Monthly archives: July 2005
Unholier Than Thou
It was an ugly day in the comments. It happens every few months. In retrospect, with Paul DePodesta under the microscope, I should have expected it - and prepared for it.
So after the fact, and for the future, please do me the favor of reading the following.
I've got some serious reminders for everyone to keep the Dodger Thoughts community functional. With more than a year of comments behind us, I'm a little less panicked than I have been in the past that catfights like today's will become a permanent feature, but I would appreciate all readers - old and new - to heed the following to make sure of it.
Respect all commenters. No one has cornerned the market on intelligence or stupidity, right or wrong.
Respond to the comment, not the commenter. No personal attacks. Don't fire the first shot, and don't fire the second shot either. I don't care how stupid you think someone is. I don't care how much they've offended you. I don't care. No personal attacks. Find a tactful way to defuse the situation, or let it go. And for god's sake, realize how nasty sarcasm can read.
If you have any respect for me or this site at all, you'll pour water on the fire and not fuel. In the middle of the fight, the one time I could check in, I politely asked people to just back away to defuse the situation. I was greatly ignored. Really appreciated that - thanks. If you are in one of these fights, no matter how right you might be, you are violating the ethics of this site. The only role anyone should have in one of these fights should be peacemaker.
And one other thing. This site does not endorse a particular view at the expense of others. I have my views, but the comments are specifically designed to allow other viewpoints. And I welcome those other viewpoints.
Today, I read some commenters who indicated that they didn't feel their views were welcome. To some extent, I believe people don't sometimes recognize the difference between being unwelcome and simply being in the minority. Just because many people disagree with you on some issue doesn't mean you're unwelcome.
But today, people really were made to feel unwelcome. That is simply intolerable.
The kinds of personal shots people took today, as most of you know, do not belong here under any circumstance. They're completely unnecessary to any discussion of the Dodgers. And as this site is the closest thing to my baby other than my actual babies, you can imagine how much it hurts me to see them from anyone.
Overall, I think the thing that was most disappointing today was to see longtime commenters who should know better exacerbate the sniping and also in some cases, tell people that their views were not welcome here.
The people who feel that they are in the minority on any given issue must feel welcome to express their opinions. I feel that I have gone out of my way to try to make that clear. And I ask that everyone support me on this. This site's only agenda is thoughtful discussion. Supporting a particular Dodger player or executive is not this site's mission.
I'm not going to lie to you. This could go without saying, but I'll say it. There have been some comments on this site that in my personal opinion have been total crap. But there has not been a single commenter - not one - who hasn't had something thoughtful to contribute. There is not one commenter who should be dismissed out of hand.
So all of you who participated in the fight today, I ask you to get off your high horses. Please do it, so I don't have to get on mine and write posts like this. Do it so that we can learn from each other and above all, have fun.
Ah, Odalis vs. the Cardinals ... Good Memories
* * *
Don't think of it as Trade Deadline Day. Think of it as Trade Lifeline Day!
Just wondering - when is the Times going to make any observation about this?
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A Jose Valentin activation is imminent, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Jayson Werth will probably hit the disabled list, hit it hard, hit it true. Valentin has three outfield assists, according to Gurnick. Meanwhile, the Antonio Perez Project (I believe his top hit was "Eye in the Sky") will not produce a left fielder. Said coach John Shelby to Gurnick:
"I wouldn't be comfortable putting him in a game out there and I told Tracy I hope he doesn't put him out there. The games mean too much to throw a guy out there who doesn't have any game experience. Antonio's not comfortable and I wouldn't want to do that to him. Do it in Spring Training where it can't hurt."
Gurnick adds that D.J. Houlton will be skipped in the rotation with an off day coming.
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Paul DePodesta made an appearance on Baseball Prospectus radio. I plan to listen, but feel free to jump the gun and report what he says below.
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Quote of the day: (supplied by Bill Plunkett in the Register):
"I'd love to do something to get a bat in there to pick up some of the slack with J.D. (Drew) out," Paul DePodesta said. "The last 48 hours (before the deadline) can be crazy and proposals can come that haven't come in the past month. We're certainly not going to do something just to do something. We're only going to do something if we feel it makes us better."
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What the local papers all mentioned today:
1) Jonathan Broxton gave up two singles.
2) Jason Phillips was moved to first base.
What the local papers didn't mention today:
1) Both singles were weak bloopers.
2) The merits (?) of starting Phillips' .649 OPS ahead of Hee Seop Choi's .783 OPS.
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I haven't read the whole thing yet, but I'm still linking to it: an eight-page article on former Dodger hitting coach Jack Clark.
On a sweltering June afternoon, Jack Clark quietly emerges from the visitors' dugout at Marinelli Field in Rockford, Illinois, dressed in black. Surveying his minor-league pupils as they go through their pregame motions, the River City Rascals hitting coach offers a terse assessment of the venue:
A night earlier, Clark's Rascals dropped the opener of a three-game series against the defending Frontier League champion Rockford RiverHawks, 4-1, but he missed the tilt owing to gastrointestinal complications. Now he lumbers toward the back of the batting cage to watch Rascals infielder Justin McKinley take his cuts off the ballclub's manager, Randy Martz, a former Cubs hurler who does double duty during batting practice (or "beeps," in Rascal parlance).
McKinley proceeds to foul two of Martz's dirt-stained gopher balls off the lip of the chain-link overhang, providing Clark an alternative use for his pet phrase. ...
The author tries to pass along the pretense that Clark took responsibility for the Dodgers' poor hitting performance under his tenure, but it's still easy to spot how willing Clark is to point the finger (which one?) just about anywhere else but at himself.
Previous Dodger Thoughts entries on the somehow fascinating creature:
Fire Jack Clark? (June 12, 2003)
The Clark Bar (July 11, 2003)
Look Out, Vinny - You're Next (August 5, 2003)
Talk to Floyd (August 5, 2003)
Cry Us a River, Jack (August 24, 2003)
Hmm. Coaching Can Help (September 25, 2003)
Jesse James and Jack Clark (July 14, 2004)
It's as Simple as This
When they're winning
Charting Broxton's Debut
Jonathan Broxton vs. St. Louis, 6th inning, 5-4 Dodgers
vs. David Eckstein
vs. Abraham Nunez
vs. Albert Pujols
vs. Jim Edmonds
vs. John Rodriguez
vs. Mark Grudzielanek
22 pitches: 6 balls, 16 strikes
Name the movie with this quote: "That's Willard Broxton!"
Dodgers Reportedly Call Up Broxton, Navarro
* * *
Update: Scott Erickson has been designated for assignment. Mike Rose goes back to the minors.
Update 2: You ain't seen the last of me? Erickson says he is willing to accept an assignment to AAA Las Vegas and wait for a September 1 recall if he clears waivers, according to Ken Gurnick at MLB.com, adding that he's surprised the move "took this long."
Update 3: Gurnick reports that Joe Thurston was traded to the Yankees for a player to be named later. And Derek Thompson had his second Tommy John surgery today, and is out until midseason 2006 at the earliest.
I'll miss Joe for sentimental reasons.
Update 4: With runners on first and third, one out and Milton Bradley at bat in the bottom of the seventh, Matt Morris fielded a comebacker. He looked at Cesar Izturis on third base, had him hung out to dry in between third and home, but inexplicable turned to throw to first base in the worst fielding play I've seen by a pitcher since Duaner Sanchez threw his glove at the ball.
* * *
Those of you who read the Dodger Thoughts comments have seen Dodger minor leaguers discussed to an atom-splitting level. But if you want a quick primer on today's two reported Dodger callups - pitcher Jonathan Broxton and catcher Dioner Navarro - here it is. (The Dodgers themselves had not made an official announcement as of 3 p.m. about the callups or whom they were replacing.)
The 5-foot-10, 189-pound Navarro, still only 21, has battled some physical issues this season - according to Nick Christensen of the Las Vegas Sun, Navarro was 2 for 18 since being activated from the disabled list July 18 - but has played 75 games overall for AAA Las Vegas, with an on-base percentage of .366 and a slugging percentage of .390. Offensively, he is lacking power for now - but down the road, some may catch up with him. Though his professional high in home runs is only 8, he did hit 31 doubles in 2003 at age 19, split between A and AA ball. Navarro's biggest strength is his strike zone command - 38 walks against 24 strikeouts. Defensively, he is obviously more promising than Jason Phillips, but we'll see if the Dodger pitchers still need to hold runners on better.
Broxton, four months younger than Navarro but six inches taller and around 50-100 pounds heavier, has been a stud ever since he became a second-round pick for the Dodgers in 2002. Averaging more than a strikeout per inning with a career ERA of 3.14 entering this season - primarly as a starter - Broxton has recently been used out of the bullpen for AA Jacksonville in anticipation of the Dodgers needing his help. In 28 games (15 in relief), Broxton has a 3.36 ERA and in 91 innings, has allowed 77 hits (just four home runs) and 29 walks while striking out 99. As a reliever, he has struck out 28 in 19 innings and has been clocked at 100 miles per hour, according to Baseball America, which also published a quote from an American League scout praising both Broxton's fastball and "power curve."
Broxton becomes the third home-grown player on the Dodgers 25-man roster, joining Jason Repko and Steve Schmoll (assuming neither is sent down).
* * *
For an unabashed look at the riches of the Dodger Stadium Dugout Club, stick a toothpick in this hors d'oeuvre from Dave Mcnary of Variety. (No sign of paragraph breaks anywhere in this online version, but I'm inserting my own in a humanitarian gesture.)
...A seat in the club runs an all-inclusive $400 (booze is extra), but one of McCourt's biggest reasons for undertaking $20 million in upgrades was to attract people who may never pay at all. McCourt wants to see the same sort of wall-to-wall celeb lineup who attends Lakers games.
He's well on the way. On a recent evening, when the Dodgers suffered a blowout loss to the San Francisco Giants, club attendees included celebs Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Lovitz, Robert Wuhl and Alyssa Milano; sports agents Scott Boras and Dennis Gilbert; former players Dave Winfield and Bill Buckner; and Dodgers icon Tommy Lasorda. Other regulars include Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Tom Hanks, Pat Sajak, Penny Marshall, Mary Hart, Wayne Gretzky and Peter Chernin.
