Baseball Toaster Dodger Thoughts
Monthly archives: December 2004


Dodger Thoughts Year in Review
2004-12-30 22:23
by Jon Weisman

Maybe this is going to be too much to digest, but I wanted to put together a look back at the Dodgers in 2004 through this website. Would have been nice to publish as a book - but that's what you get for being spur of the moment. My only advice, I guess, is take your time.

Not to completely spoil the moment, nor to be completely inappropriate considering the tsunami disaster in Asia, but if you've enjoyed Dodger Thoughts throughout the year, perhaps you might consider a donation via the "Support Dodger Thoughts" link on the sidebar. I say this even though it's not tax-deductible, and it's not more important than a real charity, and it's not the reason I do this, and I'm hoping very much not to offend anyone nor make them feel guilty. It's not a requirement, just a thought.

All the best for a happy and safe New Year. And do support the disaster relief funds if you can.

- Jon

Dodger Thoughts Year in Review: January-June

Dodger Thoughts Year in Review: July-December

Dodger Thoughts Year in Review: January-June
2004-12-30 22:11
by Jon Weisman

January 2004

January 12: Pawned

I can't believe what I'm reading.

With major league owners scheduled to vote this month on whether to approve the bid of would-be Dodger buyer Frank McCourt, a source said Sunday that McCourt asked Commissioner Bud Selig whether some owners might vote against him if he spent freely to acquire Guerrero yet presented a financing package heavily dependent on loans. Selig offered no assurances, the source said, and McCourt sent word to General Manager Dan Evans to cease talks with Guerrero.
- Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times

Is this for real?

The Dodgers are saving Brown's salary in 2004 and 2005. When the Brown savings stop at the end of 2005, that's when the Dodgers knock $30 million in Shawn Green and Darren Dreifort off the books.

And yet we're supposed to believe or accept that, amid a market correction for player salaries, Vladimir Guerrero's is the one that would drive McCourt out of business?

Did anyone actually think this through? It makes no sense.

If McCourt can't afford to sign Guerrero with the Dodger payroll already on the Atkins diet, he can't afford to buy the Dodgers. Period.

This should unequivocally mark the end of McCourt's ownership bid.

If baseball's owners approve McCourt's purchase of the team, it can only be because they want the Dodgers to be less competitive. They want a weaker team in the nation's second-largest market.

Just out of curiosity, if the Dodgers had not completed the Kevin Brown trade, would that have kept McCourt's bid from being approved? Because with Brown's salary on the books, how on earth would poor Mr. McCourt have afforded his lown payments?

Forget about comparisons to Angels owner Arte Moreno. Frank McCourt is not in the baseball business. He's not going to let a little thing like baseball get in the way of his owning a baseball team and the land it sits on.

Dodger fans are game for any challenge, but having phony challenges thrust upon them for no defensible reason is shameful.

News Corp. is unloading the Dodgers at the local pawn shop, and Bud Selig is all too happy to oblige. We're all being sold down the river.

January 26: Prove Us Wrong, Frank, Prove Us Wrong

The hostile reaction to McCourt over the past two months has debunked the myth that Dodger fans are stupid and apathetic. They haven't bought in to the myth that no owner can be worse than News Corp. And after years under that ownership, they will surely recognize when the future of the team is being trashed.

The good news, of course, is that because of McCourt's cash-poor situation, he may have no choice but to hang onto the prospects - or if he's going to approve a trade, make it a trade for a productive, long-term investment.

We can only hope. We can only hope.

When that door opens and you walk in, Frank, you get a clean slate. Everyone in Los Angeles is perfectly willing to eat their words, to apologize, to say that their fears about you were misguided.

Be smart. Be good. That's the whole ballgame.

January 29: His Team Now

Frank McCourt makes me feel powerless.

He could be the next great disaster for the Dodgers. Or, he could be a hidden treasure of, well, adequacy.

But how disturbing is it that after Thursday's press conference to discuss his purchase of the team, there is nothing that actually inspires confidence? Every potential positive statement made by or about McCourt had to be qualified.

Whatever the future holds, good or bad ... today, the Dodgers really seem to belong to someone else. Maybe this feeling will go away, but they don't feel like the city's team right now. They don't feel like our team.

Literally, they never were ours, but figuratively, they were. Not today.

Consider this: throughout the entire day, I didn't find a note of celebration that the News Corp. (majority) ownership of the Dodgers was over. Can you believe this? A few months ago, the city of Los Angeles would have held a bonfire of revelry at Fox's departure. Today, there's just uncertainty.

January 30: What If the Dodgers Win in 2004?

What should Frank McCourt, the Dodger organization, you or I be willing to sacrifice for a World Series title this season?

Should we be willing to go the Florida Marlins route of shocking titles sandwiching last-place finishes?

The elation that comes with winning a title is huge, and there isn't much that can erase the fondness of those memories.

But most of the time, we are forced to live in the present. And that means the memories only go so far.

The best-case scenario is that McCourt puts together a staff that engineers the moves that make the Dodgers a champion, and in so doing so galvanizes the city of Los Angeles that baseball revenue starts pouring into Chavez Ravine. Short-term success feeds long-term success.

If that happens, McCourt is a hero.

But if in going for broke, McCourt puts himself at risk of going broke, and plunders what's good about the organization to make ends meet, I fear that even a 2004 title might end up feeling sour as soon as 2005.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that not all World Series championships are created equally. Not all of them have the same long-term joy. I'm expressing a particularly greedy view that we should want the Dodgers to win a title, but not have to shoot ourselves in the foot to do so.

February 2004

February 3: Let Vin Make the Call

Over the years, we've probably heard Vin Scully talk about everything there is to talk about - except one thing.

The next Vin Scully.

In my mind, of course, there will be no replacing Vin. I'm well aware Vin has his detractors - people who tire of flubs he makes at the microphone, or who aren't drawn to his style. I accept that some feel that way.

For me, there has never been, nor will there every be, anyone who gives me more joy in listening to the broadcast of a sporting event than Vin.

Vin has been on my mind this weekend, ever since the announcement that all 162 Dodger games will be televised this season. Because there is no indication that Vinny's travel schedule will expand, this year we'll receive even more of our ongoing preview of life without Vinny.

I think we've all wondered about Vin's successor from time to time. I've been in the Al Michaels camp for years; I also still enjoy Jon Miller and Bob Costas. Not everyone in the Dodger audience would agree, but it doesn't really matter; none of those three seem likely to come.

Anyway, this weekend - for the first time, oddly - I started wondering whom Vin would recommend as his successor.

It's a question, because of his nature, that Vin would probably never answer on the record, but I still wonder.

I wonder if, among his unparalleled talents, if Vin has the ability to spot greatness in other broadcasters.

It seems like he would, wouldn't he? Think of Roger Angell, the consummate (albeit East Coast myopicized) baseball writer for The New Yorker. Fiction Editor at the magazine for years, Angell is certainly capable of spotting writing talent. But could he find the Next to be the most literary of baseball scribes?

I don't know (although I have a hunch about Ben McGrath over there). My gut tells me that one artist can pick out another artist. But I don't know. Is it possible that Vinny might not know exactly what makes him so great, or perhaps perceive greatness in another that isn't really there? That he would do as poorly picking a replacement for Dodger broadcasts as Magic Johnson coaching basketball?

Is it possible that one foggy day, way back when, Vin recommended Rick Monday? Seems like heresy to think it.

Certainly, I don't think any of Vin's remarkable poetry has been passed to Monday, tenured as a Dodger broadcaster without any spark of brilliance because he twice rescued flags, one American, one a 1981 National League pennant. Nor do I even think Vin has profoundly molded Ross Porter, likeable in his literal, earnest, Barney Fife kind of way, any more than Andy Taylor trained Barney to be his equal in Mayberry.

When the season finally comes that Vin doesn't ask us to "pull up a chair," I don't expect a new No. 1 from outside the organization. More likely, Porter would become the No. 1 announcer, Monday the No. 2, and the Dodgers would search for a new No. 3. Or, perhaps Porter and Monday would take over the TV coverage, and the Dodgers would hire a 3-4 duo for radio.

Here's what I think. Assuming Vin's fingerprints are not on Monday's hire, the Dodgers should let Vin choose his own successor. Have Vin listen to the tapes, have Vin meet the men or women applying for the job.

It's simple, really. Let Monet pass on his own brush.

Who knows, maybe Vin will spot some 22-year-old, fresh out of college, with crackling talent and an ethereal magic with words, who will bring true joy to Dodger fans for another 50 years.

February 6: More Memories I Need to Share

Three voices I can hear in my head, clear as day.

My late paternal grandfather, saying, "How are ya, champ?"

My late maternal grandfather, teaching us French by saying, "Parlez-vous francais? Chevrolet cou-pay?"

Vin Scully, doing a Farmer John commercial voiceover and saying, "Braunschweiger."

February 7: Only If He Hits Righties Does He Hit Lefties

Ever have one of those moments where one of your lifelong assumptions is turned on its ear?

That happened to me Friday, at least on a baseball level.

I'm writing this still somewhat in a state of disbelief, but I wanted to share with you the discussion that's going on.

The inspiration for the discussion is ex-Dodger Eric Karros, whom Oakland signed to be a part-time first baseman. Rob Neyer wrote about the deal on The justification for the signing is that, although Karros' numbers against right-handed batters are poor, he hits lefties very well, and is ideal for a platoon.

The numbers are there.

Karros vs. LHP, 2001-2003: 207 AB, .904 OPS
Karros vs. RHP, 2001-2003: 991 AB, .672 OPS

So, here's the revolution.

The best way to look at how a right-handed major league batter will perform against left-handed pitchers ... is to make sure you give heavy emphasis to his stats against right-handed pitchers. ...

February 13: Sucker's Walk

... There are three threads spooling with the Dodger general manager position. There is the incumbent, Evans, who is not perfect, but who in less than three years on the job has removed much of the organizational dead weight and made the idea of long-term success possible.

There is his boss, McCourt, whose sincerity in telling us that Evans is a candidate to keep his job is dubious. (I guess McCourt would argue that he is no different than Democracy itself, which this year will tell George W. Bush whether he can keep his job.)

And there are the candidates. I honestly don't know that much about DePodesta. I've read Moneyball and I've read his speech and I've paid attention to the success of the Oakland A's and what other people say about him, but I'm not going to be the one to argue that I possess a wealth of knowledge about DePodesta. I know he has a bright mind and a sabermetric mind - which to be clear, doesn't prize one stat or another over all else, but factual knowledge over all else.

I don't know if DePodesta is the answer. But yes, based on the information I have, I'd rather that the clumsy McCourt take a chance on him than any other outside candidate.

If I'm wrong about DePodesta, I'll do the Sucker's Walk - with McCourt leading the way.

February 22: Jacksonmania Can Wait

At least they haven't given him a nickname yet, like Dr. K.

The repeated statements by Dodger manager Jim Tracy that the 20-year-old Edwin Jackson will be a point in the starting rotation pinwheel raise questions, despite Jackson's memorable debut victory over Randy Johnson and his 2.45 ERA (163 ERA+) in four rookie appearances last season.

Jackson had a 3.70 ERA in AA ball last season, a mark I'm fairly certain that even Andy Ashby could have achieved. Even with all the promise and hallowed intangibles in the world, Jackson doesn't necessarily deserve an offseason upgrade from coach to first class.

March 2004

March 19: Chances Are

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

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

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

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

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

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

McCourt has his chance right now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 23: Spit Take: James Loney, 2004 NL Rookie of the Year

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

But I just have this hunch ...

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

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

March 25: The Tristram Shandy Nightmare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

D on the final, C+ in the class.

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

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

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

March 25: Bert Convy: Actor, Singer, Host, Baseball Man

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

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

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

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

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

April 2004

April 12: 86 for 89

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

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

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

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

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

Last April, Beltre struck out 17 times.

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

April 23: Black Tie Optional

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

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

April 29: It's Real, and It's Spectacular

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

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

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

So I'm declaring the wait over.

Spread the word.

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

And that talent isn't going anywhere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 2004

May 7: Give Your Slightly Brittle Manager a Hug

He gives interviews like Defense Department briefings. He dresses his lineups with fashions from the '70s and '80s - the slap-hitting shortstop high, the young third baseman low. He can be too passive with removing his starting pitchers, too aggressive with removing his relievers. And he hasn't reached the playoffs ... yet.

But isn't it about time someone said something nice about Jim Tracy?

There isn't a Dodger fan who would say that Tracy has had championship-caliber talent since he became manager for the 2001 season. But in three years and a month, Tracy is 280-233 - a .546 winning percentage, which translates to 88 wins per 162 games.

It's easy to pick out his mistakes, but like an umpire, the good calls just fade into the background. On more occasions than I can count, he has gotten the right guy in the lineup and made the right move in a dicey situation. He gives players a chance to succeed, but doesn't give them forever. He has won games.

The Dodgers have never been out of the playoff hunt under Jim Tracy. Given the players he has had - a stud here and there, but no team of All-Stars - I wouldn't exactly call Tracy an underachiever.

This year, it's the same story. In some areas, there is talent - in others, it's just a ragtag bunch. The Dodgers may make the playoffs or they may not, and it's very possible that the final verdict on Tracy will depend on the result.

So for now, with the team leading the National League, with the team providing some excitement, let's throw some credit Jim Tracy's way. There are worse epitaphs than, "He must be doing something right."

May 13: Let's Go, Cora!

But I think about the events of that day again and again. And somehow I know that Winnie does too, whenever some blowhard starts talking about the anonymity of the suburbs or the mindlessness of the TV generation, because we know that inside every one of those identical boxes, with its Dodge parked out front and its white bread on the table and its TV set glowing blue in the falling dusk, there are people with stories, there were families bound together in the pain and the struggle of love. There where moments that made us cry with laughter, and there were moments, like that one, of sorrow and wonder."

- The Wonder Years, pilot episode

To watch Alex Cora in the seventh inning Wednesday night was to witness the crescendo of a perfect game in a single at-bat - an ferocious privilege. I can touch my face and still feel the heat from the excitement that built up in me and around me. It was an at-bat of sufficient length to be shown as a half-hour special on ESPN Classic.

It left me with a wish, a wish that all fans from other parts of the country could have seen it.

About halfway into the streak of consecutive foul balls Cora hit, the Dodger Stadium crowd started to take notice. As he reached double digits, a roar started to come with each swing. The scoreboard operator, not at all imprisoned from spontaneity, threw a running tally of the foul balls onto the big screen. Around foul ball No. 11, the crowd was rising to its feet. A cheer of "Let's go, Cora!" sprung from somewhere and immediately swept the entire stadium.

Something epic was happening and everyone knew it. Everybody got it. Everybody got that they were witnessing something special, something spectacular, in a series of liners and ground balls to the right of first base.

Foul ball - roar. Foul ball - roar. Foul ball - ROAR.

Cora was going 15 rounds, the underdog in a fight with an Apollo Creed in the polished Matt Clement. And the Dodger fans were in ecstasy. They weren't playing with beach balls. They weren't leaving early. They were there. They were in the game.

And then, after 14 foul balls, on the 18th pitch of the at-bat, Alex Cora swung and drove a long, high fly to right field. Back went Sammy Sosa, back. At the wall. Gone!

The crowd went berserk. And they earned every bit of their insanity.

Folks, I grew up in the suburbs and I grew up a Dodger fan, and neither has a nationwide reputation for generating crackle or passion or heat. But it is not because we have nothing better to do or nothing else to care about that we go to games, 3 million strong each year.

To anyone who might be reading this from the outside, who has bought into the stereotype of the Dodger fan, who has mocked us, please try to understand. Just try.

Dodger fans are real.

June 2004

June 7: The Man Pays Attention

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

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

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

June 16: Unhold That Thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 13: The Atrophy Trophy

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 18: Rousing!

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

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

June 20: Rashomon Project: 'Yankees Suck' Is a Figure of Speech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 23: Role Reversal

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

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

What happens next?

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

But they are more than pesky.

June 25: Blah

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


June 30: Reputations Don't Drive in Runs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dodger Thoughts Year in Review: July-December
2004-12-30 22:11
by Jon Weisman

July 2004

July 1: They Booed a Man in Reno, Just to Watch Him Die

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.

July 7: Winner! The Most Obscure but Memorable Dodger Is ...

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.

July 30: Advice to Local Media and Talk-Show Callers

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.

August 2004

August 1: Thinking It Through

... I have spent the past two days discussing the trades with my brother and father, neither of whom understand the moves. I've been explaining where DePodesta is coming from. They weren't familiar with how good Penny and Choi have been this season or how much potential they have. I'm reminding them that Lo Duca is 32 and entering the decline phase of his career, that the value of a Mota pitching four innings each week isn't equivalent to the value of a Penny pitching 7 to 14 innings each week.

It hasn't been hard to convey the value of ridding ourselves of Martin and Encarnacion, two players signed to contracts that pay them for perceived value rather than actual value.

Now, my family is now open-minded about Penny and Choi. Choi is a great pickup that will help the team this year and beyond. Again, in the Dodger lineup, substituting Choi for Encarnacion (even with Green making a slight step backward defensively to right field) is a positive.

At the same time, I've been struggling with the transactions more than you might expect - and it's because of Lo Duca.

It's not the "heart and soul" argument. I do feel the emotional impact of losing Lo Duca - truly, madly, deeply - but I looked at that Dodger team tonight, and they're going to be fine carrying Lo Duca in their hearts. And eventually, so will we.

It's just such a glaring hole at catcher. Whatever you thought of the Dodger starting pitching, there wasn't this huge crevice of performance that you were staring at. But when you look behind the plate, the void represented by the disappointing Dave Ross and the newly acquired Brent Mayne is huge.

Then, I went back to VORP. Essentially, given the choice between a starting battery of Wilson Alvarez (20.3 VORP) and Paul Lo Duca (22.3) or Brad Penny (33.3) and Dave Ross (-2.4), I'm actually going to take Alvarez and Lo Duca. With the stats to back me up.

Overall, the Dodgers have won the trades on paper. They have acquired more talent than they have given up. But I'm not sure I'm going to argue in favor of the trades any more, because I'm not sure that they've won the trades by enough.

There's no law, is there, that says I have to decide in advance whether these trades were good or not. I know it seems like there's such a law - in fact, it feels like it must be in the Constitution, the imperative is so strong. But I checked the books and it doesn't exist.

