Baseball Toaster Dodger Thoughts
Monthly archives: July 2004


Open Chat: Dodgers-Padres (Saturday)
2004-07-31 19:00
by Jon Weisman
The Sweetness Question
2004-07-31 08:11
by Jon Weisman

The trade of Paul Lo Duca raises some fundamental questions.

Would you rather try to win with a true-blue Dodger, even if your chances of winning might be less than if you acquire outsiders?

Hypothetically, would you rather lose in the playoffs with Paul Lo Duca or win without him?

Will a pennant or World Series title be as sweet without Lo Duca?

What exactly does it mean to lose your team's heart and soul? Will it make Adrian Beltre play worse? Or Eric Gagne? Or Cesar Izturis?

* * *

I miss Paul Lo Duca already. For me, a title without him won't be as sweet as a title with him. I can picture him drowning his Dodger uniform in champagne and it saddens me that that won't happen.

But my feeling is that right now, Paul DePodesta has made the champagne more likely to come. Brad Penny and Hee Seop Choi for Guillermo Mota and Paul Lo Duca is a good trade. But it's up to each person, based on the questions above - and, of course, an evaluation of the numbers, simple and complex - to decide whether it was worth it.

Or, we can just wait and see. There's always that.

* * *

I might just stop here, though. I think I might just rather keep Penny, Jayson Werth and Edwin Jackson then trade them for Randy Johnson and Steve Finley. Johnson is added value but at a huge cost. Finley may not be added value at all.

And as for Charles Johnson - I want to think there's a better solution at catcher than him.

As of this morning:

vs. righties
Roberts, LF
Izturis, SS
Choi, 1B
Beltre, 3B
Bradley, CF
Green, RF
Cora, 2B
Ross, C

vs. lefties
Izturis, SS
Werth, LF
Bradley, CF
Beltre, 3B
Green, RF
Saenz, 1B
Hernandez, 2B
Ross, C

Or something like that.

Advice to Local Media and Talk-Show Callers
2004-07-30 21:21
by Jon Weisman

Talk about Paul Lo Duca as the Dodgers' heart and soul all you want. Really. It'd be reprehensible to ignore it.

But "heart and soul" can't be the only words that cross your lips, any more than "Heart and Soul" should be the only song you can play on the piano. Tonight, I listened on the radio to broadcasters and callers, one after another, talk at length about the trade without mentioning a single statistic from any of the players the Dodgers received in exchange - not even a negative one that would support their anger over the trade. They couldn't be bothered.

"I just can't understand it," they wailed. Well, maybe if they took five minutes to do some research, they might find an explanation. It doesn't diminish one's love for Paul Lo Duca to look for answers.

If you consider both sides and decide the Dodgers have made a mistake, then we'll all be grateful to hear your arguments. But if your summary of today's trade is Paul Lo Duca, Guillermo Mota and Juan Encarnacion for lint, you are doing the Los Angeles sports community a serious disservice.

Open Chat: Padres-Dodgers (Friday)
2004-07-30 16:38
by Jon Weisman

Almost forgot there was a game tonight, didn't you?

If I were the one that were pregnant, this afternoon might have induced labor.

Penny, Randy, Finley, Charlie, and Hee See
2004-07-30 16:01
by Jon Weisman

This isn't a final analysis: just some information for you and I to have at hand. For those who want to continue chatting, I suggest continuing on the ongoing comment thread here.

Brad Penny has an ERA is 3.15, with 105 strikeouts in 131 1/3 innings against 39 walks and 124 hits. According to Baseball Prospectus, he has been the 11th-best pitcher in the National League with a VORP of 33.8. He is 26 years old and is owed the remainder of his $3.75-million contract for 2004.

Randy Johnson has an ERA of 2.68, with 174 strikeouts in 151 1/3 innings against 30 walks and 105 hits. His VORP is fifth in the league at 42.0. He turns 41 in November and is owed the remainder of the $32 million he is due for 2004-05.

Steve Finley has an EQA of .272 this season and a VORP of 23.6. He is on-basing .337, slugging .493 and OPSing .830. He is 39 years and is owed the remainder of his $6.75 million contract for 2004.

Charles Johnson has has an EQA of .271 and a VORP of 15.8. He is on-basing .363, slugging .475 and OPSing .838 - with a surprisingly slim Coors Field/road differential. He turned 33 this month and is owed the remainder of his $9 million 2004 salary plus his $9 million 2005 salary.

Hee Seop Choi has an EQA of .306 and a VORP of 27.7. He is on-basing .388, slugging .495 and OPSing .892. He is 25 years old and is earning $310,000 this season.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus. Salary information courtesy of Dugout Dollars.

No Rumors - Just Some Lo Duca Thoughts
2004-07-30 09:06
by Jon Weisman

A Dodger trade? Nobody knows. Or maybe somebody knows, but nobody knows which somebody knows.

So no, I won't be talking about any trade rumors. But I will talk about Paul Lo Duca.

Beginning dispassionately ....

At age 32, Lo Duca is having the second-best season of his career. In Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) and in Win Shares, Lo Duca ranks among the top 10 catchers in baseball.

Top 2004 Catchers
WS VORP Player
16 49.3 Ivan Rodriguez
13 41.6 Victor Martinez
13 34.3 Jorge Posada
13 29.5 Johnny Estrada
13 23.5 Jason Kendall
12 23.8 Michael Barrett
12 22.2 Paul Lo Duca
11 16.4 A.J. Pierzynski
9 40.7 Javy Lopez
9 19.8 Jason Varitek

Without needing to resort to intangibles like grit and team chemistry, Lo Duca is a valuable catcher, and the obvious question is where would the Dodgers find a replacement for him, were they to trade him away.

The less obvious question is: How important is this valuable catcher to the Dodgers? Is Lo Duca Park Place or Baltic Avenue?

Top 2004 Dodgers
19 9 52.0 Adrian Beltre
15 4 21.3 Cesar Izturis
12 3 24.8 Milton Bradley
12 4 18.0 Alex Cora
12 2 22.2 Paul Lo Duca
10 5 ---- Eric Gagne
9 2 9.0 Dave Roberts
8 4 ---- Guillermo Mota
8 3 ---- Odalis Perez
8 -1 0.7 Juan Encarnacion
8 -3 17.5 Shawn Green
5 2 15.2 Jose Hernandez
5 2 11.1 Jayson Werth
(WSAA = Win Shares Above Average, that is, Win Shares above what an average player would have produced with the same playing time at his position.)

Lo Duca has been one of the five most valuable Dodgers this season. His shoes would be arguably harder to fill than Eric Gagne's. The difference between Gagne and an average reliever is greater than the difference between Lo Duca and an average catcher, but because of the vast difference in playing time, Lo Duca still has had more positive statistical impact on the team than Gagne has.

And yet, there are reasons one might consider trading Lo Duca.

1) A belief that his production will tail off in the season's final two months. Since 2001, Lo Duca's OPS in August and September is .652, compared to an April-July average in that time of .841.

2) A belief that at age 32, this is Lo Duca's last hurrah as a catcher. He is at the age where catchers often have to move to other positions - and at another position, Lo Duca's value would drop considerably.

3) A belief that an adequate or superior replacement exists, either at catcher or another position.

A belief, in other words, that Lo Duca is at his peak, that it is all downhill from here, and that another player could better serve the Dodgers from August 1 on.

Would the Dodgers be better off, for example, to exchange Lo Duca for a starting pitcher who is performing well? Let's look at the current Dodger starters.

2004 Dodger Starting Pitchers
WS WSAA Player
8 3 Odalis Perez
5 1 Wilson Alvarez
5 1 Jose Lima
5 0 Kazuhisa Ishii
5 -1 Jeff Weaver
1 1 Edwin Jackson
-4 -8 Hideo Nomo

By comparison, Florida starting pitcher Carl Pavano, as a hypothetical, has 11 win shares this season and five WSAA - equivalent to, if not better than, Lo Duca's numbers.

Adding Pavano to the Dodger rotation in place of Alvarez, Lima or Ishii (Weaver being entrenched) would give the Dodgers a pitcher heading into the final two months with a resume of six more win shares and four more WSAA this season. Pro-rated over the final third of the season, that would mean three win shares and two WSAA.

There is not very much of a margin there. Would that compensate for the Dodgers' dropoff at catcher? Would the drop between Lo Duca and his replacement be less than the gain from Pavano? Perhaps, if Lo Duca is facing his annual decline over the final two months. Perhaps not, if this is the year Lo Duca maintains his averages.

If the Dodgers are going to trade Paul Lo Duca, there probably is not a better time to do it than this week. But in trading Lo Duca, you risk missing out on the conclusion to a very valuable season. There are unequivocally players worth trading Lo Duca for, but the improvement should be clear-cut, not speculative.

In the end, I just want to say that Paul Lo Duca has been one of the most important Dodgers this season, and I have ignored giving him that credit for too long.

Update: If it's rumor analysis you want after all, you won't do any better this morning than John's Dodger Blog.

Hang On
2004-07-29 11:12
by Jon Weisman

The last time the Dodgers lost two in a row, they lost six in a row. They've actually only had one other two-game losing streak all season.

Dodger 2004 Losing Streaks
April 11-13 - two games
May 13-21 - eight games
May 26-28 - three games
June 6-9 - three games
June 21-26 - six games
July 27-28 - two games

In this humpty-dumpty season, the Dodgers started 22-10, then went 15-25, then 21-5 to get to 58-40 two days ago.

The lineup for today's 12 p.m. game offers Jayson Werth batting third, Juan Encarnacion seventh and Dave Ross eighth.

Since coming off the disabled list July 19, Encarnacion has appeared in every game, going 8 for 38 with two doubles, a home run, two walks, an HBP, a .268 on-base percentage and a .342 slugging percentage. In that time, Jayson Werth has gone 3 for 23 with no extra-base hits and four walks, while Dave Roberts has all of 11 plate appearances: three walks and eight outs. All together, the three are 11 for 69: .159 batting average, .266 on-base percentage, .231 slugging percentage, .497 OPS.

Roberts has had a miserable July at the plate - 9 for 60, six walks, no extra-base hits. He is 10 for 10 on stolen bases, however. Stolen bases aren't worth as much as home runs, but Encarnacion has only one homer in the month.

High Ansaenzity
2004-07-28 17:03
by Jon Weisman

Olmedo Saenz in the No. 3 slot tonight. Because his career OPS at Coors Field is 3.000? Or because he is 7 for 11 lifetime against Rockies starter Jeff Fassero? Or just for fun?

Saenz, 7 for 17 with two walks in May, is 8 for 44 with six walks since.

Todd Hundley, 2 for 18 against Fassero, is not in the lineup.

Flying Toasters
2004-07-28 13:41
by Jon Weisman

In a change of pace, I'm going to praise Frank McCourt for his commitment to the Dodgers, which would explain why McCourt is nearly three months behind in payments on a $22 million loan financing part of his Boston landholdings - putting him in default.

Just another chapter in McCourt's financial juggling act. He does what he does. Maybe I'm growing resigned to it - for now. Or maybe I'm just wary of flying toasters.

Thanks to SportsbyBrooks for pointing out the Boston Globe report.

The Playoff Seat Cushion
2004-07-28 10:59
by Jon Weisman

I've added a little reference tool on the sidebar: The Playoff Seat Cushion. This tells you how much of a cushion the Dodgers have in the standings before they would miss the 2004 playoffs entirely.

For example, as of this morning, we have:

NL West leader: Los Angeles (58-41)
NL West Runner-Up: San Diego (55-45, 3 1/2 games back)
NL Wild Card Runner-Up: San Francisco (56-46, 3 1/2 games back)

The Playoff Seat Cushion is the number of games it would take for the Dodgers to fall behind both the NL West Runner-Up and the NL Wild Card Runner-Up. By coincidence, there is a virtual tie for the wild-card lead today, so the cushion is 3 1/2 games.

For The Playoff Seat Cushion, I am counting a playoff tiebreaker as a playoff game. Losing 3 1/2 games in the standings would not necessarily keep the Dodgers out of the playoffs, but 4 games would.

Should the Dodgers fall behind, The Playoff Seat Cushion will be renamed The Deflated Playoff Seat Cushion.

Karros Goodbye
2004-07-27 17:24
by Jon Weisman

Funny that I just finished an entry on ex-Dodgers an hour before getting this news. On the other hand, perhaps not so funny that a Dodger born the same month as I may have reached the end of the line - no matter the mixed feelings I grew to have for him.

In any event, Eric Karros has been designated for assignment by Oakland after OPSing .554 in 40 games. The news comes 4 1/2 months after Karros and Ross Newhan of the Times aggressively wondered why the Dodgers did not pursue him to play first base for them this season.

Karros was briefly a hero of mine, for the way he perservered through the Dodger system and became a bright spot in a miserable 1992 season. And he seemed to have been good to the reporters that covered the team.

But ultimately, he became one of my least favorite Dodgers. His stiff and morose body language on the field would make you think Shawn Green was Max Patkin. He became the epitome of the 30-homers-and-nothing-else hitter. And the incident in which he called out a young Ismael Valdez (then Valdes) and questioned his commitment to winning instigated one of the ugliest clubhouse dramas in post-'88 Dodger history, with people taking sides, in my recollection, along racial lines.

Eric Karros as the all-time Los Angeles home run leader? I want to ask for a recount.

