing me to this Las Vegas Review-Journal article:

Las Vegas manager Terry Kennedy was irritated and pushed to the edge, and it wasn't the 100-degree heat Monday night that caused his temper to flare.

Kennedy admitted he's running low on patience after watching his team play a month's worth of bad baseball.

* * *

It could get worse for Las Vegas if top pitching prospect Edwin Jackson gets recalled soon by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Kennedy is expecting Jackson's recall, but said, "That's not my job. I'm just trying to win a game here."

McCarthy Had No Fastball
2004-06-15 09:33
by Jon Weisman

In his debut column on Insider, Rob Neyer relates an extended quote from Bill James (co-author of The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers), that captures why I have liked James' writing so much for so long:

... in response to my argument (in another venue that might eventually be published in this neighborhood) that Frank Tanana's fastball was better than Nolan Ryan's (at least for a few years in the 1970s), Bill wrote this:

Let me see if I can explain this in such a way that Rob can't possibly take offense ...

In the Soviet Union of the 1950s and 1960s, the process of making movies was controlled by the state. The government's definition of "a good movie" was "a movie which accomplishes social good." Thus, the efforts of communist movie-makers were directed not so much at entertaining the public or providing a moving emotional experience as they were at encouraging people to work hard, stay on the farm, and show respect for the government. When everybody else uses the term "a good movie", the "good" modifies the "movie". When the Kremlin used the term "a good movie", the "good" meant "a movie which can accomplish a greater good." The result was a long series of Boy-Meets-Tractor type movies which seemed, to everyone but the government which was producing them, to be a waste of time and money.

What we have here is really the same problem. When everybody else uses the term "a good fastball", the "good" modifies the "fast". What everybody else means by the term "a good fastball" is "a ball thrown really, really fast." Rob, however, has overthought the problem, and is using the term to mean something else. What Rob means, I think, is "a fastball which can be used to good effect in winning the game" -- in other words, a fastball which accomplishes a greater good. The best fastball, in his mind, is the fastball which has the maximum impact on the pitcher's chance of winning the game.

There is nothing irrational about this; it just looks stupid because he's using the term "a good fastball" to mean something different from what everybody else uses it to mean. So what I am saying is, Rob really isn't stupid; it's just that he's a communist.

Freddy Garcia Talk (P.S.: Odalis Will Be a Free Agent Too)
2004-06-14 14:08
by Jon Weisman

Dodger Thoughts reader Brian had ESPN's Peter Gammons answer a question in his chat today. Note the apparent contradiction in how Peter addresses the possibility of a Freddy Garcia trade (bold mine).

Brian G. (L.A.): Peter, As a Dodger fan I'm anxious to see how DePodesta manuevers at the deadline. Do you think he'll splurge on Delgado/Sweeney or do you see him holding his cards for 2005?

Peter Gammons: First, what the Dodgers need is starting pitching. Right now it's spotty, to be kind. If they can get Delgado just for cash, that's fine. I think they will get into the Freddy Garcia sweepstakes because there really isn't any other good starting pitching out there.

* * *

Eric Storrs, CT: Word is that Schilling might go on the DL with an ankle injury for 2-4 weeks. What do you think the Sox chances of catching the Yankees will be if this happens? Do you see them making a move to grab possibly Garcia or another starting pitcher?

Peter Gammons: They won't know until the weekend whether Schilling will be on the DL for about a month. They have tried to get in on Garcia but the Mariners right now are not willing to trade him. That probably would necessitate bringing up Abe Alvarez or Chris Smith from AA. Catching the Yankees is an unfortunate obsession of New Englanders, fed by ownership playing to paranoia. The Yankees have their own problems with Brown and Mussina.

Is this a contradiction, or an implication that the Mariners will only trade Garcia to a National League team?

For what it's worth, Garcia was splendid in 2001 (3.05 ERA) but fairly mediocre in 2002 and 2003, with ERAs of 4.39 and 4.52 pitching for Seattle in a pitcher's park. This season, the 28-year-old Garcia has lowered his ERA to 3.20 and improved his strikeouts per nine innings to 7.04.

Garcia is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season, so that also has to factor into what you'd give up for him. I'm still not convinced that the solution to the Dodgers starting pitching problems isn't in the organization already.

By the way, in case you weren't aware - especially amid all the talk of this being Adrian Beltre's free agency year - 2004 is also the year that Odalis Perez, currently the ace of the Dodger rotation, can roam the economic countryside.

Nomo Needs Relief - Long Relief
2004-06-13 22:55
by Jon Weisman

For as long as it was possible without my negligence of my daughter becoming criminal, I charted the pitches of Hideo Nomo against the Red Sox on Sunday. Doing so allowed me to make some careful observations.

1) Nomo's fastball peaked at 89 miles per hour, and was usually 82-87 mph.
2) Nomo's splitter was generally 76-78 mph.
3) Very rarely did Nomo stray from using these two pitches.
4) Batters swung and missed at Nomo's splitter less than a handful of times.
5) As Joe Morgan observed (and what Morgan does best is observe), Nomo got more velocity on his fastball the higher he threw it.

Will Carroll clarified for me in an e-mail that the splitter is supposed to spin like a fastball, "just slower, so that's the tough part to pick up. The arm action and spin should look fastball, then it comes out slowly and dies as it crosses the plate."

The Red Sox were almost never fooled by Nomo's splitter, leading me to wonder if Nomo's motion for the splitter is what it needs to be. Certainly, the velocity difference was there - about 7-10 mph. But all night, they knew not to swing, or were able to locate it down low with their bats - as Pokey Reese did when he golfed a 78-mph splitter for a two-run double in the fourth inning, an inning that Nomo did not complete.

If the splitter isn't working for Nomo, he's left to rely on his fastball, which is now merely average. And if Nomo has needed to throw it higher in the zone this season to generate speed, as he did Sunday night, that might explain his dramatic increase in home runs allowed this year - 12 in roughly 50 innings, even without allowing one against Boston.

Nomo induced two ground-ball outs in the game - both of them double plays by good Boston hitters. Outside of those, Nomo got only six other outs Sunday. It's not that he's never fooling anyone, but he isn't fooling them enough. And he can't blow the ball past most hitters. It has been that way all year.

What I wrote last week is still true this week. Nomo has not put a zero on the scoreboard after the fifth inning all season. His longest streak of consecutive shutout innings this season is three, last occuring May 2.

