Baseball Toaster Dodger Thoughts
Monthly archives: February 2006


Guzman Left In?
2006-02-28 15:22
by Jon Weisman

Joel Guzman has been given a shot to make the Dodger starting lineup in left field, according to Ken Gurnick of

Though I'm wary of rushing a young'un to the bigs, I don't mind giving out a job that the team was practically begging Antonio Perez to take last summer, if he would just catch a ball.

It's good that the team isn't necessarily satisfied with Jose Cruz, Jr. in left and is open to the idea that it can do better. Whether Guzman is ready to be better, I don't yet know. (I am purposely not mentioning one left-field option, since that has been declared mooter than moot.)

* * *

Reminder: Infielder Ramon Martinez fills no need on this team. Isn't that something we can all agree on? Whatever your feelings on McCourt, DePodesta, Tracy, Choi, Beltre, Steiner, whomever, can any fan be standing up for Ramon Martinez II?

Off Topics
2006-02-28 15:20
by Jon Weisman

Help me, if you can, recall the most memorable non-baseball conversations we've had in the comments. I know car washing wasn't one of them ...

WBC Blues
2006-02-28 05:40
by Jon Weisman

You gotta love baseball's Old Guard, which will let Tommy Lasorda scarlet you if you don't play in the World Baseball Championships and let Grady Little threaten you with your job if you do.

This isn't World War II, fellas. Get a priority and stick with it, or leave everyone alone.

Thanks to Rob McMillin at 6-4-2 for the links. I'm nearing the end of a 10-day period of lighter blogging; during that time, McMillin has been on top of everything. Also, thanks to this site's commenters, who have kept things more interesting than I have.

* * *

February exhibition baseball doesn't get much better than this: Dodgers at Jacksonville, today! Practice ball!

The 'Ready for Opening Day' Trap
2006-02-27 08:00
by Jon Weisman

Most medical reports during Spring Training - with such exceptions as the Team Health Reports at Baseball Prospectus - revolve around whether a player will be ready for Opening Day but say little about the days that follow.

For many players, this is a pointless - if not dangerous - barometer. Readiness for Opening Day is no sign of true health for players with chronic injuries (J.D. Drew being one of the exceptions about whom everyone understands this). Moreover, as we saw with Eric Gagne last year, the desire to be ready by Opening Day can be super self- and team-defeating.

Simply stated, player health updates should focus not only on April 3, but beyond.

* * *

In the wake of another Hee Seop Choi debate flaring in this past weekend's comments, has posted a Frequently Asked Questions page with responses at his site. There might be more to answer, but it's a good first step.

Quiet or Too Quiet
2006-02-25 12:21
by Jon Weisman

I was thinking this morning that this might be the quietist Dodger Spring Training since before Mike Piazza was traded.

But it's sort of a waiting room quiet, filled with the underlying tension of incomplete medical recoveries - not to mention the everloving fear of being blindsided with worse news, like the Gary Shepard bike wreck in "thirtysomething."

There's peace, but not exactly peace of mind.

Old Friends
2006-02-23 08:12
by Jon Weisman

Thirty years, two baseball gloves. Got a Mike Schmidt autograph model a size or two too big at age 8 and used it for 20-odd years, then replaced it with a Ken Griffey, Jr. when Mike's webbing broke in too many places. No one cares that my current glove is almost a decade old, and frankly, I'm not sure anyone would remark if I mended the Schmidt one more time and flashed it again.

Tuesday, I hit the slopes with my 1989 Atomic Arcs, and I barely went 10 minutes without getting a comment. The skis are 200 centimeters long and straight as Sam Malone - no one uses these anymore. It's as if I hit the courts with a wooden racket and a pair of Stan Smiths - it's almost like taking grounders at third with a Pie Traynor (if there were such a thing).

The skis are no Old School affectation ... they're closer to Old School inadvertance. I don't ski enough to buy new skis right now. If I've got a day of major bump skiing ahead, I'll rent something current. But I spend a lot of time cruising with family, and on those days, the Atomics are it.

What's funny about the reactions is how positive most of them are. Sure, there are a few people who just think I'm black-socks-with-flip-flops backward, but most give me a verbal pat on the back. They remember that once upon a time, these skis were state of the art, these were the skis that got through the rough bumps, these were the skis that held speed like few others.

New skis can make a good skier great and a newcomer plenty good. It's this generation of skis that, short of installing an electric eye or something, might massage as much out of a mountain as any possibly can. Baseball gloves have been there for a while. Put someone in the field, and there isn't much you can do with the leather to help them. You get one glove, and you might as well stick with it.

And I like that. I like growing attached to my equipment. I'd like a new car every year as much as the next guy or gal, but I don't need one. My skis, my glove - if they do the job, they're my friends for life.

Looking Back on 2006 (Fill in the Blanks)
2006-02-22 07:52
by Jon Weisman

The Dodgers' xx-xx record in 2006 rested mostly on the shoulders of ...

Best Kind of Reality Check
2006-02-21 09:34
by Jon Weisman

The Dodgers have scheduled a press conference to announce the extension of Vin Scully's contract.

Hopefully, that's all, and there isn't a shoe dropping behind it. (Hate to be on my guard, but...)

But above all, great news!

Blue Sky
2006-02-21 09:34
by Jon Weisman

Vacation extended, I am on a chairlift, experimenting with a phone I may not keep. But the important thing is, it's a beautiful day.

2006-02-20 00:01
by Jon Weisman

Kurt Ainsworth is not the usual Dodger non-roster pitching gamble, because he's only 27 years old. Unfortunately, Ainsworth hasn't pitched in a professional game since 2004, when he got blasted - allowing 34 runs in 30 2/3 innings with Baltimore.

Before becoming injured, he struck out nearly a batter an inning in the minors and 6.4 per nine innings in the majors. There's hope that Ainsworth might have a second wind, but he's in a handle-with-care situation that tempers expectations.

"Ainsworth has never recovered from the broken scapula that reaked havoc on his mechanics," Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus told me, "but Jarrod Washburn came back from the same injury fine. [Ainsworth] needs someone that will tweak his mechanics and not push him."

Organ Grinders
2006-02-18 11:51
by Jon Weisman

Having grown too old to make it worth being marginalized, Phillies organist Paul Richardson is retiring, according to Randy Pennell of The Associated Press.

... when the Phillies moved out of Veterans Stadium two years ago, they scrapped the organ booth. Instead of a prime spot down the first base line in the new park, he was relegated to the concourse, playing only about an hour before the game. No longer plugged into the PA system, his audience had dwindled from the thousands in the seats to the few who happened to stroll by. He couldn't even see the field anymore.

His presence in the concourse was still rewarding; aging church organists could take a turn at the keyboard and get their picture taken with him. But he had to pack up around the seventh inning - right around the time one of his taped versions of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" started playing.

