Monthly archives: September 2005
The Final Weekend
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Three games to go (unless there are four):
American League East
American League Wild Card
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Fred Claire has a tribute to former Dodger coach Monty Basgall, who died last week at age 82.
Tracy Goes the Eric Karros Route
Years ago, Dodger manager Jim Tracy earned credibility with his ability to see things as they were. He saw that Eric Gagne could extinguish a ninth-inning fire and let him have at it. He saw that Eric Karros did not deserve to be a full-time first baseman and benched him.
Karros groused until the Cubs came home, but Tracy held his ground.
But today, it's the introspectiveless Tracy who has become the bitter, incendiary emblem for pointing fingers at anyone but himself, and his comments in this morning's papers are probably the ultimate signal that he will soon be gone.
Until now, everyone has felt injuries played a role in the Dodgers' poor season. Some have criticized Paul DePodesta for signing injury-prone players, others have felt that the cumulative injuries were beyond what DePodesta could have rightfully expected.
Until now, there hasn't been anyone who felt that if all the players had been healthy, if J.D. Drew, Milton Bradley, Odalis Perez, Cesar Izturis, Jayson Werth, Kelly Wunsch, Eric Gagne and everyone else had avoided the disabled list - however remote you consider that possibility - that the Dodgers couldn't have won more than 90 games.
"Would [health] have made us a 90- to 95-win club? No," Tracy said to Paul Gutierrez in the Times.
This is a leader? This is an organizational soldier? This is the classy guy I keep hearing about?
This is a manager?
Tracy told the press that the only way you win a division title is with familiar faces on the team. That's the Jim Tracy Secret to Managerial Success. It's a fallacy, he told the Daily News, to think that a manager should mold together the talent he has been given.
What in the world else is left for you to do, Jim?
For that matter, Tracy believes the Dodgers were doomed from the start even though 60 percent of the team in April was with the National League West champion Dodgers in 2004. And part of the departed group was Steve Finley, himself a new face to the team. Tracy's entire premise is dubious.
Tracy has become nothing but a self-sob story, a persistent excuse-maker. He's the blind leading the unblind.
In contrast to what some sportswriters wrote in today's editions, this was not the first time Tracy has criticized the construction of the 2005 Dodgers. Still, his latest comments seem to indicate that he has already resolved to leave the Dodgers, that he has heard he will not be offered a contract extension and that he has no intention of staying without one.
Whether that's the case or not, Tracy has blown up his own castle. He has rid DePodesta of the need to be politic and buy out the remaining year on Tracy's contract. No organization should stomach a manager who says he can't possibly win 90 games with full seasons from multiple All-Star players. Tracy might have been speaking out of frustration, but his thick-headedness is amazing. With these comments, he should feel lucky if he gets to manage anywhere in 2006, let alone Los Angeles. I think I might actually pity him, except that no doubt there are plenty of people in baseball who agree with his bogus assessment, who will continue to point every finger at DePodesta for using, like 99 percent of the country's population, a technological innovation created decades ago, who will continue to call Tracy classy and cerebral and a players' manager.
But for the Dodgers, on to the managerial search. May it be quick and efficient and satisfying, and not distract DePodesta from continuing to nurture the team on the field. May it yield a manager who takes responsibility for wins and losses, and not just the former.
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Dodger Thoughts hero Pedro Astacio has quietly become the National League West champion San Diego Padres' No. 2 starter, as David Pinto notes at Baseball Musings. Astacio has a 2.20 ERA over his last seven starts, lasting at least six innings in each of them, and might give the team a combo with No. 1 starter Jake Peavy that could pull off an upset in the first round of the NL playoffs.
It should be noted that five of those seven starts were against some of the worst offenses in baseball (Colorado, Arizona, San Francisco and twice against Washington), but Astacio did hold Philadelphia and Atlanta to three runs in 13 innings. A further warning sign is that Astacio averaged only 4.8 strikeouts per nine innings - but he also allowed only 2.4 walks and 0.4 home runs. Some of that comes from pitching in Petco Park. In any case, I'll be rooting for Astacio to be the hero, against the odds.
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The Cincinnati Scenario for Jim Tracy appears to be out, as Reds interim manager Jerry Narron told the Dayton Daily News that he would accept an offer to stay on as the team's manager.
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The races with four days to go:
NL Wild Card
AL Wild Card
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Grammar time! I've noticed people talking about the "Losers' Dividend" and the "Loser's Dividend," but not the "Losers Dividend," as I wrote it. It's ultimately personal preference because you can make a case for all of them, but I just wanted to make sure people knew that my way wasn't a typo, and they can feel free to be faithful to the original if they like.
Nouns can function as adjectives in cases like these - even plural nouns. (For that matter, even Cade McNowns). You can say "Cardinal football," "Jazz basketball," "Kings hockey," "blues music." You can say "Dodger baseball" or "Dodgers baseball." True, if there's only one entity involved, you would want to use the apostrophe before the "s," as in "winner's circle." And if you want to emphasize the possessive for a group, you can say "trainers' room." But the kind of dividend that is characteristic of losers can be called the "Losers Dividend."
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In other matters of earthshattering importance ...
Who do you nominate to wear Paul Lo Duca's old No. 16 if Dodger manager and Lo Duca homagist Jim Tracy leaves after this season?
In the minors, the number is worn by Henri Stanley, so I'm considering the major-league version up for grabs.
Oscar Robles has the appropriate late-blooming, rags-to-riches story. But I feel giving Robles the number would be only temporary. I somehow don't expect Robles to be on the team 13 months from now.
Maybe we should give it Edwin Jackson, to inspire him. It would be our way of making Jackson an Orel Hershiser-like Bulldog. Right now, Jackson's wearing an ungainly 58 that could very well be the source of his back spasms.
On the other hand, Giovanni Carrara will probably free up Hershiser's 55 itself after this season. We could steer that to Jackson directly. But then you put the pressure of following in Hershiser's footsteps directly on the young righthander.
Giving Jackson No. 16 is a subtler, sweeter, svelter gesture. The more I think about this, the more I picture Jackson excelling in, gracing, a lean, 'teen jersey.
Release the Hounds
Deal, says the Times.
Jim Tracy asks for a contract extension.
The Dodgers think on it, maybe.
Tracy weighs second-hand rumors of outside interest and his long-term job insecurity against his desire to keep his place in Dodger Stadium, his family in Los Angeles and his belief in his ability to survive or outlast Paul DePodesta.
Day 7 of the escape window comes. If Tracy quits, he gives up a year's guaranteed salary to look for work.
If he doesn't quit, he sets up a very good bluff - he can stay, knowing he's more popular right now than DePodesta. Then, if they fire him, baseball is his oyster. Four winning seasons on his resume and a note from his mom on the fifth. Ninety-nine percent of the sports' population has granted Tracy absolution on 2005 (not that he doesn't deserve some - the injuries, of course, played a role).
What's the only bad thing that could happen to Tracy if he stays? Somehow, the Dodgers lose games despite being healthy and talented, perception shifts against him, the Dodgers don't resign him after 2006 and there are no job opportunities anywhere.
This is a remote scenario to begin with, but the implication from Steve Henson's article today is that the Dodgers should or will take the high road and fire Tracy if they don't plan on offering him a contract extension beyond 2006:
Should the Dodgers decide not to meet Tracy's request, they could fire him shortly after the season and would be responsible for his 2006 salary only if he couldn't find another managerial job.
Speaking hypothetically, DePodesta said the Dodgers would not wait until after the opt-out period to fire Tracy "out of respect for what he's done here."
