Baseball Toaster Dodger Thoughts
Monthly archives: July 2006


Going for the Bronze
2006-07-31 21:15
by Jon Weisman

A natty side debate that emerged during deadline week is whether it's rewarding to go for a playoff spot even if your World Series hopes are grim. Is it enough of a thrill just to be nominated?

One of the original topics on Dodger Thoughts - in fact, it was Day 2 - addressed this:

Long before Fox made the absurd move of trading Piazza, reasonable minds would wonder what it would take for the Dodgers to elevate a perennial 90-game winning team into a team that could win a World Series. This legitimate approach has been erased by a philosophy of trying to build a team that can somehow sneak into the playoffs and maybe luck into a World Series, with the hope I guess that Kirk Gibson will limp to the plate at age 46 and homer. I have long advocated that the Dodgers go back to trying to build a legitimate World Series champion, through a solid farm system and solid trades, even if it means tearing the current team apart.

This year's team has been more fun to watch, at least until two weeks ago, than any Dodger team for a while. But in my mind, it is not a team that you can tinker with to get over the top. It is a pretender, and while it still has the possibility to go far, it does not have the likelihood.

The current Dodgers should focus on returning to the first-half quality of play. They should celebrate the success whatever success they have this year. But when it comes to any transactions, their focus should still be on 2003 and beyond.

For me, I'd be happy to be the George Mason in a postseason tourney if that's the best I can do in a given year. A division title is a thrill, and being the underdog is fun while it lasts. And the less a team has been in the playoffs in recent years, the more fans there are that will be happy just to be part of the party.

But when I see a team with the potential to do more, a team with one of the best young cores in the game and money to spend to plug holes, I am more than willing to sacrifice short-term pleasures for the chance at something more. (I learned that while dating.) And I say that knowing that failing to seize the moment can sometimes be the worst thing you can do. (Um, I learned that while dating, too.) Because sometimes, as the Dodgers are currently hoping, you really can have your cake and eat it too. (Yep. Dating.)

In the end, what can I say? For the things that matter, I choose to hold out when I can. I'd rather do the right thing. The better you build a team, the more division titles - let alone World Series titles - you have a realistic shot at. But that doesn't mean I don't look at the Carpe Diem gang with some occasional pangs.

The funny thing is that this debate is only going to get more interesting in future years. When the Dodgers are riding the backs of Russell Martin and Scott Elbert toward the playoffs, when the prospects become young veterans, what will people like me say about the new young ones?

What's Old Is New Again, Again
2006-07-31 20:17
by Jon Weisman

When advertisements infiltrated the outfield walls of Dodger Stadium, it wasn't the end of the world as much as it was a drab return to the beginning. Ads were all over the place in the ballparks of yore, but with the passage of time, they became charming, quaint, a whole lot easier on today's eyes.

That brings us to the current state of newspapers and their search for pennies under the seat cushions. Kevin Roderick of L.A. Observed (which, by the way, now offers a brand spanking new sports section) notes that the Times has begun selling ads to run on the front page of its sports section.
Continue reading...

Dodgers Trade Izturis, Guzman and Pedroza for Maddux and Lugo
2006-07-31 14:20
by Jon Weisman

Dodger general manager Ned Colletti has bet all year that some notable Dodger prospects will not pan out, and he has been increasing the stakes. The names are getting bigger, from Edwin Jackson and Chuck Tiffany to Dioner Navarro, to Willy Aybar, and now, to the guy who a year ago was the biggest prospect of them all, Joel Guzman.

Moments after trading Cesar Izturis to the Chicago Cubs for Greg Maddux this afternoon, Colletti sent Guzman and Sergio Pedroza to the well that never seems dry, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, in exchange for shortstop Julio Lugo.

If you want to know why the acquisition of a future Hall of Famer rates second in importance, read on.

Guzman's 2006 performance in AAA ball basically defines setback. On the verge of almost whimsically stealing the starting left fielder job with the Dodgers in Spring Training, Guzman went to Las Vegas and found the city strangely devoid of high OPS for him - .817 with the 51s isn't exactly like getting three cherries at the slots. But the guy remains a 21-year-old with exciting capabilities, someone you would think to save for the future or invest toward the future.

Someone who, at a minimum, could grow up to be as good as Julio Lugo.

Instead, Guzman was only able to combine with Cal State Fullerton graduate Pedroza to yield the 30-year-old Lugo, who has a sexy .302 EQA at shortstop but will be a free agent at the end of the season - and who might not even have a position in the starting lineup when either Jeff Kent or Nomar Garciaparra return from the disabled list, unless one of those two has an injury way more serious than previously reported, or unless Lugo himself moves to center field.

The message being sent by Colletti is twofold: 2006 isn't a lost cause, and Guzman did not have a place in the Dodger lineups of the future. There are arguments to be made on both sides of these messages - and don't forget, the Dodgers can pick up some draft pick compensation for departing free agents - but it's hard for me to take Colletti's side.

I'm not saying he's wrong. You know Colletti has consulted with the Dodger minor league staff before making this deal. And if they don't think Guzman is going to make it, then from the Dodger point of view, it's simply two free months of Lugo and what's the fuss?

I'm just saying it's hard for me to be so cutthroat about Guzman, for me to feel sure that people aren't focusing too much on what he lacks instead of what he offers. That can be a disease when you apply it only to your own players. One can just as easily point out that Lugo's 2006 performance, with an OPS about 100 points above his previous career high, is fool's gold.

Colletti's other trade today involves a much bigger name, but is less of an event. Still, we need to pause here to give due respect to one of my favorite players in the game.

Greg Maddux is a legend and an artist, the kind of guy it was easy to appreciate if not root for even in an opposing uniform. With his career winding down to the point of barely representing an improvement over current No. 5 Dodger starter Aaron Sele, however, Maddux was not the kind of guy you cash in an important Dodger prospect for. And in this case, Colletti didn't.

Instead, Colletti traded Izturis, a nice defensive player and subpar batsman who had little role in the future of the Dodgers, for Maddux - in addition to receiving at least $1 million in cash to offset the approximately $3 million remaining of Maddux's 2006 salary.

What's remarkable about this trade is that as recently as a year or two ago, it might have been considered a major move. Today, as familiar as the names are, it's mainly a trade of two mediocrities.

Izturis is a fine-fielding No. 8 hitter. Maddux has a below-average ERA of 4.69.

Maddux still has pinpoint control - even this year, he has walked only 23 batters in 22 starts (136 1/3 innings). If you think baseball games take too long, Maddux is your savior.

The 40-year-old righty also keeps the ball in the park - for example, he has allowed 14 homers this season, or barely one every 10 innings. And you can make a case that he has been unlucky - his Fielding Independent ERA (FIP) is about a run below his actual ERA.

Overall, the Dodgers figure to have an inconsistent pitcher in Maddux - someone who will give up seven runs one start and one run the next. And yeah, maybe he'll teach another pitcher something, though as I've said before, that's what coaches are for.

But again, this Maddux acquisition is, if you'll allow me to intentionally mix metaphors, the undercard of the Trading Carnival.

As we sit here, the core of the Dodgers future is still intact - and that, please know, is worth celebrating. But it is getting shaved, and the Guzman trade may have just pricked the center.

Not unlike the general manager who preceded him, Colletti is taking risks - different kinds of risks, but risks just the same. When Paul DePodesta made the deal that defined him two years ago, the trade of Paul LoDuca and Guillermo Mota for Brad Penny, Hee Seop Choi and Bill Murphy, I considered it a valid risk that I wouldn't have had the courage to take. If the Dodgers rally to win a playoff berth in 2006 and bring enough prospects back for bigger prizes in 2007 and beyond, Colletti may walk on water. But if there is no postseason play in the next 18 months, Colletti might learn a little bit about what it was like to wear DePodesta's cement shoes.

Amazing, Isn't It?
2006-07-31 08:01
by Jon Weisman

This isn't news ... still waiting to see if there will be news ... it's just that I have to pinch myself sometimes.

The Dodgers 30-and-under lineup:

Loney, 1B
Izturis, 2B
Furcal, SS
Betemit, 3B
Ethier, LF
Repko, CF
Drew, RF
Martin, C
Penny, P

Sure, there are some drips in there, but otherwise it's a mighty fine ice cream cone, with scoops of Kemp Krackle, Luscious LaRoche and more to come ...

If you knock it out of our hands, you'd better have something to back it up with.

Missing the Point
2006-07-30 16:18
by Jon Weisman

In a move that crushes all those Dodgers fans who would rather have a good farm system than a good team, Ned Colletti trades one kid for a better kid. How dare he try to win this year!

- Bill Plaschke

"Those Dodger fans" ...

  • are not against acquiring kids, much less "better" kids.

  • don't want a good farm system instead of a good team - they want a good farm system that leads to a good team.

  • are generally thrilled with the part of the trade that sent Danys Baez away.

  • noticed that the guys who have led the Dodgers to their victories over Washington are the kids, and couldn't be happier.

    The argument some people are making is to not trash the future to try to win this year. That's all. It's fine to contest that, but making an opposing argument into something it's not doesn't do a whole lot of good - and being snide about it is just plain insulting.

  • And Speaking of Hall of Famers ...
    2006-07-30 10:42
    by Jon Weisman

    On this Hall of Fame Induction Day, the best I have to offer you is that my 46-month-old daughter watched two minutes of I Love Lucy and got hooked. She wanted to see the same scene again, then asked if it was a show for grown-ups, then asked if she could watch it too, then asked for us to call her "Lucy" the rest of the night.

    Ah, parenting.

    Putting aside whether one is better off playing outside or reading a book, I found myself wondering if I Love Lucy holds up for today's younger folks. Not all Lucy moments are created equally, but I'd hate to see them forgotten.

    I became a fan nearly 35 years ago, when there were under 10 television channels and 25 years of television history, and this kind of programming wasn't that unusual. Now, do people under the age of 18 or 12 even stop changing channels when they see something in black and white?

    Apparently, it's possible.

    (This Dodger Thoughts interlude to take your mind off the Monday trading deadline was brought to you by Vitameatavegamin. Makeup by Max Factor. The part of the curmudgeon was played by Charles Lane. Dodger Thoughts is a ShiftyJ production.)

    * * *

    Today's Game

    The Aybar-for-Izturis Trade
    2006-07-29 09:30
    by Jon Weisman

    Okay, something's nagging at me a little bit about Friday's trade. And it's not the news that the Dodgers are paying the remainder of Danys Baez's contract, though I suppose that's kind of annoying.

    In Willy Aybar, the Dodgers got rid of a player who displayed a nice grasp of the strike zone (he walked about once every six at-bats, with fewer strikeouts than walks) and an excellent doubles rate (20 doubles in his first 214 major-league at-bats, projecting to roughly 50 for a full season) for an older player (how much older, we're not exactly sure) whose principal advantage, at least for now, is home run power. There are mixed reports on both players' defense.

    It's not that Wilson Betemit's nine home runs in 199 at-bats this season don't matter to me, but do they outweigh the points against him?

    I'm splitting hairs a little bit. The trade succeeds in boosting the Dodgers' thin hopes for this year without sacrificing the future in any significant way - in fact, it may help the future as well. The worst possibility is that in a few years, we learn that Aybar is the superior talent.

    But I woke up this morning feeling a little sad about how much the Dodgers focused on what Aybar lacked instead of what he offered.