The remaining pre-trade Dodgers may render the trades unnecessary. Or absolutely necessary. I'm not convinced either way.

I am officially taking the position of wait and see, with hopes for the best. You may think it a cop-out, but I've given it a lot of thought and I find this to be the strongest position I could take.

August 9: Rotation, Rotation, Rotation

If Odalis Perez leaves his start Saturday writhing in agony, the trade for Brad Penny is looking pretty savioriffic.

Instead, it's Penny who runs off the mound Sunday like his arm was caught in a grease fire, and life in Dodgertown takes on a whole new meaning, pending the diagnosis.

The twin scenarios illustrate both the rationale and the risk behind the acquisition of Penny. Was Penny an injury risk? Perhaps, but you can't ask that question without asking the same about Perez. Both have had a history of arm troubles - Perez as recently as a month ago. A more proper question would address the relativity of the risk among the pitchers.

Today, the Dodgers have eight starting pitchers on their 25-man roster and disabled list, with immediate questions surrounding half: Penny, Edwin Jackson, Hideo Nomo and Kazuhisa Ishii (who had been demoted less than 24 hours before Penny's injury), not to mention lingering concerns about the long-term health of Perez and the long-term viability of Wilson Alvarez, Jose Lima - and what the hell, Jeff Weaver, too.

While many will find Penny's early departure Sunday adding injury to the insult of the Paul Lo Duca trade, I don't think it requires too convoluted a journey, as bizarre as it sounds, to conclude that Penny's injury justifies his acquisition. The Dodgers have been playing well, but their starting pitching is like strapping tape, nearly impossible to tear - until it is punctured, that is.

August 15: It's No Mendacity To Talk Tenacity

Disappointed but not discouraged was the tone I was prepared to take this afternoon. Two straight losses to a potential playoff opponent would be nothing to celebrate. But they were tight games, with perhaps the Dodgers' two most fallible starting pitchers (aside from Hideo Nomo) matched against two Chicago Cub aces - and therefore not indicative of how a postseason series might go.

Then came the comeback, from Mark Prior striking out the first four Dodgers to another derailment of the Cub bullpen and an 8-5 Los Angeles victory. To paraphrase Tennessee Williams, "There's nothing more powerful than the odor of tenacity."

This is a tenacious Dodger team. I don't offer that description as a character reference, though it may be apt. But rather, with that bullpen, that lineup and that bench, on a performance basis, there really isn't that much surrender to be found.

How did it happen? Better on the infield compared to 2003, better in the outfield, better on the bench.

I've been preparing for a swoon to come, fomenting in the middle relief and at catcher - a single loss quickly turning into five. But it hasn't come yet. Right now, this is not a team that gets buried for long.

August 18: Next Stop Porterville

Dodger announcer Ross Porter discusses an L.A. team in contention, the July trades, and the day, however far off, that change might come in the broadcast booth

Presidents come and go, both in the Oval Office in Washington D.C. and the Dodger office in Los Angeles, but Dodger announcers are like Supreme Court justices. The broadcast booth is the high court, a hallowed place that offers a lifelong vocation.

That doesn’t mean that it immediately occurred to Ross Porter back in 1976, when the Dodgers introduced him to the media as their newest announcer, that he would be still be broadcasting Dodger games nearly three decades later.

"The day that they announced that I was joining the broadcasting team, Walter Alston had just announced he was retiring after 23 years,” Porter told Dodger Thoughts in an interview Wednesday. “The 1976 season had just ended, and they had a little thing to introduce me to the media. Walter O’ Malley, bless his heart, was still alive ... and Walter got up to introduce me, and I’ll never forget he made this statement: ‘We’re happy to have Ross with us’ and something to the effect of Walter Alston just retired after 23 years, and we’ll come back here in 23 years and Ross will still be going.

“And I’ve thought about that often, and I’ve gotten to 28 now.”

Twenty-eight years is as long as any U.S. Supreme Court Justice has ever served, save John Marshall (1801-1835). Of course, Porter works alongside a man who puts Marshall’s tenure to shame: Vin Scully is in his 55th year in the high-backed chairs.

Inevitably, when the opportunity to discuss Dodger broadcasting appears, the elephant in the interview room is how long Scully will remain a Dodger broadcaster. But the question also applies to Porter, often considered the heir to Scully’s Chief Justice seat - yet someone who is 65 years old himself.

Porter emphasized that neither he nor Scully have any plans to leave the Dodgers, and that their departures, while inevitable someday, aren’t currently being discussed with the Dodger executive branch. However, that doesn’t mean that Porter and Scully don’t address the subject in chambers.

“Vin and I will talk about what’s coming up,” Porter said, “what he sees ahead, and we both realize that neither one of us has too many years left. He has not put any year on the end of his career; neither have I. And I’ve always said I never wanted to be the one to step into those shoes. I think the person who replaces Vin Scully has got a major problem. Like Gene Bartow replacing John Wooden.”

Those words would shock no one. But then Porter went on to share a less obvious scenario, yet one that would be remarkably poetic. It’s just a thought, lightly etched, but nonetheless a dramatic one for longtime fans of the Dodgers.

“I think in the back of my mind,” Porter said, “it would suit me wonderfully if Vin and I went out at the same time.”

* * *

Porter has been humbled before. At the start of his career, he relied so much on statistics that he drew significant criticism. While to some extent Porter is still the distaff brother in an Everyone Loves Vinny world, that criticism has softened for a number of reasons.

“I’ll give you my view on it,” Porter offered. “Somebody once said, ‘Statistics are the soul of baseball.’ I think that’s true. I think when I got started, that I leaned on them too much. ... I overdid it, I admit that. I think over the years I’ve cut back on that. I think over the years, I haven’t heard too much of that criticism. Yeah, occasionally somebody writes a letter to the editor. But the style has changed in baseball - you turn on a telecast and you’re gonna get a lot of numbers.”

Porter is intrigued by the more advanced statistics now available - he is a reader of this site and others that use them - but admitted he is not in a comfort zone with them. In any event, even in a climate more willing to embrace statistics, Porter remains wary of going overboard.

“I think I really believe now that it’s more prevalent than it ever has been,” Porter said, “but I’ve gone out of my way to cut back on (statistics) as much as I can. Some people e-mail or say to me, I sure appreciate you put the numbers out there. But I’ve also worked hard of late to try to tell more stories, and get a more personal view of the players in. It’s been an interesting 28-year ride, let me put it that way.”

The ride never got more interesting than just a few years ago, when nearly yearlong attempts to explain a persistent throat irritation Porter was experiencing culminated in an unimaginable diagnosis.

“First I had a four-hour sinus operation, to go up in there and clear some things out,” Porter said. “They found a quarter-sized hole over my brain, then I had a 10-hour brain surgery.

“I was in the hospital eight days. When I got out of the hospital, the Dodgers had been nice enough to put up a message that you can send Ross e-mail. The message was up for 13 days, and I got 1,300 e-mails from people, and that really kind of staggered me. And I think that gave me a greater appreciation of what I do and how many people love the Dodgers and want to see them do well, and kind of look to me as a member of the family. I think it makes me more grateful.”

So yes, like Vin Scully - if not with Vin Scully - someday Ross Porter will leave the Supreme Court of the Dodgers. But the job still has more than enough to offer him, and he still has more than enough to offer to the people.

September 2004

September 1: The July Trades: Despite a Hazy Outcome, A Clear Rationale

On April 16-17, Eric Gagne allowed runs in consecutive appearances.

They came a day after he had thrown all of 12 pitches on April 15, following four days of rest from April 11-14.

They came with Guillermo Mota on the roster.

They came without an uproar of any kind.

* * *

On August 18-20, Eric Gagne allowed runs in three consecutive appearances.

They came following rest on August 16 and 17. They came following a stretch in which Gagne made one appearance, totaling 23 pitches, in seven days (August 11-17). They came 15 days after Gagne had allowed his last earned run.

They came without Guillermo Mota on the roster.

And the reaction was as if someone had taken an axe to the Statue of Liberty.

The Dodgers have destroyed their bullpen. They've ruined Eric Gagne!

* * *

A few years ago, I wrote and edited for an Internet news service focusing on technology coverage. The publisher was a savvy businessman, who found the capital to build the company and who kept it alive even during the dot-com plunge. He knew as much about journalism, however, as a camel knows about an igloo.

Early on - but after I had taken the job, unfortunately - the publisher articulated his philosophy about how you write a news article. He felt quite strongly about it, in fact. He believed that first, you write the story with the point of view you want to convey, and then, you call to get quotes from sources that will fit what you have already written.

I can't begin to describe how appalled I was. It was the journalistic equivalent of "I'm gonna fit in this size-2 dress even if it kills me." (The more cliched version of this is, "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.")

Such has been the case with much of the discussion of the Dodgers since July 30. Many pundits believed that the Dodgers had made a mistake in trading Mota and Paul Lo Duca - and so they were going to find a way to back up that opinion if at all humanly possible.

The fact is, the Dodgers did weaken their bullpen when they traded Mota. No one can deny that. However effective Yhency Brazoban and Giovanni Carrara have been since Mota's departure, having them in combination with Mota would be glorious.

The other fact is, the Dodgers surely weakened their catching in parting with Lo Duca, the key element of the trade for the Florida Marlins.

But those facts needs to be put in perspective. Today is September 1. The first day of a new month. Let's use this occasion, shall we, to put to rest the notion that the trade was unjustified.

Tonight, in the heat of a pennant race, the Dodgers will start a pitcher with an 8.06 ERA, Hideo Nomo. The Dodgers traded Lo Duca and Mota precisely so that this tightrope act would not occur. Instead, they designed that spot to go to a pitcher with a 3.02 ERA, Brad Penny.

In other August moments, the Dodgers started a pitcher whom they wanted to demote to the bullpen, Kazuhisa Ishii, and a pitcher who himself wanted to be demoted to the bullpen, Wilson Alvarez. They regularly started a journeyman in Jose Lima.

I like Nomo's chances to lower his ERA tonight, especially against the Arizona Diamondback lineup. Ishii has had consecutive solid starts. Lima has been respectable. Alvarez had half of a good month.

But truly, with a starting rotation ERA (4.27) that is eighth in the National League - worse than possible playoff opponents St. Louis, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and San Diego, despite the nurturing environs of Dodger Stadium - how can anyone fault the Dodgers for wanting Penny?

In case it has gotten lost in the shuffle, I determined August 1 that I wouldn't have made the Lo Duca-Mota trade. "Overall," I wrote, "the Dodgers have won the trades on paper. They have acquired more talent than they have given up. But I'm not sure I'm going to argue in favor of the trades any more, because I'm not sure that they've won the trades by enough."

In other words, I felt that the Dodgers risked too much for the potential reward. I felt very much that the Dodgers might come out ahead, but that it was definitely a wait-and-see, and that they almost as easily could come out behind (especially in 2004, as opposed to 2005, 2006, etc.).

However, the fervor with which any Dodger ill gets blamed on the Lo Duca-Mota trade has made my summer in the "Keep Lo Duca" camp truly uncomfortable.

News flash: Even with Mota, Gagne has and would have been vulnerable to a stretch where he would give up - gasp - runs.

Even with Lo Duca, the Dodgers would have been vulnerable to nights of no production from their catching.

And if had Penny not been acquired, and any existing Dodger starting pitcher had gone down with injury, how stretched out would the pitching staff be then?

Beyond that, I've noticed that the July trades tend to be thought of as separate entities: 1) Penny/Hee Seop Choi, 2) Steve Finley. But shouldn't they be evaluated as one, since they were clearly done in concert with each other?

As far as their 2004 roster is concerned, the Dodgers gave up a decent hitter, especially for a catcher, and a superlative reliever. In return, they got two hitters and a pitcher.

Choi and Penny haven't produced much for the Dodgers. But Finley, on the other hand, has been in center field what Mota was for the bullpen. Finley has been the ace setup man for Adrian Beltre.

The Dodgers are currently on the losing ends of the combined trades because Penny, after pitching eight shutout innings in his first apperance with his new team, got hurt, and Lo Duca, after homering in his first appearance with his new team, did not. Had the reverse occurred, the Dodgers would be clear winners. Had neither player gotten hurt, the Dodgers would be just fine.

So is there any way at all people can stop asking, "How could the Dodgers have traded Lo Duca and Mota?" Because the explanation is clear, and has been clear from the get-go. They wanted a starting pitcher and more left-handed power. They paid a lot, but they got a lot. Brad Penny, Steve Finley and Hee Seop Choi constitutes a big haul.

The only notable event is that we simply haven't seen all of this haul in action for the past three weeks.

As someone who was at best ambivalent about losing Lo Duca, I hardly expect everyone to like the trade. But those who judge should at least bring in all the facts.

September 16: Your Morning Sedative

If the Dodgers trailed in their division and their final 15 games were against teams with a combined .551 winning percentage, wouldn't you feel pretty poorly about their chances?

That's the dilemma - that's right, the dilemma - facing the San Francisco Giants beginning Friday ...

September 24: Don't Drop the Boy

My 7 1/2-week-old son, who has never known the Dodgers not to be in first place in his lifetime, was quite agitated between 9 and 10 p.m. tonight. My wife thinks it was constipation, but you and I know the real reason.

So there he was in my arms, for about a solid hour, as the countdown to win a game by avoiding Barry Bonds went down. (As Vinny said in the line of the night, "You know how the Dodgers try to get the ball to Gagne? The Giants are trying to get the bat to Barry.")

I held the boy steady when Cesar Izturis made the diving stop to retire Deivi Cruz. And I held the boy steady when Eric Gagne, one out away from victory without Bonds, threw his 12 consecutive balls to the next three batters.

I told myself that I had to take care of the boy, no matter what.

And I whispered to the boy with the bases loaded, "Bring it home."

And he did.

October 2004

October 2: Chemistry!


* * *

Chemistry. Lo and behold, the Dodgers have it.

We all loved Paul Lo Duca, but even without him, they're ionized.

Because chemistry is not an ingredient, it's a product. In the Dodgers' case, it's certainly not a product of hitters putting the team ahead early, or starting pitchers going the distance. It's a product of being ready to seize the moment, no matter how late nor how improbable.

Jump up, Dodger fans. Jump up!

* * *

And for those who insist that chemistry matters, what about the chemistry discussed after the game? What about the idea that the acquisition of Steve Finley mixed a playoff veteran into a broth of playoff virgins? What about the team meeting that Finley and Robin Ventura held three weeks ago to guide the Dodgers over the pressure cooker stretch run?

The Dodgers went 15-10 in their final 25 games up to the clinch. That's .600 ball, and they were maligned and questioned almost every step of the way.

* * *

September 11, 1983 is still the greatest regular season game in Los Angeles Dodger history. Start to finish, it had everything, while today's game was 8 1/2 innings of prelude to a half-inning of incredulity. But for a new generation, October 2, 2004 will never be forgotten. Some new baseball fans were born today.

Others were born two months ago. Remember "Don't Drop the Boy"? I was tested again, through a 31-minute bottom of the ninth.

This time, my wife offered to take my son from my hands. But something told me I shouldn't let go. I stood, pacing with him, from Shawn Green's single just in front of a should-have-been-defensively-replaced Barry Bonds all the way through Finley's walkoff grand slam.

Then I put the boy down and jumped up.

* * *

The Dodger bullpen pitched nine innings today and allowed three runs. That ought to have been plenty, as was suggested in the morning.

But the Dodger offense went the entire game without hitting a line drive, and didn't really put solid wood on the nose of the baseball until the final at-bat of the game today. It was the team's worst showing at the plate this season.

Last week, the hitting was there but the pitching was gone. This week, the reverse.

If both get on or off next week, we're looking at a playoff series sweep, one way or another. If they alternate - more nailbiters.

* * *

Eric Karros was the color commentator on Fox for today's game, which added an interesting touch. First of all, he wasn't bad.

He tended to shout a little - he got a little too revved up. And more than once, he stated the obvious - or even the proto-obvious, like when he pointed out that A.J. Pierzynski, who was 8 for 8 in his career against Elmer Dessens, was either due to get out or likely to get a couple more hits.

But you have to give Karros credit. He was dignified in his opening conversation about Jim Tracy, who in 2002 was the man removing an underpeforming Karros out of the lineup. If Karros was a little too enthusiastic in questioning Tracy's decision not to pinch-hit for Wilson Alvarez with two on and one out in the fifth inning, perhaps he can be excused - it was the key moment of the game until the bottom of the ninth.

Even more surprisingly, well before the remarkable comeback, Karros came out in favor of Paul DePodesta's July trades. Karros hit all the points - that the struggles of the Dodger pitching validated the need to acquire another starter, that Hee Seop Choi - significantly, Karros' competitor for playing time in Chicago in 2003 - had strong potential, and that chemistry and Lo Duca weren't the be-all and end-all. At the end of the game, Karros said emphatically that Finley was the best deadline acquisition by any ballclub this year, and who could argue?

There's an edginess to the on-air Karros that I always sensed about him on the field. He has a sense of humor, and is articulate, but there seems to be a level of intensity - if not anger - just below the surface. If he can find the right, um, chemistry of all these elements, I can see him succeeding in this new career.

I just hope it doesn't come at the expense of a broadcaster that I like.

October 9: Prima Lima - He's a Dreama

Prior to tonight, the two most exciting Dodger pitching performances I've witnessed in person:

1) Fernando Valenzuela's no-hitter in 1990.

2) Pedro Astacio's three-hit, 10-strikeout shutout in his major-league debut.

Jose Lima's shutout against the best offense in baseball, in the playoffs, in an elimination game, easily makes this a top three.

I was forced to be at home for the Dodgers' amazing division-clinching comeback against San Francisco two weeks ago. I saw the entire game on television (Dodgers, I'm hopelessly TiVoted to you) and was thrilled.

But the difference in being able to attend the game is the glory of being able to genuflect, to offer your praise and feel it being received. And it was just a magnificent experience. I mean, I was waving and yelling to Lima from the Loge level - and I'm pretty sure he knew it.

Leaping to your feet in front of the television set just isn't the same.

Lima's roughest inning tonight was the first, when Tony Womack became what turned out to be the only Cardinal to reach third base. When Lima escaped that dilemma, he earned a standing ovation - who knew if we would able to give another?

As it turns out, we gave him about a dozen.