The article mentions Dodger organist Nancy Bea Hefley, whom the Dodgers have de-keyed to such a great extent that she no longer even wants to work every game.

She considered retiring last year but decided to stick around after negotiating a deal that would allow her to take a few games off.

"It's kind of difficult when you're a musician and you're cut back to barely playing," she says. "It does take a toll on the ego."

I hate this. Organ music is better at a ballgame than blaring recorded music. It just is. It's not because I'm some sort of head-in-the-sand traditionalist. One fits, the other chafes and grates.

At 21, Miller Heads for the Bullpen
2006-02-17 14:55
by Jon Weisman

  • Dodger lefty pitching prospect Greg Miller, 21, has all but given up on a career as a starting pitcher, he told Tony Jackson of the Daily News.

    "It's really tough to tell," Miller said to Jackson. "I haven't really thrown more than 45 pitches on the side, which is where I'm at now. I don't know if I'll eventually be able to throw 100 pitches in a game. I grew up as a starter, but at the same time, I really enjoy being able to pitch every other day if needed."

    In an article Thursday for, Ken Gurnick reported that Miller is "feeling better," but that there is still some uncertainty surrounding his mechanics.

    "The organization believes Miller needs to throw from a three-quarter arm slot," Gurnick wrote. "He said he feels best when he keeps his hand on top of the ball during release."

  • If Eric Gagne is to stay with the Dodgers beyond this season, he wants a contract extension - not just fulfillment of his one-year mutual option, according to Bill Plunkett of the Register:

    "The option is not really an option," Gagne said. "I'm either going to be here long term, or I'm going to be somewhere else long term.

    "It's all about respect. I said that two years ago (when Gagne chafed over an arbitration loss), and it's still about respect."

    If only it were that simple. But people put a price on respect, and it's not always the same price.

  • Milton Bradley is a leading candidate for Comeback Player of the Year, at least out of the American League West, suggests John Donovan of

  • Meanwhile, wouldn't that be a twist if April came and Cesar Izturis turned out to be healthy? Gurnick writes:

    Izturis, expected to be sidelined until the All-Star break after undergoing Tommy John elbow reconstruction, took a full batting practice session and was fielding ground balls after throwing from 40 feet.

    "Weird, isn't it?" Izturis said. "I can swing a bat and not feel anything with my elbow. Right-handed, left-handed, doesn't matter. It feels perfect when I swing."

  • Adweek reports that the Dodgers' advertising agency is Young & Rubicam, based in ... Orange County.

    Gregory Solman of Adweek adds:

    Regarding the Dodgers notoriously low advertising budgets, {Young and Rubicam managing partner Rick) Eiserman said that (Dodger chief marketing officer Tagg) Romney "has a better idea of what things cost, coming from Reebok. Just as they've gotten higher and higher talent to run their marketing, their idea of how to sell their seats is more sophisticated."

    The first television work from the agency is expected to break March 15.

  • Ex-Dodger Scott Erickson, invited by the Yankees to Spring Training, predicts a rebirth this year because he has been able to be more aggressive in his offseason weight training, according to Mark Feinsand of

    Erickson wants to get his velocity from 88-91 mph to the 91-94 range, which would make all of his pitches more effective.

    "When your pitches are all the same speed, you can get two strikes on anyone, but you can't get that third strike," Erickson said. "It's a big difference."

    Erickson knows that his chances of making the team are slim, given the number of pitchers with big league contracts already in camp. He appears to be open to the idea of pitching at Triple-A, but he's not ready to concede his shot at making the Yankees' roster just yet.

    Update: Dodger owner Frank McCourt is trying to solve the organization's health problems through a new approach, according to Jackson - though to what extent it will help the 2006 team remains a mystery:

    On orders from owner Frank McCourt, and clearly in response to the rash of injuries that undermined their 2005 season, the Dodgers have solicited the services of Athletes Performance Institute. The firm, which is based in Tempe, Ariz., and has a branch office in Carson, focuses on all aspects of an athlete's physical preparation, including nutrition, strength and conditioning.

    The club has signed a service contract of at least six months with the firm, although team officials won't divulge the exact length of the deal. Charlie Wright, general manager of the Carson office, said the firm has eight people presently working with the club in spring training. They will return to the West Coast on Thursday, but be back here for the start of minor-league camp early next month. ...

    New general manager Ned Colletti has said repeatedly this year's club must stay healthy to compete for a playoff spot. But the API affiliation is strongly geared to the minors, where the Dodgers are deep in legitimate prospects and where less-established players tend to be more receptive to suggested changes in their eating and training habits.

  • Your Blog Is Showing
    2006-02-17 09:19
    by Jon Weisman

    So there's all kinds of talk this week about the establishment starting to blog, from Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark on ESPN to the new Inside the Dodgers house blog, hosted by team public relations guru Josh Rawitch, historian Mark Langill and vice president of scouting and player development Roy Smith. And meanwhile, bloggers like myself and Alex Belth have been writing for the establishment. What gives?

    It was inside of two years ago that I was still embarrassed by the word "blog," and now it's as if Oprah has made it her Word of the Month. Perhaps the newest mainstream media blogs are a sign of the inevitable jumping of the shark - but it's possible we're witnessing a truly transformative moment in journalism. We're at the point where we no longer need to define the word "blogging" for the uninitiated - although it's clear to me that not everyone agrees on what it means - as much as we need to come up with a good word that stands for mainstream writing. "Non-blogging?" "Columnizing?" "Burnishing your cat?"

    Despite the crossover, there's definitely a difference between the two. When I write for, I try to stay fun, but my style does become a bit more formal. This comes partly out of consciousness of a wider audience that doesn't know me as well as some of you; it comes partly from just the glare of being on a larger stage. didn't hire me as a blogger, they hired me as an occasional columnist. I'm talking to you - at you - not initating a two-way conversation. There is no comments section for you to respond and no chance for me to write short follow-ups to the orignal piece (though I create those options back here on Dodger Thoughts). As exciting as the job is for my present and future, it feels a little like a step back into the past.

    Something tells me that there are a couple of unsolved mysteries about the future integration of blogging and mainstream media. One is whether instant feedback - instrinsic to many blogs - will be manageable at the most widely read places. Another is whether there will be a full triumph of informality - the same way that men no longer wear fedoras to the ballpark and women don't mind a thong or bra strap peaking out from their clothes.

    The challenge is for that informality to serve a purpose, to not be a crutch for mere irresponsibility. What's important for writers is whether they give you something of value that you are encouraged and enabled to comprehend and contemplate, not necessarily how they deliver it. Blogging has been a pathway toward that goal for me, and it looks like it will be for others - even 40-year journalism veterans. As long as there are newspapers, where blogging is impossible, non-blogging will remain. But blogging, rather stunningly, has proven its mettle as a writing style.

