Monthly archives: May 2005
May 31 Open Chat: Fedoras
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The other day, Vinny was talking about how fans used to come to ballgames in professional clothes, wearing fedoras and the like. You've seen them in all the old-time pictures and clips.
Can anyone of a certain age describe when this practice ended, and how long the transition from full-fedora to no-fedora took? Was it different in different cities? Did the Coliseum or Dodger Stadium ever see fedoras? When did T-shirts and baseball hats become the rule instead of the exception?
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The Braves have designated Raul Mondesi for assignment.
You know, back in the days of fedoras, a guy like ballplayer/spy Moe Berg - now he was truly designated for assignment.
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Good times continue in Arizona, but even so, Jim McLennan at AZ Snakepit is debating "Which is worse: Shawn Green or Russ Ortiz?" The conclusion is that although Ortiz might be slightly worse on paper, the relative lack of alternative starting pitching as opposed to outfield candidates makes Green the bigger bust.
Ten Minutes, Unedited
Can I say anything meaningful in 600 seconds of stream of consciousness? I'm not angry right now. Maybe I'm too sick to be angry, or too understanding, too understanding of my own fallibilities. The Dodgers can't pitch as a team - they can get a few good innings here and there, but they can't finish off a game. And that may change or it may not, but it adds up to anger for others but fatigue for me. Wilson Alvarez gives a home run to the first batter and I say, "You can't be serious," not quite sure who You is but realizing in the next moment that You can be quite serious, he can really be sincere in his intentions that the Dodgers will not have a strong pitching performance from their ragamuffin crew. And again, Derek Lowe and Brad Penny have had some good outings, but the team can't finish it up. The team can't do it.
It can change, it can change, it can all change. But I am powerless to change it and not eager to lose any more sleep over it, because I can't afford to lose sleep over it. The last month, I have had my own juggling act of full-time work and freelance work and Dodger Thoughts and family life and, oh yeah, there was this thing called lesiure time - and getting sick was not part of the plan. It's nothing truly serious, only something insidious and each moment I spend recuperating adds to the deadline pressure I face, and each moment I spend relieving the deadline pressure adds to the recuperation time. The end is in sight for one of these things - about a month from now, maybe less, the freelance work runs out, and presumably the cold will be over, and then I'll have more time on my hands than I've had since October, time to think about what I'll do to replace the freelance income once it's gone.
This is too much about me and not enough about the Dodgers, it's not even very interesting stuff about me. Dodger coverage in the last week has been led by 6-4-2 and Who's Next - for that matter, Bob Timmermann's Random Dodger Game Callbacks have been carrying this site as much as anything. You all have been in good hands - just not mine, as it happens.
Tenth minute: I love the Dodgers and want everything to be right with them. They may find a way to heal, they may find another gear that they've been lacking, or this might not be their year. Is that wrong? Should this have been their year? Are there things they should have done that they didn't do? They are not overloaded at any particular position, and free agent pitching was spare in the offseason. Matt Clement sure looked good back then and looks good today, but he might never have wanted to come here. I'm not for tilting windmills - not today, anyway. If they can improve, they will improve, but life is complicated, and we don't always win. You never know when you might feel better.
May 30 Open Chat: Little Things That Might Mean a Lot, Or Not
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Overwhelming popularity in the Dodger clubhouse hasn't been the goal of this website, but that doesn't mean that this story about Batgirl isn't supercool. Congrats to her. (Thanks to Baseball Primer for the link.)
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T-Shirt Update: Three snags in the fabric.
1) The presence of another website, Beyond the Boxscore, has me rethinking the idea of using "Think Outside the Box Score" as a slogan. It's not exactly the same, but is it worth coming that close when there are other options available?
2) No one has stepped up to be the designer yet.
3) Overwhelmed by the worst cold and cough of my life and crushing freelance work, I haven't been able to attend to these problems. (This also explains why posting has been light of late.)
But we'll get there ...
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Here's one quick Dodger note: By allowing Arizona to score a run in the bottom of the ninth Sunday, the Dodgers extended their streak of allowing opponents three runs or more to 23 consecutive games. (They have allowed four or more runs in 20 of those 23 games.)
In contrast, in their first 26 games this season, the Dodgers held opponents below three runs seven times.
May 29 Open Chat: Oddities
In 11 games this season, Antonio Perez has raised his career batting average from .246 to .296. Now batting .516, Perez can (and no doubt will, after I write this) go 0 for 22 and still remain above .300.
Giovanni Carrara is on pace for a 14-7 season.
Until this season, Duaner Sanchez had never allowed a triple in his career, covering 92 1/3 innings. He has now allowed three in 117 1/3 innings.
The Moment an Umpire Lives For
In the seventh inning tonight, Duaner Sanchez threw his glove up in the air to prevent a high infield bouncer from reaching the outfield. As Vin Scully remarked in amazement, some of us have known this rule all our lives, some of us have seen perfect games and triple plays, but we've never seen the umpires get to invoke the rule against throwing your glove at the ball, the rule that sends the batter all the way to third base.
Two batters later, Arizona starting pitcher Javier Vazquez hit the first homer of his career to tie the game.
"Throughout the entire history of the Dodgers in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, they have always bordered on the zany and bizarre," Scully said. "Tonight takes the cake."
It's also the third consecutive game in which the Dodger bullpen has lost a lead in the seventh or eighth inning.
Arizona manager Bob Melvin then pulled Vasquez without letting him face another batter.
The events, among other things, cost Derek Thompson a potential win in his major league debut. Thompson weathered control problems to pitch five innings of two-hit, 95-pitch ball.
Thompson surely earned himself another start, especially because, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Odalis Perez and Elmer Dessens are both weeks from returning. Los Angeles doesn't have an off day until June 9, meaning they have to fill not only Perez's slot in the rotation, but Scott Erickson's.
Wilson Alvarez will again fill Perez's slot Monday, but beyond that, it's all in doubt.
And that's the report, with at least two innings to go ...
Update: As so often happens, in the ninth inning, the batter (Luis Terrero) running well inside the first base line on a grounder is not called for being outside the runner's lane. What exactly does it take to get an umpire to make that call more than once in a blue moon?
The Dodgers lose without using their best pitcher.
May 28 Open Chat: Derek and the Dominoes
Originally published May 23, 2003
Jody Reed never walked off the field with his head bowed in shame, bearing the crushing disappointment of a Dodger crowd robbed of glory.
But Reed deserves a place right beside Mickey Owen, Ralph Branca, Terry Forster and Tom Niedenfuer in the Dodger Chamber of Horrors. The sickening cringe engendered by the memory of Forster serving up Joe Morgan's home run in 1982 or Niedenfuer tossing Jack Clark's in 1985 is every bit as applicable if you truly understand the mischief of Jody Reed. The difference with Reed is that his catastrophe came not in the hothouse mania of October but the cool epilogue of November.
Branca cost the Dodgers a pennant. Owen cost them a World Series.
Reed cost the Dodgers Pedro Martinez. No, he wasn't traded for Martinez. He cost them Martinez, as simply and horribly as a slow roller through the legs with the title on the line.
May 27 Open Chat: Big Weekend
Don't forget to listen to Ross Porter on AM 1540 between 2 and 4 p.m. Vin Scully is the scheduled guest during the second hour.
Beltre: Beyond the Pale
I've been wanting more time to pass before talking about Adrian Beltre's 2005 season, but in the meantime, it's worth noting this piece by Derek Zumsteg (thanks to Baseball Primer for the link. He writes that Beltre is far enough below even the most pessimistic, cynical projections for his 2005 season that it's worth asking if Beltre has physical problems (in the great, recent tradition of some Dodgers we remember) much worse than people are aware.
Neither Zumsteg nor I are sure that the answer is yes. But again, no matter how poorly you thought Beltre would do - and I'll be the first to say I thought he'd continue to do well - you probably didn't expect him to have what might turn out to be the very worst season of his up-and-down career. It's more than just a disappointment - it's a mystery.
May 26 Open Chat: Still Older Than Carrara
Today, my 30s are 75 percent over.
In baseball news, the Dodgers aren't alone. In the American League East, the Red Sox could fall to fourth place tonight as well.
'Can't Be Worse' Is No Answer
"Try him - he can't be worse than Scott Erickson," goes the mantra with regard to Dodger starting pitching candidates.
This argument, of course, is mostly true. It's mostly besides the point as well.
Don't frame your argument for a new starting pitcher as "he can't be worse." Tell us how much better is he likely to be.
Scott Erickson has an ERA of about 7.50. If, instead of Erickson, the Dodgers employ a pitcher with an ERA of more than 5.00, it helps the Dodgers about as much as an expired coupon. An ERA of 5.00 means that you're then asking the offense to produce six runs or more to win. That's asking too much.
The "can't be worse" way of thinking wastes time and distracts us from real solutions.
If you can make a case that Edwin Jackson, or Duaner Sanchez, or Derek Thompson, or Chad Billingsley, or Pat Mahomes would have an ERA of 4.50 or less as a starter - that he would allow roughly three runs over six innings before turning the game over to the bullpen - then by all means, make that case. Jackson, for example, had a 3.70 ERA at Jacksonville before his original major league callup, which went rather well. Pick your elixir, if you see fit: Thompson has an ERA of 3.89 at Jacksonville with an opponents' batting average of .283, teammate Jonathan Broxton has an ERA of 3.99 with an opponents' batting average of .229. Thompson's strikeout numbers are a little better.
Or, even though his strikeout totals are poor, make the case that Mahomes' 2.91 ERA at Las Vegas is too good not to be explored. Or make the case that Las Vegas is killing Jackson's career, and that calling him up, however poor his numbers are, is the best thing the Dodgers could do for him and for themselves.
And by the way, you might not want to give up on Wilson Alvarez as a spot starter. Unlike Erickson, he has a track record over the past two years of bouncing back from poor starts.
Whatever you do, make the case for excellence, or at least something good. If Paul DePodesta picked a player because "he couldn't be worse than what we've got," you'd have his hide, and rightfully so. And if you can't make a good case for anyone, then say unequivocally that we have to go outside the organization.
The Dodgers shouldn't waste time. Let's pick the best possible guy now.
We Interrupt This Slump To Be Catty
A wide shot from the center field camera as Cesar Izturis steps into the batter's box for the opening pitch Wednesday at San Francisco's SBC Park.
Number of people visible in their seats behind home plate: 84
Number of empty seats visible: 109
Oh, but of course, the Dodgers are the only team in baseball with a late-arriving crowd ...
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And now, back to the slump.
You know how frustrating it is when one day your team is hitting well but pitching poorly, and the next day it is hitting poorly but pitching well, and they just can't get in sync?
Well, no such frustration here. The Dodgers are nothing if not in sync these days. This month of May is becoming like last October's playoff series with the Cardinals played out in slow motion. Twenty-five percent great, 75 percent awful.
Talk, which has started to rumble in the comments, about being a seller at the trade deadline this year is way premature. In years past on Dodger Thoughts, I've pondered the merits of selling at the deadline, but it's simply not a decision you even need to make when the deadline is two months away and your team is still only four games out after a tremendous slump.
