Monthly archives: November 2004
Dreiforting for Dollars
In his weekly mailbag for Dodgers.com, Ken Gurnick provided a solid answer to a question that has probably crossed the minds of several of you:
Is any of Darren Dreifort's salary for next year covered by insurance if he doesn't pitch? - Gary P., New York, N.Y.
Yes, but it's not so simple that the Dodgers suddenly have an extra $13.4 million to spend. They do have some disability insurance on Dreifort, but the terms are complicated. Reportedly, Dreifort must be disabled for one complete year from the date he last pitched, Aug. 16. As astounding as his record of injuries has been, it's conceivable that he could be healed from his hip and knee injuries before that window expires and return to action.
Also, although the exact terms are not known, the reimbursement to the club is not dollar for dollar, but includes a deductible of millions of dollars. (Dodger general manager Paul) DePodesta said for payroll purposes he is assuming he must pay Dreifort the $13.4 million for which his contract calls.
So if there are any savings to be had from the Dreifort insurance money, they might not apply to the 2005 budget, but rather 2006.
Gurnick also writes that DePodesta has "expressed renewed interest" in Arizona pitcher Randy Johnson, but doubts that the Diamondbacks are interested in sending him to a division rival. Apparently, the line is drawn at Steve Finley and Brent Mayne.
Is Jason Kendall Worth $10M a Year?
The quality of the 2004 season of Jason Kendall, quite frankly, takes me by surprise.
Kendall, acquired by Oakland from Pittsburgh last week, was the fourth-most valuable catcher in baseball last season according to VORP on Baseball Prospectus, behind Ivan Rodriguez, Javy Lopez and Jorge Posada. He also had the most Win Shares of any catcher. He had the second-highest on-base percentage of any catcher.
That being said, should you be impressed?
Winning a Most Valuable Catcher award is a lot like winning Best Smelling Pig. The distinction is no guarantee of greatness. Catcher is the least productive offensive position (combining National and American League stats), excluding pitchers, meaning if you chase a player because he's considered a quality catcher, you risk chasing rainbows.
That's not to say there aren't truly great players who happen to be catchers. But catchers should not be evaluated relative only to their peers behind the plate, but to their peers across all of baseball as well.
Kendall was the 46th-most valuable position player in baseball last season, according to Baseball Prospectus, and in the top 30 in Win Shares. Given that there are 30 major league baseball teams, this positions Kendall to be the best or second-best position player on an average major league team, which is a more meaningful credential to have.
At the same time, this credential is about the least one would want from Kendall, given his salary. His new employer will be paying him more than $10 million per year.
Kendall's contract with Pittsburgh owed him $34 million over the upcoming three seasons. In sort of a strange arrangement, the A's will give the Pirates $1 million in 2005 and $1 million in 2006 - then receive $5 million in return in 2007. Do the math, and that leaves Oakland owing Kendall $31 million over three seasons, or $10,333,333 per year.
That's a big chunk of payroll.
Still, it can certainly work out for the A's, or whomever Kendall ends up playing for should the A's trade him. Outfielders who hit like the average catcher, for example, are much cheaper and easier to acquire than catchers who hit like the average outfielder. That's the beauty of locking in a superior catcher in his prime like Kendall, who is still only 30 years old - perhaps just past his peak, perhaps not, but certainly a few years away from the expectation of a sharp decline.
Kendall suffered through two pretty miserable seasons in 2001 and 2002, and those colored my opinion of him, I have to admit, until today, I hadn't really appreciated how much he bounced back. He would be an asset to the Dodgers, even at his current salary.
At the same time, there remain those who would begrudge giving Adrian Beltre $10 million per year. But if Jason Kendall is worth $10 million a year, despite having been outperformed by a younger Beltre in 2001, 2002 and 2004, what is Beltre worth? At least the same amount, even if you factor in that getting an average major league hitter to fill a third base vacancy is cheaper than getting an average major league hitter to fill a catcher vacancy.
The bottom line, of course is ... well, there are two bottom lines. Bottom Line 1 is that you'd like your Kendalls and Beltres to come up from your farm system and become All-Stars before they earn their first million, like Albert Pujols. Bottom Line 2 is that, barring Bottom Line 1, it's nice not to have to choose between your Kendalls and your Beltres. And with the bad Dodger contracts of the past nearing expiration, if Frank McCourt can maintain the payroll, the Dodgers are getting closer to being able to do that.
In the meantime, there remain many other players - including many less expensive players - that can help a Dodger team that came within 10 victories of a World Series title in 2004.
The Quiet Month
Back to work. Hi everyone.
My favorite month of the year - the month where the air turns crisp and the worst of the smog goes into hibernation - is about to end. It's literally a month where I breathe happier and easier.
I couldn't help but notice, however, that several of last week's reader comments indicated impatience, if not outright fear, that the Dodgers choked on November and have waited too long to make improvements for 2005.
Call this my November palliative. Here are the significant baseball transactions from November 2003:
One year ago yesterday, the Red Sox made a trade that may have won them this season's World Series. Of course, Boston would make several more moves in the ensuing year, but certainly trading one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball for one of the best helped.
Beyond that, there were very few moves that mattered. Some teams improved, even fleecing other teams, but none made a real difference. Note the playoff teams on the list:
This November has been no different, with only one potentially noteworthy transaction - unless names like Omar Vizquel, Christian Guzman or the Washington Exponationals cause you arrhythmia - taking place in the past four weeks: Jason Kendall to the A's.
Like former Dodger general manager Dan Evans in 2003, Paul DePodesta spent the quiet month poking and prodding the meat market but otherwise shopping in the minor league and fringe produce section, plucking a number of candidates for the back end of the Dodger roster. And as anyone can see, the post-Thanksgiving leftovers on this year's free agent menu, let alone on the trade menu, are bigger than the meal itself.
So don't worry. The Hot Stove hasn't cooled yet. There's a crisp snap to the air for most of the winter.
Thanksgiving Week Open Chat
Folks, I'm going to take an extended Thanksgiving break. But don't dispose of me yet. I'll be back by December 1, perhaps sooner.
In the meantime, feel free to hang out with each other here. Happy Thanksgiving!
Beltre's First Good Season Wasn't 2004
It ain't exactly true. In 2000, at the age of 21, Beltre on-based .360, slugged .475, OPSed .835, posted 50 extra-base hits, including 20 home runs, and walked a career-high 56 times in 138 games.
That season, he put Beltran, who is almost exactly two years older, to shame. Beltran on-based .309, slugged .366, and had 15 doubles, seven home runs and 35 walks in 98 games.
Perhaps it is true that 2004 was Beltre's only great year. And certainly, Beltran was the better player from 2001-2003. It's safe to say that a team signing Beltran should feel confident he will deliver an OPS of .840 or better, as he has the past four seasons, and hopeful he will come in with an OPS of .900 or better, as he has the past two seasons.
Still, the idea that Beltre should be the subject of some immense amount of skepticism based on his resume, at least compared to Beltran, is overblown:
Both Beltre and Beltran started their careers solidly, suffered a dip, then rebounded to become better than ever.
Both Beltre and Beltran had exactly two seasons with OPSes of .800 or better before turning 26.
Both Beltre and Beltran have had one injury-plagued season, and both have shown they can play full seasons.
Beltan's two best OPS seasons before turning 26 were .841 and .876; Beltre's are .835 and 1.017.