    A couple days ago, when I pointed out the Baseball Prospectus study that Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee each represented just a one-win improvement for the remainder of the season if either replaced Kenny Lofton, I have to admit that it puzzled me. You can imagine Soriano coming in here and hitting a three-run homer that gives the Dodgers a victory - is the idea that putting that aside, Soriano and Lofton would be equal?

    And then you think about it. Baseball's a tradeoff. On another hypothetical night, Soriano would go 0 for 4 when Lofton might get two hits and stolen base. It goes back and forth like that over 60 games, and somehow the differences minimize. Soriano's still better, but he's not better every game.

    So I think about how Aybar was benched so that Cesar Izturis could play. Izturis is without a doubt the more spectacular fielder. But in many games, Aybar would make all the plays at third base that Izturis would make. And yes, in a few games, Aybar would make more plays than Izturis, because Izturis isn't perfect.

    In the end, Izturis comes out ahead. But when you have the reptuation of being a better fielder, people tend to focus on the plays you make and forgive the plays you don't. For Aybar, it was the opposite. The differences get blown out of proportion - just like the differences between Soriano and Lofton, which is why you don't break First Prospect Bank to get Soriano.

    Meanwhile, at his worst, Aybar hit home runs more often than Izturis, who celebrates them like birthdays. In fact, there isn't a single aspect of using the bat in which Aybar, at age 23, isn't already superior to the 26-year-old Izturis - and that factors in Aybar's summer slump. You don't know offensive slumps until you've seen Izturis.

    Again, I get what Friday's trade was about. It was an attempt to balance prayers for 2006 with hopes for the future. I'm not complaining about that.

    But another underlying truth about the trade - unless other moves are made - is that it was a final exchange of Aybar for Izturis. Given that Izturis was contributing almost nothing toward the team's current hopes, and that he realistically has no future with the Dodgers - as soon as Jeff Kent returns, Izturis is supposed to go to the bench if he hasn't already been traded - this is the trade that's bugging me.

    And I don't even have the raging dislike for Izturis that some others have. I love his glove, and I'm dispassionately bored by his bat. He is who he is. A great-fielding No. 8 hitter. Just like the great-fielding 22-year-old the Dodgers have at AA Jacksonville, Chin-Lung Hu.

    I don't know if Atlanta would have taken Izturis instead of Aybar, though it does appear that their primary goal was Baez and so the second player in the trade could have been either infielder. I also don't know if Izturis will yield a bigger prize in a few days or months. All I can say is that as I write this, I'd rather Aybar were still in the Dodger organization, for all his flaws, even if he were at AAA, than Izturis.

    * * *

    Update: James Loney has been recalled from Las Vegas, according to Inside the Dodgers. Techincally, Loney takes Aybar's spot. Betemit will be held off the active roster until Sunday, at which point another roster opening will have to be made available. Perhaps that will be Izturis? Or someone else whose time as a Dodger has expired?

    Olmedo Saenz got hit by two pitches Friday - at least one painfully - so that could be a factor as well.

    * * *

    Today's Game

    Dodgers Trade Baez, Aybar for Atlanta's Betemit
    2006-07-28 18:20
    by Jon Weisman

    Tonight's Game

    * * *

    The Dodgers have a new third baseman in Atlanta's Wilson Betemit, whom they acquired tonight in exchange for misbegotten reliever Danys Baez and not-quite-their-style infielder Willy Aybar, plus an undisclosed amount of cash.

    "He's one of the best young players in the league," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said, according to the Sports Network. "He's here to play third base. He's a good hitter. He's someone we're going to have here for a while."

    Betemit, who turned 26 today according to - Baseball Prospectus has a different birthdate - will apparently hold down the position until Andy LaRoche is ready - unless one of a million other possible things happens. Betemit has an OPS of .838 in 218 plate appearances for the Braves this season.

    This is the kind of trade that illustrates an idea I've tried to get across here before - that some trades don't fall neatly into the buyer/seller dichotomy. It's an attempt to improve the Dodgers both for this year and for next year. Whether or not it does depends largely on whether the team has underestimated Aybar, but it's neither a surrender nor a move of desperation.

    Brett Tomko was activated to replace Baez in the bullpen.

    * * *

    Odalis Perez arrived in Kansas City today. Wrote Ken Daley for

    Perez looked like a man running for public office Friday afternoon, shaking hand after hand and grinning broadly at each new acquaintance he made.

    "My first day here," he said, "and I already feel like I'm home."

    Update: "Nomar Garciaparra, out of the lineup for the third straight game with a strained knee ligament, hit off a tee on Friday," Elizabeth Aguilar writes at "He should take the field again on Tuesday when the Dodgers open a series in Cincinnati. ... Jeff Kent's return to the lineup is expected within 10 days to two weeks."

    In Case You Missed 'Ems
    2006-07-28 10:35
    by Jon Weisman

    Stuff you may have already seen, but if I give one person added enjoyment, then I've done my job ...

    * * *

    Bob Timmermann forwarded me this analysis by Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory concerning this month's Sandy Alomar, Jr. trade for B.J. LaMura:

    Don't expect much defense from Alomar anymore as he moves about as well as a street mime that became asphyxiated in his invisible box and nobody in the crowd helped because it was an act except for that one guy who knew the mime was really suffocating but he had recently watched The Warriors on DVD and thought that the mime was part of that mime gang so letting the mime die was good for society because it ensured that the mime later wouldn't stab someone with an actual, non-mime, knife in Soho while looking at some art that the artist thought was postmodern but was actually just an indication of the artist's heroin addiction that made him also think that the Grateful Dead were an awesome band even though they totally weren't.

    Szymborski adds that "B.J. LaMura, despite having a perfect name for a comedy sidekick in an 80s action TV show, is mostly an organizational pitcher - the White Sox have given up a lot of their better low-level arms over the last year but LaMura isn't a loss and about what you'd expect to get for a bad backup catcher with veteran moxie."

    * * *

    This T.J. Simers column in the Times on blind Dodger fan Loren DePhillips was enjoyable.

    Got an e-mail from reader Matt Hardy who said I should go to a baseball game with his friend Loren DePhillips, because DePhillips is a big-time Dodgers fan and believes they will be really good in time.

    That was the first clue, of course, that Loren and I don't look at the broken-down Old Timers in the same way, and so when we met, I asked him, "What, are you blind?"

    "Well, yes, as a matter of fact," DePhillips said with a laugh while following the lead of Athens, his guide dog, into Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night.

    "Just checking to see if you have a sense of humor," I said.

    "I'm a Dodger fan, aren't I?" DePhillips replied. ...

    * * *

    AA Jacksonville pitcher Scott Elbert on Thursday: seven innings, two hits, no runs, three walks, 13 strikeouts. Elbert, who turns 21 next month, has struck out 32 in 23 AA innings while allowing 25 baserunners, and has a 2.35 ERA.

    Elbert's success on Thursday was keyed by deception, as he mixed his pitches well," wrote Bryan Smith for Baseball America. "The southpaw has excellent stuff, including a low 90s fastball that touches 94, a breaking ball that is developing consistency while mixing in a change. More important than the velocity on Thursday was the way Elbert used his arsenal. ...

    "It was Elbert's third big start in four chances since joining Jacksonville--all three times he allowed two or fewer hits. For the season, the southpaw has given up just 69 hits in 107 innings, striking out 129."

    No Shame in Trading for the Future
    2006-07-27 11:25
    by Jon Weisman

    A case for having the option ... my latest at

    Out here in Los Angeles, the Dodgers have infamously won only one playoff game since 1988. But they've been in contention for a playoff berth nearly every season, especially before the non-waiver trading deadline. Not surprisingly, the team has consistently been what you would call a "buyer" that entire time. And it has pretty much gotten them nowhere except a steady jog on the also-ran's treadmill.

    This year's team was considered by many the favorite to win the National League West but has now lost 13 of its past 14 games, its worst two weeks since a franchise-record 16-game losing streak in 1944. That's right -- 62 years! And yet with their deficit a barely surmountable 7 1/2 games, the question remains, are fans willing to let the front office start waiting 'til next year, now?

    News flash to the executives: On message boards Wednesday throughout Los Angeles, a popular answer was yes.

    Buy or sell. That's the traditional trading deadline dilemma. It's an intellectual discussion that disguises a battle of machismo. If you're a seller, you're a loser. You're walking away from the fight.

    But even if you're walking away from a fight that you can win, maybe you can still walk tall. ...

    * * *

    Also today, Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus looks at how acquiring Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Lee would affect the Dodgers' playoff chances (among other teams).

    "We can quantify the impact of picking up a player like Soriano by comparing his projected MLVr to that of the players whom he'd be replacing," Silver writes.

    For example, here's the effect of Carlos Lee replacing Kenny Lofton, according to Silver:

    Carlos Lee (+.159 runs/game) + Kenny Lofton (-.047 runs/game) = +.206 runs/game, x 58 games remaining = 11.9 runs added, = 1.19 wins added

    (I don't do the math; I just report it.)

    Silver then goes on to examine the impact of a player producing one additional win for the remainder of the season on a team's playoff probability. The Dodgers had a 9.6 percent chance of making the playoffs at the time Silver wrote the article, according to BP - a player like Lee would up that probability to approximately 15 percent.

    "Even for a team like the White Sox that could desperately use another star player," Silver concludes, "the market price for one of these outfielders should be a second- or third-tier prospect, and not much more."

    * * *

    Finally, you might enjoy participating in this rate-your-ballpark survey.

    Little Effect
    2006-07-26 11:30
    by Jon Weisman

    In the column in which Bill Plaschke underestimates the desire or prudence of Dodger fans who choose to focus on the long term more than 2006, there's this quote from Dodger manager Grady Little after Monday's loss.

    "I could be doing better."

    It's not clear whether Little meant that he could be feeling better - as in, the losses are getting him down - or whether he meant he could be performing better as manager. Maybe it's both.

    In any case, what's striking to me is that I can't really point my finger at anything significant Little has done wrong during the team's worst run in 62 years. A few quibbles, sure, but nothing major.

    Unless the Dodgers' listless performance has somehow been fed by Little's personality - a specious claim at best - or he and his staff actually lack the ability to coach, the losing seems to be going on independent of him.

    * * *

    As for the main thrust of Plaschke's column, which basically advocated going for a 2006 division title at almost any cost, team director of public relations Josh Rawitch had a fair response at Inside the Dodgers:

    And finally, after debating his "white flag theory" with Plaschke last night before reading this morning's column, here's what I don't understand. He readily admits that he's "not talking about trading the Russell-Martin-Andre-Ethier-Jonathan-Broxton-Matt-Kemp kind of kids." The problem is, those are the names that people are asking for when it comes to getting an impact player. If Ned, Kim, Roy and the group could get Carlos Lee or Alfonso Soriano or Dontrelle Willis or Barry Zito or pick-your-impact-player in exchange for lower-level prospects or Triple-A guys that aren't valued as highly as these guys, something tells me we'd see those big names in Dodger blue tomorrow morning.

    The key quote from Ned yesterday that most every story had with the exception of this article which suggests that we're giving up is this one: "It really is a matter of who is available, and the difference-making players available are very, very few. Because of that, the requests coming back are for multiple (major-league) players. I'm not yet to the point of sacrificing two or three really good players for what probably would be a two-month rental."