It is time for Nomo to work out his problems in the bullpen. Until he can show that he can retire batters consistently, with authority, rather than by chance, he is doing no one any good.

Hideo Nomo vs. Boston
FB = fastball, SP = splitter, CB = curve, SL = slider, ?? = not available
B = ball, S = strike, F = foul

First Inning
82 FB B vs. Johnny Damon
83 FB S
84 FB B
75 SP B
84 FB B very high
84 FB F
84 FB single

86 FB B vs. Mark Bellhorn
87 FB B
87 FB S
87 FB S good tailing movement
76 SP B
78 SP Ball 4, in the dirt

76 SP B vs. David Ortiz
76 CB B high and outside
89 FB ground into double play

77 SP B vs. Manny Ramirez check swing - first time a spltter wasn't taken all the way
88 FB RBI single on the hands

76 CB B vs. Nomar Garciaparra
83 SL B
82 SL S
77 SP S
89 FB K

Second Inning
84 FB S vs. Jason Varitek
75 SP B in dirt
76 SP B in dirt
?? ?? B
85 FB S
84 FB F
85 FB F
85 FB Ball 4, high

81 ?? S vs. Kevin Millar
88 FB B
88 FB fly to right

77 SP B vs. Gabe Kapler
88 FB B high
88 FB B passed ball
?? ?? S
87 FB fly to center

82 ?? B vs. Pokey Reese
88 FB S
78 SP F
77 ?? F high
78 SP K first strikeout on the splitter

Third Inning
78 ?? S vs. Damon
73 SP B in dirt
82 FB fly to left

?? ?? B vs. Bellhorn
83 FB B
84 FB B low
84 FB S
82 FB double off a high pitch

76 SP B vs. Ortiz
77 SP single

88 FB B vs. Ramirez
82 FB B
88 FB B
84 FB ground into double play on 3-0 count

Fourth Inning
74 SP F vs. Garciaparra
75 SP B
74 SP B
86 FB S
87 FB F
86 FB B
85 FB Ball 4

?? ?? S vs. Varitek
86 FB B
75 SP S swing and miss
88 FB F
78 SP B
89 FB B
78 SP K

Nomo faced three more batters, leaving the game after Reese's double.

* * *

Shawn Green still isn't hitting home runs, but he does his batting average up to .250. Small favors.

Adrian Beltre has fallen below .300, to .295.

Paul Lo Duca has struck out in five of his past seven games.

The Atrophy Trophy
2004-06-13 22:54
by Jon Weisman

Last week, I wrote that Eric Gagne had pitched only 4 1/3 non-blowout innings in the past 30 days.

It's now 37 days, and the number of meaningful innings remains the same.

There is surely no one more aware of this than Dodger manager Jim Tracy. What may explain Tracy's reluctance to push Gagne into games sooner are the outstanding efforts by Guillermo Mota, Duaner Sanchez and Wilson Alvarez. Sure, Gagne is better than these guys - but not ridiculously better.

However, Tracy should not confuse the 2004 versions of Darren Dreifort and Tom Martin with outstanding relievers. If Tracy is going to look for ways to get his best pitcher into more games, he might think about going to his best relievers sooner, bypassing Martin and Dreifort until absolutely necessary.

We're not just talking about games like the one Friday, where Tracy chose Martin over Gagne in a 1-1 tie - though it didn't take hindsight to realize that a rested Gagne, or at least the surprising Sanchez, belonged in that game. It's also the games where the team is down by two runs in the fifth inning. There's no law that the Dodgers must turn those games over to Dreifort. Not every day, but some days, they can go to the core of their relief staff sooner.

If it means that on some day, the Dodgers end up with Dreifort pitching in a crucial late-inning situation, so be it. At least the Dodgers won't be going days at a time without Gagne seeing meaningful action.

Open Chat: Dodgers-Red Sox
2004-06-11 15:18
by Jon Weisman
Prokopec-Gagne Fact and Fiction
2004-06-11 08:50
by Jon Weisman

The notion that the Blue Jays chose Luke Prokopec over Eric Gagne in the Paul Quantrill trade of 2001 is myth, folklore and urban legend, according to Jeff Blair in the Toronto Globe and Mail - although once you read the article, it's not quite in the way you'd expect.

It's not that Prokopec was chosen over Gagne by the Blue Jays. It's that Gagne wasn't even considered in the trade - by either side.

"Nobody ever said, 'Hey, you want Gagne?' We didn't ask for him, either," (Toronto general manager J.P.) Ricciardi told Blair, adding: "... if it had happened, I'd be the first to admit it."

Said former Dodger general manager Dan Evans to Blair: "It's just not right to say that J.P. passed on Eric in favor of Prokopec. J.P.'s goal that winter was to get a starting pitcher, and the fact is that Eric was at best a pedestrian starter. Would we have traded Eric had J.P. asked? My guess is probably no."

The interesting thing about this trade for me was that it was the first time in my life that I truly placed my faith in a player with a mediocre ERA but a higher strikeout rate, Gagne, and was not upset that the otherwise promising Prokopec had been traded.

In a different article, Blair reports that in 2000, former Dodger general manager Kevin Malone vetoed a trade that would have sent Paul Lo Duca to Toronto for Cesar Izturis - according to Malone. Score one, apparently, for the much-maligned Sheriff.

Draft Postgame
2004-06-11 08:37
by Jon Weisman

Here's an insider's take on Dodger first-round draftee Blake DeWitt from a friend of Terry Austin, who most recently wrote the thoughtful blog, The Bench Coach. Austin had to cease Bench Coaching because of time constraints, so I get the benefit simply through a cut and paste:

In the state sectionals, Sikeston was taking on North County, the defending state champs. Sikeston was ranked first in the state, NC second. Blake was the starter for Sikeston and a hard-throwing lefty, Shea Brady, started for North County. Brady was 10-0 on the year with 113 Ks in 58 IP and an ERA just over 1.00.

In a scoreless top of the fourth inning, Blake quickly retired the first two guys. The third one grounded a slow roller to the first baseman. It was slow enough and close enough to the bag that he looked up to see where the runner was to
determine if he had to toss to Blake covering or if he could take it himself. The ball took a bad hop at that moment and the guy got on. The next guy blooped a hit to center. The next guy crushed one for a three-run home run.

Blake was furious. And I don't think it was at the first baseman, it was at himself for allowing the home run.

But then the story gets good. In the bottom of the fifth, Sikeston loads the bases with one out. The No. 2 hitter is up; Blake is on deck. I'm thinking, anything but a double play and we're back in this. If we don't score, we're done.