Now we really have a peek at Tracy's hand. Having requested his contract extension and gotten this response, he can make DePodesta and the Dodgers look bad simply by making them honor their end of the original contract. If they vote to keep him for only one year but don't offer him an extension, even though that's all they've ever promised Tracy, they're cads (would the world dare consider DePodesta prudent?). If they try to influence Tracy's managing after retaining him and he refuses to be handled, and then they fire him, they're two-bit execs who have gone back on their word.
Tracy wants more guaranteed years. Jeff Weaver, according to unsourced reports by Tony Jackson in the Daily News, wants five guaranteed years, with the leverage that even guys like Jeff Weaver are prizes and not just Kevin Brown crumbs. Everyone's making big demands while saying "they just want to be here."
It remains ideal for all parties if Tracy left Los Angeles for a place where he would have more power and appreciation (though DePodesta has never voiced anything but appreciation for Tracy in public). But it isn't logical for Tracy to opt out and leave a guaranteed year on the table when there are so many reasons for him to stay.
The answer, straight out of divorce court, is this. The Dodgers can't offer an extended commitment to a troubled marriage. And they can't wait for Tracy to make the first move out the door. And it's not even apparent that he's worth keeping for just the single year - not because they'd be the cads, but because Tracy might be completely out of their control.
When the season ends, the Dodgers should offer to buy out Tracy's 2006 contract year, at $750,000, as a thank you for his years of service, and wish him the best.
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Dodger VORP Leaders (pitching excluded), according to Baseball Prospectus:
1) Jeff Kent, 63.0 (626 plate appearances)
Three of the top 10 have spent the entire season with the Dodgers, four have gotten a half-season's worth of plate appearances.
11) Dioner Navarro, 9.5 (181)
Myrow making more cumulative offensive contributions than Izturis. Hmm ...
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Ross Porter is sitting in for Fred Roggin today on 1540 AM between 2 and 4 p.m.
Update: David Singer, executive producer for "The Big Show with Mason and Ireland" on 710 AM, said that Paul DePodesta will be interviewed at 3:25 p.m.
The Rightly Rated Farm System Begins to Deliver
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It's like being called a bad parent when you weren't even pregnant yet.
One of the phonier damnations of the Dodger farm system accuses the team of failing to produce a bonafide star from the minor leagues, despite the Dodger system being highly rated for years. The flaw in the argument is that until recently, these so-called high rankings for the Dodger farm system did not exist.
Both Baseball Weekly and Baseball America had low rankings for the Dodger system as this decade began. As recently as 2002, the Dodgers were considered incompetent at the draft, with their No. 1 pick, two-way player James Loney, an apparent anachronism - a tools player from high school drafted ahead of proven, specialized college talent. That the dim Dodgers were putting Loney at first base instead of on the mound befuddled analysts even further.
The Dodger farm system did not begin to regain favor in the public eye until later that summer when Loney, who was only 18, surprised everyone by justifying the Dodgers' faith in him with a spectacular season at the plate in Rookie ball. Then in 2003, the Dodgers delivered what perhaps became their highest-rated draft in many years, highlighted by pitchers Chad Billingsley and Chuck Tiffany. Still, skepticism remained over the Dodgers' reliance on high school talent, so that even just two years ago, not everyone was sold on the team's minor league roster.
It really wasn't until 2004, when Joel Guzman came to life, that perception of the Dodger farm system began to soar. Again, this makes sense, because the infusion of talent in the farm system is both recent and young. Willy Aybar signed a huge bonus in 2000, but was only 17 at the time. Guzman was signed from the Dominican Republic in 2001 - but he was only 16 at the time.
So those who have taken the failure for the Dodger farm system to produce a star in 2005 as a sign that it has been overrated have lost perspective on time. The struggles of most of the 2005 rookies accurately reflect the state of the Dodger minor league talent prior to 2002. With the possible exception of Chin-Feng Chen, none of the rookie hitters for the major league Dodgers this season ever really impressed scouts after they were drafted. Other than Jonathan Broxton (still only 21), Hong-Chih Kuo (in between injuries) and the strange case of Edwin Jackson, the same holds true for the 2005 rookie pitchers. Jason Repko, a 1999 first-round draft choice, epitomized the until-recently feeling about the Dodger minor leaguers. He was considered, like most Dodger draft choices, a flop. The fact that he has barely scratched out a major-league OPS above .600 in 2005 is no disappointment - it's as much or more than anyone thought he would do until 2004.
With Aybar and Dioner Navarro (a minor leaguer acquired by trade from the Yankees via Arizona last offseason) emerging in the past two months, the first set of better-regarded position players in years have taken superb first steps. At the same time, Aybar and Navarro are not even the hottest prospects in the Dodger system at their positions. If the 22-year-old Aybar and the 21-year-old Navarro, who have combined for an on-base percentage of nearly .400 in about 250 plate appearances, can continue to develop the talent they have shown, imagine what the future might hold for the Andy LaRoches and Russ Martins, for Guzman, and so on. The fact that these futures might not arrive until 2007 is really, truly beside the point.
It might turn out that Aybar and Navarro will have sophomore slumps and put their careers in perception limbo like Jackson. It might turn out that we never know who's going to be great until they get to Los Angeles.
So let me just leave things where I began. The Dodger farm system has not promised more than it has delivered. It has not been highly rated for years. The rise of the farm system, both in perception and reality, is a recent development, and the prospects are arriving right on time.
The Losers Dividend
The last two Dodger games I have attended, a loss and now today's victory, have been the two most pleasant I've been to all season. Both came after the team's sub-.500 status was assured, a condition that seems to have weeded out the high expecters (expectants? expectationers?) who would only be satisfied by a victory. The best that people hope for now is that a baseball game be played. That's all. Throw the first pitch and we've already won. The Dodgers of September 2005 offer no other guarantees, and so we find ourselves at the major league equivalent of Little League, where it's a celebration when someone doesn't fall on his head and it's considered poor form to rain criticism or curb hope. Call it the Losers Dividend. It's a very relaxing, freeing payoff (abetted by the ease of ingress and egress to Dodger Stadium that the smaller crowds provide), enough to make one up and move to Kansas City or Tampa Bay so this can be reinvested and experienced permanently.
There were a couple of people who violated the spirit of the day. They both seem like nice enough people on the outside and seem to not lack for friends, but still they thumbed their portfolios at the Losers Dividend. One was the chap sitting two seats away from me, who couldn't find any redeeming aspect in what lay before him and almost from the opening pitch was trying to hurry the game along so he could get home to barbecue. For those who have criticized Jim Tracy for benching Hee Seop Choi and for those who have criticized Choi's acquisition, you might find it interesting that this fan had no kind words for either. Choi does "nothing" as a player, and Tracy is the worst manager in baseball, according to this fan. Again, his delivery was easygoing and he struck me as the first guy who would help you change a tire if you were stuck on the side of the road, but for today's game, he packed a full kit of contempt. And you just wanted him to let go a little bit like the rest of us, and take the opportunity to let baseball be baseball.
The other spurner was Tracy. With two on and two out in the sixth inning today in a 2-2 tie, Choi stood in the on-deck circle with Willy Aybar at the plate. As Aybar inched closer to a walk, it occured to myself and others that Choi could have the game's make-or-break at-bat. It also occured to us that with a lefthander on the mound, Tracy might pinch-hit for Choi, even though it would be the perfect opportunity in this meaningless game, during a part of the season that Tracy himself has said he's putting people like Brian Myrow in situations to gain information for 2006, to give Choi a key at-bat against a southpaw. A perfect Little League moment.