    Maybe I'm crazy, but I think most Dodger fans agree with that belief. None of us want to wait until next year. No one wants to see this team lose the way it has. We are well aware that in Los Angeles, you don't get rebuilding years and we truly value the fact that you all spend your hard-earned money and time on tickets to come see this team play.

    But it seems to me in this instance that Bill had the premise for his article and heard what he wanted to hear on Ned's conference call. Please don't get me wrong - I'm not looking to bash Plaschke. I actually respect him immensely, his years of covering the game and his right to voice his opinion. He's truly one of the best writers in the country. But to leave out one of the main things Ned said because it contradicted his opinion doesn't make sense to me. If we can get a quality starting pitcher for a bag of balls, trust me, Ned will pull the trigger.

    The only thing I'd add is that I think that the ability of many Dodger fans' to handle a rebuilding year, as long as it has been spelled out to them, has always been greatly underestimated.

    * * *

    Today's 12:10 p.m. game

    Odalis Abacus
    2006-07-26 07:35
    by Jon Weisman

    Sorting out where the dollars fell in the Odalis Perez trade ...

    Here's what Perez was guaranteed as of Tuesday:

    $2,775,000 - approximately 38 percent of his 2006 salary ($7,250,000)
    $7,750,000 - 2007 salary
    $4,500,000 - deferred signing bonus
    $1,500,000 - 2008 buyout of $9,000,000 salary in 2008
    $16,525,000 - total

    According to Steve Henson of the Times, the Royals are paying the remainder of Elmer Dessens' two-year, $3.4-million contract, so you don't have to worry about that.

    Henson also said that the Dodgers will pay all of Perez's signing bonus and give the Royals "between $7.5 and $9 million, depending on whether Perez remains in Kansas City through next season." (Tony Jackson of the Daily News wrote that the Dodgers get $750,000 back if the Royals trade Perez before his current contract expires. There may be other contingencies on the dollar exchange, as well.)

    That would leave the savings for the Dodgers as approximately $3 million to $4.5 million.

    The two prospects traded, Blake Johnson and Julio Pimentel, were neither dead in the water nor sure things.

    With the cash fairly well sussed out, here's what I think. This was an all-fault divorce. I think earlier this season, the Dodgers could have been more patient with Perez, who went through a difficult period with his mother's illness. Also, the game at Houston in which he was left in to take a beating in order to save the bullpen should have been counted as a take-one-for-the-team moment instead of being held against him.

    Conversely, Perez obviously didn't perform most of the time he had a chance this season, and his willful ignorance over why the Dodgers were disappointed in him did not fly as a defense. I've never liked it when Perez was punished for speaking the truth, such as when he said the obvious about the problems with the Dodger offense or was being forthright that a blister would affect his pitching in 2003, but it's hard to defend the guy when he's abdicating all responsibility for his condition.

    The Dodgers stopped believing in Perez; Perez stopped performing. Chicken-and-egg it all you want. Neither side had the will to save this one for the kids. Given that, I'd say $3 million or more and a free Dessens was a decent return for the two prospects and Perez. As I came to conclude earlier this season, I think Perez's problems as a Dodger might well have been solvable, but that not all problems are necessarily meant to be solved.

    There's a possibility that the Dodgers will waste the money they saved, and there's a possibility Perez will find new life. But there are bigger fish to fry. Hopefully, the Dodgers can work to avoid meltdowns like this in the future.

    For an alternate (and more thought-out) opinion, check out Fifth Outfielder Tom Meagher, who adds together all of Colletti's recent moves and disapproves.

    Dodgers Since July 13, Inning by Inning
    2006-07-25 22:34
    by Jon Weisman

    Innings led: 21
    Innings tied: 32
    Innings behind: 72

    * * *

    This is the worst 13-game stretch in Los Angeles Dodgers history. Through 2005, Los Angeles had only gone 2-11 at worst, according to - including in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005.

    The last time the franchise performed this badly was 1944, when the team lost a club-record 16 in a row.

    Lunch Was Short, The Workday Long, The Night Perhaps Longer
    2006-07-25 17:40
    by Jon Weisman

    Nomar Garciaparra was covering second base when Ramon Martinez went out in his ill-fated attempt to catch the 11th-inning bloop double by Josh Barfield of the Padres. Barfield slid into Garciaparra, and the result is that Garciaparra is not in tonight's starting lineup. Neither is J.D. Drew. Neither, for that matter, is Russell Martin, who caught all 11 innings.

    Now, you might be discouraged, disheartened, disenchanted or disgusted. But my recommendation is to release the yoke of expectations and just enjoy the game with a good ol' fashioned eleemosynary attitude.

    * * *

    Kudos to the math whizzes trying to sort out the cash exchange in the Odalis Perez deal - Danica McKellar would be proud. Wish I could have been more help. For the final details to be clarified, I suggest being patient.

    Today was so busy that I never got around to mentioning a new column I have up on on the Angels, who in two months have gone from worst to first while the Dodgers have gone from first to worst.

    Two months to go ...

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    Perez Traded Just as I Go to Lunch
    2006-07-25 12:18
    by Jon Weisman

    Inside the Dodgers reports Odalis Perez, Vero Beach pitchers Blake Johnson and Julio Pimentel and an undisclosed amount of cash have been sent to Kansas City for ... well, you know the reason, but as it happens, Elmer Dessens is coming in return.

    Johnson, 21, had a 4.92 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 106 innings this season. Pimentel, 20 1/2, had a 5.69 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings.

    Dessens had a 4.50 ERA for the Royals in 43 games, all as a reliever.

    Until you know the cash exchanged, I don't know how you can begin to evaluate this trade.

    Deadline Dogma
    2006-07-25 10:00
    by Jon Weisman

    If you believe the Dodgers are a playoff contender, is there any trade you would make that you wouldn't make if you didn't believe?

    Most people seem to think the team's probability of winning affects (or should affect) decisions. For the most part, I disagree. Five games up or five games out, I think I'd have essentially the same approach.

    If I thought a huge short-term boost would make a difference, the standings wouldn't change that. If I weren't worried about reaching .500, I'd be worried about winning the division. If I weren't worried about winning the division, I'd be worried about winning the World Series. If I weren't worried about winning the World Series ...

    Sorry - got lost in the Land of Chocolate for the moment.

    Too much is made of the long-term vs. the short term. What's right is right for both. If it isn't worth trading a prospect for two months of a major leaguer when your team is at or below .500, it isn't worth doing at or below .600.

    Okay, there might be an exception here and there, but I think it's a pretty good rule.

    6-6, Bottom of the 10th, Two On, Two Out, Saenz Up
    2006-07-24 22:19
    by Jon Weisman

    Do it now.

    Update: Or not.

    July 24 Game Chat
    2006-07-24 17:26
    by Jon Weisman
    2006-07-24 11:35
    by Jon Weisman

    Here are links to the numbers before and after the All-Star break for the Dodgers, courtesy of Baseball Musings. Just a few comparisons, though you are free to find your own.

    .357/.279 on-base percentage
    .432/.306 slugging percentage
    .789/.585 OPS
    .852/.468 OPS with runners in scoring position
    .349/.264 on-base percentage with none out
    .936/.576 OPS in No. 3 slot of batting order
    .823/.425 OPS by second basemen

    If I were the Dodgers, I would focus on getting the on-base percentage back up again. Outside of two weeks of Matt Kemp, the team has shown it wasn't built to hit home runs. But it has shown the ability to walk.

    Of course, it's a chicken and egg thing. Has it been that the Dodgers have become so desperate to hit a home run that they're swinging too often? Or has their lack of home run power has made pitchers unafraid to challenge them?

    Aw, heck, it's only been two weeks. Whatever you might think of the Dodger roster, they are not in truth a .585 OPS team, and .468 with runners in scoring position is even more of a fluke. Let's just look at it as a slump, celebrate the Cardinals' departure and see what happens.

    Goodbye Sandy (Alomar, Jr.)
    2006-07-23 20:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Goodbye Sandy
    You backed up catchers all day for a living
    But all those Dodger games that you were missing
    Were you really ending your career that way?
    Chicago is a long way from L.A.

    Tiger's Tears
    2006-07-23 10:19
    by Jon Weisman

    Tiger Woods sank the last putt from a couple inches away. He pumped two fists. Smiling, he turned to shake hands with his caddy, hugging him in what appeared to be a celebratory embrace. As the caddy started to pull away, Woods hung on. His head buried in the caddy's shoulder, his body convulsing.

    The two then walked side-by-side, Woods still in tears, off the course. Woods found his wife, his comfort, and broke down further in her arms.

    He Said/She Said ... The Same Thing
    2006-07-23 09:18
    by Jon Weisman

    Respected writer Pat Jordan has a spirited profile of Dodger owners Frank and Jamie McCourt in the Times that quickly disintegrates into a wasted opportunity. The piece offers fairly intimate access to the McCourts, encourages them to vent in unguarded fashion, but then just settles for the tired defense of them as misunderstood. There's no doubt that's true to some extent - who among us hasn't been misunderstood? But an unchallenged recounting of the McCourts' past 2 1/2 years performs no service. It's a propaganda piece.


    Prodded to elaborate on those early decisions, Frank says: "Everyone was protecting their own job, their own turf. When they confronted a problem, they didn't want to solve it, they just wanted to position themselves so they wouldn't get blamed. Listen, [prior to my ownership], the franchise hadn't won a postseason game in 16 years, the team was losing $60 million a year, the brand was eroding and everyone's pissed at me [for making changes]! People were entrenched in jobs that paid $500,000 a year and they weren't trying to win, to make money, to do their [expletive] job. . . . I said, 'Let me get this right. The team's losing money, hasn't won, the brand's eroding and you're [expletive] complaining because I'm making changes?'

    "So I brought in my own people. If we succeed, what's that got to say about the people who had a chance to make this franchise succeed before us? They're bitter because we embarrassed them. So they sabotaged us [in the press]."

    This is the world according to McCourt, and as far as Jordan cares, it's the only world that exists. Apparently, everyone the ownership fired was making half a mil while eating donuts. Ross Porter, Paul DePodesta and Jim Tracy (take your pick), Gary Miereanu, Bill Plaschke's friends in the trenches - everyone. The implication is the same line of thinking that has undermined the McCourts' attempts to win over Los Angeles. They make honest mistakes; everyone else is incompetent.

    They can't even follow the Golden Rule. Point me to where any of the executives fired by McCourts have trashed the McCourts the way the McCourts have trashed them.

    In Midnight Run, Charles Grodin's martini-dry question for Robert DeNiro is, "Why aren't you popular with the Chicago Police Department?" It's the mystery within a comedy, with great suspense and in the end, a great payoff. At Dodger Stadium, the ongoing question for Frank and Jamie McCourt is, "Why aren't you popular with the city of Los Angeles?" And this is a comedy with no mystery, because the answer is so simple.

    As professionals, they will only be as popular as the team is successful. When the team isn't successful, they will only be as sympathetic as they are honest, including being honest with themselves. As long as they go around claiming that everyone else is underperforming but they're just misunderstood, as long as their theme song remains, "Why doesn't everybody like us?", they're not going to get anywhere.

    The McCourts have made improvements to Dodger Stadium, have for the most part allowed the rebuilding of the farm system to continue, have presided over a division title. We can see it. They have also made a series of management decisions that flew over the cuckoo's nest. Can they see it?