This is not to say that there aren't areas where Beltran is significantly better than Beltre. For one thing, Beltran may be the best basestealer in the game today, with a remakrable 192 steals in 215 career attempts. Secondly, Beltran has had healthier career walk totals than Beltre, always good insurance against a slumping hitter.
We won't know who the better bargain is until the contracts are notarized and the dollar signs released. For now, most major league baseball insiders and outsiders seem to have decided that Beltran is the less risky player. But I continue to feel that people are inflating the risk of Beltre suffering a steep decline - and remember, any kind of shallow decline still leaves him at All-Star caliber.
Latest Announcer Candidate: Steiner
Charley Steiner? I liked him on SportsCenter during that show's halcyon days, and haven't minded him on the few occasions I've heard him on radio. But I don't know that Yankee fans feel the same way.
Update: Tom Hoffarth at the Daily News says it's happening as of next week: Steiner will be the Dodgers new No. 2 play-by-play announcer. No source for the report is given, however.
Update 2: Says Alex Belth at Bronx Banter: "The first thing that popped into my head was a moment from The Honeymooners when Alice sang, 'I don’t want him, you can have him, he’s too fat for me.' Yo, chill kid. Actually, I don’t mind Steiner at all, but he was hopelessly miscast alongside ol' Silver Throat, John Sterling. Why? Because their pairing violates the fat-skinny tradition of comedy teams like Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Gleason and Carney, Siskel and Ebert, and Mike and the Mad Dog. With Steiner and Sterling you had heft with hefty and the chemistry just didn’t work. I hope Steiner goes to L.A. and flourishes."
I will caution that while something seems to be up, as of Friday morning not a single source was on the record about Steiner being hired.
Update 3: The New York Times says in Saturday's editions that the announcement will come Monday. Not even an unnamed source is mentioned.
Talk About the Rising Price of Gas ...
Saw the nifty movie Sideways on Veterans Day and, among many other things, was struck by a passing shot of a Buellton gas station where the posted prices were under $2 per gallon. What a bargain that seems like today.
Over the past week, I've had the opposite reaction reading about the first wave of free agent contracts:
Collectively, we're talking 13 years, $53.55 million, or $4.12 million per year. Yet one could argue that none of the above players performs at a level that would guarantee they will be starters at their positions, or in Percival's case the closer, by the end of 2005.
Perhaps the Dodger budget won't stretch quite as far as we might have thought. There is some real talent out there, but you start to feel poorer when it costs $40 to fill up your tank just so you can spin your wheels.
Maybe in that moment, in a vaccum, before the other teams have made their moves, that's true. Nightengale further writes that the Giants may go for broke in 2005 and raise their team payroll from $70 million to $100 million. But that won't mean much until we know what's happening with the Dodger roster vacancies. Becoming the NL West favorite in November isn't too meaningful.
For what it's worth, it does appear quite possible that the 2007 Giants will be doing their best imitation of the 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks.
More Minor Signings
One intriguing candidate for the back end of the Dodger bullpen could be soon-to-be-27-year-old Buddy Carlyle, who had ERAs of 0.72 in AA and 4.05 in AAA in the New York Yankee organization in 2004. In the two levels combined, Carlyle struck out 140 batters in 144 innings while allowing 136 hits and 25 walks.
More Spanish Lessons
Piazza: No. 3 Without a Bullet
Former Dodger catcher Mike Piazza has been the third-most popular choice of Most Valuable Player voters since Barry Bonds became a major leaguer, behind Bonds (of course) and Frank Thomas - despite receiving only nine first-place votes in nine years.
Pop Goes the Weasel
News: New Washington general manager Jim Bowden commits $23 million to contracts for third baseman Vinny Castilla (104 OPS+ in 2004, where 100 is average) and shortstop Christian Guzman (78 OPS+ in 2004).
Preaction: From Dodger Thoughts, February 13, 2004:
Technically, at least, the Dodgers have other general manager candidates to replace Danglin' Dan Evans. One who would like to be considered is Jim Bowden, former general manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
Jilty As Charged?
More news from the hometown of Jayson Werth ...
The Dodger outfielder is suing former Chatham (Ill.) Glenwood High classmate Ryan Root for, well, for being a very bad jilted ex-boyfriend of Werth's wife, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. (Baseball Primer pointed me to the news.)
I've spent nearly a half an hour trying to come up with something insightful to say about this. Here's the best I've got:
My Chicago-born father pronounces the "root" in "root beer" as if it rhymes with "put" or "foot."
Previous page 1 news: Werth's sister headed for UCLA.
Hello Detroit? Carlos Perez Offered Contract
The Detroit Tigers are offering memorable former Dodger pitcher Carlos Perez an invitation to Spring Training and a one-year contract with a team option for 2006, according to a Spanish-language report by The Associated Press cited by Raul Tavares of Dominican Players.
The report indicates that Perez, who has struck out nine while allowing one run in 8 1/3 innings with Licey in the Dominican Winter League, may take some time before choosing whether to accept the offer.
From the story:
"Estamos muy interesados en Pérez. Ha lucido fenomenal y creemos que aún puede sacar muchos outs en las grandes ligas," dijo Ramón Peña, supervisor de los cazatalentos de Detroit en Latinoamérica.
From the always amusing Systran translation:
"Very we are interested in Perez. It has shone phenomenal and we think that still it can remove many outs in great ligas," said to Ramon Rock, supervisor of the cazatalentos of Detroit in Latin America.
Perez is famous in Los Angeles for (in no particular order): 1) Four consecutive complete-game victories from September 2-20, 1998, his lawsuit-inducing conduct on a team flight in 2000 and his destruction of what was once a water cooler earlier that year.
The Disposable Baseball Blogger
Farewell, Brian Gunn.
Farewell, Edward Cossette.
Rest in peace, Doug Pappas.
Baseball blogging is young, young like the days when there were hundreds of automobile makers instead of a handful, young like the days when there was enough test pattern time on your television that anyone with an idea and a sponsor could grab a regular time slot (although, thanks to cable and satellite, you might say TV clumsily clings to its youth.)
The brief history of baseball blogging has been a land rush - acres and acres of virgin www out there for the pickings like an online version of the old American West, requiring only a little moxie to stake a claim. But just like the dark side of Manifest Destiny, not every homesteader hangs on. Some stick it out for only a few months, or weeks, or days, or - you've seen it, no doubt - hours.
The tattered remnants of their domains can still often be found, scattered about like ghost towns or crosses in the dirt. It's been axiomatic in the genre that even very intelligent voices are better suited to be regular readers than regular writers. And some cityfolk never had any business being out in that wilderness to begin with.
But 2004, perhaps, marks the first year in which a couple of baseball bloggers who struck it rich creatively, a Huntington and a Stanford (hey, it's Big Game week) of baseball blogging, have decided to walk away on top. Within weeks of each other, Gunn and Cossette, the leading bloggers of this year's World Series teams at Redbird Nation and Bambino's Curse, pulled up stakes and head back to their former lives.
Most certainly, this year marked the first time that the passing of a baseball blogger was mourned. Doug Pappas, a contributor to Baseball Prospectus, also authored his own website, Doug's Business of Baseball Weblog, which was the world's most lucid and informative provider of legal and business information and commentary related to baseball. Pappas died unexpectedly in May, at the age of 42.