Aybar walked to load the bases, and Choi took a couple steps toward home plate. Sitting (thanks - seriously, thanks - to some generous seats from an anonymous Dodger Thoughts reader) in the lower part of the Field Level, I could see and hear Tracy yell at Choi to come back. Either Choi had not gotten an earlier message, or Tracy did not counsel Choi that he wouldn't bat against a lefty with the bases loaded. It added insult to insult. Either way, as Tracy sent Jason Phillips up to pinch-hit, it caused me to have my one bad moment of the game and yell at Tracy like I was the protective father of the 10-year-old Choi. This was not what the game was supposed to be about.
My reaction sprung from the assumption that this was a time for the kids, a time to get a glimpse of the future in the present. Upon reflection, I realized that maybe Tracy was Little Leaguing it after all, that he was trying to get as many guys in the game as possible and this was his best spot for Phillips, who in fact hasn't played much lately. No one thinks Phillips has much more of a future in Los Angeles, but of course, perhaps Choi doesn't either. So I'm going to grudgingly, very grudgingly, let Tracy off the hook on this one. And it has nothing to do with Phillips getting a single that keyed the Dodgers' six-run inning. I think it was objectively the wrong move for the organization and personally disappointing, but Phillips is a human being too. I'm not going to stay mad. That would be my waste of the Dividend.
September 25 Open Chat
September 24 Open Chat
It Was Never a One-Year Vision - Don't Make It So
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Dioner Navarro might be a beacon as the 2005 Dodger season fades into night, and here's why.
Navarro has performed better than we had a right to imagine based on his 2004-05 minor league numbers. One calendar year after Lo Duca was traded, the Dodgers may have a better catcher at about 5 percent of the cost.
It can get tiresome to hear about cost savings when you aren't always sure where those savings are being allocated, but it's safe to say that saving money on a better player is a universal good thing. And Navarro, who has been away from the team this week to be with his ailing newborn son, may prove to have some heart and soul to boot. (And you can still be a fan of Lo Duca's and say that.)
But this brings us to a larger point worth addressing about Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta. The Dodgers are careening toward last place and are pretty much hoping the season's clock runs out before they get there, a condition that to me is as surprising as it is disappointing. Some want to make Dodger manager Jim Tracy the scapegoat, if not the fall guy, for this, others want it to be DePodesta with a sprinkle of owner Frank McCourt.
But the performance of Navarro serves as a reminder (not that it's the only one) of the fact that DePodesta has made his moves with much more than 2005 in mind. I've been saying this a lot to people offsite this week, but I need to say it here as well: You don't trade Shawn Green for four prospects and $6 million if your chief focus is 2005.
And the news on those prospects, in case you missed it in Monday's minor league escapade:
I certainly don't think it was DePodesta's goal to out-and-out sacrifice 2005 for the future. But the disappointment of 2005 does not imply that DePodesta's vision for the future is off base.
Of course, as has been discussed on 6-4-2 recently, the Dodgers have been incoherent as an organization. There's almost complete agreement that DePodesta and Tracy are not on the same page, with utter mystery as to what page the itchy, inscrutable and Sitrick-encased McCourt is going to turn to.
DePodesta has politely preached the virtues of healthy disagreement with Tracy this season. That implies that Tracy has not been executing DePodesta's plan, but that DePodesta has tolerated it (as opposed to this deifying of Mike Edwards and Jason Repko being DePodesta's plan all along). DePodesta scores points in the "works well with others" category, but the time has come for him to become the heavy.
In my freelance career, I sometimes find myself working for my brother, who has tremendous personal and professional esteem for me. He didn't hire me until I had proven myself elsewhere, and he is way too concerned about the quality of his work to carry me if I didn't produce to the level he wanted.
Fortunately, we do find ourselves on the same page almost all the time, but there are times when we disagree. And when we do, it doesn't matter that we've been writing with each other for nearly 10 years or brothers for nearly 40. He's the boss. His way goes. And if he has to be blunt about it, he will be. It doesn't make me happy, but it's what professionals do.
I don't want to hear any more about "healthy disagreement." Brainstorming is one thing - I don't ever want to think that the Dodgers censor ideas within the organization, because as Lucy Ricardo as my witness, you never know what crackpot scheme just might make sense.
But the chain of command needs to be enforced.
A manager can listen to all the arguments a player might have about whether he should bunt or not, but the manager ultimately makes that decision unless he has complete confidence in letting the player improvise. Either way, there's 100 percent support for the decision.
A general manager can listen to all the arguments a manager might have about whether he should start Smith or Jones, but the general manager ultimately makes that decision unless he has complete confidence in letting the manager improvise. Either way, there's 100 percent support for the decision.
Tracy has an out clause, but I'm increasingly unsure he will use it. Not because he wouldn't find another job - at a greater salary and with greater say in personnel matters - but because he has a vertiable cocoon of support among the Los Angeles print and broadcast media and perhaps even the McCourts. That is managerial gold, folks. Tracy is guiding a fourth-place team without a scratch on him. That is practically Walter Alston/Tommy Lasorda-level job security.
It's hard to imagine Tracy not thinking that the burden of proof has been placed on DePodesta, and that a year from now, Tracy could be the last man standing.
The only reason I can see Tracy leaving the Dodgers next month is if DePodesta (with the necessary support of McCourt) asserts his authority over Tracy. Then, Tracy becomes vulnerable, and has to face the idea that he might be looking for a job at the end of 2006, with no assurance that there will be as many openings then.
But whether Tracy stays or Tracy goes, the next two years are about DePodesta. Not this year, which was clearly defined last offseason by the Green trade, the resistance to Adrian Beltre's charms, and the retention of prospects as a win-if-we-can, build-for-the-future campaign, a year in which the idea of letting Tracy have his way was still not only romantic, but plausible, a year in which the glow of the 2004 division championship wafted in the air before fading.
This is a message for the fans, for the media, and for that matter, everyone in the Dodger organization. DePodesta should not be judged on this year alone. No general manager worth his cilantro works on a one-year program. And frankly, two years is too soon to judge as well, unless the general manager has Maloned the team into long-term contracts it will take half a decade to bail out of. J.D. Drew, Derek Lowe, Odalis Perez and Brad Penny - that's next to nothing compared to what Sheriff Kevin saddled the Dodgers with.
But beginning this offseason, this has to become DePodesta's team. For real. If everyone is going to hold him under the microscope, he must make sure it's his cells they're actually scoping.
It's my feeling that we will all be rewarded if this happens.
September 22 Open Chat
As if it weren't open before ...
Three Is a Magic Number
And not because that's the magic number for the Dodgers' elimination from postseason play.
Happy birthday to my little girl. She's three today, and she's got a lot to say ...
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I would be very guarded on not letting the past two weeks yield too much optimism on Jose Cruz, Jr. and Willy Aybar, or at least recognize that we're probably seeing them at their peak as far as 2006 is concerned.
I do think Aybar might be a nice little infielder if the other parts around him are strong. But the Dodgers can't afford too many guys like him with as little power he offers.
Consider this batting order. This is the minimum amount of homers I'd like to see.
1 - 5 HR
That means only two players in your lineup can hit fewer than 10 homers. Say those guys are Aybar and whoever plays shortstop. Can the Dodgers find six other positions to hit double-digit home runs, to combine for 135 homers? Don't forget, you're not going to get many homers out of catcher. That means you need the remaining five positions to contribute a bunch of taters.
J.D. Drew and Jeff Kent probably can combine for more than 50. But if Aybar is in your lineup, you really need your outfield corners and first base to knock the ball out of the park on a regular basis.
Update: Somewhat related to the above, Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus chops at the legs of one myth today: that the Chicago White Sox win without hitting home runs.