I'm not trying to paint a positive picture on the past month, but the Dodger problems are obvious enough to fix, and there's still time to do it. It's fine to say you shouldn't nuke the farm system or take on someone else's overpaid flop - it's fine to say let's look for real solutions - but waving the white flag? No, not now.
I do have a rule, though, that if my team drops below .500, I cease all scoreboard watching. At that point, the season becomes about getting your own condo in order, rather than worrying about anyone else. Dismayingly, the Dodgers are near that point.
At the same time, there is part of me that hopes by Sunday, following weekend sweeps by the Dodgers over the Diamondbacks and the Giants over the Padres, that this will be a much tighter National League West race.
(On the cover of "Who Are You" by the Who, Keith Moon sits on a chair upon which is written, "Not To Be Taken Away." I suppose the last paragraph could be called, "Not To Be Taken Too Seriously.")
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Ross Porter will fill in for Fred Roggin on AM 1540 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Friday. Mike Scioscia will be his guest in the first hour and Vin Scully - live from Arizona - will come on in hour two. Perfect for those hitting the road early to jump-start the long weekend ...
May 25 Open Chat: All They Need to Win
The Dodgers are ...
The Dodgers aren't losing a lot of one-run games - or even playing in many, in contrast to previous seasons. The Dodgers have only played six one-run games this year, winning four. They have not lost a one-run game since April 26.
So reaching a mere four runs would not have prevented many of the losses. The team has allowed five runs or more in a game 24 times, going 8-16, and has lost 10 games in May alone by three runs or more.
It's safe to say that a quality start backed by four runs offers an inside track to victory. That shouldn't be a lot to ask. But right now, it is.
In contrast, here is one less relevant event:
Three runs in a five-inning knockout of Jason Schmidt should be enough work by the offense in SBC Park to produce a victory, especially when you lock in the ensuing Tacking On of Runs against the Giants bullpen.
But the Dodgers were rather tackless, and starting pitcher Jeff Weaver shot the team in both feet, firing bullets that San Francisco's No. 8 and No. 9 hitters richocheted for home runs and a Giants victory.
The good news for the Dodgers: 1) Jayson Werth is ready to return after a powerful Monday and Tuesday with AAA Las Vegas, and 2) whatever the future holds, the Dodgers have been getting production at third base lately. Antonio Perez (quickly taking over the position), Mike Edwards and Olmedo Saenz are a combined 19 for 59 with six walks this month - a.385 on-base percentage.
The trio have only one home run playing third, but that hardly makes them unique among the Dodgers. Los Angeles has been outhomered this month, 30-15, and that's as fundamental an explanation for the team's woes as any.
With one home run in May, J.D. Drew is part of the power discrepancy, and Tony Jackson of the Daily News reports that the team is still seeking answers to what might be ailing his right wrist. There's more than an outside chance that Werth will replace not Ricky Ledee and Jason Repko in the lineup, but Drew, at least in the short term.
Perhaps as inexplicably, Jeff Kent has been worse than Drew - just three doubles and two home runs in a .550 OPS month.
But again, still, as usual, the main culprits are the pitchers. Weaver has been almost Bondsian in May, racking up eight home runs (against him). He, the disabled Odalis Perez and the demoted Scott Erickson have combined to allow 17 home runs in the month in 67 innings.
The Dodgers may not need a Norihiro, but they do need another hero. More than one, in fact. And they need him to come on the mound and keep the ball in the park. Replacement starting candidates Wilson Alvarez, Duaner Sanchez, Buddy Carlyle and D.J. Houlton have combined to allow three home runs in 29 innings this month. If there's hope for rapid Dodger improvement, it begins in this exceptionally unlikely place - with these four past or current castoffs.
(And if these guys can't do it, there's always Fernando ...)
May 24 Open Chat: 3-4, Not 1-2
Eric Gagne, Beyond the Saves
Gather 'round and watch as the myths explode - once and for all - and the truth is revealed.
1) Right through his final start, Eric Gagne remained a starting pitcher with great promise.
2) Throughout his career as a reliever, Gagne has been one of the best pitchers in baseball in non-save situations.
Gagne came up as a starting pitcher in September 1999 at age 23 and was outstanding. That's right - outstanding.
In four of the five starts, he allowed no more than one earned run - and never threw fewer than five innings. In his debut, at Florida, Gagne gave a performance not unlike Edwin Jackson's fondly recalled first game: six innings, two hits, one walk, eight strikeouts, no runs allowed. In his worst game, he had a 3-2 lead over the 97-win New York Mets entering the sixth inning before faltering. He ended the year with six shutout innings in Houston. For the season, he struck out 30 in 30 innings, walking 15 and posting a 2.10 ERA.
As a 24-year-old, Gagne's strikeout rate dropped while his rate of home runs allowed increased. But he had periods of effectiveness mixed within. Entering the rotation on April 15, Gagne had an ERA of 3.22 after four starts totaling 22 1/3 innings. His worst game in that stretch came when he allowed three solo homers to Atlanta, but only four other baserunners in six innings.
The month of June typified Gagne's season. On June 6, he shut out Texas for six innings. In his next start, he gave up five runs in the first inning to Oakland, but still lasted five innings, allowing one more run in the fifth.
Gagne mixed the good with the bad for several more weeks, before leaving the active roster on July 27 after allowing eight runs (five earned) in 4 1/3 innnings - excuseable, considering it came in Colorado in a game you might well remember: the Dodgers won, 16-11, with Adrian Beltre driving in six runs and Alex Cora five.
Gagne returned for four starts in September and was solid: He went six innings in three of the four, allowing six runs in 22 1/3 innings (2.42 ERA). Surprisingly, he did have one six-inning stirkeout free start, which meant he only whiffed 15 in that month. But for a season with ups and downs, and an ultimately below-average 5.15 ERA, Gagne ended on a strong note.
Now a member of the Dodger starting rotation from the opening week, Gagne came out sharp, with a five-inning, six-strikeout, one-run performance against Arizona (facing Randy Johnson) and an eight-inning, seven-strikeout, one-run game in his fourth start, in the city where his transformation to closer would take shape a year later, San Francisco. But again, inconsistency plagued him, and he fell out of the rotation in early June with his ERA at 6.05.
Returning in July, Gagne pitched four superb games out of five, if not five out of five - the questionable game was a six-inning, seven-run game at Coors Field in which he earned the 22-7 victory. For the month, including that difficult Colorado start, Gagne was 3-0 with a 3.15 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings. Add in the stats for Gagne's first four August starts, and the Canadian was on a streak of 58 innings, 44 strikeouts and a 3.26 ERA.
Gagne finished August with two non-quality starts in which he allowed nine runs in 9 1/3 innings, and spent most of September in the bullpen. Once more, however, he ended the season with a fine start: six innings, two runs, three hits, four walks, six strikeouts. His ERA for the year was 4.75 - still not good enough to rely on, but hardly a lost cause. He had 13 quality starts out of 24 for the year - pretty promising for someone who was still young.
After adding four new starting pitchers during the offseason - Odalis Perez, Hideo Nomo, Kazuhisa Ishii and Omar Daal - the Dodgers decided to put Gagne in the bullpen. His first three games as a full-time reliever came in non-save situations, and it was the 3 2/3 shutout innings with one hit, zero walks and six strikeouts that encouraged Jim Tracy to give him a chance to record his first save, which happened April 7 at home against Colorado. The transcendent moment that cemented his status as closer came four days later, when Tracy allowed Gagne to get out of his own two-on, one-out jam in San Francisco, striking out Jeff Kent and retiring Reggie Sanders on a deep fly to center to preserve a 4-3 victory.
From that moment on through today, most of Gagne's appearances were in save situations. When they weren't, they were usually in tie games at home in the ninth inning or after, when a save was no longer possible.
One-third of an inning in Cincinnati on August 1, accounted for nearly half the runs Gagne allowed in non-save situations that year. Entering the game in the ninth inning with a 4-0 lead, Gagne allowed a two-run home run, then was ejected after hitting Adam Dunn with a pitch that everyone but the soon-to-be-reprimanded home-plate umpire agreed was unintentional. Dunn also scored in what was to become one of the Dodgers' most bitter defeats of the decade so far.
It would defeat the purpose of this exercise, of course, to evaluate Gagne without that game on the record, but just to show the impact that it had - without it, Gagne's ERA in non-save opportunities in 2002 would have been lower than his ERA in save opportunities. In any case, Gagne still posted a wonderful ERA even when he couldn't get a save.
Non-save opportunity stats: 22 1/3 IP, 14 H, 7 R, 5 BB, 30 K, 2.82 ERA
The killer game for Gagne, the one that more or less established his reputation as a non-save opportunity stiff - or NSOS - was May 12 vs. Atlanta. Entering a tie game in the top of the ninth with a 0.48 ERA for the season, Gagne allowed three hits and a walk, all of whom scored in a seven-run Braves ninth inning. He followed that game with two runs allowed in his next non-save opportunity 17 days later, allowing Todd Helton's third home run of the game with a man aboard in the Coors Field environment that always plagued him as a starter, cementing his NSOS status for most people.
Again, this infamous stretch overshadowed how useful Gagne was whenever he pitched.
Non-save opportunity stats: 25 1/3 IP, 16 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 11 BB, 38 K, 3.20 ERA
Absolutely ungodly in save opportunities, Gagne was still aces virtually any other time he emerged from the bullpen. Again, just to show the impact of one game, his ERA in non-save opportunities outside of May 12 would have been 1.80.
In his first 14 appearances without a save opportunity, covering 17 1/3 innings, Gagne allowed one run on eight hits while striking out 23 - an ERA of 0.52. This should have put to rest the myth that Gagne was ineffective in non-save opportunities for good - not that the myth should have existed in the first place.
Unfortunately, Gagne's nadir game of 2004 came in his second appearance after Guillermo Mota was traded to Florida, which was also his first appearance after pitching three shutout innings in a memorable non-save opportunity that led to perhaps a season-saving victory at San Diego. On August 6, with the local media raging against asunder-tearing Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta, Gagne pitched a shutout 10th inning before allowing four runs in the top of the 11th in a 9-5 Dodger defeat. This came 12 days before Gagne's record consecutive save streak ended at home against Florida. Though the storm of 2004 was the canard that Gagne was overworked - something else that proved untrue, somehow the myth of Gagne's short attention span theater in non-save situations persisted.
On September 17 - in a non-save opportunity in Colorado - Gagne faced eight batters. He allowed one hit, one walk and struck out six. So much for lack of concentration.
In the playoffs, because Jose Lima pitched a complete game in the Dodgers' one victory, Gagne only pitched in non-save situations. He threw three shutout innings, allowing one hit, walking one and striking out three.
Non-save opportunity stats: 33 IP, 20 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 8 BB, 43 K, 2.18 ERA
There you go again, Eric. You come off the disabled list after nearly two months and have the nerve to allow two home runs in your first game back. Must have been because a save wasn't on the line.