The McCourts' four sons also are conspicuous, with most of the credit for bringing Hollywood into the Dodgers' fold going to Drew McCourt, the low-key marketing director who decided to work for his dad after getting an astrophysics degree from Columbia U. The 23-year-old has been charged with glad-handing Hollywood studios, agencies, top-tier producers and music industry execs, luring them into premium seats by promising that most elusive commodity, exclusivity.
Still, in wooing Hollywood, the McCourts have a tough job. As one of the few sports facilities built in the 1960s that has aged with some grace, even minor changes to Dodger Stadium provoke anxiety among devoted fans -- many of whom would never consider paying $400 for a seat.
"We've got an asset that's very unique within the baseball world," says Drew McCourt, who grew up going to Red Sox games at Fenway Park. "But we don't take it for granted that Hollywood's going to show up. We have to make this area attractive enough so the team's performance doesn't really matter whether people show up."
'This Is Vin Scully, High Atop the Safety of a Trunk'
From the Vin Scully post-sweep interviews of 1963, we move on to 1965 and a different kind of World Series triumph for the Dodgers - a 4-3 Series victory over the Minnesota Twins after losing Games 1 and 2. And, of course, Scully was there.
The national telecast of the seventh game of the '65 Series is occasionally shown on ESPN Classic, and the interviews we hear this time around on the tape supplied by Dodger Thoughts reader Stan from Tacoma reflect this - a few words here and there sound familiar. But again, the intimacy that Scully brings in his conversations with the winning Dodgers, uninterrupted, is worth savoring.
"This is Vin Scully, high atop the safety of a trunk," he begins from within the champions' locker room...
As in '63, Sandy Koufax won the clinching game and is the first interviewee. Koufax pitched a 2-0 shutout, allowing three hits, walking three and striking out 10, completing a 24-inning World Series performance in which he allowed one earned run, 13 hits and five walks while striking out 29.
The start came, in a blessed combination of truth and legend, on only two days rest from Koufax's 7-0 four-hitter (also with 10 strikeouts) in Game 5. Scully reminds Koufax that after that game, Koufax said he felt "a hundred years old. So today, how do you feel?"
Without missing a beat or skipping a laugh, Koufax replies, "A hundred and one. I feel great, Vinny, and I know that I don't have to go out there any more for about four months."
In another parallel from the 1963 finale, Koufax says that the fastball was the only pitch he had working for quite some time in 1965's Game 7. "I didn't have the curveball at all."
Scully then reveals that third baseman Jim Gilliam, who was replaced defensively at the start of the ninth inning (perhaps because of an injury?), watched the game with Scully on television in the locker room. "He turned and said to me, '[Koufax] looks like a fighter who has been hit and is now fighting on instinct.' Is that overdramatizing, or were you that tired?" Koufax replies that (despite the short rest) he was actually more tired in the previous game and the National League pennant clincher, because both were in Los Angeles where the temperature was beastlier. Koufax adds that his fastball actually improved as the game went on.
Another legend based in truth: Scully notes that according to baseball tradition, you can tell who the day's starting pitcher will be from who arrives at the ballpark unshaven. On the day of Game 7, both Koufax and Game 4 winner Don Drysdale (who would have had three days rest) arrived with stubble. And in fact, Dodger manager Walter Alston waited until a pregame meeting to announce who would throw the first pitch. Koufax says that Alston finally rested his decision on the idea that if he had to make a pitching change (the one who didn't start would be the first out of the pen), he'd rather go left-right-left to get to Ron Perranoski at the end, thus forcing more maneuvering from the Twins, then go right-left-left.
Scully wraps up the Koufax interview by eliciting from the star that the thrill of this victory ranked with any other, because preseason predictions placed the Dodgers no higher than fifth place in the NL - and even lower after a May 1 injury effectively ended star outfielder Tommy Davis' season.
"Way Out Lou Johnson" is then called to the microphone by Scully, and the player who picked up the slack for Davis (and slugged .593 in the Series with two homers) passes by Koufax saying, "You're the greatest, baby! You're the greatest!" Scully offers that Johnson "is a living storybook," having played on "18 teams in 13 years." Thirty-one years old at the time with 47 major league hits before the season began, Johnson concedes that he was ready to make 1965 his last season if he didn't have any more success. Sweet Lou lets it known, in an amazing moment of exuberant poignance, that inside he is "crying, but it won't come out."
For a brief snippet, Scully then commandeers Walter O'Malley - or "Mr. O'Malley," as Scully respectfully addresses the Dodger owner and president, whose voice was without a doubt dubbed by Old Man Potter from It's a Wonderful Life. Next is National League president Warren Giles, whose rooting interest in the Series will come as a shock to younger fans who don't recall the true era of league rivalry. Giles sounds as excited as any Dodger, and was apparently on pins and needles and any other sharp implement you can think of throughout Game 7. "Oh, dear, it worried me," he tells Vinny.
As Alston comes to meet Scully, he is applauded in the locker room. He starts his interview by praising and praising again the Twins. Scully asks him about his one trip to the mound during the game to talk to Koufax, and Alston says, "I had no intention of taking him out of there. ... I just wanted to make sure he wasn't overthrowing."
Alston elaborates on choosing between Drysdale and Koufax, calling it one of the toughest decisions of his career - although "either way, I had a good chance of being right." Alston also notes, I'm thinking with some exaggeration, that "Drysdale pitched nine innings in the bullpen - he was ready every inning." But staked to a two-run lead in the fourth inning on Johnson's home run and Wes Parker's RBI single, Koufax allowed only one runner to second base and three runners overall for the remainder of the game.
"Well, that's the story," Vinny says, wrapping things up. "Needless to say, they're wild, ecstatic, euphoric - you name it." In a way, so am I.
* * *
Update: Even Phil Simms, the NFL quarterback-turned-broadcaster, likes Vinny. From the Macon Telegraph:
Q: How do you think the networks could improve their NFL telecasts?
A: I don't know if there's anything we can do differently, except maybe shut up a little more. It gets hard for me, because I want to talk about everything. I heard a replay on the radio one day of Vin Scully doing a Dodgers game. And they had one broadcaster of a visiting team and you listened to his words and he used 100 words, let's say. And then Vin Scully made the same call in about 20 words. And I went, 'Wow.' It's how quick do you get your point across, how few words do you need. Quarterbacks are trying to complete passes, I'm trying to get my thoughts cleaner and more concise. That's what I think about now.
'Hello, Redhead, What Do You Say?!'
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If the Dodgers' 4-1 World Series victory over Oakland in 1988 was improbable if not impossible, to coin the magic words, the Dodgers' 4-0 sweep of the Yankees in 1963 was unprecedented - the first sweep of the Bronx Bombers in postseason history. Despite winning 99 games in the regular season, the Dodgers still shocked the baseball system in shutting down the Yankees, who had won 104, on four runs in four games. The total game time for the series was 8 hours, 17 minutes.
As you can imagine, the mood in the Dodger clubhouse was ebullient. And thanks to Dodger Thoughts reader Stan from Tacoma (aka Popup), who periodically shares tapes from his fine collection with me, I enjoyed Vin Scully's postgame interviews from the 1963 winners' locker room early this morning.
Scully doesn't work the postgame talkfest on the air these days, but his performance in 1963 was every bit the tour de force that his game broadcasts are, seamlessly moving from Dodger to Dodger at a quick but unfrenzied pace. Almost no interview lasted more than a minute, yet every one was completely vibrant - it's as if Vinny is painting a clubhouse landscape with short and free strokes of the brush.
Here are some highlights:
The series of interviews ends with a warm John Roseboro sidling up to Vin. (No, I don't have video, but I'm almost sure it was a sidle.) "Hello, Redhead, what do you say?!" Roseboro exclaims.
A prince of a moment.
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The Adam Dunn Scouting Expedition ... otherwise known as the first get-together of Dodger Thoughts commenters, appears to have been a success, despite the L that the Dodgers hung on the whole thing. Rob McMillin wrote it up on 6-4-2 this morning - I encourage others to leave their remembrances in his comments as well as here.
The explosion began Opening Week, breaking the 200-comment barrier for the first time on Opening Day and the 400-comment barrier the following night.
Since then, there has been ebb and flow, or as I like to call them, Eb 'n' Flo. But Tuesday, thanks in part to my final daylong absence and, for whatever reason, the Cincinnati Reds, we saw a new record - busting past the Willie Mays level and Babe Ruth as well, leaving only Hank Aaron unattained.
Dodger Thoughts Comment Records
July 26 Open Chat: 750 comments
Nyuk Nyuk - Yuck?
Gina: Who are these Stooges you speak of?
Jerry: They're a comedy team.
Gina: Tell me about them. Everything.
Jerry: Well, they're three kind of funny looking guys and they hit each other a lot.
Gina: You will show me The Stooges?
Jerry: I will show you The Stooges.
- Seinfeld, "The Suicide," written by Tom Leopold
* * *
It's funny - just in time for the National League West's recent slide into Stoogehood, my 50-week-old son started doing Curly-like slaps of his own face. Perfect illustration of what's happening in the baseball world.
In truth, the Larry, Moe, Curly, Shemp and Curly Joe of the NL West have a ways to go. The 1994 AL West-leading Texas Rangers were 10 games below .500 in the race I named The Stooge Division last year. But still, this is something:
50-50 San Diego
The cancellation of the final weeks of the 1994 season helped preserve the AL West's Stooge Division infamy, because intradivision play could have lifted a team back over .500. By contrast, while the NL West has played outside the division like a bunch of skittering Omegas lately ("May I have 10,000 marbles please?"), the final month should rally some NL West team to a winning record.
One scary thought to keep the NL West at Stooge level is that perhaps the most likely team for a hot September would be a Barry Bonds-led San Francisco Giant squad. Could Bonds come back on September 1 and catch Babe Ruth and the Padres by September 30 - after starting the month at about 15 games below .500? I guarantee people would be paying attention.
But I digress. What about the local nine?
