Baseball Toaster Dodger Thoughts
Monthly archives: April 2006


Bummer for the Bums
2006-04-30 17:06
by Jon Weisman

With a 5-0 lead in the ninth inning, Dodger relievers got four outs while allowing four hits and five walks, and the most improbable location for a hometown rally produced a 6-5 Padres victory.

The Dodgers' problems may have started when Derek Lowe stumbled on the mound during a pitch. Though he completed six shutout innings, it's possible his exit came sooner than it would have otherwise.

Franquelis Osoria, continuing his resurgence, shut out the punchless Padres for the seventh and eighth innings. The Dodgers then had these options as they headed into the ninth inning.

  • Osoria, who would be going for his second three-inning outing of the season (he had thrown 23 pitches to that point)
  • Lance Carter, who has been mostly poor this season but survived his outing in the 14-inning game at Houston on Wednesday without taking the loss
  • Hong-Chih Kuo, the promising prospect who has struggled with control
  • Takashi Saito, who had thrown 13 pitches Friday and 14 Saturday
  • Danys Baez, who had thrown 10 pitches Friday and four Saturday
  • Tim Hamulack - I can't think of anything interesting to say about him.

    It seems clear that neither Saito nor Baez should have been the first options in this situation - despite how few pitches they used in their recent outings, you'd prefer not to have your top relievers even warm up on a third consecutive day - and a 5-0 lead gives you time to avoid facing that decision. Though I was no fan of the acquisition of Carter and don't remotely believe he is one of the top 11 pitchers in the Dodger organization, there is no faulting Grady Little for thinking that a five-run lead in run-dry San Diego was a good time to get something out of Carter.

    The hook for Carter might have been one batter slow - I might have taken him out after he gave up two straight hits to start the inning. Where things get ugly is when Baez came in as Plan B after Carter walked Mike Piazza, showed he had next to nothing, and we found there was no Plan C.

    Given how much Baez had worked recently, there was little reason to think he was going to get better as he threw more pitches - and certainly, there wasn't much time for him to get better. Baez should have been out of there after he walked Khalil Greene to force in the Padres' second run. That Baez was allowed to walk two batters with the bases loaded seems somewhat ridiculous.

    I say that with full knowledge that Little didn't have many attractive options in the bullpen to choose from. But this is the thing in these situations: Your odds of winning with a clearly struggling pitcher are less than they are of trying out a fresh pitcher. Put it this way: if Carter hadn't been in the game already, I'd have rather seen Carter in there than the fading Baez, the way he was pitching.

    Hamulack got the Dodgers out of the ninth inning, but almost inevitably, couldn't get them out of the 10th.

    Overall, I think that to see this game as Little's loss - or for that matter, any single Dodger's loss - would be a mistake. The Dodgers are starting to let people earn their way in and out of jobs. Saito has become the setup man after starting the season in Las Vegas. Jason Repko is pushing Jose Cruz, Jr. As unimpressed as I've been by Carter, I don't think he's as bad as he's shown himself this month. But that's not good enough, not with Jonathan Broxton sizzling in Las Vegas. I'd rather take my chances on Broxton's major league control problems to get his strikeout pitch than see Carter's dejected face after another poor outing. That's the next move that has to be made.

    The Dodgers are 2-8 in one-run games - 10-5 in all others. The downside is the team has wasted opportunities; the upside is they are better than their record indicates. My mantra remains that this team will get better as the season progresses.

    * * *

    Padres starter and ex-Dodger Chan Ho Park made two great full-count, runners-on pitches Sunday - one that busted in from the middle of the plate nearly to Jeff Kent's hip to strike out the Dodger cleanup hitter in the third inning swinging, the other a breaking ball to get J.D. Drew in the top of the fifth.

    Earlier, Park also knocked down a scorcher - losing his necklace in the process - with two on and two out in the second inning off the bat of Lowe. When, after Drew struck out, San Diego shortstop Greene made an extraordinary, infield-in, backhand stab of a Kent line drive to record the second out of the fifth inning, there was every reason to think that the Dodgers were in trouble despite leading, 1-0, that they had wasted too many opportunities.

    Two pitches over the high middle of the plate later, it was 5-0 Dodgers. A single by Nomar Garciaparra to drive in two, a homer by Bill Mueller to drive in two more. And all seemed well ... until we realized that Mueller's blast would be the last hit the Dodgers would have.

    * * *

    Kent was 0 for 5 in this game, but he did contribute. He made a fine over-the-shoulder, sun-challenged catch of a pop fly to right field. He also worked Park for 24 of the 99 pitches Park through in five innings - double his share. The batter following Kent, Garciaparra, reached base all three times against Park (though once was leading off an inning).

    I've seen Kent hit two absolute bullets on the current road trip - today, and in the ninth inning against Houston on Thursday. Kent has also had some bad at-bats, and isn't hitting the ball for much distance. But he doesn't look as hopeless at the plate as does Rafael Furcal, who hasn't been able to hit the ball more than 200 feet in ages.

    * * *

    Update: The Dodgers made the exact move I suggested, only with two different pitchers. Joe Beimel has been called up and Kuo has been optioned, according to Ken Gurnick of

    Carter's lack of minor league options plays into why he is still on the roster, but for now it seems that the ejection seat blew on the wrong guy. Carter's role is still a "topic of discussion," Dodger general manager Ned Colletti told Gurnick - so perhaps Carter will meet the same fate that Tyler Walker of the Giants met last week - banishment to Tampa Bay (Carter's former team).

    Little had this to say about Carter after today's game.

    "Carter was coming off a great game in Houston [tossing two scoreless innings], and we thought the wheels were back on track ..."

    To review, Carter walked two of the first four hitters he faced in that game. He finished his outing strong, but there was no reason to be more optimistic about Carter than Kuo, who allowed a popup, a walk, a single, an intentional walk and a sacrifice fly.

    The shift from Kuo to Beimel won't make much difference in the short term. But the Dodgers right now have a completely unreliable arm on their staff in Carter.

    * * *

    There's more about Repko's potential ascension to the starting lineup in Gurnick's sidebar.. Today, Repko got his hit by reaching down at a sinking pitch from Park and pulling it with some effort into left field. I wonder how long he'll continue to be such a pull hitter, and whether he'll need to adapt sooner or later.

    * * *

    Drew failed to reach base today for the first regular season game in, you know, like 10 months.

  • Pitchers Give, Furcal Takes
    2006-04-30 10:50
    by Jon Weisman

    Rafael Furcal has 18 singles, two doubles, a .220 slugging percentage ... and 15 walks.

    Since April 10, Furcal has 11 singles, one double and 11 walks.

    Until he proves he can hit again, walking Furcal at this point is like walking the pitcher. And yet ...

    * * *

    Today's Game

    April 29 Open Chat
    2006-04-29 17:35
    by Jon Weisman
    Near No-Hitter for Billingsley, Shutout for Dodgers
    2006-04-28 21:45
    by Jon Weisman

    Las Vegas pitcher Chad Billingsley nearly no-hit Colorado Springs tonight, in what would have been the minor-league equivalent of Hideo Nomo's no-hitter in Denver, but it was broken up with one out in the eighth inning by a Carlos Rivera single - "a sinking liner to the outfield ... diving attempt by (Jeff) Duncan unsuccessful," according to Eric Enders.

    Billingsley left after eight innings, allowing the one hit and one walk while striking out six in a 5-0 victory by the 51s. He has now pitched 28 1/3 innings on the season, allowing a combined 26 hits and walks while striking out 31. His ERA is 1.59. His closer, Jonathan Broxton, maintained his ERA of 0.00.

    Perhaps Las Vegas can be conquered. Exciting, isn't it?

    * * *

    Up with the big club - hey, look, a shutout in San Diego. Jae Seo's two hits and four walks allowed in the first three innings tonight were disappointing, but they were a darn sight better than ex-Dodger Jeff Weaver's line in Anaheim tonight: 2 1/3 innings, eight runs (admittedly, against the much tougher Chicago White Sox). Seo ended up improving as the game went on, retiring his final 13 batters and finishing with six shutout innings.

    * * *

    J.D. Drew's eighth-inning two-run single extended his streak of consecutive games on base to 32.

    * * *

    Dioner Navarro attempted a steal against Mike Piazza in the ninth. That's like a barfight between two Wiggles. Navarro was safe. Score one for Jeff over Greg.

    Navarro went 2 for 2 with two walks (one intentional).

    * * *

    I want to write about the life and death of Steve Howe. I may take some time before doing so, though.

    Heading South
    2006-04-28 10:09
    by Jon Weisman

    In posts here and here, Dodger Math has started analyzing the Dodger offense using a Hardball Times statistic called Value Added Batting Runs. Some of the individual rankings might surprise you; the overall picture might depress you.

    Stepping back, although the Dodger offense has had trouble tallying (meaningful) runs since it left Pittsburgh two weeks ago, it is still outscoring the opposition overall this season, 110-100. Despite lousy starts in two of the team's last five games from Jae Seo and Odalis Perez, the team ERA over the past week is 3.75.

    Seo starts tonight for the fourth time this year. I'm gonna voice my hunch that he does well against the San Diego Padres, who lack a single regular with an OPS over .800 and are last in the National League in runs per game, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

    By the way, I do want to pass along my belated congratulations to Mike Piazza for his 400th home run. He may be staring at the final months of his career, but what a special ballplayer he has been. The greatest-hitting catcher of all time, he had 10 consecutive .900+ OPS seasons and 12 consecutive over .800. And with all his power, he never struck out more than 93 times in a season.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    Furcal Needs More Than Two Days Off
    2006-04-27 07:34
    by Jon Weisman

    I've never been a doctor ... but I've been a patient once or twice. So I'm using that experience as my right to comment on Dodger shortstop Rafael Furcal's condition.

    Time and again, more often than not, we've seen the benefits of letting Dodgers heal and the detriments of them playing hurt. We're not talking about the sniffles, here. We're talking about real pain. In recent years, Adrian Beltre is perhaps the only Dodger - out of so, so many - who thrived while hobbled.

    What exactly is the argument that Furcal doesn't need more than two days off?

    "I'm frustrated because I try to get healthy and something every day starts bothering me," Furcal told Allison Ann Otto of the Press-Enterprise. "My shoulder, forearm, finger, back. Everything."

    Steve Henson of the Times wrote that Furcal has been getting better - sort of:

    Nagging injuries to his right shoulder and the middle finger on his left hand have contributed to Furcal's slow start with the bat as well as the glove. He is batting .202 and is hitless in his last 14 at-bats. He has scored 14 runs largely because he has drawn 13 walks.

    "The team needs me on base, and I don't feel right," he said. "So I'm taking more walks."

    The finger injury — which he said is all but healed — has been especially bothersome when batting.

    "I couldn't hold the bat with two hands," he said. "I couldn't finish my swing."

    He believes the shoulder injury was caused by altering his swing because of the sore finger. Furcal's physical problems began before the season when he had minor knee surgery that forced him to begin spring training late.

    Whether or not this is the end of Furcal's injury troubles or the middle, once again I wonder why Dodger players and staff can't see that trying to excel in this sport while injured can be so misguided. Certain injuries lead inevitably to diminished performance, diminished performance leads to compensating for the injury, compensating for the injury leads to another injury.

    The Dodgers are certainly more educated about physical and medical matters than I, but it is decidedly not showing.

    I'm sick of anti-sick day bias.

    Update: Old school mindsets die hard. From Kevin Kennedy at

    I read the other day that Washington's John Patterson is going to miss a start with soreness in his forearm. Several pitchers have had a similar complaint this season. I don't know whether these guys are spending too much time in the weight room or they're simply reporting every little ache and pain.