And yet ... if it were possible to simultaneously initiate and limit such things, I wouldn't mind seeing the Dodgers sign Karros to a one-day contract at the end of the season, so that he would take his final at-bat as a Dodger. Eric Karros is probably a good guy, and it'd be nice to see him get the chance to tip his hat in uniform one final time to the Dodger crowd.

Clarification (July 28): Writing "... with people taking sides, in my recollection, along racial lines" was misleading, if not inaccurate.

In the aftermath of the Karros-Valdez conflict, the Times ran stories that defended Karros' actions, using quotes from Karros and several people in the Dodger organization. Not one of those quoted was Valdez, nor any Spanish-speaking member of the club. This might not have been malicious, but it was blatant. Public opinion was shaped without Valdez's side of the story coming close to being told.

Perhaps Valdez was wholly to blame for the incident. But I doubt it.

However, if I implied that Karros instigated a racial conflict, I apologize. What I was trying to express was my firm belief that the native language of the participants played an integral role in how this incident was percieved, and ultimately the ability for Valdez to pitch successfully in Los Angeles. It also somehow cemented this idea of Karros as a clubhouse leader.

I recall a play where Chan Ho Park fielded a ball and made a wild throw to first. Karros made no attempt to catch it and no attempt to chase it down. He seemed more concerned with emphasizing that the throw was off-target than minimizing the damage. That does make Karros worthless, any more than 30 home runs are worthless. But until the end, Karros always seemed to get the benefit of the doubt in this town, always seemed to have people covering for him, yet rarely seemed to return the favor. He really seemed, more than many, to lack the ability to be honest about his own flaws.

As the comments below help indicate, Karros' career is one of the most difficult to evaluate in Dodger history. And to show that I have ability to be honest about my own flaws, it's undeniably weak that I don't do more actual reporting to collect the information that would allow us to better evaluate him.

2004-07-27 15:13
by Jon Weisman

It has been 40 days since Odalis Perez's last win and 66 since his last loss. Heading into tonight, Perez has four straight no-decisions and 11 in 18 starts.

Odalis Perez's No-Decisions, 2004
IP ER Date
5.2 4 4/6
6.0 4 4/23
6.0 3 5/4
7.0 2 5/9
7.0 1 5/26
7.0 2 5/31
8.0 1 6/11
7.2 2 6/21
5.0 3 6/26
5.0 1 7/17
7.0 1 7/22
Total: 71.1 innings, 24 earned runs, 3.03 ERA

For the year, Perez has allowed four earned runs in two starts (both in April), three or less in every other.

Ex-Dodger Files
2004-07-27 15:04
by Jon Weisman

Guess it was a good thing Chin-Feng Chen didn't turn out to be indispensable. There might have been an interesting international tug o'war for his services. Instead, Chen was free to leave the continent this week to play for Taiwan in the Olympics. ...

It hasn't been Jason Romano's year. The former 25th man tore his hamstring playing for Cincinnati and is out for the season, after a 5-for-34, .430 OPS campaign. ...

In 7 2/3 innings this month, Giants closer Matt Herges has allowed 18 hits and four walks. His ERA is 10.57. For the year, opponents are batting .342 against Herges with an OPS of .904. ...

Orel Hershiser got lauded locally twice today for turning around the Texas Ranger pitching staff, in columns by Kevin Modesti of the Daily News and Steve Bisheff of the Register. In a way, I'm disappointed. Hershiser worked briefly as an ESPN commentator after retiring and I thought he displayed natural ability that many active broadcasters lack.

2004-07-26 16:03
by Jon Weisman

Kazuhisa Ishii's ERA at Colorado:

2002: 4.50 (six innings, three runs, eight hits, three walks, six strikeouts)
2003: 7.88 (eight innings, 12 runs*, 11 hits, seven walks, six strikeouts)
2004: 15.75 (four innings, seven runs, eight hits, three walks, one strikeout)
Total: 8.50 (18 innings, 22 runs*, 27 hits, 13 walks, 13 strikeouts)

* includes five unearned runs

Small sample size or not, 40 baserunners in 18 innings is a bunch.

Tonight's Game

2004-07-26 09:29
by Jon Weisman

As my wife and I came out of the Top of the Park gift shop Saturday with my belated Father's Day present, Paul Lo Duca was reaching base on an infield single, loading the sacks for Adrian Beltre. So we stood behind the back row of the highest seat in Dodger Stadium and watched.

The ball soared, piercing the night, so high that I felt like I was looking straight at it.

I tried to start an MVP chant - because that's what Beltre would be, at least if this weren't a world with Barry Bonds' statistics.

Scott Rolen of the St. Louis Cardinals has been the designated Bonds alternative candidate for MVP most of the season. Not that he has Bonds' numbers, but he plays a more valuable position more valuably. Great third baseman, great numbers, leading a team to the best record in baseball.

But Beltre's continued surge, carrying the Dodgers with his Gibson-like gait, has to vault him into a place rivaling Rolen.

Beltre's OPS almost crossed the 1.000 threshold Saturday. He was at .997 when he reached base on an error and now sits at .985. His on-base percentage has skied to .371 and his slugging percentage is .614 - which would put him seventh all-time in Brooklyn/Los Angeles history.

For an advanced evaluation, here are the National League leaders in Value over Replacement Player, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus.

81.7 Barry Bonds
58.9 Albert Pujols
55.6 Todd Helton
53.9 Bobby Abreu
51.8 J.D. Drew
50.5 Jim Thome
49.8 Adrian Beltre
48.6 Scott Rolen
45.9 Mark Loretta
45.0 Lyle Overbay

Beltre is miles from No. 1 and yards even from No. 2. On the other hand, so is Rolen. So while Beltre may not be this year's NL MVP, with just over two months to go in the season, he deserves to be in the conversation as much as anyone else who isn't Bonds.

Back For Now
2004-07-26 09:09
by Jon Weisman

Nope - no new son yet. Just faulty wiring. So there will be another absence upcoming - but for better reasons, I hope.

Can anyone recommend someone to rewire two phone jacks? I tried to do it myself and - big surprise - it didn't go well. Verizon wants to charge an arm, a leg, a foot, etc.

The Outside Views Project
2004-07-21 14:29
by Jon Weisman

From: Jon Weisman
To: (Various online baseball writers - see below)
Subject: Project

A small but desired request:

Write something about the 2004 Dodgers.

It can be one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one page, whatever. It can be analytical, funny, effusive, hateful (to an extent), sarcastic, or of course, the ever-popular lucid.

I just want to collect some outside perspectives on the 2004 team. I make no bones about picking their hottest moment to do it. You don't have to buy into the streak at all if you don't want to - say whatever comes to mind about them.

Replies (in order of appearance)
Will Carroll, Will Carroll Weblog/Baseball Prospectus: What is the personality of the '04 Dodgers? McCourt and DePodesta seem to have changed the team very little, making the past administration of this team look good. I think at best, the Dodgers are exceeding expectations while maintaining course, but even then, I don't know what the course is. The off-season is when DePo will assert himself. For now, Dodger fans, enjoy the ride.

Tyler Bleszinski, Athletics Nation: To summarize how I feel about the Dodgers is simple...common enemies and a shared ideology. The Dodgers and A's are on the same side in the Great Idea War raging in baseball between the old school small ballers and the new school Moneyballers. They, along with the Red Sox and Blue Jays, have formed an alliance in this war. Not to mention that Dodger fans hate Giants and Angels fans.

You also have our beloved Paul DePodesta running your team, Athletics Nation friend Jason Grabowski and Athletics fan fave Olmedo Saenz coming off the bench. No wonder blue and green are so closely related. Any chance we can trade bullpens??

Studes, The Hardball Times:


I think this graph shows that, as opposed to last year, this year's Dodgers have been a very balanced blend of offense and defense. Even their ups and downs during the year have been driven by their ups and downs in runs scored and allowed. When the Dodgers win, both the pitching and hitting do well. And when they lose, they both share equally in the blame.

The Dodgers had a couple of winning streaks last year, including a ten-gamer and nine-gamer, but they were entirely due to great pitching. To move to such great balance this year, without major contributions from either Green or Encarnacion, is a real surprise to me.

So my question is, with a record-setting reliever on hand, are Dodger fans now staying until the ninth inning?

BTW, Beltre has already matched his Win Share total from last year.

Larry Mahnken, Replacement Level Yankees Weblog/The Hardball Times: When they write the book on the 2004 Dodgers, there will be many words in it. Someone will probably purchase a copy, and someone will spill their drink while reading it, and the pages will stick together. And they'll debate whether or not to buy another copy, but will decide against it when they are able to pull the pages apart without too much damage.
And a few years later, they'll see the book on sale in paperback, and say, "My, that looks interesting," and buy it, but when they get home they'll realize that they already had a copy of the same book, and will try to give their old copy to a friend, who won't want it because the pages are stained and he's not really a Dodgers fan.
So they'll try to sell the old copy on eBay, but of course it won't move because who wants a stained copy of a book about the Dodgers? So they'll throw the book out, and some homeless guy will find it while going through the garbage, and be so inspired by it that he'll clean up his act, get a job, get married and raise a family.
And his son will grow to be President of the United States. And one day he'll go mad with power, and start the Third World War, destroying all life on the planet, and also several other smaller planets that exist in an alternate dimension.
Stupid Dodgers.

The Score Bard, The Humbug Journal:
I'm not shocked the bullpen is great.
I'm not surprised Beltre bloomed late,
Or that Green has declined.
But I'm startled to find
Izturisn't lost at the plate.

David Pinto, Baseball Musings: There was a lot of gloom and doom at the beginning of the season over the sale of the Dodgers. They had not been able to compete in the free agent market. The new owners had taken on a lot of debt (which may hurt the franchise in the future). The Angels were trying to make inroads with Dodgers fans. The Dodgers, in fact, are quite a pleasant surprise.
Back in the 1980's, the Red Sox often had the best offense in the American League. Given their park and the configuration of the league at that time, offense was easy. When they won, they managed to have mediocre pitching. Not great pitching, mind you, pitching ranked 7th or 8th in the AL in ERA. The Dodgers are the mirror image of that. They always seem to have great pitching. But this year, they are managing mediocre offense, ranked 9th in runs scored. But if you are great at one thing, you only have to be OK at the other to have a winning record. And this year, that winning record is good enough for 2nd overall in the NL.
And there's room for improvement. The most obvious need is 1st base, which also happens to be the easiest position to fill. John Olerud is now available and he'll be real cheap. He won't hit for power, but he'll get on base. We'll see if he's willing to go to another team, or if he'll just stay home and retire. Right field is another area of offensive weakness. I'm a real fan of DePodesta, so I'm anxious to see what moves he makes as the Dodgers head down the stretch.

Alex Belth, Bronx Banter: It's hard for me to know what to make of the Dodgers. Truthfully, the only time I've really paid attention to them was when the Yankees were in town. But it seems to me that, like the NL East, anything is possible. Why the Dodgers (or Padres or Giants, for that matter)? Well, why not?

I think Jeff Weaver looks great in L.A.'s home uniform, and I did catch the highlights of his brief run-in with the Giants a while back which was amusing. One bit that turned me off about the Dodgers this year is the "Game Over" display on the scoreboard when Gagne enters the game. Coming from a Yankee fan, who is inundated with pomposity and self-aggrandizement, it still seemed more than somewhat presumptuous. Which is not to discount Gagne's dominance. He's been stunningly good. But that "Game Over" stunt is bad karma, man.

To be honest, I've got more questions about the Dodgers than I have answers. I don't mean that I don't believe in them, I mean that I just don't know about them. How has Bradley been since his explosion? How is Jim Tracy getting on with DePodesta? Etc, etc.

Peter White, Mariner Musings: Still not outscoring Detroit.

Jay Jaffe, The Futility Infielder: Last week I decided to check in on the Dodgers on for the first time in a few weeks. It was the inning where Green hit the grand slam, the kind of thing that makes you believe that just maybe they can win something. Of course, with Jim Tracy, I always think they can find a way to be in it. Smoke, mirrors, duct tape around Adrian Beltre's ankle and the arms of the starting rotation, perhaps some voodoo dolls - one of these days Tracy's skill at getting the most out of this motley collection will pay off, and the Dodgers will return to their rightful place atop the NL West. I'm beginning to think that this is the year.

Mark McClusky, Baysball: While their eight game winning streak has pushed them to a 2.5 game lead in the West, the rest of the division is lucky that it's not much more. While the Dodgers are nearly four games better than their runs for and against would lead you to expect, the Giants are six games above their projections, as are the Padres.

This whole division is playing over its head right now, and it's due for a fall. But they're all going to fall together, and I'd expect the Dodgers to fall the least, unless Adrian Beltre can't keep gimping it out there on his ankle.

If you put a gun to my head, I'd pick the Dodgers to win this division. I was going to say that I would expect the NL West winner to get bounced in the first round, but the NL is a weird league this year. Beyond St. Louis, no one is playing great baseball, and that might make this year's playoffs more of a crapshoot than usual.

Steve Treder, The Hardball Times: To a Giants fan, the 2004 Dodgers are the undead. They've been clubbed, slashed, shot, burned, and buried six feet underground, only to be found up and around yet again, greedily consuming wins, stalking first place with a glazed-eyed mindlessness that maddens us all the more.

DIE, Cesar Izturis! DIE, Shawn Green! DIE, Alex Freaking Cora! But death seems to hardly slow their monstrous trudge.

Apparently nothing short of a stake through the heart at the stroke of midnight, at home plate at Chavez Ravine, will suffice.
I'll bring the hammer!