It's enough to make the hardiest consider questions of their own baseball blogging mortality. No one sticks it out in the Great American Blog without passion and dedication, but in a world where financial compensation could be years away, if it's coming at all, in a world where there's always some young whippersnapper ready to try his luck at being his own baseball-writing boss, in a world where some of the best have already bid us goodbye, some serious questions come to mind.
No. 1 on the list is this: How fleeting is a baseball blogger's existence?
"On some level, yes, we are all replaceable," Gunn said in one of a series of interviews conducted by Dodger Thoughts in the past week. "I trust that there will always be bloggers with the intelligence, the expressiveness, the time, and the gumption to share their thoughts online with a community of like-minded fans. If anything, I think the blog revolution is just getting started - the more people who do it, and do it well, the more people will follow in their footsteps. On the other hand, there are a number of bloggers out there who have truly original voices, and once they step away from the keyboard there will be no one to take their place."
David Pinto, writer of perhaps the leading national baseball blog, Baseball Musings, seconded the notion of the disposable blogger.
"Of course that's true," Pinto said. "No one has a monopoly on ideas, and new blood brings new perspectives. In 20 years, people will be complaining about the old bloggers not being with all the new ways of presenting information, that we're living in the past. (If I ever write that players in the 1990s were better than players today, please shoot me.) And some of it will be true. That's why it's good to try new things. I think All-Baseball and The Hardball Times are great ideas; over time they'll present a familiar structure, but they can be innovative and not only bring in new people, but new ways of presenting information and using technology."
Even the most faithful readers of certain blogs share the sentiment that baseball bloggers are replaceable.
"Sorry," said Bob Timmermann, a member of the Society of American Baseball Research and an almost daily commenter on Baseball Think Factory's Baseball Primer and Dodger Thoughts. "No one has made me think that they are the Jim Murray of bloggers yet."
Murray Markowitz, a 34-year-old corporate transactions lawyer living in New York and a daily reader of Alex Belth's Bronx Banter, pointed out that bloggers shouldn't feel too bad, because "most of us, in all areas of endeavor, are replaceable." On the other hand, he noted that Pappas really hasn't been replaced.
"The bloggers who take the time to develop a unique style or who cover a distinctive sub-field become indispensable," Markowitz said. "Doug Pappas, for example, was a lawyer who covered the business of baseball at his website. He was witty, incisive, never patronizing to his readers, and covered the discipline better than anybody else in the U.S. The knowledge gap in this field that has resulted from his untimely death is deep and wide."
The potential exists, in other words, for even the lowly blogger to rise above the expectations of genre and become an integral part of the baseball world.
Said Jonah Keri, a Baseball Prospectus colleague of Pappas: "I think the feeling was nearly unanimous throughout Baseball Prospectus, the blogosphere and the broader baseball community that it would be extremely difficult to find a writer with Doug's rare combination of legal savvy, financial acumen, writing skill, passion for baseball and free time who could do what he did in the way that he did it. We have called on talented writers from outside the group, such as Neil deMause, as well as some of our own writers to cover topics that Doug would've probably covered were he still around, and they've done a very good job, but obviously their work differs from Doug's in numerous ways."
Pappas' work ended in the worst kind of sudden. But Cossette and Gunn voluntarily left their websites despite being two of the most respected writers in the field, despite fast-rising critical and popular acclaim. Certainly, these talented writers will resurface in other places - in his final posting, Cossette implied as much - but the question remains, when things are going so good, why go?
"I do ... miss the other loves of my life," Gunn wrote in his farewell message to his readers. "Spending more time with friends, or watching movies, or getting outside, or working harder on my day job, and all the other things that fell by the wayside during my daily blogathon. As you can guess, keeping Redbird Nation fresh and lively is a huge time and energy commitment, and the sacrifices I'd have to make to come back for a third year are too great."
Gunn added in his Dodger Thoughts interview that while blogging needn't be all or nothing, sometimes the compulsion is too difficult to resist.
"I do think there's something about weblogs that contributes to this sense of disproportion," he said. ”One of the virtues of blogs is that they're essentially limitless - you can write as much or as little as you want, any time of the day or night. But this can also be a trap. Because you have no deadlines, you feel like you're always on the clock. Because you have no editor or space limitations, you feel like you can always be writing more. The form practically begs you to be more expansive. Throw in the fact that bloggers tend to have compulsive personalities (actually that's not a fact at all - more of a casual observation), and you end up with a lot of folks who have problems establishing boundaries with their blogging. Or at least that's true in my case."
Jay Jaffe, whose site, The Futility Infielder, was one of the earliest entries in the field, said he "shocked himself" by completing a year of writing - and now he's well into his fourth. But Jaffe added that his longevity has been aided by him picking his spots.
"I'm not manic about posting every day," Jaffe said. "My general feeling is that unless I can put together at least four or five interesting paragraphs on a topic, I'll leave it for somebody else to cover until I can weigh in. If that means posting two or three times a week as opposed to five or six, so be it."
Less is more. Sounds like a simple-enough strategy, like "try a diet low in saturated fats." But it's a difficult balance. Only a few of those who turn off the compulsion to write every day can turn it back on with ease. And with fewer posts, one risks a diminishing hold on the audience.
"If a blogger is too bored with the subject to post fresh material, then I can't be bothered with his work unless he's really good," Markowitz said. "Especially during the offseason, when I'm looking for something to fill the baseball gap (I don't follow hockey, basketball or football), I like to be able to read something everyday, whether it's a link to a useful article, or a think piece about what the most competitive World Series ever was."
The dream of many baseball bloggers - though not nearly as many as you might think - is to make money to support, if not justify, the time and effort. The Whopper dream is to earn a living; the Whopper Jr. is to earn enough to cover server costs and maybe a few ballgame tickets.
Some sites reap a few dollars through advertisements such as Google Ads, others generate a few kind donations from benevolent readers. Sites also function as a de facto resume and portfolio for their writers, and occasionally succeed in finding the writer paid freelance work that otherwise would not have come.
But with the reality of the disposable blogger comes the fear that if you contemplate charging for your services, you had better be prepared for some awkward silences of the Paypal variety.
"I don't know when I'd be willing to pay," Timmermann said. "Someone better have some content that knocks my socks off."
Without a doubt, the audience for a pay-for-play blogger would drop faster than the horse that Mongo slugged. On the other hand, the transcendent blogger might find readers willing to spend.
"Bloggers who offer genuine analysis, coupled with a good chuckle or two, become worth the price of a subscription," Markowitz said. "Take Jim Baker, Bill James' former assistant who was also responsible for some of the funniest material in Bill's books in the mid-1980s, for example. Jim published a free daily e-mail thread a few years back that I started reading, but he terminated it when he joined the ESPN Insider site. I was willing to pay ESPN to keep reading Jim's work, but I canceled my subscription when they fired him because there's nobody else at their site whose work is worth $50 a year. I now pay for Baseball Prospectus so that I can read Jim Baker and Steve Goldman."
Said Dodger Thoughts reader Brian Greene: "I hate to admit it because free is nice, but I'd pay for Dodger Thoughts before I'd pay for ESPN Insider. Forty dollars a year is a fair price for what amounts to 300+ entries/year targeted to my top interest. But this is theoretical, right?'
Actually, it is. For the indefinite future, anyway. Because the income would come with a cost. With the inevitable loss in audience quantity comes losses in something critical to the baseball blogger: the reader who is referred to or accidentally stumbles onto the site. Bloggers who lock their entries away in premium mode before they have fully matured are, in some respect, sacrificing the future for the present.