Tuesday night showed off both their possibilities and their limitations. In addition to big hits from season-long leaders Jeff Kent and Olmedo Saenz, the Dodgers got a key hit in the seventh from Cesar Izturis and earlier, for the second day in a row, from Jason Repko. Contributions from the likely and the not-so-likely in the same game - what a concept. This happens occasionally, because Izturis and Repko are not .000 hitters, but it doesn't happen often enough. And when it happens, it's more likely to come against teams that have worse records than the Dodgers - of which, regrettably, there still aren't all that many.
But the Padres do their pratfalls and the Diamondbacks chase their tails. And so what that means is that the return of Milton Bradley last weekend and the potential return of J.D. Drew in September, which should have been irrelevant, no longer are.
Should recent events change the Dodgers' acquisition philosophy? Not from my vantage point, because the team all along should have been shopping for players that would help in 2005 and beyond, not just 2005. You don't trash this season, and you don't trash the future. That might mean you don't make a trade at all, but you have to be strong. (And also realize that some deals might come after the July 31 non-waiver deadline but before the August 31 deadline when waivers are required.)
Don't get me wrong. I've learned over time that you don't take title contention for granted. You go for it whenever you can. Maybe, just maybe, if the Dodgers hold their own against the Cardinals over the weekend, you're willing to tilt the scales a bit more toward a 2005 gamble. You can even make a trade for a player who will only stay through the end of the season, if absolutely necessary. You might even overpay a little bit.
But as Curly or my son would do, don't forget to slap yourself in the face to take stock. You can't go nuts. You always stay smart.
From the start, regardless of the injuries, 2005 was meant to be a continued transition year for the Dodgers. It was a year they would try to win, a year they might even win, but also a year to take care of unfinished business in forming a perennial contender.
The year has been more painful than many would have imagined, leading to people like even me getting quoted in the Daily News as saying the Angels are the Southern California team of choice right now. But as I added, there's going to be a choice in the future. And as soon as next year comes, I think people will be back to choosing the Dodgers.
In 2005, the Padres have left the door open, and so sure, I'm willing to believe. But I believe even more in the future of Dodger baseball if we don't mess things up.
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ESPN.com's Eric Neel, who was soliciting Vin Scully memories earlier this month, would like to speak directly with the following commenters.
E-mail me if you're interested, and I'll pass your e-mail address on to Neel.
July 26 Open Chat
July 25 Open Chat
July 24 Open Chat
July 23 Open Chat
July 22 Open Chat
July 21 Open Chat
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Three years of Dodger Thoughts. Is it possible?
Thanks so much to all of you readers for rewarding me so generously with your attention. I'd have written this for no one - that's pretty much how it started - but it's a lot nicer having you around.
Disabled List (Not Really)
So this is what it's like. Caring about my team heading south, but unable to do anything about it, unable to fulfill my role. Deactivated.
Well, I'm sneaking into the game, just for a moment. After all, I'm not injured. But I have spent a good deal of time horizontal - in bed an extra hour (as my mother-in-law takes the early-morning shift with my son), laying by other people's pools, resting on the couch (after the kids are asleep in their various rooms) watching television, talking or reading - not watching baseball or going on the computer. Sounds pretty grand, doesn't it. Of course, the work I put off piles up during these moments, so I can already think about where the catchup time gets directed.
But I wonder what's going on with the team nightly, and last night I caught the later innings through text updates on my cell phone. And what a bitter way to go down. I imagine what the discussion is like on here, but don't check in at all.
The larger question is less about whether the Dodgers can make it back to .500 or division title contention (practically the same thing, with the Padres falling to .532) and more about whether the Dodgers can avoid a 90-loss season. And that larger question would almost be enough to make one stop caring about the myriad of smaller questions plaguing the team, from A to Z, or at least Y(hency).
But not me. I wonder about all the small questions. And when I get activated again for full-time duty, I'll be back to wondering about them all with you.
July 19 Open Chat
July 18 Open Chat
Folks, because of work and visiting relatives, posting might be a little light for a week or so. I'll check in when I can. In the meantime, enjoy each other's comments and don't go down with the ship ...
July 17 Open Chat
Nothing profound for me to add during this brief check-in. Just have to say that when wins don't come cheap, boy are they a relief.
July 16 Open Chat
Brad Penny's flinch toward second (leading to his dubious ejection), the fly ball by Omar Vizquel that found the screen of the foul pole, and the bounce that turned Jason Phillips' potential game-tying double into a ground-rule shot prove again that baseball is a game of inches - which is why you need to be at least a foot better than your opponents. And the Dodgers aren't.
They're closer to getting some better measurements as Cesar Izturis, Wilson Alvarez, Milton Bradley and Jose Valentin near returns. You're welcome to cling to that, if you like, though I doubt it will turn a .400 team into a .700 team.
According to Gurnick, Schmoll credits correcting a flaw in his mechanics for helping him end his recent AAA Las Vegas stint with 11 2/3 shutout innings.
Ten years ago tonight, I could have gone to Dodger Stadium on my way home from my job at Disney, but was tired out and ate the tickets. Didn't even turn on the game until the final three innings, when Ramon Martinez was still perfect. The slender righthander pitched a no-hitter, coming within a Tommy Gregg walk of a perfect game.
Martinez was backed offensively in the 7-0 victory by Jose Offerman (4 0 2 4) and Todd Hollandsworth (4 2 3 2).
* * *
The current Dodger roster is 10 for 59 against Schmidt with zero home runs. Hee Seop Choi is 0 for 13 with eight strikeouts in his career against Giants starter Jason Schmidt. Olmedo Saenz is 1 for 3. So don't even ask what Jim Tracy is thinking when the lineup comes out. We already know.
Still, I'd like to present the ...
The Anti-Karros Award
Situations when Choi has hit his home runs this season:
*1) Dodgers 0, Giants 0, third inning, none on, one out
*Ten of Choi's 13 home runs tied the game or gave Dodgers the lead. Only two, arguably, came with the game no longer in doubt - and really only one.
For all his slumps, as I wrote in the comments earlier today, Choi continues to have the third-highest OPS vs. righties of currently ambulatory Dodgers this season.
Again, the problem for Choi remains that Saenz, for all his slumps, still has a higher OPS as a first baseman, giving Tracy a ready reason to play his preferred pachyderm.
With Choi, Saenz and Kent, the Dodgers have a surplus at first base, and should trade Saenz for someone who will help them at another position.
Update: The Dodgers have optioned outfielder Cody Ross and recalled reliever Steve Schmoll, according to today's press notes. Chin-Feng Chen, who arrived after Ross this year, gets to hang out a bit longer.
Standings, Standings, What Do You See?
Lots and lots of teams with better records than me ...
So with all the talk about how mediocre the 48-41 Padres have been for a division leader, they do have the fourth-best record in the National League, and are closer to the 52-36 Nationals for the second-best record than any they are to any of the NL West teams in their rear-view mirror. And with all the you-never-know about how the Dodgers maybe might somehow nnngh pull it together, you can't forget that San Diego might pull it together even tighter.
(Ah, it. Why must you always stray? Why must we always be pulling you?)
In other words, even if the Dodgers somehow managed to play winning baseball in the second half, it's even more likely that the Padres would. And that would be that.
Playing .539 ball this season, an 87-win pace, the Padres are actually about where I thought they would be in 2005. I just didn't think that would be good enough to put them in first.
For that matter, playing .478 ball for a 77-win pace, the Diamondbacks are about where I thought they would be as well. But who knew that would be enough for second?
The surprises are the Dodgers and Giants being so far below .500. (Dodger Thoughts reader Lewis Leader, a former sportswriter and managing editor of the Monterey County Herald, e-mailed to say that only in three seasons since moving to California have the two teams finished with losing records in the same year.) So who has their victories in a league with only three teams on a 90-win pace? It's Washington, of course - the one truly overachieving team in the senior circuit, to use a hoary term.
The Dodgers are 40-48 - really a lousy record. I checked back to see how many Los Angeles Dodger teams have been just five games below .500 after 88 games, and whether any of them recovered.
1999: 40-48. Subsequent peak: 65-71. Finish: 77-85.
1992: 39-49. Subsequent peak: 40-49. Finish: 63-99.
1989: 41-47. Subsequent peak and finish: 77-83.
1987: 39-49. Subsequent peak: 47-56. Finish: 73-89.
1986: 40-48. Subsequent peak: 54-53. Finish: 73-89.
1979: 36-52. Subsequent peak: 79-81. Finish: 79-83.
1968: 41-47. Subsequent peak: 41-48. Finish: 76-86.
1967: 37-51. Subsequent peak: 58-66. Finish: 73-89.
1958: 41-47. Subsequent peak: 60-63. Finish: 71-83.
The good news is that the 2005 Dodger team is only the 10th in 48 seasons in Los Angeles to have this poor a record after 88 games - that's a nice standard.
But of the previous nine, none even made it back to .500 for the season, and only the 1979 team played above .500 the rest of the way. (The 1999 and 1989 teams played exactly .500).
If the 2005 Dodgers rallied at the pace of the 1979 team by going 43-31 (.581), they would finish 83-79 - still probably not enough to win the National League West.
It would be simply unprecedented in Los Angeles Dodger history for the team to rally from the position it holds today.
But you know, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the games. Please, don't start watching televised poker. If I read one more article about how poker is sweeping the nation, I'm gonna fold.
And speaking of things of television ... Scrubs and Arrested Development - good on ya in the Emmy nominations today.
And He Was Nippon-Ham Fighting ...
Our own Bob Timmermann passes along the highlights of his recent baseball-heavy voyage to Japan in this piece on Baseball Analysts.
And yes, until Timmermann corrected me, I always thought they were the Ham Fighters of Nippon, not the Fighters of Nippon-Ham.
2005 Draft Pick Battles Cancer
The Dodgers' 23rd-round selection in the June 2005 draft, 19-year-old lefthanded outfielder/pitcher Jayson Whitehouse of Farmington, New Hampshire, has been stricken with Burkitt's Lymphoma, according to Mike Whaley of Foster's Daily Democrat of Dover:
On June 8 the former Farmington High School baseball star was the only New Hampshire player taken in the Major League Baseball draft, picked in the 23rd round by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Two days later he became very sick and before the month was out he was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital, diagnosed with a rare form of fast-growing cancer known as Burkitt's Lymphoma.