Since those first two batters homered, Gagne has pitched four shutout innings. But you can't change how the ERA is calculated:
Non-save opportunity stats: 4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 4.50 ERA
Which leads us to Gagne's record in non-save opportunities since becoming the Dodger closer in 2002 ...
Non-save opportunity stats: 84 2/3 IP, 54 H, 27 R, 26 ER, 25 BB, 119 K, 2.76 ERA
Eric Gagne is insanely great in save opportunities, merely great in non-save opportunities.
It doesn't matter what inning it is for Eric Gagne. Use him or waste him.
'He Can Never Have a Game Like That. Ever. Ever Again'
Las Vegas manager Jerry Royster had pointed remarks praising Pat Mahomes and reproaching Edwin Jackson of AAA Las Vegas, according to Nick Christensen in the Las Vegas Sun today:
(Royster) criticized his pitching staff for being too pensive.
"I'm calling them out," he said. "You see a situation like Pat Mahomes came into the other day. He was in trouble, he was not getting pitches, everything was going wrong for him. You look up and he's given up three runs. That's how you compete. You minimize the damage."
He also took issue with Edwin Jackson's start Saturday. Before an overflow crowd of 11,585, Jackson gave up seven runs - four earned - on five hits in two innings before being ejected for hitting Albuquerque's Todd Sears.
"He can never have a game like that. Ever. Ever again," Royster said. "Here's a guy that's rising, (the Dodgers) need a start here in a couple days. You've got to know this stuff and go out there and ... find a way to get out of the minor leagues, guys. How can you pitch in the other game if you can't get these guys out?"
I agree with those who have suggested that Jackson would do better in Los Angeles than he has done in Las Vegas, but these latest remarks are either motivational material to fire up Jackson and/or the suggestion of some deeper malaise at play.
Batting Third ... Hee Seop Choi
That famous mother Necessity has a couple of other kids besides Invention. There's brother Respect and sister Acceptance.
And thanks to the whole family, on Sunday we found the preeminent slot in the batting order manned by the scourge of Southern California 2004, Hee Seop Choi.
J.D. Drew, the man Choi uprooted in the lineup, should be the top hitter on the team and may well end up that way. But right now, Choi - except perhaps for Olmedo Saenz or Cesar Izturis - is the best thing the Dodgers have going offensively these days. And if you saw his quality at-bat against a left-handed pitcher Sunday, you once again saw evidence that Choi can work a pitcher throwing from either direction.
Pragmatically, the Dodgers are still making a mistake by locking Choi and Drew together, in either order. They're encouraging opponents to bring in left-handed specialists late in the game, rather than getting at least one at-bat against an opposite-handed pitcher. And I say this with more concern over Drew, who seems flummoxed all too often by lefty pitches sweeping away from him.
It's a problem that must be too easy to solve. Example:
S Cesar Izturis
Somehow, Choi seems like the last guy who would get intoxicated enough by batting cleanup to let his batting stroke fall drunk in the streets. There may be a reason that Choi and Drew go together like ra-ma la-ma la-ma ka dinga kading-a-dong, so forgive me, but I can't see it.
None of this is to say the Dodger batting order has been a major problem. I'm gonna stay on message, people - any offense playing half its games in Dodger Stadium that can be among the league leaders in OPS, that doesn't get shut out until the season is more than 40 games old, is a good offense. It's time for my annual Paula Marshall reference: Just because every series she is in gets canceled doesn't mean she can't act. There are other forces at play.
But as they wait for their starting pitching to become more effective, there's no reason not to try to eke out an extra advantage on offense here and there. Appreciating Choi is one thing - thwarting another team's bullpen management is something more.
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How to replace the disabled Odalis Perez, now that Wilson Alvarez is already taking Scott Erickson's spot? Give anyone a shot that you want, and just be happy that it won't be Erickson revisiting Arizona. Won't it be refreshing to see hope take the mound instead of hopelessness?
May 22 Open Chat: Trendspotting
Brad Penny pitched well Saturday, but against the lineup the Angels put out there, he should have pitched well. The pitching staff has still been the main problem.
Yes, it was discouraging it was to see the Dodger offense turn John Lackey into Katie Brownell. Sometimes, the hitters just don't have it. The fact remains, though, that the hitters have had it this year more than the pitchers have, and one game does not change that.
May 21: Time to Start Winning
Consecutive Dodger wins. Starting ... now!
Dodger Thoughts: Think Outside the Boxscore
We have a winner - woo-hoo! And, we have more introspection about a T-shirt than you could possibly imagine ...
Free T-shirt for ever-faithful Dodger Thoughts reader BigCPA for coming up with the winner after the voting began - the most successful Dodger write-in since Steve Garvey's 1974 All-Star campaign. (But come on - no votes for "Great minds think unalike" or "Thera-Blue?" That's gold, Jerry, gold!)
So now, the vote - a close one, I'd say, with two first-place votes making the difference out of approximately 100 - is over. What comes next? A couple of quick notes before we get to talking about the design.
First, my wife suggested changing "Thinking outside the boxscore" to the more active "Think outside the boxscore," and I agree. I like the call to action, the invitation for everyone to think with the site instead of watching the site (okay, me) think for them.
Second, while it's obvious why this slogan was so popular, one could argue that there's not enough that's uniquely Dodger Thoughts or Dodgers about it. So as we adapt "Dodger Thoughts: Think outside the boxscore" into the T-shirt, I'm interested in seeing if the twist on Eric Gagne's personal slogan, "Where the game is never over," or the clever "The Dodger blog with relish" (note the slight change) might also be incorporated.
As far as designing the shirt, Dodger Thoughts reader Tommy Naccarato long ago offered to help. I've seen some of his designs in the past and they're good. But if anyone else has wants to offer any ideas - again, without pay - I'd love to see them as well. So if you want to help take us one step closer to T-shirt reality, let me know through the comments or an e-mail.
I'm a little self-conscious about how much time I've spent thinking and talking from Sloganland, but I'm excited about the new slogan and the upcoming shirts. I hope you are too.
May 20 Open Chat: Sects and the City
Angel fans, Dodger fans - let us not fret over names and places. Let us confine our conflict to the glorious field!
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That was me doing Braveheart. Or Spamalot. Or just waxing exclamatory.
Meanwhile, as far as the numbers go, there's this tidbit from Joe Sheehan on Baseball Prospectus today:
... consider that the A's have played a fairly difficult schedule, but are now almost done with the Red Sox and Yankees until 2006 (or October, if you prefer). The Angels have a 23-17 record and a seven-game lead in the division (over Oakland), but according to BP's Adjusted Standings, are no better than the A's so far, with an indicated record of 16-24 that matches not only the A's actual record, but their indicated one. In other words, the two teams look alike through one lens.
In those adjusted standings, which indicate the expected performance of a team with its current offensive and defensive statistics and are adjusted for strength of schedule, Texas is in first place in the American League West at 20-21, while Seattle, Oakland and the Angels are all at 16-24.
In the National League West, the Padres are 21-20, the Dodgers are 20-20, the Giants are 18-22, the Diamondbacks are 18-24 and the Rockies are 16-22. For what that's worth ...
Update: The nadir for Scott Erickson - four runs, four hits, three walks, four outs. It's all over but the releasing.
Pat Mahomes seems like the best gamble from AAA - a 2.76 ERA - but his strikeout/walk and strikeout/innings pitched ratios discourage. Edwin Jackson is always a possibility, but perhaps the AA Jacksonville roster is the best place to look for a replacement, outside of a trade or converting a current reliever.
Looking Up at the Team Down South
If Dodger Thoughts were bigger, perhaps some of my March and April quotes demeaning the Padres' chances of winning the National League West would have appeared on their mythical bulletin board, and I would be to blame for their run to first place.
In any case, San Diego has surged atop the West, taking a half-game lead over Arizona and a 2 1/2-game lead over the Dodgers by beating up some of the top teams from the Central and East divisions. Overall, the Padres have overcome their 10-11 start against the West by going 15-5 against teams from the other two divisions.
The Diamondbacks and Dodgers are as close as they are because they have good records against the West that mitigate their mediocre performance against the Central and East.
Team vs. West Central East Padres 10-11 9-5 6-0 D'backs 18-8 5-5 2-4 Dodgers 14-8 5-4 3-6 Giants 11-13 7-6 1-2 Rockies 8-21 0-0 4-5Which is more relevant? The Padres' success in their more recent games outside the division, or their struggle against the teams they are competing with directly for the division title?
Next week, to essentially close the second month of the season, the Padres and Dodgers each play six games on the road at Arizona and San Francisco. By the end of those series, the division won't be won, but we'll know if there's a clear favorite in the National League West or if it's going to be a game of leapfrog for a bit longer.
I'm still no fan of the San Diego offense, but the Padres' bullpen is strong once again, and Adam Eaton (3.35 ERA) and recent callup Tim Stauffer (3.46) have elevated the starting pitching behind Jake Peavy (2.57), who tries to extend San Diego's seven-game winning streak tonight against Seattle.
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Eric Gagne has been back on the Dodger roster for a week, yet neither he nor Yhency Brazoban have made any appearances of real significance in that time.
While I believe that ultimately, a Dodger starting pitcher should be expected to go longer than five innings, recent trends recommend that Jim Tracy be prepared to remove a starter at the first sign of trouble after five.
The plan would go like this:
For road games involving Scott Erickson, I would put the warning clock at four innings.
Of course, events don't go according to plan all the time. If someone gets blown out, they get blown out. If a starter is pitching a perfect game, or has given up 4 runs but the offense behind him has scored 12, leave him in. If the game goes extra innings, it's all on Houlton. In fact, it's because games don't always go to plan that the relievers would actually get their rest. Not every reliever would be needed every day.
But in the close games that most frequently confront the Dodgers, this plan would make the best use of the current staff and have greater potential of building its confidence and morale - by taking the pressure off each pitcher to hold a lead for an extended outing.
After that, the Dodger pitchers can get back to being macho.
(Certainly, I'd also be happy to see Brazoban or Gagne used as a smokejumper during those bases-loaded, no-out middle-inning moments. But for now, baby steps ...)
Dodger Thoughts Slogan Ballot
Here it is - your Dodger Thoughts Slogan Ballot, which includes your suggestions and those that I have taken offline.
Ballot Revised at 1:20 p.m.: Three new slogans added. Those who have voted before 1:20 p.m. may revise if they like. If you do, please write REVISED BALLOT in your new vote.
Please vote for up to three slogans in the comments below. You may choose fewer than three slogans if you like. Please rank your choices: Your first choice will get 5 points, your second choice 3 points and your third choice 1 point. If you do not rank your choices, point totals will be split evenly.
If you wish to vote privately, feel free to e-mail me.
And again, thanks!
_____A Dodger blog with mustard or A Dodger blog with relish
And They Play in a Pitchers Park ...