The No. 2 guy Ks. So Blake walks in, bases loaded, two outs in the bottom
of the fifth. Keep in mind this is a lefty on the mound that averages two strikeouts per inning.

The catcher is a cocky, great-hitting kid. Blake had struck him out looking in the first on three pitches. It was only his second K all season. He was probably feeling pretty good about his team's chances chances being up 3-0 that late in the game. I would have felt good about his team's chances if they got Blake out in that at bat.

The first pitch was a curve for a strike. Blake was taking all the way. The catcher looks at Blake and says something along the lines of, "You just missed your pitch." Blake, stunned, asks, "What?" No answer. The catcher now is getting back in his crouch. Blake actually leans down to him. "What did you say to me?" No answer. Then Blake says, "Throw it again."

He did.

Blake crushed one over the right centerfield fence. I'm not talking about one that just clears the fence either. It went over the 350' mark. But there was a tree that was about 50' high on the other side of the fence. It went over that tree. Amazing.

Oh, and Sikeston won 4-3.

You guys got a true gem.

* * *

Two e-mails I received questioned the number of high school players in the first Dodger draft under general manager Paul DePodesta. The first is from Rick Todd, aka DodgerKid.

Looking at Baseball America, and seeing our totals, and how we favored high school players over college players, I'm perplexed. I think this was a very stupid move. The stats are out there, and they're obvious, that drafting high schoolers is really risky, and much less likely to procure good players. Why would we continue to do it? What are your thoughts?

I'm sure DePodesta knows this as well...

The second was from Charles Frenkel:

I can't seem to find any draft reviews (for free, anyway), but perhaps it's too early (?). I was a little surprised by the multiple high schoolers that the Dodgers took. Perhaps it could be seen as Paul buckling under to the rest of the organization's philosophy; but my educated guess is that Paul wants to see how exactly the L.A. system does or doesn't work, before changing gears - thus, he gave White a fair amount of leeway in choosing players (even defying David Forst's prediction that he'd give White the first pick, then turn it into a college draft).

I think this is a better approach than J.P. (Ricciardi)'s mass modification of the Jays' system, getting rid of Tim Wilken, who (I believe) was responsible for many of the Jays' stars over the last decade.

A year ago, I was a militant convert to the idea that it was a mistake to draft high school players, thanks in large part to Moneyball. Today, I'm still aware of the risk DodgerKid describes, but I also understand the Moneyball philosophy to be more generally aimed at finding value. And when more teams are drafting college players, that might mean better values are available in the prep market. This might explain why DePodesta and Dodger scouting director Logan White seem to be co-existing so easily - that they were always much more on the same page than one would have thought.

The coast isn't clear on the high school studs drafted under White - we don't know if Greg Miller's most recent injury will be his last or how much it matters that James Loney has only one home run in 118 at-bats this year. This year, though, I'm not going to be smug in either direction. I'm going to look at the Dodger draft as a diversified portfolio - hedging in both directions, value and growth.

Open Chat: Dodgers-Blue Jays (Thursday Ignorance Edition)
2004-06-10 15:28
by Jon Weisman

What I know about the Toronto lineup for tonight's game without doing any research. (Inaccuracies neither pursued nor removed.):

Menechino, 2B - sort of sounds like Frank Catalanotto, but he ain't.
Gomez, 3B - formerly reserve forward for the Carver High basketball team.
Johnson, LF - no relation to LBJ.
Wells, CF - an underexposed talent, batting cleanup in place of injured Carlos Delgado.
Zaun, C - Geoff's nephew is now 52 years old.
Woodward, SS - Chris, or Bob, or something?
Phelps, DH - traded for Jay Buhner in the 1980s.
Berg, 1B - sort of sounds like Dane Iorg, but he ain't.
Rios, RF - first career homer was a pinch-hit shot with the Giants at Dodger Stadium, I believe.
Towers, P - Padres GM trades himself to Canada, puts on uniform?

P.S.: A little interesting that Dodger manager Jim Tracy has three right-handed hitters in a row, Lo Duca (5), Beltre (6) and Encarnacion (7) followed by three lefties, Ventura (8), Cora (9) and Roberts (1). However, Toronto has only one lefty reliever, so it may be of no moment.

Notes and Quotes
2004-06-10 08:18
by Jon Weisman

  • Parity: It's not just in the National League West - it's in the entire league. Only three out of 16 teams are on a 90-win pace, with the Reds and Cardinals topping out at 93. The Dodgers begin the day at 87; the Padres are at 89. Last season, there were only three 90-win teams, but two of them won 100.

  • Though Adrian Beltre looks better, he isn't actually any healthier, according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News. "As for the fact he isn't falling down while fielding grounders anymore," Jackson writes, "Beltre said that is simply the result of getting accustomed to the pain, but that the pain is as intense as ever."

  • Expectant (or already a?) father Kurt Helin of Arrive in the Third, Leave After Seven captures a Boston Herald article reporting that Dodger owner Frank McCourt may develop rather than sell his 24-acre South Boston Seaport land. "McCourt also downplayed the idea that he is under pressure to sell his land to pay off a key loan in his $430 million Dodgers buy," writes Scott Van Voorhis of the Herald. "Real estate documents reviewed by the Herald show that McCourt pledged his land in exchange for a loan from News Corp., the Dodgers' previous owner. But he said he could pay off his News Corp. loan with other revenue, including cash from investors he is recruiting in Los Angeles to join him as limited Dodgers partners."

  • Interesting little side note in Ben Bolch's Angels Report in the Times today that no doubt affects the Dodgers and other teams as well. "Two of the Angels' top draft picks will not be allowed to play in the minor league system this summer," Bolch reports. "The federal government has informed major league officials that no new work visas will be issued to foreign-born players this summer, so the Angels cannot place eighth-round pick Freddy Sandoval (Tijuana) or ninth-round pick Hainley Statia (Curacao) in rookie ball."

  • Open Chat: Dodgers-Blue Jays (Wednesday)
    2004-06-09 14:36
    by Jon Weisman
    Okay, I Admit It ...
    2004-06-08 22:16
    by Jon Weisman

    ... sometimes it's not always about the Dodgers. Sometimes the Dodgers are not the Page 1 story.

    Tonight the Lakers proved, if nothing else, love 'em or hate 'em, they are capable of incredible resilience and heroics.