Watching some of the coverage of the White Sox the last couple of days, I'm struck by how the "Sox are a small ball team" meme just won't go away. They're not a small-ball team! They're about as reliant on the home run as they were a year ago, and among the most reliant on the home run as any team in the AL, as James Click's numbers show:
White Sox Pct. Of Runs on HR
2004: 44.4% (AL: 36.8%)
That's the White Sox: a team that scores more than 40% of its runs on home runs. You can steal all the bases you want, burn up two or three outs a game on sacrifice bunts and caught stealings, but if you're this reliant on homers to score, you're not a small-ball team.
Sheehan goes on to argue that in fact, the White Sox are winning because how much they have improved at run prevention. He does not make the case that home run power translates directly to victories.
Below is a rough estimate of what the 2006 Dodger payroll might look like if the team did nothing between now and April. Obviously, the team will do something - moreover, some of my figures are no doubt off at this point - so this isn't meant to be taken as anything more than something of a starting point to see what the Dodger needs are and what they might have available to spend.
The total comes to about $65 million. One could argue that the Dodgers will spend at least $20 million and perhaps as much as $35 million more. Priorities would be a starting pitcher and a slugger, which are affordable under this construct (keeping in mind that a trade probably would be required to get a quality pitcher). On a secondary level, the Dodgers need things like some bench augmentation, but I don't think I'd worry too much about the bullpen.
Jose Cruz, Jr.? Milton Bradley? I don't know. With the seven figure salaries players like them would command and no committment to them yet, I'm going to leave them off for now.
The Hee Seop Choi question? I'm not gonna go anyhere near there today. I'll assume he's back until I hear otherwise. And as for Antonio Perez riding the bench behind Oscar Robles - it's not an endorsement on my part. I'm just treating Robles as the incumbent (with the added assumption that Cesar Izturis starts the season on the disabled list).
Corrections to the salary figures are welcome. I haven't found what the major league minimum for 2006 is, by the way.
Rest of 40-Man Roster
Weaver and Tracy
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After Jeff Weaver has thrown 90 pitches in a game this season, opponents have gone 29 for 97 against him with five walks, three hit by pitch, six doubles and five home runs, for a .352 on-base percentage, .515 slugging percentage and .867 OPS. From pitches 1-90, opponents are only on-basing .275, slugging .419 and OPSing .694.
Jim Tracy might use these numbers to make his case for keeping Weaver. On the other hand, the same numbers might make an argument against Tracy himself. Sample size warnings do apply, but I'd certainly have had a tighter leash on Weaver than Tracy had this season.
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The following is a chart that I hoped would make more sense than it ended up making, but I'm running it anyway. It shows how the Dodgers and their main pitchers did against each National League opponent, ranked from the best offense to the worst.
I had thought it might show that the Dodgers were building up false hopes about their pitching against weaker opponents. And while that's true in the case of San Francisco, for example, the performances against San Diego (surprisingly good offense) and Colorado (surprisingly the worst) muck up the works.
Do note, however, that the Dodger offense is about average. But despite playing in Dodger Stadium, the team is 13th in ERA, ahead of only Arizona, Cincinnati and Colorado.
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Despite reports in recent days that the Dodgers are about to break their team hit-by-pitch records both on offense and by the pitching staff, Bob Timmermann sends in the following corrections:
On offense, Timmermann says, the record is is 72 in 2003.
The team record for Dodger pitchers is 75, set in 2000. "Park and Dreifort each hit 12 that year and Hershiser hit 11 in 24 2/3 IP (!!!!)," Timmermann writes.
The Bigger They Are ...
If the White Sox end up missing the playoffs after leading Cleveland by 15 games, I was thinking I'd rather have had the Dodgers' season then theirs.
Nah, maybe not. I guess 1951 still beats 2005 any day.
The Dodger Thoughts Comprehensive, Non-Definitive 2005 Minor League Report
Hi. On the following two threads, I've attempted to provide a snapshot of every minor leaguer in the Dodger organization - everyone on the AAA Las Vegas 51s, the AA Jacksonville Suns, the High-A Vero Beach Dodgers, the A Columbus Catfish, and the Rookie-level Ogden Raptors and Gulf Coast League Dodgers. It was beastly - 174 players in all (Ericksons not included) - but I hope you find it of some worth.
I grouped the players by position and then by age, and then ordered them according to a very subjective perceived distance from Los Angeles not according to who has the most ability or greatest potential so please don't get caught up in the order. These articles are primarily meant to provide a reference guide or introduction not a projection of who will do what. For one thing, I'm woefully shy on defensive information that would better inform any rankings.
In addition, there's a lot of position movement in the minors. I did my best to put players with their proper position or put them under "Utility" if there's any doubt. But it's possible that a few should have been listed in different places. I'm open to corrections.
Beyond that, hope you enjoy these brief minor league hellos in the following threads. If you have any comments, you can leave them on this thread, so that everyone's conversing on the same page.
And away we go ...
The Dodger Thoughts Comprehensive, Non-Definitive 2005 Minor League Report
Part 1 - Hitters
(Level of Depth: 5)
The Dodger Thoughts Comprehensive, Non-Definitive 2005 Minor League Report
Part 2 - Pitchers
These Magic Moments
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We are Gob.
Two ninth-inning comebacks for the Padres this week; the Dodgers lose two consecutive games in their opponents' final at-bat and blow a five-run lead to the Rockies. Five games left in the hat right there. Last year, the Dodgers had the magic - this year, it's San Diego, in a Tony Wonder kind of way.
Good to know, just in time for the Emmys ...
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Odalis Perez and Wilson Alvarez are on track to be activated Tuesday, Paul DePodesta told Tony Jackson of the Daily News. Jonathan Broxton gets a recall from Jacksonville, while the rest of the Southern League titlists earn some well-deserved vacation time. Sure, I'd like a peek at some, but we'll see plenty of them in the future.
September 17 Open Chat
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Brad Penny cannot allow four runs in six innings. Not to that team, not then.
All the Dodgers needed this week was 4.50 ERA starting pitching.
'With Humility and Backbone ...'
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A short capsule of the Dodger season written by me appears on Baseball Analysts today under the heartwarming headline, "What Went Wrong."
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Derek Lowe. Man, oh man.
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Raul Tavares of Dominican Players has been offline most of the season, but he resurfaced to drop this political bombshell: Raul Mondesi
In case you were worried, Mondesi plans to juggle both his baseball and political careers at once.
Tavares got the story (no longer available online) from Listin Diario of Santo Domingo. Tavares wrote that Mondesi has the support of "a big member of the party" to become the most powerful right arm in city government.
* * *
As we choke on Polish's dust, the other three of us are neck-and neck-until Italian Sausage makes his move. German Sausage responds by giving him a wider berth, stumbling as he does so. Our empty heads collide; we trade paint. ...
Curb the Road Rage
* * *
It's a wonder that there aren't more traffic accidents in this town with half the people seeing green when the other half sees red.
As it happens, I'm color-blind, so the green traffic light looks white to me. I'm going through the intersection on faith. It's a dangerous place - not the place to drive angry. And even I can see red when it's right in front of me.
I continue to be mystified by the need to pin the Dodgers' misfortune on a single villain, when there are so many reasons for the 2005 calamities. The devil is not in our midst, folks. People, writers and readers, shouldn't act like he is.
Front offices make bad decisions. Managers make mistakes. Players get hurt or lose the plate or the ball. Umpires make bad calls. It all happens. This year, it all happened. Going forward, hopefully, people will learn how to do better.