    I would never question another man's injury, but I know that guys years ago seemed to tough it out more and often refused to come out of the lineup. Maybe they feared for their jobs then because they didn't have long-term contracts and guys who went on the DL sometimes never came off ... at least not with the same team. But there's a big difference from being hurt and just sore, and playing through pain. When we had the A's Eric Chavez on our XM show the other day he told us that he flat-out loves to play and wants to be in the lineup. He feels it's his responsibility as the leader of the team and he will continue to play through pain whenever necessary. Look at Cal Ripken, Jr. Do you think he never had pain or minor injuries during his great consecutive game streak? Ripken obviously felt an obligation to play. He wasn't about to come out of that lineup.

    Amazing. Obviously, some ailments are not significant, but it doesn't seem to occur to Kennedy at all that these "little" aches and pains might affect performance.

    And how long has it been since the free agency era started?

    The American League Home Run Leader Is ... Mae West?
    2006-04-27 07:32
    by Jon Weisman

    Actually, it's Jonny Gomes.

    2006 salary: $355,800

    Gomes has 10 singles and 10 homers this season. Through 528 plate appearances in his career, he has 31 home runs and a .913 OPS.

    Jonny's full name is Jonny Johnson Gomes. He was born in San Francisco. He may be carrying the soul of Mae West, who passed away the day of his birth.

    RISPy Business
    2006-04-26 14:15
    by Jon Weisman

    Don't fret too much about the Dodgers' performance with runners in scoring position this season. At worst, they have been solidly average.

    The team is eighth in the National League in RISP OPS. With a runner on any base, the team vaults all the way to second in OPS. For those who care about RBI, the Dodgers are fourth with runners in scoring position and second with any runners on.

    What will happen going forward, I don't really know. All I can see is that as far as the opportunities they've had to score, despite our ongoing frustration with every missed chance, the Dodgers have been more successful than the typical NL team. They're also not half bad at getting a rally started, ranking seventh in the NL in on-base percentage with the bases empty.

    Want to see where they're hurting? Slugging percentage with the bases empty: dead last at .338. The Dodgers really have to work to get to second base. But hey, didn't most of us at one time or another?

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    Following Tuesday's 14-inning game, Rafael Furcal, Jeff Kent and Kenny Lofton are out of the starting lineup today against Houston lefty Wandy Rodriguez, leading to Ramon Martinez in the No. 6 spot of the batting order. Jason Repko is leading off, and Oscar Robles is batting eighth.

    Here's Where the Typical Eugene O'Neill Reference Would Go
    2006-04-25 21:55
    by Jon Weisman

    Little League baseball. Everybody gets to play. Grab a bat, Ogilvie.

    Tonight's Dodgers-Astros game was long, but it was the fastest, in terms of innings, that I've ever seen two teams run out of position players. Dodger infielder Ramon Martinez was the last one off the bench in the 10th inning. Each team used 22 players in all.

    In the game, as you can expect, Dodger manager Grady Little made several key decisions. Among them, Little:

  • pinch-ran for Oscar Robles in the ninth inning, down 3-2. Good. Robles is too slow to rely on to score the tying run, and you can't worry about saving Jason Repko for any other situation.

  • double-switched J.D. Drew out of the lineup in the bottom of the ninth. Not good. Even if it meant Takashi Saito had to leave the game after an easy inning (as it turned out, Saito left after a toughie), you want to keep Drew in the game. Saito is less likely to contribute to a victory with a second inning of work than Drew is likely to with an extra at-bat. The weak-hitting Martinez ended up in Drew's spot.

  • didn't go to Danys Baez before Franquelis Osoria in the 10th. Not good. You can't worry about a save when you don't have the lead. In extra innings, you need to go with your strongest relievers in order.

  • had Osoria walk Lance Berkman (all but) intentionally with the winning run on first base and one out in the 10th. Debatable. A double or more from Berkman seems less likely than a single or more from the next hitter, Morgan Ensberg, but I don't really know Osoria well enough to know what a difference it is for him to face a righty.

  • used Lance Carter in the game ahead of Baez in the bottom of the 12th. Unconscionable.

    Someday, the Dodgers will fail to take advantage of a golden game-winning opportunity against a struggling reliever. When that happens, think of the Astros letting Carter off the hook in the 12th tonight after getting an error and two walks.

    Although the error undermined Carter to an extent, I don't think he fooled Little into thinking he pitched well in the 12th. But he got seven outs (counting the error) out of nine batters he faced in two innings, and so that means he pitched better than he had been. He didn't earn the right to any increased exposure earlier in games, but maybe this will help him remember how to get a few more outs when he is used. In any case, he kept the game going.

    * * *

    Not a game-turning play, but just happened to notice that Repko really tried to pull an outside pitch in the top of the 11th that you'd like to see him try to poke to right field. The result was an average grounder to third.

    * * *

    Brad Penny only struck out one batter in seven innings, allowing nine baserunners, but didn't let Houston have an extra-base hit after Craig Biggio's leadoff double. His potentially great season hasn't really lost any steam.

    * * *

    Nomar's Downs: After Monday's uplifting game-winning grand slam, Nomar Garciaparra greeted us tonight with an 0 for 6 with seven runners on base ahead of him, along with news (from Jim Carley at that he is still playing in discomfort:

    It would seem Garciaparra is feeling strong, but he actually is just living with the pain.

    "It's not a matter of feeling strong," Garciaparra said. "It's more a matter of minimizing the pain. It's OK. It's nothing out of the ordinary."

    There's no way of predicting how long the injury will bother him, but Garciaparra isn't complaining.

    "I'm just going to continue to do what I can do," he said. "You never know how you'll feel after something like this. I'm just glad I'm able to come out and play."

    Garciaparra actually almost won the game in the ninth for the second night in a row, but with the bases loaded after the Dodgers tied the game at 3, his long fly arcing toward the right-field corner found Jason Lane's glove.

    * * *

    Rafael Furcal in April: .535 OPS, six errors. It might be a distant memory soon enough, but that is an atrocious start. My purely speculative side insists this is a classic case of nagging health issues rendering a star player worse than a bench player.

    * * *

    To tell you how bad Odalis Perez's swing at the first pitch with the bases loaded and two out in the 14th was, my reaction was, "Come on, Odalis - you're a better hitter than that!" Keep in mind that Perez has a career .127 batting average to brag about. Perez made contact on the second pitch, but it was a groundout to shortstop.

    * * *

    Memo to the National League, based on the final play of the game: Feel free to challenge Kenny Lofton's arm any time you like.

    Time to do the dishes...

  • Navarro Becomes Electra
    2006-04-25 21:54
    by Jon Weisman

    Russell Martin and Dioner Navarro each entered play today with 54 at-bats in their respective leagues. Navarro had 17 total bases plus five walks, for a total of 22. Martin had 23 total bases plus 10 walks, for a total of 33.

    I'm speculating, but I think that difference can mostly, if not entirely, be explained by the difference between facing major league competition in Los Angeles and minor league competition in Las Vegas. So as far as Martin being the bee's kneepads compared to Navarro at the plate, the best we can suggest is maybe.

    Further, whatever the Dodger offensive problems are, they were not meant to be solved by the catcher any more than a museum lives and dies with its senior writer/editor. A good season for Navarro would be about a .700 OPS in the No. 8 slot of the order. If his settling in the .600 range breaks the Dodgers, they were done for, anyway.

    Defensively, the situation with Navarro is mysterious ... just this side of haunting. He seemed like a breath of fresh air behind the plate when he replaced Jason Phillips last season, although that was the "anything will help" equivalent of opening a window in a gas station men's room. Considering how poorly Dodger pitchers hold runners on base, Navarro did a respectable job. With Sandy Alomar, Jr. coming on board to teach him the finer points, whatever those are, we had every reason to hope - to feel promised, in fact - that Navarro would be an asset behind the plate in 2006.

    So far, those promises have evaporated like Enron pensions. Navarro hasn't been throwing out runners attempting to steal, and it hasn't always been the pitchers' hands that have been dirty. And Tuesday, Navarro poorly executed two throws on balls in play, one on a first-inning bunt, the other while trying to nab a baserunner at third.

    During Monday's game, to his credit, Dodger commentator Steve Lyons pointed out two stops that Houston catcher Brad Ausmus made on pitches in the dirt in the ninth inning, noting how often we take those plays for granted. Tonight, Navarro tried to backhand a low pitch by Brad Penny with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth, and instead let the go-ahead run score.

    I really know nothing about catching, except this. On a ball in the dirt with runners on, you have to get your body behind the ball. The fact that Navarro, in this situation, isn't doing that instinctively is like a guy my size shooting spitballs at Deacon Jones in the 60s. Just asking for a beating.

    It doesn't concern me that Navarro isn't hitting a lot yet. And it doesn't really concern me that Navarro makes an error once in a while, or has a bad defensive game. People learn through mistakes. Martin would make them too, and we know Alomar does. (Discouragingly, Alomar was backhanding dangerous pitches with the winning run on base in the 11th inning Tuesday.) Navarro could play like this in April and have every chance of being a hero in September.

    So I have no qualms about Navarro tonight. But as the days and weeks pass, I would like to see the learning begin.

    Ay Yi Yi Bar
    2006-04-25 15:10
    by Jon Weisman

    Dodger infield prospect Willy Aybar has been oh my hot for Las Vegas this season, with an on-base percentage of .420, a slugging percentage of .675 and six home runs (compared to nine strikeouts) in 80 at-bats.

    Since September 1, Aybar's combined statistics with the Dodgers and Las Vegas are 57 for 159 (.358) with a .440 on-base percentage and .572 slugging percentage.

    Aybar turned 23 last month.

    * * *

    Dodger reliever Lance Carter has gotten only two batters out since April 11, yet his season statistics are very similar to a teammate's.

    Lance Carter, 2006: 7 2/3 innings, 10 hits, five runs, one home run, four walks, four strikeouts, 5.87 ERA
    Franquelis Osoria, 2006: 8 innings, 10 hits, five runs, one home run, five walks, five strikeouts, 5.63 ERA

    In contrast to Carter, Osoria has been improving since a rough start. Neither pitcher, frankly, gets enough strikeouts to make me too confident in them. If they can be broken in, one wonders why, say, Jonathan Broxton can't.

    But I should be careful about some judgments I've made. Here's what I wrote about Takashi Saito in February:

    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.
    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    J.D. Drew, Unsung Hero
    2006-04-24 19:37
    by Jon Weisman

    Nomar Garciaparra will be the cover boy Tuesday with his game-winning grand slam and deservedly so. The game stood to end if Garciaparra hit a grounder, but instead a loss became a win. Considering the first three weeks were lost to injury, this is as good a start as Garciaparra could have hoped for.

    But how about it for J.D. Drew? The guy has just been so productive when he's in the lineup. No, he doesn't get a free pass for the games he missed - though I prefer not to chalk them up as a character flaw the way so many others do, but rather just as an objective fact of life that you factor into the discussion. You break a wrist, you sit.

    Nevertheless, Drew is one of the toughest outs of any game that he's in. Having reached base in 28 consecutive games dating back to last season, Drew came to the plate in the seventh inning tonight as the last, best threat to break up Andy Pettitte's no-hit bid. Given a mistake over the plate, Drew jumped on it, sending a low-arcing drive over the right-field fence.

    Because Takashi Saito would not give in to Lance Berkman on a 2-0 pitch in the eighth inning, allowing Berkman to blast a no-doubter over the center-field wall, the Dodgers still trailed, 2-1, in the ninth inning when Kenny Lofton hit a one-out triple off Brad Lidge. What followed, even more than the previous at-bat, was a situation in which Drew just had to deliver. And yet, with two check-swing fouls, Drew was down in the count 0-2, and suddenly you saw another Astros strikeout and a depressing defeat on the horizon. Instead, Drew displayed the plate discipline (too often derided as passivity) to nurse a walk, up the pressure on Lidge and keep the rally alive for Garciaparra's eventual grand slam.

    Drew is now OPSing 1.042. He is just a great hitter, and while Garciaparra is going to be viewed as the savior, it's more than high time that Drew get his due.