    And as I write this, there's a 0-0 baseball game in Anaheim in the 13th inning where the home team has one hit in 38 at-bats but has struck out 18 opposing batters.

    And before I sign off, there's the 20th K.

    Great games.

    Open Chat: Dodgers-Blue Jays (Tuesday)
    2004-06-08 14:25
    by Jon Weisman

    Having thrown 69 major-league pitches in the past month, Hideo Nomo takes the mound tonight for the Dodgers.

    As I did for Jeff Weaver, let me present Nomo's scored-against-by-innings in nine starts this season:

    001 06x xxx (April 5 vs. San Diego)
    010 001 xxx (April 10 vs. Colorado)
    210 00x xxx (April 15 at San Diego)
    001 012 xxx (April 21 at Colorado)
    030 001 xxx (April 27 vs. New York)
    100 011 xxx (May 2 vs. Montreal)
    001 011 xxx (May 8 at Pittsburgh)
    06x xxx xxx (May 13 vs. Chicago)
    01x xxx xxx (May 19 at Philadelphia)

    The total:
    3(12)3 096 xxx

    I got a fair amount of ridicule for pointing out that Weaver allowed a high percentage of his runs in the first inning, so simply take the following at face value - especially considering the rest Nomo has just had.

    Nomo has not put a 0 on the board after the fifth inning all year. (But he has a 0.00 ERA in the fourth!)

    All things being equal, perhaps Nomo should follow the lead of none other than Kazuhisa Ishii and stay out of the middle of the plate. Nomo is allowing 3.67 walks per nine innings this year - his lowest total since 1996. At the same time, he has allowed 12 home runs and a .583 slugging percentage - by far a career high.

    Could Nomo find a way to confound with wildness if the velocity that allows him to change speeds isn't yet back? Can he function as a junkballer?

    I am making it a point not to answer those questions before tonight's game.

    Note: Anyone watching the game on television who wants to supply some radar gun readings on Nomo, just enough that we can get a range, please feel encouraged to do so in the comments.

    33 1/3: Dodgers at the One-Third Point
    2004-06-07 16:07
    by Jon Weisman

    No, it's not time for Classic LP Review. Rather, 33 1/3 is the percentage of their regular season that the Dodgers have completed. Here's a review of the team and a look ahead.

    Starting Lineup (8)
    135 .383 .432 .816 .316 Dave Roberts
    210 .405 .487 .892 .308 Paul Lo Duca
    224 .335 .561 .896 .303 Adrian Beltre
    157 .387 .437 .824 .295 Alex Cora
    215 .367 .450 .818 .288 Milton Bradley
    235 .351 .398 .749 .270 Cesar Izturis
    228 .329 .391 .720 .262 Shawn Green
    210 .271 .411 .682 .235 Juan Encarnacion
    1614 .330 .447 .777 .--- Total

    Taking in account park factors, the Dodger offense is surprisingly fourth in the major leagues in EQA, according to Baseball Prospectus. Stealing 18 bases while being caught only once gives Roberts, who has three doubles this season, the equivalent of 20 - and the top EQA in the lineup. Staying fresh? Lo Duca has caught 73 percent of Dodger innings, compared to 74 percent in 2003 and 81 percent in 2002. Beltre has hit 28 home runs in his past four months of baseball. Cora is two walks away from matching his 2003 total. Bradley and Green have become singles hitters - combined they have one homer and eight doubles since May 9. Green's numbers are well behind those of Fred McGriff through two months last year. Izturis has reached base in all but four games that he has batted in this season. By comparison, Encarnacion has failed to reach in 18 games this year, though he has 11 hits in his last 26 at-bats.

    Bench (8)
    83 .446 .583 1.029 .351 Jose Hernandez
    10 .300 .667 .967 .324 Joe Thurston
    33 .333 .536 .839 .304 Olmedo Saenz
    07 .286 .667 .952 .301 Jayson Werth
    91 .308 .440 .748 .262 Jason Grabowski
    56 .286 .235 .521 .190 Robin Ventura
    60 .217 .304 .520 .180 Dave Ross
    03 .000 .000 .000 .000 Chin-Feng Chen
    343 .324 .422 .746 .--- Total

    The non-roster invitees, Hernandez and Saenz, have made the difference for what has overall been a strong Dodger bench. Ross and Ventura are disappointments, though who's to say that the good duo and the bad duo won't switch places in the next 54 games. Grabowski has been solid, particularly as a starter. At 6-foot-5, with a home run as his only hit in six at-bats, Werth looks like the second coming of Billy Ashley. Here's hoping for more.

    Starting Pitchers (5)
    Inn. ERA K/9 #P/IP
    05.0 1.80 5.4 19.2 Edwin Jackson
    78.7 3.20 6.2 14.9 Odalis Perez
    64.3 3.64 4.5 16.7 Kazuhisa Ishii
    76.1 4.24 7.7 16.2 Jeff Weaver
    41.2 7.13 4.3 17.9 Hideo Nomo
    266. 4.20 5.9 16.1 Total

    Strikeouts per nine innings are down for all of the starting pitchers from 2003 except for Weaver, who has been the fifth-unluckiest pitcher in baseball according to Baseball Prospectus. For Ishii (8.6) and Nomo (7.3), they're down cataclysmically. As I wrote a year ago, Ishii survives because he allows such a low slugging percentage (.345 in 2004), but opponents are slugging a gargantuan .583 against Nomo. Perez hasn't allowed more than four runs in any start this year, while Weaver hasn't since April. If Jackson can work more efficiently with his pitch counts, his current stay in Las Vegas should be his last unless baseball moves the Expos there.

    Swingmen (2)
    Inn. ERA K/9 #P/IP
    44.3 3.25 7.9 15.0 Wilson Alvarez
    40.0 3.83 5.9 15.8 Jose Lima
    84.3 3.52 6.9 15.3 Total

    Though the lack of confidence Alvarez has in his own body is perplexing given that he's in the same locker room with Nomo and Dreifort, we'll have to bid farewell to his 4.05 starter ERA and settle for his 2.04 reliever ERA. Lima has struck out 16 in his past 21 2/3 innings, all without allowing an earned run, since allowing two runners he inherited from Nomo to score. While you can't expect that to continue all year, he is certainly capable of good streaks.