    If they can, Jordan didn't show it. Maybe Jordan thought he was doing us all a favor by writing this defense of the McCourts. They've gotten some rough treatment. But some of it that treatment has been deserved, and ignoring that fact doesn't change it.

    * * *

    Today's Game

    No Punchline
    2006-07-22 16:49
    by Jon Weisman

    The last time the Dodgers did not hit 10 home runs in a full month of baseball was June 1992, when they hit eight. The 1992 season featured the three worst Dodger home run months in recent history: August (10) and September (11). The team managed 72 home runs that season.

    So far this month, Olmedo Saenz and Nomar Garciaparra have each hit two home runs and Andre Ethier one. The rest of team has gone 471 at-bats without hitting one out.

    No, I don't have a joke here.

    * * *

    Friday night, Albert Pujols successfully tagged up from first on a fly ball in front of Kenny Lofton well inside the warning track in center field, providing the latest example of Lofton's defensive disaster zone.

    Lofton's only function now is to be a table-setter, and with his on-base percentage at .400 for July, that much he's doing. He's the yin to Cesar Izturis' yang, who theoretically drives in enough runs with his glove to compensate for a .316 on-base percentage and .657 OPS.

    I'd argue that the Dodgers can afford one dog in the outfield and one dog in the batting order when the rest of the team is producing. As we know, the rest of the team isn't - and with J.D. Drew and Jeff Kent out, we're going to have to chew on it a good deal.

    People like me are wary of playing Olmedo Saenz too much, especially against right-handed pitchers. But maybe the team should be squeezing a few more at-bats out of him with both Drew and Kent out.

    And until Matt Kemp or someone with a power bat returns, ready or not, I think we'll have to suffer Lofton's defense a little while longer.

    * * *

    Russell Martin has escaped the No. 8 spot. Yep, it was about time.

    Tonight's Game

    What It's Like To Sing the Anthem
    2006-07-21 17:20
    by Jon Weisman

    Thought you might enjoy this Dodger Stadium national anthem singer's tale (from August 2005).

    ... I entered the press box to "rehearse." I'm putting quotation marks around the word "rehearse" because what they don't really tell you is that it's actually an audition! The Dodgers' staff has the power to send you home if they don't think you're any good. So there I was in the box above the stadium with all the reporters, announcers and important looking people with walkie-talkies and I'm introduced to Nancy Bea. She is a lovely woman with a kind face and a nice smile. However, as soon as I met her I realized she was all business. She looked at me with an expression that said "You better know how to sing, girlie, 'cuz I have no patience for amateurs." I soon realized that pretty much everyone in the room was sizing me up! Can you say, "intimidating?" ...

    Fortunately, Nancy Bea is still there to guide the singers along.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    So, What's New?
    2006-07-21 09:18
    by Jon Weisman

    I'm 4, for one thing. Hard to fathom.

    What else is new? In four years, the Dodgers have developed a farm system. So as insipid as things might look right now, I believe in the future. It could all unravel, but for now, I believe.

    Roll Call
    2006-07-20 15:41
    by Jon Weisman

    Dodger Profiles has been quiet of late, but you can still check out snapshots of Juan Marichal, Jay Johnstone, The Other Mike Marshall, Al Campanis (great pic), Fernando Valenzuela and Sid Fernandez.

    Meanwhile, as you may know by now, another new Dodger blog, Blue Heaven, has entered the scene.

    Update: You knew him, you loved him, you couldn't live without him. And now Tom Meagher is back - on an irregular schedule, but back nonetheless - with a new blog, Fifth Outfielder. He started things off with an interesting post on Blue Jay martyr/villain Shea Hillenbrand.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    2006-07-20 09:35
    by Jon Weisman

    When Chick Hearn talked about someone being "faked into the popcorn machine," did you ever wonder what it was like in there?

    I think this is what it's like in there.

    You look at the Dodgers these days and it's more and more like random kernels bouncing off the walls. That doesn't mean that in the end it won't come out as one big bag of "Ooh, popcorn!" But right now, it's just crazy, man. Just a sampling:

  • The Dodgers decided to let Jeff Kent play through an oblique injury that has taken others a month or more to heal, and it backfired. Surprised?

  • Wednesday, Russell Martin was a game-time decision following being hit by a pitch on or near the right wrist. Now, they're talking about having him sit out two days in a row. Anyone else having deja vu?

  • Speculation is growing that homer-deprived J.D. Drew this year's winner of the Shawn Green Hiding an Injury Award.

  • With Brett Tomko heading to the bullpen enthusiastically when he comes off the disabled list, probably next week, three-fifths of the team's season-opening starting rotation will have made it there. At the rate he's pitching, Derek Lowe could make it four. (We'll ignore Brad Penny's one inning, which did not constitute a real move to the pen.)

    To top it off, the Dodgers seemed irritated, according to Henson, that Cesar Izturis has not rejoined the team, because after all, it had been all of two days since his wife gave birth via the appropriately named Cesarian section. The team is apparently desperate to have him to get on a plane, fly to Arizona for today's game, then fly back home afterward, instead of leaving him alone one more day to be with his family. The guy has a son, a newborn daughter and a wife in the hospital, but come on, he's needed elsewhere.

    (Meanwhile, as Henson notes, the roster spot currently named Sandy Alomar, Jr. has had one at-bat in July, even with the addition of catcher Toby Hall freeing Alomar to pinch-hit at will.)

    Family has become the issue of the week, more prominently as part of the larger Shea Hillenbrand drama in Toronto, and it's another rollicking Redenbacher. Izturis misses a year of baseball with an injury, comes back and takes over a position despite none of the required the offensive ability for it, then is away to be at his daughter's birth while Willy Aybar comes out and hits two doubles in his first game and makes two fine defensive plays (along with an error) in his second. Does anyone really need to question whether Izturis would be with the team if he thought he could be? Moreover, does he really matter? The Dodgers are 10-10 with Izturis in the starting lineup, 46-47 overall. Not that you can ascribe wins or losses to one man, but I don't think the guy is a difference-maker.

    Grady Little looks at the popcorn machine and, you sort of have to love it, admits he's flummoxed. From Bill Plunkett of the Register:

    When asked what could be done to shake his team out of its collective slump, Little seemed at a loss for ideas.

    "I couldn't hit when I played," he said. "What ... am I going to do?"

    Sure, it'll all get better. In the meantime, popcorn, anyone?

  • Dessert Island Blogs
    2006-07-19 17:10
    by Jon Weisman

    There are no typos in the headline.

    If you were stranded on a remote island with only a coupon for your two favorite desserts and a computer that had access to nothing but Dodger Thoughts and three other blogs of your choosing, what would your desserts and blogs be?

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    How Soon Do Strikeouts Matter?
    2006-07-19 11:50
    by Jon Weisman

    Chad Billingsley isn't striking out batters at a high rate in the majors so far. Does it matter? You be the judge, based on this small sampling of Dodger pitchers from the past 30 years.

    First Seven Starts by Selected Young Dodger Pitchers
    Orel Hershiser19842555.2569.1
    Chan Ho Park19962334349.0
    Fernando Valenzuela19812063618.7
    Eric Gagne1999-200023-2445.1438.6
    Dennys Reyes1997-9820-2141.2367.9
    Ismael Valdez1994-9520-2144387.8
    Alejandro Pena198323-2445387.6
    Shawn Hillegas19872338327.6
    D.J. Houlton20052536297.3
    Ramon Martinez1988-8920-2138.2307.1
    Tim Belcher1987-8825-2644.1336.7
    Edwin Jackson2003-042035.1256.4
    Luke Prokopec2000-0122-2341286.1
    Bob Welch19782149.2305.5
    Dennis Powell1985-8621-2233.2205.4
    Pedro Astacio19922352305.2
    Chad Billingsley20062139.1225.1
    Rick Sutcliffe1976-7920-2246244.7
    Dave Stewart19822541184.0
    Source: Retrosheet

    You'd feel awfully good about Billingsley if he were striking out eight batters per nine innings. Short of that, it's a mixed bag of great, good, inconsistent and see ya.

    Nothing was more surprising for me than to see Dave Stewart at the bottom of this list. Stewart, who began his Dodger career as a reliever, ended up averaging 6.2 strikeouts per nine innings for his career (523 appearances, 348 starts). In 204 innings with Toronto at age 37, Stewart's K/9 was 7.6.

    Are there many more pitchers whose strikeouts jumped up like Stewart's?

    Little Shop of Dodgers
    2006-07-19 09:30
    by Jon Weisman

    83. Steve
    It got very dark. And when the sun came out, there was this strange win eating plant sitting on the table beside me.

    Continue reading...

    Billingsley Comes Alive
    2006-07-18 21:22
    by Jon Weisman

    And Aybar Too

    In some respects, it was the same old young Chad Billingsley. Singles - some seeing-eye, some with 20-20 vision - instead of strikeouts. Pitches here and there not only missing the bull's-eye, but the entire target.

    But as tonight's game went on, those moments came less frequently, and a mix of fastballs and curves pitches found their spots - on the corners, in on the hands - and you realized that the Arizona Diamondbacks were not getting good wood on hardly anything.

    Billingsley was foolin' em, and suddenly the uphill battle that has been his career up to now leveled off into a cruise. He finished with seven shutout innings, allowing six hits - all singles - walking two and striking out four, on 103 pitches. In his final three innings, he got one double-play grounder and what should have been another, and he struck out his final two batters.

    This is just one step for Billingsley. One neato step.

    * * *

    The first at-bat I saw live tonight by Willy Aybar produced a 360-foot opposite field flyout. Aybar did not get all of the pitch and to a large extent was just going with it, yet he came within shouting distance of a home run. Keeping in mind that we just haven't seen many Dodgers hit the ball very far - it's not as if their home run drought has featured many near-misses - it was really a sight to see. And it was not a surprise, therefore, to then see Aybar get his second double of the game, a booming shot to center field.

    Aybar basically hit non-stop for the first two months of his Dodger career (September 2005 and May 2006), then went into a slump and didn't get the chance to come out of it. When you're a veteran, you get a long rope, but when you're a rookie, you get a Q-Tip. Life goes on - Aybar went down to Las Vegas and Cesar Izturis returned from his long absence, and we found out what Izturis could do. He's still got the great glove - with an all-too typical .679 OPS.

    It's not as if Aybar will hit two doubles every game, but I'm not sure we've found out all he can do. Maybe he's only good against National League West pitching for now, or something like that. But watching him work the bat with authority tonight, it's hard to believe the Dodgers could send him down again.

    Kent DLed, Aybar Recalled
    2006-07-18 15:04
    by Jon Weisman

    Willy Aybar is coming up to take the place of Jeff Kent, who went on the 15-day disabled list, the Dodgers announced today.

    * * *

    R.I.P., Bud "The Steamer" Furillo.

    * * *

    Throw strikes, Chad. Just throw strikes.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    Colletti Postures Patience
    2006-07-18 09:40
    by Jon Weisman

    Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Monday that with the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline looming, he has yet to find an available player that would justify giving up one of the club's many celebrated prospects.

    "But that said, we're still two weeks away," Colletti said.

    Colletti acknowledged the possibility that the deadline could pass without the Dodgers making another significant move to follow their June 27 trade with Tampa Bay, when they acquired left-hander Mark Hendrickson and catcher Toby Hall.