    Until We Meet Again
    2006-04-24 15:43
    by Jon Weisman

    James Loney didn't knock too many socks off at the plate while subbing for Nomar Garciaparra, but the following needs to be emphasized: 44 plate appearances, two strikeouts. Coming from a 21-year-old, I can work with that.

    Loney did ground into five double plays. Bad luck on those grounders, or not enough smoke?

    Garciaparra is starting and batting fifth tonight, with Jose Cruz in left field batting seventh. When Cruz is the No. 7 hitter, the Dodger lineup doesn't look that easy to sneak through. It's just a matter of whether this relatively powerless team (.409 slugging percentage) can string together enough hits and walks in the same inning.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    Thanks for the Memory, Cody
    2006-04-24 11:26
    by Jon Weisman

    Proud owners of a 12-7 record, including an 11-0 shutout of Milwaukee on Sunday, the perennial hope-dashing Cincinnati Reds acquired Cody Ross from the Dodgers for a player to be named later, according to The Associated Press. AP reports that Tony Womack will head for the minors to open a roster spot for Ross (though I wonder about Womack accepting such an assignment).

    Since the Dodgers designated Ross for assignment April 17, primarily because he was an extra outfielder on a team that needed middle infield depth following the beaning of Jeff Kent, Dodger reserve middle infielders Ramon Martinez and Oscar Robles have had a combined seven plate appearances, going 0 for 5 with two walks. However, even with one fewer outfielder, the Dodgers have had trouble spreading around the playing time among the 7-8-9 spots as well, and following his seven RBI on April 16, it's doubtful that Ross' trade value could have gotten much higher.

    Robles and Martinez essentially form a reserve middle-infield platoon, but they don't provide much help from a pinch-hitting standpoint. If Nomar Garciaparra is ready to play most days, then Olmedo Saenz, Ricky Ledee and either Kenny Lofton, Jason Repko or Jose Cruz Jr. are the top pinch-hitters. As long as Rafael Furcal and Jeff Kent are in the lineup, Martinez and Robles figure to see very little action. Confoundingly, Kent (.637 OPS) and Furcal (.579 OPS) have been providing offense at Martinez and Robles levels so far this season.

    * * *

    Because it was linked on L.A. Observed, this article by Eric Stone suggesting that the McCourts tear down Dodger Stadium will receive a lot of attention. So I'm just going to respond to it by saying that 1) most of the development goals he sets out for the Dodgers can be achieved without a teardown, 2) re-creating Brooklyn and Ebbets Field would generate little enthusiasm except among Dodger fans 60 or older (by the time the project would be done) who can't get over their feelings of betrayal, 3) if he got his "awful" hot dog from an express line, it probably wasn't grilled, and 4) the idea that this would lead to cheaper hot dogs, or a cheaper fan experience in general, is almost impossibly naive.

    That is not to say the McCourt ownership hasn't considered something similar, even as it has sunk millions into an ongoing project to improve Dodger Stadium. Developing the land surrounding Dodger Stadium is an obvious path to follow, and we can only hope that entering and leaving the Stadium won't be made more difficult by it.

    But really, high prices at the ballpark are here to stay. I rail against them myself, but there's no getting around them. And the high prices are not a function of player salaries, according to all the research I have read. The high prices - like those salaries - are simply a reflection of what consumers are willing to pay.

    As far as long food lines go, we have plenty of less drastic solutions.

    Penny Poker Yielding an Ace?
    2006-04-24 09:51
    by Jon Weisman

    Jason Repko, Bill Mueller, J.D. Drew and Danys Baez got off to fine-to-outstanding starts for the Dodgers this month, as did Cody Ross, Sandy Alomar, Jr. and Takashi Saito in their own, context-required ways. But the best numbers for the young season belong to Brad Penny.

    Penny, who is scheduled to make his fifth start Tuesday, has thrown 24 innings this season and has more strikeouts (25) than baserunners allowed (20 hits, two walks, one hit batter). His ERA is 1.88, and the OPS against him is a mere .562. He has faced 93 batters and allowed four extra-base hits. In his last start against Chicago, Penny looked as uncomfortable as a pitcher can look throwing his warmup tosses, and I got worried. He proceeded to allow a first-inning run but was otherwise effective, leaving after six innings with a 4-2 lead, seven strikeouts and 10 baserunners allowed (a double, a walk and eight singles).

    Penny has been more of a sprinter than a marathoner this season, lasting no more than seven innings or 105 pitches in any game - not that that's a criticism, rather a place for skeptics to find purchase. He also hasn't pitched against the offensive powers of the National League: Atlanta (ranked seventh in NL team OPS) is the best of his opponents to date, with Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco ranked 10th or worse. But after Derek Lowe opens the Dodgers' series in Houston tonight, Penny will face an Astros team with a .365 on-base percentage and .481 slugging percentage. Third baseman Morgan Ensberg has an OPS of 1.477, tops in baseball, and the remaining two Killer Bees, second baseman Craig Biggio and first baseman Lance Berkman, are over 1.000. What an infield.

    At age 40, Biggio could start dropping off at any minute, and the rest of the Houston lineup has been much less impressive. Nevertheless, making his final scheduled start of April, Penny has a chance to assert himself as the staff ace the Dodgers have been looking for since they traded for him, the first staff ace since Odalis Perez had a 3.25 ERA in 2004, or if you're not that generous, since Kevin Brown had a 2.39 ERA in 2003.

    Penny's walk and strikeout rates are far out of proportion with his career rates, so don't expect miracles. Just know that if he does make it through Houston with his head held high, the Dodgers might be looking at an All-Star in the starting rotation.

    April 23 Game Chat
    2006-04-23 09:53
    by Jon Weisman
    April 22 Game Chat
    2006-04-22 14:55
    by Jon Weisman
    Rally Capped
    2006-04-21 16:19
    by Jon Weisman

    The Dodgers have lost five games in which they led. Led substantially, I might add.

    They have won two games in which they trailed (unsubstantially).

    April 5: Led 5-0, lost 9-8
    April 9 (1): Led 3-0, lost 6-3
    April 11: Led 6-3, lost 7-6
    April 12: Led 3-0, lost 9-5
    April 19: Led 4-2, lost 5-4

    April 9 (2): Trailed 1-0, won 6-2
    April 15: Trailed 1-0, won 3-1

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    The Latest Shuttlebutt
    2006-04-20 15:35
    by Jon Weisman

    Though and City News Service report that a proposed shuttle to Dodger Stadium from the Metro Gold, Blue and Red lines has been deemed too expensive to operate by Los Angeles' Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the estimated deficit is less than Ramon Martinez's salary: from $500,000 to $670,000 per year (based upon a $4 individual round-trip fee).

    According to the report, the MTA has not ascertained the Dodgers' interest in the shuttle. But if the team and its fans did find such a service worthwhile, it would seem possible that the dollar gap could be bridged. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich apparently suggested as much, requesting the MTA to "look into partnerships with private companies to subsidize some of the cost," the report said.

    As many of you know, a bus shuttle service for Friday night games from Union Station to Dodger Stadium came and went in recent years. Though many people don't have convenient access to the subway in Los Angeles, those that do might certainly enjoy taking advantage of a regular shuttle service, given the proximity of the stadium to three different subway lines.

    The key would be to ensure that enough shuttles would be running so that people wouldn't grow impatient with the service. The staffing issues surrounding this concern could put the operations cost out of reach. And given that Dodger attendance is as high as it is, there might not be much incentive for the team to contribute to this cause. In a sense, though the hypothetical deficit seems somewhat small, it's possible that in reality it would be much larger.

    I guess I'm left wondering why is it so expensive for the MTA to increase its service. When push comes to shove, isn't this simply just another route? Is there something about this route that gives it a particularly exorbitant cost? Maybe someone with more expertise can enlighten.

    Update: Comments below indicate there are several reasons why this specialized service is more difficult to finance. Basically, because of the inconsistent scheduling and ridership, it's not just another route.

    * * *

    In other news, Forbes magazine reports (via The Associated Press) that the Dodgers have the fourth-highest value of any Major League Baseball franchise, at $482 million. The Yankees were first at $1 billion, though they reported an operating loss last year.

    Update: Dodger Thoughts reader Steve - he's like Cher at this point, no last name required - provides this link to Forbes' chart and nudges us to look at the Debt/Value column.

    While we're at it, here's how the MLB teams rank by one-year value change. Washington and Kansas City - you're in the top three!

    * * *

    Rafael Furcal, who hasn't exactly been too healthy himself, has deprived the Cubs of Derrek Lee for six weeks to three months by colliding with the All-Star first baseman. Lee has two broken bones in his right wrist.

    * * *

    Las Vegas at Fresno, 7 p.m.

    By the Light of the Moon
    2006-04-20 09:00
    by Jon Weisman

    What can the overweight, slow kid who never played Little League get out of Wally Moon's Baseball Camp in the early 60s? Plenty, as this guest essay by Jeff Angus at Baseball Analysts illustrates:

    Back in the early Sixties, my parents needed to ship me off for a couple of summers so they could marinate in married life and the excessive drama of their lives. Each had been born into small families unwilling to put up with the likes of me (overly talkative, overly active, overly curious -- (who can blame them?), so the alternative was to park me at summer camp. And there I quickly learned more lessons about life than David Carradine got on 62 episodes of Kung Fu, and I didn't even need to shave my head. ...

    * * *

    As he has all week, Toaster-mate Derek Smart of Cub Town has a great writeup of the last Dodgers-Cubs game, starting with his despair over the Rafael Furcal bunt that injured two Cubs, including All-Star Derrek Lee.

    Perhaps it's all some sort of karmic payback for the tremendous good luck the Cubs had offensively last night, with bloops, blunders, and bobbles having a part in all of their five runs, and if that's the case, then let me be the first to say the price exacted was too high, even if the payment method turns out to involve little more than hair loss and agita (or perhaps the runs were reimbursement for the injuries, in which case, we'd better be on an installment plan). ...

    How can Sandy Alomar Jr. still be playing? He's been one of the most injury-plagued players I can recall in recent years, yet he's forty years old and still at the most demanding position on the diamond. Think of it this way: In 2001, Sandy hit an abysmal .245/.288/.345 in only 220 at bats for the White Sox, while his younger brother, Roberto, had an MVP-type season for the Indians. Really, now, at the end of that year, who did you think would retire first? ...

    In the bottom of the sixth, while David Aardsma (did you know that when listed alphabetically words that start with a-a-r-d get listed before words that begin with a-a-r-o? Shocking!) was busy scaring the crap out of me before he coughed up the lead, the Cubs' broadcast kept showing shots of the conversation that was taking place between Sean Marshall and Greg Maddux, and it was utterly fascinating.

    I couldn't tell what was being said exactly, although I could pick up occasional words like "fastball" from reading Maddux's lips, but the interest in watching the exchange wasn't so much in what was said, as in how it was said. It was abundantly clear from his manner that The Professor was really teaching Marshall something, that it wasn't just a casual conversation, or a youngster quickly picking a veteran's brain, it was a full-fledged lesson in the art of pitching, and attendance was mandatory. ...

    Garciaparra Packs for Vegas
    2006-04-19 19:20
    by Jon Weisman

    Nomar Garciaparra is to begin a two-day minor league rehabilitation assignment Thursday and join the Dodgers on Saturday if all goes well, reports The Associated Press.

    "I'm excited. I've had three days of batting practice and felt really good, so this is definitely the next step," Garciaparra said before making the trip to Fresno to join the Las Vegas team ...

    Garciaparra also acknowledged that he still wasn't 100 percent physically, but that was only because of residual soreness.

    "I think the last time I was 100 percent might have been when I was 5, but I'm feeling pretty good," Garciaparra said. "I did a lot of things to keep my legs in shape and maintain that, so going out there is not going to be much of a shock."

    * * *

    Against a lefty tonight, J.D. Drew, James Loney and Dioner Navarro sit. Jason Repko, Olmedo Saenz and Sandy Alomar, Jr. stand.