    Relievers (7)
    Inn. ERA K/9 ARP
    02.0 0.00 4.5 1.1 Rodney Myers
    33.0 1.91 7.9 7.6 Guillermo Mota
    23.3 1.93 12.3 8.1 Eric Gagne
    26.0 2.08 6.6 6.1 Duaner Sanchez
    14.7 3.07 8.6 0.0 Tom Martin
    24.3 4.81 9.6 1.0 Darren Dreifort
    14.3 7.53 6.9 neg Brian Falkenborg
    138. 3.14 8.6 24.1 Total

    ARP is Adjusted Runs Prevented, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus. ARP takes into account both runners a reliever inherits and those he leaves behind. By this metric, the Dodgers have the No. 2 bullpen in baseball behind the Padres - without Paul Shuey. As you can see, while highlighting the outstanding contributions of Gagne, Mota and Sanchez, it puts Dreifort, Martin and Falkenborg in their place - not that any of those players can't improve. In the past 30 days, Gagne has pitched only 4 1/3 non-blowout innings! He has pitched 7 1/3 innings total in that time. Cycles come and go, but Dodger manager Jim Tracy can certainly afford to step up the bullpen usage and get Gagne in before the ninth inning.

    Looking Ahead
    Even if Nomo doesn't make a recovery this season, the Dodgers probably have the pitching depth to cover for him. But if Green and Encarnacion remain the two poorest hitters in the starting lineup come July, what do they do? As much as any other question for any team in the division, Tracy and general manager Paul DePodesta's need and/or ability to answer this will determine whether the Dodgers, now on pace to win 90 games, can conquer the mild, mild National League West.

    No College Boys in Dodgers' Top Two Draft Picks
    2004-06-07 10:46
    by Jon Weisman

    Baseball America has a blog going with frequent updates for the major league draft. Early snippets:

    1:16 PM ET: There's Weaver!
    Though reports were that Anaheim was all over high school talent, they go with Jered Weaver at No. 12. Owner Arte Moreno apparently is showing again that he's willing to spend.
    -- Jim Callis

    1:18 PM ET: No Mo' Moneyball?
    The Los Angeles Dodgers, with new GM Paul DePodesta, selected high school pitcher Scott Elbert with their first pick.
    -- Kevin Goldstein

    1:23 PM ET: Two-way talent heads to the Twin-cities
    The Twins take Trevor Plouffe (Crespi HS), an intruiging talent as a middle infielder and righthanded pitcher, with the 20th-overall selection.
    -- Alan Matthews

    1:18 PM ET: No Mo' Moneyball? Redux
    After grabbing Missouri HS LHP Scott Elbert at 17, the Dodgers come back with another Missouri HS pick with SS Blake DeWitt at 28. DeWitt, one of the best pure high school hitters in the draft, projects as a third baseman. It's business as usual for scouting director Logan White, who obviously isn't being forced to take college players by new GM Paul DePodesta.
    -- Jim Callis

    New Dodger Reference Guide
    2004-06-07 09:49
    by Jon Weisman

    The only Los Angeles Dodger and Stanford Cardinal fan from New York that I know, Eric Enders, has compiled an elaborate resource of Dodger links on a new webpage entitled "Think Blue."

    We'd all do well if Enders started a Dodger blog of his own, but he's probably too busy writing books or helping others write them.

    I know Eric shares my disappointment at Stanford's elimination from the College World Series regionals Sunday.

    The Names Have Been Changed To Punish the Guilty
    2004-06-07 09:17
    by Jon Weisman

    To put the final three innings of the Dodgers' 6-5 loss to Arizona on Sunday in perspective, I'm giving responsibility for the eighth-inning managerial decisions to Darren Dreifort and Tom Martin, for it was their ineffective pitching that was the root cause of the trouble.

    So we go now to the top of the eighth, with the Dodgers trailing, 5-4. Dreifort and Martin put pinch-hitter Jason Grabowski in for David Ross with one on and none out in the eighth and were delighted to have Grabowski single.

    Dreifort and Martin then had Alex Cora sacrifice, even though Cora has only grounded into 13 double plays in his past 964 plate appearances - one per 74. Dreifort and Martin should have reconsidered giving up an out so freely, but in any event, Cora executed the play.

    That put runners on second and third base with one out, and Dreifort and Martin faced a choice. They could send contact hitter Paul Lo Duca up as a pinch-hitter for Martin, knowing he would probably be walked intentionally. Or, he could send up a hitter shaky enough that the Diamondbacks would pitch to him - the equivalent of a basketball coach drawing a game-winning shot in the final seconds for the beloved Mark Madsen.

    Dreifort and Martin followed the latter path. They chose to send up Robin Ventura, the idea being that Lo Duca's at-bat would be wasted if he were walked intentionally. But isn't that a fallacy? Would you keep Kobe Bryant on the bench just to avoid a double-team? No, because his mere presence causes trouble. With an intentional walk loading the bases, the Dodgers could then send up Dave Roberts and Cesar Izturis - both contact hitters. Roberts in particular would even be a good bet to squeeze home the tying run with one out.

    Madsen/Ventura struck out. Roberts walked, to load the bases, and then Kobe/Lo Duca came up to bat for Izturis. By this point, this was the right move by Dreifort and Martin - you don't want to compound missing your first opportunity to use Lo Duca by missing your second. Izturis has been hitting well, but Lo Duca has been hitting better, and having him up with the bases loaded is still a great situation. The strikeout that followed, to be fair, is the last thing you would expect.

    Although Dreifort and Martin made decisions in the top of the eighth that I wouldn't agree with, the fact remains that the game was lost on their pitching in the seventh inning, during which Arizona went 4 for 6 with a walk.

    Dreifort has now allowed eight runs on 10 hits and eight walks in 8 1/3 innings since May 9. He pitched an outstanding inning Friday night, but probably should not be allowed to pitch in close games right now.

    Postscript: Dreifort and Martin could probably be excused for thinking that they would get through the bottom of the eighth without allowing a run. After all, they had Jim Tracy and his 1.69 ERA on the mound. Unfortunately, Tracy allowed two hits and a run. Guillermo Mota then took over the managerial reins from Dreifort and Martin in the ninth - and almost got off the hook when Adrian Beltre homered and Juan Encarnacion reached third, but Jose Hernandez struck out.

    Update: Studes at The Hardball Times has a chart comparing how often today's managers use the stolen base, sacrifice and intentional walk. Believe it or not, Tracy is at the bottom of the National League sacrifice list - a point in his favor and an illustration that he does think twice about it. Arizona manager Bob Brenly, by the way, leads the majors in issuing intentional walks.

    The Man Pays Attention
    2004-06-07 08:38
    by Jon Weisman

    Vin Scully does more than tell good stories about World War II and point out kids in the stands, in case you hadn't noticed.