Brian Gunn, Redbird Nation: This is going to sound like a cop-out, but I don't have a strong opinion about the Dodgers, even though I live in the town where they play. I mean, the L.A. Dodgers have never been a team that enflames people's passions -- they're not like the Yankees or Cowboys or Lakers, where EVERYONE has an opinion about them. Instead, they come across like a group of good upstanding guys wearing good upstanding starched shirts. And this year's Dodgers are no different. I mean, sure, you've got the psychodramatics of Milton Bradley, and the fearsome charm of Four-Eyes Gagne, but my attitude about the 2004 Dodgers is the same as it's always been - I like 'em. I wish 'em well. But I doubt they'll move me until they win a game or two in October.

Thanks for inviting me to share some words, and I wish I could be more of a booster for the ballclub. The Dodgers are probably my second favorite team in baseball, but I wish they gave me more to sink my teeth into.

TwinsFanDan, Will Carroll Weblog: I don't have much to say because I frankly don't follow the Dodgers much, but are they peaking too early? Especially for only +2.5 games on July 21 after a 15-2 streak. The schedule looks relatively favorable, though, as the only road non-divisional series games are at CHC, as opposed to PHIL, ATL, FLA at home. (These teams deemed to be Wild Card or Divisional contending teams by TFD. STL cancels out, with three home and three away.)
I will say, I do want the Dodgers in meaningful games in late September/October. The Dodgers/Angels in it late is only good for baseball.

Bryan Smith, Wait Til Next Year: Give the Dodgers some credit; they can sure find prospects. Despite an Edwin Jackson slump, a Greg Miller injury, and Franklin Gutierrez trade, Los Angeles still has one of the five most loaded systems out there. Sure, sabermatricians are going to look down on any system flush with young pitching prospects, but out of quanity comes quality. Between Jackson,
Miller, Chad Billingsley, Jonathon Broxton, Mike Megrew, and Chuck Tiffany,
the Dodgers are going to find someone worthwhile. Though let me say, investing a little more capital in injury prevention would be a good move by

Mike Carminati, Mike's Baseball Rants: The Dodgers' 2004 season as a Leelee Sobieski poem:

2003 disappointing.
Fifteen and one-half back.
Best pitcher. Kevin Brown. Monster contract. To Yankees for playoff goat.

Best hitter. Shawn Green. Moved to first. Can't hit.

Hideo Nomo. No less.
Three wins. Losses ten. 8.06 E…R…A.

Hideous. No mo'.

Staff ERA.
Best in 2003.
ERA. Seventh. NL. 2004.

No Matter.

Milton Bradley—not a game. Plays a game.
Indian--not Native American. Lollygags on flies. Falls in lap.

Beltre. Lazarus. Resurrects career. Two more homers, 260 points in OPS.

Oh. Dallas. Perez. ERA. Run and half less.
Ishii. Higher ERA. Already two wins more than 2003. Uh? Sheez!

Odd team. Odd year.
But not.
No not when but was. If was, was when. If.
'94. Best Pitcher Ramon Martinez. Staff ninth in ERA. NL.
Could hit. Piazza. Mondesi. Butler. Wallach. runs scored…NL.

Strike. No playoffs. Best, not best.

Padres. Giants. Within three games.
Bonds. But unbound.
Where. To. Now... To go!
Take me! Out to the Ballgame. Crackerjacks. Peanuts. Not Crunch 'n' Munch.

Open Chat: Rockies-Dodgers (Wednesday)
2004-07-21 10:00
by Jon Weisman
Two Years - Thank You
2004-07-21 06:06
by Jon Weisman

It began July 21, 2002.

Each passing day, Dodger Thoughts has been more rewarding than I ever could have imagined. Thanks so much for reading and writing.

2004-07-20 21:47
by Jon Weisman

For 5 p.m. games during the work week, it goes a little something like this:

  • Catch the opening inning on MLB Gameday as I'm wrapping up my day.

  • Linger waiting for an at-bat to end before I log off and go to my car.

  • Listen to another inning on the drive home.

  • Miss about five or six innings, except for maybe a quick score check, as I tend to my lovely daughter, who now says, "How are you?" when I walk in.

  • Put her to bed at around 7:30, and catch the final inning or two.

    Today, it was Houston 4, Los Angeles 1 when I got home. It was Houston 4, Los Angeles 1 when I did my scorecheck.

    It was Los Angeles 6, Houston 4 after singing lullabies.

    And my jaw dropped. It literally, literally dropped.

    I have the ability to enjoy these moments. I know they end. But I can be made to feel good by them. It's my reward for the inevitable suffering.

    They came back. Again.

  • Just When They Least Expect It ...
    2004-07-20 14:18
    by Jon Weisman

    Two game-winning home runs for Shawn Green on one road trip? More than most will do in a career.

    Here are my theories. Perhaps, now that teams are recognizing Adrian Beltre as the focal point of the Dodger offense and are pitching more carefully to him - eight walks against 34 at-bats in July - Green has been earning less respect and in turn getting better pitches to hit. It's like a crop rotation thing. Additionally, perhaps Green is feeling less pressure to produce having been removed from the cleanup spot. (Note that some press coverage today focused more on Milton Bradley than on Green.)

    In any case, I feel pretty good about having recommended the Dodgers drop Green in the batting order, without benching him. (Does it seem like I keep patting myself on the back? I have admitted some mistakes recently as well.) He is no longer the team's best hitter, he does not justify his salary, but the costs are not completely sunk - he does belong in the lineup. He can contribute. He's also probably the Dodgers' best defensive first baseman, other than Robin Ventura.

    I'm more curious about whether Bradley's recent upswing at the plate is for real. (Although on the bases, anecdotally, I can't recall a player getting picked off more often than Bradley.)

    * * *

    From Jeff Elliott of the Florida Times-Union comes news that shortstop Joel Guzman and pitcher Chad Billingsley have been promoted from Class A Vero Beach to Class AA Jacksonville.

    * * *

    Monday, the Dodgers made fielding, baserunning and pitching mistakes, and still won. Scary.

    Tonight's Game

    2004-07-19 12:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Of course, I don't want to see the Dodgers bench Jayson Werth. I say this for unselfish reasons - because the team has been winning with him in the lineup. And I say this for selfish reasons - he, along with Adrian Beltre, are the two players that I diagnosed high hopes for early in the season, that I felt were legit beyond their hot starts.

    Werth has been a revelation. Talk all you want about how minor a trade this seemed in March and how unproven he is, but I think anyone would take this production, even if it's only for 92 plate appearances: 1.076 OPS overall, 1.089 vs. lefties, 1.058 vs. righties, 1.047 at home, 1.106 on the road. Even a healthy dropoff will leave Werth, who is within six weeks of sharing a birthday with Beltre, at better than average.

    Juan Encarnacion had a pretty great month of June himself - .905 OPS. But that's not as good as Werth, and Encarnacion is a candidate for a dropoff as well. Like Shawn Green, Encarnacion has labrum issues. Eleven days ago, Will Carroll wrote:

    The MRI on Juan Encarnacion showed that he needs surgery to repair a torn labrum and an impingement in his left shoulder. Now, the question is when he'll have that surgery. Encarnacion will play through the pain, hoping to stay productive and have the shoulder fixed in the off-season. With the Dodgers in contention but short on power, this is a tough decision for the team. Watch how he's used and if his power numbers suffer.

    If it requires Encarnacion - who probably is beside himself to have missed out on the Arizona pitching the past weekend - to return to the lineup with a subpar performance for Jim Tracy to navigate the psychologically tricky "you don't lose your job through injury" Wally Pipp waters, so be it.

    The risk is that Werth could fall out of his groove. But right now, there are four lineup spots for Werth, Encarnacion, Green, Dave Roberts, Milton Bradley and even Jason Grabowski. Given the health concerns about the middle four of this group, there may be plenty of playing time to go around.

    The days remain precious - make no mistake. It's now the Giants' turn to pick at Arizona's carcass, while the Dodgers travel to Houston to face a team that still has a fighting chance. Let's put it this way - I'd be loath to take Werth, the Dodgers' top hitter in July, out of the lineup at all, but I'm going to be tolerant in the short term.

    Maybe I'm feeling more forgiving because of how angry I was at Tracy when he sent Robin Ventura up to pinch-hit for Roberts on Friday. That the move worked heroically doesn't make it right, but it does perhaps earn Tracy - riding the thin line between candidate for termination or Manager of the Year - even more faith with regards to how he works the entire 25-man roster. Remember, he's the manager who's had faith in Werth and Roberts to begin with.

    * * *

    From Baseball Prospectus: Value Over Replacement Level: The Odalis Perez Trade

    Odalis Perez VORP with Dodgers
    2002 45.2
    2003 9.3
    2004 31.3 (to date)
    Subtotal: 85.8

    Brian Jordan VORP with Dodgers
    2002 24.2
    2003 16.5
    Subtotal: 40.7

    Gary Sheffield VORP with Braves:
    2002 46.5
    2003 79.3
    Subtotal: 125.8

    Dodger Total: 126.5 (to date)
    Braves Total: 125.8

    The totals don't include the fractional share of Milton Bradley that can be attributed to Andrew Brown, who came to Los Angeles with Perez and went to Cleveland for Bradley as a player to be named later.

    * * *

    Thursday, I made the following comment about Joe Thurston: "His fall from his 2002 season will go in the textbook of Dodger prospect disappointments. It seems like it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy."

    At least one reader read this statement in the sarcastic tone it is often used, but which I did not intend. I meant it sincerely; Joe seems like a truly nice guy. I apologize for any misunderstanding.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    Chin-Feng Chen has now appeared in 10 major league games and spent countless days on the roster without a hit. Nuts.

    A Topsy-Turvy Second-Half Opener
    2004-07-16 09:19
    by Jon Weisman

    With three more All-Star Break days off, Adrian Beltre and Milton Bradley can't make the start.

    A revving-up Jayson Werth is called out for leaving third base too early on a sacrifice fly against Randy Johnson.

    With the Dodgers down, 3-0, a gimpy Beltre is walked semi-intentionally so that Shawn Green can come up with the bases loaded, showing that opponents have decided whom to fear.

    Green, down in the count 1-2, hits a towering, lead-changing grand slam.

    The last eight Arizona outs come on strikeouts by the Dodger bullpen, with Vin Scully calling it "the dardnest thing he had ever seen" in pitching, Sandy Koufax presumbably aside.

    And this: Following Green's grand slam, which gave the Dodgers a lead important to preserve for psychological as well as pennantal reasons, Guillermo Mota did not appear in an obvious Guillermo Mota situation.

    Speculation unanswered by the morning papers: Did Mota need rest for health reasons? Was Dreifort being given a confidence boost? Does this signal that Dreifort is being groomed to replace Mota because of an imminent trade (though none was completed Thursday)? Or is it, as Eric Enders suggested in the comments, a disciplinary matter, or simply mundane visa problems?

    * * *
    Aside: You've got to admire how dryly Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun characterizes the Carlos Delgado-to-the-Dodgers trade possibilities.

    "General manager J.P. Ricciardi may want to deal Delgado to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Shawn Green or this year's version of Luke Prokopec, whomever that might be," Elliot wrote.
    * * *

    The Dodgers have won 9 out of 10 games, and Randy Johnson is in their rear-view mirror, perhaps forever.

    Friday's Game

    Saturday's Game

    Sunday's Game

    The View From Vero Beach
    2004-07-16 08:39
    by Jon Weisman

    Following Thursday's look at the top three tiers of the Dodger minor league system, here is an interview with Trevor Gooby, the 28-year-old general manager (yes, Paul DePodesta is an old man to him) of the Class A Vero Beach Dodgers.

    About Gooby
    What are your current duties? I oversee the VBDs as well as the Gulf Coast Dodgers, Extended Spring Training, June Rookie Camp, Instructional League and the equipment for the minor league affiliates. I handle day to day off-field business. I report to the VP of Spring Training/Minor League Facilities, Craig Callan, who is in charge of all operations at Dodgertown. I have a great staff that does an outstanding job. I also do stadium operations for Holman Stadium and many things for Spring Training (major and Minor ST). It’s an awesome opportunity.

    How long have you held this position? This is my second season as the GM, but I have been with the Dodgers since 1998.

    What was your career track to get to this point? I am a graduate of Emerson College in Boston. My college has a program in L.A. for internships during your second semester of your senior year. I went to L.A. to work for the Dodgers in PR. Derrick Hall was the director at the time. After the 1998 season, which was a very learning season for an intern in the PR office, Derrick told me of a program that the Dodgers had in Vero Beach. It was an internship program that the team had which many baseball executives had gone through to learn the overall baseball operations side of things. Derrick began there, as well as Peter O’Malley’s son, Kevin. I was up for learning about the business, so I took the job with hopes of returning to L.A. after the 1999 season. I moved to Vero Beach and became very involved with the minor league side of things. I enjoyed the work and watching the developing of players (plus I love living in a small town), so I moved up the ladder here. I am able to keep in touch with L.A. for we are L.A. employees and also get to work with minor league guys on a daily basis. I became GM here after the 2002 season after working as the assistant GM.

    About the team
    How is Reggie Abercrombie doing? Does he still seem to be recovering from his surgery? How is he physically and how is he mentally? As you know, Reggie recently returned to the Vero Beach Dodgers. He began the 2004 season here at Dodgertown as a rehab player. We run the organization’s rehab program here as well. He is quite an athlete. When his rehab was over, he joined the VBDs for a few games and then moved up to Jacksonville. With his lack of a real Spring Training, he had a tough time there and came back to Vero to polish a few things. He has been nothing but outstanding here. He is fully healthy and is a true stud. He is currently batting .308 with three home runs and 12 stolen bases in 20 games. It is amazing to watch him in the field and one the basepaths.