Whitehouse, 19, is back in Farmington after a near two-week stay at Mass General. He has successfully battled the cancer in round one the first of three chemo cycles on the hopeful road to full recovery. A full recovery, he said, that would include doing everything he was doing before the sickness, including playing baseball at a high level.
The treatment, however, has taken its toll: Not only has he has dropped 50 pounds, but he's also lost temporary sight in his right eye.
"I was so happy (after the draft) and it hit me like that and it went downhill," said Whitehouse, who led Farmington High School to state baseball championships in 2002 and 2004 and is a former Class M Player of the Year and Foster's Baseball Player of the Year. "It's horrible. What bothers me the most is 'Why me?' I've no clue why I got it. I can't explain it. It's not in my family; it just happened."
Burkitt's Lymphoma is a very rare form of non-Hodgkin's cancer with only about 300 new cases per year, according to the Web site www.burkitts.org. Rare in most of the world, it is the most common childhood cancer in Central Africa, and is one of the most aggressive of all human cancers. As with other cancers, the exact cause is not known and the cancer often occurs in young people aged 12 to 30. Whitehouse turned 19 in May.
It's possible that being hit in the head with a baseball a couple of months ago may have hastened the diagnosis. According to Whaley, Whitehouse - continuing to suffer from headaches and other maladies - was prepared for surgery in June on what was believed to be a blood clot in his head. It turned out to be a tumor - and further tests revealed cancer in five areas of hid body.
Whitehouse's girlfriend was told that Whitehouse has a 75 percent chance of surviving, Whaley wrote - thanks in part to his physical condition and how quickly the cancer was identified.
Whitehouse has not signed with the Dodgers yet, according to Dodgers director of public relations Josh Rawitch.
Triangletable with Steve Henson and Bill Plunkett
The All-Star Break hasn't offered Dodger beat writers Steve Henson of the Times or Bill Plunkett of the Register much reason to sit around in front of their computers - there was plenty of catch-up time with the family and All-Star coverage to fill those hours.
But quite graciously, the two writers joined me via e-mail for this three-sided roundtable here on Dodger Thoughts. Here's how the chat went.
JW: So I'll start things off with this question: As we reach the All-Star Break, with all that we've watched and learned this season, did the Dodgers enter the 2005 season with what they needed to win the division on paper? In other words, are their problems mainly injury-related, or something more?
SH: Since Plunkett and I are usually better on paper than in person (trust me on that one), we are supremely qualified to address this.
BP: We'll never know, will we? The injuries have been so overwhelming that they are a ready-made - and accurate - excuse/explanation for why this season didn't/won't go as planned. Whether the team was poorly constructed (put me down for one of those) or not doesn't matter now.
That being said (I'm channeling DePodesta there for a moment), I have no doubt that "on paper" the Dodgers had enough to win the division because "on grass" the NL West is ragingly mediocre. Going into the season, I thought someone (SD, LA or SF) would win 90 games and win the division. Now, it looks like first one to 85 gets the flag. You could put together a much better team with all the DLed players in the division than anything the West teams are actually putting on the field right now.
Honestly, I thought the Dodgers' pitching would give them the edge but their starters were awful for a long stretch of May and that's really where things started falling apart. Now that they're pitching better, the wheels have come off the rest of the team.
SH: Paul DePodesta put together a team that, had it remained healthy, would have been just good enough to win the division. The playoffs could have been interesting for them (and conceivably still could be; we can't write them off yet, even on our paper) because Penny, Weaver, Lowe and Perez give them a chance in a short series.
But make no mistake, Paul did not put together the team he really wanted (he's said so several times) and came up one strong hitter short (he's never admitted this) of a World Series team. The injuries have been
JW: Steve, when you say that DePodesta came up one strong hitter short, is it because he was out-maneuvered or because he fell short despite a good effort? And do you either of you see things going positively for him between now and July 31?
SH: He wasn't out-maneuvered. He had a budget and chose to spend most of it on pitching. He didn't get the pitchers he really wanted - Radke and Clement - and found himself in a position where he had to overpay for Perez and Lowe. But he ended up with the hitters he wanted. If the budget was more, and he could have re-signed Beltre and done everything else the same, it would have been a banner off-season. Plug Beltre into a healthy Dodger lineup and it is transformed into something special: Izturis, Drew, Beltre, Kent, Bradley, Werth, Choi, Phillips. Or even flip-flop Izturis and Drew, who would made a top-flight leadoff hitter so long as there was ample power behind him. So much for that flight of fancy, though.
BP: I think one thing we should all keep in mind is - we really don't know what kind of player Paul wants. Honestly. You may think you do, but this is a guy who prides himself on seeing things differently. And
As for the hunt for help between now and the trade deadline ... I'm pretty sure Paul didn't get his Harvard degree by mail order. If he was paying attention in class, he's also smart enough to read the current situation for what it is and not "throw good money after bad" in a costly attempt to salvage something that may not be worth salvaging. And there seems to be a pretty thin market of available players out there this July. Paul has said more than once that "I'd love to make a trade but I have to have a partner." At times, it sounds as if he's building a paper trail with those remarks so that he can explain not making a deal by pointing the finger at other teams and saying it was their fault, not an unwillingness on his part. I don't see him making a big move(s) at the deadline unless (a) it doesn't cut into future resources in terms of talent or payroll and/or (b) it brings someone who fits into his plan going forward beyond this season. I know Adam Dunn is the popular name out there and he fits (b) ... but I don't think he fits (a).
As for the rest of the names being tossed around - Preston Wilson? Joe Randa? Joe Kennedy? Matt Lawton? - are any of them difference-makers? Heck, would all of them make a difference? Maybe. Unless they hurt themselves warming up for the game.
JW: Let's say the Dodgers do fall out of contention by August or September 1. Which noteworthy current players have a future in Los Angeles, which don't, and which are going to be on trial?
SH: DePodesta could trade anyone at any time, so it's hard to say who exactly has a future in L.A. I'd say the most secure for next season are Penny, Lowe, Gagne, Kent, Drew, Bradley and Ledee. Izturis, Odalis Perez, Houlton, Wunsch, Sanchez and Alvarez are reasonably secure either for performance reasons or contract reasons. I'd be surprised if Weaver is re-signed because I doubt if he'd take a cut and the Dodgers won't offer $9 million a year. Werth, Choi, Phillips, Repko and Antonio Perez are flawed but cheap. Expect some to be traded and some to remain as low-cost starters. I guess Edwards and Robles fall in that category too.
A big variable is which prospects are ready next spring. Most might still be a year away. I think we'll see Osoria and Schmoll taking over for some of the older bullpen guys. And it think at least one big hitter is due to check in via trade or free agency.
BP: I'd make that "flawed but cheap" category a little more crowded but wouldn't argue with Steve on most of those names. And I also think the chances of Jeff Weaver pitching in Dodger blue again next year are pretty small. "Hometown discount" is not in Scott Boras' vocabulary and I don't see DePodesta committing $10 million a year to a mid-rotation pitcher when he's already committed over $20 million next year alone to three (Penny, Lowe and Perez). The discussions Boras and DePodesta have had recently about a contract extension are probably more designed to humor Weaver (on both their parts) than actually reach an agreement.
The most important thing to keep in mind in all this is that you're following a franchise in a transition period. In a few years, we'll all look back at the change from Fox ownership to the McCourt/DePodesta era as an even more radical change in direction than going from the O'Malley ownership to Fox was (despite all the upheaval that followed that switch). The days of Fox's misguided overspending are over and a series of moves by Dan Evans and DePodesta has just about untied that albatross from around their necks (how many more paychecks for Darren Dreifort?).
Somewhere off in the distance is - supposedly - a wave of young homegrown talent. Guzman. Billingsley. LaRoche. Martin. Navarro. Tiffany. Broxton. Etc. Etc. Whether those prospects are players that DePodesta values for the players they can be ... or the players they can bring remains to be seen. And you can decide for yourself whether this is a positive (returning to the days of yore when the Dodgers built championship teams around players born and raised in the Dodgers system) or a negative (proving that McCourt is as cheap as the blowhards on talk radio have been saying).
JW: The mythology of home-grown teams of yore gets in the way of the fact that Dodger fans ultimately only care if the team is winning. No one turned up their nose at Kirk Gibson for being a free agent or Eric Gagne winning a Cy Young with a bargain of a contract.
BP: Either way, there is a bridge to build between the two eras. That has been a major factor in DePodesta's team-building choices and will be for another year or two. Spend on pitching now (and for two or three years) while you wait for the young ones to arrive. Get a core of position players (Werth, Bradley, Choi, Izturis) that are cheap now and young enough to fit into that future roster without holding any of the prospects back - or can be let go via free agency when they get too expensive because cheap replacements will be on the way.
JW: The future certainly looks brighter than the present. Something tells me that the next three months at Dodger Stadium aren't going to be too pleasant. The fans have become a group willing to boo at the second sign of misfortune or failure, and there's going to be a good deal of it in the second half. It's just not a very tolerant crowd these days. Many Dodger Stadium attendees are casual and care only that the team is losing, not why the team is losing. Others will understand the role injuries played, but from that group some will lay the blame for the health-challenged roster directly on management. In any case, it's going to get a little toxic. Perhaps with each game the Dodgers drop below .500, beer sales should cease an inning sooner.
So when the offseason begins, DePodesta's detractors are going to be armed and dangerous, expecting him to show them something they like. Of course, who knows whether his transactions between now and April 2006 will be any more digestible to that group than his moves to this point have been - even though many of those moves were without question the right moves.
But I can't help feeling positive about the promise of the team in 2006. The core of talent that looked like a potential division winner in 2005 will return with fewer holes to fill. The minor league crop will be that much more seasoned. While the Dodgers have to bank on a certain amount injuries every year, the number in 2005 has simply been beyond the pale. Do you think, as I do, that a year from now, Dodger fans will be happy with the team on the field?