    As Adrian Beltre came to the plate for the first time Sunday, Scully spotted on our behalf that Beltre was not wearing a left ankle guard and commented that Beltre's ailing ankle must be improving.

    Sure enough, Beltre homered to left in that at-bat, homered to right-center in his final at-bat, and in between hit a blistering shot at third base that should have been an RBI double, but instead turned into a line-drive double play.

    Loss Shares
    2004-06-04 17:22
    by Jon Weisman

    In the past couple of years, we've started to learn about Win Shares, the Bill James-devised system that takes player statistics and calculates a single number that shows how much they have contributed to team victories.

    So we know how to quantifiy winners? But what about quantifying losers?

    It occurred to me that it would be interesting to caluclate Loss Shares – taking the same statistics and determining how much each player has contributed to a team's losses. I'm looking for a way to better distinguish the 0 win shares of a Joe Thurston, who might get 10 at bats this year, vs. the 0 win shares of a, say, Hideo Nomo, who plays a more considerable role.

    "Studes," who compiles Win Shares at The Hardball Times, had already thought about this but initiated a different approach. He offers a statistic called Win Shares Above Average (WSAA), which compares an individual player's Win Shares to his Expected Win Shares - the Win Shares that an average player would produce in the same amount of playing time.

    WSAA = Win Shares – Expected Win Shares

    I think that's a great idea, but I also feel that if we're talking about which players are hurting their teams, it might have more snap if we pursue the Loss Shares idea. That way, you could give each player a Win-Loss record. Studes was willing to indulge me on this, and gave me a formula to calculate Loss Shares:

    Loss Shares = Expected Win Shares x 2 – WS

    If you're not interested in the reasons behind the math, skip the next paragraph.

    The reason that it's EWS x 2 is because an average player would have Win Shares totaling a .500 record. Doubling that gives you a perfect record. Subtracting Win Shares from a perfect record gives you Loss Shares.

    Studes warns that really good players will have negative Loss Shares because of the way the Win Share system works. "That's why it's not really useful to look at Loss Shares," he said, "and why the WSAA approach works best."

    To accommodate both approaches, what follows is a chart with each Dodger player, his Win Shares-Loss Shares record, and his Win Shares Above Average. The players are ranked in order of Loss Shares – how much each player has contributed to Dodger losses this season.

    2004 Dodgers Through June 3

    Bradley5-5 0
    Lo Duca8-23
    Mota4-0 2
    Jackson0-(-1) 1
    Sanchez3-(-1) 1

    No surprise: Hideo Nomo has been the Dodgers' worst player this year, while Shawn Green has been most responsible for the team's losses.

    Nancy Bea Hefley - Organizational Soldier
    2004-06-04 16:20
    by Jon Weisman

    From T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times:

    He (Lon Rosen, executive vice president and chief marketing officer) said he had limited the play of organist Nancy Bea Hefley, saying, "Nancy is all for it."

    From Les Carpenter of the Seattle Times:

    On this night, her assignment is to play for a half hour before lineups are introduced, play the national anthem, play at the end of the first and then whenever the Dodgers pitching coach walks to the mound, which never happens on this evening. She can also play her customary half-hour after the game. Otherwise she chats with sportswriters, old ballplayers and anybody else who happens to walk through the press box. What else is there to do?

    "At first it bothered me because it took away some time to be creative," she said. "I finally decided I had two choices — either enjoy it or quit. And I do like my job."

    Of course, this kind of combination of articles is manipulative. Theoretically, one could do the same thing to garner sympathy for Ned the Evil Dodger Janitor. Just because the reduction of someone's job duties is sad for that person doesn't mean that it's sad for all of us.

    But this one makes me sad.

    Open Chat: Dodgers-Diamondbacks
    2004-06-04 16:06
    by Jon Weisman

    Random Open Chat Note: Dodger walks leader Shawn Green is tied for 35th in the major leagues with 26.

    Friday's Game
    Saturday's Game
    Sunday's Game

    No Respect
    2004-06-04 15:02
    by Jon Weisman

    Jayson Stark of interviewed "three dozen players, coaches, GMs, scouts, broadcasters and other assorted baseball people" for a poll of players who are worth the price of admission just to see them play defense.

    Adrian Beltre: 0 votes.
    Alex Cora: 0 votes.
    Cesar Izturis: Honorable Mention (minimum one vote).

    Wake up out there, people.

    Juan Encarnacion got votes - surely because he played on the East Coast last year.

    Vegas Dispatch
    2004-06-04 11:29
    by Jon Weisman

    Word from the Las Vegas Sun and the Las Vegas Review Journal is that Jayson Werth has already been called up by the Dodgers from his rehab assignment and will take Edwin Jackson's roster spot. Jackson will next pitch Monday in Tacoma.

    I can't say I'm knocked out by the numbers in Hideo Nomo's rehab outing Thursday: five innings, three runs, five hits, three walks, two strikeouts, 30 balls and 37 strikes. The best sign - other than Nomo saying he felt good - is that he only needed 45 pitches to get through the final four innings. Nomo is to return to the Dodgers for his next start, probably Tuesday in Toronto.

    Mark Johnson, who relieved Nomo, pitched four shutout innings for a save. Luis Garcia hit his 16th home run for the 51s, but before you get all excited and think he's more than a Larry Barnes type, I'd note that he has walked only nine times against 193 at-bats.

    Joe Thurston batted eighth and was the only position player to go hitless.

    There's a melancholy article by Steven Serafini in the Sonoma Index-Tribune on former Las Vegas reliever Doug Nickle, who recently retired - for now - from a journeyman career that he said took him to seven organizations in 2002 alone.

    ... last year - after his mother passed away after a long, brave battle with cancer - Nickle started wanting to make changes, because he said baseball ties you down and can consume your life with constant traveling and not a lot of days off.

    "When you first reach the pro level and you're in your early 20s, you feel like you'll play forever. But the game is constantly about proving yourself and you had to be 100 percent focused on baseball. When you get older you need baseball to remain fun - but the business part of it took over and, because of my hard-working ethic and desire to win, and not being a big-contract player, I became tired of being a bargain and an insurance policy for a team," Nickle said. ...