    So does Kenny Lofton. I understand the impulse to rest Drew, but is Drew more fragile than Lofton? Guess the Dodgers are anxious to get Lofton his 100 games.

    Tonight's Game

    Solving the Food Line Crisis
    2006-04-19 10:28
    by Jon Weisman

    Are you willing to drink a beer or eat nacho cheese that was poured no more than five minutes before you ordered, if it would significantly reduce the amount of time you waited in line to by food at Dodger Stadium?

    People already accept hot dogs that were grilled before they ordered them. Still, the food lines at Dodger Stadium deteriorate rapidly, because the workers taking the customer orders are also on a treadmill of salting pretzels, pouring, de-foaming and topping off beers, and wandering about to fill nacho cheese requests.

    So far, the best solution the Dodgers have come up with is installing more television sets in the food lines so that people aren't as anxious about their wait. I say that more needs to be done to make the food lines move faster - and reducing serving time is the area where the most dramatic change can be made.

    That's what brings about my question. Would you object to the Dodger food servers pre-pouring to stay just ahead of the pace of orders? Would you be willing to drink a five-minute-old drink, if it meant you got back to your seat 10 minutes sooner?

    P.S. As reader "bhsportsguy" recalled in the previous thread, the Dodgers used to have a buffet style setup. This was superior, because food was out there for you to grab (and being refreshed all the time), you could still request special orders such as extra grilling for your hot dog, and people could jump ahead of you to pay if they had all they wanted.

    But in the short term, I think the pre-pour method is what's needed.

    Kent, Loney in Starting Lineup
    2006-04-18 16:35
    by Jon Weisman

    (So says Inside the Dodgers.)

    By the way, Olmedo Saenz hit two long fly balls last night ... he almost showed me up.

    I liked the window into facing Greg Maddux that Jason Repko gave. From Tony Jackson in the Daily News:

    "I've never seen a sinker break (in) as hard as the one he threw me," Repko said, shaking his head in amazement just thinking about a called third strike.

    What made it even more remarkable was how Maddux set Repko up with a 76-mph curve ball the pitch before.

    "Because now I'm really thinking," Repko said. "And on the next pitch, I'm looking at the ball coming out of his hand and it's a foot out of the strike zone. So in my mind, I"ve already made the decision not to swing at it. Then it starts this crazy break, and by the time I'm realizing what happened, it's too late. He's got me. Boom, it breaks (away) on the corner for a strike. Amazing."

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    How Far Back Do Your Guys Go?
    2006-04-18 12:01
    by Jon Weisman

    Something I find fascinating is that if my grandfather had a schoolteacher who was in his 60s, that he would have been taught by someone born well before the Civil War. As simple as that, two degrees of separation and not even a stretch, and I'm connected to 1850.

    Someday, if I'm lucky, my grandchild will be impressed that I can connect myself to the late 19th century (with some amount of stretching). In the meantime, here's a baseball version of the game. Read the question carefully: Of all the baseball players you have seen in person, what's the earliest year that one of them played in the majors?

    For me, I'm not sure that I've exhausted all the possibilities for visiting players. My first guesses were Pete Rose and Willie Stargell. (I don't think I ever saw Willie Mays or Hank Aaron in person as opposed to on TV, for example.) So far, I can't seem to top Stargell and Manny Mota, who made their major league debuts in 1962, five years before I was born.

    * * *

    I'm scheduled to make a radio apperance on The Big Show with Steve Mason and John Ireland (AM 710) at approximately 3:20 p.m.

    A Different Ballgame: Lost on Mars
    2006-04-18 07:40
    by Jon Weisman

    Years ago, I wrote about the value of backstory and character development in appreciating baseball:

    ... But I'm pretty sure the main thing that keeps me coming back to baseball is that I care about the characters. I've cared about the characters for more than 25 years. They are part of my life, and I care about just about everyone that makes an impression. And so many of them do - both major and minor characters.

    Just the ones named Pedro alone could keep me occupied. Pedro Martinez. Pedro Astacio. Pedro Guerrero. Pedro Borbon. Pedro Borbon, Jr. If these guys are doing anything, whether pitching a shutout or using the disturbing but effective low-IQ defense, I care.

    It's all about backstories. The Pedros have backstories. Kevin Brown has a backstory. Hiram Bocachica has a backstory. Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth - all-time backstories. All the teams, from the Dodgers to the Devil Rays to the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, have backstories. The sport as a whole has its own collective backstory. And then, when these actors take the field - either at the ballpark in front of you, or on television, or in a book or newspaper clipping, you have all this set-up to appreciate the significance of everything they do.

    Baseball is a stage, a movie set, a comic-book world in which all these characters enter and exit and live and die. As you begin to care about one character and watch his journey, it snowballs and you begin to care about others upon others. It is not waxing mystical or fantastical to say that it is a world filled with drama and comedy and exhilaration and heartbreak. It just is - in a deeper, more evolved sense than any movie honestly can ever offer.

    What a movie offers ... for better or worse, is that it ends. Baseball doesn't.

    Now, you can get into arguments about why baseball, as opposed to football or curling. That's not what this is about. You can take the above philosophy and apply it to any sport or to all sports.

    I happen to pick baseball - not to the exclusion of all others, but certainly above all others - for the ballpark and the hot dog and the rhythm of the game and so many other things. But the game itself is the set dressing - perhaps the best set dressing in the world, but a backdrop nonetheless.

    The addiction is to the characters. Nothing else assembles a more compelling cast than baseball does.

    There is something for everyone to love about baseball. If you want to share that love with someone, and that person doesn't seem to care about double plays or hot dogs, then start telling stories about the people who play the game. Give them the opening minutes of the movie - the part before the plot thickens. Think of what just hearing the name Odalis Perez or Adrian Beltre or Jim Thome evokes. Each has a story. And the next big chapter in those stories will reveal itself at the ballpark tonight. With chapters upon chapters to follow.

    No special effects. None needed. Give anyone the characters, and see if down the road, that routine grounder to second doesn't become poetry.

    Having said all that three years ago, I want to point out that the reverse is also true. Any baseball game can be entertaining even if you don't know anything about the teams or the players. The game can also be dull, but the potential for quality is there with every pitch.

    The reason I bring this up today is to pick a beef with some television fans, fans of any of the many serialized dramas on the air today: Lost, The Sopranos, Veronica Mars, you name it. I talk to people, I read some critics and some message boards, and find a disturbing preoccupation with guessing outcomes, weeks, months or years before the endings will come.

    Some folks particularly gang up on Lost, trying to solve the mysteries of the island and its characters right now. Keep in mind that Lost is a huge success and probably is good to run from this, its second season, through at least three more, into the spring of 2009. Nevertheless, people want answers immediately. In particular, the editors, writers and readers of Entertainment Weekly devote hundreds and hundreds of words each week to sussing out the ultimate ending to a show that won't end for years. To me, they are threatening the golden goose with death by a thousand keystrokes.

    What's even more disconcerting is the lack of faith some people have that a brilliant serialized drama will have a satisfying ending. Yes, I know it went all wrong for Twin Peaks, but that doesn't mean that it will go all wrong for every program. More than one person I've talked to has complained that the producers of Lost seem to be "making this stuff as they go along." Uh, yeah. It's called creative writing. That's how we do it.

    I've written for television shows with seasonal arcs and mysteries beneath the surface. I'll make no pretense about the epic quality of them - they were children's shows, and although I think they've been underrated, I'm not going to claim they were robbed of an Emmy. In producing these programs, the show runners do have some general idea about where they want to take the show, some knowledge of the mysteries and above all, intimate familiarity with the characters. But they don't know every last detail. They let smaller truths lead to bigger ones. A good story will, to a great extent, tell itself.

    Now, I'm no different from most in wondering what's going on in Lost with the island and wondering what the show's about. If I read a crime mystery, I try to solve the murder. But I don't let these curiosities inhibit my enjoyment of the show. If it's a great ride, I enjoy the ride. And it's not as if any individual episode in any of these shows doesn't have a self-contained plotline or three that resolves itself in 60 minutes or less (or, to the irritation of my brother's VCR, 60 minutes or more).

    April 5. Q: What's going on with Hurley? A: Well, for one thing, Hurley is schizophrenic. So that's one mystery solved, with (thankfully) other answers to come. That's something. One of the great joys of Lost is how meaningful the small revelations about each character can be. There is too much to explore on Lost to be worried so soon about tying up every loose end.

    The latest article in this debate comes from Jeff Jensen of EW, who is perhaps the Frank Pembleton of Lost detectives, relentless in his pursuit of the case. Jensen is also a fan of Veronica Mars, but is threatening to abandon the show because it is "becoming too protracted, too twisty, and, yes, too Veronica Mars-ish for its own good."

    Jensen picks on last week's episode, "I Am God," and says that it "may have been the creative high point of the season, steeped in so much plot, so much detail, so many great character moments and hilarious lines, that it really needed to be seen twice to be fully appreciated." This is a bad thing, he argues, because he doesn't have time to watch it twice. So now he's questioning whether he should watch at all.

    Not having time to watch shows more than once - man, I can relate. Still, the idea of abandoning the show because I can't study it like it was the material for a final exam makes no sense to me. I absolutely protest the argument that it's better to skip the show than watch it only once and draw some joy from it but potentially have some things go over your head. Certainly, there is a limit to the amount of unfathomability one can take, but shows like Lost and Veronica Mars don't go anywhere near that limit.

    It's bad enough that, as Jensen points out, the scheduling of Veronica Mars is difficult to track in Los Angeles thanks to, of all things, preemption by baseball telecasts. But TiVo, which many of us have, solves that problem. Let's not make it worse by complaining out loud that a show is complex or layered. The last thing we need is for network executives to get the message that television need to be dumbed down to retain an audience. It's practically criminal to let this train of thought out of the station.

    If it's a choice between a show or a viewer feeling stupid in a given week, let it be the viewer. Don't be so fixated with trying to solve every mystery before the mysteries are over. The "I Am God" episode of Veronica Mars had a lot of seasonal arc stuff going on, but also had enough that was self-contained within the episode to enjoy. Television is just like baseball - it can be enhanced by the backstories of the participants, of the great and small characters in the game, but ignorance of those backstories doesn't mean you can't enjoy it.

    If you need to have immediate complete understanding of an experience to appreciate it, you're setting yourself up for a pretty sheltered life. Let the good storytellers tell their stories. Let the seasons unfold. Don't undermine your own pleasure by trying to outwit the future.

    Kent Beaning Sends Ross Out of Town
    2006-04-17 17:40
    by Jon Weisman

    Jeff Kent's absence from tonight's game has forced the Dodgers' infield-deficient hand, and they have designated Cody Ross for assignment to call up Oscar Robles to play second base.

    Ross, who can only remain a Dodger if no team trades for him or claims him on waivers, may hold the record for fastest departure after a game with seven RBI or more.

    Babe Ruth remained in baseball for eight days after his three-homer, six-RBI game for the Boston Braves. Don't know if anything has ever topped - or bottomed - that.

    Robles, who will start and bat seventh tonight, has been called up for his defense. After a rookie season that was productive only in the absence of any competition in 2005, Robles is OPSing .627 in Las Vegas. He is 8 for 32 with two doubles and three walks. Willy Aybar, who has shuttled between second base and third in his career, is OPSing 1.157: 16 for 40 with three doubles, three homers and five walks.

    The Dodgers have also essentially given up on James Loney for the time being. Olmedo Saenz, who really can't hit right-handed pitchers at all (he has an OPS just above .700 against them since 2003), is starting at first base tonight against Greg Maddux and batting fifth.

    If I find out that Saenz has been given this primo spot in the order because of his career .333 average against Maddux, I will ache like a helicopter ride after eating funnel cake. He's 1 for 3.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    Putting Lofton's Role in Perspective
    2006-04-17 14:11
    by Jon Weisman

    I would suggest that the following was true before the season began:

    1a) Kenny Lofton was not a viable full-time center fielder for 2006.
    1b) The Dodgers made it clear from the start that they didn't expect Lofton to play more than 110 games. They knew he would be at best a rather glorified role player disguised as nominal starter.