While I was in the food line, the Dodgers got a break when Lima was ruled safe on a hinky bunt to load the bases with none out in the third inning. Not apologizing for that one, considering how rough it's been for Los Angeles this week. The play came just after Alex Cora was deked by Scott Rolen into not sliding into third on Brent Mayne's single and almost got himself tagged out. Razor-thin margin for error, these Dodgers have.

Cesar Izturis popped out to short left, and Jayson Werth struck out. Just as it looked like the Dodgers would miss their latest, and perhaps last, golden opportunity, Steve Finley delivered a broken-bat two-run double to put the Dodgers ahead.

Shawn Green then hit two solo home runs in the fourth and sixth innings - bigtime plays that help make up for Adrian Beltre's sudden power shortage - to give Los Angeles and Lima a 4-0 lead.

When Lima came up with the bases loaded in bottom of the sixth, one can understand the tempation to pinch-hit for him. Would four runs be enough against St. Louis? Did Lima have more than one good inning left in him?

While I was against Jim Tracy's decisions in recent weeks not to pinch-hit for Wilson Alvarez against the Giants on September 25 and not to relieve Jeff Weaver in Thursday's Game 2, I supported his choice to let Lima bat for himself. Lima's pitch count was in the sixties (he needed only 65 pitches to pitch the second through seventh innings) and he was so integral to this game - to remove his energy from the mound with three entire innings to go seemed premature.

After all, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa walked perhaps the worst-hitting catcher in baseball, Brent Mayne, with a runner on first base. Do you think he expected the Dodgers to take Lima out?

Lima cruised through the seventh and was one strike away from a perfect eighth before Womack singled. Lima suddenly looked a little wobbly - a couple of pitches went in the dirt. Eric Gagne was warm in the bullpen. With Larry Walker up and Albert Pujols on deck, this figured to be the end.

Instead, Lima retired Walker. Eight innings in the books.

And indeed, that seemed enough. You didn't want to see Lima's outstanding outing marred by a collapse - and you had a rested Gagne ready. But then again, with a four-run lead, wasn't it worth a shot to see if Lima could ride this horse all the way back to the stables? The Dodgers certainly planned to remove him if one batter reached base in the ninth.

Facing the three All-Stars, Pujols, Rolen and Jim Edmonds, Lima retired them in order on 10 pitches - 10 pitches! - Beltre flairing a basket catch of a popup to end it.

Lima kneeled down and genuflected. As did we all.

What an incredible night in Los Angeles baseball history.

October 10: Tip 'o the Hat

Sad but satisfied, I bid adieu to the 2004 Dodgers. I enjoyed them tremendously.

Dodger Thoughts will continue in the offseason. I might take a few days off after the World Series, as I did last year, but otherwise I hope all of you who have found this place during the season will stick around. We'll start looking ahead almost immediately, but for now, it's with a great deal of fondness that I tip my hat to 2004.

Beltre comes alive.

Cora's 18-pitch home run.

Bittersweet farewells to Guillermo Mota, Dave Roberts and Paul Lo Duca.

Pulling for Nomo even though there was nothing left.

Weaver outpitching Kevin Brown.

A find in Jayson Werth.

Robin Ventura, Jose Hernandez and Olmedo Saenz - the oldies but goodies.

Shawn Green's second-half comeback (Did you notice in the paper today he finally admitted his shoulder was still bothering him in the first half?)

Izturis keys a galloping gourmet defense.

Lima Time is no joke.

Tim Wallach makes believers.

Yhency is fency.

Jason Grabowski provides some key help amid first-half injuries.

C'mon, Milton, light my fire ...

Odalis' big win in San Francisco.

Steve "finally, a deadline acquisition that works" Finley.

Nancy Bea, we cherish each moment they give you.

Paul DePodesta, we're keepin' the faith.

Jim Tracy, you're always learning. You might just make it after all.

Ross Porter, you're coming back. I'm overruling whoever says you're not. No way you're going like this.

Ishii, I'm so used to your act right now, it doesn't even faze me.

Brian Jordan, you - whoops, wrong year.

Wilson Alvarez, tough going today, but we still like ya.

Did you think I would forget Eric Gagne? You're all right, kid. Come back real soon.

Congratulations to the Cardinals. That's a fine team.

October 13: Soul Survivors

In the end, chemistry had nothing to do with it.

Those who today criticize the Dodgers' trade of Paul Lo Duca, with the season in rear view, point to the stretch-drive failings of Hee Seop Choi, Brent Mayne, Dave Ross and/or Brad Penny.

Perhaps I missed a corner of the Internet, but I didn't find anyone this week who was attributing the Dodgers' first-round playoff exit to a loss of chemistry, heart or soul.

Part of this is because the Dodgers displayed what many would interpret as chemistry, heart and soul - not to mention blood and guts - in surviving something of a September performance collapse to win 94 games, a division title and one more postseason victory than it had achieved in any year since "Don't Worry, Be Happy" was Billboard's No. 1.

But the lesson here is that even for July's chemistry diehards, results were what mattered.

If some combination of Choi, Mayne, Ross and Penny had performed to expectations - and make no mistake, none of them did - even critics would have viewed the trade more favorably by degrees.

If Lo Duca had excelled in September, people would have pointed first to his numbers, not his personality, in noting what the Dodgers had lost.

If the Dodgers had fallen out of first place and/or missed the playoffs, those clawing at the carcass would have hit on chemistry only if there were no bones to pick over the on-field performance of the aforementioned principals.

I say this as someone who loved watching Lo Duca, who loved the way he played the game. But I think the past two months have shown the limits that one person's chemistry has on a 25-man roster.

Lo Duca's heart and soul certainly infuse his own play, and perhaps they serve as a limited influence on others. But it's not significant.

If there's any more doubt, consider Jose Lima, who picked up the Dodger heart, soul and fire banner where Lo Duca left it. Lima enlivens and inspires. But he didn't inspire the other starting pitchers to pitch better, he didn't inspire the hitters to give the Dodgers early inning leads, and it's unconvincing to say that he had any meaningful role in the late-inning comebacks.

There are reasons to feel support the Dodgers' trade of Lo Duca and reasons to critique it. For example, on the one hand, the Dodgers needed starting pitching and cheaper offense for the future. On the other hand, was it worth acquiring both a first baseman (Choi) and an outfielder (Steve Finley) in a pennant race when only one position was available for them, while at the same time diminishing the catcher slot?

Frankly, my desire to continue this debate is as over as the Dodger season. Many of you might feel the same way. But if this debate continues - or if a new one begins, say over Lima - I am hopeful that, it will be about the real issues, not invented ones like chemistry. As much as I love seeing players play with heart and soul, this would save me a lot of heartache and soulache.

October 26: The Hole Closes Up

I first became aware of the hole closing up in 1997, the year after an incident in which, for the second time in about 18 months, a friend of mine died unexpectedly and tragically.

This was someone I saw or talked to on an almost daily basis, someone who combined joy and thoughtfulness, someone who taught me when I was single, unemployed and depressed - taught me like I was learning to walk - that I was still young and that my life was very much ahead of me.

It wasn't that John Egan didn't have his own troubles, but he didn't let those troubles run his life. It is not trite, but rather simple fact, to say that Egan conveyed to me much of the means I needed to cope with his passing.

Egan's death, just before his 26th birthday, left a hole in my life painful enough that I could physically feel the wound open.

Though it was one of the deepest, this was not the first time in my life that I could feel such a wound. In fact, I'm fragile enough to have felt it after a breakup. Even the pang I feel in my stomach when I leave a place where I've built sentimental ties, I associate with that wound.

But something about the lessons Egan passed on to me made me experience his wound in a new way - and I say this with some regret. In helping me be positive about my life amid the gloom, he made me conscious of how the holes that open in your life almost always close. The wounds heal. There might be a scar, but faint.

And so it is today that when I think of John Egan, my very good friend, I don't feel pain, but disbelief. I don't feel physicality. I just wonder, wonder what his life would be like today, what he would share with his family, and his friends, and me.

I find it strange that I had not connected this awareness with the Dodgers until this month. The Dodgers won a division title, won a playoff game, celebrated more than they had in years. They did so without a player, Paul Lo Duca, who was part of the fabric of the team, whose departure ripped open wounds for many fans. Lo Duca is remembered and his contributions missed. But the outpouring of grief, which had people all but rending their garments on July 31, is gone. Nowhere to be found. The hole closed up.

And so it is today that I return from a weekend away at my college reunion, a weekend all about connections made and lost, to learn that Ross Porter has officially been told not to return to the Dodger broadcasting booth.

This is not a tragedy, not a death in the family. Some fans won't even miss Porter, though I think even most of those, as has been written elsewhere, cringe at how callously his departure was handled. (Among other insults, did not even do a news story on the event, instead publishing only that feeble press release.)

But for me and many others, when we think of the Dodgers right now, there is that hole where Porter sat, where his friendly drawl floated through the air. There is that emptiness.

For selfish reasons, I feel this even more than a few others. Porter, as you might know, became a friend to me and this website this year, friendships that I consider among my highlights of 2004. Those won't end with his departure, but I will certainly regret the distance as he moves on to his next job.

We can cherish the fact that Vin Scully is still around, but the hole of Porter's absence remains.

For now.

From where I sit today, what saddens me the most about Porter leaving the Dodgers is not that it leaves a hole, but that the hole will eventually close up. And what we'll be left with are just the hair's-width memories of what it was like to listen to him talk about the Dodgers with some of the same passionate level-headedness that I try to bring to this site.

Today, people feel Porter's departure. Tomorrow, all they'll do is remember it. Because, as John Egan certainly would have shown me by his example, there's so much in this world to feel good about. When I think of Egan at this moment, it is sadness mixed with a smile. How could it not be?

But, even in deference to Egan, I say this. Time marches on, time grabs lives before they are lived and careers before they are completed, and I don't like it.

November 2004

November 9: The Last Dodger HR Leader

When Adrian Beltre took over the major league lead in home runs this season, it was widely reported that he was the first Dodger to do so since Tim Jordan, way back in 1908.

The ensuing number of people rushing to tell the story of Jordan numbered, well, in the zeroes.

Until now!

November 14: 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?

December 2004

December 16: True Dodgers, Part II

From Monday's group discussion on "True Dodgers," Dodger Thoughts readers Ling Ngoh and Tim Weiss got their comments into Jim Alexander's Riverside Press-Enterprise column today on sports and loyalty. (Read Dodger Thoughts, become famous!)

It's an interesting piece, although I think it gives us fans too much credit. We are as quick to abandon a player when he falls on hard times as they are quick to abandon us for a better offer.

You'll notice, I think, not a single tear being shed over Hideo Nomo's departure (this year or the first time it happened a few years ago) - even though he captivated fans for long stretches. Kirk Gibson was only with the team for a couple of seasons - much less than home-grown flops Jose Gonzalez or Billy Ashley. But is Gibson less of a true Dodger? Nope.

Whether that means fans are jaded, I don't know. But I think the reality is that you become a true Dodger just by doing well in a Dodger uniform, not by how long you wear it - and I think that's not a recent development, that it's been true for a long time.

That being said, though, I don't think anyone can top Eric Enders' description of what it means to be a true Dodger. For those who missed it:

OK, here's my definition, I guess. A "True Dodger" is like your girlfriend: You know she's slept with others before you, and will sleep with others after you, but you don't care, because she's sleeping with you now and that's all that matters. You just have to be careful to avoid the ones who are too young or all washed up...

Ex-Dodgers also have subcategories like ex-girlfriends do:

- There's the one who, although long gone, you smile every time you think about. (Fernando)
- There's the one you wish you had back. (Pedro Martinez)
- There's the one you hope you never see again. (Carlos Perez)
- There's the one who never shuts up. (Lima)
- There's the one who was really special, although you never seem able to explain why. (Dave Hansen)
- There's the one who you thought would be really great but turned out to be a major disappointment. (Greg Brock)
- There's the one that was short-lived, but incredibly hot while it lasted. (Steve Finley)
- There are the one night stands, with names you can barely remember. (Hey there, Garey Ingram.)
- Last, but not least, there's the one who ran away with all your money. (Andy Ashby)
- (And one more) The one you go out with because you really have the hots for her sister. (Chris Gwynn)

By the way, a number of sportswriters in recent weeks, including at the Winter Meetings, have told me how impressed they are by the quality of discussion in the comments on this site. That Alexander came here to solicit thoughts for his column further supports the point. You folks really deserve a pat on the back.

December 16: Transition

ESPN reported the Beltre signing Thursday afternoon. Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi could not be reached to comment, but a club official said the team doesn't comment on signings until they are finalized.

As we wait on official confirmation ... for the white smoke to appear ...

Thinking about Pedro Martinez ... although at the time, he didn't leave a hole the size of the one the Dodgers are staring at now ...

Thinking about Mike Piazza ...

Thinking about how unlikely it is that any of the Dodger middle infielders should play third base ...

Thinking about whether a trade of an outfielder to come and a run for Carlos Beltran is in store ...

Thinking and reading ... your comments, the wires ...

Thinking about whether 2005 becomes a rebuilding year ... and reminding myself that the A's under Billy Beane haven't needed to have rebuilding years, so why should the Dodgers?

Someone mentioned Joel Guzman ... thinking about whether he will be rushed to the big leagues like Beltre was ...

Thinking about how much I'll miss watching the blossoming of Beltre before my eyes ... but how I won't have to worry that it won't continue ...

Thinking I really do have Beltre indigestion ...

Le Bron, Sandy or Tiger?
2004-12-30 09:32
by Jon Weisman

On the front page of this morning was the following poll:

Which is the best athlete born on December 30?

Kerry Collins (32 years old)
LeBron James (20)
Sandy Koufax (69)
Tiger Woods (29)

My answer was not automatic, except for dismissing Collins. James is clearly impressive, and I continue to love Tiger the way I saw others continue to love Michael Jordan.


Dodger Broadcasters: Five in '05
2004-12-29 08:48
by Jon Weisman

To help make sense of the Dodger announcer reconstruction for 2005, I checked in with Tom Hoffarth, who succeeded me as sports media columnist for the Daily News nearly 13 years ago and hasn't let go of the gig since. (It's the relative equivalent of Franklin Roosevelt succeeding William Henry Harrison, without the polio or pneumonia.)

One thing you'll notice is that the yet-to-be-hired color commentators may get more air time in some games than play-by-play men Charley Steiner and Rick Monday. And, despite rumors to the contrary, Monday will do no color, "although that's probably what he's better suited for," according to Hoffarth.

Here's the breakdown, as Hoffarth sees it:

When Vin Scully is working a TV game:
TV play-by-play: Vin (entire game)
TV commentary: none
Radio play-by-play: Vin (innings 1-3), Steiner or Monday (innings 4-6), Steiner or Monday (innings 7-9)
Radio commentary: none (innings 1-3), one analyst, "probably" Al Downing (innings 4-9)

When Vin is not working, Steiner and Monday will alternate between radio and television for play-by-play, but the individual color commentators will stay on either television or radio throughout the game. Downing, if hired, would do radio only.

The current leading candidate for TV commentary when Vin doesn't work is somewhat astonishing. From Hoffarth's column last week:

After a merry-go-round search to find a credible former Dodgers player who could serve as a TV analyst willing to work 50-odd road games a season, several sources indicate the Dodgers appear ready to give up and hand the job over to Steve Lyons, who has been doing Fox national and regional games for the past few years as well as TV for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Lyons has no connection to the team either as a player or broadcaster, except for the fact he was suspended by Fox last season after insensitive comments he made concerning Shawn Green sitting out a game in October in observance of Yom Kippur. Lyons also has a pending sexual assault and battery charge case coming up next month in L.A. Superior Court from a woman who filed a suit after an incident in Maui in 2002. If the Dodgers do use Lyons, sources say it will have to be for more than the $1,000 a game that the team was reportedly trying to pay someone like Steve Sax or Eric Karros.

Does any of this make sense?

Five people will work behind the Dodger microphone in 2005. It's not quite this simple or direct, but it may tickle some of you to note that it will have taken three people to replace Ross Porter.

Local Boys Make Good: Blyleven and Lederer
2004-12-29 06:36
by Jon Weisman

"Pull up a chair," Vin Scully would say. Rich Lederer of Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT, the son of a Long Beach Press-Telegram (among other places) sportswriter, tells some great stories this rainy-day morning about his contemporary, star pitcher Bert Blyleven.

Just for starters, we learn that the Holland-born but Garden Grove-raised Blyleven delivered the newspapers Lederer's father, George, was writing for. Soon after, Lederer tells the story of the time, fresh out of high school, he umpired a scout league game Blyleven pitched.

Dressed in my umpire’s attire (including an old-style balloon chest protector just like the A.L. umps of that day), I watched Blyleven toss his seven or so warm-up pitches before taking my position behind the catcher, gently bending my knees as the lead-off batter stepped into the batter’s box. The tall right-hander took his sign, went into his windup, and threw the most hellacious curve I had ever seen. The ball started chin high, and it broke sharply downward, crossing the plate just above the batter’s knees.

It was my turn to let out the big “steee-rike” call. Instead, I froze. Even though I had mentally prepared myself for Bert’s wicked hook, I had never seen one quite like that up close. I knew it was a strike. Everybody in the ballpark knew it was a strike. However, by the time I had processed the pitch in my mind, it was too late. I hadn’t said anything, and I hadn’t signaled a strike with my right hand.

A home plate umpire has a split-second to call a pitch a strike or a ball. In the vernacular of baseball, a pitch is a ball unless called a strike. As such, my no call meant the pitch was a ball. I looked out to the mound, and I see Bert standing there with his hands on his hips, wondering if I was ever going to pull the trigger. After a few seconds, his astonishment turned into a head shake and a chuckle.

Lederer then takes us through the highlights of Blyleven's entire career. Get to know this should-be-Hall of Famer in a way you haven't before.

Perez the Thought
2004-12-28 06:40
by Jon Weisman

Three-fifths of the 2004 Dodger starting rotation, covered in one night ...

From the Isn't Free Agency Confusing to Everyone Department:

Odalis Perez is under the impression the Mets need a starting pitcher and that he will meet with general manager Omar Minaya to discuss a contract this week. Neither is true.

"My agent, Fernando Cuza, informed me that Minaya is coming to the Dominican Republic to talk to me personally. ... I'm excited about the possibility of joining Pedro Martinez in the Mets' rotation," Perez told The Associated Press yesterday.