This could actually be a fun time, with the toe-tripping Dodgers trying to rally in the final minutes to win their tiny conference tournament and the right to play Duke in the first round of March Madness. We could all be rallying behind our Big Bumbling Wrecking Crew. Instead, we're fighting each other. I guess that's democracy, baseball style.
But I think we've blown off enough steam for a thousand kettles. I realize that somehow a fight for the past, present and future of the organization seems to be at stake every night, but maybe for at least one night, we need to just let the baseball game be the baseball game. Pretend it's Little League - because in a way, it is - and be the good Little League parents, not the bad. Maybe we could do that tonight.
Update: By the way, despite what I wrote in the last paragraph, this post is by no means directed only at the readers of this site. It's for everyone.
* * *
Update 2: As many noticed, all three Dodger outfielders made errors in the second inning Tuesday.
* * *
Update 3: The 911 calls by Milton Bradley and his wife, Monique, relating to their domestic confrontations are reported on today by Larry Altman of the Daily Breeze. (Thanks to L.A. Observed for the link.)
Who's Above Average?
* * *
The Hardball Times now offers in-season ERA+ stats, or ERA "measured against the league average, and adjusted for ballpark factors," with 100 as average. Here are the current 2005 Dodger rankings:
You can also see one indicator of which pitchers have been the luckiest by subtracting their expected Fielding Independent ERA (xFIP) from their actual ERA. Here are the Dodgers, luckiest to unluckiest:
Revisiting the Jackson-for-Hudson Rumors
Remember in December when rumors flew that the Dodgers would include Edwin Jackson in a trade for then-Oakland, now-Atlanta pitcher Tim Hudson? At the time, I wrote that Hudson's short-term prognosis was good even if his long-term fortunes were anyone's guess. (I bolded one paragraph this morning for emphasis.)
Anyone who thinks he knows how Tim Hudson will perform over the next several seasons ... doesn't know.Now, I don't know how realistic it really was to acquire Hudson, who has an ERA of 3.36 and a Value Over Replacement Pitcher of 38.9 (23rd in baseball) in 2005. But the issues I raised last year seems to have been more than valid - with the interesting twist that you might substitute two different names for Miller and Hanrahan - Chad Billingsley for starters.
By the way, the other name rumored to be included with Jackson in the trade? Antonio Perez.
* * *
With the Dodgers this season, Jackson is holding opponents to a .588 OPS when he draws contact or gets a strike on the first pitch (9 for 34, no home runs, no walks). When his first pitch is a ball, the opponent OPS more than doubles, to 1.207 (9 for 26, two home runs, nine walks).
That needs to improve, starting tonight.
* * *
Side note from my Dodger Thoughts archives tour:
I pondered whether baseball would be a better game with a no-leadoffs rule. A runner could only go once the pitch has been thrown. That would eliminate the balk rule and pickoff throws to first - neither of which represents the game at its best.It would also speed up the game - which is an issue for some people, though not really for me.
* * *
Update: Dayn Perry of Baseball Prospectus finds that an all-star team from the National League West would, in fact, be good enough to beat the Red Sox - and even the Cardinals with Scott Rolen out.
NL West Position/Role Player VORP C Ramon Hernandez, Padres 14.0 1B Todd Helton, Rockies 45.7 2B Jeff Kent, Dodgers 58.6 3B Troy Glaus, Diamondbacks 46.6 SS Omar Vizquel, Giants 17.7 LF Moises Alou, Giants 39.4 CF Milton Bradley, Dodgers 23.8 RF Brian Giles, Padres 59.0 DH Shawn Green, Diamondbacks 41.3 SP Jake Peavy, Padres 50.2 SP Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks 32.5 SP Noah Lowry, Giants 32.2 SP Brad Penny, Dodgers 31.3 SP Derek Lowe, Dodgers 20.1 RP Scott Linebrink, Padres 22.5 NL West Total 534.9 Red Sox Total 427.1 Cardinals Total 480.3
Power to the People
Dodger Stadium was blacked out for only 20 minutes today, according to MLB.com. So Jeff Weaver can be plugged in and charged up for the Rockies.
* * *
It was only last year. Dodger Thoughts, January 27, 2004:
Many Dodger fans are impatient with lack of change to the roster. Here's the flip side (from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune).
Dodger fans impatient with lack of change? How things ... change.
* * *
Track Barry Bonds' return here:
Bonds enters play today with a homerless streak of six games and only two homers in his last 12 games. Admittedly, in those 12 games, Bonds walked 25 times.
My counsel: Bonds will be able to hit but won't be unoutable, so challenge him anyway. And by all means, opponents should make him work in the outfield.
* * *
Supporters for 19-year-old 2005 Dodger draft pick Jayson Whitehouse, who is fighting cancer, raised more than $7,000 on his behalf. Event co-organizer Sue Asselin wrote to thank Dodger Thoughts readers for "for their generous donations, as well as their many well wishes and emotional support that they sent to Jayson."
More from this story in Foster's Daily Democrat:
Whitehouse's treatment is wrapping up at the hospital and after an evaluation is set to return to Farmington, where he will live with his girlfriend, Sayer, said Mike Funk, a family friend. Whitehouse also plans to go back to school in January, finish his sophomore year, and resume his baseball career.
Funk added in an e-mail to me that Whitehouse received "a huge morale boost" thanks to a letter from Tommy Lasorda, but there is always more that could be done. Let me echo my appreciation for those who stepped up to support Whitehouse.
A heartstopping two-game winning streak has kindled hope in some that there won't be a brick wall waiting behind the final curve of the Dodgers' Wile E. season.
The two-game winning streak is small potatoes. The Dodgers have 20 games left this season, and they could play .800 ball, reach the .500 mark overall, win the National League West and enter the playoffs as Coyote Triumphant if they get one thing. Pitching.
If they hold a team to three runs in a game, the Dodgers will win almost every time.
But then you see Edwin Jackson and D.J. Houlton in the starting rotation, and you have to wonder whether the Dodgers can simply break even.
Jackson and Houlton pitch in two of the Dodgers' next three games. The youngsters are not all-World, but neither are they talent-free - it's just that Acme sold them consistency on layaway. Figure out how to get them to an ERA of 3.00 in every start (that means two runs or less if they go only six innings), bring Derek Lowe, Jeff Weaver and Brad Penny along for the ride, and you can book your miracle.
Otherwise, the Dodgers are going to finish right where 5 1/2 months of injury-riddled and generally unfortunate baseball would suggest they should.
Jim Colborn, pitching coach - the challenge is yours. Beat the Roadrunner.
A Happier 9/11
Originally published September 11, 2003
Twenty years ago today, Dodger Stadium hosted its greatest game.
It began swathed in bright blue skies and triple-digit temperatures. When it ended, 228 crazy brilliant minutes later, shadows palmed most of the playing field, and every Dodger fan who witnessed the spectacle found themselves near joyous collapse.
The game was between the Dodgers of Steve Sax and Pedro Guerrero, of Greg Brock and Mike Marshall ... and the Braves of Dale Murphy, of Bruce Benedict, of Brad Komminsk.
In the end, however, it came down to one man. A rookie named R.J. Reynolds.
Dodgers-Padres Sunday Open Chat
The Dodgers placed J.D. Drew on the disabled list July 4, 81 games into the 162-game season. Since then, the Dodgers' biggest remaining left-handed power threat, Hee Seop Choi, has started 16 of 59 games and seven of the past 42.
Yes, I realize Drew and Choi don't play the same position.
Antonio Perez, whose on-base percentage is exceeded only by Jeff Kent on the active roster, has made 17 starts since Drew's injury.
And the great defenders playing third base ahead of Perez are ...