    "I'm not inclined to trade away players who I believe can have a strong impact on this franchise in 2007, 2008 and 2009 for a player who isn't going to make a significant difference for us over those last two months and isn't going to be of value to us next year," Colletti said.

    "So far, I can't say there is one player out there that I feel is a significant upgrade versus the cost of whatever prospects would be going (in return)."

    - Tony Jackson, Daily News

    * * *

    If Jeff Kent has to go on the disabled list, a growing possibility according to Ken Gurnick of, who would join the Dodgers?

    It could be Jason Repko, whom Dodger manager Grady Little really misses, but Repko is only one hit into his rehabilitation assignment at Las Vegas (in 13 at-bats) and did not play Monday. Further, that move would still leave the Dodgers thin in the infield. If another outfielder doesn't hurt himself soon, Repko will probably either replace Jose Cruz, Jr. or Sandy Alomar on the roster.

    Some fans will also clamor for the power potential of Andy LaRoche or Joel Guzman, but the labrum-impaired LaRoche hasn't been hitting much since his hot start in AAA (OPS down to .834) and has been stuck on three home runs, while Guzman's OPS is down to .769.

    James Loney, of course, is on fire - his numbers high and getting higher (1.009 OPS) - but he plays first base and left field.

    So the most logical choice to replace Kent would be Willy Aybar (.921 OPS), who seems to have at least regained his AAA hitting stroke (10 for his last 22 with two walks) and who has had good major league experience in the infield outside of his June slump.

    * * *

    The Dodgers are 14-23 (.378) in their past 37 games and have five home runs in 493 July at-bats. If you want a silver lining, it is that their on-base percentage this month (.347) has had almost no negative impact on their season average (.353).

    * * *

    Update: The Value of Confusion

    Kevin Roderick of L.A. Observed quoted former Times science writer K.C. Cole at length this morning about how newspapers and magazines cover science. There was one paragraph that I felt could apply to those of us interested in baseball:

    In science, feeling confused is essential to progress. An unwillingness to feel lost, in fact, can stop creativity dead in its tracks. A mathematician once told me he thought this was the reason young mathematicians make the big discoveries. Math can be hard, he said, even for the biggest brains around. Mathematicians may spend hours just trying to figure out a line of equations. All the while, they feel dumb and inadequate. Then one day, these young mathematicians become established, become professors, acquire secretaries and offices. They don't want to feel stupid anymore. And they stop doing great work.

    To paraphrase Galaxy Quest, "Never get too smart, never surrender."

    Loney, Pedroza Honored
    2006-07-17 17:20
    by Jon Weisman

    James Loney and Sergio Pedroza were named to the midseason Baseball America Minor League All-Star Teams. The Dodgers recently promoted Pedroza to Class A Vero Beach.

    Happy 0th birthday to Daniella Izturis!

    * * *

    For those looking for a pregame diversion - the kind where five schoolgirls try to save the universe in an animated series - please feel free to tune into W.I.T.C.H. this week. I wrote four episodes for the show, and my first one is scheduled to be on the air at the following times:

    Tonight, 6:00 p.m., ToonDisney
    Tonight, 11:00 p.m., ToonDisney
    Friday, 6:00 p.m., ToonDisney
    Friday, 11:00 p.m., ToonDisney
    Saturday, 8:30 a.m., ABC Family
    Sunday, 8:30 a.m., ABC Family
    Sunday, 6:00 p.m., ToonDisney
    Sunday, 11:30 p.m., ToonDisney

    I didn't get an advance copy of my episode, so I'll be seeing it for the first time on the late shift.

    Update: It wasn't a success - it comes out as too hard to follow, without sufficient payoff.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    I Can't Get No Relief
    2006-07-17 11:02
    by Jon Weisman

    Here's a new column at about one of my favorite topics in the past year, the near-impossibility of finding a consistent relief pitcher.

    Imagine pouring yourself a glass of milk with no idea of its expiration date.

    Such is the gag-inducing reality of relief pitching in the majors. At any moment, the pitcher can turn sour -- or already has, and you just don't know it yet.

    Many teams find themselves in the market for relief help. That's because teams are always searching for relief help, and that's because there are not enough good relievers to go around.

    If your team is lucky enough to get one of the good ones, pat yourself on the back and get back to looking, because almost no reliever is good from one year to the next.

    A principal way that Baseball Prospectus evaluates relievers, for example, is by a statistic called Adjusted Runs Prevented. This statistic takes you a step past ERA, whose usefulness is at the mercy of inherited runners, to paint a more accurate image of how effective a relief pitcher is.

    That image will haunt you like The Scream. Of the top 100 in baseball in ARP at this year's All-Star Break, 53 had not been on the list once in the previous four seasons. Essentially, more than half of the top 100 relievers in baseball at midseason had come out of nowhere. ...

    Coming up below is an expanded chart showing where major league relievers have ranked in the Top 100 of Adjusted Runs Prevented (ARP) over the past five years, illustrating how much performances fluctuate from year to year and how frequently pitchers move in and out of the charts.

    Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus offers this expanded explanation of ARP:

    Adjusted Runs Prevented is a measure of the number of runs a relief pitcher prevented compared to an average pitcher, given the Base/Out state (the combination of runners on base and the number of outs) for which he entered and left each game (adjusted for park and league). In other words, it uses play-by-play data to assess the responsibility for fractional runs prevented based on the run expectancy of a given situation, instead of charging the runs scored by inherited runners solely to the previous pitcher.

    An example that was probably taken from real life given how easily I can envision it: Mike Mussina leaves a game with runners on first and second and one out. The Run Expectancy in that situation, based on 2005 data, is 0.964 runs; the average team could be expected to score nearly a run. Lefty Mike Myers comes in and gives up a ground ball that advances the runners but gets an out, dropping the RE to 0.542. He's removed by Joe Torre, so his ARP for the day is .964-.542 = .422 runs. Kyle Farnsworth then comes in and walks both of the next hitters, scoring a run and raising the RE (bases loaded, two outs) to .824. He's removed; his ARP for the day is .542 -.824 - 1 (the one that scored) = -1.282 runs. Mariano Rivera comes in and K's the next guy to end the inning, so his ARP is .824 - 0 = .824 runs.

    Continue reading...

    A Quick Entourage Comment
    2006-07-17 11:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Sunday's episode might have been the best of the season, but there were these nagging plot questions:

    1) Why did Ari pick that day of all days not to get in his car and try to meet Vince face-to-face, instead of waiting by the phone?

    2) Why didn't Ari actually text Eric with the life-or-death problem they were facing, instead of just cursing and ranting?

    Ari is mercurial, but he's not stupid. It didn't make sense to me that he chained himself to his desk until after the 4 p.m. deadline passed.

    I'm Not Going To Chase the Cat Today
    2006-07-17 09:56
    by Jon Weisman

    It's the title of a children's book we love at home, and it sums up how I'm feeling this morning. St. Louis treats the Dodgers like a sweatshop - what else is new - but now the team is headed for the cool, cool confines of Arizona. So I'm not going to work up a sweat. We'll see if cooler heads prevail. Ooh, child, things are gonna get easier.

    It might not be a rational response to the past weekend, but it's my response.

    A link to a new column will be posted soon.

    So So Hot, Lady
    2006-07-16 08:19
    by Jon Weisman
    It's Too Hot (Too Hot), Too Hot, Lady
    2006-07-15 08:52
    by Jon Weisman
    Furcal Climbing Toward Expectations
    2006-07-14 16:14
    by Jon Weisman

    Since May 1, Rafael Furcal's on-base percentage has been .365, 17 points higher than his career OBP entering the season. His 2006 OBP of .349 is on par with his career average.

    Furcal's slugging percentage since May 1 of .404 meets his career standard but trails his production of the past three seasons. His overall 2006 slugging percentage is .355, thanks to that lousy April he had (.219).

    Furcal had four hits Thursday and was robbed of a potential game-winning fifth when he lined out to second base.

    If it were true that certain players heat up as the seasons go on - and I'm not convinced that's more than coincidence - is it because they need 30-60 games behind them to become effective? Or should they just head off to Maui for the first month or two and wait for the weather to get hot?

    * * *

    Tonight's game

    Walking Out of the Theater
    2006-07-14 10:37
    by Jon Weisman

    One pitch, and that was that. The pitcher with the spotty career grimaced as the home run flew out of the park, and Dodger fans everywhere cried out, "How predictable was that?" Having seen this too many times before, some no doubt called for his immediate release.

    But no, Giovanni Carrara is still with the team today.

    He'll stick because no relief pitcher in the post-Eric Gagne era is perfect. He'll stick because there are few alternatives. He'll stick because in between mistakes, he gives you a juicy scoreless inning here and there. And probably, it'll help just a little that Carrara appears to be a pleasant guy to have around.

    Odalis Perez, on the other hand, is probably on his way out of our Dodger lives - though the game-ending home run he allowed Thursday has very little to do with it.

    An inability to get Albert Pujols out and frustration with his current role on the Dodgers might be the two least significant revelations we've seen about Perez this season. Getting rid of him strictly because of those two events would make as much sense as extending Pedro Martinez's contract because he struck out Neifi Perez and bragged about it.

    But beyond that, I speculate that momentum is growing in the Dodger front office for the belief that Perez's potential to be an effective pitcher for the Dodgers is beyond rehabilitation, and that his contract will have to be treated as a sunk cost.

    Perez's career is not over - he hasn't gone through the Scott Erickson, Hideo Nomo, Aaron Sele change-of-scenery denouement. The strangely productive season of Sele upon being lifted from the recycling bin will only encourage general managers to take chances on others' discards. I've been mocked by some for suggesting that Perez's decline this season can be explained in part by bad luck, but the fact is that not every decline is a straight drop off a cliff. Sometimes you bounce, and in a few cases, like Sele's, you simply cut to the next scene like Wile E. Coyote, miraculously healed until the next crash.

    So I ascribe no significance to Thursday night's game in the grand scheme of things. Whatever's been going on with Perez, it was going on long before Albert Pujols took him deep in the 14th inning. And whatever's going to happen to Perez, it will happen despite Perez's postgame venting.

    The question the Dodgers face today is whether the Perez problem is even worth solving. Perez is not yet 30, but his arm acts older than that. Strikeouts do not come for him. The best-case scenario, as much of a longshot or shortshot as it may be, is that he will become another Sele, a soft-tosser who might string a few starts together in which he fools you for six innings. In the meantime, you have to endure the journey to get to that point.

    As I sit here today, this journey offers all the potential struggle and joylessness of an umpteenth National Lampoon's Vacation sequel. You might feel lucky if you got to the destination but exhausted by how much was expended along the way. Ultimately, no matter how much the admission charge was, do you want to get to the end of The Odalis Perez Story and risk having no more to say than, "There went three years of my life."

    If the risk is that Perez will thrive elsewhere, if the risk is that the Dodgers are walking out on a sleeper hit or missing out on John Travolta just before Pulp Fiction, maybe now that's a risk you take. Not because of one Pujols-driven night. But because just the whole prospect of having to face another moment with the Perez problem is so depressing.

    My instinct is often one of vigilance, of not wanting to give up on a problem that can be solved. But maybe not every problem is meant to be solved.

    * * *

    Footnote: Danys Baez was back at the team hotel with the flu during Thursday's game, according to's Ken Gurnick, leaving Perez as the only remaining option in the Dodger bullpen before manager Grady Little would have to turn to a starting pitcher.