SH: Let's assume that the team is healthy, that Gagne, Drew, Bradley and Wunsch come back and play at their previous levels. The team still has the same serious holes at first, third and catcher that it had going into this season. McCourt needs to spend for one more top-flight hitter. My fear is that he will, but with the money that went to Weaver this year. So the rotation might weaken. He needs to spend the money that is going to Dreifort and Green on payroll. If that happens, there can be serious upgrades in the rotation and either an infield corner or left field. Thus - happy fans (except for the numerous punchers and punchees in the pavilion).
I included catcher because although Phillips has shown an ability to drive in runs, opponents run all over him. That can't go on for another year. Yes, much of it is the pitchers' inability to hold runners, but Phillips is also slow to second. And Navarro might not be the answer.
But back to happy fans. Cut beer prices in half, upgrade the food options by offering better Mexican food and some barbecue, and not only will the fans be happier, but so will Plunkett and I!!!
BP: As I sit in the press workroom deep in the bowels of Comerica Park (an unpleasant image right there) looking forward to a boxed lunch that I believe may have been boxed by Kenesaw Mountain Landis himself ... barbecue sounds like the key to baseball success.
JW: Mmm ... barbecue. That seems like a tasty place to sit back and wrap this up. My only other question would be, do either of you have a thought about Tracy's future? Though the injuries give him an excuse to stay another year, is it possible he would want to use his escape clause and leave Los Angeles of his own will? Perhaps for Cincinnati (closer to home)?
BP: I know his strategy is confounding at times but I think Jim Tracy has to be given credit for what he has managed to squeeze out of flawed rosters in each of his seasons as manager. This season included. His team could very well be in a much deeper hole.
That being said (one more time) at the end of the day (hang on) going forward (the DePodesta trifecta there) - I don't see Tracy and DePodesta co-existing much longer as MGR and GM. There is just too wide a chasm in their philosophical differences. Tracy goes to bed at night dreaming of sound defense, playing to get a lead and then handing it over to the back end of the bullpen to shorten the game. Obviously, those are not the same things that DePodesta values. Communication between the two is also an issue.
Whether that means another season or two or exactly when ... I can't tell you that. But I would wager the Dodgers' next manager is someone completely off our radar right now, someone Paul met during his days as an advance scout for the Cleveland Indians - or shooting T-shirts into the crowd at AHL games - who shares his unique vision. Or at least knows he will have to play along.
Now, I have a question for all of you - should I go with the soggy-looking mess labeled "Italian Sub" or the space-age polymer trying to pass for ham and cheese??
JW: Don't eat lunch by the book, Bill, Leave the soggy sub for Tracy, dish the space ham to DePodesta and sign a multi-meal contract with some above-replacement level steak.
Steve - your thoughts on Tracy?
SH: Jim Tracy is as good a manager as there is. Which is to say most managers are pretty much the same. Tracy lacks the cache of the few guys who were really good players - Torre, Piniella, Robinson, Baker, Alou, even Garner - but that doesn't matter when it comes to developing a philosophy and managing games accordingly.
Tracy does develop biases for and against players and wears them on his sleeve. He's not a big Choi guy (as Jon has pointed out many times), nor is he high on either of the Perezes or Phillips. His failure to buy into some of the players DePodesta has brought in might be his undoing, and so might his insistence to use the bunt the way it has been used for 100 years. He's likely to stay through the season because Paul recognizes the PR fallout that would occur if Tracy were fired, and because Paul also recognizes that Tracy is a good manager in most respects. A change could very occur during the off-season, although I'd be surprised if Tracy left for Cincinnati. That organization is a mess that no manager can easily fix, and Tracy is well aware of that. If he took a job there, it would be for family reasons.
And for family reasons - this is a rare day off - I am signing off. It's been a pleasure. Dodger Thoughts is a tremendous gathering place for followers of the team. To me, its strengths are a refreshing civility and an excellent institutional memory of the team. And also Jon's excellent writing. Thanks for letting me add a few thoughts.
JW: Thanks again, Steve. Enjoy the family day. Really appreciate this from both of you.
Hope everyone enjoyed triangulating about the Dodgers on Dodger Thoughts. The team may be down, but this was a treat. Thanks to Bill Plunkett and Steve Henson for fitting this into their schedules - so enthusiastically at that.
Up to now, I've mostly viewed the first Derek Lowe season in Los Angeles as a success, but Lowe's ERA, 2.04 at the end of April, has been steadily declining since. It was 4.14 for the month of May, 4.70 in June and is 8.00 after two starts in July.
Overall, his ERA is 3.99, which of course does not include the 16 unearned runs he has allowed in 19 games. These high unearned run totals form one of the under-the-table criticisms of his performance, that Lowe lets errors behind him cause too much damage.
Lowe's season has already differed dramatically from his final year in Boston - through the similarity of 15 home runs allowed. That was his total in 183 2/3 innings in Boston in 2004, and that's his total in only 120 2/3 innings with the Dodgers in 2005.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Lowe has been around the plate much more this season. His strikeout/walk ratio has practically doubled, from 1.48 in 2004 to 2.89 in 2005. He has walked 1.39 batters per six innings (and isn't that the better time frame to use in this day and age) this season, compared to 2.32 in 2004.
Lowe seems to challenge at the right moments and pitch more carefully at the right moments. Nine of Lowe's 15 homers allowed this season have been with the bases empty and five others have been with one runner on. Only one homer came with two men on base. His walk rate also increases with runners on base by 45 percent.
He just gets burned sometimes either way.
Lowe's recent decline has dropped him to 181st in the Baseball Prospectus pitching ratings - using the statistic Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) - trailing such pitchers as San Diego No. 5 Tim Stauffer and Tampa Bay retread Casey Fossum, not to mention well behind Jeff Weaver (No. 97) and off a cliff compared to Brad Penny (No. 27). A potential saving grace for Lowe is that his batting average allowed on balls hit into play (BABIP), .307, is 43rd in baseball among those with 50 innings pitched. Lowe could be due for a little better luck.
(That BABIP list has some interesting names near the top, however. Randy Johnson, Jason Schmidt and Javier Vasquez are among them, but so are Hideo Nomo, Chan Ho Park and Jose Lima. Kevin Brown is first (.382), and D.J. Houlton is fourth (.358). Might be worth taking a snapshot of it today and seeing if the luck changes for any of these fellas.)
Bottom line, Lowe has been a better pitcher than he was in the 2004 regular season. Beyond that, he hasn't exceeded expectations. And with a 4.80 ERA since May 1, he's reaching a point on an individual level where he needs to turn things around before the season completely gets away from him.
Honking in Traffic
"Team meetings" like the one the Dodgers had Saturday? Yeah, I've been in some of those, and isn't the term quaint? Like calling a food fight a "potluck lunch."
The Dodgers' quest hasn't changed - it never changes. The quest is to win baseball games. No matter what kind of losing streak you're on or how much you disrespect the guy next to you, that's always the quest.
What can change is the level of commitment to the quest, the committment that encourages one to work late or work harder, to give beyond what's expected, to trade sleep or family time or what have you for more grindstoning.
Sometimes motivational words help, be they rah rah Lasorda rah rah or quiet encouragement and tips. Sometimes people lead by example, consciously or unconsciously. But that might not be enough. You have to believe that the extra commitment is going to make a difference. A rational person might conclude that working overtime won't mean at thing in the long run. In fact, that person might be right.
And here's the key. Different adults will not only come to different conclusions about what is the proper level of committment - they will each meet their given standard with varying levels of success. And so, it will be rare that, even in the best of circumstances, everyone is on the same page.
Pointing a finger at another person ultimately reveals itself as an act of frustration. It is rage at our inability to control anyone but ourselves.
At my most difficult work environment, which fortunately is receding well into my past, people snapped and caterwauled at each other almost every day. Some people were less talented than others, which said something about the quality of the publication, but didn't explain the constant confrontations. That problem came from everyone thinking they were better than everybody else. Everyone thought they were pulling all the weight, and most of them were wrong. By definition, they had to be wrong.
Have you ever noticed, driving down a major street or even the freeway, how the fast lane can become the slow lane? Cars gather to the left, because they want to get somewhere as quickly as possible, and Drivers Ed told us that's how we do it. But then some drivers' idea of fast is five miles per hour above the speed limit, while for others, it's the speed limit + 25. Drivers who might think they're fast by their own definition are slow in others' eyes - in fact, they're worse than slow, because they're taking up space in the fast lane. Frustration builds. And so you find speeding drivers (like me) zipping into other lanes that are less dense with traffic, passing on the right, to the annoyance of some, just to keep themselves moving at their idea of reasonable speed.
The Dodgers have too many slow movers in the fast lane, and there isn't much to be done. Pointing fingers will not often make a 65-mph driver go 75. And getting 25 drivers going 75 isn't easy, is it, especially when the best of them are injured, and the only destination worth reaching quickly, Titletown, is falling off the map.
All the finger-pointing is honking in traffic. This noise pollution might lead this morning's news, but the Dodgers' biggest problem remains the simple fact that the best drivers can't even get on the road. Rush hour is starting and the team is already late.
Everyone's pretty negative right now. Many of those who consider the Dodgers' 2005 season wiped out are willing to use injuries as an excuse; others think the team has found its true level. Few are offering praise, but Will Carroll on Baseball Prospectus proposes that the team deserves some credit for even hanging around this long. ..
Some teams have been done in by injuries while others have been able to avoid them or overcome them. I hope to have some stats for you over the break and a discussion of what teams are doing on the medical front. The Dodgers, Braves, and Yankees deserve special mention for having a ton of key injuries yet staying within hailing distance of the playoffs. Instead of blaming the medical staffs or the GMs, we should be giving them credit. It's true that the Red Sox made it to the promised land while also having a bottom five injury profile last season, but it doesn't often work out that way. More research is necessary to figure out just which injuries, what values, and what roster moves help these teams succeed in the face of adversity.
Are You There God? It's Me, Dodger
Okay. I have to admit, my principal rooting interest outside of the Dodgers right now is for the entire National League West to fall below .500.
I'm not bad - I'm just blogged that way.
* * *
Some Oscar Robles history from Jose De Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle:
... He split 70 games between Class AA Jackson and Class A Kissimmee in 1998, but he couldn't overcome the depression that set in when his mother died.
The eldest of three sons, he wanted to be back in Tijuana helping his father.