By the end of the 2004 season, former Dodger broadcaster Ross Porter was quoting pieces from Dodger Thoughts on the air. When the season began, however, Porter had never seen a blog nor heard of blogging.
"There must be plenty of people who are searching the Internet who come across columns like yours and learn something," Porter said. "They then bookmark them and study them daily. That's what I did this year."
As much as bloggers often disdain the mainstream media - a disdain, it should be noted, that is admired by some readers and ridiculed by others - the mainstream media's acceptance of a blog is vital to hastening its must-read status among a wider audience.
Those sites currently on the move from fringe to mainstream, like Baseball Prospectus, are taking an occasional but important glance at the blog world as well.
"Several of us at Baseball Prospectus do take notice of the better bloggers out there," Keri said. "And we have reached out to a small handful of the best bloggers for some piecemeal work. Jay Jaffe's done both some very solid articles for us, as well as a bit of design work. Alex Belth has done a couple of excellent Q&As for the BP Web site. There have been a couple others too."
As 2004 nears its end, the strengths of baseball blogging, however outside of the mainstream the bloggers reside, are fairly clear.
"Blogs deliver at the speed of the AP wire but with deeply-informed analysis behind it," Greene said. "Throw in the forum for feedback with like-minded addicts and you've got the perfect drug.
"Bloggers have the opportunity to form more indelible connections with their audience than in any other media form I can think of," he continued. "Bloggers ... put their heart into their columns, reveal personal thoughts and memories, and most importantly interact with and know their readers."
Timmermann added praise for the "diverse opinions and willingness to embrace new ideas," noting that many do it with a sense of humor.
And for good measure, Markowitz offered this: "There have been a lot of smart people out there who did their own research about baseball history and statistics, but they never had the means to disseminate their work before. Now they're willing to share it with all the rest of us and give us the opportunity to comment on it, mostly for free. It's wonderful."
However, there remains an unmistakable immaturity to the medium. There are logistical drawbacks, as Greene pointed out, such as not having press credentials or frequent interviews that lead to scoops. There are also the limitations that arise largely from the average blogger's age.
"What's come along in the past year or so is a ton of young kids in their early 20s who have the enthusiasm, but haven't necessarily developed a distinctive angle or voice," Jaffe said. "The ones that do survive are better for it; they've shown themselves and their audience a skill and a devotion which leads people to invest time in following them. But what's lacking from these kids is a longer historical view of things. I want to see more 40-, 50-, 60-, 70-year olds blogging and providing us a different perspective.
"A guy that immediately springs to mind is Steve Treder, who's older than the average blogger and who's done some great historical work on the Giants, Dodgers, and Cardinals of the '60s over at The Hardball Times. Rich Lederer, with his series on the old Baseball Abstracts, is another great example. As blogging becomes more respected and more mainstream, we might see more of those types who will add a needed diversity to the mix. I mean, how many blogs do we need to cover the personnel moves and on-field results of team X?"
Indeed, some of the genre's deficiencies are simply quality and attitude issues. In Timmermann's words, it's about baseball blogging sometimes being "too hip for its own good." As Markowitz put it, it's "the shrill but phony omniscience that some bloggers convey through their sites."
Markowitz also pointed out that blogging is too inconsistent.
"Newspapers and magazines have editors," he said, 'but most bloggers don't."
Whaa? Bloogers neeeed editorz?
"It takes some work sifting through the lower-quality sites to find the few that warrant attention," Keri said.
And there's the Jose Offerman, otherwise known as the Catch-22. Like many other endeavors, it takes about as much work to go from D work to A- as it does to go from A- to A.
In the end, what motivates baseball bloggers to do even the flawed work they do?
"I just enjoy commenting on baseball," Pinto said. "It's just wonderful to have a voice. I had many motivations for starting the blog ... but the main motivation was that I had hosted Baseball Tonight Online for a year, and liked being able to get my opinions out, rather than working to support other people's opinions. I think that will always be the motivating factor behind the blog."
Jaffe's motivations are oriented both to the community and personal.
"The connection I feel to my readers and to other bloggers, the desire to focus on something that I'm knowledgeable and passionate about yet can stomach contemplating 365 days a year (unlike, say, politics or even music), and the hope that eventually I'll be able to support myself at least in part with my writing," he said.
"Now, as my blog has grown in popularity and I've gotten the opportunity to occasionally make a buck from my work, I'd like to write a baseball book. Actually, I'd like to write several baseball books, and I've got a proposal that's in the works. I believe that the stuff I've done with the blog has shown that I'm a viable candidate to do a book-length project."
Without a doubt, blogging has generated some fond memories for its brethren - and community has played a large role. The reaction and interaction can prove addictive.
"One time," Gunn said, "I did a post on Albert Pujols right after a game in which he downed the Cubs with three home runs. I put up the post, noticed a small error, corrected it, and by the time I returned to the main page - seriously, a 10-second process altogether - there was already a comment from a fan. Within 10 seconds! I'm a screenwriter during the day, and in my job it can sometimes take years and years for something to go from idea to screen. With Redbird Nation it was instantaneous. That moment after the Pujols game reminded me just how closely connected I was to this community of Cards fans sharing in my excitement."
Said Pinto: "The day the A-Rod to Boston trade fell apart was a great example of what blogging can do. I started off the day angry at the (players') union, but discussion in the comments, letters and other articles moderated my views by the end of the day."
And there is always the tantalizing possibility that you can become more significant than you would ever have dared daydream.
"My other favorite blogging memory," Gunn said, "is when Jeff Luhnow, VP of Baseball Development for the Cardinals, asked me to assess, on my blog, the signability of Edgar Renteria. I thought, man, it's not just my mom reading this site anymore."
Nope, it's not just Mom. But these are still Mom and Pop shops in the baseball blogging corner of the universe, and if history has proven anything, it's that Mom and Pop shops can so easily disappear.
"I take a very Darwinesque view," Jaffe said. "There will always be new talent to fill various niches, though whether they measure up to what came before is up for grabs. I like to think that the best of us have unique, inimitable styles, but there are scores of other great writers out there who could take up blogging and quickly be among the best."
For some, baseball blogging remains simply a good time, and that's plenty. But for those who care to pay attention not just to the content of the baseball blogs, but the blogs and bloggers themselves, the next chapter could be a pivotal one, as some of those fighting the replaceability demon scores some knockdown punches.
"I imagine that's the goal of any writer worth his salt," Keri said. “No one's irreplaceable, but make a unique legacy for yourself in your writing, so that people can look back on your body of work and say: 'There will be plenty of good writers who'll do great work in the future, but no one quite like that guy.' "
San Francisco Gets Older Up the Middle
Omar Vizquel is the Giants' new shortstop, according to an unnamed source of The Associated Press. David Pinto reviews the transaction at Baseball Musings and gives it a thumbs down, mainly because San Francisco committed three years and more than $12 million to a 38-year-old who isn't likely to be significantly better than Deivi Cruz.
I tend to agree. Vizquel may help the Giants marginally in 2005 - which perhaps is all that matters as the Barry Bonds retirement clock ticks - but that money might be better spent on pitching.
Update: The Fourth Outfielder Baseball Blog examines the signing in great detail, concluding that we may be underestimating Vizquel's remaning value, both offensively and defensively - and yet even so, "neither is this the kind of signing which indicates a team is playoff-bound."