    I have had the privilege of watching Reggie since he was first signed and he has come a long way. What people don’t see by reading box scores is how hard he works. Last year for instance, he would take BP with our Extended Spring Training team, work all morning on pitch recognition and then play in the VBD game at night. He is always trying to learn more and trying to develop into a complete player. There are times watching him when your jaw just drops. One time in 2001, he hit a three-run home run, stole third, made a diving catch in the outfield, and threw a player out at home. It was like, what can’t this guy do? He is a team leader for us and an all-around good kid. If he keeps working hard, then sky's the limit for him.

    Joel Guzman made his national TV debut, so to speak, with his Futures Game appearance. Astonishing how tall he is for a shortstop. Is he still growing? What are his strengths and weaknesses, and do you think he will still be a shortstop as he reaches the majors? I have also gotten the chance to see Joel (pronounced Jo-el) since he first came to Vero Beach during the 2001 season. We watched his first BP and I was impressed at the size and intelligence of a kid that was only 16. He has really matured on and off the field and is still growing. He began the season with us and struggled, but since May has arguably been the best hitter in the FSL. We all knew he could hit and for power, but what has impressed me is his play in the field. He has made some unreal plays in the field and has shown great arm strength.

    As for being a shortstop in the majors, that’s up to our field staff, but for the time being he has been impressive. Joel is also the type of guy that is great off the field; he has helped us numerous times with community events and has been great with the fans. Lots of things that I believe don’t show up in a scouting report.

    Talk about some of the bigger-name prospects - strengths and weaknesses - like Delwyn Young, Chad Billingsley, Jonathon Broxton, Andy La Roche. Who's beating or meeting expectations? Who's behind where you thought they'd be? We started the season in April and fell behind quick; we fought back thanks to great pitching from our starters and a great bullpen. Billingsley, Broxton, (Mike) Megrew and (Jarod) Plummer have been unhittable at times. It’s tough to find four better pitchers in the league.

    Then look at our bullpen. Steve Schmoll and Jose Diaz are lights out. Diaz has been clocked in the mid to upper 90s and Schmoll, a sidearm pitcher, has a ball that moves all over the place. He currently has a 1.98 ERA and doesn’t get enough attention. He only gave up 1 earned run in the month of May.

    The second half of the season, we have been dominant. Our lineup top to bottom is tough. With Reggie and Guz we are good, but add in LaRoche, Delwyn Young, Russell Martin and Jesse Hoorelbeke, and we can score some runs. DY has gotten better defensively at second base after working with our minor league rovers, John Shoemaker and Jerry Royster. Martin is one of the top defensive catchers in the league and leads the league is runners caught stealing. The team is looking very strong to contend for the second-half title.

    Who else should we know about that's making an impression? Mike Megrew has been pretty impressive and should jump on the radar any minute now. Our pitching coach, Kenny Howell, has turned many guys into pure prospects. His track record speaks for itself - 2002 (Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Brown), 2003 (Greg Miller, Brian Pilkington, Jason Frasor) and now 2004 with Billingsley, Broxton and Megrew. Another guy that has turned it on is Brian Sprout; he is a former independent guy, signed by Maury Wills. He has really developed into a clutch hitter and a guy that can play anywhere you stick him. He plays hard and has showed some power. I also really like Casey Hoorelbeke. He is a 6-9 righty power pitcher that can move the ball around and do some things on the hill.

    At what positions does Vero Beach show the most depth? Our pitching rotation is as solid as I have seen.

    What have been the in-game highlights of the year so far? Most memorable moments? The most memorable moment this season has been watching Guzman in the field. He has made some plays that he never made before. Throws from the ground and in the hole that looked impossible. His bat has been just as memorable.

    My most memorable moment at Dodgertown, however, was in 2001, when Edwin Jackson first took the mound. He was drafted as an outfielder, and we were trying him out as a pitcher. He took the hill and his first pitch went about 56 feet. His next 11 pitches were all balls as well. I was scoring the game and thought to myself that he should go back to the outfield. That’s why I don’t get paid to scout. That 2001 GCL team was unreal. We had Jackson, Victor Diaz, Joselo Diaz, Kole Strayhorn, Travis Ezi and Franklin Gutierrez. All those guys could end up playing in the majors. (Editor's note: The Diazes and Strayhorn went to the Mets for Jeromy Burnitz; Ezi went to the Marlins for Juan Encarnacion.)

    Any other highlights from your other areas of supervision - Gulf Coast League, etc. - that it'd be good to know about? The Gulf Coast team has been playing well. The team has had some growing pains, but has improved. Jamie Hoffman, Juan Rivera and James Peterson have played very well for the team. Also, our rehab players are getting healthy. (Masao) Kida and Alfredo Gonzalez have pitched in some GCL games and looked good. Our rehab coordinator, Jason Steere, has done an outstanding job getting guys healthy.

    Dodger Minor League Report
    2004-07-15 10:01
    by Jon Weisman

    I'm not a scout, nor do I play one on TV. Of the players listed below, I've seen none in person and only a few on television.

    But out of curiosity regarding the depth in the Dodger farm system, I decided to research the top three minor league teams in the organization – Class AAA Las Vegas, Class AA Jacksonville and Class A Vero Beach – and rank the players by position. (Note that I didn't look at players from Class A Columbus - not to be confused with the Yankees' AAA Columbus farm team – unless they have since been promoted.)

    Next to the players, you'll find statistics. For the pitchers, they're evident enough; for the hitters, what you'll see is batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS and - followed by a dash - Minor League Equivalent Average. The latter is a Baseball Prospectus statistic that takes league and park factors into account and translates a player's statistics into a single number, with .260 being the equivalent of an average major league hitter. Not surprisingly, none of the hitters in the Dodger minor leagues are that high (although Jayson Werth was at .324 before his callup). But MLEQA is helpful in comparing batters across different levels.

    I've also rated the Dodgers' level of depth at each position. The scake is 1 to 10 – with subjectivity at about 9. You'll see the mediocrity at most offensive slots, although there's some surprising depth in the shortstops, some of whom could move to other positions. And you'll see some tremendous depth in the pitching, despite Greg Miller's injury. While there isn't much lefty relief in the Dodger minor leagues, in an emergency, one of the starters could probably pitch as well as Tom Martin.

    Please be sure to come back Friday for an interview with Trevor Gooby, general manager of the Vero Beach Dodgers.

    Level of depth: 4
    Koyie Hill, C, Las Vegas (.292/.349/.458/.807 - .217) Started in the MLB Futures Game on Sunday. Switch-hitter has 23 doubles and nine home runs. Could certainly fill Dave Ross’ 2004 shoes if necessary.
    Edwin Bellorin, C, Jacksonville (.309/.356/.395/.751 - .217) Singles hitter, some doubles.
    Russell Martin, C, Vero Beach (.233/.343/.392/.735 - .191) Power (10 HR) and walks (46) indicate some potential here.
    Ryan Kellner, C, Las Vegas (.212/.239/.388/.627 - .159) Striking out 31 percent of the time as Las Vegas’ backup catcher.
    Tony Socarras, C, Jacksonville (.198/.276/.297/.573 - .160)
    Andrew Ellis, C, Vero Beach (.218/.361/.282/.643 - .170) Has 19 singles and 17 walks.

    First Base
    Level of depth: 6
    Luis Garcia, 1B, Las Vegas (.301/.333/.565/.898 - .236) Having an Adrian Beltre-like year on offense with 22 home runs and 13 doubles. Nine errors.
    James Loney, 1B, Jacksonville (.256/.347/.365/.712 - .200) Right now, everyone is just wondering if the power will come and the injuries will go for the top Dodger hitting prospect. Always finds a way to get on base, but the rest is unproven.
    Brian Myrow, 1B, Las Vegas (.262/.364/.354/.718 - .195 after - .268/.335/.463/.798 - .228 at AAA Columbus) No home runs for Brian since being acquired from the Yankees for Tanyon Sturtze.
    Jesse Hoorelbeke, 1B, Vero Beach (.248/.325/.504/.829 - .209 after .193/.323/.422/.745 - .199 in Jacksonville) One of two Hoorelbekes at Vero – how about that? Identical cousins? Nope – Jesse's the older brother by 2 ½ years. This ’beke has 10 homers in 137 at-bats.
    Trey Dyson, 1B, Vero Beach (.264/.360/.358/.718 - . 188) Acquired from Cleveland for journeyman reliever Rick White in April.

    Second Base
    Level of depth: 5
    Willy Aybar, 2B, Jacksonville (.282/.357/.451/.808 - .219) Switch-hitter is now a switch-fielder, moving to second base from third. The 6-foot, 185-pounder has 19 doubles, 11 homers, 35 walks and 10 errors.
    Joe Thurston, 2B, Las Vegas (.236/.301/.318/.619 - .164) His fall from his 2002 season will go in the textbook of Dodger prospect disappointments. It seems like it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
    Delwyn Young, 2B, Vero Beach (.271/.361/.487/.848 - .213) Not exactly Alex Cora - leads the organization with 25 doubles, 100 strikeouts and 18 errors. Despite the name similarity, no relation to major leaguer Dmitri Young or 2003 top MLB draft pick Delmon Young.

    Third Base
    Level of depth: 4
    Rick Bell, 1B-3B, Las Vegas (.277/.306/.441/.747 - .200) There's no internal solution to a Beltre departure unless, perhaps, Aybar switches back to third. Bell, part of the Gus/Buddy/David family, does have 22 doubles and nine home runs, but 12 errors and only 12 walks.
    Brennan King, 3B, Jacksonville (.293/.339/.472/.811 - .222) Leads Jacksonville in games played and doubles and tied with Aybar for the team lead at 11 home runs. Less than half as many walks (16) as Aybar.
    Andy LaRoche, 3B, Vero Beach (.230/.301/.419/.720 - .198 with Vero Beach after .283/.375/.525/.900 - .207 with Columbus) Another baseball family man. Brother and son of major leaguers Adam and Dave, La Roche has 16 homers combined this season.

    Level of depth: 9
    Antonio Perez, 2B-SS, Las Vegas (.292/.387/.498/.885 - .237) Well-rounded package for this acquisition from Tampa Bay in the smart Jason Romano trade. A potential 30-30 player in the minors with 13 homers and 15 steals, and an almost 1:1 ratio in walks (46) vs. strikeouts (49). Errors: 15.
    Jose Flores, SS-3B, Las Vegas (.330/.411/.469/.880 - .243) Getting on base, not showing a whole lot of power. Ten errors.
    Joel Guzman, SS, Vero Beach (.305/.348/.535/.883 - .228) Still listed at age 19 and the only A-ball player in the starting lineup for the World Team in Sunday’s MLB Futures Game, you’ll be astonished by his height when you see him – 6-5, as tall as Werth. Eight steals, eight triples, 12 home runs and 21 doubles. His walk total - 21 – could be worse, as could his strikeouts (76), as Delwyn Young illustrates. Signed by the Dodgers at age 17 and with a $2.5 million bonus . Errors: 11.
    Nelson Castro, SS, Jacksonville (.244/.310/.385/.695 - .201) Jacksonville’s speedster with 14 steals in 16 attempts.

    Level of depth: 5
    Jason Repko, OF, Las Vegas (.321/.372/.500/.872 - .243 in Las Vegas after .291/.341/.466/.807 - .224 in Jacksonville) Drafted as the Dodgers' top pick in 1999, a year after Bubba Crosby, Repko is showing doubles power at age 23.
    Cody Ross, OF, Las Vegas (.265/.322/.470/.792 - .212) Acquired for Steve Colyer in the spring, Ross had a car door slammed on his hand in May.
    Derek Michaelis, OF, Jacksonville (.304/.369/.504/.873 - .235) Top OPS on the Suns, with decent contributions in doubles, homers and walks adding up.
    Jeremy Giambi, OF, Las Vegas (.176/.300/.353/.653 - .172) Just now getting back to action after being injured most of the year.
    Shane Victorino, OF, Jacksonville (.315/.339/.577/.916 - .246 in Jacksonville after .235/.278/.335/.613 - .165 in Las Vegas) Rule 5 draftee who made the Padres in 2003, Victorino shows power potential but isn’t developed yet.
    Reggie Abercrombie, OF, Vero Beach (.297/.321/.514/.835 - .234 in Vero Beach after .173/193/.327/.420 - .142 in Jacksonville) The long road back for yesteryear’s tools god and last fall’s anterior cruciate ligament victim takes a detour through Florida. There, he has found his slugging percentage and his speed - 11 steals in 13 attempts - but the walks (2) remain as elusive as ever.
    Alex Requena, OF, Vero Beach (.262/.340/.339/.779 - .189) Switch-hitter leads the system with 30 stolen bases, two more than Dave Roberts, albeit in 46 attempts.
    Daylan Holt, OF, Jacksonville (.256/.314/.449/.753 - .213) Only 20 hits on the year, but seven for extra bases.
    Bryan Goelz, OF, Vero Beach (.253/.323/.308/.631 - .167)
    Rodney Van Buizen, OF, Vero Beach (.150/.239/.167/.406 - .101) Australian. Of the 14 Vero Beach hitters cited on this list, 10 have last names that start with the letters A through M.