The Astros released him after he didn't report to camp in 1999.
"Just imagine: I didn't want to keep playing professionally after my mother died," he said. "I wanted to help my two younger brothers. They were younger and I felt as though I couldn't leave them there. We were in a difficult situation. I preferred to stay in my home." ...
I Always Thought It Would Be Clemens, Uh...
Update: Kelly Wunsch
* * *
Roger Clemens has defeated 28 major league teams in his career. Name the only one besides the Dodgers that has escaped him.
There's an interesting column on Roger Clemens by Bob Harkins at MSNBC.com ...
... Poor Roger can't win a game. Poor Roger gets less support than Alex Rodriguez at a Red Sox family picnic. Poor Roger is brilliant, but those miserable Houston Astros have turned into a lost cause.
And it's true that Poor Roger has been incredible. An ERA below 1.50 is amazing for a pitcher of any age, let alone a fireballing workhorse who will turns 43 on Aug. 4. You watch the back-slide of other aging pitchers such as Randy Johnson, and it makes you marvel even more.
But there is no reason to pity Clemens. Pity instead the Astros fans, who have been suffering through a three-month-long hangover after the intoxicating buzz of a playoff run that came within a whisker of the World Series.
Feel sorry for the faithful who watched Clemens falter in Game 7 against the Cardinals, then waited on the edges of their seats while their hero spent the bulk of the offseason working on his golf handicap and trying to decide if he would return in 2005. ...
* * *
Folks, I can't attend myself, but as you may have seen in the comments, readers Suffering Bruin and Icaros are putting together a Dodger Thoughts get-together, and I hope many of you will take the opportunity to meet in person.
For the full message, check below in the comments, as I'm sure Suffering Bruin will re-post it one more time.
* * *
Please feel encouraged to continue leaving your comments on Vin Scully in the previous post. The father-in-law of one of our commenters, Pepperdine professor Mike Gose, has an appreciation of Scully available here that is simultaneously intellectual and heartfelt. ...
... Scully's broadcasting is an art in the sense that he, like painters, composers, actresses, and dancers, makes judgments based on qualities that unfold during the course of action. Qualitative forms of intelligence are used to select, control, and organize the coverage of a game including tempo, tone, pace, and forward movement. Scully reads the emerging qualities of a game and responds with qualities appropriate to that game whether the drama of a close world series, or the leisure of a Saturday afternoon game after the pennant races have been decided. ...
Kelly my darling, you are my sunshine;
When we're together I feel fine.
Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly,
Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine,
* * *
Yep, Kelly's ours. He proved it.
Thursday night, long after the game was over, I saw footage of Kelly Wunsch sitting on the bullpen steps, head in his hands, after his injury replacement, Franquelis Osoria, gave up a game-winning three-run home run to Todd Helton. Except for the uniform and the sunny skies, the image of Wunsch's distress would have fit right in with anything we saw from London during the day - which I suppose, puts the whole thing in perspective. But I really felt his pain.
So here in fantasyland, as the game of attrition continues, there's lots of whistling in the graveyard, with people suggesting that the odds look so bad for the Dodgers tonight against the insanely talented Roger Clemens that they must look good.
Me, I'm a diehard - and I'm prepared tonight to die, hard. I look at tonight's game as the best chance to predict a no-hitter against the Dodgers that I've seen in a while.
Admittedly, the Dodgers can be thankful tonight's game isn't in Dodger Stadium. Did you know that Clemens has a road ERA this season of 0.20? One run in 46 innings. At home, his ERA balloons to 2.22.
The Dodgers might have Ricky Ledee tonight, might have Jeff Kent, but perhaps more likely will start the same lineup that we saw in Colorado on Wednesday. And that doesn't bode well against a future Hall of Famer who, somehow, keeps getting better even into his 40s.
Besides, Clemens is the one looking for revenge. In his last (and I believe only) start against the Dodgers, 363 days ago, he gave up a sixth-inning three-run home run and lost, 3-1. Of course, it will be revenge against a different group of men. Paul LoDuca hit that home run, and only one player from that winning Dodger starting lineup will be there tonight - Jayson Werth.
Don't get me wrong, I'm eager both for the potential of a Minute Maid Miracle and the possibility of history for Clemens. I can't wait for the game. But I don't detect a change in which way the winds of fortune are blowing for the Dodgers.
* * *
Eric Neel of ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine is working on a feature on Vin Scully. He e-mailed because he'd "really like to include the thoughts, impressions, and experiences of longtime listeners/Dodger fans ... what sets Scully apart in their minds, what some of their favorite memories of him (and his calls) are, what kind of role they feel he's played for Los Angeles (as a community and identity) over the years, etc.?"
My favorite call of his in recent memory, outside of the 1988 Kirk Gibson home run call, is this one finishing the Friday night game against the Yankees in 2004:
Imagine a seven-year-old spying Superman on a fly-by. That's how you have to hear Vinny's call on the final pitch of the game (by Gagne) - a called strike three, of course.I keep waiting for the perfect words to come to me to describe Scully, but the problem is just that - I feel they need to live up to who he is, and I don't know if I have them yet.
There's one thing I would say, and I hesitate because it's so morbid, but it just is what it is. If I can imagine one person that I've never met, whose funeral I would need to go to, even if I couldn't be inside the church or burial ground, just to be in the vicinity, to pay my respects, to be with him and to say goodbye, it is Vin Scully.
Dodger Thoughts on the Radio
I can be heard on AM 1540 today at either 1:05 p.m. or 1:25 p.m., talking about the Dodgers and about Dodger Thoughts, as a guest of former Dodger announcer Ross Porter. Many thanks to Porter for the invitation. Porter himself is guest-hosting in place of Petros Papadakis between 12 and 2 p.m. today and Friday.
It appears you can listen via the Internet by following this link.
Update: Porter was extremely generous in the interview in many ways. He explicitly promoted the site, even getting the URL mentioned. He praised not only me but the commenting readers as some of the most knowledgeable Dodger watchers around. And he showed how dedicated a Dodger Thoughts reader he is, which I have to think means something to the casual Dodger fan listening.
I'm feeling increasingly comfortable in these assignments, which was good today because this was my longest interview yet - about 12 minutes. I still stammer more than I'd like, but the nervousness is gone, so at least I can focus on fixing the "you knows." And enunciating. And being funnier.
The rundown was something like this:
1) Introduction, where Porter says the Internet features no better writer about the Dodgers than me. Poor, poor Internet.
2) Asking about Baseball Toaster, the host site for Dodger Thoughts.
3) How Dodger Thoughts got started - I explain the origins about my brother being my initial audience and leave out the part about me being bored at work the day I began it.
4) Discussing the comment threads - I extoll our community while trying to make it clear we're not Web weirdos. Venture that many people find it weird to watch a game now without having Dodger Thoughts alongside - perhaps my most aggrandizing comment for the site, but something I've certainly heard people say.
5) Porter read a healthy portion of my Tuesday post on Hee Seop Choi verbatim. He had done so periodically last year, but this was the first time I actually heard him myself.
6) Talk about how I write several times a week - I say I never write when I don't have anything to say, but I often find something. The polarizing topic of Choi alone seems to account for weekly appearances.
7) Asked what the top topic of late has been, I say it's the "is the season over" question, framing the discussion the way I like it: Not buyer vs. seller, but whether the Dodgers should be focused on buying for 2005, 2006 or both.
8) Porter brings up Adam Dunn as an example, and I concur that the Reds outfielder has been a hot topic among the commenters, though I myself tend to speak more philosophically and have yet to take a position on individual trade targets.
9) What's the other hot topic? Oh, there's some talk about Jim Tracy, I say. Passionate defenders as well as people who feel, uh, strongly about him the other way. Lineups and bunts are mentioned, at which point I save a ramble by getting off perhaps my best line of the day - that whether the bunt is right or wrong, the Dodgers just flat out can't seem to do it.
10) Porter asks me about the atmosphere at Dodger Stadium has been like. Restless, to say the least, though I don't know if it's only because of the losing or because of other factors.
For most of the interview, I was trying to be sure not to ramble too long, but on the last two questions I must have started thinking I could talk forever. Porter had to wrap things up quickly after that - otherwise, for sure I would have started talking about The Godfather - but we got the DodgerThoughts.com URL in one more time before the chat ended.
Among every other reason I wish the Dodgers had retained Porter is the selfish one that he has been one of the biggest champions of this site. It was really great to appear on his show today - not only a pleasure, but thanks to Porter, awareness and appreciation for the site may well increase. (Of course, we'll know this place is bigtime when I don't take the time to break down every interview I give.)
Anyway, to those who listened, thanks. And if you're a new reader arriving here after hearing about Dodger Thoughts on the radio, welcome!
'Chum in the Water'
* * *
The current major league standings, pro-rated to 162 games.
87-75 .539 NL East
This is just a random idea off the top of my head, but in the face of the unbalanced schedule (which I happen to like for its emphasis on division rivalries, but which is unfair as far as determining wild cards), what if the wild cards went automatically to the second-best team in each league's best division.
* * *
I continue to hold fast in my belief that there's no way Jeff Weaver signs a contract extension with the Dodgers during the 2005 season. He might return to the Dodgers after becoming a free agent in the offseason, but no way he and the Dodgers shake hands before then.
But if nothing else, the parties continue to talk, according to Bill Plunkett of the Register:
Weaver described the situation as putting "chum in the water." But neither side has risen to the bait, yet. ...
"That phrase is probably accurate," DePodesta said. "We're certainly at the beginning stages. ... They have given something to us, nothing very definitive in nature." ...
Neither side would say who took the first step to initiate the discussions. But it is unusual for a prospective free agent represented by Boras to negotiate let alone sign during the season, an indication that Weaver might be the motivated seller in this relationship. ...
Weaver is making $9.35 million this year. Boras dismissed the idea of a "hometown discount" that would have Weaver taking less from the Dodgers than he could get on the free-agent market just to stay in Los Angeles.
That would mean the Dodgers might have to make Weaver not only their highest-paid starter (ahead of Derek Lowe, scheduled to make $9 million in the second year of his deal with the Dodgers) but also their highest-paid pitcher (over Eric Gagne who will make $10 million in 2006).