Penny Let Loose 'High Heat' Friday
Caveat: It's a Houston Chronicle hunting story.
On Friday, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny loosed some high heat on a huge buck at Carter's Apache Springs Ranch north of San Antonio.
"We've got him scored at 213," (Carter's Country hunting stores and Sombrerito Ranch owner Bill) Carter said from the ranch. "He's got 22 points, and he's 23 inches inside. (Florida Marlins pitcher) Josh Beckett's up here, too. He got an 8-point that goes better than 160."
And they say baseball has all the cool stats ...
Werth to UCLA
Hillary Werth, sister of outfielder Jayson Werth, signed a letter of intent to attend defending national outdoor track-and-field champion UCLA, according to the Springfield (Ill.) State Journal-Register, and compete in the hurdles, heptathlon and graphic arts.
Footnote: Her high school track coach is named T.J. Jumper.
Catcher Signing Raises Questions About Ross' Future
Minor-league journeyman catcher Mike Rose has been signed as a free agent by the Dodgers to compete with fellow eight-lettered backstop Dave Ross for a roster slot with Los Angeles, according to Rose's hometown paper, the Sacramento Bee.
Rose, it may not surprise you, played in Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta's former organization, the Oakland A's, with AAA Sacramento - and had a .407 on-base percentage last season, walking 76 times. That was higher than his .401 slugging percentage, but still enough to help Rose win AAA All-Star honors. By comparison, former Dodger catching prospect Koyie Hill on-based .339 and slugged .471 with AAA Las Vegas in 2004.
The Bee goes as far as to call the 28-year-old Rose, who has played for 12 teams in 11 seasons, a "front-runner" for a job. The article further indicates that Rose would be competing with Ross to be the backup, indicating that a new front-line catcher is very much in DePodesta's plans.
Los Angeles also signed two other ex-Sacramento players, utility man Mike Edwards (.816 OPS) and outfielder Jon Weber (.951 OPS in 19 games with Sacramento after .825 OPS with AA Midland), to compete for slots on the bench, according to the report.
NLCS Game 4, 1984: Drysdale, Cey and Garvey
What an unexpected feast of Dodger legends I found today when I caught the last 20 minutes of an ESPN Classic broadcast of a game from 20 years ago: Chicago at San Diego, Game 4, National League Championship Series, October 6, 1984.
Cubs lead the series, 2-1. Game is tied, 5-5, in the ninth inning.
1) The late Alan Wiggins led off the bottom of the ninth by bunting just foul with two strikes. What record did Wiggins set while in the Dodger organization?
2) Who were the commentators for ABC alongside Drysdale?
Holy Cow - I Am an Old Fogey
When the season ended and Robin Ventura and Steve Finley parted ways with the Dodgers, that meant that for the first time in my life, I am older than every single Los Angeles Dodger.
Cold Water on the Hot Stove
Extra! Here's a story about something that isn't going to happen.
Extra! Here's a story that tells us people talked about something.
Extra! Here's a story about the story that told us people talked about something that isn't going to happen. We have no new information to add to the previous non-information - read all about it!
Welcome to the Hot Stove League, every baseball fan's second-favorite time of year. What's the purpose of these Hot Stove stories? They get us talking. They let us play Assistant General Manager.
What's the harm? None, right? Except we're talking about nonsense.
Everybody loves the Hot Stove League. Everyone is looking for the latest rumor. Think about it. The latest rumor. It doesn't have to be real news. It can be the most hypothetical or fantastical discussion involving any general managers. It can be reported by journalists from every walk of credibility.
That doesn't stop people from denigrating the legitimacy of the rumor. But that seems to be part of the fun.
So what's happened to this baseball fan for the past 30 years? Why am I no longer having fun? Why, when I see a Shawn Green for Sammy Sosa or Mike Piazza trade rumor, or for that matter, Eric Gagne for Mark Prior (sheesh), why can't I engage in the fun of rating the pros and cons? Why, when I conclude that rumor won't come true, can't come true, does the rumor SO ANNOY me?
How come I just want someone to wake me when the actual event occurs?
It's not as if I'm against discussing whether a player would be a good acquisition for the Dodgers. I've been doing it plenty. But I think I have a problem with my perception that the flimsiest rumors can be taken so seriously.
We all know that a conversation between two general managers, or a general manager and an agent, is just a conversation about nothing 99 times out of 100. It's just part of the process. It's the lather before you rinse and repeat. In fact, this qualifier usually comes on the second or third day - the traditional rumor-debunking follow-up story. "They were just talks - nothing more."
Yet in the meantime, every little conversation that gets reported is analyzed coast-to-coast, fan-to-fan.
If there were a collective acknowledgement that hey, everyone's really just shooting the breeze, from the media and its audiences, than I might relax. But the heatedness with which everyone seeks to sell and buy these snake-oil stories turns me into a curmudgeon faster than the guy in the lane next to mine causing an earthquake with his car stereo.
I don't want to be an old fogey. I don't mean to ruin everyone's fun. I wish I were sharing in it. But I'm not.
Maybe, somehow, this will turn out to be cathartic. For now, it's time for my nap. Wake me when there's a real deal to discuss.
Update: Actually, I do feel more relaxed having gotten that out of my system, as crochety as it sounded. Just to show I'm not such a bad guy, I'll completely invent, make up, fabricate a rumor for you all to discuss: Greg Miller for Barry Bonds.
In interviews with 15 baseball executives at baseball's general manager meetings this week, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN Insider found none who predicted Mr. Free Agent, Carlos Beltran, would receive a contract worth more than seven years at $105 million.
Like Scott Boras, baseball's hierarchy may have a posturing agenda in responding this way. But what the executives are saying seems more realistic to me than Boras' talk of a 10-year, $200-million deal.
This relates to Adrian Beltre, of course, in that Beltre's contract should fall just lower than Beltran's, based on Beltre's more recent ascendance to stardom.
A Conversation Was Had, Regarding Mr. Piazza and Mr. Green
And some will find it dubious, and some will find it keen.
From the Times:
(Paul) DePodesta and Met General Manager Omar Minaya discussed a trade that would result in catcher Mike Piazza returning to Chavez Ravine in exchange for outfielder Shawn Green.
The talks are in the preliminary stages and could include other players, but the swap makes more financial sense for the Dodgers than another potential deal involving Green, a trade that would bring outfielder Sammy Sosa to the Dodgers.
The Newark Star-Ledger calls the possibility "remote."
The Last Dodger HR Leader
The ensuing number of people rushing to tell the story of Jordan numbered, well, in the zeroes.
Beltre's home run doppleganger was born on Valentine's Day in New York, 125 years ago. A left-handed-hitting first baseman, Jordan made his debut at age 22 with the 1901 Washington Senators, but five years later, had only eight games and five hits in the majors to his name when he surfaced with the Brooklyn Superbas in 1906.
That year, on one coast, San Francisco was shaken by an earthquake. On another, Brooklyn was shaken by ... Tim Jordan!
Since 1900, according to Baseball Digest, three rookies have led the National League in home runs. Two of those were Brooklyn players at the turn of the century: outfielder Harry Lumley, who hit nine in 1904 (in the process becoming that rare home run leader to have more sacrifices than homers), and Jordan, who hit 12 in that 1906 season (with teammate Lumley again hitting nine to come in second). Both, by the way, finished behind the 1906 league leaders in triples, Pittsburgh's Fred Clarke and the Cubs' Frank Schulte each hitting 13, with Lumley hitting 12 in this category as well.