    Level of depth: 2
    Nick Theodorou, IF-OF, Las Vegas (.290/.367/.409/.776 - .212) A .365 hitter at UCLA in 1997, facing a 30th birthday next year.
    Sergio Garcia, IF-OF, Jacksonville (.271/.394/.365/.759 - .211) Can draw a walk – 16 in 103 plate appearances.
    Brian Sprout, IF-OF, Vero Beach (.284/.383/.438/.821 - .211) Not bad for a guy who moves around the lineup – nine games at first base, nine at third, three in the middle infield, 30 in the outfield.
    Nick Alvarez, OF-1B, Jacksonville (.243/.303/.378/.681 - .193) At 27, also running out of time.
    Brett Dowdy, IF-OF, Vero Beach (.194/.275/.245/.420 - .146 in Vero Beach after .412/.421/.599/1.009 - .285 in Jacksonville) Remains in the shadow of his brother, Apple Pan.
    Scott Gillitzer, IF-OF, Vero Beach (.237/.277/.360/.637 - .172)

    Right-Handed Starter
    Level of depth: 9
    Joel Hanrahan, RHP, Las Vegas (4.46 ERA, 80 2/3 IP, 67 K) Averaging a walk every two innings. His ERA is better than Edwin Jackson’s was. Remains a candidate for the Summer 2005 rotation.
    Heath Totten, RHP, Las Vegas (5.19 ERA, 100 2/3 IP, 58 K) Leads the 51s in innings. Puts the ball in play, allowing only 127 hits but 19 walks. Age: 25.
    Chad Billingsley, RHP, Vero Beach (2.33 ERA, 85 IP, 103 K) Hmm – this might have been a good draft pick. Somewhat Kazuhisa Ishii-like in allowing 61 hits but 48 walks, though.
    Jonathon Broxton, RHP, Vero Beach (3.41 ERA, 87 IP, 103 K) For the 6-4, 240-pound Broxton, his numbers – 77 hits, 32 walks - are more conventional than Billingsley’s.
    Dimas Reina, RHP, Jacksonville (7.39 ERA, 35 1/3 IP, 31 K in Jacksonville after 1.29 ERA, 49 IP, 48 K in Vero Beach) How is it that Reina averages as many innings per start for the Suns as lefty stud Ryan Ketchner? Could their pitch counts possibly be similar?
    Jarod Plummer, RHP, Vero Beach (3.70 ERA, 41 1/3 IP, 33 K in Vero Beach after 2.45 ERA, 22 IP, 23 K in Columbus) Doing fine after his promotion - 10 walks in Vero.
    Casey Hoorelbeke, RHP, Vero Beach (3.86 ERA, 37 1/3 IP, 26 K in Vero Beach after 2.57 ERA, 14 IP, 8 K in Columbus) If he makes it, would he be the tallest starter in Dodger history at 6-8?

    Left-Handed Starter
    Level of depth: 9
    Greg Miller, LHP, Las Vegas (no action in 2004) In July, the Dodgers reported setbacks in Miller's rehabilitation from arthroscopic surgery on this shoulder and said he might miss the season. With a career minor league ERA of 2.26 in 179 innings, Miller still doesn't turn 20 until November 3.
    Ryan Ketchner, LHP, Jacksonville (2.35 ERA, 65 IP, 54 K) Given the fact that Jolbert Cabrera’s absence since his trade to Seattle has been covered by Jose Hernandez, how can you not like what came in return in Ketchner. Sterling numbers: 1.25 baserunners per inning.
    Derek Thompson, LHP, Jacksonville (3.25 ERA, 80 1/3 IP, 64 K) Nice to see Thompson rack up the innings in 2004 after racking up the pay on the major league disabled list in 2003 – he went out for the season that March. Even better – no home runs allowed!
    Glenn Bott, LHP, Jacksonville (4.19 ERA, 88 IP, 74 K) Epitomizing the short leash of the Jacksonville pitchers, their top innings man is averaging fewer than six per start.
    Mike Megrew, LHP (3.21 ERA, 75 2/3 IP, 93 K). It’s not McCrew or Magoo, it’s Megrew. And me grow to like him if he keeps striking out 11 batters per nine innings.

    Right-Handed Swingman
    Level of depth: 5
    Brian Falkenborg, RHP, Las Vegas (3.99 ERA, 38 1/3 IP, 41 K) Only seven walks – compared to nine in 14 1/3 innings with Los Angeles. Clearly an achiever at the AAA level. With a little luck, could be as good as Giovanni Carrara. But Carrara or Edwin Jackson will have to falter first.
    Tom Farmer, RHP, Las Vegas (4.53 ERA, 45 2/3 IP, 45 K) Acquired with Jason Frasor (who was later traded for Werth) in 2002 for Hiram Bocachica, Farmer won the title game for Miami against Stanford (sigh) in the 2001 College World Series.
    Mark Johnson, RHP, Las Vegas (5.51 ERA, 81 2/3 IP, 45 K) Swingman, a rare Vegas pitcher who doesn’t strike batters out. Pitched four shutout innings in relief of Hideo Nomo on June 4, during Nomo's rehab start.
    Roy Smith, RHP, Las Vegas (4.94 ERA, 23 2/3 IP, 22 K) Best stat is only one homer allowed.
    Harold Eckert, RHP, Las Vegas (7.04 ERA, 47 1/3 IP, 46 K in Las Vegas after 2.65, 17 IP, 22 K in Jacksonville) Allowing two baserunners per inning for the 51s.
    T.J. Nall, RHP, Jacksonville (3.31 ERA, 84 1/3 IP, 63 K) The rare pitcher who has both a complete game and a save this season.
    Eric Hull, RHP (5.00 ERA, 27 IP, 13 K in Jacksonville after 4.18 ERA, 51 2/3 IP, 49 K in Vero Beach) Allowed only three home runs in Florida before promotion.
    Clint Hosford, RHP, Vero Beach (5.24 ERA, 34 1/3 IP, 27 K) Three starts in 14 appearances.

    Left-Handed Swingman
    Level of depth: 1

    Right-Handed Reliever
    Level of depth: 9
    Yhency Brazoban, RHP, Las Vegas (1.69 ERA, 5 1/3 IP, 5 K in Las Vegas after 2.65 ERA, 51 IP, 61 K in Jacksonville) Will the Dodgers have the last crow in the Kevin Brown trade? Fourteen saves for the 6-1, 170-pound short man.
    Elvin Nina, RHP, Jacksonville (2.62 ERA, 55 IP, 60 K) Averaging 1 2/3 innings per appearance, boasts the best strikeout ratio in Jacksonville.
    Jose Diaz, RHP, Vero Beach (1.74 ERA, 10 1/3 IP, 14 K in Vero Beach after 2.12 ERA, 34 IP, 59 K in Columbus) Bring the sugar: The 6-4, 230-pounder likes strikes the way Tony likes Frosted Flakes. And only one home run allowed. With the two teams, a total of 20 saves. This is a different Jose Diaz, of course, from the one that went to the Mets last year in the Jeromy Burnitz trade.
    Franquelis Osaria, RHP, Jacksonville (4.35 ERA, 41 1/3 IP, 37 K) Has allowed only nine walks and one home run, so he might be pitching in some bad luck for his ERA to have creeped up this high.)
    Agustin Montero, RHP, Las Vegas (7.46 ERA, 44 2/3 IP, 38 K). Turns 27 next month. Walks almost a batter per inning, hits a batter and allows a homer every five innings. In March, I wrote, "Pattern in recent seasons has been decent numbers at one level, followed by a midseason promotion and ensuing decline in stats."
    Brian Steffek, RHP, Jacksonville (4.73 ERA, 26 2/3 IP, 20 K in Jacksonville after 1.66 ERA, 21 2/3 IP, 24 K in Vero Beach) Getting bit by home runs: six allowed for the Suns, only one for the VBers.
    Steve Schmoll, RHP, Vero Beach (1.98 ERA, 54 2/3 IP, 51 K) No home runs allowed. Quick preview from Friday's Trevor Gooby interview: "Schmoll, a sidearm pitcher, has a ball that moves all over the place. He currently has a 1.98 ERA and doesn’t get enough attention. He only gave up one earned run in the month of May."
    Richard Bartlett, RHP, Vero Beach (2.49 ERA, 47 IP, 40 K) One home run allowed.
    Beau Dannemiller, RHP, Vero Beach (3.54 ERA, 53 1/3 IP, 48 K)
    Jose Rojas, RHP, Jacksonville (5.16 ERA, 45 1/3 IP, 43 K) Wild Thing-esque, with 32 walks and 11 wild pitches.
    Mike Rodriguez, RHP, Vero Beach (4.93 ERA, 42 IP, 24 K in Vero Beach after 1.26 ERA, 14 1/3 IP, 18 K in Columbus)

    Left-Handed Reliever
    Level of depth: 4
    Troy Brohawn, LHP, Las Vegas (5.02 ERA, 52 IP, 42 K) A contributor to the 2003 Dodgers before arm surgery ended his season, don’t be surprised if Brohawn – despite that ERA - faces Barry Bonds sometime in the month of September. Lefty relief eludes the big club.
    Jamaal Hamilton, LHP, Vero Beach (2.04 ERA, 17 2/3 IP, 15 K in Vero Beach after 0.36 ERA, 25 1/3 IP, 27 K in Columbus) Sleeper? That’s right – one earned run for the season with the Catfish. What a bullpen those guys had.
    Luis Gonzalez, LHP, Jacksonville (5.14 ERA, 35 IP, 36 K) And 27 walks.

    Open Chat: Dodgers-Diamondbacks (Thursday)
    2004-07-15 02:39
    by Jon Weisman

    Jeff Weaver vs. Randy Johnson. Is tonight's game a World Series preview?

    The odds are against it. However, is there any National League team likely to acquire Johnson? I tend to doubt it, but these things can surprise you.

    I do note that the Lakers need a center.

    Jesse James and Jack Clark
    2004-07-14 14:49
    by Jon Weisman

    Not all coaches get recycled in the same way. Ex-Dodger hitting coach Jack Clark, whose credentials, for better or worse, I questioned aggressively in 2003 (more than once), has been head of baseball operations of the Mid-Missouri Mavericks of Columbia, Missouri in the independent Frontier League since June 21. Clark had been managing the team, but was promoted upstairs from the managerial slot and replaced by fellow former major league star Jim Gentile.

    It's been a homecoming for Clark, who of course was a hero during his playing days in that other Missouri town known as St. Louis. Seemed to have a big hit against the Dodgers on at least one occasion that Niedenfuers to mind. I mean, springs to mind.

    But it hasn't been an altogether smooth return for Clark to the Show-Me State. As far as Clark's 2004 managerial record, see if you can extrapolate from this quote from Gentile upon his hiring, courtesy of the Mavericks website:

    "Baseball is a game of ups and downs," Gentile said. "I have both played on and coached teams that were in slumps. The Mavericks are obviously struggling, but we’ll work hard to improve and make our fans proud. Jack and I make a great partnership, so I am hopeful that better days are ahead for this club. ... Let’s never forget that this game is all about fun, developing young players, and teaching folks about a great American tradition."

    Aye, let us never forget.

    On top of everything else, Clark has just taken a second job, moonlighting as hitting coach of another Double-M team, the McKinney Marshals of the new Texas Collegiate League, debuting this year as the only summer wood-bat college league in baseball's Lone Star hotbed. Al Quintana, from Cal State Northridge, is among those on the team's roster.

    "Settled in 1841, McKinney has a rich history and frequently served as a hideout for Jesse and Frank James, and the James Gang," the Marshals website says. Hiding out, of course, is the least of Clark's issues, unless that Missouri-Texas commute is a lot easier than I'd imagine. In any case, if you can make it to Columbia in about five weeks, Jack Clark Bobblehead Night is scheduled for August 21.

    Update: In the comments below, Robert Fiore writes:

    Speaking of batting coaches, did you ever apologize to Tim Wallach for writing he didn't have enough experience to be one? You may have done so when I wasn't watching, but considering how he's got these banjo hitters making a noise like a bass fiddle I think you owe him one.

    Fiore is referring to this February 17 piece I wrote questioning Paul DePodesta's hire of Wallach.

    Not to get overly literal, but I don't think I owe Wallach an apology. The evidence was not there that Wallach would be a good batting instructor, and I think I can be excused for suspecting he wouldn't be.

    The fact that he does appear to have been effective reflects on my fallibility, but I made the best analysis I could. I don't see Jack Clark and Dan Evans apologizing for their fallibility, nor would I expect them to.

    But Robert, you aren't really being that literal, are you? Drat. Didn't think so.

    So yeah, I do owe both Wallach and DePodesta sincere congratulations and kudos for a job well done. Some people will say that the Dodgers were do for a rebound and that Wallach probably didn't do anything. But that flies in the face of reality. The idea that major league hitters are immune to coaching does not make any sense.

    Tim and Paul - congratulations and kudos!

    Respect and Fulfillment
    2004-07-13 17:28
    by Jon Weisman

    ... It makes for a great contrast among the contenders within the division. The Dodgers rely on selected tactics, platoons, and a number of retreads. You could argue they have a true star in Eric Gagne, but let's face it, he's a closer, and closers don't win divisions on their own. In contrast, you have the Giants, who will go wherever Barry Bonds and Jason Schmidt carry them. Where Tracy fidgets, Felipe observes (to be charitable). Then you have the Padres, flashing new park money and high expectations, a hastily assembled blend of oldish mercs and homegrown goodies. There are no good guys or bad guys, just three very different teams, all with their merits. It's still a little disconcerting to think that I like what the Dodgers are up to, but it's going to be a great flag chase down the stretch.