I just don't see it happening.
* * *
For posterity, the salaries of Wednesday's starting lineup:
$316,000 Oscar Robles
* * *
Ross Porter will be talking baseball as a guest host on 1540 AM today and Friday between 12 noon and 2 p.m.
So, if Jeff Kent goes on the disabled list, anyone up for a nostalgic trip down Joe Thurston Lane? Just for old times' sake?
According to the Rockies' press notes, Tuesday's game was only the second in Coors Field history without a walk. The other came June 19, 1999. Tuesday's game also did not have any hit batters, sacrifice flies or sacrifice bunts, "meaning total plate appearances matched total at-bats, a rarity for sure."
* * *
Bob Timmermann recommends: an interview with former Dodger general manager Buzzie Bavasi on The Business of Baseball.
Some excerpts, in Bavasi's words ...
(Commissioner) Happy Chandler liked to say that the vote was 15-1 against bringing Jackie to the major leagues. Hogwash. At the meeting Horace [Stoneham] said he would vote for the move because his club was within a mile of Harlem. Mr. Wrigley said he would vote yes because 35% of his business throughout the world came from the black people. Bill Veeck said to the Dodgers: Hurry up and bring him up because I have an African-American that might be better than Jackie. Meaning Larry Doby. John Galbreath said it was a club matter not a league matter. No vote was ever taken. ...
Mr. Rickey asked me to go to Pittsburgh with him. And said, I'm sorry I was going to stay with the Dodger group, whom I knew. And he wrote me a letter saying if anytime he could help me, all I had to do was pick up the phone. So, we couldn't bring (Roberto) Clemente up [from Montreal] because we had to keep him on the club under the old rules if he got more than a $4,000 bonus. And I know that Rickey had first [pick in the] draft, so I flew to Pittsburgh. And he agreed with me that he would take John Rutherford that would have let us keep Clemente. So I'm home free and I call Fresco and we were happy about it. And this was a Friday. The draft is on a Monday. Sunday evening Branch Rickey, Jr. called and said "Buzzie, the deal is off" and I said, "Why?" And he said, "My father and Walter had an argument and he called my father every obscene name in the book therefore he's going to take Clemente" and that was it. ...
Sandy (Koufax) was a local boy. Talking about (Walter) Alston now, Alston didn't want to pitch him because he wasn't ready. He was too wild. He just couldn't come close to home plate. And [Alston] didn't want him to pitch in front of the home folks because he was a Brooklyn boy. He got to California and he still didn't pitch him in '58 and Sandy wanted to quit, as a matter of fact. We talked - I talked him out of it, but Walter Alston was the only one who had a great deal of faith in Sandy Koufax. Al Campanis and Fresco Thompson thought we made a mistake. I didn't have an opinion because I hadn't seen Sandy pitch before he signed. If it hadn't been for Walter Alston, our friend Sandy Koufax would not have made it in the major leagues. He had a great deal of faith in him. Both he and pitching coach Joe Becker deserve all the credit in the world for their patience with Sandy. And their belief in him. ...
* * *
Toastmates Will Carroll and Mike Carminati are quoted in this deconstruction of Joe Morgan by Tommy Craggs of SF Weekly. Here's an excerpt from the piece:
Joe: I don't read books like (Moneyball). I didn't read Bill James' book, and you said he was complimenting me. Why would I wanna read a book about a computer, that gives computer numbers?
Me: It's not about a computer.
Joe: Well, I'm not reading the book, so I wouldn't know.
Me: I'm not --
Joe: Why would I wanna read the book? All I'm saying is, I see a game every day. I watch baseball every day. I have a better understanding about why things happen than the computer, because the computer only tells you what you put in it. I could make that computer say what I wanted it to say, if I put the right things in there. ... The computer is only as good as what you put in it. How do you think we got Enron?
"How do you think we got Enron?" Deep. Very deep.
He's Just Not That Into You
You'll find it on Hee Seop Choi's nightstand.
Choi is Jim Tracy's backup first baseman. It's time to recognize things for what they are. I don't agree with it. I feel that with bodies falling everywhere, you have to find a way to get him in the lineup regularly - not because he is so great, but because the alternatives are worse.
But Jim Tracy clearly doesn't feel that way. Choi only plays when Olmedo Saenz needs a rest. Does this make sense? Not to me, but I've given up waiting and wondering each day whether this will be the day Tracy comes around.
Saenz has the third-highest OPS on the team, behind only injured J.D. Drew and Jeff Kent. It's not as if Tracy doesn't have a reason to start Saenz. So we can end Choiwatch 2005: It's going to take a serious injury or a Cesar Izturis-like slump for Saenz to drop below Choi on Tracy's depth chart.
Some in the comments have asked why Paul DePodesta doesn't pull rank on Tracy and order him to play Choi. Some have even said that DePodesta's failure to do so is just that - a failure. My reply:
It's not like DePodesta is watching Tracy play Joe Shlabotnik at first over Choi. We know that DePodesta is not an iconoclast, that he works with people like Logan White. In a world where you pick your battles, it's understandable that DePodesta is willing to let this one go.
DePodesta is the one who signed Saenz for 2005. He has given Tracy this choice. Saenz's season-long production - however much it may be declining as we speak (he has a .601 OPS and no home runs since June 3, compared to Choi's .786) - has augmented this choice. And Tracy has made his choice. I don't like it - I would play Choi at least against righties - but I don't have to like it. I'm only me.
So Jim, you don't have to give us these tortured "I didn't want Choi to face the Sagittarius - it's not a good sign for him" explanations. We can all own up to reality.
Choi might get a start tonight, with Kent and Saenz aching. But it'll be a spot start. The Dodger manager is just not that into him.
* * *
Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu has the fifth-highest EQA in the National League and is the top right fielder in the league, according to Baseball Prospectus. Jack McCaffery of the Delaware County Daily Times wants to trade him, partly because of what the team could get in return, partly for other reasons.
"There would be the message a trade of Abreu would shout into the clubhouse and beyond," McCaffery writes. "Not that Abreu is a lazy player, but he is probably the most popular Phillie in the laundry room, for he has yet to submit a pair of trousers with a grass stain. And he is either unable or unwilling to back up to the right-field wall on a consistent basis to turn doubles into outs. An MVP candidate? His numbers say so. But should he lose that election, there should be no protest, for his defense is not likely to contribute to any victories."
Over at Mike's Baseball Rants, Mike Carminati adds that McCaffery isn't alone in questioning Philadelphia's love for Abreu, writing that "I can assure you that Abreu is about as popular with the local yokels as O.J. Simpson at a Brown family reunion."
The left-handed hitting Abreu is 31 years old and has had EQAs of over .300 for eight consecutive seasons. He is making $13.1 million this season, is owed $29 million for 2006-07 and has a $2.5 million buyout for 2008.
Those salary figures scare me, but for those of you who want to make a big splash this year and beyond ... well, you'd have to be prepared to say goodbye to your favorite Dodger pitching and hitting prospect.
Of course, the fact that McCaffery wants to trade him is almost certainly meaningless.
* * *
After missing 54 games with an ankle injury suffered on a slide at home, Jose Vidro of Washington returned Tuesday - and had to slide at home.
"I tried to get my legs up, my knee up, so that I wouldn't get anything stuck out there," Vidro told The Associated Press. "But it was so exciting. You don't know how much this means to me. I almost cried. I'm not going to lie. I was so emotional. I love this game. I love to be out there, put my uniform on."
Hard not to like this guy after that...
Who Goes There?
* * *
Suspense: Today's Dodger press notes do not have the name of the player that Odalis Perez is replacing on the active roster. The announcement won't come until shortly before game time, apparently.
[Update: Cesar Izturis goes on the disabled list, retroactive to June 30, I believe. This would seem to take him out of the All-Star Game. ... J.D. Drew is not going to have surgery, but is due back in September at the earliest. Four of eight Dodger position starters now occupy injured reserve: Drew, Izturis, Milton Bradley and about half a point each for Jose Valentin and Ricky Ledee.]
However, there is news that second-round 2005 draft pick Josh Wall has signed a contract with the team, passing up a scholarship to Louisiana State. Wall was the Louisiana high school player of the year in 2005.
Also from the press notes: The Dodger active roster has 42 career home runs against Colorado. Jeff Kent has 30 of them. Hee Seop Choi (37 at-bats) and Olmedo Saenz (47 at-bats) have four apiece.
* * *
The message to Choi back in April was to be aggressive, be be aggressive. But it wasn't a message everyone was supposed to hear (perhaps even Choi), and it was a fine thing Monday that it skipped past Oscar Robles.
From Tony Jackson in the Daily News:
In the four games (Cesar) Izturis has missed with his balky right hamstring, Robles has gone 10 for 19 with two doubles and four RBI. And he has done it in a remarkably professional manner, one reminiscent of the first two weeks of the season when the Dodgers bought wholly into hitting coach Tim Wallach's philosophy of methodically massaging the count with every at-bat.
As the club gradually sank further into the abyss after winning 12 of its first 14 games back in April, it also gradually sank further away from Wallach's tried-and-true formula. But since necessity thrust him into the everyday lineup, Robles has singlehandedly brought it back.
The lithe infielder saw a total of 34 pitches in his six at-bats, including nine in his first one alone, when he began the game by singling on a full count off Rockies starter Byung-Hyun Kim.
* * *
Giovanni Carrara picked up his sixth victory of the season Monday, moving within a game of Jeff Weaver in his bid to lead the team in wins this season.
That's right. Giovanni Carrara.
Carrara has allowed no runs in his past four innings and two runs in his past 10 1/3 innings (1.74 ERA).
* * *
As highlighted in the comments - a Washington Post feature on Vin Scully today.
* * *
Happy birthday, Rich Lederer ...
July 5, 1955. My birth announcement in the Long Beach newspaper the following day read as follows:
THIRD CHILD TO LEDERERS
It may be another 20 years or so before it becomes a reality, but the Baltimore Orioles apparently have another future bonus baby in the George Lederer household.
George, night sports deskman on the Independent, announced very sleepily Tuesday that his wife, Pat, gave birth to their third child, Richard Allan, in the wee hours of the morning at St. Mary's Hospital.