But Mets officials said Minaya has no plans to visit the Dominican this week and the team is not interested in Perez. The Mets have their rotation in place with Tom Glavine, Kris Benson, Victor Zambrano and Steve Trachsel behind Martinez.

- Peter Abraham, The Journal News (N.Y.)

Peter Botte of the New York Daily News does console Perez with the knowledge that this could change, that the Mets could still come a callin' while entertaining the thought of trading Trachsel to the Dodgers.

Trachsel, oft-considered The Slowest Working Man in Show Biz based on the amount of time he takes between pitches - a Human Rain Delay for the 21st century - nevertheless has rehabilitated his career from a mid-run dip to post three consecutive above-average seasons: 3.91 (116 ERA+), 4.24 (112 ERA+), 4.27 (107 ERA+). On the down side, Trachsel is already 34, will make roughly as much money in 2005 as Perez will (they made the same $5 million salary in 2004) and has a strikeout rate lower than Perez.

Bluto and Ishii
2004-12-27 21:50
by Jon Weisman

You can't stand to look at him, can you? You see Kazuhisa Ishii the way the Omegas saw John Blutarsky, don't you?

Of course, that's Senator Blutarsky to you, pal.

No Dodger pitcher has confounded in the past three years the way Ishii has - check out the Dodger Thoughts archives for evidence.

April 9, 2003: Kazuhisa Ishii pitches like my childhood bedroom looked ... a slopfest on the mound - pitches strewn about everywhere like clothes and toys all over the floor.

April 17, 2003: I worry about losing my credibility.

When a pitcher throws seven shutout innings, allowing three hits and three walks, I should be able to praise him, shouldn’t I?

How can I defend .204-hitting Adrian Beltre one day, and in the same week, still raise questions about Kazuhisa Ishii after Wednesday night’s winning performance?

May 9, 2003: Kazuhisa Ishii, who I have said should go to the bullpen, pitched six innings of one-run ball Thursday and lowered his ERA to 2.95.

But the rest of the world has caught up with deconstructing Ishii. Whereas in 2003 I wrote that "no one seemed to notice that his ERA was high despite a winning record," now that's all people notice.

In the meantime, what they're missing is, however inconsistent, a pitcher who more than occasionally embarasses the opposing lineup.

It's not just that Ishii produced 16 quality starts in 31 games last season. Quality starts are overrated. Particularly in the context of Dodger Stadium, at least through 2004, allowing three runs in six innings - a 4.50 ERA - is not all that impressive.

Here's a game-by-game review of Ishii's 2004 performance. Note not only the quality starts, but the fact that he pitched 13 games (in bold below) in which he allowed two runs or fewer in six innings or more.

6.0  1  April
6.2  4
4.0  7
9.0  0
6.0  2 
6.2  2  May
4.0  2
6.1  3
4.2  2
6.0  0
5.0  3  June
8.0  1
6.0  3
5.0  5
6.0  3
3.0  7  July
9.0  0
6.0  2
3.1  6
4.0  6
6.1  1
2.0  5  August
7.0  2
4.0  5
7.1  2
6.0  1
5.2  3  September
2.1  4
4.2  4
7.0  1
5.0  3  October

How many games of six innings/two runs did free agent prize Matt Clement have last season? Twelve. (Odalis Perez, by the way, had 18.)

The key to Ishii is that despite his corpulent walk totals - 305 in three seasons - opponents punish him about as effectively as Greg Marmalard and Doug Neidermeyer would. In 2004, Ishii allowed a slugging percentage of .414 - 24th-best in the National League. In previous seasons, Ishii's opponents' slugging percentage was even lower: .384 in 2002, .394 in 2003.

The disturbing trends with Ishii are not only that the slugging is on a slight rise, but that his strikeout rate went on double secret probation in 2004. After averaging more than eight strikeouts per nine innings from 2002-03, Ishii fell to 5.2 strikeouts per nine innings this past season.

Oh, and not coincidentally, there were the 10 games last season that Ishii put the bullpen through a workout by not making it out of the fifth inning. Sometimes, it does help to sit through an entire class.

I saw Animal House probably 30 times before my 13th birthday - there was a stretch when I was watching it on a daily basis when I got home from school. I can't say I have the same desire to see Ishii that many times before my 38th birthday next November.

Nevertheless, those who think Ishii should be expelled without remorse are mistaken. There are certainly several baseball teams out there who don't have five better starting pitchers than the Dodgers' Delta House mascot. He's overpaid for his current performance, but there's a whole fraternity of folks like that.

Just because Ishii isn't great, or even average, doesn't mean we should ignore what value he does retain.

Arbitration Rules Discourage Loyalty
2004-12-27 20:27
by Jon Weisman

If you're one of the people sitting around why the Dodgers didn't sign Jose Lima for one season at $2.5 million, the way the Royals did, understand that it just wasn't possible.

In all likelihood, Lima would not have settled for that amount before the deadline for teams to offer players salary arbitration.

And, had the Dodgers offered Lima arbitration, we now know he would have accepted, based on the idea that the $2.5 million deal was his best offer.

And, had Lima accepted, they would be paying Lima more than $2.5 million for 2005 today.

As recently as 2002, Lima was making more than $7 million in a year. In 2004, he made $950,000. Arbitration raises for 14-game winners (including the playoffs) tend to be considerable. Had Lima gone to arbitration, you can easily imagine he would have ended up at a salary higher than $2.5 million.

Now, feel free to argue the merits of offering Lima more money or years to retain him. Personally, I'd have been wary, though personally, I'm now wary of the Dodgers' 2005 work-in-progress starting pitching in general.

But you cannot conclude at all that the Dodgers weren't willing to offer Lima what Kansas City did.

It is a peculiarity of the current system that arbitration-eligible players are encouraged to leave their most recent teams. Last week, 29 teams could have offered Lima a one-year, $2.5-million contract. The only team that couldn't was the team with which his rebirth continued - the Dodgers.

Watch something similar happen with Alex Cora - he may well sign a contract within the Dodgers' price range, but below the minimum the Dodgers could have expected to pay through arbitration.

Happy Tweener Days
2004-12-27 20:26
by Jon Weisman

Missed you all ... good to be back. Hope many of you are getting as many days off as possible to enjoy this week - and thanks for responding so positively to my most recent message.

Oh - and about the double-posting problem - we've tried to solve it, and we are working on improvements to the site. In the meantime, know that the first time you post, it usually goes through even if you get an "internal server error" message.

As a precaution, I suggest that just before you post, copy the entire text of your message to your clipboard (control-A, control-C or apple-A, apple-C for example) and hang onto it to see if your post registers. Sometimes, it doesn't happen until the next person after you posts a comment. Sorry for the frustration!

A Plea to the Commenters
2004-12-22 00:31
by Jon Weisman

All posting comments to this website, please read carefully.

Folks, I'm going to take one more concentrated family break before the year's out. I'll be back by next week. Please feel free to continue the discussion.

It's a great thing that we can all come together here. The comments on this board have been a special place all year. They have not been like the comments at other boards that I've seen. People have become friends. They have learned from each other. They often disagree with each other, but they've always listened to each other. On the rare occasions when they've lost their tempers, they've quickly apologized.

Somehow, in the past week, the disagreements have become more heated and the writing has become more careless. I've never had to calm people down more than I have this week. The LoDuca trade reaction was nothing compared to this.

I think we're at a real turning point here, which will determine whether this remains a great place to chat or whether it will become an ordinary one. This is a personal thing for me, yes, but it is also a personal thing for many longtime readers. You talk about the Dodgers making the right moves. It's time for everyone here to make the right moves.

Please conduct yourselves here the way you would if you were actually in the same room with the other commenters. This is a public place. Treat it like one.

Please always be considerate of the other people in this forum. Being mean or snide is not productive - and it's certainly not persuasive.

Please do not use profanity. I'll say it for the hundreth time. I curse all the time in my own life, but here I don't. Too often it leads the debate into the ground, and it shuts out people who are offended by it. Yes, it's their choice to go somewhere else - but I don't want them to have to choose. It's amazingly easy not to curse before hitting the "submit" button. Please do not use profanity.

Please do not make personal attacks. Debate the ideas, not the person. Please even be somewhat considerate of the Dodger personnel you are writing about. Yes, it's possible. Challenge yourself to criticize without demonizing.

Please think about how you phrase what you are writing. Please don't just shoot off at the mouth. Please don't just shout and spew. This is not your padded cell for solitary confinement. There are other people here. Write your arguments. It's better this way, trust me. If this is a new concept, I understand - I do. Just take the time to think about it.

Please be open-minded.

Please don't fight fire with fire. Please caution people when they are violating these guidelines - but please do so calmly.

As the year nears a close, I have high hopes for the future Dodger Thoughts. It has been incredibly rewarding for me, and I hope it is for you. Because of that, I feel there is much at stake. Please treat this forum and its participants as if it were your investment on the line - because it is.

2004-12-21 22:13
by Jon Weisman

The trade is off - even with the Bergen Record report that J.D. Drew is coming. It's off, perhaps because of Dodger misgivings, perhaps because of Javier Vasquez misgivings.

Tim Brown of the Times has immediate reaction. Good read. Note how he advocates pursuing Randy Johnson without turning it into a holy crusade or even assuming it can done. Note how Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta is neither angel nor devil:

So, let the Yankees grouse. Let the Diamondbacks sigh.

Enough Dodgers have been sent away, with too little — or nothing — in return, for whatever reasons.

DePodesta's intuition was sound. Vazquez was no sure thing, and the Dodgers weren't the only ones who knew it. The trade fell apart, and the Dodgers are better for it.

Given Green back, given their set-up man back, the Dodgers can start their off-season over again, minus one large Beltre. They've got two months. They've all but signed Drew. Sign a starter. Find your catcher. Give Green first base and let him play out his contract.

Now you've got your baseball team. It's better this way.

It Happens Every Year
2004-12-21 10:10
by Jon Weisman

2003: Paul Quantrill, Kevin Brown, Mike Kinkade, Jason Romano
2002: Eric Karros, Mark Grudzielanek, Dave Hansen, Marquis Grissom
2001: Gary Sheffield, Tom Goodwin, Chan Ho Park, Luke Prokopec, Matt Herges
2000: Todd Hollandsworth, Kevin Elster, Ismael Valdez, Orel Hershiser
1990: Fernando Valenzuela, Kirk Gibson, Rick Dempsey, Hubie Brooks
1980: Mickey Hatcher, Rudy Law, Charlie Hough


Don't know how well the Dodgers will do in 2005 - they're in a tenuous place to say the least, despite their remaining assets - most of all in the pitching rotation.

However, there is nothing new about the departure of Dodgers we have grown to like or appreciate or both.

Being upset about this year's farewells is perfectly understandable. Maybe, even, this year was the last straw for some people. But that's all it's really been - another straw. The notion that there is anything unusual about this offseason, that there is any particular callousness or insensitivity to it, just doesn't track. If it turns out that Dodger owner Frank McCourt is in cost-cutting/plunder-the-assets-for real-estate mode, lack of allegience to any True Dodgers will be an independent issue.

Look at 2001. Happen to notice the presence of a star slugger on the so-long list?

Look at 1990. Think we lost enough cherished heroes after that season?

Probably very few are mourning Jason Romano's absence today - but there were plenty of howls when he was traded in March.

Some years are worse than others. Some moves are worse than others. Some moves seem great and turn out badly; some seem bad but turn out great.

It's all part of a thread that continues, year after year after year. No matter what you think of the Dodger moves this offseason, it should help to keep that in mind.

The Return of Names You Know
2004-12-20 22:11
by Jon Weisman

Giovanni Carrara and Olmedo Saenz sign one-year contracts with the Dodgers, while 2005 retiree threat Wilson Alvarez inks nothing less than a two-year deal.

Also, the Jose Valentin signing is official, as is the claim of pitcher Frank Brooks on waivers from Pittsburgh. He's a lefty, with a career minor-league ERA of 3.55 in 227 games (63 starts) and major-league ERA of 4.67 (89 ERA+ where 100 is average) in 11 games, but a nice 18 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings. Nine walks in that period, unfortunately.

Update: No official word yet about whether the Dodgers non-tendered any players at today's deadline for offering arbitration-eligible players 2005 contracts, but though I haven't seen it elsewhere, Ken Rosenthal is reporting on that Alex Cora was not offered one. Caution for now: no source.

Meanwhile, former Dodger Dave Roberts, he of the Stolen Base, is on his way to San Diego.

The Angels continue to answer "money" to the question, "How to Win Fans and Influence Media?" by signing shortstop Orlando Cabrera, he of the World Champion Shortstopness, to a four-year, $32-million contract. Rob McMillin has a critique at 6-4-2. Though the Internet seems to be lining up against the signing, I've done no research on my own about Cabrera - I'm just mentioning it for the "Dodgers aren't the only ones to make questionable decisions" file.

Carlos Perez and Bill Singer
2004-12-20 21:09
by Jon Weisman

The headline on the Detroit Free Press story read, "We all can learn from the story of Carlos Perez." More than 4,300 words later, I sat back wondering if that were true.

The story is not about what you might suspect - or rather, it is about much more. It is about the three occasions on which the former Dodger pitcher was accused of rape, about how the media reported the cases, and about the justice system prosecuted and defended the cases.

Free Press reporter Michael Rosenberg's article is outstanding. There is little mistaking what he suspects to be the truth in the case of Perez, but despite this, he has thoroughly reported both sides of a story that he acknowledges comes down to a he said-she said.

At the same time, Rosenberg has a broader point to advocate. Though he can't render an infallible judgment on Perez, he can render a judgment on "how the system reacts."

We hear the accusation. We question the motives of the alleged victim, which we don't do with other crimes. We question the accuser more than we question the accused.

Team officials instinctively defend the player. Expensive attorneys disparage the accuser, saying the allegations are false. Sometimes the allegations are indeed false.

We decide, almost instantly, whom we believe.

Coincidentally, just one day before the Perez article ran, Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe revisited the story of former Dodger pitcher and scout Bill Singer, whom the Mets fired 13 months ago from his brand-new job as special assistant to the general manager (pretty much the job, I believe, that was previously filled by Mr. Wilhelm) after Singer made racially insensitive remarks to Dodger assistant general manager Kim Ng.

Edes reports on the effort, strikingly reminiscent of the attempts to rehabilitate the career of former Dodger general manager Al Campanis after his firing due to insensitive remarks before a nationwide Nightline audience to give Singer a second chance.

After going through alcohol and sensitivity counseling, and undergoing a battery of medical exams, Singer believes he has an explanation for his conduct, one he offered to prospective employers, so far to no avail. According to a signed statement by his Sarasota-based family physician, Jack S. Rodman, Singer fell victim to a combination of factors that affected his "cognitive performance and judgment to a level that is not typically present." Singer, Rodman said, was on medication to control his blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. In a few-week period just before the GM meetings, he also had begun the South Beach diet and lost 35 pounds, while continuing on his medication.

"It is my professional opinion," Rodman wrote, "that the combined weight loss with a metabolically altering diet and subsequent diminished body mass, in the face of continued antihypertensive medication, put the patient in a state of potential compromise . . . Clearly the addition of a limited amount of alcohol could quickly impair a person to a point of disorientation, confusion, and altered level of consciousness."

Singer insists he has no knowledge of what he said to Ng, but accepts that it was highly offensive, "It was obviously a horrible incident," he said. "But it happened."

For those of the bleeding heart, there's almost a pristine conflict - believe that the racism was disease-induced, or believe that racism was the disease. The Singer-Ng story is less of a he said-she said than a he justified-they aren't buying it. The direct comparison between the two stories is not obvious. If nothing else, Singer got his. Perez, outside of a settlement paid in an entirely separate case brought by a flight attendant on the Dodger team plane, didn't.

However, there is a thread between the Perez and Singer articles, and it's worth noting. There is a passion in this country, if not this world, and the passion is to rush to judgment. Most of us are impatient people, insatiably eager to assign credit or blame. There's a Veruca Salt in just about every one of us, and if it's not, "I want an oompa-loompa now," it's "I want to decide now."

The world doesn't work that way.

You know what I think? My bets would be that Kobe Bryant was innocent of rape and Carlos Perez was guilty. I've read about both incidents, and I'm here to tell you that ... I couldn't be less qualified to judge. My opinions on these matters aren't worth a cent and a half, and I wouldn't argue them with any conviction (if you'll pardon the expression). I'm the kind of guy who would rather wait for the trial. The problem is, the trial doesn't always come.

About 99 degrees down the seriousness scale, there are those who would accuse Paul DePodesta and Frank McCourt of doing to the Dodgers what Carlos Perez was accused of doing to those women. It's entirely possible that it's true. It's also entirely possible that it isn't. Moreover, barring unforseen circumstances, we'll get to have our trial - the continued 2004-05 offseason, the 2005 season, and so on, and on.

This past week, during which the masses have taken arms against Dodger owner Frank McCourt, I have been relatively silent about him. Earlier this year, when most people celebrated McCourt mainly because he meant the vanquishing of the Fox ownership, I went on record with my fears about McCourt ownership. It hasn't been conscious, but I'm noticing an increasing tendency in myself to not so much take the contrary side, as to give it a chance to speak. It's not noble, it's just something I appear to be doing lately. I have my passions, and because they are passions, I question them.

Must we withhold our opinions, our predictions, until the formal verdict? No, not necessarily. But there is one thing we can do. We can all learn from Michael Rosenberg. We can listen, and listen hard, to viewpoints that conflict with ours. We can sift out individual nuggets of truth, even if the entire theory doesn't appear to hold - and maybe even come to a grander conclusion than we intended.

We can address people with respect even when we disagree. On a graver note, we can fear the worst about Carlos Perez but still note that the justice system finds him innocent, and we can fear the worst about his accusers but still note that the strength of their accusations. On a lighter note, we can even admire Moneyball and still be sentimental.

In some cases - particularly political - this will be easier said than done. But it's something to at least consider.

We don't have to check our passions at the door to offer a fair trial. And when something objectively and conclusively awful or wonderful arrives at our table, perhaps we'll have that much more appreciation for it, and perhaps our words and actions will carry that much more respect.