Dodger ERA: 4.69, 21st in the majors
Opponent OPS: .768, 23rd in the majors
Dodger runs per game: 5.18, fifth in the majors
Dodger OPS: .783, fifth in the majors
How Would You Describe Dodger Thoughts?
In advance of producing the first official Dodger Thoughts T-shirt, I'd like to come up with a slogan.
Obviously, "Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers and baseball" would require something more like an official Dodger Thoughts bedsheet to fit, so I need something snappier.
My unofficial shorthand description for the site is "passionately levelheaded" - and speaking for myself, I could see that on a shirt. I'm also intrigued by something involving the "lively boys" description that Tim Brown gave us in the Times. But maybe, just maybe, you lively boys - and girls - have something better.
I'd ask anyone who participates to donate their slogan ideas to the cause 'cause when we go to T-shirts for this, I don't want to end up being the one writing the checks. But obviously, I hope the fun of contributing to the effort of coming up with the slogan will be payment enough.
So, with that, slogan away! And thanks!
Update (after comment 83): Great participation, everyone. Some good ideas here. Also, it's helped me determine some basic criteria.
1) The slogan should promote the site - and what's special about the site.
2) The slogan shouldn't just be an inside joke. It can be an inside joke if it's also something that outsiders will find amusing and intriguing.
3) The slogan shouldn't steal someone else's slogan or catchphrase. I want it to be original, and I want to own it.
4) Nothing too trendy; nothing that's going to age rapidly and be as dated as a Steve Finley Dodger jersey.
For example, one nomination that has gotten some popular reaction is "Where Everybody Knows Your Fake Name." While it attempts to capture the great community we have here, it seems to say that the most notable thing about the site is the sharing of aliases - which isn't really even a significant aspect of the site, and doesn't show Dodger Thoughts to be any more special than your average Internet chatroom.
But there are a lot of intriguing ideas out there that I like. I'm gonna let the nominations run a little longer, and then I'll choose several and put together a ballot.
And after that, the logo ... and after that, the shirts!
May 18 Open Chat: Plinko!
Hooray! Plinko is by far the most celebrated and enjoyed pricing game ever played on The Price is Right.
The Dodgers plinkoed the Marlins on Tuesday, including their first home run by anyone besides Milton Bradley in the past seven days. After outhomering their opponents in April, 29-19, opponents have outhomered the Dodgers in May, 22-13. I have argued that the recent Dodger slump is more a problem of pitching than hitting, and the fact that the Dodgers have allowed more home runs in the first 18 days of May than they did in all of April supports that. But it should be said that the Dodger offense, while continuing to reach base this month, has had something of a power outage, helping to explain why the Plinko chips haven't all fallen where they'd hope.
Today, they will try to continue down the No Whammy road. Today's starter, Jeff Weaver, has a 3.54 ERA in May, with 22 strikeouts and six walks in 20 1/3 innings. Had he been lifted one pitch sooner in his last start, his May ERA would probably be 1.77.
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Update: Antonio Perez is on the roster ... and Jason Grabowski is off, headed for the taxi squad - I mean, disabled list - with "a nerve impingement," according to Vin Scully via the comments below.
Gagne's Second Game
Eric Gagne in the ninth inning of a 14-5 game:
vs. Lenny Harris
vs. Jeff Conine
vs. Chris Aguila
Not that the world has to stop, but anyone with TiVo is welcome to fill in a few gaps or offer corrections.
May 17 Open Chat: Hold the Phone, Don't Hold the Phone
Putting lots of runners on base without driving them in is like holding your hands-free cell phone in your hand while you talk.
We can do something about this, people. Use your hands-free device to free your hands. If you're going to hold the hands-free device, just hold the phone.
Oh - and, drive those runners in.
Just fooling around here, thinking out loud ... not counting errors, the Dodgers have had 47 baserunners in their past four games and scored 12 runs, a ratio of 3.92 to 1. For the season, the Dodgers have had 513 baserunners and scored 190 runs, a ratio of 2.70 to 1.
Now, you can believe the Dodgers have lost their clutch-hitting ability of late. Or you can believe that the Dodgers have just been hitting in bad luck in the clutch. Or you could do further research, perhaps find that the Dodgers had a power dropoff or something like that.
My point is this: things change. And as long as you're putting people on base, the more a run-scoring slump can change for the better. (David Pinto has more to say about this at Baseball Musings.)
By the way, Dodger pitching has allowed 184 runs on 469 baserunners (not counting errors) this season, a ratio of 2.55. Dodger pitching is keeping more runners off base than opponents' pitching, but allowing almost the same number of runs to score.
Hold the Crow
Wow, we aren't just losing games, folks, but we are losing games by huge margins. There's the 9-3 category, and then there's the somewhat closer 6-2 type loss. You can't say it's bad luck, or a hit here or there would make a difference. It's a combined collapse in hitting, pitching, and defense. I know we're playing good teams, but that's the point - we're clearly not in the same class.
When the Dodgers started the season 12-2, the Depot haters had to eat some crow and admit the team was not as ruined as they thought. Now that we're spiraling toward .500 and deeper into 3rd place, is it time for Depot supporters to admit he hasn't improved this team?
- May 16 Open Chat Comment #249 by Alnyden
It's a fair question. My response is, I never thought the Dodgers really were an .857 team. I enjoyed it while it lasted - in fact, it occurs to me now that I might have jinxed it. But a slide was absolutely inevitable.
With the loss tonight, they fall to .553 - a 90-win pace. That's about where I thought they would be. So just speaking for myself, I'm not ready to eat any crow.
I never told the People Who Don't Appreciate the Finer Things About Paul DePodesta to eat crow when the Dodgers were 12-2. In my mind, they were welcome to say, "It's early." Personally, I think that once the season started, they were confronted with the fact that the Dodgers weren't quite as bad as they thought - because their thoughts were so extreme - and the Giants and Padres not quite as good. I think some were so blinded by their puzzlement over DePodesta that they overscrutinized the Dodgers and underscrutinized their rivals. So with the hot start, some admitted that maybe there was more to the Dodgers than met their eye.
At the same time, not too many people came around on April 20 and said, "I was so wrong - the Dodgers are going to run away with the division." So I don't know how much crow was even eaten.
The Dodgers are one game out of first place (plus another half-game, I'm forced to acknowledge, for a grand total of 1 1/2 games). I think they are closer to where I thought they would be than where the anti-DePodesta crowd thought they would be. Crow is really a summer or fall entree, anyway.
Pac-10 Baseball Heads North
The weirdness of the Pacific 10 Conference baseball season has kind of snuck up on me. Here and there I've caught glimpses. UCLA losing game after game. Washington State winless. Stanford unable to put together any kind of a streak.
But I finally got a look at the standings, and who's up in first place? Oregon State, with a 17-4 record in conference play and 39-8 overall. The Beavers are ranked third nationally by Baseball America.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but in my memory, Oregon State is a program rarely heard from come College World Series time. What baseball alumni has the Beaver program produced? Ken Forsch is probably the best, but perhaps the most famous is ... Steve Lyons.
May 16 Open Chat: First Choi, Now Arrested Development
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Fox has picked up Arrested Development for a third season. I've been spending time trying to decide whether Arrested Development is like Hee Seop Choi because of how unappreciated its talents are, or whether it is the opposite of Hee Seop Choi because its value is better seen by watching than by looking at its numbers.
I've been spending time trying to decide these things because I'm an idiot. Anyway, very glad it's coming back.
Meanwhile, Scrubs has been given the treatment some hoped and others feared Choi would get: It's been benched, albeit with promises of a midseason return. On a platoon basis, no doubt.
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Only five times in this century has any pitcher allowed eight runs in the first inning without getting an out, according to the Elias Sports Bureau (via Jayson Stark of ESPN.com). By doing so against the Dodgers earlier this month, Reds pitcher Paul Wilson has achieved said ignominy it twice.
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More from the stats pages of The Hardball Times: Dodger batting averages with runners in scoring position. I don't place predictive value on this list - I just publish it to show what's happened so far.
.615 Olmedo Saenz
The Slump, El Slumpo, Slumpola
It's all Elmer Dessens' fault. He was injured on April 19. Two days later, it all began.
OPS during the slump (updated through May 15, courtesy of Baseball Musings):
1.164 Hee Seop Choi
ERA and K/9 during the slump (updated through May 15, courtesy of Baseball Musings):
* * *
0.00/7.9 Kelly Wunsch
Either way, it's pretty simple. Stop the bleeding in the starting rotation while maintaining the current production from the offense and bullpen and while also getting through a difficult part of the schedule - and the Dodgers are back in business.
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Check below for updates to this post ...
May 15 Open Chat: Mad Dogs and Ericksons
Update: Just ducking in a comment in the bottom of the sixth inning. Some people have helped justify Jason Grabowski's position on the roster by saying he's the emergency catcher. But if he's always the first pinch-hitter used, so much for that. Jason Phillips would be a great choice to pinch-hit in this inning, but with Grabowski now spent, Tracy feels forced to hold Phillips back. The result is in a tie game, Grabowski bats with two runners on and Oscar Robles bats with three runners on, and Phillips, who you don't want to use in the field anyway today but can swing the bat quite nicely, just watches.
Mike Mussina, 1988
As I heard reports that the career of New York Yankee pitcher Mike Mussina, who has 215 victories and a 3.59 ERA, might be fast approaching the end - though things have been looking better lately - I went looking for a feature I wrote about the righthander in 1988, while he was a freshman at Stanford and I was a junior.
I was fortunate enough to cover the Cardinal's College World Series championship in Omaha, Nebraska for The Stanford Daily that June - during a week which found Mussina and I both taking final exams (same time, different tests) in a small Holiday Inn or Marriott conference room. But the first time I sat down with the future Oriole and Yankee was in his dorm room two months earlier.
The following article ran in the Daily on April 14, 1988. I thought it would be fun to revisit it here, a meeting between a young ballplayer and a young (and somewhat boosterish) writer ...
Fishing for Pitching: Catch and Release
Odalis Perez is day-to-day with shoulder tightness - does that mean Scott Erickson may get a reprieve even if he bombs again this afternoon?
Fret not about the results of Eric Gagne's season debut - fret only if the loss of speed observed once or twice in the comments Saturday recurs. Me, I thought little of the home runs. Gagne fell behind in the count to his first batter, Chipper Jones, 3-0, and you know Gagne doesn't like to give in. Plus, there's the adrenaline of returning from a long layoff and wanting to challenge the hitters. In other words, write this one off.
And if you were upset that Gagne appeared in a non-save situation, remember that when your team is at home and playing against good opponents, you can grow old waiting for a save opportunity to materialize.
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Raul Mondesi - that took me back. Made me sing of good Raul, not bad.
That Good Ol' Timmermann Family
I know this is an old topic and not a very timely one, but I can't resist highlighting this excerpt from my ex-Daily News teammate Tom Timmermann - brother of you-know-whom - of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
On a radio show recently, I heard a local sportscaster who will remain nameless (OK, it was Doug Vaughn) asked, "What city has the worst sports fans?" His reply: "Dodgers' fans are notorious for leaving early." You'd think they were trying to get a head start on setting fire to orphanages.