    2a) Lofton's contract of well over $3 million per year is out of proportion to his talents.
    2b) His contract does not appear to have forestalled any other attempts to improve the outfield. General manager Ned Colletti has always been interested in strengthening the outfield, if for no other reason than to improve upon Jose Cruz, Jr. There is no indication that the reason he hasn't is because a budget limit has been reached.

    3a) The idea that Lofton would help the team from a chemistry perspective was ludicrous.
    3b) The fact that he won't help the team from a chemistry perspective is not a strike against him.

    4a) Lofton doesn't have much power.
    4b) He is a guy who can get on base against right-handed pitching and an efficient basestealer.

    5a) Lofton will not carry your team to a division title.
    5b) He does have the talent to be useful on a pennant-contending ballclub.

    Despite the strong outfield play the Dodgers saw in Los Angeles and Las Vegas while Lofton started the season on the disabled list, I'm not ready to believe that Jason Repko, Cody Ross, Joel Guzman or Andre Ethier is ready to take over an outfield position full-time. Sure, I'd rather see Lofton as a true bench player than as a questionable starter, but there's no reason to think that Lofton can't contribute to the team until a five-star outfield candidate emerges, and no reason to react in anger if his name is in the starting lineup against a right-handed pitcher at this stage.

    This is not a prediction that Lofton will stay healthy - far from it. It's a suggestion that while Lofton is healthy, however briefly, that he still has value as a tablesetter. Whether or not Lofton was worth acquiring, he is worth using once acquired. The fact that the Dodgers will eventually do better than Lofton does not mean Lofton can't help the team in the short term.

    Thoughts from the Shallow End of the Pool
    2006-04-17 09:34
    by Jon Weisman

    Still refusing to get too up or down after 13 games ...

  • See how quickly we solved last week's imbalance of great Dodger hitting vs. woeful Dodger pitching? Pittsburgh seems so long ago, but it's been all of four days.
  • When we coined the term "smokejumper" here, did we really have Takashi Saito in mind?
  • Spring Training Is Over (Cont.): Ex-Dodger and Mad Marlin of March Reggie Abercrombie is 2 for 21 with two walks, no extra-base hits.
  • The Dodger offense has 56 walks compared to 67 strikeouts. Rafael Furcal is living off walks - 10 of them have boosted his on-base percentage to .362. His slugging percentage is .250.
  • I don't play fantasy baseball for precisely the non-fantasy problem I'm facing tonight: I like Greg Maddux and want to see him do well. Give me a Dodger victory after Maddux is out of the game.
  • The Jose Cruz, Jr. bunt Sunday? No, I didn't like it, either.
  • Combined stolen base statistics of Dodgers and their opponents: 23 for 24.
  • So far, Brad Penny (18 innings, three runs, 12 baserunners, 18 strikeouts) has been everything you want in an ace except going deep in games.
  • The fact that 2006 might not be James Loney's year means nothing for his long-term prospects.
  • I still think this team will get better, but not great, as the season goes on.

    * * *

    Dodger OPS by Position
    P: .248
    C: .825
    1B: .766
    2B: .775
    3B: .990
    SS: .594
    LF: .952
    CF: .854
    RF: 1.097
    PH: .591

    * * *

    Update: More of the fine work of St. Manny, from

    "Manny Mota is like a second father to me," (Placido) Polanco, 29, said. "He not only gave me a scholarship to go to college and to live in the United States, he taught me the game and how to live. He gave me a life scholarship."

  • April 16 Game Chat
    2006-04-16 10:57
    by Jon Weisman
    April 15 Game Chat
    2006-04-15 12:06
    by Jon Weisman

    Mostly keeping myself offline this weekend ...

    Tonight's Game

    I Am Shocked, Shocked, To Learn There Are Injuries Here
    2006-04-15 09:30
    by Jon Weisman

    Your ligament, sir.

    Don't Barry, Be Happy
    2006-04-14 08:27
    by Jon Weisman

    Tonight's Game

    Please consider this a plea to Dodger fans not to embarrass ourselves when it comes to Barry Bonds' appearances in town tonight and throughout the weekend. I don't expect the average fan to be silent when he walks onto the field, but how about no profanity, no throwing things onto the field, no running onto the field, no verbal or physical assaults of Giants fans?

    There are plenty of things you can do to root for the Dodgers, and against the Giants and Bonds, that are above contempt. Remember, it's a baseball game. You know, with kids in attendance?

    Let's not turn ourselves into the bad guys.

    Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News offered some heckling tips in his column today. I'm not into the taunting concept at all, but if you are, Hoffarth's guidelines aren't bad:


    DO: Bring a copy of the book, "Game of Shadows" for some light reading between innings. In there, you'll find some of these "talking points": THG, HGH, flaxseed oil, the clear, Victor Conte, Kimberly Bell (his ex-girlfriend), Lamar (his middle name).

    DON'T: Throw the book at him. Or anything onto the field, even if you're willing to spend time in the stadium holding cell and don't mind having your kids bail you out.

    Besides, the syringe incident in San Diego provoked one Giants fan to write a letter to the San Diego Union-Tribune: "Tossing needles at Bonds is just lame. I expect that from Dodgers fans, not you (Padres fans). ... boo all you want, but show some dignity."

    DO: Check out the Dodgers' 11 rules of "Fan Code of Conduct" on the team's Web site before you come out.

    "We are proud that Dodger Stadium is one of the safest, most family-friendly ballparks in the country," said Camille Johnston, the team's senior vice president of communications. "We do not condone misbehavior of any kind and are prepared to and do eject those fans that violate our policies."

    [Dodger Thoughts comment: Hope you put your security where your mouth is.]

    DON'T: Challenge security if they ask you to shut up. ... and don't bother trying to bring a hand-made sign. There are restrictions posted right outside the stadium that ban them, as well as banners, flags and noisemakers.

    "Those who contrive elaborate ways to rag Bonds might be heroic protectors of baseball's integrity," Kevin Modesti of the Daily News adds in his column today. "Or they might be grandstanders who are missing the point of a night at the ballpark. Why would anybody go to a game, ignore the 894 parts of a major-league game that can be enjoyed without a thought of steroids, and dwell on the sport's unhappiest aspect?"

    Modesti goes on to answer his own question, but I think it reads better if just kept rhetorical. I don't think any response is needed.

    Ross No Longer Dressed for Less
    2006-04-13 15:17
    by Jon Weisman

    It hasn't been a wonderful thing to be a Dodger named Ross the past few years. Things ended sadly here in the 2004-05 offseason for Mr. Dave and Mr. Porter, and it looked like it would be the same in 2005-06 for Mr. Cody.

    Now, everyone's wondering more than ever about the fate of Cody Ross. Not that one magnificent seven-RBI game does a career make (though it's a heck of a moment), but it's hard to argue that Ross isn't more valuable to the Dodgers than one of the seven men in their bullpen. Yet the Dodgers can't stash him in the minors, because he is out of options.

    Ross' hot start to the season off the bench for the Dodgers has cemented that he has some trade value. Both he and fellow right-handed outfielder Jason Repko, who were practically waiver bait when Spring Training began, have shown upside. So the Dodgers might try to parlay their April performances and trade one of them for something useful.

    However, it should be clear that the category of "something useful" should not include another mediocre relief pitcher. So on the theory that the Dodgers might find no meaningful trade offer, here's what we're looking at:

    1) The Dodgers can and should make sure Kenny Lofton is 100 percent and then some before activating him from the disabled list.

    2) With more not necessarily being merrier, especially with off days in each of the next two weeks, the 12-man pitching staff should be reduced to 11 once Lofton or Nomar Garciaparra comes off the DL, as Ken Gurnick of suggests:

    Little said his struggling relievers might be more effective if there were fewer of them pitching more regularly. That could mean optioning to Las Vegas a young reliever like Franquelis Osoria, whose ERA is 12.27 after he allowed a run Thursday.

    Even more likely, something could be done with Yhency Brazoban, who is pitching as if the sore shoulder and elbow he battled during Spring Training still aren't sound. He was shut down for two weeks in Florida and might be headed back to the sidelines.

    "The guys feel he's not throwing like he's capable of throwing," said Little.

    I would add Tim Hamulack, whose 0.00 ERA belies the inherited and unearned runs he has allowed to score, to the list of drop-down candidates.

    3) Should Lofton and Garciaparra both somehow become healthy before the next Dodger gets hurt - almost unthinkable, isn't it - first baseman James Loney would probably return to AAA Las Vegas. Unfortunately, that would lead the Dodgers extremely overloaded on the bench with right-handed batters. With a right-handed pitcher starting, Ricky Ledee would be the only left-handed bat on reserve.

    So that's the scenario that might force the Dodgers' hand on Ross. But with circumstances changing almost daily, we can cross that bridge when we come to it.

    In the meantime, some cold water to toss your way. Ex-Ross manager Jim Tracy wasn't too overwhelmed by the player's hitting display, according to Alan Robinson of The Associated Press:

    Pirates manager Jim Tracy said any major league hitter would have liked the two pitches Ross homered on.

    "The grand slam was a split-finger pitch by Oliver that sat in the middle of the plate," Tracy said. "The homer off Marte was a first-pitch fastball that was right down the middle. Cody, or anybody else, is going to hit pitches like that."

    On a more random note, here are the career stats of the last Ross to hit two home runs in a game for the Dodgers, Dave, since his great day of September 14, 2003: 64 for 311, 10 home runs, 26 walks, .277 on-base percentage, .354 slugging percentage, .631 OPS.

    But as Gurnick noted, in the same game Cody Ross hit his last (and first) career home run, also a grand slam, Cody suffered a season-ending knee injury. A three-run home run is a nice alternative to that.

    * * *

    Playing hurt: Gurnick earlier had a couple of reports about the following walking wounded that should be cause for concern.

    (J.D. Drew) hasn't seemed to recover fully from last year's shoulder surgery. He has yet to come close to displaying the power throws that made him one of the better defensive right fielders in the league. ...

    Shortstop Rafael Furcal is still occasionally troubled by a sore shoulder he encountered trying to play catch-up this spring while recovering from knee surgery. Furcal said he still feels it on certain throws, especially off his back leg.

    Given how Repko and Ross have been hitting, don't look for Drew to get many starts against left-handed pitchers, at least for now. Kind of unusual to platoon an $11 million hitter, but I have to come down in favor of anything that will help Drew physically, that will buy him some time. And again, look for change as soon as the plan stops working.

    Meanwhile, Furcal presents another situation of a Dodger compensating for one injury and then coming down with another. Anyone out there endose putting Furcal on the disabled list for 15 days to let him heal, and surviving, however glumly, with Ramon Martinez or Oscar Robles at short for a while?

    (Or Joel Guzman? No, I know - that positional ship has sailed.)

    * * *

    If you're disappointed about Drew's fragility, boy, things could be worse right now. Adrian Beltre and Shawn Green, whose would-have-been Dodger paychecks have instead funded Drew among others, were a combined 8 for 55 (.145) with three walks and one extra base hit, Green's home run Tuesday.

    Out of the Chem Lab, Out on a Limb
    2006-04-13 07:35
    by Jon Weisman

    Nine games into the season, the Dodger pitching staff has struggled to get people out after about the second inning.

    Expectations for the pitchers shouldn't have been too high going into 2006, but it's fair that they could have been higher than this. On a 12-man staff, only Brad Penny and Danys Baez have outpitched their histories.

    The same logic that tells us the offense will not continue to lead the league in hits tells us that things will normalize among the pitchers. Certainly, though, there is reason to wonder how much better "normal" will be.