    - Chris Kahrl, Baseball Prospectus, July 12, 2004 (bold emphasis mine)

    This piece of writing touches upon the core of my interest in the Dodgers. Chris Kahrl is not a Dodger fan, yet the Dodgers are earning her respect.

    "I'm very happy these days," I wrote on March 12, 2003. "I have a wonderful wife and a wonderful baby, and you won't catch me regretting the choices I made that allowed those things to happen. But I do have frustrations, and those frustrations, I've come to realize, are played out each time the Dodgers do something. Anything. I'm not just talking about the 162 games; I'm talking about the offseason trades and the decisions to replace the dirt warning track with rubber and the removal of the sandwich station on the Club level of Dodger Stadium. I was raised in an easier time, where things were more often right than wrong, and I haven't shed my addiction to that time. I want things with the Dodgers to be right. That, essentially, is the genesis of this website - to deal with that want."

    The Dodgers don't do everything right - not by a longshot. But when they are doing something right - like making the most of their duct-taped roster to make it to first place at the All-Star Break - and yes (external validation alert), when people notice - that's as fulfilling as a victory on the field.

    On the Links: Sidebar Update
    2004-07-12 13:24
    by Jon Weisman

    I've added links to LAist and to its sports coverage, which will be anchored by Phil Wallace of the Phil Wallace Weblog. Today, Wallace notes the Dodger hire of Greg McElroy as Chief Sales of Our Soul Officer. ...

    John Hill has taken his Dodger Hill site over to the Most Valuable Network, where his work is now titled Chavez Ravine. Today's entry comments on the Dodgers winning ways with Odalis Perez and Adrian Beltre injured. ... looks promising for a quick snapshot of the Dodgers. Opening up the home page today is a quote from Vin Scully, after Paul Lo Duca's grand slam, that caused me to double-take Sunday as well: "Talk about an anti-climatic at-bat - Shawn Green is up! The crowd doesn't want to see him." ...

    In passing, I might add that Scully was critical of Green not running hard to first base on his first-inning RBI single, which allowed the Astros to throw him out at second even after Carlos Beltran missed the cutoff man.

    Update: Paul Sporer of For Rich or Sporer describes how he made it past the first cut of the new ESPN Dream Job competition. A screen test awaits!

    Angel/Dodger Power
    2004-07-12 13:23
    by Jon Weisman

    Call me surprised to realize that the Dodgers have hit 17 more home runs than the Angels this season. Vladimir Guerrero and Jose Guillen have combined for 35, and injured players past and present Garret Anderson and Troy Glaus add another 18. After that, no Angel has more than five homers.

    And yet, Anaheim still has a higher slugging average than the Dodgers, .428 to .418. The Angels have 42 more singles, 37 more doubles and 11 more triples in 119 extra at-bats.

    Overall, the Dodger offense leads Anaheim in EQA, .267 to .265.

    More on My Weird Infatuation with Comparing Lo Duca and Beltre
    2004-07-12 13:23
    by Jon Weisman

    At the All-Star Break, Paul Lo Duca has struck out three more times than Adrian Beltre has walked, 23-20. Both surged to get into this point.

    Other than the minor point of 13 additional home runs, the statistics between Beltre and Lo Duca score on the similarity scale. Beltre has 10 more at-bats than Lo Duca, four more hits, one more double, one fewer triple and three more walks. They both have an on-base percentage of .355.

    Who's Been Worse?
    2004-07-12 13:21
    by Jon Weisman

    Bob Timmermann kind of jumped the gun on me in this morning's comments, by bringing up Ryan Klesko, but anyway ...

    With all the problems that Shawn Green has had, the Dodgers might be thankful he's not Klesko, who has two home runs and a .370 slugging percentage in 222 plate apperances, compared to Green's 10 homers and .399 slugging percentage in 356 PA.

    They might be thankful, but perhaps they shouldn't be. Klesko has an EQA of .274, 10 points higher than Green's .264.

    In First Place and Playing Catch-Up
    2004-07-12 13:19
    by Jon Weisman

    The Dodgers are three games behind San Francisco and two behind San Diego - in the games played column. According to the remaining schedule, barring rainouts, this is how the Dodgers will catch up in games played:

  • Los Angeles gains a GP on San Diego on Thursday.
  • On August 19, the Dodgers play while San Francisco and San Diego both rest. The Dodgers even up with the Padres.
  • On August 23, the Dodgers pull to within one of the Giants.
  • On September 6, the Padres play with the Dodgers resting and again pull one GP ahead.
  • On September 9, the Dodgers catch the Giants for good.
  • On September 27, the Dodgers catch the Padres for good.

    As you can see, the Dodgers have fewer off days than their division competition for the remainder of the season:

  • July: Dodgers 0, Giants 0, Padres 1
  • August: Dodgers 2, Giants 3, Padres 3
  • September-October: Dodgers 2, Giants 4, Padres 2

    The Giants' road trip to pitcher-challenging Colorado on September 7-8 is mitigated by off days on either side, on September 6 and 9. San Francisco has as many off days in September as the Dodgers have remaining in all of 2004.

  • Reality vs. Expectations
    2004-07-12 13:17
    by Jon Weisman

    According to ESPN's RPI rankings, which take into account strength of schedule, the Dodgers are 10th in baseball, the Giants are 12th and the Padres are 21st.

    According to the Pythagorean Standings (scroll down on Rob Neyer's home page), which calculate expected performance based on runs scored and allowed, the Dodgers should have a two-game lead on the Padres and a 2 1/2-game lead on the Giants. In real life, the Dodgers and Padres have one victory more than expected by the Pythagorean Standings; the Giants have three.

    The difference is even more pronounced in the Adjusted Standings on Baseball Prospectus. Using more advanced calculations, the NL West leaders are:

    Dodgers (47-39 expected, 48-38 actual)
    Giants (45-44 expected, 49-40 actual)
    Padres (42-46 expected, 47-41 actual)

    What this implies is that the Giants and Padres are playing more over their heads than the Dodgers are. However, the Giants outperformed their expected win total throughout 2003.

    The Think Blue All-Star Summertime Variety Revue Power Hour
    2004-07-11 20:25
    by Jon Weisman

    Starring ...

    Starting Lineup (8)

    .355 .580 .935 .314 5 Adrian Beltre
    .377 .437 .813 .291 2 Milton Bradley
    .388 .429 .817 .288 2 Alex Cora
    .343 .369 .711 .287 3 Dave Roberts
    .355 .461 .819 .278 3 Paul Lo Duca
    .335 .399 .734 .264 5 Shawn Green
    .292 .431 .723 .251 4 Juan Encarnacion
    .337 .362 .698 .255 3 Cesar Izturis

    Beltre is (or was) doing a Kirk Gibson 1988 World Series Game 1 on an everyday basis. Lo Duca has postponed his anticipated slump with a July power surge, though his infrequent walks lower his value. The speed of Roberts - 28 steals in 29 attempts - is mouthwatering. Cora and Izturis are Fred and Ginger - and for that matter, Beltre is Gene Kelly, and Green can hoof it at first as well.

    Bradley gets on base but his impact has been ironically quiet. Green unequivocally belongs in the starting lineup - near the bottom. Encarnacion has on-base and health problems.

    Bench (8)

    .400 .621 1.021 .324 0 Jayson Werth
    .300 .667 .967 .324 0 Joe Thurston
    .389 .463 .852 .306 3 Jose Hernandez
    .319 .452 .771 .278 1 Olmedo Saenz
    .315 .427 .743 .264 1 Jason Grabowski
    .306 .264 .570 .216 0 Robin Ventura
    .234 .271 .505 .177 1 Dave Ross
    .000 .000 .000 .000 0 Chin-Feng Chen

    Werth is 25 years old, controlled, powerful, athletic - he's the kind of stud pickup the Dodgers always seem to come up with on the mound and never at the plate. The potential of Grabowski should not be confused with Werth's, but he has been productive. Amid all the injuries, the Dodgers have needed to dip into the minors for only 12 plate appearances (by Thurston and Chen.)

    With a .537 OPS since June 1, Hernandez is tailing off from his hot start. To a lesser extent, so is Saenz. Ventura, the active leader in grand slams, has no power left but can still pick it on defense. Because of his ineffectiveness, Ross is forcing the Dodgers to play Lo Duca more.

    Starting Pitchers (5)
    Inn. ERA K/9

    106.3 2.96 6.5 Odalis Perez
    11.7 3.86 4.6 Edwin Jackson
    101.3 4.00 4.3 Kazuhisa Ishii
    113.0 4.22 6.7 Jeff Weaver
    67.0 8.06 5.0 Hideo Nomo

    Perez has been almost pristine this year and even timed his injury well, forcing the Dodgers to test their faith and renew their hopes for Jackson. Ishii has had some of the most brilliant games of his career. Weaver has become proficient in the quality start.
    Nomo. Why, why, did they wait so long to MRI, MRI?

    Swingmen (2)
    Inn. ERA K/9

    65.7 3.56 7.4 Wilson Alvarez
    83.3 4.32 4.8 Jose Lima

    Look no further than this past weekend to see these how dominant these two journeymen can be.

    Shakiness earlier this season encouraged the Dodgers to dilly-dally with Nomo.

    Relievers (8)
    Inn. ERA K/9

    05.7 0.00 9.5 Giovanni Carrara
    02.0 0.00 4.5 Rodney Myers
    54.7 1.65 7.9 Guillermo Mota
    39.0 1.85 12.5 Eric Gagne
    40.3 3.57 4.9 Duaner Sanchez
    38.3 3.76 11.3 Darren Dreifort
    25.0 4.32 6.5 Tom Martin
    14.3 7.53 6.9 Brian Falkenborg

    Gagne is in his third year of unparalleled brilliance. Mota is in his second year of paralleled brilliance. Sanchez is the counterpoint to Werth - his emergence from nowhere is welcome but less shocking. Myers and Carrara filled their holes capably.

    Martin is fooling nobody but Jim Tracy. Dreifort has outstanding strikeout rates but a worse walk rate than Ishii or Nomo. Falkenborg simply wasn't impressive.

    Cancellation or Fall Renewal
    Since the one-third point, the Dodgers solved their biggest problem of the season. By removing Nomo, they now have a starting rotation that gives them a chance to win every single game.

    The Dodgers also solved their second-biggest problem of the season. By replacing Green with Beltre in the cleanup spot, they finally have a fearsome lineup anchor, while Green can bat in a place where his double plays are less likely and where his singles and walks can be considered a positive.

    The Dodgers also solved their third-biggest problem of the season. They needed a second power source, one that wouldn't bite them in the OBP butt like Encarnacion. They have found him in Werth.

    The Dodgers have three emerging problems, however.

    The first is Beltre's health. If he doesn't play, every single day, the offense goes Amish, with everyone turning back hopelessly to Green to raise the barn.

    The second is that conventional wisdom will tell them to place "proven RBI man" Encarnacion back in the lineup when he comes off the disabled list - at the expense of Werth.

    The third is that because of a dearth of impact talent available on the trade market, it is unclear what moves Paul DePodesta should make - in a race in which he has little margin for error. And the internal (let alone external) grief he might take for standing pat could be, well, implosive (let alone explosive).

    And yet ...

    For all of the Dodgers' ragtag qualities in this 2004 season, for all of the problems they face, the jazziest, most artful defense you'll ever see has a chance to play on the October stage.

    There have been some drop-dead awful numbers in the Think Blue All-Star Summertime Variety Revue Power Hour, but when you look at what's on other channels, you realize that these kids have done a plucky job. Future episodes could be truly entertaining.

    Or Lima Fourth, I Suppose
    2004-07-09 15:00
    by Jon Weisman

    It's 3:30 p.m. With left-handed Andy Pettitte starting for the Astros and Milton Bradley, Adrian Beltre, Juan Encarnacion and Shawn Green nursing injuries, here's the probable Dodger lineup for tonight.

    Izturis, SS
    Lo Duca, LF
    Lima, 3B
    Werth, RF
    Hernandez, 2B
    G. Mota, CF
    M. Mota, LF
    Ross, C
    Ventura, P

    I know what you're saying. Why have Robin Ventura pitch when Jose Lima is a more experienced pitcher. The answer, of course, is that Ventura's historic success on Fridays allows Lima to take his regular turn on Sunday.

    I also like placing Guillermo Mota's speed ahead of Manny Mota's superior bat control in the lineup.

    2004-07-09 14:01
    by Jon Weisman

    I had been preparing this week to write that my biggest error of the year was this May 27 post, suggesting that Adrian Beltre undergo surgery to address the bone spurs in his ankle immediately, rather than wait until the end of the season.

    My retraction was in the works because in June, Beltre posted an OPS of 1.035. And though Beltre has begun July with 4 hits in 24 at-bats, three of those hits are home runs. Together with five walks, he's OPSing .852 this month - playing his usual supoib defense all the while.

    But I'm putting my retraction out of action for now, with the news that by favoring his bad ankle, Beltre has come up with a strained quadricep that will keep him out at least until July 15.

    The ankled anchor of the Dodger lineup, the quadraddled quadrupler, Beltre now has two bum limbs. And now the Dodgers face the potential change of their stretch-drive marketing campaign from from Think Blue to Think Blue Cross.