It will go without saying for most people that this was the Deadball Era. Think Dave Ross struggled in 2004? Brooklyn's starting catcher, Bill Bergen, batted .159 with six extra-base hits and seven walks in 103 games. Only two other Superbas, Whitey Appleman and "Silent" John Hummel, even homered for the team - combining for four.
Setting a precedent for Beltre, Jordan followed his smash rookie season by signing a seven-year, $103 million contract before the 1907 season (give or take six years and $102.99 million). Sadly, the cash went to his head and the homers went away from his bat. Jordan's home run production declined, by 67 percent, to four four-baggers, though the 6-foot-1, 170-pounder did boost his batting average and on-base percentage.
But in 1908, Jordan rallied to post the season that would have us all (okay, me) talking 96 years later.
When Jordan again eked out 12 home runs, for a 53-101 Brooklyn team in 1908, to lead the league, nobody knew it would be another century before a Dodger repeated the feat. What people did realize, however, was that Jordan had denied legendary Pittsburgh shortstop Honus Wagner, who had announced his retirement in March ("an annual rite of spring," according to BaseballLibrary.com) only to show up and lead the league with a .354 batting average and 109 RBI, a Triple Crown. Wagner finished second in the NL with 10 home runs, falling short in the best chance, as it turned out, that Wagner had in his career for the feat.
Despite leading the league with a home run total that was met or surpassed by 180 big leaguers in 2004, Jordan was no pansy. On July 22, 1908, Jordan became the first player to hit an over-the-fence home run at Pittsbugh's Exposition Park in the century. (Forbes Field opened the following season.) Foreshadowing many Dodger games of the future, Brooklyn lost the game, 2-1.
Two weeks later, Jordan and his teammates were held hitless by St. Louis lefty Johnny Lush in a rain-shortened five-inning game, which the Cardinals won, 2-0, when Jordan dropped a fly ball with the bases loaded. Another story of the times: Jordan made 28 errors at first base that season and 89 from 1906-08.
The NL's first two-time home run leader of the 1900s, Jordan was out of the majors before his 30th birthday. "Ailing knees forced his premature retirement," according to BaseballLibrary.com.
Tim Jordan died, at age 70, in 1949. Fifty-five years later, he came back to life.
Next Stop on the Time Capsule: 1959-66
The Dodgers of 1959-1966 get the spotlight treatment from Steve Treder in the Wednesday edition of The Hardball Times. A sampling :
The manner in which the Dodgers would respond to their 1964 problems was fascinating. One might expect that a team with plummeting offense would look to try and find another bat or two. Instead the Dodgers did just the opposite. In December they pulled off a blockbuster deal, easily the organization's most significant trade in at least a dozen years - and it was designed to bolster the pitching and defense, at the expense of the hitting. The Dodgers sent Howard, their only hitter with consistent home run power, to the Washington Senators, along with a promising young power-hitting third baseman (Ken McMullen) and two of the struggling young pitchers (Ortega and Richert). In return they received John Kennedy, a great-glove, no-bat third baseman, and the prize of the package: 25-year-old control-artist southpaw Claude Osteen.
...their remarkable run from 1959 through 1966 deserves recognition as a feat of patience and prudence, followed by a sudden dash of idiosyncratic boldness. In the long and storied history of the Dodger franchise, they may have had better teams, but few quite as successful, or as interesting.
Pitchers to Pursue
Here's a peek at 28 pitchers available on the free-agent market. Though it leaves off such players like hometown loyalist Roger Clemens and reclamation projects like Hideo Nomo and Shane Reynolds, and of course doesn't consider players available in trade, it still should give you a good idea of what's out there.
SNLVAR is a Baseball Prospectus statistic that measures the team wins the pitcher provides in comparison to a replacement-level pitcher, accounting for the quality of the batters faced by the pitcher.
Top targets, regardless of salary
Top bargain candidates
There really isn't enough pitching to go around, is there?
Another High Mark for Dodger Defense
Even accounting for the fact that their ballpark is conducive for good defense, the Dodgers fielded, by a wide margin, the top defensive team in baseball in 2004, according to James Click of Baseball Prospectus.
Dodger Stadium was the sixth-easiest major-league park to play defense in, behind Cinergy Field, Network Associates Coliseum, Miller Park, ProPlayer Stadium and Camden Yards. Surprisingly, SBC Park in San Francisco was the most challenging place, ahead of Coors Field in Colorado. That propelled the Giants' defense to third-best in baseball.
However, the Dodgers still topped the charts, with St. Louis coming in second.
"What I found most interesting," writes Click, "was that the Dodgers and Cardinals - baseball’s two best defensive teams - managed to hold their top spots despite park factors that suggest some of their prowess is a result of friendlier confines than other teams. Also, despite some of the more well-publicized gaffes of the post-season, the Red Sox come out in the top tier of defenders. If the Sox’s braintrust truly was focusing on defense this season they accomplished their goals, as Boston’s new World Series champions flashed a great deal more leather than could have been expected.
"The rest of the playoff field seems to run the full range of defensive ability as the Cardinals, Dodgers and Red Sox finished well ahead of the pack while the Yankees, Astros and Braves finished well behind," he adds. "With the Angels and Twins both slightly below average, we can chalk up another point for those who feel that defense isn't a good predictor of who will reach the playoffs. However, considering how well the Cardinals and Red Sox did in October with their superior defenses, the idea that defense wins in the playoffs could be argued. Of course, considering some of the 'defense' we witnessed in these playoffs, it's tough to say that that had anything to do with who won the games."
You Put the Lima in the Coconut ...
Over at Dominican Players, Raul Tavares reports that:
Turns Out People Like Me Can Publish a Book
The newly released 2004 Hardball Times Baseball Annual offers several items of interest to fans of the Dodgers and the National League West, including an in-depth review of the 2004 season in words and statistics. Created by the plucky and insightful folks at The Hardball Times, the book is available in a print version for $16.75 plus shipping or in a downloadable version for $6.25.
As Christian Ruzich writes, "The Aaron Gleeman media empire rolls on, and I still have trouble finding my keys every morning."
Angels in America (Southern California, Specifically)
However it goes, it's nothing to get into an uproar about. The days of sports teams all having the correct geographic name are long gone.
The 2005 Dodger Payroll: Spending Room
Frank McCourt and Paul DePodesta both said this week that the 2005 Dodger payroll could easily approach $100 million. If that turns out to be the case, the natural question is, how much of that money is currently free to spend?
The following outlines my best salary estimate for the players the Dodgers are currently committed to for 2005. I have made educated guesses for salaries of arbitration-eligible players - those might be off, particularly in the case of Eric Gagne, but I’d say that the total margin for error is fairly negligible. (For more information, go to The 2004-05 Offseason: A Preview.)
Starting pitchers (5)
Relief pitchers (6)
Disabled List (1)
Team Total (26)
Just to start to play with these figures: if you assume that the Dodgers will fill two of the position-player vacancies and one bullpen vacancy with minimum-wage minor leaguers or low-salaried free agents, say at a total of $2 million for the trio, that leaves about $38 million for five slots.
Commit a healthy $13 million to Adrian Beltre for the first year of his new contract (the hope here is actually that Beltre will come in for less), and that still leaves $25 million for four slots: a catcher, outfielder and two pitchers. (Only one starting pitcher vacancy is listed, though realistically, there are question marks surrounding Ishii, Jackson and Penny.)