    I'm left wondering this: For those of us writing online, for or or or whatever, should we be blogging or non-blogging? If you grant that we are capable of applying the rigorous standards of non-blogging to blogging - interview the appropriate people, research, fact-check, engage, entertain, think - what do we gain by not doing so? All things being equal, is one approach superior? Maybe we just need to blur the lines even further, eliminate the distinction between blogs and non-blogs, and just write in the style that feels right for each given article.

    (I certainly hope there will always be a place for this.)

    2006-02-16 14:48
    by Jon Weisman

    Vessel of bad 2005 Dodger karma Scott Erickson has signed a minor-league contract with the Yankees, Newsday is reporting.

    Eventually, All Things Merge Into One, and a Mustache Runs Through It
    2006-02-16 10:52
    by Jon Weisman

    The two most recent Dodger general managers, Ned Colletti and Paul DePodesta, aren't as different as they seem. That's been my theory recently, and today I expand upon it for the audience.

    Note that I'm not trying to claim that the two guys are identical by any stretch, nor that they are perceived the same way. Just that in practice, they are closer on the GM spectrum than would appear.

    My column is a sidebar to John Donovan's National League West preview, which parallels my belief that the division will be led by the Giants and Dodgers, with Barry Bonds' health the determining factor. Regarding San Diego, Donovan writes:

    Back in San Diego, credit has to be given to GM Kevin Towers, who saw the flaws in last year's team and wasn't about to stand pat, division winners or not. ... The Padres still have some good-sized holes to fill. Hoffman needs help in the bullpen and San Diego is banking on a rookie (Josh Barfield) at second base and the Padres still lack a big bat or two. But at least they didn't sit still.

    Not that everyone likes the Padres' changes, but if only people had been so understanding with DePodesta last season. And it wasn't as if he didn't explain his rationale over and over again ...

    Two-Way Players at the Crossroads
    2006-02-16 09:36
    by Jon Weisman

    Amid my nearly lifelong fascination with pitchers trying to play the field and fielders trying to pitch, Baseball Think Factory led me to these two articles: one by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Rick Ankiel, the former pitching prodigy trying to forge a second career as an outfielder ...

    How much of a future Ankiel has as an everyday outfielder could crystallize in the coming weeks. At two levels last summer, he hit 21 home runs with 75 RBIs in 85 games. He caught eyes. He evolved from experiment to curiosity to, although 26, prospect. When a club official was asked to ascertain what Ankiel's status would be if he saw the numbers produced, his age, his position, but not the name, he said: "Prospect. Definitely a prospect."

    ... the other by George Vondracek of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times (your vice-presidential gunfire headquarters) on Brooks Kieschnick, who actually succeeded in the double role for a season or two, depending on how generous you are.

    He finishes his six-year stint in the majors with a .248 batting average, 16 home runs and 46 RBI. In 74 appearances over two seasons as a pitcher, Kieschnick posted a 2-2 record with a 4.59 earned-run average, 67 strikeouts and 26 walks in 96 innings.

    Maybe major league baseball is just too tough a game, but I really lament that teams can't find more pitchers who can hit on their days off. Ankiel's on-base percentage in AA last season was .295, so he's going to have to come on strong and fast to make it to the bigs as a hitter. In the Dodger organization, Ankiel probably would fall behind Joel Guzman, Delwyn Young, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Justin Ruggiano and perhaps Cody Ross as well.

    * * *

    Thank goodness for reruns - otherwise the cliché of a team like the 2005 Dodgers looking like a MASH (or M*A*S*H) unit might soon be gone forever.

    * * *

    In a dream last night, the Dodgers signed Neifi Perez and I was in a quagmire of writing about it for Dodger Thoughts. Many of my nighttime dreams are about going far down the road on or toward something but not being able to finish or arrive. None has ever been about Neifi Perez.

    * * *

    Good news: first baseman Jon Weisman is back for his junior year at Wayne State. Weisman OPSed .969 with a team-high nine home runs last season. He also had a 4.0 grade-point average last semester.

    Weaver Leaves in Another Case of Home Field Disadvantage
    2006-02-15 11:59
    by Jon Weisman

    Yet another chapter in the saga of how baseball's free agency and salary arbitration rules discourage players from staying with their teams: Jeff Weaver has signed with the Angels for $8.5 million, or $200,000 less than the Dodgers have committed to Brett Tomko.

    Weaver's on-the-field performance isn't worthy of intense affinity, but there isn't much doubt about how that money would be better spent. Better to have Weaver for one year than Tomko for any.

    According to Mike DiGiovanna of the Times, Weaver's bottom-line proposal to the Dodgers was three years at $27 million with an option. That request, however, was dictated by the time limit that forced him into a deal by January. Had the Dodgers been permitted to continue negotiating with Weaver, like the other 29 major league teams, it's possible - if not likely - that he would have stayed. But with the time limit, the Dodgers were forced to consider Weaver at a value that we have now seen is clearly above his market rate.

    The Dodgers did offer Weaver salary arbitration, an indication that they weren't scared of paying him in the neighborhood of $9 million for a single year, even if you believed the team's ultimate goal was to get draft pick compensation.

    Though one might wonder whether Weaver regrets not going to arbitration with the Dodgers, he isn't the story here. The story is that in an era in which people complain about how often players change uniforms, there are rules set up that specifically encourage it.

    Outfield Gaps
    2006-02-15 09:16
    by Jon Weisman

    True or false: The Dodger outfield of J.D. Drew, Kenny Lofton, Jose Cruz, Jr., Ricky Ledee, Jason Repko, Jayson Werth, Andre Ethier, Cody Ross and maybe Delwyn Young or Joel Guzman is something of a shambles.

    In a couple of years, the Dodgers might boast about an outfield of, say, Drew, Guzman, Matt Kemp and Justin Ruggiano. But for now, even if Drew plays 130 games, there are gaps in the gap patrol. Lofton is adequate offensively but missed 52 games at age 38 last season, Cruz is wildly inconsistent, Werth and Ledee have health issues from minor to major, and Repko is a true backup. The bats of Ethier and Ross probably aren't ready, assuming they'll ever be, and career infielders Young and Guzman would have to learn the position. (Of course, it worked out okay for Florida's Miguel Cabrera.)

    Despite trading Antonio Perez, Dodger general manager Ned Colletti has deepened the infield. When your backups are Hee Seop Choi, Willy Aybar, Oscar Robles and Olmedo Saenz and you have James Loney, Young, Guzman and Andy LaRoche on standby, both the present and the future look good.