Mrs. Lederer and the seven pound, eight-ounce "Little Leaguer" are doing fine as are Richard's brother, Tommy and sister, Janet. George is still fighting the cobwebs. ...
* * *
Update: I missed this earlier, but Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register asked Paul DePodesta the question we've all been pondering ... how do J.D. Drew's injury and the current standings influence the Dodgers' trade posture?
DePodesta hasn't officially closed the door on competing this season - but if you read between the lines of his quotes on Plunkett's article, you can see him fingering his Get Out of 2005 Free Card and leaving himself an out ...
"I think the emotional part of you that is frustrated by the injuries might react that way," DePodesta said of writing 2005 off as a lost cause due to the injuries. "But I can tell you that is not the way we're going to approach this. We will continue to evaluate any potential deal's cost in terms of talent but we're not prepared to give up on this season." ...
DePodesta said trade talks have become more serious but he still sees most teams as reluctant to deal "at least until after the All-Star break."
"We'd love to (add an impact player)," he said. "I'm not sure if that guy is available."
Headlines You Expected on March 1:
Robles, Chen Drive in All Four Runs in Dodger Victory
Not to mention, Good Luck Finds Dodgers - First Time Since April?
1) A shot off Jeff Weaver's foot caromed directly to Olmedo Saenz at first base instead of over the center field fence.
2) A pop fly in the infield by Jeff Kent gets caught in a random wind gust and falls for a base hit.
3) Five balls off the bat of Oscar Robles find their way for base hits.
I guess this is what makes the Rockies the Rockies.
So the Dodgers, awaiting word on whether J.D. Drew needs season-ending surgery, are 1-0 since the injury. They shave a game off their deficit to the Padres and Diamondbacks, who have the misfortune of playing outside the division while the Dodgers are in Colorado.
Take 'em where you can get 'em.
This is only the third time since June 1 that the Dodgers won on the same day that the Angels lost. Since their eight-game winning streak ended April 20, the Dodgers have won three in a row only once.
Congrats to Chin-Feng Chen on that long-awaited first major-league hit - nearly 34 months after his major-league debut. And congrats to Robles as well.
Hits in June for Cesar Izturis: 9.
Drewless Dodgers Elevate Chen
* * *
For those who wondered how many Dodger outfielders would have to be injured for Chin-Feng Chen to get another chance, the answer is ... well, I can't count that high, but x = today. Chen, who was outrighted off the 40-man roster in the offseason, gets his spot back as Paul Bako moves on to the 60-day disabled list (and, it should probably be noted, most likely out of Dodger life forever.)
Chen has 10 home runs in 61 games with Las Vegas this season, split almost equally in left and right field.
(This report comes from the Dodger press notes, which also tell us that if Cesar Izturis actually plays in the All-Star Game, he will be the first "I" position player in the game's history. Before Izturis, there was no I in All-Star Team - until relief pitcher Jason Isringhausen made it.)
With the injury to J.D. Drew, the Dodger offense - particularly the power - becomes even-more top-heavy toward the infield. Several have wondered whether Drew's absence will decrease excuses for Hee Seop Choi not to play, but unless Jim Tracy is willing to play Mike Edwards or Antonio Perez more frequently in left field (or shortstop, I suppose), I can't see how Drewlessness would change things for Choi.
More to the point of Choi's playing time is whether Tracy will stick to his plan to preserve the health of Olmedo Saenz by limiting his innings. Given that the Dodgers have no clear No. 3 hitter (assuming Jeff Kent remains at No. 4), this remains to be seen.
Saenz, by the way, is an example of a player who would be more valuable to a contender than to a budding also-ran. I'm sure there are people who want Saenz around in 2006, and I'm not sure I'm not one of them. I remember being amazed at how many people were so sure Saenz didn't belong on the roster as Spring Training was ending. At the same time, though, Saenz is the kind of guy who appears to the naked eye unaffected by pressure, making him worthy of a July or even post-waiver August auction. And given that Antonio Perez offers an equivalent player at third base, except for brandishing speed instead of power, the Dodgers might to well to parlay their Saenz redundancy somehow and leave the corners to Choi, Edwards and A.P. (and soon, Jose Valentin).
Update: See what I mean. Choi sits against righty Byung-Hyun Kim. Saenz bats fourth at first base, effectively settling that debate. Repko bats eighth and plays center field.
I know all the reasons why Antonio Perez shouldn't learn left field on the job in Denver, but none of them currently win me over. I guess I need to see him fail there first.
That unfortunate spot where a baseball smashed J.D. Drew's wrist could be the break Paul DePodesta needs - a Get Out of 2005 Free card - if the Dodger general manager chooses to use it.
As it happens, it could be the break that ensures Jim Tracy's return as manager next year as well, but that's another story.
Certainly, there are those who are going to blame DePodesta for allowing Drew's bone structure, slow reflexes, lack of heart or propensity for Job-like rites of passage onto the team, that will insist that Sunday's injury was inevitable and another in a series of mistakes by DePodesta - mistakes that are in fact notably difficult to find in number.
As it happens, the aggregate days that fundamental Dodgers like Drew, Milton Bradley, Ricky Ledee, Jayson Werth, Jose Valentin, Eric Gagne, Odalis Perez, Brad Penny, Wilson Alvarez, Cesar Izturis and others are spending on the sidelines are more than even a fair evaluation from DePodesta's detractors could have anticipated. Yep, many of these fellows have injury histories - just like players from other teams that haven't gotten hurt. Can you digest that fact? Players with injury histories do not always get hurt, and certainly not all at the same time.
Perhaps for the future, DePodesta will take a longer look at the Games Played column of the stat sheet. Fair enough.
But that's not even the relevant point today.
With a return from Drew and Bradley this month nowhere in sight and the simultaneous determination that Ledee will mainly be used as a pinch-hitter after he is activated, the Dodgers are missing about 2 1/2 starting outfielders for the time between now and the training deadline - their Nos. 3, 5 and 6 hitters.
Odalis Perez will return from the disabled list this week, but the starting pitching - the last two games aside - is the one area where the Dodgers can't show much immediate improvement.
Whatever remaining run the Dodgers might have in them for 2005, it doesn't seem to have the possibility of starting before August or even September. (Anyone up for a 29-0 final month?)
For three months, the Dodgers have been contenders who, only in the event of a collapse, might turn into sellers. It seems reasonable to suggest that the collapse has arrived, and that now they should become sellers who, only in the event of a miracle, should turn into contenders again.
For all those who don't want to mortgage the fish pond to serve a shark, there are gazillions more who don't want to do it for the sake of a flounder.
And - this is the newsy part - no one is going to ask DePodesta to.
Some have been writing off the 2005 season since August 2004. Others have been doing it since January. Some since May, some since June and a gaggle more will have done so in the past 12 hours.
Even with the team within a week's worth of games of the National League West lead, in the face of the latest injury, not even DePodesta's hugest fans may expect him to salvage 2005.
I, for one, always believe that baseball miracles can happen, because they happen all the time - elsewhere, anyway. But I simply can't imagine hardly anyone asking DePodesta to manufacture a miracle at this point.
For years, for decades, there has been a perception that the people of Los Angeles won't tolerate a rebuilding year. I have always found this to be one of many false perceptions that float around Dodger baseball. The fans of this city will tolerate anything as long as they can see a rationale behind it.
DePodesta's rationale up to this point has escaped understanding by some, but this marks a chance for a new beginning. This is a chance for DePodesta to make intelligent moves anyone can comprehend. A chance for DePodesta to bridge the gap between those he has won over and those he has alienated, the Dodger Stadium equivalent of red states vs. blue states.
DePodesta can acknowledge 2005 didn't go to plan. His backers will say, "Yeah, that's too bad." His haters will say, "Duh." Either way, all should be on board with shaking the Dodger Etch-a-Sketch and redrawing for 2006.
According to MLB.com, DePodesta said after Drew's injury that he remains a buyer and not a seller. That's an understandable reaction when you haven't had time to digest what has happened, but upon further reflection, a different conclusion is reachable.
Or to put it another, perhaps more tolerable way - remain a buyer, by all means. Just be a buyer for 2006.
Does DePodesta have the strength to accept 2005 is a loss? Does he have the strength to do this in July - considering that it's almost inevitable that he will have to do so by October?
Can he endure several more months of nyah nyah nyahs from the told-you-sos in Dodgerland who will attest they saw this coming a mile away - mostly for incorrect, chemistry-laden reasons?
The rockslide of misfortune that has hammered the 2005 Dodgers has let DePodesta off the hook - if he is willing to let himself off the hook. The future of this team remains tremendously bright, and misfortune tends to reverse itself. It's very possible that in a year or less, all will be forgiven and forgotten.
The Wider It Gets, The Farther They Drop
* * *
Here are the current overall major league standings if you remove one-run decisions, which may have some arguable element of clutch but certainly have the largest element of luck involved.
I don't know why I felt so much like knocking Washington and San Diego down a peg this afternoon - I just did. Doesn't make the Dodgers look any better. Helps Cleveland and Pittsburgh noticeably, though.
Oh, that National League West. All in the bottom 10.
2005 Non-One-Run-Game Standings
39-18 .684 St. Louis (.630)
31-21 .596 Minnesota (.570)
31-26 .544 Texas (.532)
32-32 .500 Philadelphia (.506)
26-29 .473 San Diego (.543)
24-37 .393 San Francisco (.430)
Wow, Look at the Time
* * *
Hope to update with more later, but still recovering from the snowstorm. In the meantime, open chat away ...
Update: Someone in the media is defending Paul DePodesta: Keven Chavez of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune ...
But one might ask, what about that great team chemistry DePodesta tinkered with?
Well, when I think chemistry, I think of the 2002 world champion Angels. They probably had less talent than the teams they beat in the playoffs, but they won.
Then in 2003, Angels general manager Bill Stoneman left the team almost entirely intact, and the defending champions finished below .500.
So where was the chemistry? Did it disappear?
Did Stoneman turn into Stupidman? Of course not.
And has DePodesta turned into Stupidesta? Absolutely not.
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with the Los Angeles Dodgers
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