    * * *

    Update: Joe Sheehan has a great column today at Baseball Prospectus:

    ... Tuesday, Bud Selig spoke to reporters, and during that exchange, he expressed the idea that a rule should be established that would prohibit pitchers selected to the All-Star team from pitching on the Sunday prior to the game.

    The staggering ridiculousness of that idea--let's impact the championship season for the sake of an exhibition game in which 45 players will appear and Matt Holliday will be among the leaders in playing time--strains my vocabulary, my imagination and my patience. It is, however, wholly consistent with Selig's apparent view that baseball isn't a terribly interesting game, and desperately needs bells and whistles to keep the attention of the public. ...

    When you look deeper at these cycles, what you see are decisions that are driven by a complete lack of trust in the product. Selig, who I'll blame individually for a process that certainly involves more people than him, doesn't believe that the greatness of major-league baseball is in the day-to-day of a six-month regular season. Virtually every decision he's made over the course of his comissionership has detracted from that element, that thing that really does make baseball great, in an effort to garner short-term attention with parlor tricks. ...

    That Selig would even suggest that teams do the exact opposite of what they should — use their best starters on the weekend before the All-Star Game, so that they can start shortly after it, essentially squeezing an extra start from them — shows that he doesn't get baseball at all. ...

    Ledee Healthy, Alomar To Be Stashed?
    2006-07-13 20:28
    by Jon Weisman

    Rather than having me parse all the pending roster moves, just catch up directly through Ken Gurnick's notebook on

    Oh, what the heck. Let's parse:

  • Ricky Ledee is healthy and waiting for an opening. Most likely, Sandy Alomar, Jr. will take a disabled list vacation - unless fast-acting malcontent Toby Hall is traded. (I'm sure general managers are lining up around the block for him.)

    I don't doubt others have been upset about riding the bench even on a good team, but I'm surprised he's so open about it.

  • Cesar Izturis will miss a few days - his wife will be induced into labor Monday if she doesn't deliver a baby sooner. Congrats, Cesar!

  • Lance Carter was outright outrighted off the 40-man roster, meaning the other 29 teams passed on the chance to claim him. He remains in Las Vegas.

  • Jason Repko arrived in Las Vegas to begin a take-your-time rehabilitation assignment.

  • Brett Tomko will test himself by throwing off a mound soon.

  • I Can't Believe 16 Teams Have To Wait Another Day
    2006-07-13 16:26
    by Jon Weisman

    Since when did the All-Star Break get extended for half of baseball? Just seven games on tap tonight.

    * * *

    Tonight's game

    Sweatin' To the Oldies
    2006-07-13 09:25
    by Jon Weisman

    As much as any other ballpark in the National League in recent years, Busch Stadium in St. Louis has seemed like a house of horrors to me. Impressionistically, it's a place that's always 100 degrees on the field with 100 percent humidity and balls zinging along the turf and Dodger pitchers melting like so many wicked witches. Like the little claustrophoic egg that takes you up the Gateway Arch, it feels like there's no way out.

    Well, not only is the above not all true, it's no longer even relevant. Tonight, the Dodgers play their first game at new Busch Stadium, where everything's different. Except the name. And the fact that the Cardinals are averaging more than five runs a game at home. And the fact that the game-time forecast is merely 92 degrees with 67 percent humidity.


    The Office Webisodes Debut
    2006-07-13 09:02
    by Jon Weisman

    But I can't watch them at work; I can only hear them. It's like Olde Tyme Radio ...

    So far, I miss the visuals.

    Can Loney Be a Big Game James?
    2006-07-12 11:05
    by Jon Weisman

    Is he worthy?

    James Loney puts his bat on the ball. In nearly 300 trips to the plate this season with AAA Las Vegas, he has struck out 22 times.

    However, he has only seven home runs and 20 walks. So the question on people's minds is, is he a one-trick Loney?

    Despite his apparent home run shortfall, Loney has the highest slugging percentage on the 51s at .556 - higher than Andy LaRoche or Joel Guzman has, higher than Andre Ethier or Russell Martin had. Loney has a double every 12.9 at bats - second-best on the team behind Delwyn Young, whose .335 on-base percentage is 91 points below Loney's .426.

    Loney is doing this at AAA despite being only 22 years and two months old.

    Of more concern is whether Loney is walking enough. Interestingly, Loney's nearly even walk-strikeout ratio is an improvement from his two seasons and is his best since his debut year in 2002.

    Year BB SO
    2002 31 28 (64 games)
    2003 43 80 (125 games)
    2004 42 75 (104 games)
    2005 59 87 (138 games)
    2006 37 40 (projected over 130 games)

    Loney is walking less and striking out less. Is he simply getting more pitches to hit? In the past, he has shown both more patience and a greater ability to be confused. Of course, in some of those years he struggled with injuries as well.

    I often ask myself why Martin and Ethier, whose overall AAA statistics were worse than Loney's, have succeeded in their first trips to the majors. Is it because their walk rates were higher and gave them a better defense against major-league pitching? Or is it a fluke?

    Sitting here today, it would seem these are the following potential outcomes for Loney in the majors.

    1) Injuries prevent us from seeing what he could be.
    2) He becomes a .280-.300 batting average, low-power hitter (.750 OPS).
    3) He becomes a high-average, doubles hitter (.850 OPS).
    4) He becomes a high-average hitter with power just shy of Nomar Garciaparra's (.950 OPS).

    At his age, I like his chances of learning not to be fooled in the majors. I think he can reach Level 2 by 2007, Level 3 by 2008 and maybe, just maybe, Level 4 by 2009.

    But because they're not fooling Loney in the minors anymore, I'm sort of in limbo with my prediction. He's going to need the challenge of major league pitching to give us more information about his future. And in all likelihood, the Dodgers are going to have to allow him to struggle a little bit before he makes his big leap forward. When you go weeks or months without a challenge, the challenge can shock you when it comes. And then it's all on how you adjust.

    Loney, by the way, has been learning to play left field - giving him a place to go should the Dodgers retain Nomar Garciaparra for first base. Heading into next season, the Dodgers could potentially have Loney, Garciaparra, Ethier, Matt Kemp, Andy LaRoche and J.D. Drew rotating among the three outfield positions and the infield corners - and that's not even accounting for Joel Guzman or Aybar.

    Drew and Garciaparra are question marks to return to Los Angeles next season. Garciaparra will test his love for the city against the team's love of a long-term deal. Drew and his agent, Scott Boras, will have to decide whether he can do better than the three years at $33 million he has the option of keeping or discarding. With at least 2 1/2 months of baseball remaining in 2006, there's no way to know what will happen.

    But if the Dodgers don't jerk Loney around in the future, if they can at least give him the kind of four-or-five-game-a-week exposure that Ethier and Kemp have been receiving, I like his chances of becoming a significant asset. I'm holding my breath the tiniest bit as to whether National League pitchers will have any Loney Kryptonite that isn't found among the AAA pretenders. But then again, National League pitchers aren't that much to write home about these days, are they?

    * * *

    Many thanks again for an overwhelming fundraising drive for Dodger Thoughts, and above all to Sam DC for being the driving force. It was really something else.

    My Earliest All-Star Game Memory ...
    2006-07-11 22:14
    by Jon Weisman

    ... is not of anything I saw. It's of a postcard I got from my father while I was at summer camp, describing Dave Parker's tremendous throw home.

    Later in life, I saw a clip of the throw. I can vaguely remember that. I remember the postcard clearly, though.

    After Nine Innings ...
    2006-07-11 09:00
    by Jon Weisman

    The following chart illustrates in rudimentary fashion how many earned runs the Dodgers would tend to allow in a game depending on who starts the game for them. It takes the performances by their starting pitchers this season for however many innings they've averaged, and then finishes their starts with a bullpen that averages a 4.50 ERA. (Currently, the team bullpen ERA is 4.42.)

    PitcherGSIPIP/GSERAERA with 4.50 Bullpen Finishing Game
    Aaron Sele1162 2/35.702.643.29
    Brad Penny181086.002.923.44
    Derek Lowe19120 2/36.353.884.06
    Mark Hendrickson2115.504.914.75
    Brett Tomko1582 2/35.515.124.88
    Jae Seo1049 2/34.975.264.92
    Chad Billingsley527 1/35.475.274.97
    Odalis Perez8384.758.536.63

    The chart is a friendly reminder that the worse the starting pitcher is, the better the bullpen looks. Hooray!

    Admittedly, the chart is skewed slightly because the longer a starter goes in a game, the more likely it is that the bullpen ERA will be lower. On the other hand, no Dodger starter is averaging more than 6 1/3 innings, which means that they all are vulnerable.

    The knock on Dodger All-Star Brad Penny is that he doesn't go deep into games, but the fact is that he is averaging six innings a start and requiring the team to score only four runs to win. (Penny has not allowed an unearned run this season.) Penny may not be an ace in the traditional sense, but he's the next-best thing.

    It does say something for Aaron Sele that he has surpassed Penny for a third of a season. Improbably, Sele has had an impact not unlike the one Wilson Alvarez had when he first became a Dodger.

    Derek Lowe would have looked much better on this chart before his recent slump: 18 runs in 15 innings. Lowe has essentially had the July that I thought Sele would have, allowing nine runs in 9 2/3 innings.

    Skipping down toward the bottom of the chart, you find that there isn't much of a difference between most of the pitchers, who are requiring the Dodgers to score at least five runs a game to win.

    The solution for Odalis Perez, apparently, is to have Odalis Perez relieve him. Perez has a 2.25 ERA coming out of the bullpen. One man's fluke is another man's "what can we learn from this?"

    As distasteful as most of the Dodger starting pitching has been, there is an important difference between throwing a 5.00 ERA guy out there and an 8.00 guy. A couple extra innings and a couple runs off the board give the team that much more of a chance to win. Not the greatest chance, but a relevant chance. It isn't a lost cause when these guys start.

    In the end, any area the Dodgers can improve will make a difference. There's more room for improvement on the run prevention side than on offense, but if offense is where it's easier to make things happen, then let's gird our loins for some slugfests.

    * * *

    Hopefully all of those who have contributed to the Dodger Thoughts fundraiser have received e-mails from me, but I would just like to say another big thank you to all of you as I take your money and bid farewell to the site ...

    Nah, I wouldn't do that. I'm sticking around. And thanks again.

    Doing the Dew
    2006-07-11 07:21
    by Jon Weisman

    A multipicture, extended recap of the Dodger Stadium sleepover can be found at Daily News writer Tom Hoffarth's Farther Off the Wall:

    By late Monday afternoon, about 230 of us who just experienced the inaugural "Blue Heaven Sleepover" promotion, the first time in the 44 year history of Dodger Stadium where fans were allowed to spend the night, were trying to find the words to describe the last 24 hours or so.

    OK, so a few couples whose sole intention was to "circle the bases" inside their zipped-together sleeping bags were kindly given a refund and suggested they take it home so they might not ruin the family atmosphere. Maybe they weren't completely satisfied. Too bad. But if you were a kid able to run around and get grass stains on every part of your PJs, or a parent who wanted to act like a kid again and wasn't bothered by a soggy wet pillow by the time the sun came up over the right-field pavilion, it really was pretty cool. ...