    But there's an imbalance here, one that almost certainly will have to be dealt with through position switches, trades or riding out some rough waters. Not to reignite the exhaustive Choi debate, considering that he may be the one to go by April 3, but I'm not sure everyone's going to be happy on the days that Repko is starting against a right-handed pitcher and Choi is watching from the dugout.

    View from the Rockies
    2006-02-15 08:47
    by Jon Weisman

    New Toaster teammate Mark Donahue of the great new Rockies blog Bad Altitude has completed a series of spunky previews of Colorado's rivals in the National League West. Check 'em out:

    Los Angeles
    San Francisco
    San Diego

    Hoping the Best for Hershiser
    2006-02-14 09:11
    by Jon Weisman

    Although I'm certainly happy if he's happy, there's something dispiriting about Orel Hershiser leaving baseball's employ to become an ESPN studio analyst.

    It's another reminder of how quickly Hershiser went from being central in the maelstrom preceding Paul DePodesta's departure as Dodger general manager to a nonentity. Given that Hershiser seemed so excited about becoming a general manager someday, with another team if not the Dodgers, the decay of his situation with the Texas Rangers smacks of an unhappy ending. I hope I'm wrong, but it was only November when Hershiser took a new job as exeuctive assistant to the team president.

    The irony of it all is that despite apparently being used as nothing more than a certain chess piece during the Dodger GM uprising in the fall, Hershiser really did seem to have something to offer the team - not necessarily as a GM, but as a productive coach or executive who could work toward that goal. Does his departure from the Rangers indicate otherwise? Or did things just get too messy for cleanup with either Texas or Los Angeles?

    Someday, I have to talk to Manny Mota and find out how he has survived so long with the Dodgers. I wonder if it was a case of being extraordinarily careful about what he wished for.

    * * *

    Jay Jaffe of the The Futility Infielder has a follow-up to last week's discussion of Mota and Dodger pinch-hitters, including a picture like mine of Mota riding his bike at Dodgertown. An excerpt:

    Another former Dodger, Dave Hansen, at one point looked like a solid bet to eclipse Mota and move into second place. But with two dubiously chart-making seasons in 2003 and 2004, plus an anemic 2-for-31 last year, Hansen appears to have run out of gas. Unless he somehow finds a job this spring, he will have finished with just 19 hits in his final 137 pinch-ABs (.139). For his career, he's still hit .234/.351/.358 in 593 at-bats in the role, and as his presence on the first list (of all-time great pinch-hitting seasons) attests, was one of the best in his "prime." It's a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it.

    * * *

    People talk about the big day when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, but back here in California, you can tell things really come alive once the sportswriters get to Florida and Arizona and the daily reports start flowing. We're back in business, baby!

    * * *

    Update: Ex-Dodger Jose Lima has booked his Spring Break, according to The Associated Press - he'll be hanging with the Mets. He will earn $600,000 if he makes the 40-man roster, with incentive clauses potentially adding another $450,000.

    Update 2: Three more Dodger staff departures were reported by Ken Gurnick at today, including the team's physical therapist for a quarter of a century, Pat Screnar.

    Update 3: Rangers beat writer Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News talked about Hershiser's departure from Texas:

    There were factions in the Rangers' front office that weren't happy with the way Hershiser pursued various positions with the Los Angeles Dodgers. To some, it came off as if he was campaigning for a job. In baseball's world of etiquette, it's one thing to be flattered by a club's interest in you; it's another to pursue a job like it's your first chance out of college. The second method suggests maybe you aren't happy with your current role.

    As for the second position, this was to be largely an ambassadorship. Hershiser wants more meat. He wants to be a manager, GM or president. He wasn't going to get that role in Texas anytime soon, if it all. By taking his leave and going to ESPN, Hershiser can position himself much the way Buck Showalter and Bobby Valentine have in recent years. He can use his sharp mind and articulate voice to analyze all 30 teams for a year or two and make himself a very hot commodity to some club (in Valentine's case, a Japanese club) in the process.

    The Wild One
    2006-02-12 13:52
    by Jon Weisman

    Years ago, Night Ranger hit it big with this chartbuster about Grady Little's firing by the Red Sox ...

    Grady Little
    Oh the time has come
    And you know that you're the only one
    To say O.K.
    Where you going
    What you looking for
    You know those boys
    Don't want to play no more with you
    It's true

    Okay, that didn't happen.

    But back in reality, a broad brushtroke of Steve Henson's colorful Times profile of new Dodger manager Grady Little today is that since leaving the Red Sox, Little has been reborn as a motorcycle enthusiast.

    The next day Little bought a Kawasaki Vulcan 1600 Classic motorcycle, got the motor running and headed for the highway. In less than two years he has racked up 14,000 miles, mostly taking solitary rides, winding through the horse farms near his home, past the scarlet berries of the mountain ash to the west and to the historic coastal communities along the Cape Fear river to the east.

    "He hadn't been on a motorcycle since the '70s," said Eric, father of Grady and Debi's two grandsons. "But it's really been great. It puts him at ease, it's more or less therapy."

    It sounds beautiful, even serene. Yet to me, motorcycles have always been donorcycles - about as close as you can come to eating cancer for breakfast.

    I get the allure of speed - I like to drive fast, I like to ski fast. But motorcyclists, so exposed, so vulnerable, seem to take that allure and turn it into a deathwish.

    So in reading the Little feature this morning, with knowledge of past motorcycle accidents in my mind (including ex-Dodger hitting coach Jack Clark's crash and second baseman Jeff Kent's whatever), I spent a couple of moments wondering if this renewed passion betrayed some fundamental lack of sense in Little.

    What do you think? Do motorcycles just get bad press? Are they no worse than cars?

    At least Little wears a helmet.

    Ga Ga Gagne, Sha Sha Shandy
    2006-02-10 08:38
    by Jon Weisman

    From this one workout, Gagne appeared to be throwing more comfortably than at any time last year.

    This, the best news of the young season comes to us from Ken Gurnick of

    All winter, Eric Gagne has told the Dodgers his elbow is healing nicely.

    On Thursday, he showed them.

    With wife Valerie and top catching prospect and Canadian countryman Russell Martin in tow, Gagne stopped by Dodger Stadium for an arranged bullpen session for the benefit of his new manager, Grady Little.

    Breaking through the din of construction workers continuing the stadium seat replacement was the popping of Gagne fastballs into Martin's new mitt. Gagne made 40 pitches, using fastballs, changeups and a couple of cutters. He pitched out of the windup and the stretch, with Little standing on an adjacent mound in the bullpen.

    Anything that doesn't involve Gagne altering his mechanics to compensate for pain and injury constitutes a better report than we had a year ago.

    * * *

    Not exactly safe at home? This Tony Jackson Daily News article reports that Viren Moret, the business representative for the Service Employees International Union Local 1877, argues that the Dodgers have not provided a "safe working environment" for their security officers, "because there now is only one officer guarding the entire stadium property between midnight and 5 a.m."