    "Right now, I can't even watch baseball - I know or have played against a lot of the players and after only two weeks from being on the mound, it's just tough to watch. I know I have a lot of support for whatever I do - and I'll always do what it takes to succeed. But I am going to stay in top shape and see how I feel after the summer. What I do know is that if I do happen to get back into baseball, it would have to be with one of the local franchises - the San Francisco Giants or the Oakland A's - who also have their triple-A teams in Fresno and Sacramento."

    The Court Finds You - And Your Lawyer - Guilty
    2004-06-03 16:31
    by Jon Weisman

    My first reactions to the suspensions:

    Four games for Milton Bradley? Seems a little excessive, but okay.

    One game for Tracy? For what??

    Tracy's "he was provoked" defense sure didn't go over big, but perhaps Bradley's suspension will be reduced if and when Bradley appeals. As the Times noted today, Bradley was not interviewed Wednesday by MLB disciplinarian Bob Watson because a union representative needs to be in on the meeting.

    But the Tracy suspension befuddles me. The worst he seems to have done is comment in the press that the umpires provoked Bradley. I would have thought Tracy would earn praise for quickly rushing to the scene and preventing Bradley from making contact with home plate umpire Terry Craft.

    Jayson Werth, who is OPSing 1.284 in 60 plate appearances for AAA Las Vegas after homering three times in the 51s' 16-14 loss to Edmonton on Wednesday, is likely to be called up by the time Bradley's suspension begins, with the Dodgers dropping a reliever like Brian Falkenborg back down to Nevada.

    We'll ponder this further as reactions from the principals come in. Meanwhile, Eric Enders will continue to rustle up support for his campaign to rid the West of Cowboy Joe.

    Notebook City
    2004-06-03 09:04
    by Jon Weisman

  • Longtime, if not legendary, baseball writer Gordon Verrell of the Long Beach Press-Telegram is retiring. Verrell replaced Fred Claire on the Dodger beat when Claire came to work for the team in 1969, and Verrell stayed on the beat for 27 years. Doug Krikorian takes the time to pen a nice tribute.

  • John Wiebe has apparently been the only person in the state around following the condition of sidelined Dodger pitching prospect Joel Hanrahan. After some initial fears, the injury was "minor elbow soreness," according to Wiebe's e-mail from AAA Las Vegas play-by-play announcer Russ Langer, and Hanrahan is scheduled to return to the 51s rotation Friday, after Hideo Nomo's rehabilitation start tonight.

    Wiebe notes that Hanrahan is 1-1 with a 5.01 ERA, but that "of the 10 homers that he's allowed in his 41.1 IP, eight have been hit in the light air of Cashman Field (oddly, the other two came in one of the PCL's pitcher-friendliest places, Tacoma)." Even stranger, his ERA is nonetheless lower in Las Vegas than on the road.

  • As much as I would have like to have seen Edwin Jackson pitch in person last night, I felt fortunate to be able to flip channels and see the Angels' Vladimir Guerrero simply manhandle the Boston pitching staff for nine RBI. Talk about a real buzz at the ballpark - you could hear it through the airwaves.

  • Not only does pitching in Dodger Stadium help your ERA, but pitching in front of the Dodger defense does as well. Never get tired of seeing that illustrated. Jackson definitely benefited, with Cesar Izturis and Alex Cora making run-saving plays. Later in the game, Adrian Beltre proved again why Vin Scully calls him the best he has ever seen on the barehand pickup of a slow roller.

  • Tuesday night, Shawn Green was on first base with nobody out when Beltre lined to second base. Green returned to the base standing up, necessitating that he slow down as he approached, and was doubled off by about a foot. Had Green slid, he very likely would have been safe. Struggling at the plate, Green should have made the extra effort in a situation he could control.

  • Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has decided to investigate the Raul Mondesi contract dance, according to the Times. Shouldn't this investigation have been executed before Mondesi's signing with the Angels was approved?

  • Did you guys catch the news that Giovanni Carrara is back in the Dodger organization?

  • There's a popularity contest over at The View From The Bleachers in which Dodger Thoughts is a candidate. Although I don't know how seriously to take a contest that includes this site but not such sites as The Cub Reporter. Bronx Banter and Mariner Musings, I've never won a popularity contest before, so I mention it here. And, by the looks of things, I still won't win. Curse you, Ducksnorts!

  • Meanwhile, according to a new Harris Poll, the Dodgers are tied as the ninth-most popular team in baseball. Harris surveyed "a nationwide cross section of 2,415 adults (aged 18 and over), of which 923 said they follow major league baseball." Most surprising results? Detroit soared in popularity from 15th to fifth, while the Angels dropped from 15th to 25th. Why am I writing about this? Probably because no one else is. I just want to be popular.

  • I had started becoming addicted to Wonkette before Wednesday's article in the Calendar section of the Times profiling her. Her coverage of the Washingtonienne scandal, I should probably be embarrassed to say, got me going there, but what keeps me coming back is her harsh but amusing presentation of the harsh but amusing news she digs up, such as this piece that trashes the glamour of the National Spelling Bee, televised today on ESPN2. I'm also hooked on Defamer.

  • Open Chat: Dodgers-Brewers (Wednesday)
    2004-06-02 17:35
    by Jon Weisman

    Edwin Jackson's last start in 2003 was his strangest: 6 innings, 2 hits, 8 walks, 7 strikeouts, 1 hit batter, 0 runs.

    In the first inning, he loaded the bases with two out but got out of it.
    In the second inning, he walked the leadoff batter but got a double play.
    In the third inning, he loaded the bases with one out but got out of it.
    In the fourth inning, he walked the leadoff batter but got a double play.
    In the fifth inning, he struck out Barry Bonds with a runner on second, first base open and two out.
    In the sixth inning, he put runners at second and third with one out but got out of it.

    Today's Game

    Yuk, 2, 3, 4 ...
    2004-06-02 14:13
    by Jon Weisman

    The score by innings against Jeff Weaver in his 11 starts this season:

    001 000 0xx (April 7 vs. San Diego)
    000 6xx xxx (April 13 at San Diego)
    100 103 xxx (April 18 at San Francisco)
    300 000 02x (April 24 vs. San Francisco)
    012 000 0xx (April 29 vs. New York)
    200 000 0xx (May 5 at Florida)
    010 001 00x (May 11 vs. Chicago)
    400 00x xxx (May 16 vs. Cincinnati)
    000 000 03x (May 22 at Atlanta)
    200 000 0xx (May 27 at Milwaukee)
    100 000 3xx (June 1 vs. Milwakee)

    The total:
    (13)23 704 35x

    Of the 37 runs Weaver has allowed this season, more than a third have come in the first inning. Put another way, in 11 starts this season, Weaver has allowed only 24 runs after the first inning.