Not-So-Random High School Football Game Callback
* * *
Our very own Bob Timmermann is scheduled to be interviewed on Fred Roggin's High School Sports show tonight on 1540, between 10:35-10:40 p.m. Timmermann will be recounting in tremendous depth the St. Francis-Arcadia game, with no thanks to the New York Times, Baseball-Reference.com or Retrosheet.
In his honor, please enjoy a special showcase for tonight's Random Dodger Game Callback.
By Bob Timmermann
September 9, 1921
Giants starter Fred Toney gave up nine hits and struck out none, but he still went the distance to give New York a 6-2 win over their rivals, the Dodgers, before a crowd of over 18,000 at the Polo Grounds. The loss dropped the defending NL champions Dodgers to 69-65 and they were 12 ½ games behind second place New York. The Pirates (.60606) had a slightly higher winning percentage than the Giants (.60583), but the Giants were actually a half game ahead because they had played five more games than the Pirates.
Brooklyn manager Wilber Robinson started Leon Cadore, but he did not last long. He gave up a leadoff single to center fielder George Burns. Shortstop Dave Bancroft followed with another single and when right fielder Mike Griffith's relay throw to the infield went astray, Burns scored and Bancroft went all the way to third. Robinson decided that this wasn't Cadore's day so he brought in left-hander Dutch Ruether to relieve, who gave up another run and the Giants led 2-0 after one inning.
The Dodgers got a run back in the second. Zack Wheat reached first on an error by second baseman Johnny Rawlings. Hi Myers followed with an infield single to second. A ground out advanced the runners and Wheat came home when Giants second baseman Frankie Frisch threw wildly on a Pete Kilduff grounder. Frisch made an error on the next play to load the bases, but Ruether grounded into a double play to end the threat.
The Giants scored in the fifth when Toney led off with a walk and scored on a triple by Burns. The Dodgers got the run back in the sixth when Wheat got a double, went to third on a ground out and scored on a fly ball by first baseman Ray Schmandt.
New York put the game away in the seventh. Ruether had walked two batters, but was almost out of the inning facing George Kelly with two outs. But Kelly singled in a run to make it 4-2. Kelly then stole second on a delayed steal. Ruether, unnerved by the play, threw a wild pitch to score Ross Youngs from second. Irish Meusel singled home Kelly to make it 6-2.
Brooklyn would finish the year in fifth place with a 77-75 record, 16 ½ games behind the first place Giants, who would edge out the Pirates by four games.
Wheat led Brooklyn's offense that year, as he did during most of his career. He batted .320 with 14 home runs. Third baseman Jimmy Johnston batted .325 and stole 28 bases.
Burleigh Grimes led the NL in wins with 22 and had a 2.83 ERA, but the pitching staff was in transition. Veteran Jeff Pfeffer was traded to St. Louis in midseason for Ferdie Schupp. Neither player did much for either team. The team ERA was 3.70, fifth best in the league.
Thanks to the New York Times, BaseballReference.com and Retrosheet.
Perhaps Ari Gold will expand into sports representation. For that matter, Stevie Grant, agent to former talkshow host Larry Sanders, might as well. Now that's an agent competition I'd like to see.
* * *
Perfection City: The 40th anniversary of Sandy Koufax's perfect game is celebrated not only by Ross Newhan in the Times but Rich Lederer at Baseball Analysts. Lederer's father George covered the game for the Press-Telegram and served as the official scorer. Rob McMillin has the audio of Vin Scully's ninth-inning call at 6-4-2.
Meanwhile, Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton combined for a no-hitter in the first game of the Southern League South Division playoffs for Jacksonville, the Dodgers' AA franchise. Audio for the ninth inning is here. And Chuck Tiffany threw five no-hit innings for the Class A Vero Beach before the Dodgers lost the rubber game of the Florida State League East Division playoffs, 4-2. According to Goldstein, it was Tiffany's second consecutive start in which he hung five hitless frames. Tiffany did walk five Thursday.
Thursday, Jim Callis of Baseball America rated Billingsley as the Dodgers' top pitching prospect, suggesting that Tiffany, with "average stuff across the board but a lot of moxie," perhaps projects as a reliever, despite striking out 134 batters in 110 innings this season.
* * *
Dodger Thoughts reader Chris Pocino of Paragon Sports Management in Santa Monica e-mailed about a Hurricane Katrina fundrasing effort by Louisiana native David Dellucci of the Texas Rangers. Fnuds raised will go toward the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, which is set up by the Louisiana state government and supported by the Louisiana-based nonprofit organization America's Wetland. If you go through Dellucci's site, you can get a custom-made bracelet; you can go straight to the LDRF site to donate if you prefer.
Hochevar's Going to School, All Right - If You Know What I Mean (Nudge Nudge, Wink Wink, Say No More)
Negotiation fatigue set in for Dodger first-round draft pick Luke Hochevar last week, leading to some topsy-turvy gyrations in the process, according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News:
Hochevar fired Los Angeles-based agent Scott Boras as his advisor. At the behest of his roommate, best friend and Tennessee teammate Eli Iorg - an outfielder drafted by Houston with the 38th overall pick - Hochevar agreed to allow Iorg's San Francisco-based agents, Paul Cobbe and Matt Sosnick, to represent him.
Hochevar, while being advised by Cobbe and Sosnick, agreed to terms on a $2.98 million signing bonus, which would have been the highest ever paid by any club to a non-first-round pick. Before actually signing the deal, Hochevar reneged and went back to Boras. This took place after what Cobbe described as a "heated exchange" over the telephone between Hochevar and someone presumed to be Boras. At the time, Hochevar was at the Tennessee home of Iorg's father, former major-league outfielder Garth Iorg, and Cobbe said he and Sosnick overheard Hochevar in the background while they talked by telephone to one of the Iorges.
"Luke told Eli he was tired and was going to sign their original offer of $2.3 million," Cobbe said. "Eli told him, 'Wait and talk to my guys first,' and Luke was willing to do that. We believed Luke could do better than the $2.3 million, because he probably would have gone seventh in the draft if not for extenuating circumstances regarding his representation."
But since reaching the agreement for the $2.98 million bonus (in "about 45 minutes," Jackson quotes Cobbe as saying), neither Cobbe, Sosnick nor Dodger scout Marty Lamb, sent to Tennessee by Dodger scouting director Logan White, has been able to contact Hochevar. Boras told Jackson that there had been "no change" in his status as Hochevar's attorney, and in a round-the-horn way, he might be right.
Hochevar, for now, remains in Tennessee without attending classes. He could sign at any moment with the Dodgers or return for the next semester in 2006.
Some will certainly question at this point whether Boras is truly representing his client's wishes, and the question of what caused Hochevar to return to or remain with Boras hangs in the air. The counterpoint is that Hochevar's right to sign any contract trumps whatever Boras' desires would be.
Still, one can imagine how confused Hochevar, who turns 22 a week from today, might be. But if Hochevar's true desire is to begin his professional career, the money is there.
* * *
Orel Hershiser fans will probably enjoy this item from Evan Grant in the Dallas Morning News, captured by David Pinto at Baseball Musings. If you're a pitcher, it's nice to have a Hershiser looking out for you.
Texas Rangers rookie starting pitcher Chris Young, 26, left Wednesday's game after one inning, in part because Hershiser had issued a warning that Young's fastball lacked life in pregame warmups.
"It just wasn't worth the risk," (Texas manager Buck) Showalter said. "I didn't like some of the things I was seeing."
What he saw in a scoreless first inning was a fastball that registered only 84-86 mph. Young had been regularly hitting 88-91 and touching as high as 94 on occasion.