    Dodgers spokesperson Camille Johnston disputed a different concern of Moret's, but it's unclear what the team response to the security discussion is.

    * * *

    Be hopeful that there will be no work stoppage in major league baseball when the current labor agreement expires in December, believes David Pinto of Baseball Musings.

    "If there were going to be trouble this time around, you'd already hear owner or players complaining," Pinto writes. "The players seem happy with their situation, the owners (for the most part) seem happy with their situation, and the two sides showed they can work cooperatively by opening the CBA to change drug testing. No one is trying to destroy free agency or arbitration. No one wants to destroy revenue sharing, although the union will try to modify how it works.

    Pinto links to an Associated Press article recapping some lunchtime quotes from baseball union chief Don Fehr, most notably that "... the overall atmosphere of the sport is such that there are a lot of reasons that people on the outside should be optimistic about our chances of reaching an agreement."

    * * *

    Jeff Kent has gotten financing! Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts e-mailed this San Antonio Business Journal report that "Kent Powersports LP, a local motorcycle dealership owned by Major League Baseball star Jeff Kent, received $6.3 million in financing to expand its two locations in San Antonio."

    The dealership groups owns Yamaha of San Antonio, the largest-volume selling Yamaha dealership in Texas, and 35 North Honda in New Braunfels, which sells motorcycles, ATVs, scooters and watercraft. ...

    "This deal allows us to take advantage of a growing market," says Kent, who plays second base for the Los Angeles Dodgers. "The funding from GE Commercial Finance, Franchise Finance is helping us grow our business."

    Such a clean, simple story - and yet I'm sure there's a punch line in there, somewhere ...

    * * *

    The Fox finale of Arrested Development airs opposite the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies tonight.

    * * *

    Maybe I read Tristram Shandy too young. But with the improbable movie version being released in Los Angeles today - and inspiring a "giddy crush" from Carina Chocano of the Times - here is a trip back to some Dodger/Shandy Thoughts from March 2004 - "The Tristram Shandy Nightmare."

    I was about a 3.5 student in my four years in college. That number would have been higher if not for 18th-Century Victorian Literature. (2006 note: I later found I remembered the name of the class wrong, but no matter.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    D on the final, C+ in the class.

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

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

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

    Update: Rickey Henderson will be a special instructor for the Mets during part of Spring Training, according to, but still hasn't committed to ending his own playing career.

    Henderson, now 47 and less than 2 1/2 years removed from his last Major League appearance, still isn't ready to retire. But he said Thursday he has reached a point where he wants to "give back to the game" and "help the young kids."

    "I felt I have a lot to give back," he said. But he also said he is in good shape and "willing to do that" if some club asks him to audition.

    'The Sweetness a Millimeter Underneath'
    2006-02-09 13:09
    by Jon Weisman

    On a quiet, pre-Spring Training day, I commend this piece by Times editorial writer Karin Klein to you. I can't pick a portion to excerpt without spoiling the exquisite flow of the entire story. Indulge me and follow the link to read the whole thing. ...

    For Dodger content, some recent photos by team historian Mark Langill of the ongoing Dodger Stadium renovation are available at They've really root-canaled the seats, which were definitely decaying in spots - or misaligned, if what so many people said about the baseline sections was true. Here's hoping the new seats are comfortable.

    Update: Nuts, I meant to link this Baseball Analysts guest piece by Will Leitch of Deadspin about newspapers and blogging earlier today:

    This is not to say that beat reporters are lazy; far from it. It's just that the world of newspapers, when compared to blogs, does not give them the freedom (or, more accurately, the space), to delve into what actually mattered in the game, accounting for context, complexity and ultimate impact. Baseball blogs are the most fun sports blogs to read because great ones have multiple entries every day, and they provide perspective and talking points; they are great because they assume you have already seen the game. We are no longer in the days of radio; if you have MLB.TV, or even freaking cable, you can watch every game. We do not need reporters to tell us the facts; we need people to tell us what it means. Or, more specific, to ask us what we think it means.

    Thanks to Baseball Think Factory for the reminder. In a way, Leitch's column picks up where the musings of Times reporter Bill Shaikin left off about a year ago.

    You should know how I feel already. Newspapers and blogs are both filled with lazy thinkers and brilliant thinkers. There are different skill sets for each job (yes, blogging has a skill set), but when the system's working right, reporters and bloggers compliment each other wonderfully.

    Most bloggers depend on mainstream coverage to some extent, for basic information or for conversation launching points. A nice, recent development is how some reporters have decided that the feeling is mutual.

    Bottom line: Great writing is great writing, wherever you find it. Exhibit A is at the top of this post.

    The Dodger Thoughts 2006 Spring Training Primer
    2006-02-08 11:30
    by Jon Weisman

    The 2006 Dodgers aren't even out of the dressing room yet, let alone strutting down any runways, but with pitchers and catchers soon to report, here's a quick look at how the outfit is shaping up for Opening Day.

    Locks (18)
    Only a disabling injury can stop these guys from making the Opening Day roster:
    Starting Pitchers: Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Odalis Perez, Brett Tomko, Jae Seo
    Bullpen: Eric Gagne, Danys Baez
    Starting Lineup: Dioner Navarro, Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, Rafael Furcal, Bill Mueller, J.D. Drew, Kenny Lofton, Jose Cruz, Jr.
    Bench: Ricky Ledee, Olmedo Saenz, Sandy Alomar Jr.

    Disabled List (2)
    Infield: Cesar Izturis
    Outfield: Jayson Werth

    Most Likely to Succeed (7)
    Yhency Brazoban, P: Thanks to his inconsistent 2005 and the potential for general manager Ned Colletti to choose a veteran at every turn, Brazoban can't be considered a shoo-in, but only a complete Spring Training meltdown could keep him off the 25-man roster Opening Day.
    Lance Carter, P: There's nothing particularly distinguished about Carter, but the quotes from Colletti upon his acquisition last month indicate the GM's strong belief in him. It's hard to believe Jonathan Broxton isn't better, but ...
    D.J. Houlton, P: Fills the long reliever/swingman role. The Dodgers have 16 games in the season's first 17 days, so long relief could be vital.
    Tim Hamulack, P: The 29-year-old's outstanding 2005 minor league numbers (1.13 ERA, 61 strikeouts in 64 innings) give him the slightest edge for the left-handed reliever slot. But this figures to be one of the most competitive battles in March.
    Hee Seop Choi, 1B: Still the rightful starter at first base in some people's minds, Choi's place on the roster has been considered safe because of his left-handed bat and Garciaparra's recent injury history. On the other hand, the Dodgers have plenty of people who can play first base, and dropping Choi off the roster would allow them to keep an extra multi-position backup. The chances of Choi being in another uniform in April might still be higher than you think. Watch out if a starting first baseman from another team gets hurt.
    Oscar Robles, IF: Last year's sometimes starting third baseman has a more suitable role waiting for him as backup infielder.
    Jason Repko, OF: The brittle outfield opens up a good deal of playing time for the No. 5 outfielder. Repko is in line for the spot - he's got the speed the management likes, plus he's a right-handed bat in an outfield with lefties Drew, Lofton and Ledee, but he'll have competition. In any event, his role could be short-lived if Werth heals before the first starting outfielder goes on the DL.