You could have four $6 million players, or two $10 million players, a $4 million player and a $1 million player, or ...
Okay, folks. Go to town.
P.S. Did I read the Green-Sosa article? Yes. Felt like a hot stove starved for something to cook.
The Dodgers Author Talks Shop
Glenn Stout, whose book with Richard A. Johnson, The Dodgers: 120 Years of Dodger Baseball, was excerpted Wednesday on Dodger Thoughts, also answered some quick questions this week about the book's creation.
How long did this take you to research and write? Well, that depends on what is meant by "research." In a sense, all my books in some way build on my base of baseball knowledge that has been built over a lifetime.
But in a more direct way I would say this book probably began in the mid-1990s, when I was researching and writing a book on Jackie Robinson (Jackie Robinson: Between the Baselines, Walker 1997). That book alerted me to the fact even for a person as well-known as Robinson, there were vast areas of his story that were lesser known. For example, the role the black press played in making certain that when anyone from the major leagues went looking for a black player, there was already a player they had "pre-selected" to break the color line. That was Jackie Robinson. An old sportswriter in the African American press, Doc Kountze, tipped me off to this in the late 1980s. The series of oddities that took place during Robinson’s spring with the Dodgers in 1947 is another example.
In short, throughout my whole career, which started out writing about Boston sports history, I continually stumbled across untold stories or perspectives about even the best-known subjects. I found this true while researching and writing both Red Sox Century and Yankees Century, and knew that the Dodgers would be similarly fertile, particularly because most books about the team were either just about the Dodgers in Brooklyn, or just about them in L.A.
Red Sox Century, which was published in 2000, was a book Richard Johnson and I discussed doing the first time we met, back in 1986. By the time we started working on it in about 1996, we knew the Yankees were the next logical subject, and then the Dodgers. Those three teams, along with the Cardinals and a few others, like the Cubs and Giants, are baseball’s signature franchises. Actual aggressive work one the project began shortly after I finished Yankees Century in the fall of 2001. I start by reading everything to put together a timeline of significant events, then bury myself in microfilm to ferret out what actually happened. I didn’t go to Los Angeles (although I’ve been there before) but I did spend a week in Brooklyn. The writing part takes place very quickly – over about six months – but then again, I’m getting faster at it.
Other than the basic idea of creating a comprehensive history of the team, did you have any specific goals for this book? I’m not interested in repeating stories that have been told in other books. As much as possible, I try to build the books from the best historical record that still exists, which essentially means from old newspaper stories. I try not to assume that anything previously written in book form is correct but start new, without prejudice, and just write what I find, telling the story season to season.
Specific to this book, I wanted to write about the Dodgers as a single story, not as two teams in two places during two different time periods. For old Brooklyn Dodger fans, I hope to show them that the L.A. edition of the team shares some characteristics born in Brooklyn. For L.A. fans, I hope the book delivers a past they previously knew relatively little about. The book is one story; the Dodgers are one team, I think fans who’ve limited themselves to either just the Brooklyn Dodgers or the L.A. Dodgers have missed out. The Dodger story is bigger than either place. That’s also why I began the book with a prologue, about Roy Campanella’s accident in winter after the team had announced it was leaving Brooklyn but before they had arrived in Los Angeles. For a brief period of time, Campanella and the others were simply "Dodgers," and hopefully the prologue works to inform fans of both Brooklyn and L.A. that there is something in this book for them. It lays out the themes, foreshadows the story.
How did your process of writing this book differ from your other team books? As I’ve already described, the process was very much the same. I don’t write anecdotal history – you know, just talking to a bunch of players and relate their anecdotes. Those books are entertaining, but often without context or much lasting value; they’re disposable. I also try not to retell what others have already told in their books. For example, Roger Kahn’s The Boys of Summer and Jane Leavy’s Koufax. Both books are well known and cover a specific story from a specific perspective quite well. So I don’t tell readers what those books have already told them.
But during those time periods there are still other perspectives and other stories than can add to the cumulative history – this book I think adds to the stories told by Kahn and Leavy. In every team history I write, I try to find the lasting personality and character of a team, and how the place they play informs that character. Here, obviously, Brooklyn and Los Angeles provide two extraordinarily strong influences that in contrast make each place stand out even more so. And along the way I always try to keep these two questions in mind – why do they win when they win? Why do they lose when they lose? That’s what really matters.
When you're done with a project like this, do you remain interested in the team, or have you had about all of the Dodgers you can take for a while? I not only remain interested, I’m usually more interested, because each win and loss after I’ve written a book sort of informs what I’ve written, adding to it, or in some cases, changing what I think. That being said, I do have to turn away at a certain point and move on to the next project. You know, I finished this book about a year ago. Now I have to read it to be prepared to talk about it, because I’m already a couple projects past it. It’s very strange for me to read my own books and come across long passages that I have absolutely no recollection of writing. I find myself questioning myself. I’ll read something and go, "Really? I don’t remember that," then run back to my notes in a panic to see if what I wrote really happened. I haven’t stumped myself yet, but it's always interesting to me when it happens. So I figure if I have that experience reading what I’ve written, readers of the book should find it something of a discovery too. I have to admit though, that after doing one of these team books, which at 250,000 words is much longer that most books, it takes me about six months to re-charge.
What was the most surprising thing or things you learned about the team? In a sense it’s all surprising, because I try not to assume I know anything in advance, but I was surprised to see the way Brooklyn had already abandoned the Dodgers before 1958 – even as they won a world championship in 1955, the writing was on the wall – crowds were down, Brooklyn was changing and people really didn’t care. There’s an awful lot of hagiography about the post-war Dodgers.
And Koufax. Absolutely incredible. After they knew he was hurt and that every game could be his last, neither he nor the organization protected him at all. He pitched more, not less, again and again and again and was remarkable. Makes you wonder what might have happened if they had been a bit more cautious with him – 35 starts a year as opposed to 41 or 42, 250 innings instead of 350 plus. No short rest starts, or relief appearances. If they’d have done that after 1963 or so he might have pitched another 10 years. But they burned him out – something the organization has almost always done with pitchers, and in Koufax’s case he was so good the rest of the organization got incredibly lazy. Who needed hitting when Koufax wouldn’t give up any runs?
Part of the reason they burned him out, I think, was those one year contracts for the managers. They had no incentive but to win now. That extracted a price. One way to think about Koufax today is to imagine Pedro Martinez at his best – say 1999 thru 2001 or so. But Koufax pitched almost twice as often at that level.
What do you think a current, particularly a young, Dodger fan would find most interesting of the team's early days, say pre-1940? Presuming they are already informed about the "Boys of Summer" era, I think they’ll be surprised that the team had a rich history even before then. The Dodgers were always at the forefront of the game – first ballpark, first admission charge, first pitcher to throw a curve ball and so on. Dodger history tells you the history of the game.
Your writing about Al Campanis' appearance on Nightline is particularly strong. You refute defenders of his conduct very lucidly. Was this a response you had ready for a while, or did you develop this point of view during your research for the book? From the time I first began writing sports history, the subject of race has always seemed to me to be overlooked, or marginalized, told as a series of events that just pop up but are rarely dealt with consistently over time. Yet race is present as an issue every day in this society. I didn’t have an idea about Campanis incident in advance. Although I remembered it when it happened I hadn’t looked at it closely. But his response to the questions that night wasn’t just the accidental blubberings of an over-tired elderly man – they were identical to the doctrinaire responses of hate groups. His words weren't accidental but pre-meditated – he'd obviously held those opinions and had voiced them before, but privately. The way I present the story is an example of how I approach projects. I had no opinion about it beforehand, but wrote what I discovered.