    Look at Brett Tomko, for example. In all the local papers today, individual interviews with Sandy Alomar, Jr. and Tomko turned into a de facto debate about whether the two two-run home runs Tomko allowed in one inning Wednesday were because of pitch selection or pitch location. Not to be snide, but one wonders whether Tomko has been having these debates all his career. The guy gives up runs at a rate higher than the league average, and at his age, it's going to take a heck of a discussion to change that.

    This Dodger team was marketed as one that would win more through better chemistry, character and veteran leadership. Nine games into the season, we're about to begin our first test of that theory. Is it about personality, or is it about talent? There are four possible answers to this quiz:

  • The chemistry is good and will help the team.
  • The chemistry is good but will have no effect.
  • The chemistry is actually bad and won't help the team.
  • The chemistry is bad, but the team will improve because the talent is there.

    It should be said that the Dodgers' 4-5 record isn't far below reasonable hopes for a team that begins the season with six of nine games on the road and six of nine games against National League East division title contenders. Anything above 5-4 would have been a pleasant surprise. As far as the goal of the Dodgers winning the NL West, I don't see any reason to panic. Thanks to the strength of their farm systems, the Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks are more likely than any other NL West team to improve as the season goes on.

    But I will take this moment to reiterate that for all the supposed personality strengths of the 2006 Dodgers, I don't see much difference from the 2005 Dodgers other than the absence of Milton Bradley. That 2005 team was made up of plenty of hale fellows well met who never got credit. The biggest chemistry difference with the 2006 Dodgers is that people were willing to hear, to believe, that there are good guys around. Oh, and that they go to dinner together. For now.

    Me, I'm not placing a whole lot of hope in chemistry and character getting the Dodgers out of a pitching slump or holding the hitting to such lofty levels. Instead, I think it comes down to what Grady Little said of Yhency Brazoban in the Press-Enterprise:

    "He has to do better."

    Can he? Can the Dodgers? Sure. But we'll have to see how much.

    (Update: Oh yeah - Spring Training stats don't matter.)

    * * *

    Today's 9:35 a.m. game

  • J.D. Drew is out of the starting lineup, against a lefty in a day game following a night game.

  • I am sickened - sickened - that they have banned the fumblerooski. How dare they!

    Next thing you know, they'll be banning Butts Up or Socco in grade schools...

    * * *

    Update 2: Jeff Ianucci of My Name Is IRL passes along a report by Damian Dottore in the Register that the Dodgers may host an Indy Racing League street race in the area surrounding Dodger Stadium as early as next year:

    Dodgers senior vice president of communications Camille Johnston confirmed Monday that IRL officials are proposing a race that would use the parking lot and access roads on the streets in Elysian Park.

    IRL vice president of public relations John Griffin said the race likely would be held in March, with a 2007 event being a remote possibility.

    "The Los Angeles market is very important to the Indy Racing League," Griffin said. "We are exploring several opportunities for us to return."

    The IRL raced for four years at California Speedway in Fontana, but the track was left off the 2006 schedule. Speedway officials wanted to hold the race the week after the Indy 500. The IRL, however, thought it would be too much of a logistical nightmare to travel across the country in such a short amount of time.

    Update 3: Uh, who had Cody Ross with seven RBI in the pool today?

  • Viva Las Vegas
    2006-04-12 14:59
    by Jon Weisman

    Just a reminder: Rob McMillin recaps the previous day in Dodger (and Angel) minor league baseball every morning at 6-4-2.

    AAA Las Vegas is 6-0 following Tuesday's 5-4 victory over Salt Lake and has outscored its opponents, 48-20.

    * * *

    Today's Game

    Looking Back at Gagne's Injuries
    2006-04-12 09:54
    by Jon Weisman

    For the national audience, I've traced Eric Gagne's injury history and wondered whether his tolerance for pain is too good for his own good in this new article:

    The downward spiral could hardly have emerged from a more optimistic moment. It was a picture-postcard scene that would never be the same again, and it captured how quickly the most genuine of hopes can become naive.

    It was Feb. 24, 2005, the beginning of Spring Training, the very first day of full-squad workouts for the defending National League West champion Los Angeles Dodgers. It began during a game of pepper, a throwback to baseball's days of purity and promise. And it humbled All-Star reliever Eric Gagne, the rock of the Dodger franchise.

    Barely 13 months ago (though it seems like a lifetime of doctor visits has passed since then), while playing that carefree game of pepper, Gagne's left spike stuck in the ground. His knee popped. Slightly, but perceptibly.

    That's how innocuous it all was. Though the initial diagnosis of a mild sprain brought relief to the Dodger faithful, it was the first tear in the fraying of Gagne's career. ...

    When Irish Flies are Flying
    2006-04-12 09:45
    by Jon Weisman

    A documentary about the Irish National Baseball team, The Emerald Diamond, is playing at the Westside Pavilion (Pico and Overland) tonight at 7 p.m.

    "The Irish National Team has some ties to the Dodgers," director John Fitzgerald told me in an e-mail. "Former owner Peter O'Malley was responsible for building the first baseball fields in Ireland back in 1998."

    "Since the fields were built, baseball has gained momentum in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Youth and adult leagues in Cork, Kerry, Belfast and Dublin have made baseball one of Ireland's fastest growing sports."

    The press release adds this quote from Irish National Team pitcher Cormac Eklof: "Those fields continue to be very important to us. Before the fields were built, we had no place to practice and most of the team had never even seen a real pitcher's mound. Peter O'Malley is kind of like the godfather of Irish baseball."

    A Monument to Koufax
    2006-04-11 14:09
    by Jon Weisman

    If you're interested in supporting a campaign to place a statue of Sandy Koufax at Dodger Stadium, go to Baseball Savvy and send in your e-petition.

    * * *

    Today's Game

    On the Theory That Not All Home Runs Are Created Equally ...
    2006-04-11 09:27
    by Jon Weisman

    Dodger Home Runs Allowed, 2006
    HR#GameDateOpp.BatterPitcherInn.OutsCountRunnersScore BeforeFinalHarm
    114/3vs. Atl.LaRocheLowe111-22nd-3rdAtl 1, L.A. 0Atl 11, L.A. 103
    214/3vs. Atl.A. JonesLowe510-01st-2ndAtl. 5, L.A. 1Atl 11, L.A. 104
    314/3vs. Atl.LangerhansOsoria800-0noneAtl. 10, L.A. 5Atl 11, L.A. 102
    424/4vs. Atl.McCannPenny213-2noneL.A. 4, Atl 1L.A. 5, Atl. 42
    524/4vs. Atl.LaRocheSeo821-02ndL.A. 5, Atl. 2L.A. 5, Atl. 43
    634/5vs. Atl.BetemitPerez321-02ndL.A. 5, Atl. 3Atl. 9, L.A. 83
    744/7at Phi.BurrellTomko403-1noneL.A. 5, Phi. 0L.A. 5, Phi. 31
    844/7at Phi.FasanoTomko411-11stL.A. 5, Phi. 1L.A. 5, Phi. 32
    964/9at Phi.AbreuHamulack923-21st-2ndL.A. 3, Phi 3Phi. 6, L.A. 35

    I haven't figured out what exactly to do with this chart yet; it's definitely a work in progress. But somehow I want to get somewhere with the final column: a rating of how important the home run allowed was, taking into account all aspects of the situation.

    Right now, I'm rating the home runs subjectively on a harm scale of 1-5. For example, the game-winning home run by Bobby Abreu on Sunday gets a 5, while the bases-empty home run allowed by Brett Tomko with a five-run lead gets a 1. But you can see how quickly this gets complicated when you look at the homer allowed by Franquelis Osoria on Opening Day. At the time, it appeared meaningless, turning a five-run deficit in the eighth into six runs, but it proved to be the margin of defeat. Right now, I'm leaning toward keeping it mostly meaningless, since Osoria really had no reason not to challenge the batter. But I'm sure I'll tinker with my logic as time passes.

    I hope to return to this and see if I can come up with a less subjective tool for evaluating home run damage. We also might see if there's a typical count or typical situation the Dodgers become vulnerable to the long ball. I don't know that I'll be able to keep this up for a whole month, let alone a whole season, but it's worth a shot.

    Here's the chart for Dodger home runs on offense. Despite two homers Monday, it's still shorter.

    Dodger Home Runs, 2006
    HR#GameDateOpp.BatterPitcherInn.OutsCountRunnersScore BeforeFinalHarm
    124/4vs. Atl.DrewSmoltz112-11stL.A. 2, Atl. 0L.A. 5, Atl. 43
    264/9at Phi.NavarroMadson203-2noneL.A. 2., Phi. 0Phi. 6, L.A. 33
    374/10at Pit.RepkoDuke100-21stL.A. 0, Pit 0.L.A. 7, Pit. 33
    474/10at Pit.SaenzDuke510-01stL.A. 5, Pit. 0L.A. 7, Pit. 32

    2006-04-10 07:46
    by Jon Weisman

    Oh. Hi Jim.
    Was wondering when I was going to see you again. Didn't know it would be so soon.
    Yeah. Isn't it ironic that this would happen?
    Well, no, it isn't exactly ironic. That's not really what "ironic" means.
    I think I know what ironic means.
    I know you think you do. ... Anyway, it doesn't matter.
    No. Of course not.
    At least this isn't awkward.
    Not at all.
    So ... this is who you're with, now.
    Yep. I like him. He's very real.
    You're saying I'm not?
    Easy, big fella. I'm just saying ... you know, that maybe this was for the best. Things between us, they were getting kind of ...
    I mean, you were really kind of out there.
    Me? I was thinking it was you.
    I'm the same person I've always been.
    I guess that's true. For me, it's just nice to be with someone who listens to me.
    Oh, you had to go there.
    Look, it's what I feel.
    You know, part of getting yourself listened to is listening to everything the other person is saying to you.
    That makes no sense.
    I knew you wouldn't understand.
    Look, I don't like where this is going. Let's be dignified about this.
    Agreed. Let's.
    Good luck trying to put Humpty Dumpty together again.
    Good luck with therapy.

    Today's Game

    Hit-and-Run, Fries and a Coke
    2006-04-09 09:05
    by Jon Weisman

    Beware the team that tries to hit and run beyond its capabilities ...

    The Dodgers have a .313 batting average through their first four games but have hit just one home run. If the long ball drought continues, Little said he might incorporate more hit-and-run plays.

    "If that's the kind of ballclub that we have to be, then there might be some situations where we have to start runners to stay out of double-play situations more often," Little said. "And it could happen with some players that don't normally do that very often. But we'll play that by ear as we go along."

    - Allison Ann Otto, Press-Enterprise

    One of my oldest complaints on this site is about managers who think you can order the hit-and-run off the menu as simply as "Would you like fries with that?" It's actually a complex skill that requires speed, coordination, precision and timing, and you can't just will it to happen any more than you can will your team to hit the ball over the fence.

    The hit-and-run, done well, can put the defense on the defensive, so to speak. Done poorly, it can implode what's left of your offense.

    There are certainly a couple of Dodgers who seem like viable hit-and-run participants. But overall, it's important to remember that the hit-and-run is something that good offensive teams do well, not something power-deficient offensive teams can turn to as a crutch.

    * * *

    Although the report is short on details, Tony Jackson of the Daily News reports that Cesar Izturis suffered a "minor setback" in his rehabilitation. He is expected to return weeks before the All-Star game, but not quite as fast as recent reports had suggested.

    * * *

    According to Inside the Dodgers, Jeff Kent, Jason Repko and Dioner Navarro will not start Game 2 of today's doubleheader in Philadelphia. And Monday, if all goes as manager Grady Little plans, the Dodgers will greet former manager Jim Tracy in Pittsburgh with Bill Mueller, J.D. Drew and James Loney on the bench, to be replaced by Ramon Martinez, Cody Ross and Olmedo Saenz. Not that I don't understand keeping Drew from playing three games in 27 hours, but I'm sure Tracy will take that over a gold watch.

    * * *

    Game 1

    Game 2

    Today's Weather

    No rain today. Let's play two!