When You Don't Get Enough Sleep, This Is What Happens
2004-12-20 14:43
by Jon Weisman

(Note: If you didn't grow up in Los Angeles, you probably don't have a prayer of understanding the following.)

Lying in bed, 1 a.m., lights out, and it occurs to me - the perfect endorsement opportunity if a certain free agent comes to Los Angeles.

Who has Southern California been turning to for all their plumbing, drain, heating, and air conditioning needs for over 50 years? "Adee do!" says J.D. Drew!

I'm telling you, it's a natural.

So, who do you suppose is next on the Dodger target list for acquisitions? Jack Stephanski? Jack Stephanovich? Who?

G'bye, Gooby
2004-12-20 13:46
by Jon Weisman

Trevor Gooby, Vero Beach Dodger general manager and friend of Dodger Thoughts, has moved on to become Director of Florida Operations for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Gooby provided both insights into the Dodger farm system and pictures of the hurricane damage to Dodgertown. Sad for us, but happy for him. Gooby is still a pup at 28, but he's building a nice career.

Another Arbitration Deadline
2004-12-19 16:13
by Jon Weisman

Today is the deadline for those players offered salary arbitration to accept. For the Dodgers, this is most noteworthy in regards to Odalis Perez.

  • Acceptance means that the player will definitely return to his team for one year at a figure determined by an arbitrator - usually more than the player would average in a long-term contract, even if the team loses the arbitration hearing - unless the parties settle on a contract on their own.

  • Rejection keeps the door open for negotiations on a free-agent contract until January 8 - but allows the player to continue negotiating with other teams.

    With the generous market for free-agent starting pitchers so far seeming to elude the lefty, Perez might decide to accept arbitration and guarantee himself a one-year contract with the Dodgers that could conceivably pay him almost anything in the seven-digit category. (Perez was paid $5 million for 2004, a season in which he then lowered his 2003 ERA by 1.27.) On the other hand, the security of a multiyear contract might prevail, no matter the dollars.

    We'll know soon.

    Update: Perez rejected arbitration, as did catcher Brent Mayne.

  • Drew to a Flush?
    2004-12-19 16:03
    by Jon Weisman

    When healthy, J.D. Drew when healthy is a lovely hitter when healthy.

    Drew has a career OPS of .904 (.391 on-base, .513 slugging). The left-handed-hitting outfielder was fifth in the National League last season in EQA, according to Baseball Prospectus - just ahead of Adrian Beltre - and was the game's 10th-most valuable player, according to VORP (Value Over Replacement Player). He reached base 281 times last season.

    Drew had an EQA of .335 in 2004 at age 28. By comparison, the career high for Shawn Green in EQA, which also came at age 28, was .324. In his entire career, Drew has grounded into 34 double plays, one fewer than Green's 2003-04 total.

    The comparisons to Green, of course, raise the question about whether Drew just had his peak season - especially since this is an oft-injured player whose career high in games, achieved in 2004, is a relatively modest 145.

    Drew is a player who can hit anywhere in a lineup, including third or fourth. He would be an improvement over Green and less expensive than Green. But the Dodgers would have to have their guard up. Less metaphorically, they would have to keep a healthy rotation of backups - achievable through the multipositional skills of several players on the roster.

    Anyone who was against a rich, long-term contract for Adrian Beltre is probably going to be against a rich, long-term contract for J.D. Drew. Given that Drew plays outfield and not third base, the Dodgers would probably be better off than Beltre.

    Signing Drew would be risky - and there shouldn't have necessarily been a need for the Dodgers to take risks at this point. But in any case, especially if Green is traded, they'll be able to afford a risk. And if you're going to gamble, Drew would be a fun hitter while he lasts.

    The Math DSATs
    2004-12-18 22:47
    by Jon Weisman

    Culturally biased for your pleasure ...

    Question 1:
    Which of the following trades would you be willing to make, where:

    x = a player with average major league talent
    y = one season with the Dodgers
    z = one season with another team

    Trade 1: 0.9x + 3y for 1.3x + 5z
    Trade 2: 0.5x + 10y for 1.2x + 0.5z
    Trade 3: 1.1x + 0.75y for 1.2x + 3z
    Trade 4: 0.2x + 18y for Barry Bonds
    Trade 5: 0.9x + 5y for x + z
    Trade 6: 0.7x + 4y for 0.9x + 9z
    Trade 7: x + 4.5y for 1.4x - 2z

    If you think you don't have enough information to answer, perhaps you should write to the College Board.

    My response: Trades 1 and 2 for sure. Trade 3 - maybe. Trade 4 - grnnnh. Trade 5 - probably. Trade 6 - don't think so. Trade 7 - yes (that's a minor leaguer with potential, in case you were confused).

    Something to chew on while the MegaTrade (TM) awaits consummation.

    Where the Insult Lay
    2004-12-18 07:54
    by Jon Weisman

    Is it "lay" or "lied?" I can never remember.

    From Bill Plunkett in the Orange County Register (apologies to the Register for the extended excerpt - you should visit the paper's website to get more):

    "It was real difficult. I never really believed, from the end of the season on, that I would have to leave L.A.," (Adrian) Beltre said by phone from Seattle on Friday where he was introduced as the Seattle Mariners' new third baseman.

    "I know this. I sat around my house waiting for them (the Dodgers) to call and make an offer and they never did until, what, five days ago. ... I was a free agent for, what, two months? And they didn't make an offer until five days ago?"

    Dodgers general manager Paul DePodesta said he was in almost daily contact with Beltre's agent, Scott Boras, who also represents several other high-profile free agents as well as current Dodgers Eric Gagne and Alex Cora. DePodesta, Beltre, Boras and Dodgers owner Frank McCourt had meetings in mid-November.

    But it wasn't until last weekend's winter meetings that DePodesta said he was prepared to put an offer on the table for Beltre. ...

    Beltre said the offer the Dodgers finally made was "never even close" to what he was being offered by other teams, including the five-year, $64 million deal he signed with the Mariners. The average salary in the Dodgers' offer was "30 to 35 percent less," - about $9 million a year - according to Beltre.

    DePodesta would not discuss salary figures but did say the Dodgers extended their offer to six guaranteed years with an option for a seventh season.

    "Even with that sixth year, it wasn't close," Beltre said. ...

    Beltre clearly didn't enjoy the free-agent experience this time around.

    "It's a sad thing that they never really tried to keep me there," he said of the Dodgers. "It was really, really hard for me to leave L.A. and the fans. They were cheering me all through my career, in the bad times and the good times."

    'It's a Smile'
    2004-12-17 22:41
    by Jon Weisman

    Current 2004 Mexican League stats, courtesy of Ken Gurnick at

    D.J. Houlton: 8.31 ERA
    Elmer Dessens: 5.79 ERA
    Fernando Valenzuela: 5.02 ERA

    "It's a smile."
    - Kevin Bacon, Diner

    Jose Valentin ... And Once More, Ayn Rand
    2004-12-17 20:38
    by Jon Weisman

    Jose Valentin, who agreed to terms with the Dodgers on Friday according to his agent, is a left-handed compliment to say the least. The 35-year-old infielder is something of a mirror to the right-handed ex-Dodger, Jose Hernandez.

    Valentin's a swinger, with a .503 slugging percentage against right-handed pitchers (we're not even going to talk about him against lefties). In 314 at-bats from the left side, he hit 23 home runs and struck out 86 times. Playing in U.S. Cellular Field, the quaint name for new Comiskey Park, will have slightly boosted his overall offense. But the home runs could translate well to Dodger Stadium, which only cuts down doubles and triples - and which might yield more offense in general with its reduced foul territory next season. Of course, that change to Dodger Stadium holds true for everyone.

    The story says Valentin will be getting paid $3.5 million in 2005, nearly $3 million more than Hernandez made last season, no doubt because of such details as Valentin arriving with more than double the homers that Hernandez hit the season before he came to Los Angeles. So where you had Hernandez as the low-risk fading player whose upside was a pleasant surprise, Valentin is a mixed bag unlikely to outplay his salary.

    And, like eight-years-removed-from-the-position Jeff Kent, Valentin's only real place as a third baseman is in the history books. He has played 151 hot corner games since his 1992 debut. In those games, he has been average, with 24 errors and a Rate of 97 on Baseball Prospectus (where 100 is average - and by the way, that's my first time using this stat).

    Valentin is potentially a good fit for Dodger manager Jim Tracy, who got about as much out of Robin Ventura in 2004 as anyone could possibly have. Of course, if Valentin squirts 'em like post-July Jason Grabowski, people may have to force Tracy to turn off the spicket.

    It doesn't need to be said that Valentin is no Adrian Beltre.

    * * *

    A day has passed since the Beltre news, and the hysteria has surpassed that surrounding the trade of Paul Lo Duca, though that no doubt includes a snowball effect dating back to when Lo Duca checked his luggage to Miami. I'm not sure anybody in this town misses Beltre more than I do. That being said, I point you again this week to the writings of Tom Meagher at The Fourth Outfielder, who has won my heart with his passionate but measured analysis:

    The thing is, and I wrote this before, teams do not need slugging third basemen to compete. They need a sum total of talent. Just because Brian Myrow or Kevin Youkilis or Alex Cora is not your idea of a great third baseman does not mean that the team becomes worse when they're used to replace Adrian Beltre because the team can (and will) make other improvements.

    Hell, maybe they won't. Maybe DePodesta will screw it all up and reveal that Ayn Rand put him up to it just to dash the hopes of countless Dodgers fans. When that happens, be angry.

    When one player leaves, don't be angry. Be analytical.

    By the way, the recurrence of Ayn Rand in the past two days of reader comments is intriguing. I thoroughly enjoyed The Fountainhead in high school, but the lasting impression it made on me was only enough for me to rip off Howard Roark's character for a short story in college about an architect who breaks his finger catching a foul ball just before a project deadline. Anyone who wants to extrapolate further, though, be my guest.

    Anyway, it's funny. I see all the rage and it is more than I feel - and I treasured Beltre. I feel more rage when Kazuhisa Ishii walks the leadoff man than I felt seeing Beltre go. On days like Thursday, I feel not rage, but lament. What's the psychology behind that, I wonder?

    The most rage I have ever felt since founding Dodger Thoughts was over the Vladimir Guerrero debacle, which I thought implied the end of the Dodgers as a competitive franchise. I absolutely did not expect the Dodgers to win a division title after that - much less in as enjoyable fashion as they did. That doesn't mean Frank McCourt's group deserves endless benefit of the doubt, or any, but maybe it means that the game does. Maybe the past year has been valuable in that respect alone.

    I don't love the Dodgers' odds without Beltre, and I don't think solutions are going to be easy. And yeah, it's going to be flat out weird to go to the ballpark next season and see so many new names. (Of the 42 players who suited up for the 2003 Dodgers, nine remain in the organization - including the teetering Shawn Green.)

    I like being in first place. I like winning. I like having players to root for. I don't know how much of that we'll have next season, but I'm just going to hope. I'm not always capable of hoping, so I'm going to do it as long as I can, when I can.

    * * *

    Please make sure you temper the language (even the veiled cursing) and personal attacks in the comments. We're doing well enough given the record number that have hit the site since Thursday, but more than a few remarks have been on the edge. Just take a breath when you need to before you post. If you're new to the site, I heartily welcome you, and thank you in advance for keeping it cool. (Same goes to some of you vets out there.) Thanks - I appreciate it.

    2004-12-17 19:48
    by Jon Weisman

    Above all, I really do want to welcome all the new readers. Forgive my fascination, but the number of unique visitors per day to Dodger Thoughts has increased by 39 percent since December began. How did you folks find the site?

    Remember 2003 ...
    2004-12-17 10:45
    by Jon Weisman

    ... when a significant portion of the Dodger offense in a given game depended on whether Mike Kinkade would get hit by a pitch?

    Kinkade is returning to the United States via a minor-league contract with Cleveland. He played for Hanshin in Japan's Central League this past season.

    "Slowed by a concussion and broken left hand," Anthony Castrovince writes on, "Kinkade played just 26 games and hit .233 with three home runs and seven RBIs. He was hit by 12 pitches in that brief span."

    Quake Strikes Los Angeles: Report From the Epicenter
    2004-12-17 02:28
    by Jon Weisman

    It takes courage to rush into an earthquake-damaged building before the aftershocks are over, but this is what we do.

    Priority One - Rescue
    The population of MLB Town is about 1,200, and they're just about the best at what they do in the world. True, most lack the skill set needed this morning by the desperate in Dodger Stadium, and most of those who could help simply aren't available to us, but there's always someone who can pitch a helpful hand. If you can feel the breath in front of your face, you're not dead yet. You may be hurting, but it never helps to give up.

    Priority Two - Search for Casualties
    For a team on the mend after years of struggle, Thursday's quake hits hard. Adrian Beltre is gone, and we don't know where Shawn Green, Brad Penny or Yhency Brazoban are, although overnight we heard signs that they might still be with us.

    The Beltre departure, no matter what you thought of him, leaves a deep hole. Looking back, you are now 48 home runs, an OPS over 1.000, and Gold Glove-caliber defense shy of winning a division, even before you factor in the Dodgers' other post-October personnel losses. Whether or not you thought Beltre would repeat this season's production, you have to find some approximation of it somewhere.

    Green and Brazoban had less significant if important roles in the Dodger livelihood in 2004. Penny, having been limited by injuries, was a potential healing influence for 2005.

    Priority Three - Assess the Foundation
    It's plenty shaky in parts. Catcher, third base, and the starting rotation are places you don't want to stand. Your main duck-and-cover spots are in your closer (Eric Gagne), a power-hitting infielder in Jeff Kent, some mid-offense potential in the outfield and in the controversial Hee Seop Choi, strong defense in most spots, and a highly-regarded farm system. There's open air in some rooms where a roof should be, but it's not a complete disaster.

    Priority Four - Examine the Survivors
    Here is an estimate of 2005 salaries for the current 25-man roster. With many contracts unsigned and the exact nature of others in dispute, it's not going to be completely accurate, but it will get you in the neighborhood. (We'll also take the liberty of throwing in Wilson Alvarez, even though he is a free agent, to complete the roster.)

    Starting Rotation
    $7,750,000 Jeff Weaver
    $5,000,000 Brad Penny
    $3,230,000 Kazuhisa Ishii
    $1,300,000 Elmer Dessens
    $325,000 Edwin Jackson

    $7,500,000 Eric Gagne
    $2,000,000 Wilson Alvarez
    $325,000 Yhency Brazoban
    $325,000 Duaner Sanchez
    $500,000 Giovanni Carrara
    $310,000 D.J. Houlton
    Starting Lineup
    $16,000,000 Shawn Green
    $8,500,000 Jeff Kent
    $3,000,000 Milton Bradley
    $2,000,000 Alex Cora
    $1,300,000 Cesar Izturis
    $325,000 Hee-Seop Choi
    $325,000 Jayson Werth
    $325,000 David Ross
    $1,250,000 Ricky Ledee
    $350,000 Olmedo Saenz
    $325,000 Jason Grabowski
    $310,000 Antonio Perez
    $310,000 Mike Rose
    $310,000 Cody Ross (or whoever)

    Disabled List
    $13,000,000 Darren Dreifort
    Total: $76,195,000

    Trading the Green, Penny and Brazoban salaries for Javier Vasquez, as has been rumored, would reduce the payroll by at least $11 million.

    Priority Five - Determine Liability
    Well, isn't it obvious?

    Blame lies with Dodger owner Frank McCourt, who bought and operates the team with mortgage cash and whose ultimate interest in Los Angeles may be in building his own fortunes, not the team's.

    Unless blame lies with Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta, who had enough resources to sign Beltre, but either didn't top a topable offer, or so bungled the negotiations that topping it didn't matter.

    Unless blame lies with Beltre, who outthought himself and left on the table a rich contract with a defending division champion, where he was a hero in a sunny, top media market, to go to a rainy last-place team.

    Unless, in the immortal words of Howard Jones, no one is to blame. (But someone probably is.)

    We don't know what happened yet, and as much as the primal need to judge moves us, it's too soon to figure it all out. There just isn't enough information. Someday, we'll understand it all. Not today.

    Priority One - Finance the Rebuild
    Yep, our last priority is our first. What have the Dodgers got to work with?

    As we've seen, with Green in Los Angeles, Los Angeles has payroll commitments near $80 million. Without him, the payroll drops below $70 million.

    We've been told in the past that the Dodger salary limit would be $100 million - but in a week where we can take nothing for granted, how can we really know? Does Los Angeles have $30 million to spend? Or is it $20 million? Or is it $10 million? Or less?

    Nearly a year after the fumble of Vladimir Guerrero crystalized questions about Dodger leadership, we are back at the same place. In the intervening months, Los Angeles won its first playoff game in 16 years. Was that a sign of resiliency, or the fluke that will herald a deeper collapse?

    It doesn't need to be the latter. But even the best scientists can't seem to predict when the next quake will come.

    2004-12-16 12:41
    by Jon Weisman

    ESPN reported the Beltre signing Thursday afternoon. Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi could not be reached to comment, but a club official said the team doesn't comment on signings until they are finalized.

    As we wait on official confirmation ... for the white smoke to appear ...

    Thinking about Pedro Martinez ... although at the time, he didn't leave a hole the size of the one the Dodgers are staring at now ...

    Thinking about Mike Piazza ...

    Thinking about how unlikely it is that any of the Dodger middle infielders should play third base ...

    Thinking about whether a trade of an outfielder to come and a run for Carlos Beltran is in store ...

    Thinking and reading ... your comments, the wires ...

    Thinking about whether 2005 becomes a rebuilding year ... and reminding myself that the A's under Billy Beane haven't needed to have rebuilding years, so why should the Dodgers?

    Someone mentioned Joel Guzman ... thinking about whether he will be rushed to the big leagues like Beltre was ...

    Thinking about how much I'll miss watching the blossoming of Beltre before my eyes ... but how I won't have to worry that it won't continue ...

    Thinking I really do have Beltre indigestion ...

    Beltre Indigestion
    2004-12-16 10:33
    by Jon Weisman

    Folks are panicking this morning over Adrian Beltre is heading to Seattle, based on this from Bob Finnigan of the Seattle Times:

    With the Mariners having spent $50 million to make first baseman Richie Sexson the biggest addition ever made to their lineup, they are thought to be close — or possibly already have reached agreement — on a deal worth $60 million or more to third baseman Adrian Beltre.