What are you working on now? Well, I just published a story about the untold history of the "Curse" for ESPN.com, in which I reveal that a) the "Curse" is an artificial concept invented in 1986 and the reason Sox the Curse identifies Harry Frazee as the evil bastard goes all the way back to 1921 when Henry Ford incorrectly identified Frazee as a Jew in his anti-Semitic newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. I’ve received more positive responses from readers than for anything else I’ve ever written, plus a measure of hate mail from anti-Semites and those who think the curse is cute and are pissed that I took the fun and profit out of it.
I also just finished a story on Jackie Robinson’s 1945 tryout with the Red Sox that an academic journal, The Massachusetts Historical Review, asked me to write, and I’ve recently completely juvenile biographies of Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth as part of the "Matt Christopher" series. In addition to my work as series editor for The Best American Sports Writing series, I’m currently working on a book for Scribner with Charlie Vitchers and Bobby Gray, two construction workers who were heavily involved with the cleanup of the World Trade Center, to tell the story of the cleanup from the perspective of the workers. Now that the Red Sox have won the Series, I’ll be updating Red Sox Century, and Richard Johnson and I have just agreed to write another team history, about the Cubs. This is what I do for a living. I’m very fortunate.
Is the picture (click on thumbnail for better quality) of the smiling Brooklyn Dodger at the front of the book not one of the greatest of all-time? I think it is. My partner Richard Johnson does all the photo research and captioning, and I think he’s the best there is at finding images to enhance and illuminate the text. We really try to give readers two books – the most thorough and comprehensive written history, and the best illustrated history. Each are given equal weight.
National League Gold Glove winners will be announced today. It's probably too much to expect a three-quarters-time player like Alex Cora to earn one, or even that Adrian Beltre will knock out Scott Rolen (we all know how tough it is to beat an incumbent). But if the Beethoven of the ballpark, Cesar Izturis, is denied this time around, we really might as well just give up.
Update: And there it is: Izturis wins. Rolen wins at third base, and Luis Castillo wins at second base. Izturis is the league's only first-time winner this year.
But hey - who's that winning in the outfield? None other than Steve Finley - and the Dodgers get the affiliation. Congratulations. And yet, I wonder, is Finley really a better outfielder than, say, Milton Bradley?
Exclusive: Excerpt from The Dodgers: 120 Years of Dodger Baseball
As many of you know, I am dying to write a book about the Dodgers - and have been held back only by the lack of a patron and the lack of time to earn one. You know, good ol' excuses.
Two people who doesn't need to make excuses are Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson. With books on the Yankees and Red Sox already under their belts, they have now created The Dodgers: 120 Years of Dodger Baseball. A comprehensive review of the entire history of the Dodger franchise, with encyclopedic information, interviews, a wide range of photographs and pointed commentary, The Dodgers: 120 Years of Dodger Baseball is a book any Dodger fan should consider as the holiday shopping and by-the-fireplace reading season begins.
In a combination of promotional savvy and kindness (with an emphasis on the latter), Stout was good enough to allow me to excerpt a chapter of my choice for Dodger Thoughts. Though tempted in a number of different areas, I chose his chapter on the most unexplored period in Los Angeles Dodger history, the time from Sandy Koufax's retirement through the end of the Walter Alston era. It was a period that laid the groundwork for the Dodgers many of us grew up with it, but as I've written before in my feature on the 1967 season, it's fallen too far from the radar screen.
Later this week, I'll have a short interview with Stout, who will also appear with Johnson for a reading and panel discussion at Bob Timmermann's Los Angeles Public Library on November 10. Sometime in the next year or 50, I'll have my book completed. In the meantime, enjoy the following excerpt.
* * *
From The Dodgers: 120 Years of Dodger Baseball (Houghton Mifflin, 2004). Text by Glenn Stout. Photos selected and edited by Richard Johnson. Copyright 2004 by Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson, all rights reserved.
Chapter Fourteen: 1967-1976
A Baseball/Election Quiz
I pray thee, kind citizens, to answer the questions below in the comments.
1) What will the kids be talking about in 50 years? The Red Sox coming back to beat the Yankees and winning the World Series, this election, neither or both?
2) If you have kids, what are their ages and what is their level of interest in the recent postseason and in this election?
3) Compare the process of how you fill out your All-Star ballot versus how you fill out your election ballot. Do you vote intuitively? Do you do research for neither, either or both? If so, by what means?
4) What's the latest you stayed up to watch a postseason game this season, and will you stay up later than that (if need be) for election results?
5) Would you trade a World Series title for your team in order to get a victory for your presidential candidate?
6) If Dodger Thoughts endorsed a presidential candidate, would that influence your vote? If so, what's wrong with you?
In your answers, no endorsements are necessary or really desired. I'm torn because I think this election is important enough to violate my policy of keeping politics from this site, and I actually do have strong and fairly well-reasoned opinions about it, but we all seem to enjoy this place as a nonpartisan refuge, so we'll stick with that. To let loose, may I suggest making use of the comments at Will Carroll Presents.
Thanks for participating. Bonus question: Pick the day and time (Pacific Standard Time) we will have a declared presidential winner.
Bob Keisser of the Long Beach Press-Telegram likes where the Dodgers are headed:
The Dodgers placed 15 players on Baseball America's top prospects list from each minor league. The club has a major-league prospect at every infield position, two deep in some cases and a half-dozen pitchers rated by scouts as having major-league potential. ...
"Every prospect doesn't make it," (Paul) DePodesta said. "But if you have three or four players you believe are very good, chances are one or two will come through." ...
Oh, and then there's this: DePodesta said he plans to aggressively pursue adding TWO starting pitchers from the free agent or trade ranks for the 2005 team and is serious about keeping free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre.
What a concept - the Dodgers' present and future looking promising at the same time.
Wild Rumor of the Day: This one should make Steven Haskins at Fire Jim Tracy tingle ...
"One other potential wild card in the Mets' mix could be Los Angeles manager Jim Tracy," writes Mark Hale of the New York Post. "He is currently negotiating with the Dodgers on a new deal, but if talks fall apart, the Mets could take a look at the 49-year-old, who led L.A. to the NL West title this year."
Having conceded the likelihood that the Dodgers will re-sign Tracy, Haskins has said he will document his performance in the coming season: "We will cover the good, the bad, and the ugly -- though we expect mostly the latter two."
I think that Haskins has a real opportunity with his blog, if he can approach it objectively. A site devoted to keeping score of managerial moves - positive and negative, from setting the lineup to the bottom of the ninth, could be quite worthwhile. Managerial debates tend to boil down to the anecdotal - a systematic evaluation is rare indeed. Heck, I'd like to try it, but it's hard enough keeping this site going.
Perhaps, under close examination, Tracy really doesn't deserve the Dodger job. I certainly have pointed to moves he is made that seemed obviously wrong. On the other hand, there's a lot I think that he has done right, and his teams have contended each year with a mishmash of players. But my evaluation of Tracy is mostly subjective. If Haskins, or anyone, wants to really keep score on Jim Tracy, he'll get a daily reader out of me.
Maybe a point-counterpoint approach after each game would be the way to go. Just a thought.
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Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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