* * *
This was an interesting e-mail to get:
"Get Every Dodgers Postseason Game LIVE on MLB.com"
Good to know we're covered ...
Izturis Blaked Out Until Summer 2006
Are you familiar with the hardships of 25-year-old tennis player James Blake?
"In April 2004, the onetime Davis Cup member slid headfirst into a metal net post while chasing a drop shot in practice in Rome," wrote Douglas Robson for USA Today. "The impact broke a vertebra in his neck, and Blake missed the French Open and Wimbledon. Had he not moved his head at the last moment, doctors said he could have been paralyzed."
Blake's father died three months later.
And a week after that ...
"Blake landed in the emergency room with tubes coming out of his body after coming down with shingles, a viral infection often caused by extreme stress," Robson wrote. "His head swelled and the left side of his face was paralyzed."
Cesar Izturis is also 25, and he can feel fortunate, as far as I know, that his struggles aren't as bad as Blake's. He can feel fortunate, as far as I know, that his throwing arm should be as good as it once was, if not better, after the Tommy John surgery that was announced tonight.
But right now, he has to be shellshocked at the way his year has gone from nearly starting an All-Star game to complete inability to perform. Izturis has always struck me as a solid guy - another good character who seems to get overlooked as potshot after potshot is taken at the Dodger chemistry, a guy whose biggest sin was somehow looking like a leadoff hitter to Jim Tracy - and I wish him the best over the next 10 months.
As I write this, James Blake leads Andre Agassi in the U.S. Open quarterfinals, two sets to one. The match is being shown live on USA Network.
Update: Agassi rallies to win in a fifth-set tiebreaker, 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6). And DirecTV loses USA's coverage of the match in the middle of the fifth set. Amazing and amazing.
Update 2: In happier news, Eric Gagne's rehabilitation is going nicely, and he will start playing catch in about 10 days, according to Ken Gurnick at MLB.com.
Odalis Perez is playing long-toss and is about 10 days away from throwing pitches in the bullpen, Gurnick adds.
Update 3: And oh yeah - this!
April 12, 2005
September 7, 2005
The Dodgers win their 63rd and clinch a non-100-loss season.
* * *
A mother once told him that her son had been in a coma for six months or so. Every day at 3:00 she tuned the TV to Gilligan's Island. And then, one day, the boy awoke.
"This is your favorite one," she told him. And he said, "It is my favorite."
"One of my aims when I shot the show," Denver said, "was to bring children out of comas."
It's been almost six months since Opening Day. Perhaps it's time to start airing Gilligan's Island in the Dodger clubhouse.
Maligned Dodger Offense Outperforming Dodger Pitchers?
Major league teams average about 4.7 runs per game. So without taking park effects into account, if you hold an opponent below five runs or score five, you should expect to win.
With the aid of Baseball Prospectus, let's see how the Dodgers have fared in 2005:
Holding Opponents Below Five Runs
The only teams to finish even with or behind the Dodgers in holding opponents to four runs or less were Boston, Cincinnati, Colorado, Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Texas. According to Baseball-Reference.com, none of those teams play in parks that suppressed runs more than Dodger Stadium except for possibly the Reds, whose new stadium's park effects have been inconsistent.
But note this:
This is just a start, but the above indicates that for all the problems of the Dodger offense, all the questions about lineups, when the pitching did its job, the Dodger offense backed it up.
(Note: I have run out of time to calculate where the Dodgers rank in winning percentage in games where they allow four runs or less. Their rank would certainly drop, but that might not be relevant, mainly because the teams that have allowed fewer runs more often have racked up victories in those situations.)
As for the offense ...
Scoring Five Runs or More
When the offense has done its job, the pitching has let it down. Only when the offense went well above and beyond six runs in a game could the team be assured of victory. (The Dodgers are 28-0 when scoring at least seven runs.)
By these indications, the victories that the Dodgers did manage to get in 2005 had more to do with their offense than their pitching. Of course, there's room for improvement in both areas, and based on what talent is going to be available in the offseason, it may in fact be easier for the Dodgers to outslug opponents in 2006 than outpitch them. But as far as looking back at 2005, the bigger problems might still have been with the pitching.
* * *
How do they spell relief outside the casinos of Las Vegas? E-N-D-SPACE-O-F-SPACE-S-E-A-S-O-N.
Nick Christensen of the Las Vegas Sun tracks the travails of the Dodgers' AAA affiliate at season's end:
Autumn will be here shortly, and the sooner all those involved can forget about the 2005 baseball season, the better.
At 57-86 after Sunday's 8-5 loss to Salt Lake, the 51s finished with the second-worst record in the Las Vegas franchise's 23-year history, a game ahead of the 56-87 record put together by the 1994 squad, which was affiliated with the Padres.
The last time the Dodgers' Triple-A team had a winning percentage below .400 was in 1965, when the Spokane Indians went 57-90.
On the bright side, first baseman Brian Myrow's promotion today, though perhaps insignificant to the Dodgers' greater fortunes, meant the world to him. According to Christensen's article, Myrow had been considering retirement earlier this season:
He held back tears as he explained what it meant to him to get his first call to the major leagues after seven years in the minors.
"The difficult thing is honestly feeling like you're going to look back on your career as a career minor leaguer, and the time that you would have wasted, that you didn't give to your family," he said. "Whenever you try to maintain focus, you're trying to make it look like you're not wasting your time."
Myrow turned 29 Sunday.
To All the Tracy-Bashers I've Loved Before
Complaints about Dodger manager Jim Tracy are filling an 8 1/2 x 1,111 in. piece of paper. Wrong starters. Bad lineups. Irrational biases. Head-scratching in-game management. All exacerbated by Tracy's gymnastic justifications. I'm pretty much right there with you - whatever strengths Tracy might have, he has these flaws. Whatever roster wounds Tracy has been handed, he's scratched at the scab and made them worse.
Similarly, you've clarified what is longed for in a new manager. Pretty much the reverse of the above. Good enough.
Be careful of that next step.
If you don't have a good reason to suggest a specific name to replace Tracy, don't just throw out a name to fill the void. Continue making your case on what you want in your manager, but if you connect a face to the philosophy, make sure it's a worthy connection.
The "anyone but Tracy" plank weakens the whole platform. It's obviously wrong, since there are plenty of other people who actually would have played Hee Seop Choi and Antonio Perez less or wouldn't even have gotten the value from Milton Bradley that Tracy did get before last month's apparent denouement.
You can do worse than Tracy. If you argue otherwise, you make it impossible to be taken seriously. If you aren't taken seriously, even your worthy arguments are lost.
To say that Tracy is not the worst manager in the world does not surrender your battle. It's not saying that the Dodgers shouldn't still do better. Just like there are worse pitchers than Scott Erickson, pitchers who would have allowed 10 runs a game instead of seven, there are worse managers than Tracy. You can do better and worse.
Don't overstep your facts, or you become no better than those who overstep theirs in arguing on Tracy's behalf. Just endorse your philosophy if that's all you have. Believe me, it's plenty.
If in fact it is important for you to link a name to the search, then do the work. Find quotes from a major league coach that sound sensible. Go to the minor league boxscores and look at some lineup construction. Read some AAA game stories or play-by-play accounts and find out what certain managers down there with a leadoff runner on first.
Or, again, let the Dodger front office do the personnel work and stick with defining the platform.
Picking the perfect manager is hard to do. Don't make it sound simpler than it is, and don't settle for a slight improvement over a manager you have contempt for. Don't resort to the same knee-jerk flights of fraud that buggered you in the first place.
As they say in the biz, write what you know.
* * *
To All the Tracy-Defenders I've Loved Before
Including the man himself ...
At what point do the excuses stop?