    And this ...

    "There is interest," confirmed a source familiar with Beltre's side of the negotiations, which currently seeks about $12 million a year for five or six years.

    And this ...

    While Scott Boras, Beltre's agent, would not discuss negotiations, he was fulsome in talking about the potential for an agreement.

    "While every West Coast team except Oakland is on our list, Seattle is definitely on it, because there is a fit for both sides up there," Boras said. "I will tell you right now that Adrian Beltre has a personality just like Edgar Martinez. ... that good. He is a tremendous kid, and a leader. He was a leader on the Dodgers and would be a leader on the Mariners, and we know they are seeking leaders on their club."

    That's it. That's the cause of the panic.

    It's not that Beltre might not end up in Seattle. But all we have is an article in which a single unnamed source says "there is interest," plus some pumping-up from Boras that doesn't even eliminate three other teams, including the Dodgers. That's the frenzy.

    It might happen. But we don't see Tim Hudson in Los Angeles, do we?

    Even if you're starved for news, don't wolf down everything they put on your plate in one gulp. Chew your food.

    True Dodgers, Part II
    2004-12-16 10:11
    by Jon Weisman

    From Monday's group discussion on "True Dodgers," Dodger Thoughts readers Ling Ngoh and Tim Weiss got their comments into Jim Alexander's Riverside Press-Enterprise column today on sports and loyalty. (Read Dodger Thoughts, become famous!)

    It's an interesting piece, although I think it gives us fans too much credit. We are as quick to abandon a player when he falls on hard times as they are quick to abandon us for a better offer.

    You'll notice, I think, not a single tear being shed over Hideo Nomo's departure (this year or the first time it happened a few years ago) - even though he captivated fans for long stretches. Kirk Gibson was only with the team for a couple of seasons - much less than home-grown flops Jose Gonzalez or Billy Ashley. But is Gibson less of a true Dodger? Nope.

    Whether that means fans are jaded, I don't know. But I think the reality is that you become a true Dodger just by doing well in a Dodger uniform, not by how long you wear it - and I think that's not a recent development, that it's been true for a long time.

    That being said, though, I don't think anyone can top Eric Enders' description of what it means to be a true Dodger. For those who missed it:

    OK, here's my definition, I guess. A "True Dodger" is like your girlfriend: You know she's slept with others before you, and will sleep with others after you, but you don't care, because she's sleeping with you now and that's all that matters. You just have to be careful to avoid the ones who are too young or all washed up...

    Ex-Dodgers also have subcategories like ex-girlfriends do:

    - There's the one who, although long gone, you smile every time you think about. (Fernando)
    - There's the one you wish you had back. (Pedro Martinez)
    - There's the one you hope you never see again. (Carlos Perez)
    - There's the one who never shuts up. (Lima)
    - There's the one who was really special, although you never seem able to explain why. (Dave Hansen)
    - There's the one who you thought would be really great but turned out to be a major disappointment. (Greg Brock)
    - There's the one that was short-lived, but incredibly hot while it lasted. (Steve Finley)
    - There are the one night stands, with names you can barely remember. (Hey there, Garey Ingram.)
    - Last, but not least, there's the one who ran away with all your money. (Andy Ashby)
    - (And one more) The one you go out with because you really have the hots for her sister. (Chris Gwynn)

    By the way, a number of sportswriters in recent weeks, including at the Winter Meetings, have told me how impressed they are by the quality of discussion in the comments on this site. That Alexander came here to solicit thoughts for his column further supports the point. You folks really deserve a pat on the back.

    Update: Does Jerry Royster qualify for True Dodgerhood? Thirty years after being sent from Los Angeles at age 22 to Atlanta as part of the Dusty Baker trade, Royster has been named manager of the Dodgers' AAA affiliate in Las Vegas. Roger McDowell will be pitching coach, and Mariano Duncan (!) will be hitting instructor.

    Asked and (Not Exactly) Answered
    2004-12-15 11:35
    by Jon Weisman

    Dodger Vice Chairman and co-owner Jamie McCourt went online for a chat on USA Today this morning. Here's one exchange that stuck out:

    Westlake Village California: Mrs. McCourt, I would like to understand where the Dodgers rank in turns of attendance and overall revenue, what the primary sources of revenue discrepency are between the club and those clubs that lead the league in revenue, and finally what percentage of revenue is being spent on the major league roster and how does that relate to other teams. Why can't we afford superstars like Carlos Beltran?

    Jamie McCourt: This year the Dodgers ranked second in attendance, bringing in close to 3.5 million fans. We've set some high expectations of surpassing that figure next year. One of the ways to achieve that goal is to improve the fan experience and continue to field a winning team.

    Pretty pointed question, huh? This is like the Dodger version of the recent soldier-talks-to-Donald Rumsfeld controversy. "We're great - why can't we do better?" "We're great - and our greatness will carry the day."

    (Okay - I've just brought together the most controversial subject this site has ever seen and the most controversial subject it hasn't: the McCourts and politics. Easy, now. Stay cool.)

    Anyway, while I would have like to have seen McCourt respond to everything in the question, she could have answered the final part easily enough: The Dodgers can afford superstars like Beltran. They are currently pursuing one, Adrian Beltre, while paying equivalent-to-superstar salaries for two, Darren Dreifort and Shawn Green.

    Can the Dodgers afford to add Beltran while also adding a third baseman, starting pitchers and perhaps a catcher? Maybe. Maybe not. Given the current roster, maybe he's not the best target for their money.

    Leading Off, Mark Madsen
    2004-12-15 10:11
    by Jon Weisman

    So I'm perusing the NBA box scores this morning to see how the Stanford guys did, and I see this stat line from the Portland-Minnesota game for the Mad Dog, one that will not shock the Laker fans among you.

                Min FG-A  FT-A OR-T  A  P  T
    Madsen       6   0-1   0-0  2-4  0  0  0

    These numbers came, no less, in a starting role. He was there for the opening tap, even grabbed four rebounds, even committed no fouls, but spent 88 percent of the game on the bench.

    This phenomenon with Mark Madsen and others is not unusual in the NBA: A team throws a starter out there without any conviction and buries him at the first opportunity.

    What's the deal? Is it just an indication that the beginning of the game really doesn't matter, and that the key players need that extra bit of rest? Is it just Mad Dog love and hate?

    One wonders if baseball is missing some stroke of genius here. Perhaps you start a Brian Falkenborg on the mound and then pull him after the first inning. Perhaps you give a Jason Grabowski his at-bat at the low-key beginning of the game and then replace him after the first commercial.

    Uh, probably not.

    Every game has its quirks, huh?

    Checking in on the 25
    2004-12-14 01:06
    by Jon Weisman

    Just checking in on where we stand with the Dodger Top 25:

    Starting pitchers (5): Brad Penny, Jeff Weaver, Kazuhisa Ishii, Edwin Jackson, Elmer Dessens
    Relievers (6): Eric Gagne, Yhency Brazoban, Duaner Sanchez, Giovanni Carrara, Scott Stewart, D.J. Houlton
    Catchers (2): Dave Ross, Mike Rose
    Infielders (6): Hee Seop Choi, Jeff Kent, Cesar Izturis, Alex Cora, Antonio Perez, Olmedo Saenz
    Outfielders (6): Shawn Green, Milton Bradley, Jayson Werth, Ricky Ledee, Jason Grabowski, Cody Ross

    Lurking: Wilson Alvarez, Brent Mayne, Tom Wilson, Odalis Perez, Adrian Beltre, Henri Stanley, Chin-Feng Chen, Brian Myrow and others.
    Disabled list: Darren Dreifort

    Believe me, no one is suggesting the above 25-man roster is the final 25-man roster.

    * * *

    Jose Hernandez signed a one-year contract with Cleveland on Monday for $1.8 million. Reasonable enough. So where were the Dodgers?

    Well, believe it or not, the Dodger roster is filling pretty fast. Despite the lack of quality in some prominent spots, there is quantity overall. With Kent coming in and pushing Cora to the reserves, Saenz already locked in on a deal for 2005 and Perez a player on the upswing, the infield is fairly full. That doesn't mean you couldn't have shoehorned the versatile Hernandez in a bench slot. He might have been a good keeper. But as I wrote before, it's too soon to judge the decision.

    Houlton at the Moon
    2004-12-14 00:23
    by Jon Weisman

    The newest Dodger major leaguer, at least for now, is D.J. Houlton, whom Los Angeles procured in Monday's Major League Rule 5 draft. Houlton must stay on the active roster (or disabled list) all season or be offered back to Houston for half of the $50,000 claiming price. The Fourth Outfielder, who has been banging out stat-heavy entries like they were single keystrokes, has an quick review of Houlton.

    Meanwhile, the Dodgers lost nine minor leaguers in the draft (some to other minor league teams). Guess somebody likes their stuff...

    Bryan Smith has much, much, much, much, much, much more on the Rule 5 at Wait Til Next Year. Much more.

    Oh, and by the way ... Worst Headline Ever?

    Considering Hudson and Jackson
    2004-12-13 10:13
    by Jon Weisman

    Anyone who thinks he knows how Tim Hudson will perform over the next several seasons ... doesn't know.

    Here are the 10 most similar players to Hudson at age 28, according to Scores are out of 1000.

    Jack McDowell (956)
    Mike Mussina (945)
    Bob Welch (944)
    Dennis Leonard (941)
    Doug Drabek(941)
    Kevin Millwood (940)
    Ron Darling (938)
    Bill Hoffer (937)
    Bill Lee (934)
    Kevin Appier (933)

    Here's how they compare as they moved forward in their careers, according to park- and era-adjusted ERA+. An average ERA+ is 100. The age given is the player's age on April 1. (I'm leaving out Hoffer, who retired in 1901, and Millwood, who is only a year older than Hudson.)

    Player/Age 29    30    31    32    33    34    35    36    37
    McDowell  117    96    93    92    60
    Mussina   129   138   125   142   108   129    98
    Welch     106   123   104   123   126    94   115    79    62
    Leonard   107   121    80   110    --    96
    Drabek    124   103   140    84    84    76    62
    Darling    84    87   102    81    98    70
    Lee       115   74     94    83    84   114   107    82    88
    Appier    139    63    95   105   115   111    81    33

    Are you overwhelmed? Underwhelmed? Neither? Two of the three closest comparables, Mussina and Welch, were top-notch for five seasons. On the other hand, McDowell quickly faltered. In the middle, Leonard and Drabek offered three more good seasons.

    The decline in Hudson's strikeout rate concerns me, but the man does seem to have margin for error. Last year, despite striking out only 103 batters of the 783 he faced, he allowed only eight home runs. If it's a tightrope he's walking, he's got great balance.

    It seems that Hudson is probably still a safe bet to be a bargain in 2005 - a star performer earning about $6 million in the final year of his contract. Beyond that, he may be overpriced. Conversely, for the next few years before he gains free agency, rumored Dodger tradee Edwin Jackson will probably be a bargain no matter what he does - but he may not do much in 2005.

    I think one path that has gone unexplored is whether renting Hudson for a year and then letting him go is completely unacceptable. If you have faith that Greg Miller, Joel Hanrahan or any of the Dodger pitching prospects offers as much promise as Jackson, then perhaps it's okay to sacrifice one, get the Dodgers through a serious starting pitching crunch in 2005, and then rely on the remaining prospects starting in 2006. However, if you think Jackson is superior to the others, then you should be willing to go through any growing pains with him in 2005.

    I like Jackson a lot and find his struggles in 2004 to be largely irrelevant in discussing his future. It's the same story as Adrian Beltre - anything you get from a 21-year-old at the major-league level is pure bonus. But here's my challenge for you: Stop comparing Jackson to Hudson and start comparing him to the other Dodger pitching prospects. Do you think Jackson can do a job that the others can't?

    True Dodgers
    2004-12-13 09:23
    by Jon Weisman

    In an e-mail to me this weekend, Jim Alexander of the Riverside Press-Enterprise noted "the irony of ex-Giant becoming Dodger and ex-Giant-slayer becoming Angel within a span of 24 hours this past week." He then suggested a discussion among the readers of Dodger Thoughts, with the potential that he might write a column that incorporated one or two of the responses.

    It makes for another good ol' offseason chat. Here's how Alexander posed the question:

    Given that players change addresses with such frequency, are there fans out there who still hold on to the idea that the "true" Dodger (to use an example) is the one who came up through the farm system and stayed a while? Or have people become so jaded by the parade of mercenaries that the guy who's here for a year (or, say, two months) inspires just as much loyalty?

    Winter Meetings Diary: On a Clear Day You Can See Everything and Nothing
    2004-12-11 23:20
    by Jon Weisman

    Sometime between 9:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday, fog enveloped heavily street-lit Convention Way in Anaheim like a glow-in-the-dark cocoon, shrouding the exterior of Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings in a dramatic air.

    Perhaps we'll learn today this marked a transition, as up to that point there was no inherent drama to Saturday's events. Eleven hours earlier, as clear, 75-degree December weather redefined the real reason some people find the Happiest Place on Earth to be in Southern California (although I'll take last week's 50ish days anytime), I joined the gathered throng in the lobby of the Anaheim Marriott and found people mostly speculating on what might happen, rather than learning anything of profound significance had happened. Nary a dramatic gasp to be heard.

    Not that drama was on my agenda. I drove down to the Winter Meetings, having fought for and won special dispensation to be excused from that day's wife-and-childcare duties, simply to meet people. Meet colleagues on the Internet with whom I had in most cases only corresponded on e-mail or phone, meet friends from my newspaper past long not seen, and meet new acquaintances, at once testing and promoting the reputation of Dodger Thoughts.

    DANGER: Much of the following will be more about me than the Dodgers. Those interested in actual news, proceed with caution.

    What became immediately clear to me was an overriding sense of in-betweenness: It wasn't that I had no right to be there, but I can't say I had every right to be there, either. If I had, I would have been up chatting with some executive in their hotel room or hallway or some such, instead of being limited to the most public space. The lack of need for me to be in Anaheim for any reason other than myself fed some amount of insecurity. Standing in the lobby, I wasn't quite sure where I stood.

    Among the first people I talked to were Tim Brown and Steve Henson of the Times, the paper's new national baseball and Dodger beat writers. These are both guys I met in 1990, just after I became full-time at the Daily News - we were all covering high school sports back then for one paper or the other, writing about 17-year-olds who grew up to become the subjects of this weekend's meetings, people like Russ Ortiz and Mike Lieberthal. While I bailed out in 1992 to find a way to succeed in life without scoops, these guys stuck it out. So while it would be one thing if I just ran into them on the street, you can understand my being a little wary having to explain why, 12 years removed from full-time sportswriting, I was at this particular venue reintroducing myself.

    Well, they were cool. They both read this site, and I didn't have to re-prove myself to them. We just caught up on the intervening years. Both Brown and Henson look forward to their new assignments, each wishing the Times had more space to run the many stories they already had to offer, although Brown did admit to wondering how he could drop straight from the crazed Laker beat into steroid hysteria. ("This stuff just follows me around.")

    For that matter, I had the opportunity to introduce Henson to some friends of this site - Alex Ciepley of The Cub Reporter, Peter White of Mariner Musings and Jay Jaffe of The Futility Infielder - and the conversation was as relaxed as you could want. Pure baseball talk. And this is part of what I'm trying to get at about the lack of drama - just as Saturday failed to deliver any jolts to the baseball world, it also failed to deliver any jolts to my self-worth. All was well.

    With that, I was able to enjoy the company I was keeping. It was very good to meet the fellas. In addition to the above-mentioned guys, I also hung with Baseball Prospectus writer Will Carroll (who, if there was going to be any drama, was determined to be the one to find it) and Rich Lederer of Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT, who seemed to be lining up interviews with baseball's most notable each time someone turned his head. (Believe me, you're going to be enjoying Lederer's site in the coming days and weeks.)

    Later on, there was BP's Jonah Keri and Joe Sheehan, Rob McMillin of 6-4-2 and Voros McCracken, inventor of DIPS, the Defense Independent Pitching Statistic. I'm underselling by saying what a good group it was - everyone very sharp and very funny.

    Indeed, comedy triumphed over drama in Anaheim - though just barely at times. The first such moment came when we spotted a suit-and-tied Matt Williams, the former third baseman, in the center of the crowd. Talk turned to Williams' famous ex-wife, Michelle Johnson of the near-Oscar-nominated Blame it on Rio. I wondered aloud whether Williams should exchange notes with Chuck Finley, the no-longer-happily-married husband of vixational Tawny Kitaen, not realizing that Williams had moved from the center of the lobby to a spot about eight feet behind me. The fact that I'm alive to write about it now would indicate that, thankfully, he was out of earshot.

    Not an hour later, there was another close call when, during a conversation about the Hall of Fame, someone (not me, this time) remarked how the election of Tony Perez lowered the bar as much as anyone voted in by the baseball writers. A minute later, cue Tony Perez, walking through the lobby. Hey there, Tony! Looking sharp! (Whew.)

    In the evening, I found myself in a conversation with former Dodger general manager Fred Claire. For the most part, I listened, but then Claire turned to me and asked my thoughts about the Dodgers, specifically Steve Finley. Without denying that Finley perhaps should have been offered salary arbitration, I offered my theory about why the Dodgers didn't: The fact that he settled for $14 million over two years from the Angels, compared to the nearly $10 million he might have won for a single season in arbitration from the Dodgers, indicated that he might well have accepted the Dodger offer - thus hampering their pursuit of Adrian Beltre, catching and/or pitching. Now, as my life goes on, I'm going to tell myself that the following was a coincidence, but I will say that it appeared to many that immediately after my pontification, Claire politely but quickly excused himself from the group, you know, the way you might excuse yourself from a crazy homeless person you accidentally found yourself too close for comfort to. (I should make it plain that Claire couldn't have been more gracious to me. I really think it was just funny timing.)

    Though I met Claire and another former Dodger general manager, Dan Evans, current GM Paul DePodesta was out of sight my entire time there. However, I did see both owner Frank McCourt and manager Jim Tracy, among others. (Tommy Lasorda was everywhere.) Carroll urged me to go talk to McCourt, but I'll cop to a moment's hesitation there. On the other hand, I pursued Tracy as quickly as I could while he walked out of the lobby, but he ducked into a car before I had a chance to try myself out. With better planning, I might have been able to give you some actually relevant material as opposed to this preponderance of ompholoskepsis, but what can you do? This is why they pay me the big non-bucks.

    If there was a single highlight to the day, it was running into - in the first 10 minutes, no less - a good friend of mine from college whom I hadn't spoken to in more than 10 years, Robert Portnoy. Portnoy is now a broadcaster for Milwaukee's AA team, the Huntsville Stars, and I'll say this - there's no doubt in my mind he's a good bet to work the major leagues. (I told him to get himself in the Dodger booth while the gettin' was good.) Hearing the story of his eight years of dedicated toil in the minors, and sharing with him my career misadventures, was alone worth the journey to Anaheim.

    As for Saturday's journey, it ended in a fog, literally and figuratively. I have no great insight into the future of the Dodgers, nor of Dodger Thoughts.

    We each just move forward, waiting to see where we'll end up when the skies clear.

    (Postscript: And so comes the drama - Oakland pitcher Tim Hudson may be a done deal to the Dodgers for Edwin Jackson and Antonio Perez, according to Hudson's agent and the Contra Costa Times.)

    Dodger Stadium Renovation Pictures
    2004-12-10 09:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Images of the ongoing renovation at Dodger Stadium, with the creation of larger dugouts and more dugout-level seats and the reduction of foul ground, are available (with the occasional snide comment) at Westcoaster, here and here. Looks like more than just a spackle and dry wall job. Thanks to Matthew Conroy for passing this on.

    Dodgers Sign Kent
    2004-12-09 14:59
    by Jon Weisman

    Updates to come ... here's the C.V.

    * * *

    First reaction, with no contract years or dollar figures yet given - I like it. He's three years younger than Steve Finley and offers probably a more consistent bat, albeit from the right side of the plate. It turns Alex Cora into a top-notch backup second baseman, utility man and pinch-hitter. It does weaken the pitching by removing the Cora-Izturis double-play combination, but the authority of Kent's bat should more than compensate.

    Kent's on-base percentage has declined for four consecutive seasons, and his home runs are now in the 20s and not the 30s. On the other hand, seven consecutive seasons of slugging percentages above .500 are impressive. (Somehow, the man had eight triples last year.) His EQA of .288 and VORP of 55.2 were second in the majors among second basemen last season.

    For an ex-Giant and Golden Bear, he's a player to be reckoned with.

    Just waiting to get the tab, now.

    * * *

    If Beltre rejoins the team ...

    Izturis, SS
    Bradley, CF
    Beltre, 3B
    Green, RF (tenuous, but it helps keep the lefty-righty thing going)
    Kent, 2B
    Choi, 1B
    Werth, LF
    TBD, C

    A continuing work in progress - and we can certainly continue to argue the merits of Izturis as a leadoff hitter. But it's a step.

    As long as we're playing around, consider this alternative ...

    Choi, 1B
    Izturis, SS
    Beltre, 3B
    Kent, 2B
    Green, RF
    Werth, LF
    Bradley, CF
    TBD, C

    * * *

    Already, you commenters below are noting Kent's versatility - that he can play first or third base if necessary. Kent actually hasn't played third since 1996, however, so he's probably borderline there.

    * * *

    Here are the terms: two years, $17 million total. So you get Finley-level offense at a more challenging defensive position - and you're not locked in for a third year. You sacrifice a left-handed bat and as I understand it, some personality.

    Ken Gurnick of also notes that what goes around, comes around - the Astros did not offer Kent salary arbitration, so the Dodgers don't lose any draft picks by signing him.

    * * *

    Several people continue to suggest that Kent should take Choi's place in the lineup, playing first base, instead of replacing Cora at second. I maintain that Choi is the player with better value potential, but I understand the sentiment.

    Odalis Perez Coveted ...
    2004-12-09 14:30
    by Jon Weisman

    ... by Peter White and Jeff Shaw at Mariners Musings - and they explain why.

    While Carl Pavano appears to be the sexy, Loni Anderson of this year's pitching market, and Matt Clement could be the down-to-earth Jan Smithers, Odalis Perez is ... never mind - just felt like running pictures of Loni Anderson and Jan Smithers. (Especially that noteworthy one marking how Smithers was discovered.)

    What Just Happened to Beltre's Dollar Value?
    2004-12-09 10:01
    by Jon Weisman

    News: Arizona signs infielder Troy Glaus to a four-year, $45-million contract. Recovering from shoulder problems, it is unclear whether or how long the 28-year-old Glaus will remain at third base before switching to first base.

    Comparison: Troy Glaus vs. Adrian Beltre

    Year  Glaus Age  Glaus G  Glaus HR  Glaus EQA - Beltre Age  Beltre G  Beltre HR  Beltre EQA
    1998     22         48        1        .195   -     19          77       7          .234
    1999     23        154       29        .255   -     20         152      15          .272
    2000     24        159       47        .310   -     21         138      20          .285
    2001     25        161       48        .295   -     22         126      13          .258
    2002     26        156       30        .277   -     23         159      21          .258
    2003     27         91       16        .276   -     24         158      23          .248
    2004     28         58       18        .296   -     25         156      48          .331

    Year-to-year, Glaus appears to have the better long-term track record. But age-to-age, Beltre has out-EQAed Glaus at 22, 23 and 25.

    The Arbitration Rundown
    2004-12-08 09:54
    by Jon Weisman

    Los Angeles continues to seat the rear of the cabin, locking in Elmer Dessens to be a swingman in 2005 for $1.3 million (Tom Martin money) with a mutual option for 2006 and a $250,000 buyout.

    It seems to bother a lot of people that the Dodgers are taking care of their scrubs before their frontliners, but it's neither here nor there with me. The order that deals are made doesn't really matter, and even if you think Dessens or Ricky Ledee are getting a few hundred thousand more than they deserve, it won't affect the Dodger pursuit of the big fish.

    The biggest fish is still out there: the Dodger offer of salary arbitration to Adrian Beltre keeps those negotiations at the status quo. Again to recap:

  • Players have until December 19 to accept or reject the offer.

  • Acceptance means that the player will return for one year at a figure determined by an arbitrator - usually more than the player would average in a long-term contract, even if the team loses the arbitration hearing.

  • Rejection keeps the door open for negotiations on a free-agent contract until January 8. Should the negotiations end in an impasse, the Dodgers will receive draft pick compensation for any player whom they offered arbitration to.

    In addition to Beltre, Los Angeles extended a laurel and hearty handshake to pitchers Odalis Perez and Wilson Alvarez and catcher Brent Mayne. Perez, like Beltre, seems more likely to hold out for a multiyear deal, which might or might not be with the Dodgers. Alvarez, who has strongly hinted that he likes pitching for the Dodgers and that he might retire after one more season, is very likely to return.

    The Mayne case is peculiar. He has hinted he might already be retired and just hasn't said so, but the presence of a guaranteed contract might well postpone the rocking chair. If Mayne returns, it still doesn't prevent the Dodgers from signing a frontline catcher - it just implies that said catcher would be a right-handed hitter, and that he would displace Dave Ross and Mike Rose. Given that the Dodgers are unlikely to retain three catchers, neither Ross nor Rose has a guaranteed spot on the 2005 roster.

    The decline of arbitration offers to Todd Hundley, Paul Shuey and Robin Ventura are non-events - none figures to play next year, if again. The rejection of Hideo Nomo climaxed just a bit more suspense, because there was the possibility the Dodgers would offer a minimum contract plus incentives to prove himself again. Nomo will now go that route elsewhere, if he goes it at all.

    That leaves Steve Finley, Jose Hernandez and Jose Lima. By placing them down here, I'm burying the top story. But it's somewhat deliberate, because too much angst has been invested in the fate of these three players.

    Look, the Dodgers needed all three of these players last season to win the National League West last season. And all three, while aging, could easily have at least one more good year left in them - which is the maximum that offering salary arbitration guarantees.

    If, in the end, in February, or April, or July even, the Dodgers come away with less talent than these three have to offer, then it will have been a mistake not to have pursued them further. If, in the end, any of these three sign contracts that would have fit nicely into the Dodger payroll, then it also will have been a mistake to let them go.

    Keep in mind, though, that many, many teams have declined to offer arbitration to players like these. Lima and Hernandez are perfect examples of this phenomenon - this is how they were available before the 2004 season for the Dodgers to sign. Remember - nobody wanted them. The pool remains deep.

    Ask yourself whether Finley (39), Hernandez (35) and Lima (32), who bucked aging to register improved seasons in 2004, are likely to buck the trend again in 2005 - all while earning more money.

    Maybe, in the end, the answer will be yes. But for now, resist. Resist the urge to judge these moves until you see who their replacements are.

  • Brotherly, Gargoylely Love
    2004-12-07 10:18
    by Jon Weisman

    It's a big day today on the home front as the special 10th Anniversary Edition DVD offering the complete first season of Gargoyles, the Disney television show co-created by my brother, Greg, goes on sale.

    Gargoyles was truly a labor of love for my brother, producer on its first two seasons. There has been a determined effort to resurrect the show in some format, and sales of this DVD will play a key role in determining whether that will happen.

    If you've ever been a fan, you can't be without this DVD, which comes with all 13 first-season episodes (uncut), a commentary track, the original series pitch used to sell the show, and a documentary. If you haven't seen the show but are interested in just plain good television, buy the DVD as a holiday gift for your family, friends or yourself. You won't be disappointed.

    For more information on the show, consult the "Ask Greg" Gargoyles website or this recent interview (scroll down to "Defenders of the Night").

    Ledee Here, Hernandez Gone, Lima ... ?
    2004-12-06 21:58
    by Jon Weisman

    The offseason is picking up steam ...

  • Tuesday is the deadline for teams to offer their free agents salary arbitration. Ken Gurnick of explains what this means:

    Clubs that don't offer arbitration to their free agents by 9 p.m. PT Tuesday lose all rights to negotiate with - or sign - those players until May 1. This effectively ends a player's relationship with his 2004 team.

    Once offered arbitration, players have until Dec. 19 to accept or reject salary arbitration. If the player accepts arbitration, he will return to the team for at least one year. If he rejects arbitration, the team can continue negotiations until Jan. 8. Perhaps more importantly, by offering arbitration, a club receives draft pick compensation if the player is signed by another team.

    The Dodgers will offer arbitration to Adrian Beltre. (Dodger general manager Paul) DePodesta would not be specific, but he is likely to offer arbitration to Finley, Odalis Perez and Wilson Alvarez. Not expected to be offered arbitration are Elmer Dessens, Jose Hernandez, Todd Hundley, Jose Lima, Brent Mayne, Hideo Nomo, Paul Shuey and Ventura. DePodesta said one decision was still to be made and there were indications that player was Lima, who is seeking a longer term than the Dodgers are offering.

    Steve Henson offers a similar list in the Times. It's unlikely that Finley or Perez would accept arbitration when there is reportedly a multiyear market for them, but Alvarez could. And as Gurnick writes, a player rejecting arbitration does not mean that any of the three won't end up in a Dodger uniform in 2005.

    Lima and Hernandez are the most significant names on the non-tender list. A Lima rejection would a) thin out the already near-transparent Dodger starting rotation and/or b) indicate that DePodesta has more substantial names in mind. His departure will also raise the hackles of the "There goes the spirit of the Dodgers" crowd, but even as someone who swooned over Lima at the end of the season, let me tell you that that crowd would be nowhere to be found were Lima to revert to mediocrity - probably an inevitable event, given his career inconsistency and shaky strikeout totals, if he's given a three-year contract (or even a two-year).

    A farewell to Hernandez, the leading OPS man at second base last season in the major leagues for players with 200 or more at bats, raises similar questions. It puts more pressure on Alex Cora and/or Antonio Perez, or indicates that Los Angeles plans to acquire a bigtime second baseman.

    * * *

    Ricky Ledee's signing with the Dodgers became official after all - and at a greater commitment than one would have imagined: $2.5 million total for two years. How do we explain it? Defensive value? Inflation? Not sure. I'll say this: If he's this offseason's Juan Encarnacion mistake, then it's a less costly one. Otherwise, not particularly excited about it.

    * * *

    Henson's lead note in Tuesday's editions of the Times is that Dodger owner Frank McCourt is borrowing another $100 million.

    Henson indicates why this might be a good thing:

    If the loan goes through, McCourt might pay off some of the $196 million he owes the previous Dodger owner, News Corp. That loan has early buy-down incentives. Some of the money also could go toward capital improvements at and around Dodger Stadium.

    Henson indicates why this might be a bad thing:

    To purchase the Dodgers, McCourt borrowed $196 million from News Corp., secured by real estate he owns in Boston. He borrowed the remainder of the $421 million purchase price and did not use any of his own cash.

    Doug Pappas, we miss ye yet again.

    * * *

    In his weekly mailbag column, Gurnick reports that former Dodgers Bob Welch and Steve Yeager are returning to coach in the team's minor league system.

    And this just in: Dodger bench coach Jim Riggleman has crossed the handshake lines and taken a job with St. Louis as minor-league field coordinator, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

  • Newspapers and Blogging: The Inside Looks at the Outside
    2004-12-06 14:30
    by Jon Weisman

    Times reporter Bill Shaikin was among those who agreed to participate in interviews last month for my article, "The Disposable Baseball Blogger." Unfortunately, circumstances prevented him from responding in time for publication, but he still took a great deal of time to pass along detailed thoughts about baseball blogging, and baseball coverage in general, from his perspective as a member of the working media. Here's what Shakin wrote, only slightly abridged:

    To me, blogs fill a niche, serving an audience in a way that general interest newspapers cannot. The baseball writers at the Times have argued to editors that baseball coverage (notes in particular) deserves more space in the newspaper. The editors don't disagree, but our section probably won't be adding pages any time soon, so space becomes a zero-sum game. Baseball fans might argue that the Times could add space for Dodger coverage by cutting some Laker coverage, for instance, but the basketball fans would disagree.

    The strength of baseball blogging, then, is that it expands a fan's options beyond moaning about the newspaper coverage or calling a talk show and waiting on hold to deliver a 30-second opinion. Write your own analysis. Use the blessing of unlimited space. I might get four paragraphs to discuss which free-agent pitchers the Dodgers or Angels are pursuing, with room for nothing beyond names and stats, certainly not for the analysis that the best blogs provide.

    As I recall, Dodger Thoughts (actually, it was all of us at - Jon) invited numerous bloggers to write stories about the last Dodgers vs. Yankees game (June 20). I covered the game for the Times and visited Dodger Thoughts the next day to find some well-written stories as well as comments critical of my game story. The comments were fair - trying to convey the excitement in the stadium, the details of the game, the long-term implications for the Dodger rotation and the player reaction all in one story (and all written on deadline) made for somewhat of a mish-mash.

    I bring this up to address a larger issue: What makes for a good newspaper game story? Newspapers today tend to start with the assumption that most fans will know who won the game - from radio, local TV, ESPN, FSN or the Internet - before they read the story. So we try to provide a story that tells who won and includes pertinent game details but also offers analysis and clubhouse reaction. We also try to put the daily result into the context of a 162-game season. (Have the Dodgers found a new fifth starter? How might the Angels replace their latest injured player? Is this loss tolerable because the team has juggled its rotation for the more important series that follows?)

    The Dodger-Yankee game stories that appeared on Dodger Thoughts tended to be at least twice as long as the Times game story. They also tended to offer extensive detail about the game, often chronological, with some context and analysis. Understandably, there was no clubhouse reaction. Sometimes, that reaction is essential to a story - a manager explaining his strategy, for instance, or a player displaying genuine emotion. Sometimes, it's all drivel, Crash Davis come to life.

    As I understand it - and I am not an expert here - soccer coverage in British newspapers tends to be more blog-like: No need to talk to the players, we saw the match, and so we write away - and rip away. Would this be a better model for a game story? What would? And how could you satisfy those readers who follow a team intensely (a blog audience) as well as the majority in the larger newspaper audience who might get the score from Fred Roggin and can't name anyone on the Dodgers besides Shawn Green and Adrian Beltre?

    On another issue regarding strengths and weaknesses: In the world of politics, there has been recent commentary from some observers who believe political blogs might never fulfill their promise so long as they focus on reaction to the news and on media criticism. It's the old Saturday Night Live line: If you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own.

    I'm in no position to discuss the validity of the commentary with regard to political blogs, but there might be a parallel to baseball blogs. While some bloggers can be content providing links to various media stories and offering a few comments - and those blogs can be invaluable to baseball writers, myself included - others provide detailed analysis and debate.

    Those blogs can be invaluable to baseball writers too. No one writer can think of everything, and if someone else spots a trend before I do, more power to them. The seed planted by a blog can lead a writer to use his access and ask questions of the appropriate parties. I agree with the Dodger Thoughts perspective that the blogs that stand out offer original reporting - not just a "take" and not necessarily comments from players, agents or general managers - but insight and commentary not found elsewhere. I also agree that the site of the late Doug Pappas represented blogs at their best - "baseball news you can't get anywhere else," to borrow the motto of Baseball America.

    While many blogs tend to use sabermetric tools in analysis and commentary - and often make compelling points in doing so - the best bloggers understand that decisions are not made in a statistical vacuum. After the Dodgers-Marlins trade July 30, I read blogs in which DePodesta was crowned as the winner of the trade on the basis of VORP alone. But there are many other factors that even DePodesta would tell you he would consider - salaries in current and future seasons, eligibility for salary arbitration, minor league depth at various positions, the upcoming class of free agents, etc. that statistics alone do not tell the story.

    Another example: When the Angels signed Darin Erstad to a four-year, $32-million contract extension in 2002 (in annual salary, a slight raise), several bloggers ripped the deal on the basis that Erstad's offensive statistics did not warrant the contract. True then, true now. But there was little to no analysis of other factors - and not just defense and intangibles, which are notoriously difficult to quantify. Those factors included the lack of minor league outfielders the Angels had to replace him, the interest of other teams in bidding for him as a free agent and the likelihood that he would reject a severe pay cut. At the time the deal was signed - in August 2002 - the Angels had no idea they would win the World Series, no idea Disney would grant a huge payroll increase for 2003 and no idea who could replace Erstad if he left. It was too simplistic to conclude the Angels should have either (A) offered him $3 million per year or (B) sign a replacement-level center fielder, when the Angels had determined they needed to retain him and toward that end the more than 50 percent pay cut in (A) was not a feasible option.

    There was an argument to be made, of course, that if (A) was not a feasible option, then the Angels should have let Erstad walk. In this case, the bloggers argued in a bubble - $32 million too much, OPS too low - without a discussion of the external factors that compelled the Angels to pay what they did in order to sign him at that time.

    But these discussions always are more sophisticated - and more enjoyable - than the usual message board/talk show rants of how the Dodgers or Angels should trade three crummy players to Team X for one really good player, with no understanding of why Team X would possibly be interested and no second thought other than: Well, if three crummy players won't get the deal done, how about four crummy players?

    I do enjoy reading Dodger Thoughts and some of the blogs linked from the site and look forward to more reading during the 2005 season.

    False or Not, Ledee Alarm Goes Off
    2004-12-05 09:55
    by Jon Weisman

    In answer to Rob McMillin, no, a bad move is not automatically a good one because your GM has a rep as a sabermetric guy.

    Similarly, reports in the city's two major newspapers, the Times and the Daily News, that a player will be signed are not automatically accurate when neither paper provides a source for their story.

    The guideline I grew up with for printing a story required two named independent sources. So why am I complaining? These newspapers are only missing their target by the square root of four.

    I've been asking why the Hot Stove League is exempt from the rules of journalism. The answers I got was: because the Hot Stove League is fun. Fun entitles you to speculate in the newspaper however wildly that you want, without any consequence of being wrong.

    Talk about your slippery slopes. You know, people find some rather serious issues to be fun.

    To clarify again, though, it's not that I don't find the Hot Stove League fun - I do - it's just that I find the suspension of journalism's basic rules to be a downer. That's all. It's like watching baseball without any strikes. Swing at anything - it won't count against you if you miss. I know some of us like watching batting practice, but do we want to pay to see it?

    But, I guess we all have such fond memories of the "Dodgers might be closing in on an agreement with free agent outfielder David Dellucci" era, that it's pointless to fulminate against it all.

    So, back to Ledee, which I'll assume isn't a phantom because it's nice to get away from the steroid talk. If Ledee gets offered a guaranteed contract much above the minimum, the signing raises questions. On the other hand, Ledee isn't quite the hack that McMillin implies. Before his Hee Seop Choi-like August and September last year, Ledee had the following OPS+ stats, according to (100 is average):

    Year  Age  OPS+
    1999   25   116
    2000   26    75
    2001   27    72
    2002   28   108
    2003   29   113
    2004   30   131 (with Philadelphia)
    2004   30    -8 (with San Francisco)
    2004   30    90 (season total)

    Those stats improve when you limit the left-handed hitting Ledee to facing right-handed pitching.

    Ledee is an inconsistent placeholder, more like a Jason Grabowski or a Robin Ventura, but without Ventura's third base skills or bases-loaded mystique. He is worthy of being a major league reserve, but perhaps only at a six-figure salary.

    Continuing to build the back end of the roster before the front, the Dodgers must be concerned that their left-handed hitting off the bench, if Choi starts in 2005, only has two candidates, Grabowski and minor league Henri Stanley, on the 40-man roster. With Steve Finley and Ventura currently gone from the team, the Dodgers have two vacancies to fill from the left side, even assuming Grabowski makes the final 25.

    The Evolving Dodger Thoughts Stance on Steroids - Day 5
    2004-12-04 23:08
    by Jon Weisman

    Day 4 brought a deep, wide-ranging discussion on how to address the use of illegal enhancements in baseball, which contributed to some added detail for the Dodger Thoughts Steroid Policy for Day 5.

    First, the discussion:

  • A lot of talk Friday centered on the idea that regardless of issues of competitive advantage or health, the mere criminality of steroid use should be sufficient for punishment.

    The problem with this is that criminality, in and of itself, is not a basis for punishment by baseball.

    On September 10, police arrested Braves shortstop Rafael Furcal for the second time in four years for driving under the influence, along with speeding and reckless driving.

    After spending most of that day in jail, for a second offense that posed much greater potential harm to society than steroid use, Furcal started for Atlanta the following night, according to The Associated Press:

    (Bobby) Cox, the Braves manager, said he was not reluctant to put Furcal back in the starting lineup after the player was arrested early Friday morning. ...

    Cox said Furcal "couldn't be more down."

    "That's why we need to get him back out there," Cox said. "He's completely devastated. He's got to keep going."

    In order to make mere criminality a basis to sanction steroid use, you are going to have to reconcile this broad inconsistency. Which may be worth doing, but just understand that it's a big deal. (And, of course, you will have to take into account that laws are different in every city, county, state and country.)

    Making criminality the fulcrum of the steroid policy will make it even harder to implement the policy. I think it's cleaner (pardon the expression) to make the potential health risks - even though the extent of those health risks continue to be debated by some - the basis of the policy.
    By the way, Furcal became in violation of his probation for his first DUI conviction when he was arrested for the second. He later pleaded guilty to the second DUI. The judge allowed him to serve both sentences concurrently, and after the playoffs ended.

    No outrage anywhere.

  • What should the punishment be for using banned enhancements? How long a suspension?

    To this point, my focus has been on the possibility of creating a framework to allow both sides to agree there should be punishment. Achieving that framework along has seemed enough of a challenge. Therefore, the Dodger Thoughts Steroid Policy has consciously left out specifics regarding punishment - saying only that it should include "both reprimand and, if appropriate, rehabilitation."

    I'm not prepared to go further than that right now. But for those who want a starting point for this discussion, the policy for baseball's minor leagues, according to the Times, is this:

    In a plan established four years ago, minor leaguers are tested in and out of season four times for prohibited substances. A player testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs is suspended for 15 games, a second positive brings a 30-game suspension, a third 60 games, and a fourth incurs a year suspension. The player is banned for life on the fifth positive test.

  • Commenter MikeJ had perhaps the most intriguing outside-the-box suggestion:

    I think that the athletes will always be one step ahead of the testers in what steroids they use. As soon as a steroid gets banned, they move on to the next undetectable designer drug of the week.

    To combat this, baseball should have an "allowed" list instead of a "banned" list. If you want to take a new supplement, get it approved by MLB and the Players Association. This way, you'll never hear the "I didn't know it was illegal" excuse any more.

  • One more key area for debate concerned whether athletes should be denied the right to improve themselves, whatever the risk. At least one person brought up laser eye surgery as an example. It's an operation with risk - something I can confirm, because my mother battled complications after she underwent the procedure - and an operation about which the long-term effects are not completely known.

    Scraps, a commenter on the home page steroid discussion, had this to say:

    It seems to me that Steroids is about two basic issues, and that people switch back and forth between them whenever defending one side becomes inconvenient: it's about health danger, and about competitive fairness (and then, as a kicker, it's about Substances, and the demonic role they have assumed in our society).

    (Derek) Zumsteg over at U.S.S. Mariner brings up the crippling of football lineman, who often end up unable to walk due to nothing more than the extraordinary wear and tear of life in football's trenches. I have said in the past that I would believe people's sincerity about the health issues more if we heard about Earl Campbell's crippling one-twentieth as often as we hear about Lyle Alzado's cancer. Football cripples men, and it simply doesn't get discussed. It's the price of having the sport at all.

    But baseball hasn't been subject to the same concern; a baseball fan can legitimately complain about the health issues involving steroids without hypocrisy. Most baseball fans that I know believe implicitly everything they hear from the anti-steroid media scare machine, which doesn't help the conversation, but for the sake of the argument, at least, I'll accept that steroids have permanent health dangers.

    But: Why is it my business to decide what risks players are entitled to take with their bodies? There are many more dangerous professions and hobbies than taking steroids, and we don't get outraged that people are allowed to risk their lives and bodies for them.

    So, it's fundamentally about competitive balance. (And Substances.) It's unfair that players supplement their natural gifts with anything other than hard work; and it forces other players to make the same choice (which slides back into the health dangers issue, and is the part of the argument with which I have the most sympathy).

    But why, then, no outrage over laser eye surgery? It is, after all, an artificial procedure that gives players a competitive advantage (a more demonstrable one than steroids), is arguably still dangerous, forces other players to consider the same alteration, and has nothing to do with natural gifts or hard work. Yet no one objects to it. It's legal, of course, but also, it's not a Substance. Seriously, I think that's the big bugaboo. If players -- I should say "when" -- could achieve the same results, with the same dangers, from surgery that they do from steroids, the hullaballoo would be a fraction what it is now.

    Here's why I fundamentally don't care about steroids (and here's where I depart from almost everyone else on the issue, probably including you): People say that improving the body through steroid use is unfair. But our bodies are unfair. Why is it less fair to inject a better body than to be born with one? I'm five foot four, and the only way I could have been a professional athlete would be to have the greatest athletic instincts in the world. That's unfair; if I could take something to give me a world-class athletic body, why would there be any less virtue to that than being born with a world-class body?

    If (when) we can all make ourselves the bodies of our choice, then sports will really come down to hard work, dedication, intelligence, and character. And for the first time in history, sports will really be about what fans and sportswriters think it's about.

    I thought this comment was full of insight. I do think Scraps is missing one thing - the explanation of why substances are a bugaboo. Surgery is risky in the same sense that getting into a car is risky - the activity is not inherently risky, but dependent on factors such as the age of the patient/driver, the equipment in use. On the other hand, there is at a minimum a perception that there is an inevitiability that underground substance use will have deleterious consequences.

    In any event, this takes us back to a debate bigger than baseball and almost as old as time - is it society's role to protect people from themselves? Baseball, the sport that creates trauma to the human body from the first pitch, is inherently inconsistent in this area. But it's okay if baseball does offer protection when it can, isn't it?

  • The final major area of discussion was what to do about statistics and records. (I have to tell you, when I first meant to type "area," I actually typed "error", which might be a Freudian slip.) I found nothing to convince me that altering or asteriskizing the record books would be practical or logical. What happened, happened. Each statistic affects another - to try to change one would open Pandora's Dominos. It's not like flunking someone on a spelling test after they cheated.

    However, a few people found my comparison of the use of banned enhancements (which players have control over) to factors like park effects (which they don't control) to be poorly chosen, or at least distracting. I'm going to rewrite the final point of the policy in an attempt to rectify that.

    So that's the discussion. On to the policy itself. For the first time, we venture beyond 10 points. Will 13 be lucky?

    Current Beliefs

    1) Throughout the history of baseball, players have ventured down many different avenues in pursuit of a competitive advantage.

    2) Throughout the sport's history, players have been convicted of a number of criminal offenses without receiving any punishment from baseball officials.

    3) However, baseball should discourage players from using illegal steroids, drugs, enhancements or supplements that they know could be potentially harmful to the body long-term.

    4) Additionally, no one should be pressured to use these supplements by the idea that they need them to stay competitive.

    5) That being said, despite what individual people are convinced is true, there is debate in the scientific community about how harmful steroids are. (Indeed, steroids are prescribed to promote health in certain cases to people of all ages and ilks.) They might be harmful to athletes, but some respected people say that you cannot conclude that they are harmful to athletes. No matter how convinced one is about one’s position, this debate undeniably exists.

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

    7) However, there is sufficient risk that steroids are harmful that it is reasonable for baseball, a private enterprise, to take measures to regulate their use, including their possible ban from the game.

    8) A ban on steroids, or any other regulation, should have the support of both management and the players. This is critical.

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

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

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

    12) Players should have the right to petition for the approval of enhancements, supplements, etc., on the chance that one or more can be shown to be safe and worthy of use.

    13) Baseball's official statistics chronicle the action that takes place on the field. They are an objective observation, from which we can form any interpretation we like. There is no effective means for, or purpose in, adjusting statistics compiled by players found to have used illegal substances.

  • The Evolving Dodger Thoughts Stance on Steroids - Day 4
    2004-12-03 07:41
    by Jon Weisman

    Well, that was a long Day 3, wasn't it?

    Back in March, I initiated an interactive attempt to evolve, with the help of you readers, a coherent policy on steroids and baseball. It was a qualified success. I think we were on the path to something reasonable. However, I didn't go the distance with it, partly because my distaste for the subject leapfrogged my desire to learn about it, partly because I started to question whether there could ultimately be a coherent policy.

    In the wake of this week's revelations, I'm going to bring the policy out for at least one more day. As before, I will highlight the most noteworthy comments on the previous day - nine months ago. (If you want to read the policy draft they were working from, click the Day 3 link above.)

  • Good people from both sides on the argument essentially stated that no reasonable person has evidence or can believe that a) steroids cause harm and b) steroids don't cause harm. It's my take that for now, we simply don't know the extent of the effect of steroids on the human body. And that in any event, even if you're the one person who is sure you have all the answers, it doesn't get you anywhere when there is so much doubt out there.

  • If you want to ban steroids, it doesn't do any good to make a criterion "because they enhance performance." That is an oil slick on a slippery slope - there are so many things players do to enhance performance, "weightlifting, jogging, Gatorade, tofu," as I wrote in March - that to draw a line at steroids is too arbitrary to be effective as a policy decision. You need other criteria (which may well exist).

  • Rob McMillin had grave concerns about privacy:

    Maybe you (MLB) are the boss, but is this the sort of step you want to take in a free society? This is bad at so many levels:

    - It implies widespread guilt. (Never mind that the accusers haven't made their case that steroids are actually bad.)

    - It means that private entities are collecting data wholesale that public ones can't, not without a warrant. This is the kind of grease that leads to very real slippery slope problems.

    Reaction 1: Shoot, McMillin used "slippery slope" before I did. Nuts. I guess that's why they call them cliches. But wait, if I combine a second cliche with the first, maybe that will seem original!

    Reaction 2: If you want to tackle an issue even more divisive and complicated than steroids, privacy's your ticket. I have to admit to wildly conflicting views on privacy - I believe I can safely argue with conviction from both sides. Part of that is a belief sympathetic to McMillin's; part of that is a belief that the ship has already sailed and that there is little left to protect. If you told me that some business and government agency knew what I had for dinner, weighed and dreamed last night, I might just believe you.

    That leaves me where I began Day 3. If adults engaging in a contract can agree on the terms of that contract, with a sincere effort to limit privacy invasion as much as possible that's probably the best you can do. I'll need more convincing - and feel free to go for it - that baseball should be a privacy battleground.

  • Over at Baseball Musings, David Pinto makes the anti-Prohibition argument:

    Let athletes take these under a doctor's care. Do you think a physician would have given a player female fertility pills? We're not going to stop steroid use by banning it. But maybe we can control the bad side effects controling the use.

    As the great-grandson of bootleggers, as a believer that Prohibition didn't work for alcohol and as a sympathizer for some aspects of marijuana legalization, even though I've never smoked the stuff (that's right - Dodger Thoughts is clean as a whistle, except the kind of whistle that gets passed around among people who smoke pot), I want to try to work this argument in to the discussion. But I will do so taking into account that not everyone is pro-legalization.

    So that's where I am on Day 4. I make no promises for if or when a Day 5 will come - especially since today is the day before a weekend and I've already whined about how busy I am - but as before, I would love to read your suggestions, comments or criticisms in the comments. Maybe we'll inch forward.

    Current Beliefs

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

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

    3) There is debate in the scientific community about how harmful steroids are. (Indeed, steroids are prescribed to promote health in certain cases to people of all ages and ilks.) They might be harmful to athletes, but some respected people say that you cannot conclude that they are harmful to athletes. No matter how convinced one is about one's position, this debate undeniably exists.

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

    5) However, there is sufficient risk that steroids are harmful for baseball, a private enterprise, to take measures to regulate their use, including their possible ban from the game.

    6) A ban on steroids, or any other regulation, should have the support of both management and the players. This is critical.

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

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

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

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

  • State of the Author Address, Vol. 1
    2004-12-02 12:01
    by Jon Weisman

    Please someone pay me thousands and thousands of dollars so that I can devote myself to writing everything I want to for this site and not have days like today where I can't write at all.

    Thank you.

    (Tough week at work. Just blowing off steam. Thanks for understanding. Future State of the Author Addresses, should they come, will involve less begging. But we can make the comments below a Wish Fulfillment Open Chat if you like.)

    A Baseball Open Chat for a Thursday
    2004-12-02 11:03
    by Jon Weisman

    Why should you go silent today, just because I have to?

    11 ... 5 ... 13 ... 9
    2004-12-01 00:33
    by Jon Weisman

    Hut, hut!

    The Dodgers like to move around that dial, don't they? Starting in 2006, it's Channel 9, the fourth broadcast channel to televise their games in, I don't know, not that long a period.

    Sources told Larry Stewart of the Times that Channel 9 topped Channel 13 "substantially" in its offer of rights fees, which should translate into more dollars in somebody's pocket, be they Dodger owner or player.

    Meanwhile, looks like the Southern California Angels of the United States will move to a new over-the-air home themselves in a year.

    One Hit ... And Much More
    2004-12-01 00:19
    by Jon Weisman

    Sad story by Mike McFeely in The Forum of Fargo-Grand Forks, North Dakota on the death of 37-year-old Brian Traxler, who got his only major league hit, a pinch-hit double, with the Dodgers in 1990:

    Brian Traxler was a 5-foot-11, 250-pound Texan who wore a cowboy hat and the boots to match. His belly belonged on a slowpitch softball field instead of a professional baseball diamond. He liked to have fun and made no apologies for that character strength, once telling former Forum sports columnist Dave Kolpack, "I like to have a few beers once in awhile and I eat what I want to eat."

    Those traits -- plus an uncanny knack for hitting line drives -- made Traxler the first bona fide fan favorite of the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. ... All of which made it that much harder for many in the RedHawks organization when they received news Nov. 19 that Traxler had died in his hometown of San Antonio.

    A cause of death has not been released, but it's known that Traxler had been ill just a short time. He was in a coma for about two weeks prior to his death.

    Jon Weisman's outlet
    for dealing psychologically
    with the Los Angeles Dodgers
    and baseball.
    Frozen Toast
    Google Search
    Dodger Thoughts

    02  01 

    12  11  10  09  08  07 
    06  05  04  03  02  01 

    12  11  10  09  08  07 
    06  05  04  03  02  01 

    12  11  10  09  08  07 
    06  05  04  03  02  01 

    12  11  10  09  08  07 
    06  05  04  03  02  01 

    12  11  10  09  08  07 
    06  05  04  03  02  01 

    12  11  10  09  08  07 
    06  05  04  03  02  01 

    09  08  07 
    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