    So, perhaps for the wrong reasons, I may have been right back in May. In any case, the Dodgers are again faced with a decision. Do they send Beltre back onto the field as soon as he can do more than handstands, or do they grant him a real recovery?

    Speaking of limbs, I'm not going to go out on one this time - not too far, anyway. I'm only going to advise the Dodgers not to be guided by wishful thinking regarding Beltre, as they were with Hideo Nomo and Shawn Green, but by a clear, unemotional analysis of the costs and benefits of the choice before them.

    If a wobbly Beltre takes the field in a week, I would like to believe it was because the Dodgers have calculated that the worst is over, not because they are praying that the worst is over.

    Open Chat: Astros-Dodgers (Thursday)
    2004-07-08 17:04
    by Jon Weisman
    Misinterpreting the End of Gagne's Streak
    2004-07-08 15:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Joe Morgan is the latest commentator - by no means the only one - to state the following in some form or another:

    Now that Gagne's streak has ended, I think it might actually help L.A. because manager Jim Tracy has the liberty to use his closer in different ways now. The streak forced Tracy to use Gagne only for save situations. Now Tracy can use Gagne more often, such as in tie ballgames, which is a plus for the Dodgers because he's their best pitcher.

    Two problems with this statement:

    1) Tracy already uses Gagne in tie games.

    2) A save streak has no impact on a manager's willingness to use a closer in tie games, because there is no save opportunity in a tie game.

    The place where liberation from Gagne's save streak could make a difference would be a situation where Gagne would enter a close game earlier. There are more ways for you to blow a save when you enter with the score 3-2 in the eighth than 3-2 in the ninth.

    That being said, it is truly doubtful that Gagne's save streak had very much impact on Tracy's managing at all. Much more influential has been the presence of solid set-up men in Paul Quantrill, Guillermo Mota, and at varying times, Paul Shuey, Tom Martin and Darren Dreifort, which has given Tracy the excuse, legtimate most but not all of the time, to be less aggressive with Gagne.

    Tracy believes that his set-up men can get him to the ninth inning, or close to it. When they have wavered, except on a few occasions, he has gone to Gagne in the eighth inning.

    For a real change in Gagne's usage to come, at least one of two things would have to happen. Either the performance of the Dodger set-up men would have to change, or Tracy would have to radically change his bullpen philosophy and, instead using Gagne as a closer to wrap up a game, he would use Gagne as a fireman to put out a fire, no matter what the inning, no matter whether the Dodgers were winning, losing or tied.

    Although firemen are more vulnerable to blowing a save than closers, if Jim Tracy already believed that Gagne was more likely as a fireman to help the Dodgers win games and reach the playoffs - and in turn save Tracy's job - do you think he would have waited this long to put Gagne in the big red truck with the dalmatian?

    As the season progresses, and as times potentially become more desparate, Gagne may be more likely to enter a game at unusual moments to put out a fire. But this would have been the case whether Gagne's save streak was at 10 or 100.

    2004-07-07 17:39
    by Jon Weisman

    It takes a .556 winning percentage to win 90 games in a major-league season. Only one National League team - the Cardinals - is on that pace.

    With a victory tonight and losses by the Padres or the Cubs, the Dodgers would take a percentage-point lead in - take your pick - the NL West and NL Wild Card races.

    Winner! The Most Obscure but Memorable Dodger Is ...
    2004-07-07 11:41
    by Jon Weisman

    The quest: Name "The Most Obscure but Memorable Los Angeles Dodger."

    The level of response was memorable and hardly obscure: a total of 216 nominees.

    And now, the real challenge comes - to determine a winner. What Los Angeles Dodger holds the perfect balance of anonymity and fame? Who pulled the greatest disappearing act? Which forgotten Dodger is most deeply and intimately recalled?

    Who is the guy that you haven't thought of that you think the most of?

    The key is balance. He can't be too memorable - goodbye, Terry Forster - or too obscure - goodbye, Fred Kipp. He can't be too recent - Bruce Aven - or too ancient - Randy Jackson. He can't have been a folk hero whose name comes up every year, like Dick Nen, nor someone you see asking trivia questions at Dodger Stadium every game, like Jim Gott.

    He can't have virtually the same last name - Greg Gagne - as the most famous current Dodger. He can't be the brother of a famous Dodger - Dave Sax, Chris Gwynn. He can't have been an infamous disappointment - Greg Brock, Dave Goltz. He can't have had a real career with another team - Enos Cabell, Sid Bream.

    And he certainly can't be my favorite Dodger of all time, R.J. Reynolds.

    He should be a folk hero whose folk heroism went unrewarded.

    I've given this a great deal of brain-churning thought over the past week. I have struggled. I have chosen and unchosen. And I have the answer - the definitive answer. The Most Obscure but Memorable Los Angeles Dodger is:

    Mike Ramsey. Not the other Mike Ramsey. This Mike Ramsey.

    Michael James Ramsey came out of nowhere to win the Dodger starting job in center field in 1987. When the regular season began, he stroked 10 hits in his first 28 at-bats. Then it started to come apart. He tried to hang in there with a batting average in the low .200s, but by late May, the Dodgers gave up and traded for John Shelby.

    Ramsey was sent back to the minors. He came up in September, only to be used as a pinch runner and defensive replacement. The season ended, and with it, the major-league career of Mike Ramsey. He never made it back.

    So that's how Ramsey became a finalist - someone who had hopes pinned to him like Eeyore's tail, wagging for a brief moment, only to fall off and disappear into the soil and grass of summers gone by.

    The clincher for Ramsey is that only two years earlier, the Dodgers had another player named Mike Ramsey - Michael Jeffrey Ramsey. This First Mike Ramsey was more obscure and less memorable than The Second Mike Ramsey. And yet, both exist. So while The Second Mike Ramsey was memorable, it is also true that by virtue of his brief April/May career and his need to be distinguished from The First Mike Ramsey (as Bob Timmermann did in nominating the pair as "The White Mike Ramsey and The Black White Ramsey"), he retains his core obscurity. He holds the balance between being and nothingness.

    The Second Mike Ramsey is, in short, The Most Obscure but Memorable Los Angeles Dodger.

    Honestly, I think it's a real honor.

    The Complete List of Nominees
    Don Aase
    Joe Amalfitano
    Dave Anderson
    Jamie Arnold
    Billy Ashley
    Ken Aspromonte
    Rick Auerbach
    Bruce Aven
    Bob Bailey
    Bob Bailor
    James Baldwin
    Jim Barbieri
    Billy Bean
    Joe Beckwith
    Todd Benzinger
    Steve Bilko
    Henry Blanco
    Hiram Bocachica
    Tim Bogar
    Brian Bohanon
    Pedro Borbon
    Rafael Bournigal
    Jeff Branson
    Sid Bream
    Tom Brennan
    Tony Brewer
    Greg Brock
    Jerry Brooks
    Ralph Bryant
    Mike Busch
    Enos Cabell
    Dick Calmus
    Chris Cannizzaro
    Bobby Castillo
    Gino Cimoli
    Rocky Colavito
    Dennis Cook
    Brent Cookson
    Wes Covington
    Tripp Cromer
    Don Crow
    George Culver
    Kal Daniels
    Bobby Darwin
    Vic Davalillo
    Tommy Dean
    Don Demeter
    Chris Donnels
    John Duffie
    Joey Eischen
    Jim Eisenreich
    Kevin Elster
    Cecil Espy
    Jim Fairey
    Al Ferrara
    Mike Fetters
    Jack Fimple
    Darren Fletcher
    Chad Fonville
    Terry Forster
    Alan Foster
    Len Gabrielson
    Greg Gagne
    Mike Garman
    Phil Garner
    Bob Giallombardo
    Shawn Gilbert
    Dave Goltz
    Jose Gonzalez
    Ed Goodson
    Tom Gorman
    Jim Gott
    Billy Grabarkewitz
    Dick Gray
    Derrell Griffith
    Jerry Grote
    Chris Gwynn
    John Hale
    Jeff Hamilton
    Gerry Hannahs
    Greg Hansell
    Mike Harkey
    Mike Hartley
    Brad Havens
    Danny Heep
    Rickey Henderson
    Shawn Hillegas
    Brian Holton
    Gail Hopkins
    Ricky Horton
    Thomas Howard
    Ken Howell
    Trenidad Hubbard
    Mike Huff
    Ron Hunt
    Tommy Hutton
    Garey Ingram
    Randy Jackson
    Stan Javier
    Brian Johnson
    Von Joshua
    Mike Judd
    Mike Kekich
    Fred Kipp
    Wayne Kirby
    Andy Kosco
    Bill Krueger
    Lee Lacy
    Tito Landrum
    Rudy Law
    Leron Lee
    Dennis Lewellyn
    Bob Lillis
    Nelson Liriano
    Luis Lopez
    Matt Luke
    Barry Lyons
    Jim Lyttle
    Bill Madlock
    Candy Maldonado
    Juan Marichal
    Mike Marshall (OF)
    Onan Masaoka
    Len Matuszek
    Ken McMullen
    Mike Metcalfe
    Pete Mikkelsen
    Trever Miller
    Lemmie Miller
    Bobby Mitchell
    Dave Mlicki
    Joe Moeller
    Wally Moon
    Jose Morales
    Charlie Neal
    Dick Nen
    Jim Neidlinger
    Al Oliver
    Gregg Olson
    Jesse Orosco
    Jorge Orta
    Rick Parker
    Angel Pena
    Jack Perconte
    Boog Powell
    Dennis Powell
    Paul Ray Powell
    Ted Power
    John Purdin
    Eddie Pye
    Scott Radinsky
    The Black Mike Ramsey
    The White Mike Ramsey
    Doug Rau
    Lance Rautzhan
    Jeff Reboulet
    Jody Reed
    Phil Regan
    Rip Repulski
    Gilberto Reyes
    Al Reyes
    R.J. Reynolds
    Rick Rhoden
    Pete Richert
    German Rivera
    Rich Rodas
    Mel Rojas
    Vicente Romo
    Dick Rowe
    Olmedo Saenz
    Juan Samuel
    F.P. Santangelo
    Ted Savage
    Jack Savage
    Dave Sax
    Rudy Seanez
    Ray Searage
    Larry See
    Mike Sharperson
    Larry Sherry
    Norm Sherry
    Craig Shipley
    Bart Shirley
    Steve Shirley
    Joe Simpson
    Duke Sims
    Bill Skowron
    Cory Snyder
    Eddie Solomon
    Dick Stuart
    Franklin Stubbs
    Rick Sutcliffe
    Alex Tavaras
    Derrel Thomas
    Brian Traxler
    Alex Trevino
    Rick Trlicek
    Hector Valle
    Sandy Vance
    Ed Vande Berg
    Stan Wall
    Dave Walsh
    Gary Wayne
    Mitch Webster
    Gary Weiss
    John Werhas
    Myron White
    Terry Whitfield
    Reggie Williams
    Eddie Williams
    Steve Wilson
    Tack Wilson
    Bob Wilson
    Tracy Woodson
    Ricky Wright
    Geoff Zahn

    Since Sunday, More Runs Than Hits
    2004-07-06 17:27
    by Jon Weisman

    For a Dodger team that has been high in batting average and low in runs scored, the last two games come as a surprise: six runs on five hits against the Angels, six runs on six hits against the Diamondbacks.

    Eight of the 11 hits were singles. The Dodgers have drawn 11 walks and been hit by two pitches in that time.

    Tonight's starter for Arizona, Casey Fossum, is allowing an OPS of .929. In nine innings against the Dodgers this season, he has allowed nine runs on 17 hits and five walks.

    Tonight's Game

    Eric Gagne Is Still So Good
    2004-07-05 20:46
    by Jon Weisman

    It wasn't DiMaggio, it wasn't Hershiser, but if anything proved how hard Eric Gagne had to work to save 84 games in a row, Monday night did. What happened in the ninth inning against Arizona could have happened any other game, and all that prevented it was Gagne's strength, will and talent. (And a leaping catch in Houston by Dave Roberts in 2003.)

    My tribute, "Eric Gagne Is So Good," was written nearly 15 months ago. Tell me it doesn't still apply.

    That Eric Gagne ... sure plays a mean pinball.

    Independence from Randy
    2004-07-05 15:04
    by Jon Weisman

    The Dodgers catch a break in this week's series against Arizona, starting tonight, and miss Randy Johnson, who pitched a complete game Independence Day.

    Update: Heroes tonight:

    Shawn Green, who made a running catch at the short wall in right field of Steve Finley's first-inning home run bid.

    Olmedo Saenz, who took a mangy 1-2 pitch from Scott Service - it looked like a screwball the way it flung itself inside - and then blasted, absolutely blasted, a three-run lead-changing home run on the next pitch.

    Shea Hillenbrand, driven to such heights of confidence in helping to end Eric Gagne's save streak that he tried to bunt for a base hit with runners on second and third and two out in the top of the 10th inning, and fouled out.

    Shawn Green, who came up in a bases-loaded, one-out, double-play situation in the bottom of the 10th and hammered a towering sacrifice fly to win the game.

    Better Be Late Not Never
    2004-07-04 19:41
    by Jon Weisman

    Adrian Beltre is the 10th-best position player in the National League, according to Baseball Prospectus.

    Beltre must be on the team. I have to believe he will make it as an injury replacement. The fact that he isn't even a "Final Vote" candidate must mean this is expected to happen, otherwise this is nothing less than your 2004 All-Star travesty.