Let's say, for argument's sake, that Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta did not present Tracy with a National League championship squad. (Even among those of us who like the bulk of DePodesta's moves realized that the Dodgers still might not be the class of the National League in 2005, that the Dodgers' true ascendancy awaits the maturation of the minor league talent.)
And by all means, let's acknowledge the widespread injuries that shackled Tracy's chances for winning a division in 2005.
So here we are in May, in June, in July, in August, in September. Reality has set in with the Dodgers - just as it has with several other National League teams. They are not going to win 100 games, or 95, or 90, or 85, or 80.
At what point does Tracy take any responsibility for the Dodger performance? The players have. The front office has. How is Tracy exempt? Doesn't that, at a minimum, defy logic?
When the Dodgers had a healthier roster in the spring, they kept losing to mediocre teams. When they had do-or-die games against teams below them in the standings in the late summer, they got hammered. With a division title within reach, the Dodgers have lost six in a row and nine of their past 11 to NL West rivals - teams that like them are carbonated with mediocrity. Forget about the NL pennant race, and look at it as games between Little League teams. The talent level was even, and the Dodgers kept losing.
Sure, anything can happen over a short stretch, and a season's worth of games, let alone a week's, isn't necessarily enough to judge a manager on. So go deeper.
If you value Hee Seop Choi or Antonio Perez as ballplayers, has Tracy used them efficiently?
If you don't value Choi or Perez, has Tracy used them efficiently?
No and no.
Is Tracy good with using statistics to construct a lineup? Not if the widespread dissent from every amateur and professional sabermetrician locally and nationally over Tracy's usage is any indication.
Is Tracy good with playing hunches? Outside of the bimonthly Mike Edwards home run, there's little evidence of it. For every Tracy hunch that works, there are plenty that don't. The group above would be happy to list them for you.
Oscar Robles, 0 for 8 in caught stealing? How does it take so long for Tracy to realize how much of a mudrunner Robles is? Shouldn't it only take as long as about one pregame sprint against a stopwatch? If Tracy is unhappy that DePodesta gave Tracy him a slow team, does running that slow team into a wall make it any better?
I freely admit that there is more going on in the bowels of Dodger Stadium than I can write about. I can't say how tolerable or intolerable the tug-o'-war has been between DePodesta, who has stood behind his manager publicly, and Tracy, who has implied through his comments that the team woes are based entirely on the personnel. (Comparing the deference they show each other, you'd think DePodesta worked for Tracy.) As much as organizations benefit from hosting divergent beliefs, it's hard to believe that everyone's at peace.
So what does it take for people who believe DePodesta and McCourt have problems to also point out that Tracy has problems too? Interestingly, the two people who do this the best are Steve Haskins of Fire Jim Tracy and T.J. Simers of the Times. Despite coming from very different constructs about the game, they are willing to look everywhere to find grievances. However far over the top they go, that they don't rest on a single villain is often to their credit.
But those who feel that Tracy has somehow gotten a raw deal from the team, who feel he was undermined from up top - Tracy included - need to acknowledge that Tracy has made the situation worse.
Throughout the history of baseball, the manager has worked for the general manager (except - or even, I suppose - when they were the same man). In that respect, Tracy's irrational behavior and defiance are somewhat historic. Considering the media uproar in March that accompanied Milton Bradley's reluctance to play right field or Antonio Perez's to play third, isn't it amazing that Tracy is granted carte blanche to ignore the blueprint of his boss?
If a player played with the irrationality, if not outright disrespect, that Tracy manages with, he would be benched, if not suspended.
Instead, Tracy gets a Purple Heart.
When you're given lemons, you're supposed to make lemonade. Tracy's defenders are free to say that he's been given lemons, but they should at least admit that his lemonade has been particularly sour in 2005.
* * *
Don't be extremist. The truth is in between.
Tracy has been part of the problem this year. He hasn't been the entire problem, and he hasn't been none of it.
The Dodgers seem well-positioned to bounce back in 2006, with a budget free of Darren Dreifort and Shawn Green's contracts, a general manager with another year of experience, an improving farm system, and karma that is overwhelmingly likely to be healthier.
The 2006 Dodger manager should be the person who makes it more likely for the 2006 roster to play at its best. That's all we know right now. What we don't know is who that person is.
Maybe We'll Be More Comfortable as Spoilers for a While
Smiling Faces, 1992
Darryl Strawberry: .607 OPS, five home runs
Varsity and JV
* * *
For openers, keep abreast of the Chris Carpenter (2.29 ERA)-Roger Clemens (1.51 ERA) matchup.
And It Was Late in the Evening
* * *
Hong-Chih Kuo will be joined by catcher Mike Rose as the first minor leaguers to expand the Dodger roster in September.
A brief rundown of the highs and lows of September callups since 2000 follows. This does not include players who were already on the team when rosters expanded:
And just for fun ...
Top 10 September Callups, 2000-2004
Bottom 10 September Callups, 2000-2004
Thanks to Retrosheet.
* * *
Remember, kids: Just because one guy makes it on Letterman for losing a bet to drink a gallon of milk within an hour doesn't mean you all would. Drink in moderation, and stay in school.
And don't be trying to scam other people's money with false promises of buying the Dodgers or any other team, either.
(Martin Elliot) Levin, formerly of Grand Haven, allegedly told Steven L. Adams he would put the money in a Boston investment group that was going to make an offer to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers. When that didn't happen, the money was then going to be used to buy a share of the Tigers.
Generation Test: Sounds like Adams would have been better off putting his money in "Fred's Bank."
Oh wait - maybe not.
Police earlier said Levin, who told Adams he had movie star friends and was a Russian lumber baron, obtained an additional $25,000 that was supposed to be invested in a company that supposedly buys and leases bank buildings.
Generation Test 2: "I'm a Russian Lumber Baron and I'm okay ..."
Update: Barry Bonds is virtually bat-ready to be activated, according to media reports, but still needs to work on baserunning and fielding agility. The Giants happen to finish their season series with the Dodgers early this year, with three games next week and four from September 15-18, so it will be a race to see if the Dodgers see Bonds at all. The Giants' final week of games in 2005 are against San Diego and Arizona.
As for the immediate future, the Rockies have activated shortstop Clint Barmes and right fielder Brad Hawpe from the disabled list. Barmes is 9 for 23 with a walk against the Dodgers this year; Hawpe is 15 for 31 with three homers and four walks (1.382 OPS).
Running a little behind this morning due to car trouble, and it's hard to think of anything to else to write about as the Hurricane Katrina reports become more and more overwhelming, with the devastation looking worse, except for the terrorist element, than 9/11. At LACMA alone, there are six co-workers whose families back home have been profoundly affected, and collections on their behalf began Tuesday.
But for those seeking an online refuge from the news, feel free to join in here.
Update: For some reason, I hear Journey as the musical backing. Oh - it must be the Perry last name. Never liked Journey.
Update 2: The early bird Jacksonville Suns pass along the word that talented reliever Hong-Chih Kuo has been added to the Dodger roster. The lefty has an ERA of 1.91 in 28 1/3 innings for Jacksonville with 44 strikeouts. Kuo, 24, received a $1.25 million signing bonus at age 18 but has been limited by injuries.
Also, Guzman has been reinstated following two suspensions: one game by the Southern League and two games by the Suns for violating team rules. Guzman, nursing a sore shoulder, then sat out Wednesday's game despite his activation. Guzman was ejected Sunday after it was ruled he did not touch second base while turning a double play. (Thanks to reader DaveP for the link.)
Jon Weisman's outlet
for dealing psychologically
with the Los Angeles Dodgers
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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