Vaughn is certainly not the first person to say this and he certainly won't be the last, though if we could arrange that, I'd be all in favor. For anyone who thinks Dodgers fans are less than great because they leave early, try standing on the pedestrian bridge at Busch Stadium in the seventh inning some night and tell me who's leaving early. During the ninth inning of Game 7 of the National League Championship Series with the Astros last year, I could see Cardinals fans (or Astros fans cleverly disguised as Cardinals fans) heading to the garage.
People think Dodgers fans leave exceptionally early because from the press box you can see the parking lot and it's easy to see the red tail lights of hundreds of cars heading for the freeways. But here's something I've discovered in a lifetime of attending sporting events around the nation: Fans leave early. It's what they do. Yes, Dodgers fans leave early. So do Cardinals fans, and in fairly equivalent numbers. On Thursday afternoon at Busch, fans were leaving in good numbers at a little before 3 p.m., apparently needing to pick the kids up at school. There's always something. ...
Fans leave games for all sorts of reasons. They have a long drive home. It's a school night. It's cold. They're bored. The game is one-sided. They hate to sit in traffic. They don't want to pay the babysitter an extra $8. They're racing home to watch Doug Vaughn. Is leaving the ballpark early that different from turning off the TV and going to bed before the final out?
Prelude to this: Dodger Thoughts, May 4, 2003 - "We Show Up"
Fans leave early everywhere. No city is immune from it - they're just all immune from the jokes. For example, just a week ago, Minnesota Timberwolves fans poured out of their arena throughout the fourth quarter of their loss to the Lakers in Game 5 of their first-round NBA playoff. No one made fun of those fans. But the fact that they did this in a playoff game, in the biggest game in the team's history, in a sport where big comebacks happen as frequently as cell phones ringing in movie theaters, indicates to me that they must not be above taking an early departure in other situations.
May 14 Open Chat: Welcome Back to the Jungle
Talking the Fifth: A Dodger Thoughts-Baseball Analysts Chat
With the season about a fifth over, Rich Lederer of the supremely thoughtful Baseball Analysts and I sat down for a face-to-computer-to-computer-to-face chat about the state of the Dodgers. Here's how it went:
Jon: Asking the Rich Lederer Magic 8 Ball: With 34 games behind us, will the Dodgers win the NL West?
May 13 Open Chat: Rogue T-Shirt Night?
After the game is over, will we hear stories of Dodger Thoughts readers recognizing each other by wearing the same shirts, or as they used to be known before the dawn of Yhency Brazoban, sirts?
$2 Tuesdays Gets Recess
"The Dodgers will not offer $2 tickets to Tuesday's game against Florida," Tony Jackson writes in today's Daily News, "in part because many of the tickets were donated by the team to the Los Angeles Unified School District for use by students with improved attendance, team senior vice president Howard Sunkin said Thursday."
So, if there are any behavior problems in the stands Tuesday, we can blame the schools!
Jackson leads his notebook with items about D.J. Houlton's status on the roster and J.D Drew's status as No. 3 hitter. In both cases, it's not their stuff, it's their results - but only Houlton's status is in immediate jeopardy.
Up for Grabs: Not The Jason Grabowski Story
Dodger Thoughts reader Brian Greene, known to you commenters as BigCPA, passed along the following note late Thursday:
It was made by a first-time filmmaker and Stanford alum named Michael Wranovics. He also has a doc in progress about the Stanford hoops team. Anyway, I strongly recommend the movie to you and your readers. It opens today (Friday) in a few L.A. locations. I'd call it a Christopher Guest mockumentary except involving real people.
The story really hit home for me since I nearly caught the "Spiezio ball" in Game 6 of the 2002 WS. I was pictured on the front page of the OC Register in full color- and I camcordered the entire scene. Almost my 15 minutes of fame- maybe 2 minutes.
Actually, I would have enjoyed going to the screening myself if it weren't, as they said in The Hudsucker Proxy, "you know, for kids." The following appeared in the other e-mail I received about the film, from Michael Lindenberger of Crooked Hook Productions:
How's it going? Thought I'd send an email your way because I'm a co-producer of Up for Grabs, a feature-length film about the fight over the Barry Bonds 73rd home run ball. "Barry Bonds: I hate that son of a bitch!" you say? Well, it's not really a film about Bonds. Actually, Up for Grabs is a comedic, satirical documentary that follows the whole case and pokes fun at it.
Alex Belth posted about the film as well on The Griddle.
So, I didn't see it, but there you have it. The documentary opens today.
Nakamura Heads Back to Vegas
Norihiro Nakamura has accepted an assignment to AAA Las Vegas, Ken Gurnick reports on MLB.com.
McCourt Refinances, 'Strengthening the Team's Financial Base'
From Thomas S. Mulligan in the Times:
Dodgers owner Frank McCourt unveiled a $250-million refinancing deal today that experts said improves his financial flexibility and gives him a strong incentive to stay on as owner and keep the team at Dodger Stadium for years to come.
For Dodger fans, the deal doesn't guarantee that McCourt will spend more money on players, but by strengthening the team's financial base, it does enhance his ability to do so. ... The annual interest rate is 5.66% fixed for 25 years, which experts said was very attractive.
Update: Though there is a part of me that can't help thinking that agreements are made to be broken someday, Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com writes that "the Dodgers will remain in Chavez Ravine and stay in the hands of the McCourt family for at least the next 25 years."
McCourt said he would also review development of the land around the stadium now mostly used for parking, but that would be a long process involving environmental impact reports, plus county and city approval.
"We will be looking at the real estate and what might be done with that," McCourt said. "But fundamentally, what we're saying to folks is that we're committing to play baseball on that real estate for the long-term."
May 12 Open Chat: Fundamentals
Sluggin' Hee Seop Choi drops to the No. 5 spot as Jeff Kent gets his first day off. Oscar Robles bats second, playing second. (Look out - small ball alert!) Milton Bradley bats cleanup, Mike Edwards bats seventh at third base and Paul Bako gets the daytime catching assignment. It may not be runs-a-plenty today backing Derek Lowe.
Still, though he is five plate appearances shy of qualifying, Choi otherwise has the sixth-highest OPS among major league first basemen at .969. Choi's career OPS with the Dodgers is now .784 in 59 games.
* * *
"Top of the fourth inning in a game that is going like a teeter-totter," said Rick Monday after the commercial break Wednesday.
And then he went into the first pitch, without giving the score.
If this were the only time I had trouble getting the score on the radio, I wouldn't mention it. Not trying to slam Monday with this - just saying that a simple revisit to the fundamentals would help the broadcast.
* * *
More extra-inning softball strikeout madness (from the Times):
Jenna Schachtner struck out 43, the fourth-best total in Southern Section history, in a 26-inning, 2-1 Prep League victory over Pasadena Westridge.
The game, which began Monday but was suspended after 13 innings, featured the second 40-strikeout performance this week; Kirsten Slouber of Montclair Prep struck out 47 in a game completed Monday.
As far as I can tell, the Times left out what school Schachtner plays for. It's Flintridge Prep.
May 11 Open Chat: So Much Day Baseball
It's lunchtime in Los Angeles, and 10 games are in progress - 12 once the Angels and Indians get underway at 1:05. Fun for all you desk or sports bar jockeys (though sometimes I'm very disappointed at how far some restaurants will go to avoid showing a baseball game on their hovering television set).
The 5:10 p.m. start for the Dodgers and Cardinals actually represents the final game on today's schedule.
* * *
For those who wish to harken back to a day when pitchers were pitchers and cars were horses, check out these strikeout numbers in the Times - exceptional even for girls' softball:
Kirsten Slouber of Van Nuys Montclair Prep struck out seven in four innings Monday, giving her 47 strikeouts in a 21-inning, 2-1 softball victory over visiting Santa Monica Crossroads.
It was a continuation of an Alpha League game that had been suspended May 3 because of darkness.
Slouber's total was third-best in Southern Section history, trailing only De De Weiman of Cerritos Gahr and Lisa Fernandez of Lakewood St. Joseph, who had 56 and 48, respectively, in a 1986 game that lasted 29 innings.
Bad Double Down
If you're dealt an ugly 12 in black jack, and you hit and get an eight, do you hit again?
Scott Erickson is a 12. He gave three good innings - that's a good third card. He then gave up three runs in the fourth inning. For someone of his current ability, that's a bust.
Keeping him in to give up four more runs in the fifth inning - that's betting good black jack money on a 22.
And it doesn't save the bullpen, does it?
It was a terrific comeback by the Dodgers, with the dealer's choice being Hee Seop Choi, who gave the team the lead with a three-run sixth-inning home run. When Choi collided with Scott Rolen in the bottom of the fifth inning, the first thought I had was the collision near home plate in 2003 that derailed his promising season. However, those fears were eliminated in a hurry (though Cardinal fans had their own ugly deja vu when Rolen left the game).
But the continued betting on Erickson demands a new strategy, if not a trip to Gambler's Anonymous.
Pitching one shutout inning or three shutout innings in the majors is an achievement - for a relief pitcher. Either you treat Erickson like a long reliever who happens to enter the game in the top of the first inning, budgeting your relievers in advance and having them at the ready, or you don't treat him at all.
That doesn't mean you pull Erickson when he's up 3-0. It means that you recognize that after he's given up some runs and puts more baserunners on base, things are not likely to get better.
Please, let's not repeat the Hideo Nomo Syndrome in 2005. Let's not double down on 22. Let's bet on a new hand.
Update: Commenters have pointed out this Ericksonerpt in Steve Henson's Times article today:
Erickson gave up 10 hits and left after 4 2/3 innings with the Dodgers trailing, 7-3, and pointed a finger at the defense. Two pitches before Sanders hit a home run in the fourth, he lifted a foul popup near the stands that fell behind third baseman Oscar Robles playing in his first game after having his contract purchased from the Mexican League.
"With a lineup like theirs, it's tough to give extra outs," Erickson said. "I seriously felt I threw much better than the results."
Two years ago, Odalis Perez, a considerably better-performing pitcher, nearly got run out of town on a rail for making the obvious point that the Dodger offense wasn't hitting. Lovable Paul LoDuca was leading the metaphorical lynch mob at the time.
Up to the moment where the foul ball fell between Robles, Cesar Izturis and Ricky Ledee - catchable, but after a long run for each - Erickson had faced 23 batters and allowed four singles, two doubles, two home runs and a walk while striking out none. Opponent's OPS: 1.118. Dodger errors: 0.
Prideth goeth before the falleth.
* * *
Choi continues to be a subject of fascination: it's as if Cinderella has been discovered at the ball. Tony Jackson, who I think could be called a dispassionate skeptic about Choi in Spring Training, seems to have been won over in the Daily News this morning: I love his use of the word "alas":
Choi has hit .400 (14 for 35) his past dozen games, raising his once-moribund average to a solid .280. Alas, only 10 of his 94 plate appearances have come against left-handed pitching, including his eighth-inning strikeout against Ray King after a prolonged, well-executed at-bat. Moreover, manager Jim Tracy effectively refuses to start Choi against lefties, a fact he made crystal clear in his only postgame comment about the player.