    Next in Line (9)
    Jonathan Broxton, P: Odds are that with so many veteran relievers on the team now, Broxton will have to go to AAA, where he can work on his control. But he shouldn't be down long - if at all.
    Kelly Wunsch, P: Allowed a .589 OPS vs. left-handed batters, .906 vs. righties. He'll definitely challenge Hamulack.
    Hong-Chih Kuo, P: His strikeout potential is phenomenal. Ideally, he'll be healthy and ready to go after major league hitters. The last thing the Dodgers should probably do is waste his healthy innings in Las Vegas. But he'll have to prove to manager Grady Little that he's ready to get out major leaguers on a daily basis.
    Franquelis Osoria, P: If the Dodgers have real confidence in their starting five, they could send Houlton down and open a spot for Broxton, Wunsch, Kuo or the groundball-inducing Osoria.
    Brian Meadows, P: One of those guys who sometimes gives you good innings, he's in the mix.
    Willy Aybar, 3B: His hot September primary lead infield backup.
    Andre Ethier, OF: A left-handed hitter, he could challenge Repko for the temporary last outfield slot, but more likely would be first in line if another outfielder stumbles after April 1.
    Cody Ross, OF: Ross had a terrible cup of coffee with the Dodgers in 2005, wasn't really a knockout in Las Vegas, and is perhaps tainted by association with Paul DePodesta (as one of his earliest scavenger prizes). But Ross has some power, so he could represent a more interesting threat off the bench than Repko.
    Delwyn Young, IF-OF: Could sneak on, especially if he proves versatile. This was the Dodger Thoughts report on him in September:

    Got the Vegas bounce in on-base percentage (.361) but not slugging percentage (.475) after his promotion from Jacksonville (.346/.499). His 16 homers with the Suns matched the more heralded Joel Guzman in 71 fewer at-bats. While the younger Guzman has greater long-term potential, Young is better positioned to help the Dodgers in April 2006, although currently 25-year-old Antonio Perez blocks his path. Young also has the plate discipline of Dodger minor leaguers of old - 35 walks against 531 at-bats over the two levels. He is hardly a basestealing threat.

    See You Mid-Season? (4)
    Kurt Ainsworth, P: This below-the-radar, non-roster acquisition is an interesting one. Ainsworth is 27. In 2002-03 with the Giants, he had a 3.34 ERA in 91 2/3 innings (17 games, 15 starts). But since 2003, he has thrown only 41 1/3 professional innings. He doesn't figure to make the Opening Day roster, but if he can prove himself healthy again in the minors, he might be a guy the Dodger starting rotation can use.
    Russell Martin, C: There's every reason to assume that Martin will tear it up in Vegas, positioning himself for a callup the moment Navarro falters or Alomar is proved unnecessary.
    Chad Billingsley, P: Still 21, he'll collect more seasoning at the outset, but he should get his first taste of the bigs this year unless he implodes.
    Joel Guzman, IF-OF: The exciting prospect will also eye the major league injury report while discovering his new position, whatever that is. For our part, we'll be watching his plate discipline.

    September Callups (5)
    Andy LaRoche, 3B: As far as April goes, Mueller and Aybar are ahead of him as starting third baseman. By September, that could all change.
    James Loney, 1B: There isn't any reason to think Loney will have a major-league impact in 2006, but there isn't any rush for him to. He's on track for 2007.
    Greg Miller: Will continue his comeback from two surgeries, hoping for the best.
    Jon Weber, OF: Probably peaking too late, he has put up nice minor league numbers but just turned 28.
    Tydus Meadows, OF: Basically the same story.

    Check Back in a Year or Two (4)
    Matt Kemp, OF: A true outfield prospect, it's not impossible that the 21-year-old Kemp could be the first of the 2005 Vero Beach Dodgers to make the bigs.
    Jose Diaz, P: He turns 22 this month but is a five-year minor-league veteran who has averaged 10 strikeouts and 1.7 walks per nine innings in his professional career. Could help the bullpen in the next 18 months.
    Justin Orenduff, P: Good strikeout numbers following his mid-2005 promotion to Jacksonville, but a 4.07 ERA gives him something to improve upon there.
    Tony Abreu, IF: Headed back to Jacksonville after getting a late-season promotion there in 2005.

    Fodder (5)
    Joe Beimel, P: ERAs below 4.00 last year with Durham and Tampa Bay. He's been assigned uniform No. 97 - not for sentimental reasons as far as I know.
    Eric Stults, P: Some kind of wonderful? Jacksonville 2005, 3.38 ERA; Las Vegas 2005, 6.58 ERA.
    Takashi Saito, P: This year's Norihiro Nakamura, pitching side. A 36-year-old (on Valentine's Day) pitcher with a 3.82 ERA in Japan last season doesn't excite.
    Ramon Martinez, IF: Do we really need to force the Dodgers' original Ramon Martinez to compete in the team encyclopedia with a 33-year-old infielder who OPSed .639 last year?
    Chris Truby, 3B: In the past three seasons, Truby has appeared in 13 major league games despite playing in three organizations desperate for help: Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Kansas City.

    Fodder's Fodder (3)
    Aaron Sele, P: The Ghost of Scott Erickson. The 35-year-old hasn't had a major-league ERA below 5.00 since 2002, and he barely strikes out a batter every three innings.
    Edwin Bellorin, C: Bellorin turns 24 this month. There just doesn't appear to be any hitting potential here.
    Pat Borders, C: Born before the Kennedy assassination - the first one - Borders stacks up as a AAA player-coach supporting Martin, the way Alomar is supporting Navarro. Borders' professional career began 24 years ago in Medicine Hat.

    Manny Mota Mota Mota Mota Mota ...
    2006-02-07 10:52
    by Jon Weisman

    Steve Treder, Giants fan and baseball analyst extraordinaire, writes about Manny Mota:

    Manny Mota was another pinch-hitting legend, deployed by the Dodgers as an extreme pinch-hitting specialist through much of the decade of the 1970s. Unlike the vast majority of these guys, Mota was a right-handed batter, but it didn't make any difference to Mota who was pitching; he was going to hit a line drive anyway. As a Giants fan, I can attest that in the late innings of a tight game against the Dodgers, the presence of Mota looming in the L.A. dugout was frightening indeed. Mota was constitutionally incapable of doing anything other than smacking a solid line drive in any at-bat against any pitcher in any circumstance. Mota turns 68 years old this month, but I suspect if you go to Mota's house tonight at 3 AM, yank him out of bed, jam a bat in his hands and have a fully-warmed up Mariano Rivera in the front yard flinging his nastiest cutter, the groggy, barefoot pajama-clad Mota will stumble out there and drill the first wicked offering for a solid line drive. In the dark. (Smash! There goes the neighbor's living room window.)

    I believe it was Jim Murray who wrote that Mota could get a line drive off a bullet - it might have even been at 2 a.m. This captures the same feeling.

    Treder also resurfaces other Dodger pinch-hitters of the past in his Hardball Times article, "Pinch-Hitting Specialists: A History." The only gaping omission I spotted was the 2000 season of Dave Hansen, who hit seven home runs, slugged .673, and OPSed 1.058 in 70 pinch-hitting appearances. Correction: As a reader in the comments below points out, because of the number of games he played in the infield, Hansen did not qualify as a pinch-hitting specialist in 2000 by Treder's definition.

    * * *

    Kevin Modesti of the Daily News compares the broken traditions of the Dodgers to the relative continuity held by the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers today. He's correct that these are not the Dodgers of our youths, but it's a little odd to use the Steelers, who went 25 years without a championship, as a role model. The Dodgers have another eight years before they tie that drought.

    Modesti preaches stability in his column, but the argument is really nostalgia for a time of relative simplicity. Back before the O'Malleys sold the Dodgers, they made some changes from year to year, but the philosophy and fundamental building blocks of the franchise were canon. We debated the little things, not the big ones.

    Here in 2006, we all still want to win. We all still want to build a tradition we can be proud of, one we can love. And just as it was in the last century, all it takes to achieve that is to hire good people and then let them do their jobs. Theoretically, it's still that simple.

    The problem is that we no longer agree about who the good people are. Many of us form conflicting opinions from the start. Some become entrenched. Some, like current Dodger owner Frank McCourt, become riddled with second thoughts.

    While McCourt might be among the most impatient, impulsive, panic-addled people to have ever owned a franchise, the patience of many fans and the sport media isn't always much greater. Who wasn't impatient with the 2005 Dodgers, whether they were complaining about the McCourts, Paul DePodesta, Jim Tracy or whomever? We have all demanded immediate results, haven't we? If not an instant title, than at least instant relief for our frustrations.

    It's hard - almost oxymoronic - to shout for patience. And it's almost pointless to preach patience when the congregation is questioning its faith.

    The Dodgers have made more nonsensical and unnecessarily disruptive moves in recent years than I can name. They have damaged the psyche of the organization, and the result is that everything is examined more harshly now, the way you might snap at someone you love after they've been misbehaving.

    Few will be happy until the Dodgers are winning again. Furthermore, we'll never agree about what it takes to win until the Dodgers are winning again. So until the Dodgers are winning again, there are going to continue to be changes - unless patience scores a most unlikely victory.

    Monday, the Dodgers had a mini-reunion of the long-running Steve Garvey-Davey Lopes-Bill Russell-Ron Cey infield at Dodger Stadium on Monday (Lopes was a late cancellation), 25 years after their final season together, a season that ended in a World Series title. Yeah, those were the good old days. But those good old days began with people giving that young infield a chance to form, eight years earlier. Those infielders played on a team that contended, then didn't, then contended, then didn't, then contended, then won a World Series - in their final season.

    It took time. It also all seemed to make sense.

    The Dodgers have won two World Series in the past 40 years. No one, past or present, can be called an unqualified expert. We can dream all we want about tradition and bonds and glory days, but dreams are all they'll be until the team proves itself worthy of our faith.

    Stability for stability's sake, change for change's sake - those are dead ends. The Dodgers have been a dead dog out on Highway 31 for what seems like a long, long time. We just all need our reasons to believe.

    Bookwatch, Artwatch
    2006-02-06 12:08
    by Jon Weisman

    No, not mine this time. Two of the top sabermetricians that I know of, Mitchel Lichtman and Tangotiger, have joined with Andrew E. Dolphin to write a new book, called, The Book. Chapters include:

  • Batter/Pitcher Matchups
  • Clutch
  • Batting Order
  • Platooning
  • Starting Pitchers
  • Relief Pitchers
  • Sacrifice Bunt
  • Intentional Walks
  • Base Stealing
  • Game Theory

    It promises to offer very sophisticated analysis of the game. Read more about it here.

    In other book news, Dayn Perry has a new book out: Winners : How Good Baseball Teams Become Great Ones (And It's Not the Way You Think). And, you can pre-order your copy of the Baseball Prospectus 2006, the annual season preview from the folks at Baseball Prospectus.

    Also, today marks the opening of Winter Ball, an exhibition of baseball-inspired artworks (including some Dodger-related pieces) sponsored by The Baseball Reliquary. The exhibition runs through March 4 at L.A. City College. Follow the links above, as well as this one, for more information.

  • Winner: Mike Piazza
    Special Citation: Jackie Robinson
    2006-02-06 09:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Mike Piazza was voted the all-time Dodger single-season Most Valuable Player by Dodger Thoughts readers for his 1997 season, but the true winner might be Jackie Robinson.

    Piazza won the award for a season in which he batted .362 with an on-base percentage of .431 and a slugging percentage of .638 from the catcher position, hitting 40 home runs. He had an EQA of .357 and a WARP-3 of 12.4. (See the nominations thread for explanations of these statistics.)

    Piazza 1997 had the same number of first-place votes as Robinson 1949, but was named on 52 ballots as opposed to 49 by Robinson and also scored three-more second-place mentions. (Points were awarded on a 10-7-5-3-1 basis.)

    However, Robinson not only finished second with his '49 performance, in which he batted .342/.432/.528 with a WARP-3 of 12.3 as a second baseman, but he also grabbed the No. 3 spot with his outstanding season two years later, when he hit .338/.429/.527 with a WARP-3 of 12.9. Robinson's 532 combined points far outdistance any other player. Let it be a reminder that Robinson isn't memorable simply for making history, but for being an phenomenal player.

    Although both players had multiple seasons nominated for the honor, the competing strength of Robinson's '49 and '51 seasons may well have denied him the victory. Piazza's 1996 season was mentioned by five voters.

    After delaying my vote as long as possible, my ballot went like this:

    1. Robinson 1949
    2. Piazza 1997
    3. Roy Campanella 1953
    4. Duke Snider 1955
    5. Pedro Guerrero 1985

    I didn't find it easy at all to choose my top five, let alone order them, and even as I write this I have second-thoughts about whether I picked the right year for Robinson. although I'm feeling good about the player. I was certainly partial to catchers who could slug, as the No. 2 and No. 3 spots indicate. I gave points to Snider for a fantastic season that helped give the Dodgers their first World Series title after so many years of agony. And I rounded out my ballot with Guerrero, partly for sentiment, partly because he destroyed the ball like almost no other Dodger ever did.

    But to say these were easy or even committed choices would be a lie.

    Below are the final totals. Thanks to everyone for participating, or even just taking an interest.

    PlayerYear12345MentionsTotal Points
    Mike Piazza19972014104452364
    Jackie Robinson1949201186449339
    Jackie Robinson195196103230193
    Duke Snider19557648328159
    Pedro Guerrero198518735.524.5115.5
    Kirk Gibson1988245582496
    Adrian Beltre200422578.524.588.5
    Roy Campanella1953062541771
    Tommy Davis1962141041047
    Pete Reiser194110131625
    Mike Piazza199610121522
    Gary Sheffield200000222618
    Duke Snider195410110318
    Reggie Smith197701200317
    Shawn Green200210101316
    Roy Campanella195100042614
    Dan Brouthers189200113511
    Steve Garvey197510001211
    Maury Wills196201011311
    Pedro Guerrero198201010210
    Jimmy Wynn19740002359
    Shawn Green20010010237
    Babe Herman19300002137
    Mike Piazza19950100017
    Ron Cey19750010126
    Duke Snider19560002026
    Gil Hodges19540010015
    Pee Wee Reese19490010015
    Jackie Robinson19520010015
    Mike Scioscia19850001013
    Zack Wheat19240001013
    Dolph Camilli19410000111
    Pee Wee Reese 19470000111
    Lefty O'Doul19320000000
    Mike Piazza19930000000
    Jimmy Sheckard19010000000
    Duke Snider19530000000

    Update: This would be a pretty fun game ...

    Team One
    Robinson '51 2B
    Sheffield '00, RF
    Guerrero '85, 1B
    Piazza '97, C
    Beltre '04, 3B
    Green '02, CF
    Davis '62, LF
    Reese '49, SS
    Koufax '65, P

    Team Two
    Wills '62, SS
    Robinson '49, 2B
    Snider '55, CF
    Campanella '53, C
    Gibson '88, LF
    Smith, '77, 1B
    Reiser '41, RF
    Cey '75, 3B
    Koufax '66, P

    Vote (Cont'd.)
    2006-02-04 06:30
    by Jon Weisman

    Voting for the all-time Dodger single-season MVP continues in this thread below. Voting will close Sunday at 9 p.m.; results to come Monday.

    Make sure you vote in the right thread. Open chat can continue here.

    Fielding, U.S.A.
    2006-02-03 09:19
    by Jon Weisman

    A year ago, I began doing research and interviews for a Dodger Thoughts article on the state of fielding ratings: where things stood with the new systems being developed and whether we were getting any closer to some real answers about who the best defensive players are. A rush of activity during Spring Training sidetracked me from completing the piece, but that turned out to be fortuitous, because I started from scratch over the past week to do the story as my second column for "A Glove Affair."

    Hope you find it interesting. If you want to go into further depth, one of the people I interviewed, David Gassko of The Hardball Times, has an article today offering more details about several fielding rating systems, including his own. David Cameron of U.S.S. Mariner also had an insightful column about 10 days ago, just after I had pitched this to SI, that helped me reboot my own piece.

    Meanwhile, voting for the all-time Dodger single-season MVP will continue through the weekend. (Please keep your actual votes in that thread.) Results will be announced Monday.

    Vote for the All-Time Dodger Single-Season MVP
    2006-02-02 10:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Get your ballots ready. Below are 34 candidates for the all-time Dodger single-season MVP. (I left out pitchers not because I don't think pitchers can be MVPs, but because I already held an all-time Dodger Cy Young competition a couple years ago, won by Sandy Koufax's 1966 season.)

    You can follow the links below to see more conventional statistics on each player. The statistics provided are from Baseball Prospectus:

  • EQA: "Equivalent Average. A measure of total offensive value per out, with corrections for league offensive level, home park, and team pitching. EQA considers batting as well as baserunning, but not the value of a position player's defense. The EqA adjusted for all-time also has a correction for league difficulty. …League average EqA is always equal to .260."
  • WARP-3: "Wins Above Replacement Player, level 3. The number of wins this player contributed, above what a replacement level hitter, fielder, and pitcher would have done … with difficulty added into the mix."
  • Vote for your top five choices. Points will be awarded on a 10-7-5-3-1 basis. Write-in candidates are permitted. I'd recommend not factoring postseason performance into your choice, because then it becomes less of a level playing field. But it's up to you.

    Have fun!

    Dan Brouthers1892.33511.1
    Jimmy Sheckard1901.3249.6
    Zack Wheat1924.3258.4
    Babe Herman1930.3398.4
    Lefty O'Doul1932.3379.9
    Dolph Camilli1941.3319.8
    Pete Reiser1941.33110.5
    Pee Wee Reese1949.29110.0
    Jackie Robinson1949.32612.3
    Roy Campanella1951.32511.7
    Jackie Robinson1951.32812.9
    Jackie Robinson1952.33011.1
    Roy Campanella1953.32211.7
    Duke Snider1953.3339.5
    Gil Hodges1954.31110.5
    Duke Snider1954.3419.1
    Duke Snider1955.33411.3
    Duke Snider1956.32811.5
    Tommy Davis1962.3198.3
    Maury Wills1962.2888.7
    Jimmy Wynn1974.31410.2
    Ron Cey1975.30410.1
    Steve Garvey1975.2969.0
    Reggie Smith1977.3368.9
    Pedro Guerrero1982.3239.6
    Pedro Guerrero1985.34910.6
    Kirk Gibson1988.3289.7
    Mike Piazza1993.31710.7
    Mike Piazza1995.3389.0
    Mike Piazza1996.33710.4
    Mike Piazza1997.35712.4
    Gary Sheffield2000.3469.3
    Shawn Green2001.3249.3
    Shawn Green2002.32110.2
    Adrian Beltre2004.33011.4

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    About Jon
    Thank You For Not ...

    1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
    2) personally attacking other commenters
    3) baiting other commenters
    4) arguing for the sake of arguing
    5) discussing politics
    6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
    7) using sarcasm in a way that can be misinterpreted negatively
    8) making the same point over and over again
    9) typing "no-hitter" or "perfect game" to describe either in progress
    10) being annoyed by the existence of this list
    11) commenting under the obvious influence
    12) claiming your opinion isn't allowed when it's just being disagreed with