    I'm Just a Little Black Raincloud
    2006-04-08 09:52
    by Jon Weisman

    It's not always sunny in Philadelphia, but they expect to get this afternoon's game in despite morning rain.

    Today's Game

    Today's Weather

    Oh, the Nerve
    2006-04-07 13:43
    by Jon Weisman

    Eric Gagne had surgery today to remove the troublesome nerve in his right elbow and "will be allowed to resume throwing in about three weeks with a possible return to action in eight weeks," reports Ken Gurnick at

    * * *

    Even though I have to explain what a computer is to her every time I mention one, I'd like to publicly wish my Grandma Sue a happy 96th birthday.

    * * *

    Today's Game

    Today's Weather

    Update: Rafael Furcal was a late scratch from the starting lineup.

    The Naked Truth
    2006-04-06 20:58
    by Jon Weisman

    Back about 10 years ago, I had a friend and former boss who was writing for The Naked Truth, which once upon a time was the most anticipated sitcom of the upcoming television season. That's right - even bigger than Caroline in the City. Starring Tea Leoni, it was going to be sexy. It was going to be funny. It was going to perform.

    As it happened, the show didn't live up to expectations. Not even close. It was painful. In fact, so many things went awry with the production that my friend later commented to me that it was as if the entire thing had been shot atop a Native American burial ground.

    The people involved with this pseudo-debacle, of course, got paid and moved on to their next challenge, but that didn't make their professional lives, their passions, their desire to do good work, much more tolerable. And that's where we are with the Dodgers, now that Game Over: The Eric Gagne Show has been put on hiatus.

    Though our collective frustration with the Dodger injuries makes it tempting to take a shot at the Dodger medical staff, I'm going to hold off, since I really have no way of knowing whether its work is good or bad. (At best, we can once again know not to trust any soothing medical news coming from Chavez Ravine.) But you have to shudder to consider what the Dodger injury report would look like if the trainers and doctors could possibly do a worse job. For years, now, they have appeared powerless to prevent injuries and powerless to accelerate any recovery. There is one recent exception to this pattern in Cesar Izturis (due back from Tommy John surgery in well under a year), an exception that compels you to suggest that the day the Dodgers think Izturis is healthy, that's the day he should be sealed inside a glass vitrine for at least another month for his own protection.

    While we wait to gather evidence on the medical staff, we turn to Gagne. Now, I love Gagne to death and feel bad kicking him when he's down, but the wheel in Gagne's brain is missing a spoke. His occasional mindless comments about how much the team needs to spend to win and his own need for respect through salary payments are the least of it. Barely a year ago, Gagne blundered into the cardinal sin of pitchers, altering his mechanics to compensate for an injury he suffered playing pepper, and soon found himself needing surgery. (This alteration, rather than the erroneous accusations that he was overworked in the second half of 2004, was the most probable cause.) Tonight, we learn from Dodger trainer Stan Johnston (via The Associated Press) that Gagne only revealed Wednesday that he had been pitching in pain all spring.

    Mon dieu! What does it take to teach Gagne that his macho act serves no one? Pitching in pain? In March?! I'm telling you, I want to slap him.

    Here's an idea for teams that sign pitchers to long-term contracts. Insert a clause that says that if the player doesn't acknowledge he's pitching in pain, the contract is void. And if a team forces a pitcher to pitch in pain and he gets hurt, the contract's salary is doubled. I'm only being partly facetious. These wise, wise old baseball men, they need someone to protect them from themselves.

    Tell me I never played the game all you want. Baseball people are dumb. I love 'em, but they're dumb. That's the naked truth.

    * * *

    Some more details from Ken Gurnick at about the injury and what Gagne faces:

    Club officials said doctors will remove the same sensory nerve in Gagne's forearm that was entrapped by scar tissue and released through surgery last June.

    The club said no timetable for his return could be determined until the surgery is performed, but it is believed an optimistic forecast (Editor's note - sound alarm bells) would be four to six weeks. He will be placed on the 15-day disabled list and replaced in the bullpen by Japanese right-hander Takashi Saito, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Las Vegas. ...

    Johnston explained that doctors will remove the nerve that runs just under the skin along the forearm and crosses the elbow. Doctors isolated the nerve as the problem by numbing it Wednesday night and having Gagne throw a ball. The fact that the pain disappeared indicated that the nerve, and not scar tissue, was the cause of the pain.

    Doctors released that nerve and relocated it in a 90-minute procedure last year, but according to Johnston, "That didn't calm it down well enough to pitch." Gagne underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction in 1997.

    He sprained his knee during the first week of spring workouts last year and rushed back to the mound four weeks later, pitching with an awkward hop to protect his leg. At the end of Spring Training, he suffered a sprained elbow ligament, although he insisted it had nothing to do with his knee injury. It is believed, however, that scar tissue formed from the elbow sprain and entrapped the nerve.

    * * *

    Update: Will Carroll checks in at Baseball Prospectus:

    In about 20% of cases (according to a 1992 Kerlan-Jobe study), elbow reconstruction patients have problems with the ulnar nerve, but in this case, it is a sensory nerve crossing the elbow that is trapped. Some patients have pain when scarring entraps the nerve, while others have parasthesias--pain, numbness or tingling in the affected enervations. The ulnar nerve handles the pinkie finger and outside of the hand, something that would greatly affect Gagne when he grips his changeup. This sensory nerve appears to control feeling in the forearm.

    There's no real track record for this type of surgery (excision) for a baseball pitcher, giving us little to go on for an estimate of recovery. The Dodgers have said he'll miss 4-6 weeks, though I think his season's in jeopardy.

    Gagne Goes Back to the O.R.
    2006-04-06 17:45
    by Jon Weisman

    Yeah, they didn't get it quite right the first time. Go figure.


    Dodgers closer Eric Gagne will undergo another operation on his right elbow, this one to remove the nerve that was repositioned in his 2005 surgery, the Dodgers announced Thursday.

    Gagne, who pitched in just 14 games last season, will have the operation performed Friday morning at the Kerwin-Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles. Dr. Ralph Gambarella and Dr. Frank Jobe will perform the surgery.

    There is no timetable for Gagne's return, a club spokesman said. The Dodgers begin a three-game series at Philadelphia on Friday.

    Here's the Dodger Thoughts post from when doctors called an audible on Gagne's 2005 surgery:

    Eric Gagne's surprisingly good surgery news gets discussed by Will Carroll in a special newsletter extra from Baseball Prospectus today.

    He'll pitch with the same old ligament (nee tendon), but less of the nerve pulling, a similar problem to that which ended Brad Penny's season in 2004, albeit in a different location.

    Some might question why Gagne's ligament wasn't replaced or overlayed in the modern technique, especially with an accelerated rehab schedule. It's hard to question Frank Jobe when it comes to a pitcher's elbow, but there could be some second guessing if Gagne is as slow to return as Penny was during the spring of 2005. Gagne's quotes about a replaced UCL having a limited life span will still echo in the heads of many Dodgers fans.

    For now, the prognosis is roughly the same as before, with a bit more certainty that Gagne will be back in spring training. The key now is to make use of the impending six months of rehab to get his mechanics to such a stage that the elbow isn't restressed and that the National League is.

    I might add that if Gagne needs an extra few weeks in 2006, as Penny did this past spring, let's not be hasty. Let's give them to him. Perhaps, let's even encourage him to take them, if he can't be trusted not to take risks.

    It's funny how players like J.D. Drew and Odalis Perez get such grief for taking time to heal properly, when we so often see the pitfalls of coming back too soon. Of course, sometimes a quick return is successful without any consequences - other times it's successful with consequences. (Curt Schilling, anyone?) But very often, dashing back onto the field is downright foolhardy.

    I guess some always have the suspicion that players who take their time with their recoveries are spineless, cowardly and yella, but cowardice sometimes can be a wonderful thing.

    Does this make us reevaluate the Edwin Jackson/Chuck Tiffany for Danys Baez/Lance Carter trade? Not really. The Baez trade was always more likely to help the team in 2006 but possibly hurt the team down the road. This news doesn't change that.

    Mostly, I just feel awful that the Great Gagne era ended with such a crash.

    Update: Here's Steve Henson's Times story.

    Minor League Opening Day
    2006-04-06 15:18
    by Jon Weisman
    As the Gagne Sits ...
    2006-04-06 09:03
    by Jon Weisman

    Was Eric Gagne's decision to serve his suspension Tuesday and Wednesday when he hadn't pitched since Friday completely without portent? Was it because of his temporary ear trouble? Or was it a sign that his arm needs more rest? Ken Gurnick of wonders aloud:

    (Franquelis) Osoria was pitching the eighth inning because Danys Baez was being held back for the ninth -- because Gagne was unavailable. The ripple effect of Gagne's absence was irrefutable, and the timing odd in that he has not pitched since Friday's Freeway Series game against the Angels, when he allowed a home run to Garret Anderson. Prior to that outing, Gagne pitched in back-to-back games for the first time since elbow surgery.

    A more likely scenario to serve the suspension would have been for Gagne to drop the appeal the day after he pitched, knowing he could use the extra time to rebound. With the suspension, Gagne will be going a minimum of one full week without pitching.

    For Gagne, he goes that long without pitching only when he's physically unable to. But when he explained his decision on the appeal on Tuesday, he said the MRI showed nothing more than scar tissue. The club said he will be ready for action on Friday.

    Meanwhile, the Dodgers are off today, so we will wait for more information on the fivefecta of injuries suffered Wednesday by Jeff Kent, Olmedo Saenz, James Loney, Jason Repko and Rafael Furcal.

    * * *

    Curiosity is growing about the genesis of the Sandy Alomar, Jr.-Odalis Perez match, which doesn't appear to have been made in heaven and more likely came out of nowhere, according to Steve Henson of the Times:

    Alomar might catch him again, but how much worse could it go with Dioner Navarro behind the plate? Alomar isn't sure how the arrangement got this far.

    "What do I know about him?" Alomar said. "His name is Perez. That's about it.

    "He kept the ball down the first couple of innings then started getting his changeup up and they hit the ball hard."

    * * *

    Some stat notes from the opening series. These are not necessarily foreshadowings of the season, but just a recap of what we saw.

  • All three games were one-run decisions.

  • The Dodgers had 39 hits, 12 walks, six doubles and one home run. Their on-base percentage (.412) is almost as high as their slugging percentage (.425).

  • The pitching staff, which had trouble getting strikeouts last season, has 24 in their first 27 innings (compared to 10 walks). But home runs remain a problem. Atlanta outhomered Los Angeles, 6-1.

    * * *

    Here's a rather uncomfortable interview with former Dodger catcher and current AAA batting coach Steve Yeager in the Las Vegas Sun. I couldn't decide which part to excerpt.

    * * *

    He's talking about the Yankees, but today's piece in Baseball Prospectus by Joe Sheehan serves as a good reminder for all teams:

    On Opening Day in 1978, the Yankees got a strong start from one of their best pitchers. With the game tied entering the bottom of the ninth, manager Billy Martin brought in his best relief pitcher, Rich Gossage, to try and extend the game.

    On the second day of the season in 2006, the Yankees also got a strong start from one of their best pitchers. With the game tied entering the bottom of the ninth, maanger Joe Torre brought in his ... we'll call it fourth-best relief pitcher, Scott Proctor, to try and extend the game.

    This is progress?

    Now, the Yankees lost both games by allowing ninth-inning runs, so perhaps this comparison is going to be lost on some people. Regardless of the outcome, though, it's clear that Martin was using the talent available to him in the best way possible, while Torre was allowing 28 years of increasing silliness in the use of relief pitching prevent him from doing just that. ...