"He's doing very well against right-handed pitchers," Tracy said. "He's doing exceptionally well against right-handers."
Choi is 1 for 7 with two walks and a hit-by-pitch against lefties this year.
May 10 Open Chat: Catching Up With Davey Lopes
For your pre-pregame entertainment: this Riverside Press-Enterprise interview with former Dodger second baseman Davey Lopes.
Sadly, the interview does feature the same old misinterpretation of what "Ivy League GM-type managers" think of the stolen base. Lopes says that they believe "the stolen base is not important," which isn't true. What they believe is that the number of caught stealing is important - which is something entirely different and something I'm sure Lopes would endorse. Lopes had a career success stolen base percentage of 83 (557 out of 671), which just about any one in baseball would be thrilled with.
(Lopes, I believe, was the oldest player ever to steal his age or better. At age 40 with the Cubs, he stole 47 bases in 51 attempts. That year, he had an OPS+ of 121, with 100 being average. His on-base percentage was .383 and his slugging percentage .444.)
At the end of the interview, Lopes concludes that the "Ivy League type-guys" will keep him from managing again. Putting aside that these types aren't in charge of every single team - if Lopes really wants to manage again, he might want to do a better job of trying to understand them instead of dismissing them. Why should they try to appreciate his talents if he's not trying to appreciate theirs? But Lopes doesn't sound bitter ... more at peace ... so maybe there's no need.
He was a fine ballplayer, in any case.
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Update: In usual cutthroat style, Steve Haskins at Fire Jim Tracy passes on an interesting message about sportswriting gleaned from Josh Levin's comparison of Moneyball and 3 Nights in August on Slate. Balance wins.
"Sports became interdisciplinary rather than understanding simply 'heart,' you had to understand economics, sociology, psychology, mathematics, statistical probabilities," Haskins writes. "I had seen Moneyball as mostly an economics lesson of efficiencies, replacement costs, and markets, but Levin's review reveals something more. It's a journalism lesson."
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Update 2: As you may know by now, the Dodgers are attempting to take steps to increase security at the ballpark. Here's their official statement - I'm going to withhold most comment until at least the beginning of the next homestand. Hopefully, they'll turn out to be steps for the better.
I do notice that there is nothing in the "Fan Code of Conduct" that prohibits beachballs, unless it falls under No. 2: "Our fans' experience will not be disrupted by unruly actions or behaviors of others." Maybe the beachballers are right and the ushers are wrong.
Right to privacy? Right to beachballs? Life is so complicated.
Is It Better to Pull a Starter Too Early Than Too Late?
Forget for the moment - if you can - the tedium of repeated pitching changes in a single game.
In general, with their 12-man staff of mostly good but not great pitchers, should the Dodgers treat the middle innings like the late innings?
Jim Tracy is pretty reliable at pulling a pitcher at the first sign of trouble in the eighth or ninth inning. Should he be that aggressive in the fifth and sixth inning?
Is it better to pull a starter too early than too late?
(The risk, of course, is that the starter would wriggle out of a jam and continue merrily on his way, while the reliever might just make things worse.)
The Dodgers may revert to 11 pitchers by the end of the month - but I've been waiting for that to happen for a while now. Right now, at 12, the bullpen seems underused. Is it possible the staff might have more value if used in machine gun fashion?
And when Eric Gagne comes back, can we see Yhency Brazoban as the lead bullet in a tight spot instead of the typical middle reliever?
You can probably glean my thoughts, but I'm interested in yours.
In fact, I also wonder whether the Dodgers should commit to a four-man rotation of Derek Lowe, Odalis Perez, Jeff Weaver and Brad Penny with a pitch count limit of 90-100, leaving as many as eight pitchers to carry the Dodgers over the final 0-80 pitches of a game. But that will never happen.
Update: Read Comment No. 3 below. I think it comes down to how you define "when possible," as Christina puts it in her third paragraph. Of course, we'd all like our starters to go as long as they can. The question is how quickly one decides it isn't viable for a starter to continue.
Tonight's game presented a rather extreme but useful example. Tie game, fifth inning, one out. Odalis Perez faces Albert Pujols with two on. He has had much trouble with Pujols, and he's thrown a lot of pitches. In the eighth inning, there's little doubt you take out Perez. Here, the obvious move seems that you keep Perez in. It would be radical to bring Brazoban in this situation. And yet Brazoban might be the correct move to make.
What's the cost? You need another reliever to get through the sixth, and someone to take Brazoban's spot in the ninth (at least until Gagne is activated). Instead of three relievers, you might need five. Of course, you have six to choose from.
Perhaps you can't do this every night. But perhaps you should do it until you can't do it. Brazoban, by the way, has pitched three innings in May, and one (Sunday) was in a 9-3 game.
You Don't Look a Day Over 1 3/4
L.A. Observed might be my Desert Island Blog, at least in the non-baseball category. If you live in or care about Los Angeles at all, Roderick's is the site to read.
Just quit crushing my dreams, Kevin:
"It's not a sustainable business - it was never intended to be," Roderick said.
May 9 Open Chat: Where's J.D.?
Against left-hander Mark Mulder of the Cardinals, Jason Repko, Olmedo Saenz, Ricky Ledee and Mike Edwards remain in the starting lineup. Hee Seop Choi is sitting for the second conseutive game - as is J.D. Drew, raising questions of another kind altogether. The Dodger bench is all lefty.
Meanwhile, So Taguchi replaces Larry Walker in right field for St. Louis.
* * *
Stories you may have missed in the Dodger Thoughts comments of late: Ex-Dodger pitcher Brian Falkenborg is now a Padre, ex-Dodger catcher Dave Ross has cost Benito Santiago his job in Pittsburgh, and Suffering Bruin's Sunday "Fact of Choi," which can be found as Comment No. 63 here, was a mini-tour de force.
A Smile to Depend On
Thunder Road leading off, Backstreets batting fourth, Born to Run laying low in the five hole, ready to explode, the sick sixth She's the One a dagger, and magnficient Jungleland, of all things, in the No. 8 slot.
In an ideal world, your team's lineup is constucted like the murderer's row of one of your favorite albums, where you think you know who your favorite player is, except no, it's this one - no, it's this one - aw, hell, they're all so damn good. They're good on paper - and then when you see 'em live, wow. Just wow.
And then you hope that the band that put together this playlist can keep it rocking through the years - keep you going - so that it will be one season after another of winners that never stop exciting and transforming you, where you feel like the B sides or bench players would be starters on other albums or teams.
Most of us don't see a record as it's put together, songs conceived and written and rehearsed and played and included or excluded. You might see a "making of" documentary that gives you a glimpse into the process, that shows the thousands of decisions that need making, from what note to play to what art should be on the CD cover. In baseball, though, however much we are sheltered from scouts in minor league dust and executive decisions with speakerphones crackling, we do witness the progress day-by-day. The making of a baseball team is covered by TV and the papers and rogue writers like me and commenters like you. It can be a rich, almost surprisingly operatic drama for something so mundane - from the offseason who-will-they-keep-and-cut to the midseason who-should-they-start.
The Dodgers are 2004 National League West champions and 19-11 to start 2005, and the tension slackens not at all. Many of us can remain as surprised as ever when they win and as bitter or disgusted when they lose. Nearly three years into writing Dodger Thoughts, a fundamental aspect of my raison de fan remains intact:
I'm very happy these days - I have a wonderful wife and a wonderful baby (note: now two!), and you won't catch me regretting the choices I made that allowed those things to happen. But I do have frustrations, and those frustrations, I've come to realize, are played out each time the Dodgers do something. Anything. I'm not just talking about the 162 games; I'm talking about the offseason trades and the decisions to replace the dirt warning track with rubber and the removal of the sandwich station on the Club level of Dodger Stadium. I was raised in an easier time, where things were more often right than wrong, and I haven't shed my addiction to that time. I want things with the Dodgers to be right. That, essentially, is the genesis of this website - to deal with that want.Slowly, like banging your head against a lyric 10 times before it finally writes itself on the 11th, only to buckle at the song's next line, we watch the Dodgers trying to find their "Born to Run." It won't come this year - not even with a 2005 World Series title would such perfection be revealed - but the songs are being written, the notes tested.
This week, Oscar Robles, an infielder who is younger than Norihiro Nakamura and more versatile and whose path is where "off the beaten path" goes to get away from it all, joins the Dodgers. And Nakamura says so long, for now if not ever, on an almost heartbreaking note (passed along by Steve Henson of the Times) even for those who never believed in him:
"If they told me to go to the minors and get at-bats and come back to the Dodgers, I would feel better, but they didn't say that," a distraught Nakamura told a Japanese reporter.
How easy it would have been to give Nakamura more time in the majors with Jose Valentin disabled, but the pursuit of "can we do better" prevailed. Some will draw a link between Nakamura and Hee Seop Choi, the latter being on the verge of justifying patience during his slumping days. But all that connects the players is that they were born on the same faraway continent. In baseball today, one is Jack and Jill climbing up the hill and the other is a young pail-carrier tumbling after. Choi a young and healthy player rising, compiling stateside travails at a precocious enough age, the other an old and cut-up player fading, mostly unprepared for American pitching. Rest assured that if the Dodgers find a better value than Choi, they will - but as more people are realizing, each time you look around, Choi is looking better.
And so, small progress. Maybe. We don't know. We'll see how Robles does. A month from now, perhaps, he himself will be exiled to a foreign league and Nakamura will return, as Nakamura may well end up back in Las Vegas in the interim. On the other hand, perhaps the Dodgers just want to end the Nakamura experiment here and now and give Willy Aybar all the testing he can handle at third base after Antonio Perez returns to Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, we wait to hear Eric Gagne - our Rosalita - blow everyone away in an encore once again. We wait to see if Jayson Werth and Elmer Dessens hold up over time, or if they are destined for the infamous, ubiquitous "Where Are They Now" file? We wonder when someone might decide that Jason Grabowski isn't a B side, but a C side.
As for tonight, our tour takes us to St. Louis, a place we last visited in October, scared but hopeful, only to play completely out of tune. (Odalis Perez, the villain of last year's Dodger postseason, starts tonight. Scott Erickson, the suspect element of this year's rotation, starts Tuesday.) Both the Dodgers and the Cardinals have 19-11 records. Good, downloadable records. Yet they seem different, don't they? The Cardinals are a mature team with their own "Born to Run" lineup. At some point they will stop aging gracefully, but that point may not have arrived yet. The Dodgers - oh, perhaps we're just too close to this project to really know. Maybe we're devils and dust. Black cowboys. And so on.
I want to stay forever here ...
Summer come and the days grew long. Rainey always had his mother's smile to depend on. Along a street of stray bullets he made his way, to the warmth of her arms at the end of each day.
and not here ...