    Wishing Well
    2006-07-10 09:01
    by Jon Weisman

    If you could change one thing in Dodger history, from the pitch to Bobby Thomson, to the trade of Pedro Martinez, to the elimination of the double-bagger peanuts at Dodger Stadium, what would it be?

    * * *

    Note: This is awkward, but if you are interested in supporting Dodger Thoughts ...
    Continue reading...

    Good Field, No Trade: Izturis Now Likely to Stay
    2006-07-09 08:03
    by Jon Weisman

    The Dodgers are leaning toward keeping Cesar Izturis at third base rather than trade him to open up the position for Willy Aybar, Andy LaRoche or an outsider, according to Bill Plunkett of the Register.*

    Maybe this is reverse posturing to drive Izturis' price up, but it's the most definitive endorsement of Izturis we've seen this season from Dodger general manager Ned Colletti:

    "I would have to have a definite answer in return," he said, an indication the GM does not consider minor-leaguers Willy Aybar, Joel Guzman or LaRoche (who returned to Triple-A this past week, avoiding surgery for a slight labrum tear) everyday answers at the major-league level at this point.

    "Cesar has done a great job at third base," Colletti said. "Is he going to be a prototypical hitter at third base? No. But I definitely like what I've seen from him and appreciate the professionalism he has shown by agreeing to make that (position) switch in order to make us a better ballclub."

    Since Mueller went on the DL, Dodgers third baseman have hit .265 with 26 runs scored and 29 RBIs in 51 games. Through Saturday, Izturis was hitting .288 (19 for 66) in 18 games.

    When asked if he could see Izturis being his everyday third baseman for the rest of the season, Little said he could for a variety of reasons.

    "Even on nights when he doesn't get any hits, it's like he's driving in runs with his glove," Little said. "That means as much to us as a guy hitting .350."

    I'll allow one argument for Izturis. In a year in which the Dodger pitching staff started out at a disadvantage and mostly moved backward, his defense may be a small way to improve the Dodgers' run-prevention ability.

    But even with his batting average back up to .288, Izturis' power-depressed OPS is .672. That puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the lineup.

    And now, for some comic relief - backup catcher Toby Hall, who had three hits Saturday, is already trying to get himself traded, according to Kevin Pearson of the Press-Enterprise. So much for the thrill of being part of a contender.

    * * *

    Today's Game

    *By the way, that would make me wrong about having predicted Izturis' place in the lineup was temporary.

    Use Your Time Wisely
    2006-07-08 11:27
    by Jon Weisman

    Jackie Robinson was the mystery guest on today's What's My Line? rerun. Here are the questions (paraphrased by me unless in quotes) he was asked by the blindfolded panel. The panel had a time limit of three minutes, so they had to be efficient.

    Joanna Barnes: Are you a series regular on television?

    Bert Convy: Are you appearing in town now? (Amended to:) Are you in show business?

    Arlene Francis: Are you a member of the sports world?

    Soupy Sales: Are you a player? (Amended to:) Were you a player?

    JB: Is your sport "associated with a warm season of the year?"

    BC: I'm assuming your sport is baseball. Are you a coach?

    AF: Are you a manager?

    SS: Are you a broadcaster?

    JB: Are you tall and good-looking and would you like to go on a date? (Polite laughter.) (Amended to:) Are you in another enterprise for which you are equally famous?

    BC: Is it fair to say your sport is baseball?

    AF: You're not a player, coach or manager now. Are you a famous umpire?

    SS: Were you a famous player?

    Time for one more question.

    BC: Are you Stan Musial?

    Talk about circling and circling before coming in for a landing.

    Time was up, and Robinson was introduced to the panel. Convy was extremely disappointed he didn't guess correctly. Host Wally Bruner pointed out that Convy was a former professional baseball player (as seen on Dodger Thoughts), but Convy begged Bruner not to "put me in a league with Jackie Robinson." Nevertheless, Bruner insisted Convy was the biggest sports nut in show business.

    Sales then related a tale that he said he got "a big kick out of telling people" - when he was in the Navy in 1944, he went to the Coliseum and saw UCLA beat USC with a backfield of Robinson, Bob Waterfield and Kenny Washington. In a classic Bob Timmermann moment, Robinson turned to Bruner and quietly asked, "Should I contradict him?" Robinson told Sales he played with Washington in 1939 and 1940. Poor Soupy.

    (In fact, 1944 was the year that Robinson received his honorable discharge from the Army, after he was acquitted in a court-martial for insubordination arising from an incident in which he refused to sit in the rear of a public bus.)

    Bruner wrapped things up by saying what a big "debt of gratitude" everyone owed Robinson for what he did. Robinson listened to Bruner speak for about 20 seconds, and I wondered what was going through his head. Did he accept this praise at face value, completely in the moment, or were the very opposite feelings he encountered less than 25 years earlier still fresh in his head?

    Robinson's final words were to say that "in all sincerity" the challenges Branch Rickey faced were greater than his own. I really find it hard to believe that he truly believed this, but it made everyone feel good. He was a classy game show guest.

    Today's show was probably the longest I've gotten to hear Jackie Robinson speak in my life.

    * * *

    Today's Game

    That'll Teach 'Em
    2006-07-07 22:50
    by Jon Weisman

    Bottom of the eighth.

    Tie game.

    Rafael Furcal singles.

    Matt Kemp bunts into a force play.

    Nomar Garciaparra homers.

    (Enter J. Walter Weatherman.)

    "And that's why you don't let your power hitter bunt!"

    * * *

    The day Joe Morgan hit his Dodger-killing homer off Terry Forster in 1982. I watched it. Oh yes, I saw it. What follows are the many, many things I don't remember about the game:

  • Fernando Valenzuela started for the Dodgers. He went six innings, walking five but allowing only two hits and striking out nine. In the second inning, after Ron Cey gave the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the top of the inning, the Giants loaded the bases with none out. Valenzuela walked in one run and induced a double play that scored the other.

  • The score was still 2-2 with one out in the seventh when Rick Monday, Cey and pinch-hitter Jose Morales (batting for Mike Scioscia) loaded the bases with singles. In a critical at-bat with Valenzuela on deck, Bill Russell struck out. It was only Russell's 30th strikeout in 576 plate appearances that season. That forced Tommy Lasorda to send up Jorge Orta to bat for Valenzuela, who batted .168 in 1982, and Orta grounded out.

  • It was not Forster who started the decisive bottom of the seventh inning for the Dodgers, but none other than future devastator Tom Niedenfuer, who immediately allowed a single to Bob Brenly and a double to Champ Summers. Giants reliever Greg Minton, who ended up pitching the final 2 2/3 innings of the game, batted for himself and struck out. (Perhaps he attempted to squeeze at first?) Only after that did Forster enter the game.

  • Forster got the first batter he faced, right-handed pinch-hitter Jim Wohlford. Then Morgan came to bat. Up to that point, the seventh inning of the 162nd game of the season, Forster had not allowed a home run to a left-handed batter.

    The previous homer he had allowed to a lefty was by Dan Driessen on August 11, 1981 - coincidentally, also a game-winning shot in the seventh inning. In 1,029 at-bats by lefties against Forster during his career, they hit 12 home runs.

  • You'll notice the repeated references to the seventh inning. How many of you remember there were still two innings to play after Morgan's home run, and that the Dodgers scored in one of them? I didn't.

    With one out in the eighth, Dusty Baker and Ken Landreaux hit back-to-back doubles to cut the Giants' lead to 5-3. However, tying runs Steve Garvey struck out and Monday grounded out to end the threat.

  • Forster remained in the game and retired San Francisco in order. He ended up retiring four of five batters he faced that day.

  • In the final inning, the Dodgers went out one, two, three. Russell grounded to third for the final out.

    And that was the season.

    Forster may ultimately be the goat, but he certainly didn't deserve all the blame for this loss. In case you were wondering why I would resurrect this bad Dodger memory, it was because of the discovery that after nearly 25 years, Forster deserved a bit of a break.

    I guess I did Niedenfuer and Russell no favors, though. If Russell could have just made contact in top of the seventh, who knows? Sigh. Who knows ...

    * * *

    On the bright side, here's a companion to Angel pitcher John Lackey retiring 27 straight batters after allowing a leadoff double tonight. Dodger pitcher Jerry Reuss did the same thing June 11, 1982.

    Since we arrived at Dodger Stadium in time to see the second batter of the game, I like to think it was a perfect game for me.

    * * *

    I got 40 out of 50 out on ESPN's baseball trivia quiz. I should have done better, but at least I beat much of the pro competition.

  • Strength Without Power
    2006-07-07 16:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Offensively, the Dodgers are sixth in the major leagues (and first in the National League) in Value Over Replacement Player, according to Baseball Prospectus, despite being tied for 28th in home runs. That's because despite the long-ball shortfall, the team is fifth in the majors in on-base percentage. Walks do make the men - the team is fifth in that category, showing how valuable it is just to keep an inning going.

    A home run infusion would make the Dodgers a real powerhouse - assuming it didn't cut into the OBP. On the other hand, if the OBP falls without that power infusion, look out below.

    To make matters more precarious, the team has been leading the NL with a .308 batting average with runners in scoring position.

    Meanwhile, compare the Dodger stats to those of the Boston Red Sox. The two teams have nearly identical VORPs, even though Boston has hit 35 more home runs and has advantages of .012 in OBP and .028 in slugging. As always, ballpark factors matter.

    Makes the Dodger starting pitching woes seem even more woeful, though.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    Talk About a Five Hole
    2006-07-06 22:50
    by Jon Weisman

    I haven't gone soft, I don't think. I've just lost most of my interest in caring about who bats where. I'm not saying it doesn't matter at all. But I'm not sure it matters much, and mostly, I'm concerned with getting the best guys out there every day possible. Getting them to bat in my preferred order is just gravy on the cake.

    But I don't suppose I can retain any integrity and let Ramon Martinez batting fifth slide. Even in this career year of his, his OPS is merely .793. And even that just shrieks "fluke."

    Now, there weren't many alternatives among tonight's starting eight, but either Andre Ethier, or, if you prefer to have a righty behind J.D. Drew, Russell Martin, would be better choices. The tethering of Martin to the No. 8 spot when everyone else roams free like Cheetah is getting a little silly. (Yes, Martin's OPS has slipped below .800, but I have a little more faith in his rising.)

    With Jeff Kent out - once again, for perhaps longer than the Dodgers said they expected - the Strat-o-Matic solution would be to move Nomar Garciaparra off first base and put another power hitter there. I'm assuming that's off the table - and maybe for good reason. Maybe the relative spa treatment of playing first is reviving Garciaparra's bat.

    Absent such a move, the Dodgers have really put themselves in a bind. The only possibly better infield option tonight was to play Olmedo Saenz at third. And I say that with no love for Saenz against right-handed pitchers. The Dodgers could also have started Matt Kemp in center field in place of Kenny Lofton, to put another power threat in there. (Lofton, by the way, looks like he just isn't seeing the ball off the bat defensively.)

    No matter what they did, thanks to the Toby Hall pickup, the Dodgers were stuck with an all-righty bench and no other true middle infielders. Playing with Kent in limbo is a real stresser. When Ramon Martinez is batting fifth for you, that's a sign that something's wrong. Let's hope it's temporary.

    Out in the distance, a cry echoes through the breeze. A cry for Andy LaRoche, untested, maybe even unhealthy Andy LaRoche. Too soon to be true, but you can hear it.