    Forget everything that we write about at Baseball Prospectus. Forget Win Expectancy and the work that people like Rany Jazayerli have done on reliever usage and the analyses by people such as James Click and Keith Woolner. Forget all of that and focus on one idea: a manager wins baseball games by getting his best players into the highest-leverage situations. That's why Martin used Gossage when he did. It's why you try and optimize your lineup to get sluggers hitting behind OBP guys, and why you put your starting pitchers in roughly descending order of ability, and for that matter, have a concept of "starters" at all. In a game in which you can't control who has the bat in their hand in critical times, you can control who throws critical pitches, so a large part of the job is matching skill sets to situations. ...

    * * *

    Cool hand Bob Timmermann has a chilly recap of his first time at Dodger Stadium this year at The Griddle.

    ... I believe the last time I had sat in right field was for Game 6 of the 1978 World Series. Not exactly a memorable experience for a Dodgers fan. I had forgotten how far away the bathrooms were from the seats. I also forgot that there are a lot of low-lying beams when you walk under the pavilions. Then again, when you're 12, they aren't so low-lying. ...

    * * *

    Update: Koyie Hill, whom the Dodgers parted with in the Steve Finley trade, has been claimed on waivers by the Yankees, according to

  • My Cupholder Runneth Over
    2006-04-05 17:08
    by Jon Weisman

    Something I forgot to mention from Opening Day: The enormous bottle of bottled water the Dodgers force you to buy (if you want to buy water, that is) does not fit in the newly installed seat cupholders. That's the case, at least, on the Loge Level.

    I'm not complaining about the cupholder - I just wish they sold two sizes of water.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    Tonight's Weather

    * * *

    Update: The Sandy Alomar, Jr. Personal Catcher (TM) is not working as advertised - Alomar's 2 for 2 performance notwithstanding. Odalis Perez apparently had some technical difficulties with it.

    Update 2: I'll have the right side of the menu, please. Second baseman Jeff Kent and first baseman Olmedo Saenz left the game in the bottom of the fourth inning after each grimaced on awkward plays in the top of the fourth.

    Update 3: Vin says that Kent has a bruised tricep from being hit by a pitch, and Saenz has a troubled back from a collision on an infielder roller with Alomar. They are listed as day to day. Translation: "IT'S A COOKBOOK!!!"

    Update 4: Dodger Thoughts reader Gold Star for Robot Boy passed along the news that the Dodgers released Dave Roberts tradee Henri Stanley, according to Baseball America.

    Slumps and the Slumping Slumpers Who Slump Them
    2006-04-05 10:37
    by Jon Weisman

    I know what you're thinking ... not another Jose Gonzalez story.

    Nevertheless, here's my latest on, focusing on the morbid fascination we can have with a batting average that approaches .000:

    Back in 1991, savvy supermarket shoppers were checking the expiration date on 26-year-old Jose Gonzalez, who had spent parts of six seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Thanks to 10 extra-base hits among his 99 at-bats the season before, Gonzalez passed the offseason sniff test.

    But then, it got nasty. As helps us recall, it wasn't until late June that Gonzalez reached base once. Halfway through the season, Gonzalez was 0 for 28 with two walks. He was batting .000 -- not that you'd know it if you were at the games, because the scoreboard at Dodger Stadium (out of pure coincidence, no doubt) became incapable of displaying batting averages at the exact moment Gonzalez stepped to the plate.

    No, it couldn't have felt good for Gonzalez. And in fact, his career in Los Angeles was about to end.

    Such is the worrisome tale for every slumping baseball player who tells himself that he just needs to ride out a slow start to the year. The opening of the baseball season usually brings talk of rebirth and optimism. But for a few players every year, it becomes a nightmare played out in three digits on the scoreboard.


    Can they take it? While we're asking, can you take it?

    Slighty related (but slightly dated): ".000 My Hero"

    Cesar Izturis To Become Chone Figgins?
    2006-04-05 09:22
    by Jon Weisman

    Without the speed, of course.

    All the local papers report this morning that the Dodgers might want Cesar Izturis to play a little outfield when he returns from the disabled list.

    While the concept of Izturis as a starting outfielder isn't going to float too many boats, there's nothing wrong with the idea of expanding his apparent role as a backup (assuming the middle infield of Jeff Kent and Rafael Furcal stays healthy). The Dodgers could plug Izturis in at second, shortstop, third base and center field, the way the Angels have done with Chone Figgins for long stretches in recent years, at least until a trade comes through with a team that could use a starter at short. As long as the Dodgers don't overdo it, flexibility is good.

    At the same time, although I'm all for planning for contingencies, it seems premature to even talk about what Izturis will do six weeks from now, when every day the Dodgers seem to face a major lineup change. So I say we file this news away and not even concern ourselves with it for a while.

    Lonely Days, Loney Nights
    2006-04-04 17:17
    by Jon Weisman

    The anticipation ran loose and liquid, like ketchup neither stirred nor shaken, but sure enough, Nomar Garciaparra landed on the disabled list. Getting the callup is James Loney. The One and Loney. Little Game James. Should be fun to see him.

    If the game goes on as scheduled, Loney will face John Smoltz. Smoltzie. John.

    Tonight's Game

    Tonight's Weather

    * * *

    Two of the three people I went to Monday's game with didn't realize that the "Talkin' Softball" song from the "Homer at the Bat" episode of The Simpsons was a parody of an existing song. Do you think it's safe to say that most Simpsons viewers are similarly unclued?

    Well, At Least They're Making a Game of It ... Wait, They Might Just ... Oh, Oh Well
    2006-04-03 18:24
    by Jon Weisman

    We weren't in our seats long at this Opening Day before we started thinking about last year's home opener. Down 5-0 in the first inning in 2005, down 4-0 in the first inning in 2006. Between that and UCLA-Gonzaga, I had it in me to hope for an unlikely comeback, and in a sense, we got one that was even more unlikely. The Dodgers fell behind 8-1 in the fifth before hitting a flurry of three-pointers, so to speak, only to fall short, 11-10.

    Fifty-six thousand fans bought tickets and most braved the intermittent rain to enjoy the day, but pitching was a definite no-show for both teams - even Tim Hudson and the Braves. Go figure.

    Thinking back to a year ago, it wasn't just the Dodgers I was rooting for. I was also rooting for an approach to constructing a baseball team that I believed in. "Moneyball" is the popular term for that construct, though I think it would be more accurate to simply call it "logical." Anyway, it was a double investment. I was rooting for them, and I was rooting for it.

    This year, it's back to just rooting for them. That doesn't mean I'm rooting against any of Dodger general manager Ned Colletti's additions to the team (although I did wonder for a split-second about the possible implications of a three-run home run by Sandy Alomar, Jr.). It just means I'm not as invested in Colletti's approach, except to the extent that it intersects with what I believe in. Sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn't. It's as if I'm at the school play and rooting for it to be good because I'm there and I like to be entertained. But it's not like my daughter's in it.

    It wasn't a terrible day for Ned's newbies. The left side of the infield, Bill Mueller and Rafael Furcal, was fairly spectacular, or as spectacular as you can be without hitting a home run. Mueller in particular looked spry on defense.

    At the same time, this will probably go down as the day that the first petal fell off Colletti's rose. With free agent signee Kenny Lofton already on the disabled list, another one, Nomar Garciaparra, was scratched from the lineup and perhaps ready to join him. There was talk that Garciaparra might try to pinch-hit, but despite three pinch-hitting opportunities with runners on base, Garciaparra never got to twiddle his batting gloves. (If J.D. Drew were in the casualty in question, people would be calling him the Coward of the County, but that's a side story for now.)

    Instead of Garciaparra, Olmedo Saenz started and drove in two of nine runners on base ahead of him. Cody Ross and Dioner Navarro pinch-hit in key situations. With a 12-man pitching staff and Garciaparra day-to-day, a bench that was going to have six guys a week ago was down to four at the start of the game and down to one by the ninth.

    The illusion that Colletti has constructed a deeper team than the Dodgers had in 2005 should be dissolving like scales from the media's eyes soon. A sudden turn of health or solid performances from the minor league callups can still preserve the Dodger season. But considering that some grotesquely impatient Dodger fans were booing in the first inning today, the current Dodger bench isn't going to fool people much longer.

    Make no mistake - the intended starting batting order looked pretty great today. But that was only five guys.

    And make no mistake, I came home feeling like I had a good day. The rain didn't bury us. There was a great comeback and suspense until the final out. The new seats in the stadium looked great and were much more comfortable than before (though I have to say, traditional or not, I find the newly old blue of the outfield wall bland to the point of being sleep-inducing). I was at a ballgame with my wife and brother and father, and we did just what I proposed this morning: We let everything else go, sat back and enjoyed it. All in all, our glass was 10/21sts full.

    * * *

    Update: The glass may less full for these two:

    Olmedo Saenz, who used to get a call from his mother every opening day. Saenz's mother died last month, and he figuratively if not literally swung through tears Monday.

    And, since people will be talking about it ... Derek Lowe. More details about Derek Lowe's tribulations have been found in the public record from the court depositions of Lowe and his estranged wife, Trinka. L.A. Observed links the original story from Ron Fineman's On the Record.

    Florida-UCLA Title Chat
    2006-04-03 18:22
    by Jon Weisman

    Can the Bruins win their first NCAA men's basketball title in a year ending in "6?"

    We're Done Burnishing the Cat
    2006-04-03 08:12
    by Jon Weisman

    Today's Game

    Today's Weather

    * * *

    It's baseball time. Forget all the petty worries, breathe deep, and just enjoy the day.

    Update: Nomar Garciaparra and Kristen Chenowith have been scratched from today's lineup, the principals said this morning. More information to come.

    Injuries Don't Care That Your GM Is Old School
    2006-04-02 09:09
    by Jon Weisman

    Late Saturday, Dodger center fielder Kenny Lofton was put on the disabled list and Jason Repko was given the job as Opening Day center fielder, meaning that if the weather permits, the Dodgers will try to beat Tim Hudson and the Braves with a batting order that includes Repko, Sandy Alomar, Jr., Derek Lowe and, if we're only the slightest bit unlucky, Ramon Martinez.

    Repko gets a lot of discussion in the Dodger Thoughts comments. He's sort of the flip side of Hee Seop Choi in that people find it easy to spot Repko's strengths and sometimes seem blind to his weaknesses. That doesn't mean those strengths aren't there (just as Choi's defenders didn't deny he had weaknesses), only that they tend to be overblown. Further, because he's young and coachable, Repko should improve. How much, I don't know.

    Meanwhile, 12 pitchers? Jae Seo is in the bullpen for the first week. Are the Dodgers going to need eight relievers to get through a nine-inning game? The moment the bullpen gets overworked from extra innings or a rout, or the moment Eric Gagne's elbow radiates pain, that's the moment you call up the extra pitcher. In the meantime, it's much more likely that the team will run out of bench players first. And neither Darren Dreifort nor Jeff Weaver are around to pinch-hit ...

    I'll keep an open mind and look forward to being proven wrong. Further, lest we forget, this is the National League West. The Dodgers weren't the only team with bad news Saturday: The Padres had to place Mike Cameron and Ryan Klesko on the DL. Right now, though, I'm plagued with this kind of disturbing feeling for a Sunday morning, that the Dodgers are thin, and thinner than they need to be because of the insular group dynamics that are evolving, where people pat each other on the back for decisions made for hoary reasons like, "I like this fella's makeup," or "I've got a hunch about this one."

    * * *

    Today's 12 noon game

    Chad Chat
    2006-04-01 13:52
    by Jon Weisman

    All baseball chat should go in this thread.

    Tonight's 7 p.m. game (Channel 9)

    Gold nugget Chad Billingsley is scheduled to start the game for the Dodgers.

    Basketball chat goes in a separate thread tonight. Please click here.

    Thoughts about such subjects as Daylight Savings Time and the workings of the magnet are welcome here as well, per usual

    Final Four Chat
    2006-04-01 13:50
    by Jon Weisman

    All Saturday college basketball chat should go in this thread.

    George Mason vs. Florida, 3:07 p.m.

    LSU vs. UCLA, approximately 5:47 p.m.

    Baseball chat can be found in this thread.

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    About Jon
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