    Third on the Fourth
    2004-07-04 17:59
    by Jon Weisman

    Who has a better chance at a playoff spot, the third-place Angels or the third-place Dodgers?

    The Angels face competition from the A's, the disappointing Red Sox, the surprising Rangers and either the Twins or the White Sox. (I'm not counting Tampa Bay, but isn't it something to even be addressing them in a parenthetical.)

    The Dodgers face competition from the helium-operated Giants, the laying-in-the-weeds Padres, and more than a half-dozen wild-card contenders - including even the Mets.

    The Angels have four key rivals - the Dodgers have close to 10. The Angels have to beat one divisional rival plus the Red Sox and an American League Central team, or two divisional rivals. But no matter how the wild card race goes, the Dodgers still only need to beat San Diego and San Francisco.

    It's a close call. If the Angels can solve their Bartolo Colon problem, I like their chances. If Odalis Perez and Edwin Jackson are back in the Dodger rotation after the All-Star Break, both local teams really could do it, as hard as it is to believe.

    Tonight's Game

    Be True
    2004-07-03 17:52
    by Jon Weisman

    Edwin Jackson, you just pitch your game tonight and don't worry about your future. One batter at a time.

    P.S. Tom at Shallow Center took his two-year-old daughter to her first game - read the fun story here.

    Today's Reminder
    2004-07-03 08:07
    by Jon Weisman

    As you should know, the story in the Times today that Frank McCourt's purchase of the Dodgers cost the team Vladimir Guerrero is simply a more detailed follow-up of what the paper reported in January, before the sale was complete. That initial report accelerated the initial anger and concern about McCourt buying the team.

    Summing up, the one thing stated implicitly but not explicitly in today's article is that if someone with the proper financing had bought the team, signing Guerrero would not have been a problem. So with all due respect, McCourt's attempt to directly pin the blame on the previous regime is completely disengenuous.

    This is the quality I find so disheartening about McCourt. He seems happy to take credit for so many things, such as repeat sellouts and a great atmosphere when the Yankees come to town, but if you go by what he says, he's not responsible for any disappointments or missteps and everybody loves him. None of us is perfect - but the McCourts, in their "aw, shucks" fashion, try to make you think that they are. They're just fans like you and me, we're led to believe.

    Well, the owner of the team isn't supposed to be a fan just like you and me. The owner of the team is supposed to be a fan just like you and me with cash.

    Overall, there has been a good vibe at Dodger Stadium this year, and McCourt has every right to enjoy it. In a few respects, perhaps, having a human face as the owner has turned out to be a breath of fresh air, and there have been good actions mixed with the unfortunate. But honeymoons don't likely last forever - ask Bob Brenly.

    McCourt would do much better to just be straight with us and admit yes, his financial situation cost the team Guerrero, but he is going to work hard to make up for it. Honesty is a surprisingly endearing quality and engenders a great deal of forgiveness and goodwill over the long haul.

    I want to add, "And in any case, McCourt isn't fooling anybody," but I guess in many ways he is. There probably are fans who will accept the notion that McCourt should be absolved of blame in the Guerrero non-signing.

    And in any case, life goes on.

    So I'll write, "McCourt isn't fooling everybody." And as I've written before, it's only in McCourt's long-term favor not to insult the intelligence of those who follow the team most closely and passionately.

    Obscurely Beautiful
    2004-07-02 16:40
    by Jon Weisman

    Thanks for all your wonderful entries in The Most Obscure But Memorable Dodger Competition. This little foray has been one of the most gratifying experiences since I began Dodger Thoughts, teaching me that I'm not alone in appreciating the beauty of the mostly insignificant. I expected two or three responses - instead something in the neighborhood of 100 came. I'd expect the Dodgers themselves would be gratified as well.

    The official ranking of the responses will commence ASAP.

    Shawn Green: Tommy Lasorda told you to believe in yourself. My inspriational words: keep swinging at the opposite field.

    Tonight's Game

    Beneath the Radar ...
    2004-07-01 17:15
    by Jon Weisman

    Tuesday and Wednesday, Cesar Izturis had consecutive games without reaching base for the very first time this season.

    In 73 games in which he has an at-bat, Izturis has had a base hit in 57 and a hit or walk in 62.

    With all that, Izturis' OPS still dropped below .700, because he has had only one extra-base hit since June 18.

    Izturis is one of four Dodgers with exactly 15 walks this season, along with Adrian Beltre, Paul Lo Duca and ... Jose Hernandez.

    Tonight's Game

    Back in '98, Much Less Rope for Nomo
    2004-07-01 10:55
    by Jon Weisman

    Hideo Nomo's first final season with the Dodgers was in 1998.

    After going 14-12 with a 4.25 ERA in 1997, Nomo opened '98 with alternating good and bad starts in April. On April 13, for example, he pitched seven innings of one-run ball against Houston. Five days later, he allowed eight runs in two-thirds of an inning - on three hits - in Chicago.

    Nomo followed the worst start of his career with three quality starts, in which Nomo allowed seven runs in 24 innings (2.33 ERA). Then came another early knockout - four runs in 2 2/3 innings in Florida.

    Three more quality starts followed - eight runs allowed in 20 2/3 innings (3.48 ERA). Going into his May 30 start against Cincinnati, Nomo had a 4.50 ERA for the season in 11 appearances, with seven effective starts of six innings or more. His 2-6 record to that point was somewhat misleading.

    On the 30th, the Reds struck Nomo with six runs in 3 2/3 innings.

    On June 4, in a trade replete with obscure Dodgers, Nomo was sent to the New York Mets with Brad Clontz for Dave Mlicki and Greg McMichael. Over those 1 1/2 years, Nomo would have contracts with seven different organizations.

    Thanks to an off day, the Dodgers didn't have to replace Nomo in the starting rotation until June 6. Following starts by Ismael Valdes, Darren Dreifort, Ramon Martinez and Chan Ho Park, Mlicki took the mound in Nomo's place, and allowed six runs in three innings.

    Mlicki pitched eight innings of one-run ball in his next Dodger start, showing that the Dodgers had just as inconsistent a pitcher as they had in Nomo, though perhaps a better one. Mlicki's Dodger ERA in 1998 was 4.05. Nomo's with the Mets was 4.82.

    A little more than three years later, Nomo returned to the Dodgers, with little in the way of expectations, and posted ERAs of 3.39 in 2002 and 3.09 in 2003.

    Nomo's career ERA has jumped from 3.64 at the end of 2003 to 4.0041 today.

    2004-07-01 09:46
    by Jon Weisman

    As commenter Ben P pointed out this morning, the Dodgers' recent woes have hardly knocked them out of the playoff hunt. Even if Los Angeles loses a game in the standings tonight against Jason Schmidt, it will be 4 1/2 games behind in the division and only three games back in the wild card. (Who had July 1 in the pool for the first annual mention of the wild card?)

    Trends are trends, and the Dodgers are sluggish right now. But if the Dodgers get a healthy Odalis Perez back, and if Edwin Jackson can cut Hideo Nomo's ERA in half, the Dodgers will do better. Those aren't the two biggest ifs in the world.

    They Booed a Man in Reno, Just to Watch Him Die
    2004-07-01 09:38
    by Jon Weisman

    I've never been booed in my life - not because I've never deserved it, but because, despite a famous In the Bleachers cartoon of years past, writers rarely get heckled by 50,000 angry fans.

    Maybe being booed isn't so bad. Maybe if I had experienced it, I wouldn't be so sensitive to it.

    Of course, I haven't been smacked with a 2-by-4 either. I could try that too.

    * * *

    Why did some fans boo Hideo Nomo when he walked off the mound last night?

    It's not a trick question. I know what an 8.06 ERA is.

    Though I don't boo people, I can understand fans venting while the opposition cracks, shellacks, lacquers and spackles their pitcher, and while their manager tolerates it. That's often as much about booing the event as the man.

    But after it's over, after a guy has sweated through 95 pitches, almost every one of them traumatic in some fashion, how do you boo him?

    Was it once-in-a-blue-moon attendees who booed, annoyed that their game had been spoiled?

    Was it diehard fans who booed, to send a message that Nomo shouldn't return to that mound until the day - if that day is to ever come - he is ready to pitch with authority rather than prayer?

    Was it the fates who booed, enforcing the rules that those who earn cheers one day must earn boos the next, to balance out the cosmos?

    At a certain point, the past becomes irrelevant when you play the game. You have to send out your best nine of that day, regardless of how great a career someone has had. Otherwise, the starting center fielder for the Giants last night would have been Willie Mays.

    But when a guy is walking off the field, if you have any knowledge at all to what he has done for your team in the past, the joy he has brought so many people, the effort he has put in for so many years, booing sounds way more hurtful to me than an 8.06 ERA.

    * * *

    Turning to Shawn Green ...

    The original title of this piece was going to be, "Did They Boo Loo Gehrig?"

    I have wondered over the past few days whether Yankee fans in 1939, before they knew that Gehrig was fatally ill, had booed their hero when his performance suddenly fell off the eight-year-old Empire State Building.

    Some quick research on Retrosheet this morning reminded me that Gehrig made it through only eight games in 1939. Though he was 4 for 28, that probably wasn't enough time for Yankee fans to get angry at someone so beloved. Gehrig was coming off a fine 1938 season, batting .295 with 29 home runs and 114 RBI.

    No one on the Dodgers, as far as I know, has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. But I've never seen a power hitter still in his prime look more weak, look more like he was suffering the initial effects of Lou Gehrig's Disease, than Shawn Green.

    Wednesday, Dodger manager Jim Tracy dropped Green to sixth in the order, and, though he is still holding out for patience, Green has accepted the demotion.

    "This team, right now, Belly should be hitting fourth," Green told "Today's lineup, it's fine. I haven't been productive. If you move a guy down with the intent of it being a holding pattern until the player gets hot, sure. I'm just trying to get in a good groove and not worrying about anything else. When my swing is right, it's right."

    Obviously, Dodger fans aren't happy that Green is struggling. Some will be satisfied that he was dropped to sixth in the lineup; others won't be satisfied until he is dropped further or benched.

    For my part, no matter how much he claims otherwise, Green does not convince me that something isn't physically wrong with him. He kept quiet about being hurt last year and had a major health issue heading into this season. There is very little evidence that Green would publicly disclose a physical problem.

    I can be unhappy about his performance. I can even yell at him when he only jogs after a foul fly ball to right, as he did Tuesday.

    But I can't boo an injured player. And something - whatever it is - about Green is hurting - even if I'm wrong about the physical and it turns out to be only mental.

    * * *

    Update: The following excerpts are from the 1939 New York Times, courtesy of Eric Enders.

    March 15: Lou Gehrig, despite all his intensive work, is off to a typically slow Spring start. ... Gehrig and Keller have one blow apiece to show for twelve times at bat. These figures, of course, are nothing to be alarmed about. Yet an improvement would be welcomed.

    March 21: "Why should I sit up nights worrying about the way Lou is looking down here? All I've got to do is look at the record book and turn over and go to sleep." - Yankee manager Joe McCarthy

    March 30: Everybody seems to be worried about Gehrig. Everybody but me, that is. ... he's got confidence in himself, he's feeling fine, and I refuse to worry about him unless and until he makes me in the championship race. - McCarthy

    April 3: To Sports Editor of The New York Times: Like many other fans, I attribute Lou Gehrig's recent failure to play good baseball to the havoc wrought by thirteen years of uninterrupted comptetition. I believe it was Jimmie Dykes who suggested that the Yankee first baseman go off on an extended fishing trip and forget baseball.

    May 2: Lou Gehrig's matchless record of uninterrupted play in American League championship games, stretched over fifteen years and through 2,130 straight contests, came to an end today. ... With the consent of Manager Joe McCarthy, Gehrig removed himself because he, better than anybody else, perhaps, recognized his competitive decline and was frankly aware of the fact he was doing the Yankees no good defensively or on the attack.

    The present plan is to keep him on the bench. Relaxing and shaking off the mental hazards he has admittedly encountered this season, he may swing into action in the hot weather, which should have a beneficial effect upon his tired muscles.

    May 3: "He feels blue. He is dejected." - McCarthy

    May 3: Gehrig, visibly affected, explained his decision quite frankly.

    "I decided last Sunday night on this move," said Lou. "I haven't been a bit of good to this team since the season started. It would not be fair to the boys, to Joe or to the baseball public for me to try going on. In fact, it would not be fair to myself, and I'm the last consideration. ...

    "McCarthy has been swell about it the whole time. He'd let me go until the cows came home, he is that considerate of my feelings, but I knew in Sunday's game that I should get out of there.

    "I went up there four times with men on base. Once there were two there. A hit would have won the ball game for the Yankees, but I missed, leaving five stranded as the Yankees lost. Maybe a rest will do me some good. Maybe it won't. Who knows? Who can tell? I'm just hoping."

    Gehrig retired June 21, 1939, two days after his 36th birthday, with the announcement that he suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Lou Gehrig Day was held at Yankee Stadium July 4, 1939.

    Can you imagine what that year was like?

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    About Jon
    Thank You For Not ...

    1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
    2) personally attacking other commenters
    3) baiting other commenters
    4) arguing for the sake of arguing
    5) discussing politics
    6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
    7) using sarcasm in a way that can be misinterpreted negatively
    8) making the same point over and over again
    9) typing "no-hitter" or "perfect game" to describe either in progress
    10) being annoyed by the existence of this list
    11) commenting under the obvious influence
    12) claiming your opinion isn't allowed when it's just being disagreed with