    He allowed six runs in the fourth inning of his second start. Since then, he has allowed a grand total of five runs in innings 2-5 combined. In his past eight starts, he has allowed only one run in the middle innings - an ERA of 0.39.

    I leave it to you to determine whether Weaver's first-inning woes constitute a disturbing fluke or disturbing trend. Either way, they're disturbing, the roadblock to what would otherwise be a stellar season.

    Rob Neyer Interview
    2004-06-02 08:55
    by Jon Weisman

    I have posted a short interview with Rob Neyer and discussion of his move to ESPN Insider at's home page.

    I Now Pronounce You Ejected
    2004-06-01 21:09
    by Jon Weisman

    "Like rice at a wedding, Milton Bradley is throwing baseballs onto the field."

    - Vin Scully, 9 p.m.

    Who started it? Depends on your definition of the term, but unless umpire Terry Craft's statements that Bradley had been riding him are completely inaccurate, you might have to point the finger at Bradley.

    "He was arguing a pitch I called against him earlier and he had argued a pitch on another batter from the dugout," said Craft on "When he came to the plate, I told him he had better think twice before yelling at me from the dugout. Then he went off on me and I ejected him."

    The reports indicate that Craft and second-base umpire Joe West were particularly proactive in trying to keep Bradley quiet, and who knows if they're gifted and sensitive communicators or not.

    Anyway, in Craft's opinion, Bradley had given him just about enough. Craft gave Bradley a warning, and the warning itself ignited Bradley. Unless the warning was more than a warning - unless it was truly incendiary - the idea that Bradley was provoked, as Jim Tracy said after the game, is questionable.

    I'm capable of a level of anger that sometimes surprises myself, so I can relate to that feeling of injustice Bradley must have had. Even if he was provoked - and I say this dispassionately - he should find a way to handle it better.

    "I don't know anyone who wouldn't lose it when provoked," Tracy said. Sure enough - but it's how you lose it that is worth examining.

    Perhaps, in his mind, Bradley's anger was a display of civil disobedience against an entity abusing its power.

    I can find no such explanation for the behavior of some fans after the ejection. I'd like any of those who threw something on the field Tuesday night to explain to me a possible justification for doing so. Really - I just want to understand, because it utterly perplexes me.

    'Curb' Your Prosecution
    2004-06-01 21:04
    by Jon Weisman

    Remember that miserable Dodger game a year ago, when Eric Gagne got torched for four runs in the 10th inning and the Dodgers lost, 11-4, to Atlanta?

    That was the highlight of one Dodger fan's year.

    Juan Catalan spent 5 1/2 months in jail, accused of murder, until his alibi was validated, according to The Associated Press - by the Dodgers and Larry David.

    Or something like that.

    Catalan ... had ticket stubs from the game and testimony from his family as to his whereabouts the night (Martha) Puebla was killed. But police still believed he was responsible, saying they had a witness who placed Catalan at the scene of the slaying. ...

    Defense attorney Todd Melnik subpoenaed the Dodgers and Fox Networks, which owned the team then, to scan videotape of the televised baseball game and footage from its “Dodger Vision” cameras. Some of the videotapes showed where Catalan was sitting but Melnik couldn’t make him out.

    Melnik later learned that HBO was filming the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode where David hires a prostitute, so that he can take the carpool lane to Dodger Stadium (a carpool lane that, by the way, I'm not sure exists). Melnik reviewed the raw footage.

    "I got to one of the scenes, and there is my client sitting in a corner of the frame eating a hot dog with his daughter," Melnik said. "I nearly jumped out of my chair and said, 'There he is!'"

    The tapes had time codes that allowed Melnik to find out exactly when Catalan was at the ballpark. ...

    Catalan, who could have faced the death penalty had he been convicted of murder, was released in January because a judge ruled there was no evidence to try him.

    The murder is still unsolved.

    Update: Kevin Roderick at L.A. Observed notes that Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker has the story in this week's issue.

    "It sounded very cool because my life is so lacking in anything interesting," David said last week. "It did seem like kind of a lame story, but I told the lawyer, 'Go ahead, go crazy. Look at anything you want.' And we hooked him up with everything from the stadium, all the footage we shot that night." On the day that Melnik came in to see the tapes, David at first left him to watch on his own, but later he stuck his head in the editing room, where the lawyer was examining the footage.

    "I'm there for maybe five minutes, and the lawyer screams out, 'There he is!'" David recalled. "We couldn’t believe it. We rewound the tape, and just as I’m walking up the aisle in one shot, this guy is sitting right there. And then there was another shot where he was standing up." Melnik said, "Jesus Christ, if I didn’t jump three feet in the air! It was totally a eureka moment."

    1992 Is Alive (Barely)
    2004-06-01 17:33
    by Jon Weisman

    Tangent: Each regular from the 1992 Dodger infield is still in the bigs (no slight at the late, lamented Mike Sharperson intended).

    Eric Karros, 36, Oakland - 10 for 66, five walks, .208 OBP, .288 slugging, .496 OPS, .162 EQA
    Lenny Harris, 39, Florida - 7 for 30, zero walks, .233 OBP, 267 slugging, .500 OPS, .160 EQA
    Jose Offerman, 35, Minnesota - 20 for 87, 17 walks, .356 OBP, .402 slugging, .758 OPS, .264 EQA
    Dave Hansen, 35, Seattle - 12 for 41, seven walks, .388 OBP, .439 slugging, .827 OPS, .304 EQA

    Dave Hansen is still younger than me? I know he was younger than me 10 years ago - but how can he still be younger than me now? He's old!

    This might have been baseball's first All-Scorpio infield, but Hansen was born two days late.

    Karros: November 4, 1967
    Harris: October 28, 1964
    Offerman: November 11, 1968
    Hansen: November 24, 1968

    I'm a late-November kid myself.

    Open Chat: Dodgers-Brewers (Tuesday)
    2004-06-01 17:27
    by Jon Weisman
    'Dodge' the Dodger Dog, Anyone?
    2004-06-01 11:22
    by Jon Weisman

    Eric Enders has the early candidates for Dodger mascot at Baseball Primer, aka Baseball Think Factory.

    I'm gonna stay neutral on this for now. I think there are good mascots and bad mascots. And then, of course, there is the Stanford Tree, which transcends all categorization.

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    About Jon
    Thank You For Not ...

    1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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