Then she got lost in the days. The smile Rainey depended on dusted away, the arms that held him were no more his home. He lay at night his head pressed to her chest listening to the ghost in her bones.
We focus plenty on our flaws, on what could be better. We can hear each sour note, and we can taste every sweet one. And our thirst for the sweet ones is insatiable. Isn't it? Their appearance seems so tenuous.
May 8 Open Chat: Happy Mother's Day
May 7 Open Chat: Roll Over, Heal
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More good news for the Dodgers in addition to the 10-run first inning and easy victory Friday: Eric Gagne may be even closer to returning than expected. He is to begin his rehabilitation assignment with Las Vegas on Sunday, with a possible activation by the Dodgers between May 15-18.
Cesar Izturis appears to be okay despite getting hit by a pitch for the second game in a row. From Allison Ann Otto of the Riverside Press-Enterprise:
Reds starter Paul Wilson hit Izturis in the ribs in his first at-bat. Izturis fell to his knees and the game came to a stop for several minutes.
"It surprised me, especially since he's got good control," Izturis said. "He got me good.
Las Vegas infielder Willy Aybar is increasingly on general manager Paul DePodesta's radar screen for 2005 as a replacement at third base if Antonio Perez or Norihiro Nakamura can't hold the job, according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News:
"(Aybar) is hitting .340 and playing the position well," DePodesta said. "It might be tough to bring him up in the short term, but it's something we would certainly consider going forward if things don't work out with what we have now."
DePodesta said he feels no need to seek a trade for another third baseman while Valentin recovers from three partially torn ligaments in his right knee, and that even if he did it would be tough to find a trade at this stage of the season.
The switch-hitting Aybar, 22, would only come to the big leagues if he were going to see significant playing time because club officials don't want to inhibit his development.
Olmedo Saenz will continue to spot start there but not play every day out of fear for his health, Jackson reports.
Perez, who was hit in the head by a pitch Wednesday, was back in the Las Vegas lineup Friday. He had a key double to help the 51s rally from a 10th-inning deficit and defeat Sacramento.
Chin-Feng Chen had the game-winning hit, while Joe Thurston is 10 for his last 20.
You Don't Say
Love you all - especially tonight - but this should be perfectly clear.
The game announcers have permission to say "no-hitter." It is part of their job to inform and falls outside of the rule.
No one else has permission to say "no-hitter" or "perfect game" while one is going on. Everyone must figure it out for themselves, without help from the studio audience.
"No-no" is permissable - nothing more.
May 6 Open Chat: Est Meets West
* * *
And the shortstop is ... Cesar Izturis. Olmedo Saenz is playing third.
* * *
Tonight is the Dodgers' first game of the season in Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), which typically runs from the first Sunday in April to the final Sunday in October. When was the last non-exhibition Dodger game played in Eastern Standard Time (EST)?
Age or nationality check: What does "est" mean to you?
* * *
Scott Erickson won't pitch on national television this weekend after all. His next start was moved from Sunday night to Tuesday. ESPN Sunday Night Baseball audiences in New York and elsewhere will get a chance to see Jeff Weaver instead.
Brad Penny goes tonight, Derek Lowe on Saturday and Odalis Perez on Monday.
* * *
Update: A dream opening to the series - seven runs with no outs, forcing the opposition to dig into their bullpen with 27 innings to go.
Tiffany Out for Two Weeks or More
Vero Beach lefthander Chuck Tiffany "was placed on the disabled list and is expected to miss two-to-three weeks with minor back surgery," reports Baseball America today.
In other news, Nick Christensen of the Las Vegas Sun reports that Eric Gagne is tentatively scheduled to make his first rehabilitation apperance with Las Vegas on May 14. Jayson Werth joins the 51s tonight.
2005 Shrine of the Eternals Inductees Announced
Plus, Morning Open Chat
Jackie Robinson, former USC coach Rod Dedeaux and baseball integration advocate Lester Rodney have been elected to the Shrine of the Eternals at the Baseball Reliquary (profiled earlier this year on Dodger Thoughts).
The 2005 voting, with top runners-up:
Lester Rodney (33%)
For more information, check out the Baseball Reliquary site.
The Upside of Mediocrity
Imagine what catcher would have been like last September for the Dodgers if Brent Mayne had gone down with an injury after the trades of Paul Lo Duca and Koyie Hill, leaving the team with Dave Ross and not much else.
That's the picture at third base today with tolerate-him-or-hate-him Jose Valentin out for at least two months. Absolutely no production there now, with little hope for more to come out of Norihiro Nakamura and Mike Edwards.
On top of that, we get to spend the day wondering if shortstop Cesar Izturis will join Valentin on the disabled list, whether Antonio Perez or Oscar Robles would replace him, and whether this means general manager Paul DePodesta will pursue an outside solution at third base, or possibly turn to Olmedo Saenz, who would field the position like a baby grabbing at mounds of Cheerios.
And there have to be a few of you saying, "Forget about him becoming a free agent at age 27 - why not Joel Guzman now?"
Meanwhile, the Dodgers have lost eight of 13 - remaining in first place at 17-10 (.630), but playing with a gnawing mediocrity.
The reasonable expectation for the Dodgers this year was not to play .700 ball or .667 ball or .600 ball. A 95-win season yields a winning percentage of .586. If the Dodgers win at the modest pace of 11 games out of every 20 for the remainder of the season (.550), they would reach 91 wins, which at a minimum would probably have them contending to the season's final week.
No one wants to settle for such mediocrity, but it's important to recognize that the alternative to the exceptional isn't the regurgitational.
Now, as for whether the Dodgers can win even those 11 out of every 20, well, maybe a little doubt is good. Among other things, third base is a real problem, and the rotation doesn't figure to deliver five consecutive quality starts often, if at all. And no, when your No. 8 hitter can't buy a hit, a sacrifice bunt from your No. 7 hitter with the .284 batting average is not going to help.
But these problems have solutions. Let's give the Dodgers a chance to find them.
A Tale of Dave Hansen
Dave Hansen's signing with Seattle this week earned agate-level recognition in most places.
The best way I can think of to describe the piece Matt Welch has generously written for Baseball Analysts on the former Dodger pinch-hitting great is that it is the 1/agate version:
But most of all I'm thrilled because I know Hansen to be a genuinely good, generous, and humble guy who deserves success more than most ballplayers you'll ever meet. I know this because I played with him growing up. And not just on the diamond, but in a rock band. In fact, he announced his signing with the Dodgers (who drafted him with the 47th pick in 1986) on stage, at the St. Maria Goretti carnival, where our cover band, The Ladds, was playing the second of two triumphant shows. It was definitely one of the best days in either of our lives up to that point. And it was one of the last times I ever talked to him.
May 4 Open Chat: Viva, Buddy
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Buddy's gone, but I still think he has the stuff to contribute. So does Buddy, says the Times.
"Every now and then I get two strikes on guys and tend to be too aggressive and throw another strike instead of maybe trying to expand the zone a little bit with my off-speed stuff," said Carlyle, who gave up three home runs and yielded a .279 batting average to opposing hitters. "That's what I'm going to try to work on."
In addition to Viva Buddy (1934), film and television projects with Buddy in the title include:
Bye, Bye, Buddy (1929)
Infection, Surgery Delay Bonds Rehab/Valentin Headed for DL
(Plus, Morning Open Chat)
After undergoing the third operation on his right knee in the past 3 1/2 months, Barry Bonds will probably not take the field until July at the earliest, according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Chronicle has learned the knee indeed was infected, and an operation was performed Monday to flush out the infection using fluids and antibiotics. Bonds is expected to take antibiotics for at least the next two weeks, and he would not restart rehabilitation work until he is assured the infection is gone.
Given that, Bonds' return to action wouldn't be expected for at least two months.
Update: Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus surmises Bonds could return in June as a designated hitter in interleague games (and presumably a pinch-hitter as well). From June 14 through June 26, the Giants play nine games in American League parks.
Edwards, a right-handed hitting outfielder who has also played some third, has an on-base percentage of .366 and a slugging percentage of .444 in 93 plate appearances this season. He has made no errors. In March, I wrote:
Played a full season with Oakland's AAA Sacramento team (in 2004) and had 13 home runs, 76 walks and 41 doubles. Now 28, he's a longshot for much of a major league career, but with three somewhat fragile starting outfielders, the Dodgers may need him at some point.
So Antonio Perez gets more practice at third base (although it appears he played shortstop Tuesday, going 1 for 2 with a stolen base), while Edwards becomes a reserve stopgap. (An .810 OPS in Las Vegas probably won't translate to much in the bigs.) Norihiro Nakamura and possibly Olmedo Saenz will see more time at third base, and as a result, Hee Seop Choi will probably see more at first.
It's perhaps a little surprising that, if they were going to hold out on Perez, the Dodgers did not recall Willy Aybar, who has a .932 OPS in 97 plate appearances and two errors. But perhaps general manager Paul DePodesta did not want to start the service time clock on the 22-year-old switch-hitter. Eric Enders quickly mentions Mexican League infielder Oscar Robles, who impressed with the Dodgers in Spring Training, in the comments as I write this - no word on how much he was considered.
And, of course, this means that Joel Guzman stays at Jacksonville for now.
Something else to keep in mind is that because Eric Gagne must serve a two-game suspension upon activation from the disabled list, the Dodgers will at that point need to drop down to 24 players. If they cut a pitcher to activate Gagne, then the Dodgers would be at 10 pitchers (five relievers) for those two games. If they call up Perez now, then they have to do more roster juggling for Gagne. Edwards, being relatively expendable at this point, eases those concerns, such as they are.
Look Into the Mirror
Forget about what you think of Dodger ownership or management. Forget what you think of a Dodger player or an opponent at any given moment. Forget what extraordinary behavioral license you think you have purchased with a simple ticket to a baseball game.
If you can't control yourself from ...
... you don't deserve your team to win, you don't deserve your team's management making the moves you want, you don't deserve your favorite players performing well and you certainly don't deserve a seat at the game.
Dodger Stadium might need to police its fans better. It might be time to spend the money to increase security and establish, however temporarily, a "no broken windows" policy at the games.
But fans must police themselves better.
Doesn't matter if you're unhappy with the team on the field. Doesn't matter if you're unhappy with your own damn life. There is not tit for tat. There is no excuse. Those of you who are violating the above rules are ruining the game for everyone else. Your pathetic laugh is coming at the expense of tens of thousands.
Spread the word. It's time to grow up. It's time to be worthy of a winning team. It's time to reclaim Dodger Stadium.
It's time to be better.
Give Us Dreifort Any Day Over This Alternative
Tampa Bay was the hammer Tuesday, and Kevin Brown was the rusty nail.
More than a few Dodger fans took pleasure at the fact that the prickly ex-Los Angeles pitcher gave up six runs on eight hits in the first inning, and eight runs on 13 hits overall in his most recent start, falling to 0-4 with an 8.25 ERA this season.