    The Gagne News
    2006-07-06 21:32
    by Jon Weisman

    I'm spent. There's nothing to say.

    Get well soon?

    Get well someday.

    What We Need Is a Common Enemy
    2006-07-06 16:40
    by Jon Weisman

    The overnight umpire thread was a genial change of pace. I have underestimated the power of finding something we can all agree upon (basically).

    So welcome, I say, welcome to the Giants!

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    The Junior Achievement League
    2006-07-06 09:19
    by Jon Weisman

    As you know by now, interleague play stripped the National League down to its skivvies. What's left is one team on pace for 90 victories or more:
    Continue reading...

    Emmy Nomination Chat
    2006-07-06 08:19
    by Jon Weisman
    We're No Fools, No Sirree
    2006-07-05 22:47
    by Jon Weisman

    First-base umpire Tim Tschida signals Ramon Martinez safe at first base in the third inning, and Matt Kemp scores on the play. Martinez mindlessly does not make his way back to first base after his path took him into the field of play, and he gets tagged out. Dumb play.

    But then the umpires make it worse. They disallow Kemp's run, which clearly scored after Martinez was safe and before he was out. Then, they try to rationalize it by saying that Martinez was never safe, that he never touched first base, even though Tschida signaled him safe and the replay showed Martinez touching first.

    I don't like to complain about umpire calls, because you should enter every game with the expectation that you can't depend on the umpire to get them all correct. But I really don't like an umpire crew trying to treat us the way Prof. Harold Hill treated River City.

    You wanna lead the parade, ya gotta be true.

    Why I'd Make a Bad General Manager
    2006-07-05 16:20
    by Jon Weisman

    Shopping is not a passion of mine; it's more like an thorn. Most of the time, I don't have a good feeling going in. Whether it's clothes or technology or what have you, no matter how much research I do or how good my instincts seem at the moment of selection, it's always a pleasant surprise when something actually turns out to be a good purchase.

    I've got some shirts in my closet that I've been wearing for years and years (too long for the fashion-conscious, but I like 'em) and others that bear witness to ill-fated choices. I got nearly 20 years out of the stereo I bought during high school, but hold my breath that this DVD player will finally be the one that doesn't break. Infernal machines!

    I leased a car in 2002 and have now decided I will probably buy it instead of turning it in. That's not the financially savvy way to do things, but I decided to not to punish myself for figuring things out along the way.

    I don't really have a shopping philosophy, beyond trying to spend as little as possible on most days so that I don't feel bad if I blow some money on the other days.

    Anyway, I'm just glad no one analyzes my transactions, because it would get pretty ugly.

    Is it reasonable to expect a baseball general manager to inspire more confidence than me at the mall? Probably. But I don't expect every move to work out. I might evaluate every move, but in the end, all I'm looking for is overall improvement, for the short term and the long term.

    * * *

    Former Dodger catcher Dioner Navarro and his wife and son escaped serious injury after his car was struck and flipped, The Associated Press reports (thanks to reader Jasonungar05 for the note). That's a big relief. Navarro has had to endure a lot of trauma - his wife suffered a brain aneurysm 2 1/2 years ago. In this recent feature story by Marc Topkin the St. Petersburg Times, you can learn more about the story and see a picture of the family - as well as read more about Navarro, the player.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    An Unpatriotic July 3 Burrito
    2006-07-04 16:27
    by Jon Weisman

    ... is roughing up my July 4. But I hope yours is full of the right kind of fireworks.

    One thing, though: easy on the hatred. Reading comments over and over again about how much you hate this player or that gets a little tired. That so-and-so's presence is not the end of the world.

    And with that ...

    Happy Independence Day, you princes, you slaves of Dodger fandom.

    * * *

    Tonight's game

    What's Wrong with One Man, One Vote?
    2006-07-03 16:54
    by Jon Weisman

    If the All-Star voting numbers indicate that Dodger fans don't stuff the ballot box relative to the number of them attending games and watching on TV, maybe that's a good thing. Maybe that's a real indication of a quality fan, a fan who is above influencing an election beyond what's reasonable.

    I fill out an All-Star ballot on average fewer than twice a year, but I believe I still qualify as a passionate baseball fan.

    Being a Dodger supporter is not defined by filling out 50 ballots for Nomar Garciaparra (nothing personal against those who do). It means caring about how the team does. I like seeing Dodgers in the All-Star Game, but I'm past needing them to be there to validate the team.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    I Don't Grow Up
    2006-07-03 11:30
    by Jon Weisman

    I can remember the first ball I ever caught in a game.

    It was during softball at the after-school playground at Collier Street Elementary, I think during third grade. Undeveloped as I was then, I was playing catcher. A batter swung and foul-tipped a third strike into my hands and I held on. If you can remember how Timmy Lupus looked when he caught his ball at the wall, that's how I felt. And my schoolmates were equally amazed and excited for me.

    That play got me going. A year later, I was playing second base and started a triple play with runners on first and second base by catching a line drive, stepping on second and throwing to first. I can remember following my throw to first base to slap hands with the first baseman before turning to run triumphantly off the asphalt.

    I was getting better and better. I was developing.

    Those plays were about 30 years ago. As far as I've come, I don't feel any more developed than that kid. In fact, about the only maturity I feel reflects the family I have to help take care of. Beyond that, I'm pretty much the same guy who was out there just hoping he could make the play and reveling when he did. From inside the moments, the experiences I had then were just as sophisticated and challenging, as mundane or remarkable, as the ones I have now.

    Over the weekend, I was reading an issue of The New Yorker I missed from earlier this year and just before bedtime came upon a story from John Updike, "My Father's Tears," a story all about aging and death. Sometimes, I'm pretty dim and not really considering what I should read before the lights go out. The title might have been a clue. Anyway, there's a passage when the protagonist is describing his 55th high-school reunion:

    ... Sylvia, knowing me in my old age, recognizes that I have never really left Pennsylvania, that it is where the self I value is stored, however infrequently I check on its condition. The most recent reunion, the fifty-fifth, might have depressed Deb — all these people in their early seventies, most of them still living in the county within a short drive of where they had been born, even in the same semi-detached house where they had been raised. Some came in wheelchairs, and some were too sick to drive and were chauffeured to the reunion by their middle-aged children. The list of our deceased classmates on the back of the program grows longer; the class beauties are gone to fat or bony cronehood; the sports stars and non-athletic alike move about with the aid of pacemakers and plastic knees, retired and taking up space at an age when most of our fathers were considerately dead.

    But we don't see ourselves that way, as lame and old. We see kindergarten children — the same round fresh faces, the same cup ears and long-lashed eyes. We hear the gleeful shrieking during elementary-school recess and the seductive saxophones and muted trumpets of the homebred swing bands that serenaded the blue-lit gymnasium during high-school dances. ...

    It's not that I was so much older then or younger than that now. It's that I was so much smarter then, I'm dumber than that now. I'm moving backward in school, not forward. Even as I get older, even as I learn, life is more challenging than it was when catching a ball was the most glorious achievement. The sum total of my ignorance today could fill the gap beneath Hoover Dam. The world unfurls around me in profound detail like a flower blooming in time-lapse photography. I'm a speck in that flower, surrounded by light and dark I can't comprehend.

    Maybe the biggest difference between being an adult and being a kid is that when you screw up, there's that much less of your future in front of you to make things right. Your ship is weightier and harder to turn around. And you see more clearly that where you want to go might be out of reach. (Oh, and in many cases, there are passengers on that ship, depending on you.)

    I don't want to go back in time. I just want to catch up. It just gets harder and harder to know what to do.

    The only solution is to always be a kid. Always judge yourself by your effort and intentions and not the results. Take pleasure in the good and regroup from the bad. Don't keep score.

    But I find it really hard to live my life with that kind of integrity. Baserunners steal home on me while I'm in my windup, and even though there's a new game every day, it's hard for me not to feel bad. I can tell Chad Billingsley to write it off, but I can't tell myself.

    Tampa 'eBay'
    2006-07-02 08:42
    by Jon Weisman

    It's so rare for a print journalist to challenge the wisdom of Dodger general manager Ned Colletti, but Keven Chavez of the Whittier Daily News does:

    (Mark Hendrickson's) pitches seemed to vary between slow and straight, and medium-fast and straight, fooling few Angels batters ... if this was truly what the Dodgers expected, as (Grady) Little said, then general manager Ned Colletti might want to borrow Adam Sandler's remote control and rewind back to the moment he made this latest deal.

    In fact, the Devil Rays appear to be becoming Colletti's personal version of eBay, where he can overpay for someone else's junk. But instead of using a PayPal account, Colletti is making his purchases with the team's most valuable currency - their young prospects.

    Colletti gave up 22-year-old former catcher of the future Dioner Navarro and 28-year-old pitcher Jae Seo for two players who play the same positions, are older, more expensive and certainly have less room to improve.

    I'm not trying to reignite the days-old debate on this week's trade, but again, just commenting on how rare this point of view was in the papers.

    * * *

    Today's Game

    Eh ...
    2006-07-01 20:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Whatever they think of him, not too many people disagree that batters will put the ball in play against new Dodger pitcher Mark Hendrickson, who is not a strikeout pitcher; the dispute is whether he is actually any better at controling what happens to the ball this season than he has been in the past.

    Today's game - one game - was not going to prove anything even if something extreme happened - and in fact, nothing extreme happened. He gave up a home run and a few smoking line drives, including one by Vladimir Guerrero off Hendrickson's arm or upper body that may have hastened Hendrickson's removal after 80 pitches and five innings, but only one earned run. Only 28 of his pitches were caught out of the strike zone, for two walks - again par for Hendrickson course, although keep in mind that these were the Angels, who don't dance to "Walking on Sunshine."

    In the end, Hendrickson was good and bad, lucky and unlucky, not showing much in my mind but doing adequately as far as others are concerned. Though four Hendrickson runs allowed were unearned, he will have to take the blame for three resulting from his throwing error that nearly cost Nomar Garciaparra use of his glove hand for the rest of the season.

    Garciaparra narrowly averted a collision and almost got the out to boot, but it wasn't his or the Dodgers' day. He and Rafael Furcal were thrown out on the bases in pathetic fashion. Andre Ethier fell on his butt fielding a single, and Matt Kemp made the worst throw I have seen a Dodger make in ages, ignoring the cutoff man to go after a runner at third who was all but there and sending the ball to, I don't know, Guam. It happens. The day's a writeoff.

    If you can put the pitching aside, though, the Dodgers have a situation coming to a head at third base. Cesar Izturis made a fine backhand play defensively today, but he is now 0 for his last 19 and 2 for his last 28 without a walk. For the season, his OPS is .504 with three walks and no extra-base hits in 39 plate appearances. It's hard to watch. Izturis isn't this bad normally (career OPS a slightly better .630), and his defense looks almost flawless, so it isn't the end of the world. Still, though I have to do more research on this, but my feeling is that I would rather watch the occasional error by Willy Aybar (who is also capable of great plays just the same) than watch Izturis at the plate. In the meantime, I have to remind myself that I predicted Izturis at third would be temporary.

    Ex-Ray Vision
    2006-07-01 09:37
    by Jon Weisman
    Comedian Fantasy Draft - Step 2
    2006-07-01 09:36
    by Jon Weisman

    An Experiment, Continued
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    About Jon
    Thank You For Not ...

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