I don't tend to celebrate another's misfortune, much less someone who pitched plenty of great games for the Dodgers. Still, there's plenty of reason to be grateful that former Dodger general manager Dan Evans was able to acquire cash or Jeff Weaver or Yhency Brazoban in exchange for Brown, let alone all of the above plus a minor league prospect, before the 2004 season.
And there can hardly be anyone that isn't happy that the Dodgers aren't paying eight figures in salary and plane tickets to compensate Brown, who in 24 innings this year, has allowed 41 hits while striking out a mere 14. Though Brown has walked only four batters, he looks done and doner.
But if I can celebrate one particular thing in the unfortunate turn of events for Brown, it's that he's not in the Dodger clubhouse day after day in this current state, a hand grenade wrapped in barbed wire hung like an albatross. (!)
Consider how much misfortune has befallen Darren Dreifort and how he has shouldered it all, never once taking his pain out on anyone. And yes, I know - Dreifort was well compensated for his pain. True enough.
But - and this is nothing personal against Brown, just a (mostly) objective fact - compared to the unmitigated toxicity that Brown would have brought to the Dodgers in 2005, perhaps even bringing the Dodgers down, the team's contract with Darren Dreifort is a pure pleasure.
May 3 Open Chat: Wakeup Call
The Nationals were asleep for six innings Monday - fair enough, considering they didn't arrive at their hotel until 6 a.m. Then they woke up and then some. So much for that excuse.
* * *
Joel Guzman is batting .276 with a .375 on-base percentage and .579 slugging percentage for AA Jacksonville. He has walked 14 times and struck out a heaping 29 times in 104 plate appearances.
Independent of this, Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus said the following in a recent chat:
Here's a secret: strikeouts are a good thing for a young power hitter.
Let's reverse things for a moment and think of things this way: if Adam Dunn hits .266 and slugs .569 in a year in which he strikes out 195 times, that means he's absolutely murdering the ball those times that he does make contact. In other words, *if* he's able to improve his ability to hit for contact at all, the upside is real, real high as compared with, say, Sean Burroughs or someone.
Now, it isn't quite that simple, but that's the big picture.
* * *
From Baseball America:
Dodgers shortstop Chin-Lung Hu went 5-for-6 in high Class A Vero Beach's 11-6 win over Jupiter, raising his season totals to .313-2-9 in 24 games. In his last eight contests, Hu is 17-for-33 (.515).
* * *
While Chin-Feng Chen is already the all-time home run leader in Las Vegas minor league history, Joe Thurston passed Joey Cora (yes, Joey) to become the all-time Las Vegas leader in hits and at-bats on April 23. Thurston is 451 for 1,493 in his Strip-side career, and also first in triples (22) and HBP (48).
Cora (448 for 1,471) played for the Las Vegas Stars from 1987-90.
Chen, who has 76 home runs with the 51s, is batting .338 with an on-base percentage of .409 and slugging percentage of .597 with Las Vegas this season. By comparison, Jeffrey Hammonds, recalled today by Washington to replace injured outfielder Terrmel (Not Sister) Sledge, is .250/.343/.467 for New Orleans - albeit playing in a less hitter-friendly ballpark.
You guys know I love Hammonds, of course.
* * *
If your Jim Tracy, Scott Erickson or Joe Morgan Sensitivity Meters are running high, brace yourselves. Erickson's next turn in the rotation, at Cincinnati, is scheduled to be televised nationally on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.
They Paved Paradise ...
Tour the spots where major league ballparks of yesteryear sat (or sit), courtesy of Rob McMillin at 6-4-2 and Google satellite images.
Like a good husband who's gotten lazy with the chores, the Dodgers intermittently fail to do the dirty work against annoying but manageable opponents. To add to the aggravation, the annoying guy from next door has finished mowing his lawn and is now washing his car to a shiny sparkle.
San Francisco has won six games in a row. Despite missing Barry Bonds and now Armando Benitez, despite washout seasons from Ray Durham and Marquis Grissom, the Giants are 14-11, two games behind the 16-9 Dodgers.
Jason Ellison, the last of the goats from the Dodgers' opening day comeback victory, has been a temporary sparkplug, going 17 for 29 (.436) with five extra-base hits and four walks. Moises Alou is back from the disabled list and has reached base 16 times in 28 plate appearances during the winning streak. Edgardo Alfonzo hasn't cooled off all season - his OPS is .974, and Omar Vizquel, Lance Niekro, J.T. Snow, Pedro Feliz and Mike Matheny are all above .800.
The pitching hasn't been anything to brag about - even with an offense averaging 7.2 runs in the past six games, four of San Francisco's six victories have been by one run - but life has been pretty good. The Giants are no doubt pretty happy to have fended off most of the Dodgers' 12-2 start, knowing that Bonds, if nothing else, hasn't issued any new retirement statements lately.
For all the topsy-turvy that comes with watching the Dodgers so closely, my thoughts on the Giants haven't changed much. While the offense has been better and the pitching worse than I expected, those figure to moderate. Meanwhile, there's still enough talent, however old, for them to remain competitive - and when Bonds returns, they get dimensionally better. While others hopped on the San Diego bandwagon before the season began and a few have boarded Arizona's since Opening Day, the Giants are the hedge that refuses to be clipped.
The Dodgers remain the favorites to win the National League West. It's easy to pick on them after a game like Monday night, pick on them when they've lost seven out of 11, but they have strength after strength returning this month in Eric Gagne, Wilson Alvarez, Jayson Werth and to a lesser extent, Antonio Perez. Brad Penny is already doing good deeds. The Giants have no significant reinforcments coming off the disabled list other than Bonds, and the offensive onslaught of some of their current regulars is about as believable as Jennifer Wilbanks before they found her Triptik.
The Dodgers are younger than the Giants, have capital to spend at the trading deadline, and remain in first place despite a slump. They led the Giants by six games on April 20 - at that point, one could have surmised that Los Angeles would outdistance San Francisco by 20. Well, it won't be so easy - but that doesn't mean the weeds have taken over the yard completely. It makes no more sense to extrapolate from the worst 10 days of the season than from the best.
But the closer the Giants stay to the Dodgers, the more motivated Bonds becomes in his rehabilitation and return, and the more overwhelming the chores become in the hot summer sun.
May 2 Open Chat: Memories of 29th Street N.W.
The two cities in which I have lived for the past 16 years meet at last. Here's my home from 1992-93, near beautiful Rock Creek Park.
The last non-exhibition game between Washington, D.C. and the Dodgers was ... ?
A Good Week for Links
Two days in a row for some Dodger Thoughts recognition ...
If you think I'm past the point of mentioning each time a major publication notices Dodger Thoughts, well, don't you have another thing coming ...
Primed for a Tough May
So, the top four batters in the Dodger lineup Sunday went 4 for 10 with five walks and a sacrifice fly, and people are worried that the Dodgers can't hit?
Six regulars started for the Dodgers. Two of them went 0 for 4 - one, Jason Phillips, has been solid all season. The other, Jose Valentin, has been red hot and blue cold. But take the lineup and add Milton Bradley and the recuperating Jayson Werth to it, and things look a lot better, even before you deal with Valentin.
Some days the Dodgers are going to get the big hit to break the game open when the bases are loaded, and other days the Dodgers are going to strand runners and stress out fans. But the hard part is getting on base in the first place, and as long as they maintain their current ability to do so (and it's not just against Colorado - the Dodgers are first in the National League in on-base percentage and tied for first in walks per game) - the Dodgers will remain a tough pack of mutts for any opposing pitching staff to tame.
The May schedule will test the Dodgers' ability to maintain these numbers. According to ESPN.com, the Dodgers have played the 20th-hardest schedule in baseball so far. But except for a three-game series with Cincinnati this weekend, every game the Dodgers will play in May is against a team with a current record of .500 or better:
May 2-4 vs. Washington
It's up to the Dodgers to prove whether they or most of these opponents are the pretenders.
* * *
Scott Erickson makes his fifth start tonight.
Wilson Alvarez will be activated any hour now, expected to take the place at least temporarily of Buddy Carlyle. On deck to return from the disabled list are Antonio Perez, Eric Gagne, Jayson Werth and Elmer Dessens. And Edwin Jackson has been on the rebound in Las Vegas.
So on the 25-man roster bubble, barring an onslaught of new injuries, are Norihiro Nakamura, Jason Grabowski, Jason Repko ... and Steve Schmoll or Erickson. Schmoll has pitched well so far but could temporarily be stashed in Las Vegas if Erickson were to show a last gasp. But Erickson needs to prove that he can do better than a combination of Alvarez, Dessens, Jackson and D.J. Houlton to man those No. 5 starter innings. At most, Erickson has a month to prove it, though it shouldn't take that much time for the truth to become apparent.
Even if Erickson were to be released this month, presumably when Dessens is activated (though no recent health reports on Dessens have emerged), Schmoll could return to the minors when Gagne returns, and Repko when Werth returns. That leaves the question of who goes when to make room for Perez: Nakamura or Grabowski.
When Werth returns, Ledee as the fourth outfielder arguably makes Grabowski irrelevant, whereas the Dodger uncertainty at third base means that Nakamura, even if he doesn't hit, has value as a late-inning replacement. But perhaps not that much value - and four outfielders, with the health history of the three starters, is pretty slim.
You could contend that Repko has more to offer, as a right-handed reserve outfielder with some power and a lot of speed and defense, than either Grabowski or Nakamura.
Out There in the Fields: Part 3
Where you, the reader, provide one interesting, concise fact about a team other than the Dodgers, so that in learning about others, we learn more about ourselves. Like watching E! True Hollywood Story: Justine Bateman.
Update: The impressive Bateman-Dodger connection continues. Oh, and by the way: Save Arrested Development!
May 1 Open Chat: This One's for the Lively Boys
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The commenters steal the spotlight. Thanks to Tim Brown of the Times for noticing, and to Bob Timmermann for starting it all. (Bob - do you know where you posted the original reference to "Ghame Over?")
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See that last sentence above? When I was in school, I was taught to put the question mark inside the quotation marks. But now I notice that most people would put it outside the quotes. Anyone have a definitive take?
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Postgame update: I'm surprised people questioned pinch-hitting for Derek Lowe in the sixth inning today, since in his last start, people (not just me) felt that the Dodgers should have pinch hit for him, also in the sixth inning:
Lowe was pitching well today, but it was a close game and some extra runs would have been nice. It was debatable then and debatable now, but I think given that the bullpen has been strong, it was a good move to take Lowe out.
I am reluctantly going along with the question mark outside the quotes - though I knew, as Rob McMillin said in comment #29, it had to be a fairly recent phenomenon in this country. I still think the logic is not as perfect as people think. In this sentence ...
I would like to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," but first I must gargle.
... I've never seen anyone put the comma outside the quotes.
As for serial commas, I omit them whenever there is no confusion. Plain and simple. You don't need to have one here, here and here. You can figure out when you need it. That's AP style, isn't it? Give me AP style over Chicago any day.
Oh yeah - baseball site, right?
Jon Weisman's outlet
for dealing psychologically
with the Los Angeles Dodgers
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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Thank You For Not ...
1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity