Baseball Toaster Dodger Thoughts
Monthly archives: December 2006


4+1 Is On ESPN Classic Now
2006-12-31 09:10
by Jon Weisman

... with Vinny calling it.

Eighth inning: "Boy is this a game, huh? Wow! And this crowd lovin' every moment of it. It's been a roller-coaster ride, from depression to euphoria and all the stops in between."

He wasn't kidding. And after that, we had the Dodgers put runners at second and third in the eighth, having cut the deficit to 6-5, only to have Nomar Garciaparra strand them. And then Takashi Saito, of all people, imploding in the ninth (helped and hurt at once by Kenny Lofton's all-glove, no-catch of Josh Bard's drive over the wall).

And that was just one small chapter.

After Marlon Anderson's game-tying home run, of all the reactions, the most priceless comes from a Dodger batboy. He grabs his forehead with such excitement and amazement that I thought he was going to tear off his own skull.

Another forgotten aspect of the game is that the Dodgers had three outs to push across the winning run in the ninth. Julio Lugo was the next batter, and he drove the ball to the right-center gap. It would have transformed his Dodger career if he could have had the magic power the others had, but the ball died in Mike Cameron's glove.

The Dodger Lineup
2006-12-29 10:00
by Jon Weisman

Some of you may have noticed imbalance in the potential 2007 Dodger lineup, in terms of batting against right-handed or left-handed pitching.

Here are the current lineups, ranked by 2006 OPS. Note that small-sample size cautions apply:

vs. lefties
2B - Jeff Kent, 1.036
1B - Nomar Garciaparra, 1.020
C - Russell Martin, .972
SS - Rafael Furcal, .928
RF - Andre Ethier, .846
LF - Luis Gonzalez, .740
CF - Juan Pierre, .699
3B - Wilson Betemit, .460
Bench - Olmedo Saenz, 1.199
Bench - Jason Repko, .875
Bench - James Loney, .850
Bench - Ramon Martinez, .699
Minors - Matt Kemp, 1.059/Jacksonville, 1.310/Las Vegas, .578/Los Angeles
Minors - Andy LaRoche, .921/Jacksonville, 1.023/Las Vegas

vs. righties
RF - Andre Ethier, .842
1B - Nomar Garciaparra, .839
LF - Luis Gonzalez, .819
SS - Rafael Furcal, .814
2B - Jeff Kent, .805
C - Russell Martin, .754
3B - Wilson Betemit, .742
CF - Juan Pierre, .728
Bench - Marlon Anderson, 1.341
Bench - James Loney, .914
Bench - Olmedo Saenz, .793
Minors - Andy LaRoche, .889/Jacksonville, .925/Las Vegas
Minors - Matt Kemp, .849/Jacksonville, .892/Las Vegas, .808/Los Angeles

Against lefties, things look lovely in five spots of the lineup, and there are solutions in two others. Betemit's hollow performance against lefties makes as little sense to me as Anderson's brilliance for the team in September - there should be improvement there. In any case, LaRoche may soon be ready to step in and help, and Saenz can spot-start as well. (If the Dodgers were to plant Garciaparra at third base for the first couple of months of the season to allow Loney to play full-time, that might also improve the dynamic - though don't count on it happening.) Kemp could also be ready to boost things by summertime.

Much more troubling is the Dodgers' potential weakness against right-handed pitching - which the Dodgers will face more often. None of the current starters OPSed better than .850 against righties last season. Some players are young enough to improve, but countering that are the elders ready to decline.

Dodger general manager Ned Colletti signed free-agents Garciaparra, Gonzalez and Pierre because he felt he couldn't count on Loney, Ethier and Kemp to carry those spots in the lineup. It's not a view I agree with necessarily - no doubt, the Dodgers would panic if Loney began the year with a .500 OPS in April, in contrast to how they let veterans like Kent and Furcal ride out their terrible starts. However, given that the team appears to have money to burn this offseason, there's nothing inherently wrong with stockpiling depth ... if the Dodgers know what to do with it.

But for the Dodgers to reach the postseason, regardless of Colletti's precuations, my guess is they will need at least two of Loney/Kemp/Ethier/LaRoche/Betemit to play above-average ball. It doesn't even need to be for the entire season, just for the bulk of it. They're the ones with the high ceilings; they, as opposed to the aging free agents, are the ones who can truly make a difference, as opposed to being band-aids with occasional professional at-bats, as they say.

I'm not trying to dismiss what someone like Garciaparra can do, with his September heroics still fresh in mind, but I'm trying to be realistic and not forget his overall second-half slump either. As Martin's 10th-inning summertime homer against the Giants reminded us, you don't have to be a vet to be a hero.

The Dodgers can't expect Kent, Gonzalez, Garciaparra, Pierre or even Furcal to be much better than they were in 2006. But Loney 2007 can be better than Garciaparra 2006. Kemp 2007 can be better than Gonzalez 2006. LaRoche/Betemit 2007 can be better than what the Dodgers had at third base in 2006. Short of a trade for a power threat against righties, the kids' success or failure (and yes, they might well fail as far as 2007 is concerned) is what will make or break the Dodger lineup.

With age and health history vulnerablizing the vets, the youngsters should get their chances.

Pac-10 Opening Night Hoops Chat
2006-12-28 18:11
by Jon Weisman

I don't know - I just kinda felt like doing this.


Still, Pac-10 hoops in December is like having real MLB games in March - which means I'm not exactly sure how to react.

Of course, baseball chat remains welcome!

For the First Time in 44 Years, Audio of Koufax's First No-Hitter
2006-12-26 21:10
by Jon Weisman

During my vacation, history didn't happen. It just reappeared, like one of those dogs you hear about finding their way home on highways and byways after being cut loose hundreds of miles away.

As Jerry Crowe of the Times reports, the only known audio recording of the end of Sandy Koufax's first no-hitter was released, thanks to the efforts of Dodger fan Jim Governale.

A Claremont man ... discovered in an old box a rare, vintage recording of an immensely popular and critically acclaimed artist, spent hours digitizing it to improve the sound quality and transfer it to CD, ignored advice from friends and co-workers to auction it off to the highest bidder and happily handed it over to the company that signed the artist more than 50 years ago. ...

The recording was made by Governale's uncle, Dave Fantz, who was 14 years old and sensed Dodgers history in the making when he fed a tape into his father's reel-to-reel recorder. About 40 minutes long, it picks up in the bottom of the eighth inning and carries through Jerry Doggett's postgame interview with Koufax.

The Dodgers were thrilled to receive a copy last month.

"This is really, truly a gift he's giving to the club," team historian Mark Langill said. "The magnitude of this is monumental, historically and emotionally."

No commercial video recordings of Koufax's no-hitters are known to exist, and no audio accounts of his second and third no-hitters have surfaced. Scully's poetic description of the final half-inning of the great left-hander's perfect game against the Chicago Cubs in 1965 was preserved only because Scully phoned the radio station in the eighth inning and suggested that it record the ninth.

A portion of the recording can be found at With the crowd in the background on Saturday night, June 30, 1962, you can hear Vin Scully in vintage melifluousness.

Spoliers follow, so to speak ...
Continue reading...

Offseason's Greetings
2006-12-24 08:14
by Jon Weisman

Happy holidays, past and future, everyone! As you might gather, I'm taking the long weekend off. I'll catch up with you after dinner Monday at Benihana's...

Position Player Review
2006-12-22 09:03
by Jon Weisman

Andrew Grant offers a critical overview of current Dodger position players at True Blue L.A.

I think that the above adjective "critical" can be interpreted three ways, and at least two apply.

Staff Inflection
2006-12-21 14:53
by Jon Weisman

You can get a rundown of all Dodger minor league staffing assignments for 2007 by following this link. Among the interesting new and returning names on the list: Mike Easler, Ken Howell, John Shoemaker, Luis Salazar, Danny Darwin, Dave Collins, Steve Yeager, Charlie Hough, Lance Parrish, Garey Ingram, Bill Robinson and Gene Clines.

In other news, star-crossed, cadaver-cartilaged ex-Dodger lefthander Derek Thompson will go to Spring Training with Oakland on a minor-league contract, according to The Associated Press.

* * *

The relatively new Dodgers Fan Rewards Club, which encouraged fans of the team to shop at participating merchants to earn points toward Dodger-related prizes, has gone by the wayside, according to an e-mail sent to members today. A Dodger Thoughts reader forwarded me a copy:
Continue reading...

SI's Game of the Year
2006-12-20 07:13
by Jon Weisman

No surprise - it had to be the 4+1 game. And to top it all off, Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated quotes Dodger Thoughts commenter Xeifrank in his story.

Dodger Stadium was refilling, and the fans were going berserk, a reaction that echoed through cyberspace. One blogger, following the game on, reported with gleeful sarcasm, "GameDay seems to be broke. It keeps on saying every Dodger hitter is hitting a home run."

It was comment No. 604 in this Dodger Thoughts thread.

I wish Verducci hadn't gone the tired route of talking about fans leaving the game before the comeback, a route that writers only seem to take in Los Angeles even though it is wide open in every other ballpark in the U.S. (At least Verducci didn't say that only Dodger fans leave early.)

In any case, it's fun to relive the game - why wouldn't it be?

With the Dodgers down 9-8, Marlon Anderson, already with four hits, stepped to the plate. (Bruce) Bochy grumbled in mock humor, "I hope we try something other than a fastball here." But (Trevor) Hoffman threw another fastball. Anderson smacked it into the rightfield seats to tie the game. "It's got to be only 10 seconds after the last one, and I can hear all the pounding and yelling going on again," (Padres general manager Kevin) Towers says. "I'm thinking, What? A single? Maybe a double? I turn the channel. You've got to be kidding me!" ...

(Nomar) Garciaparra hit his home run at 2:05 a.m. Eastern time, with most of the country asleep. It didn't change the course of the season. Both teams finished atop the NL West at 88-74 and, thanks to the wild card, both made the playoffs. Yet the game was one of the most powerful reminders this side of October of why baseball gives the most breadth to possibility.

Breathe In, Breathe In, Breathe In
2006-12-19 08:45
by Jon Weisman

Some people love Southern California for the warmth, but my favorite days in Los Angeles are the ones like today, when there are mountains beyond mountains in your view, when the air is crisp and clean like the days before smog was even a word, filling your lungs like a beautiful wakeup call to life.

If you're not a sad sack like me that's going to be stuck in an office all day, get yourself outside to breathe it all in. Get out there and frolic. I mean, if they can play hoops outside until it rains in Arizona, all of us here should be out getting a taste of honey.

* * *

As The Griddle points out, Jayson Werth has signed with the Philadelphia Phillies.

And, Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe updates the J.D. Drew situation. The article confirms that Drew played hurt for a good part of last season, contrary to what some of his critics suggest he's capable of. A lot of good it did him.

I'm not suggesting that anyone feel sorry for Drew or that he is above being criticized - just that people give him a fair shake.

'Dodgertown, Arizona' Now Closer to Reality
2006-12-18 18:00
by Jon Weisman

An update to the Dodgers proposed Spring Training move from Florida to Arizona: Today, the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority said it would fund the new stadium for the Dodgers and Chicago White Sox in Glendale (in addition to partially funding one in Goodyear for the Cleveland Indians), according to Carrie Watters of the Arizona Republic:

Previous sports authority forecasts of limited finances had pitted the two West Valley cities against one another, with dueling bids for public funding.

Details are limited as deals still are under negotiation, but the sports authority is expected to act at a board meeting on Thursday. ...

[Larry Landry, chairman of the sports authority board] said funding both would not stretch the sports authority too thin, although "this will completely deplete our bank (for new spring training stadiums)."

And no, it won't be called Dodgertown, unless the White Sox are way more accomodating than I suspect.

Previously: "Pending Financing, Dodgertown Recedes into History"

Larry Sherry Passes Away
2006-12-18 16:34
by Jon Weisman

Former Dodger pitcher Larry Sherry, winner of the 1959 World Series most valuable player award, died Sunday of cancer.

I have a whole piece on the 1959 World Series waiting to be written - one of the many things I've tabled. It really was a rags-to-riches tale for the second-year Los Angeles Dodgers, and Sherry was an interesting part. My condolences to his brother Norm, the former Dodger catcher, and the rest of the family.

* * *

Sorry for the abrupt segue. Two things to vote on, pointed out by Inside the Dodgers:

Top Los Angeles Sports Moments of 2006 ("Moment" is loosely defined.)

Best Local Hot Dogs

I voted for the Weiner Factory, though I haven't been there in a few years. Other than Dodger Stadium, I've never enjoyed hot dogs more than I have at the Weiner Factory and Carney's - and the combination of the Weiner Factory's quality and its decor makes it a champ in my book.

Pink's remains for me very overrated. As for Dodger dogs, they can be fantastic at times, but the quality is just too inconsistent these days.

4 + 1 = 7
2006-12-17 18:44
by Jon Weisman

The Dodgers' four-homer-plus-one comeback against the Padres in September ranked seventh on the Time Magazine Top 10 sports moments of the year.

Kobe's 81 was fifth. What gets top billing from you for moments involving Los Angeles teams? The 4+1, Kobe, UCLA's March Madness comeback against Gonzaga, or something else?

* * *

Now at Screen Jam: a look back at the courtship of Jerry Seinfeld.

Shooting Victim Had Planned Dodger Tryout
2006-12-17 18:41
by Jon Weisman

Multiple reports indicate that Sean Bell, who was killed by police the morning of his wedding day last month, was training for an open tryout with the Dodgers in Vero Beach next season.

After playing in high school and at Nassau Community College, Bell's career stalled in 2003. He became a father, had some run-ins with the law. But he was attempting a baseball comeback at age 23 before he died, and though the odds were just about insurmountably against him, apparently he did have an invitation from the Dodgers in hand to at least come show his stuff.

This is a footnote to a much larger story, of course - I just hadn't known about the Dodger connection until tonight.

New York Sun

Mike Lupica, New York Daily News

Drew on Hold
2006-12-16 15:29
by Jon Weisman

J.D. Drew is still not officially a member of the Boston Red Sox, reports Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald, raising eyebrows up to the ceiling.

The precise hang-up is unclear. Drew has had a series of ailments and injuries during his career, from a broken wrist to a bad knee to a sore shoulder. Trying to pinpoint one problematic area is virtually impossible. ...

So he passed the physical?

We're working on language issues in the contract. ...

Does that mean the Red Sox are backing out of this deal?


It just means they are probably in the process of protecting themselves.

Boras, for what it's worth, has been through this sort of thing in the past. Three years ago, when catcher Ivan Rodriguez was a free agent, teams balked at offering him guaranteed money because of his history of recurring back problems. Rodriguez subsequently signed a four-year, $40 million contract with the Detroit Tigers, but there was a caveat: If Rodriguez had an injury to a specific area of his back that landed him on the disabled list for a minimum of 35 days, the Tigers could void the final two years and pay a "termination fee" of $5 million.

Thanks to Dodger Thoughts reader Greg Brock for the pointer.

Update: Bob Timmermann directs us post-haste to Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus:

Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald got the story first, but I have more details on the specifics of the J.D. Drew physical. Drew took the physical shortly after the announcement of the deal in Orlando, but sources have told me that Drew showed problems in his shoulder that "could shut down his power." Drew had minor surgery on his shoulder after the 2005 season, so it's possible that there's more damage in there. It's important to note that in free agent acquisitions, a team often does not have the benefit of requesting medical records from his previous team prior to signing. Speculation centers on the damage to Drew's shoulder being more like Scott Rolen circa 2005. As Massarotti reports, it is more likely that the Red Sox get protection in the form of a very limited escape clause rather than scuttling the deal altogether. Somewhere, Bill Simmons just had someone kick him in the groin.

Ivory Backscratchers for All
2006-12-15 08:37
by Jon Weisman

As The Griddle notes, Maury Brown of The Biz of Baseball has rounded up a hefty bunch of commentators - 30 in all - to discuss what's right and wrong with baseball. Here is my contribution:

To a certain extent, my love for baseball is irrational – it is love, after all. But while other passions in my life have come and gone, my relationship with baseball has been steadfast. Over the years, I've become invested in the characters of the game the way, I suppose, someone watching three decades of "All My Children" has. Baseball is one grand story to me – one of the grandest – and I cannot weed myself from the storyline that has brought us both Babe Ruth and Hiram Bocachica. The entrances and exits, the highs and lows, form an epic tapestry. I know that sounds full of itself, but that's how the game makes me feel.

Other sports offer the same potential to surprise, to offer the fantastic amid the quotidian – so what makes baseball special? My family had Los Angeles Rams season tickets when I was a kid, and I was a diehard fan of the Showtime Lakers – so why does baseball retain a greater hold on me? One of the great attractions of the game, I feel, is that it offers so many intermediate achievements besides winning. Just as one example, there is that satisfaction when your pitcher gets a first-pitch strike – followed by them opportunity to pause and savor (or conversely, to agonize when it goes against you). And then, another pitch, on which anything can happen. I'm not sure any sport does this as well. Basketball moves too fast to celebrate a simple pass, golf gives you too much time to ponder a shot. Other sports have their merits, and surely, some offer more pure
excitement, but baseball remains the ultimate game for me. The main thing that is right with baseball today is that it is baseball.

The game is not perfect, of course, nor is it the most popular in the United States anymore, and I do believe that the desire to solve these problems off the field actually leads to most people's dissatisfaction with it. It's a vicious circle of making the game worse while trying to make it better. That doesn't mean that the game shouldn't evolve – but that evolution for the sake of evolution is problematic.

I believe in players getting all the money they can, in getting paid what the market can bear. At the same time, my initial reaction to Juan Pierre's $44 million contract with the Dodgers was that surely, surely some of that money would be better spent on our local public school system. That contract, and others this offseason, were signs to me that baseball has more financial resources than it knows what to do with.

While I don't expect baseball owners to start donating more of their profits to support the nation's infrastructure, I think baseball can and should make different choices, and invest its top layer of profits back into the game. Baseball has sold much of its control of the game to the broadcasters that cover it. I would suggest, perhaps naively, that baseball buy back some of that control, in the form of taking lower network rights fees in exchange for earlier start times for postseason games, shorter commercial breaks and other fan-friendly adjustments. Doing so, in my mind, would feed the future of baseball more profitably than the current situation, which discourages people of all generations from investing in a game, a playoff, a season that will end past their bedtimes. (It's not just kids, mind you – people of all ages have trouble staying up for the final pitch in October, even on the West Coast, let alone the East.)

There are other things right and wrong with baseball, but I think they're mostly secondary in importance to baseball's underlying motivation – instead of chasing dollars as a means to draw more fans, it should take the more profitable and digestible strategy of chasing fans as a means to earn dollars. The sport doesn't need to jazz up the game between the lines – it just needs to take a deep breath outside the lines.

In some ways, baseball has a self-esteem problem. Ever since it stopped being the definitive national pastime, it keeps trying to regain that status. Baseball needs to be prouder of what it is. That doesn't mean MLB shouldn't market the game, but better to do so with a new baseball field in the inner city and a 7 p.m. start time for Game 7 than another ivory backscratcher for the owners and the players. Because if baseball can stand tall, in the end, there will be ivory backscratchers for everyone.

There are a great many good ideas offered, so take a look. By the way, I know ivory is bad.

* * *

I really enjoyed Thursday's chat in the "A Strikeout's as Good as a Hit?" thread. Among the interesting comments:

39. Ken Arneson
I don't think (Are there good pitches to swing at that are not strikes?) is the crux of it at all. Of course, you don't want your batter to swing at balls. The crux is whether you want the batter to swing at the first hittable strike, or the first drivable strike. And the answer to that question depends on the game context.

And ...

165. John Siv
Say Drew's normal approach nets him a hit 28% of the time and a walk 11% of the time. He's got some pop, too, while striking out about 22% of the time. Good bat. Sweet, sweet swing.

Flash to the game: Runner's on third, just stole third, in fact, with less than two out. Game's close. Pitcher's shaken. I'm telling you, he's shaken here. Crowd's up, they sense it. Drew knows it, and sets for the pitch.

His normal approach will score the guy some percentage of the time, call it 38%. I'm just making this up. It's not critical. It's not the drama.

What if Drew, keyed into the game situation, cognizant of his team standing in the dugout, eyeing his mate who just swiped that bag in a close, close play in which bone crushed and flesh tore and heart was laid bare, changed his approach? Not his swing—oh that sweet, sweet song of a swing—no, no, just his approach. What if he risks it all to score the runner? Forget the lure of power, don't even worry about getting a hit, and just try to advance one man ninety feet? Is it at all possible that he can change his profile to get a hit, say, 20% of the time, a walk 7% of the time, but score the runner, oh I don't know, 46% of the time? Sure his K-rate will likely rise as well to 28% perhaps, but is this at all possible?

This seems to be the heart of the point made in Jon's piece.

If Drew can make this alteration, then isn't it worth it? Doesn't he owe it to the crowd, his team, his craft? The game's close, remember—if that were not the case then the whole calculus may shift. But if the situation calls for it, if the real percentages prescribe a beneficial expectation, then shouldn't he do that? Shouldn't any ballplayer take that shot?

Remember, if he does this, then he will strike out more often and walk less. Probably hit more weak outs, too. That's just part of the deal, part of the life of this game. Can't have it all, even with a swing favored by an angel.

So, is a strikeout better than a walk or a hit? Of course not. May a strikeout be an indication he is changing his approach optimally, however? And, if such a change is both possible and desireable, then may a strikeout be a sign of Drew making the proper play? And may a walk be an indication he is not changing his approach, and thus making the improper play?

May that be what folks mean when they intuit that a K is better than a BB in that situation?

I agree with Ken's assessment, because I believe such a change is possible. I have no evidence for this, of course. Just feeling. Just hope, frankly. If I'm completely off base, then I'd love to learn why.

But what a swing. My my. What a sweet, sweet swing.

I think these are among the best arguments against settling, so to speak, for a walk, though I still find a walk to be a satisfactory outcome. In John Siv's situation, for example, a walk will only increase the drama for the next batter.

But the comments from Thursday still have me thinking. It might seem an esoteric topic, but I really enjoyed it.

A Strikeout's as Good as a Hit?
2006-12-14 16:20
by Jon Weisman

Walk with me, squalk with me …

The other day, Ken Arneson passed along the following at Catfish Stew:

Jay Payton has left the A's for Baltimore. He leaves Oakland as a well-liked, if not well-loved player. He did his job, played up to expectations. The thing I liked about him is that when you needed him to put the ball in play to drive home a run, he would put the ball in play and drive home the run. It was nice change from the oh-so-frustrating draw-a-walk-in-RBI-situations days of Jeremy Giambi and Erubiel Durazo. Of course, he would rarely draw a walk in an need-to-get-on-base situation, but you can't have everything.

Basically, most everything Ken writes is joyful gospel to me, but this caught me off guard. I don't know if I was supposed to take him literally, but since he was the one writing it, it naturally made me stop and think.

The distaste for the walk in an RBI situation fed many a complaint of the anti-J.D. Drew crowd, partly explaining why that crowd and I don't mingle so well (on that subject, anyway - otherwise, my Dad and I get along great!). It has basically never occurred to me that a walk in an RBI situation was bad. With runners on base, a walk keeps the inning going, sets up a potentially bigger tally and puts pressure on the pitcher – all lovely alternatives to swinging at a pitch outside of the strike zone and making out 70 percent of the time or more.

To be fair, I don't get excited to see a No. 8 hitter take a walk with a runner on third, two out and the pitcher on deck, since that pretty much kills an inning (although at least that gets the pitcher out of the way for the next inning – plus in many cases, the No. 8 hitter isn't anything to write home about himself.) And when Kelly Leak took his Chico's Bail Bonds-sponsored swing at that 3-0 intentional ball with the bases loaded against the Yankees, I was on the edge of my seat. There are exceptions to the rule.

But basically, Mongo like walks. Walks be Mongo's friend.

Clearly, some people feel differently – and the unmistakable impression I'm getting, one that I can't quite believe but appears to be true, is that more than a few people would emphatically rather see a player strike out or hit into a double play than walk in an RBI situation, I guess because that shows the player is at least trying.

It still doesn't make sense to me. A player who walks in a key situation on a close pitch is trying to help. That player isn't letting fear of scorn bother him, because taking a called strike three looks bad. If that walk doesn't lead to any runs later in the inning, why wouldn't we just place the appropriate blame on the hitter who makes the out?

Drew gets paid to drive in runs, but the next guy in the lineup doesn't?

Maybe the notion is that it wasn't fair to expect, say, a rookie like Andre Ethier, who might have been batting behind Drew, to bring home the runs when Drew gets the big bucks. But that still requires a belief that Drew is shirking his responsibility by not swinging at ball four. Given the long odds against success when swinging at a pitch that isn't a strike, that belief doesn't withstand scrutiny.

I mean, look, there's Drew, and there's Raul Mondesi, who forever etched our minds with his relentless ability to go after a questionable pitch in a critical situation. For a short time, Mondesi was my favorite Dodger, so I certainly hold no bias against him, but what approach at the plate would you prefer?

A guy like Drew – not that he should be singled out, because there are plenty of others – gets paid big bucks to help a team win. Any time he doesn't make an out, no matter who is on base, contributes to that effort. I get that people disagree with that concept, I just still don't get why.

* * *

The Baseball America article celebrating the Dodgers as Organization of the Year is live, with assistant general manager for scouting Logan White getting major credit.

The article notes that as part of his recent promotion, White has been charged with rebuilding the Dodgers' efforts in Latin America:

The Dodgers' presence in the Dominican had become so lax that they now share their complex there with Tampa Bay - which also provided them with more revenue - and the last major signing came in 2001, when the club inked shortstop Joel Guzman as a 16-year-old to a deal worth $2.25 million.

It will be White's responsibility to spearhead the team's efforts there, and he has already made several trips to the country with team owners Frank and Jamie McCourt and Colletti over the last year.

"Part of (the dropoff) is simply because the competition is so much stiffer than it was 15 or 20 years ago," White says. "We certainly recognize that we haven't been what we used to be and we are making an effort to bring back some of that luster. It's a very vital part of our organization and to just let it whither away just doesn't make any sense."

* * *

Former Dodger Thoughts wishcastees Buddy Carlyle and Steve Colyer will try to hook on with Atlanta next season with non-roster invites to Spring Training, reports.

Carlyle made his 1999 Major League debut with the Padres at the ripe age of 21. He made seven starts that year and another four relief appearances for San Diego in 2000. Since playing in Japan during the 2001 and 2002 seasons, the 29-year-old right-hander's Major League experience has been limited to the 10 relief appearances he made in 2005 with the Dodgers.

In the 13 appearances he made at Triple-A Albuquerque this year, Carlyle was 3-1 with a 1.93 ERA.

The 27-year-old Colyer has bounced around the Minor Leagues since making 41 appearances for the Tigers in 2004. Given that he was pitching in the thin Rocky Mountain air, the 5.71 ERA he compiled for Triple-A Colorado Springs isn't too alarming. But the 48 walks he issued in 58 1/3 innings should be viewed as cause for concern.

2006-12-13 12:18
by Jon Weisman

Dodger Thoughts reader Greg Brock pointed out the following. ... Ain't It Cool News has been submitting reader questions to Sylvester Stallone:

Dear Sly,

did you ever talked in the past with Arnold about movie-projects you could do together ?

Thanks in advance ... with kindest regards.

Stephan Kamieth - Frankfurt/Germany.

[Stallone:] The idea of working with Arnold came up twice - one was with John Hughes, and it was about a pair of neighbors that were determined to destroy one another with their back-and-forth everyday vendettas. It was based on an incident that actually happened with me and a neighbor named Vin Scully, the voice of the Dodgers. That didn't work out.

So many responses ... "And a pleasant good afternoon, whereever you may be. Today, Sly Stallone is going to TP my house. So pull up a chair ..."

I don't even care if the story is true or not, it's just mind-blowing to think about.

Update: Reader Andrew Shimmin found some details from a June 2002 Mitch Getz piece in Los Angeles ...

FORGET FIGHTING IN A PHILADELPHIA BOXING GYM OR THE JUNGLES OF Vietnam. Sylvester Stallone's obsession with litigation has taken him into a more civilized battleground--the courtroom. Since 1983 Stallone has been involved in 47 civil cases in Los Angeles County alone, 16 times as the plaintiff. "I'd love to be his lawyer," says one prominent L.A. attorney. Currently the actor is suing his former business manager, accusing him of giving bad stock advice. Here are a few of the clashes he has initiated, and one in which he defended himself against an L.A. icon. ...

THE CASE Vin Scully v. Stallone FILED May 1993 THE COMPLAINT The voice of the Dodgers claims that runoff from neighbor Stallone's yard caused millions of dollars in water damage to Scully's Pacific Palisades home. OUTCOME Scully wins.

Update 2: This Associated Press report forwarded by reader Travis puts the conflict even further back in time:

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) - Actor Sylvester Stallone will have to pay neighbor Vin Scully, the Los Angeles Dodgers announcer, about $69,000 under a split-decision jury verdict for flood damage at Scully's home.

A jury ruled 9-to-3 this week that 65 per cent of the blame for $106,407 in damage should be borne by Stallone, who had the former owner relandscape a hill separating the two houses in 1978.

Scully, the voice of the baseball team for 35 years and an NBC sportscaster, was disappointed the jury found him 20 per cent responsible, but was ''delighted that it's over,'' said his lawyer, Daniel Cathcart.

Stallone, in Vancouver filming Rocky IV, was pleased because the judge earlier had dismissed Scully's claims for $7-million in punitive damages, said his personal lawyer, Jack Bloom, who did not participate in the trial."

More Farewells: Werth, Hall Released
2006-12-12 19:53
by Jon Weisman

To get their roster down to 40, the Dodgers let go of outfielder Jayson Werth and catcher Toby Hall, reports Steve Henson of the Times.

Werth, who was a second-half hero in 2004 and also memorably helped the Dodgers beat Pedro Martinez in an injury-plagued 2005, will go down as a what-if case. It's still a remote possibility that he could re-sign with the team, but apparently he has been asking for more than the Dodgers were willing to offer (presumably something close to the minimum). From Henson:

"We tried to negotiate a contract with him before the [deadline], something we could live with," General Manager Ned Colletti said. "We couldn't come to an agreement. We can still talk to him, and if an agreement can be made down the road, so be it."

The Dodgers retained the rights to pitchers Mark Hendrickson and Joe Beimel, and Henson goes on to write that "Hendrickson could command close to $4 million and Beimel might get $1 million." That may be pocket change in this day and age, but I wouldn't go out of my way to offer it. Hendrickson is unreliable to begin with, and Beimel - having nothing to do with his postseason bar injury - is of a class of pitchers notoriously unlikely to maintain good performance.

A sign-and-trade of either or both is possible, but I'd much rather have risked $5 million toward a contract for Eric Gagne than on Hendrickson and Beimel. The best argument for not overpaying for Beimel is Beimel - he was one of many fringe pickups the Dodgers make every offseason, a group that you sift until you find the one who gets on a roll. It doesn't usually last, and there are more out there to choose from - not to mention in-house candidates like Greg Miller. Love is all around.

Maybe Gagne didn't really want to come back to Los Angeles, maybe Colletti has a trade target for Hendrickson or Beimel - but otherwise, it would have been better for the Dodgers to risk flushing the Beimel-Hendrickson $5 million (in addition to an extra million from wherever) down Gagne's toilet. Gagne's potential is so much higher, so much more meaningful.

Update: The Dodger roster is actually at 39: Pitcher Jose Diaz was outrighted to Las Vegas last month, but his name had not dropped off all lists.

Collating Colletti
2006-12-12 14:18
by Jon Weisman

A quick recap of Dodger general manager Ned Colletti's chat today:

On Matt Kemp's playing time:

A lot depends on how Kemp plays this spring and if he does not make the club out of Spring Training, how he adjusts at Triple-A. We just saw him in the Dominican Republic a week or so and it looked like he was more selective and patient at the plate. His play in the outfield looked like it was still somewhat of a work in progress.

We feel he has a chance to be not just a Major League player but a terrific Major League player - an impact player. He still has areas that need improvement and as far as his playing time is concerned, how he plays will determine how often he plays and where he plays.

Since last March, Colletti has been high on Kemp - the speed with which he promoted Kemp in 2006 is indicative of this. Though the Dodgers have outfielders ahead of him in April, it seems to me that Colletti is counting on Kemp to become a cleanup hitter - perhaps before the 2007 season is over.

On the bullpen:

Right now, the bullpen is comprised of Saito, Broxton, Beimel and Dessens. With the number of starting pitchers we have, the bullpen will also have a combination of Tomko, Hendrickson, Kuo and perhaps Chad Billingsley, who pitched very well out of the 'pen in the postseason. ...

In terms of Yhency Brazoban, we may see him by the end of Spring Training in some game activity. We think that at some point early in the season, he may be able to pitch at the big league level.

Billingsley (or Kuo) in the pen might seem like a waste to some, but it could conserve his arm for the long haul - and a return to the rotation would remain in the cards. The thing about starting pitching depth is that there is no incentive for burying a player so that an ineffective starter can stay in the rotation. It's not as if Tomko, Hendrickson or Aaron Sele didn't get pulled out (though admittedly, it longer than it should have.)

Brazoban, clearly, is a wait and see for Colletti.

On Brad Penny:

I think we'd all like to see Brad be more consistent. I think there are only a few pitchers in the big leagues today who have his stuff. He can dominate a game and be a leader in the rotation so I'm not looking to trade that caliber of a player. Players are asked about all the time from other teams, but there's a difference between being asked about and shopping a player.

I'm noting this for the insights into how Colletti feels about Penny, but the distinction between being asked about Penny vs. shopping him is pretty meaningless at this point. If there's a trade out there for Penny, Colletti will make it.

On James Loney:

As of right now, I think James Loney is going to have a chance to make this club. Providing we're at full health, I think he'll still get opportunities to play first base from time to time and also in the outfield. He is also someone, because of his defensive strengths, could come into a game late defensively.

For my part, this is a rather sober assessment of Loney's 2007 potential, but I continue to believe that Loney's playing time could increase as the season progresses.

* * *

With the Dodgers needing to get their 40-person roster down to, well, 40 people, the team allowed Franquelis Osoria to be claimed on waivers by Jim Tracy's Pittsburgh Pirates.

That left the Dodger roster at 41 (really, 42, since Luis Gonzalez hasn't officially been added). No word yet on whether arbitration-eligible catcher Toby Hall was non-tendered. Interestingly, in direct opposition to Julio Lugo, Hall performed well after coming from Tampa Bay, EQAing .290 in 19 games. But that was an aberration, and other teams are probably waiting out his release to sign him to a more economical contract.

* * *

From Eric Enders:

Eric on Eric: A Valedictory

I always felt a connection with Eric Gagne moreso than other Dodgers: We're about the same age, we share the same name, and people everywhere seem to think we look exactly alike. For the last five years, literally hundreds of friends, acquaintances, and perfect strangers have commented on this. I've accumulated quite the collection of Gagne figurines, photos, and memorabilia that people have given me as gifts because of the resemblance. (The givers are always surprised to find that they are not the first to think of this.)

The first curious event happened in Montreal in 2002, when I was milling around on the playing field before a Dodgers-Expos game. A kid called out to me from the stands: "Monsieur Gagne, can I have your autograph?" I wasn't wearing a baseball uniform, and I stand at least six inches shorter than Gagne, but that didn't seem to make a difference. (We are similarly rotund, alas.) As much as I'd have liked to -- just once in my life -- sign an autograph like a real big league star, I had to burst the kid's bubble and tell him the truth. Later that night, my alter ego blew a save in front of his hometown crowd, the third of what would be only six blown saves in his career as Dodger closer. (And let me tell you, whoever says Montreal fans don't care about baseball has never been to a game Gagne pitched there.)

Denver, a year later. I'm in the clubhouse interviewing Paul LoDuca when Shawn Green walks by and does a double take as he looks at me. Green, forever destroying my notion of him as an ultra-reserved guy, gets a silly grin on his face and proceeds to grab me by the arm and parade me around the Dodger locker room, introducing me to every single player as Gagne's cousin visiting from out of town. Some fall for it, some don't, but a good time is had by all.

Cincinnati, 2006. I'm sitting at Ethier's locker doing an interview when I hear a disembodied voice from behind me: "Hey, it's Gagne!" This time it's Kenny Lofton playing the Shawn Green role. Lofton's upset that the resemblance is imperfect because I'm dressed in my journalist uniform instead of a Dodger one. So he asks my hat size and dispatches clubhouse guy Mitch Poole to fetch me a Dodger cap. Now that I'm properly attired, Lofton prances around the locker room with me, showing off his new discovery. Since no players are left from the 2003 team except Gagne himself, nobody remembers that Shawn Green has already done this. My attempts to return the cap are rebuffed, my journalistic ethics compromised, but again, a good time is had by all.

Farewell ...
2006-12-12 09:37
by Jon Weisman

He's gone, never to be forgotten.

Dodger Thoughts, April 23, 2003:

When Eric Gagne comes into pitch at Dodger Stadium, "Welcome to the Jungle" is blasted out of the inadequate single set of speakers behind center field, and an onslaught of blue and white cartoon Gagne heads overruns the scoreboard, in a hallucinatory montage not unlike the visions of Lisa Simpson after drinking tainted water on the "It's a Duff World" ride at Duff Gardens.

The entrance is ridiculous, and would be an embarrassment - if it weren't so wonderful. It captures what worked so well in the Wild Thing scenes with Charlie Sheen from the movie, Major League. Those scenes mocked the hoopla over a relief pitcher's entrance into game while marking a crowd's unmistakably sincere desperation and appreciation for a hero they know will bring victory home.

A home run by Shawn Green will send Dodger fans to their feet, but Eric Gagne is the only Dodger on the field today that breaks Dodger fans out of their shells and allows them to be the rarest of adjectives at a Dodger game - goofy and giddy.

Eric Gagne is so good that even though his entrance into a game borders on parody, it is a grand homage. They shouldn't be playing music from Guns N' Roses - they should be playing music from Braveheart. Or Waiting for Guffman.

Eric Gagne is so good that he should play himself on The Simpsons - and not necessarily in a baseball-themed episode. I see Homer hiring Gagne to be his stunt double.

Eric Gagne is so good that he could put out a disco single and even jaded audiophiles at Tower Records would line up to buy it.

Eric Gagne is so good that he could lift up his shirt on the pitcher's mound, squeeze his bellyfat, practice ventriloquism through his bellybutton, and enthrall audiences from Ontario to Ontario.

It doesn't mean Gagne is perfect. Just last night, in the middle of a fiery Jackson Pollock splattering of pitches that sent a dazed and confused Cincinnati Reds team to bed, Gagne walked raw rookie shortstop Felipe Lopez. But even the salt of the earth needs a dash of pepper once in a while.

Okay, last metaphor for a while. Here is the Gagne story, straight and true. And in fact, he is damn near perfect.

Last season, batters batted .189 against Gagne with an OPS of .535. Remarkable numbers. Atomic numbers.

This season, Gagne has split the atom. Through Tuesday, batters are batting .079 against Gagne with an OPS of .242.

He has faced 43 hitters this season. Three have singles. Three have walked, two intentionally. One has been hit by a pitch. That's all Gagne has allowed.

Gagne has struck out 20 of the 43 - nearly half. And yet, he has thrown only 151 pitches, averaging only 3.51 pitchers per batter. That means that aside from the 60 strikes that specifically account for his 20 strikeouts, Gagne has thrown only 91 other pitches to the 43 batters - an average of 2.11 extra pitches per batter. That figure accounts for all his balls, extra foul balls and those few hits. Amazing.

Since the beginning of 2002, Gagne has allowed runs in consecutive appearances only once: May 27 and May 29 against Milwaukee. He allowed one run in both, but had bigger leads to work with in both games and got saves in both games. Two runs in two games. That is Gagne's biggest slump.

Since the beginning of 2002, Gagne has allowed more than one run in a game only once. He allowed a two-run home run to Aaron Boone in Cincinnati, then hit Adam Dunn with a pitch. Dunn also scored, after Gagne was ejected for the game as if the HBP was retaliatory - even though it put the tying run at the plate. It was a condemnable event - but the only lowpoint in a season spent atop Mount Everest. (Okay, the metaphors are back.)

Tuesday night, Gagne returned to the scene of that crime and made things right again.

Eric Gagne is not out there day after day like Green, the Dodgers' most brilliant hitter but one who bebops frustratingly between blazing and arctic.

But without a doubt, Eric Gagne is the most exciting player on the Dodgers - because greatness is truly exciting. Greatness is liberating. And Gagne is great, every time out. It won't always be this way, but right now, it just is. Eric Gagne is Zeus on the mound, flinging lighting bolts at an awed civilization. Forgive the gushing of praise, but I am too tardy in expressing my appreciation for him.

Loney's Star State
2006-12-11 09:08
by Jon Weisman

A detailed review (and preview) of James Loney's career comes from Chris Costancio of The Hardball Times.

The lows:

Loney was promoted to Double-A Jacksonville before his twentieth birthday, but suffered another setback when he broke his finger while sliding into second base during the first week of the season. Loney eventually needed surgery when infection set in, and he did not return to the Jacksonville lineup until late May. He struggled to get his timing down following the long layoff and admitted that he "lost a lot of strength" because he was not able to maintain his regular workout schedule while the infection healed. Loney also missed time due to a knee contusion later in the year, and he finished the season with a disappointing .238 batting average and only four home runs in 104 games in the Southern League.

The future:

In this year's Hardball Times Annual, I project that Loney has a 31% of becoming a star by age 25. What that means is that over 30% of players with comparable performances at Loney's age went on to achieve offensive production that would qualify them as one of the top-third of all regular first basemen in baseball during their prime. While most of his comparison players were only average big league first basemen or worse, a substantial minority went on to develop the kind of power that would make Loney a star in the major leagues.

Shawn Green's career trajectory is an appropriate model of what Loney's development might look like over the next few years. Like Loney, Green was a highly-regarded draft pick out of high school with a nice-looking swing and a surprising lack of home runs during the first part of his career. In Green's first three seasons as a major leaguer, he posted strong batting averages (between .280 and .288) but came under criticism from many individuals, including manager Cito Gaston, for his low home run and RBI totals. With the help of hitting coach Gary Matthews, a 25-year-old Green finally started to generate above-average power production in 1998. Green achieved notoriety for becoming a 30-30 player and driving in 100 runs that year, and he maintained a slugging percentage above .500 for three of the four following seasons.

Dodgers infielder Ramon Martinez might be an unlikely candidate to play the role that Gary Matthews did. During Loney's second stint with the Dodgers in 2006, Martinez suggested that Loney change his grip on the baseball bat. Loney returned to the National League in September, and he launched three home runs during the final week of the regular season. Is this just another flash of power, or a harbinger of home runs to come? If the Dodgers remain patient with Loney, he could evolve into a good-fielding first baseman with excellent on-base skills and strong power production. While this outcome is far from a certainty, the relatively strong probability of such development is exactly what makes Loney such a valuable baseball prospect.

Another Pleasant Valley Sunday Open Chat
2006-12-10 10:04
by Jon Weisman

Back in the '70s, at Thee Movies of Tarzana, my brother, sister and I mistook a broom closet for an exit and got locked in. That was pleasant.

Winter Meetings Wrapping
2006-12-08 16:34
by Jon Weisman

Seems like everyone's got a Winter Meetings winners-and-losers wrap, but here are two pieces I enjoyed reading, even if I didn't agree with everything (could one agree with everything?): Jayson Stark at and Jon Heyman at


Seven Free-Agent Facts You Didn't Know

1. The only free agents left who won at least 14 games during the 2006 season are (Barry) Zito (16), (Andy) Pettitte (14) and (Jason) Marquis (14).

2. The only free agents left who hit at least 20 homers are (Aubrey) Huff (21) and (Shea) Hillenbrand (21).

3. The only free agent left who hit .300 (in at least 400 at-bats) is Kenny Lofton (.301).

4. The only free agent left who stole 20 bases is Lofton (32).

5. Eleven free-agent starters allowed fewer baserunners per nine innings than Zito (who permitted a shocking 13.15). But the only two left who don't have a job are (Roger) Clemens and Pettitte (not counting Brad Radke, who is about to retire).

6. The only unemployed free-agent relievers who allowed fewer than 11 baserunners per nine innings are Russ Springer (9.96) and Darren Oliver (10.44).

7. And the only free-agent relievers left who struck out more than a batter an inning are (surprise) Arthur Rhodes and Rudy Seanez.

Heyman: "I've got to say that in this market Jason Schmidt looks pretty good for $47 million and (Randy) Wolf looks like a steal for $8 million. Look at it this way, the Dodgers got both pitchers for the price of (Gil) Meche."

Give or take a year.

Schmidt KOed (Sort Of) Five Times in 32 Starts in '06
2006-12-07 19:05
by Jon Weisman

Jason Schmidt made 20 quality starts in 2006. Here are the line scores of his performance in his other 12 games:

010 012 0
010 003 1
013 010 0
000 001 (5 2/3 innings pitched)
031 000 2
021 00
000 014 3
100 302
004 4
000 001 21 (7 innings pitched)
000 03
000 400 0

  • In three games, he exceeded three runs allowed by the end of the third inning.

  • In five games, he exceeded three runs allowed by the end of the fourth inning.

  • In eight games, he exceeded three runs allowed by the end of the sixth inning.

  • In three games, he held the opponent to three runs or less but did not pitch six innings.

  • In one game, he held the opponent to one run over six innings but gave up three runs in the next two innings.

    Overall, after six innings in each of his 32 starts in 2006, Schmidt held the opponent to three earned runs or less in 21.

    * * *

    From Steve Henson of the Times:

    It was 1 a.m. Thursday and the Dodgers' general manager shuffled into the team's winter meetings hotel suite, shirttail out, poured a celebratory light beer into a paper cup and plopped into a chair.

    "We got what we wanted without giving up the kids," he said. ...

    Colletti, impatient by nature, said he would force himself to slow the pace and allow one major deal to develop to bring a bonafide slugger to the Dodgers for one or more of his surplus starting pitchers and, yes, maybe even one of the "kids."

    "We'll get [Schmidt and (Luis) Gonzalez] finished, then we can let the dust settle and see where we are," he said. "There are few components of a team more valuable than pitching and good young players. We didn't sacrifice one for the other."

    * * *

    From Dodgers public relations director Josh Rawitch at Inside the Dodgers:

    (James) Loney may very well be ready (or he may not, we won't know until we see it every day), but he should get about 40 games at first base and a bunch more spelling Gonzalez on some days and (Andre) Ethier on others (plus possible DH games, etc). In my opinion, this is an ideal way to break a kid into the Majors (facing primarily right-handers, without all the pressure of an every day job at 22 years old)

    For those who believe this team is old, I'm not sure what to say; in the everyday lineup, there should be only two guys over 35 (Kent and Gonzalez) and five guys under 30 (Pierre, Furcal, Ethier, Martin, Betemit). Penny and Billingsley are under 30, Wolf is 30 and Schmidt and Lowe are both in their mid-30s but are bonafide stars based on their track records.

    I guess I'm not too sure what power hitter people wanted Ned to go get - we were in on just about every power-hitting free agent there was, but in cases like (Alfonso) Soriano and Aramis Ramirez, we can't make Los Angeles further east than it is. And it seems like most people didn't think that trading for Manny (Ramirez) made sense, given the price. As for the other guys rumored to be available (Andruw Jones, Vernon Wells, etc.), I'd be stunned if either of those guys gets moved for anything less than a gargantuan package of prospects and both are one-year rentals and will surely test the market, given the current landscape.

  • Candygram for Gonzo
    2006-12-07 08:25
    by Jon Weisman

    Perhaps the most striking stat from the 2006 season of Luis Gonzalez was that he had a career-high 52 doubles at age 39. That's where a lot of his former home-run power went - with the rest disappearing into the ether, as Gonzalez registered his lowest slugging percentage since 1997.

    Gonzalez, whom the Dodgers signed overnight to a one-year, $7.35 million contract to start in left field, has had an unusual career. He never EQAd more than .300 in his 20s, then did so five times in his 30s. But now that he's pushing 40, you could say he's having traveling back to his youth. Andrew Grant of True Blue L.A. has more:

    Gonzalez put up a serviceable .271/.352/.444 line last year, with several warning signs around it. The first is that his patience and power have been steadily declining every year since 2001. Right now, the only real value that Gonzalez has left is his ability to walk. If his patience takes another 10 point slide, that's pretty much out the door.

    The other scary thing is that he did this in the BOB, a very hitter-friendly park. If you combine the decline that Gonzalez has been experiencing over the last half decade with moving from the BOB to Dodger Stadium, its not all that pessimistic to think that Gonzalez will hit something like .260/.330/.415 for the Dodgers. That must be close to replacement level for a corner outfielder.

    Several people have interpreted the acquisition of Gonzalez as a sign that Dodger general manager Ned Colletti won't trade a prospect like Matt Kemp, James Loney or Andre Ethier. This might be true, but I wouldn't be sure of it. The Dodger lineup still lacks a hitter you can count on for 25 homers or a .500 slugging percentage, a problem that Colletti might be tempted to solve by sending off a package including prospects with a starting pitcher (a notion, depending on the trade principals, that could be good or bad - we can't know in the abstract).

    But sure, the Dodgers could enter the season with Ethier in right field, Loney super-subbing for Gonzalez, Ethier and Nomar Garciaparra, Kemp coming up in June after he (hopefully) dominates AAA and/or when a veteran goes on the disabled list. (And by the way, though it's a point of pride for Colletti and Juan Pierre that Pierre plays 162 games, just as we wondered in the 1990s whether it could help Cal Ripken, Jr., I wonder whether Pierre's numbers might improve if he rested once in a blue moon.)

    While the Dodger lineup doesn't look overpowering in the middle, it may be among the best in the National League top to bottom. While Pierre will have one of the lowest on-base percentages of a leadoff or No. 2 hitter, the Dodgers' No. 8 hitter (Ethier? Wilson Betemit?) could be the best around.

    And if one thing seems clear about the Colletti-Grady Little regime, it's that they don't like handing starting jobs to rookies but they do like seeing the kids take them. If Kemp or Loney are hitting, eventually they will play. The Dodgers' more relevant bias against youth is that Little is more likely to pull a slumping kid out of the lineup than a slumping veteran.

    I'm not excited about Gonzalez's signing, and I'm not convinced that the $15 million or so the Dodgers are spending on two sub-.800-OPS outfielders in 2007 is worthwhile. At the same time, I am very open to the idea that with superstar talent at a clear premium, there may be something to the idea of trying to dominate with depth, with supreme adequacy. Gonzalez might not be an ideal signing or even a sensible one, but there might be something to it. At any rate, the risk is on the low side.

    Yes, I'm waffling. When I don't know, I don't know.

    'High School Is Far Away for Top Player Lieberthal'
    2006-12-06 20:25
    by Jon Weisman

    In July 1990, I wrote a feature for the Daily News on Mike Lieberthal, who had just been named the best baseball player from Ventura to Glendale and moved on to become a top Philadelphia Phillies draft choice. He was 18, I was a ripe old 22.

    It's not my best work - watch out for "Soon, he will likely be as level-swinging as he is level-headed" - but I thought you might enjoy it:
    Continue reading...

    Grady Little Interview Transcript
    2006-12-06 16:03
    by Jon Weisman

    The Dodgers circulated this transcript of Dodger manager Grady Little's meeting with the media at the Winter Meetings.
    Continue reading...

    Schmidt to the Dodgers?
    Lieberthal Signing Official
    2006-12-06 10:31
    by Jon Weisman


    The Dodgers apparently are on the verge of acquiring the power pitcher they've coveted, as free-agent right-hander Jason Schmidt on Wednesday told former teammates he accepted a three-year, $47 million offer to pitch in Los Angeles.

    In acquiring Schmidt, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti would succeed in a key step of his offseason Plan B - accumulating surplus starting pitching that not only improves his starting rotation, but could lead to the culmination of Plan A, a power hitter.

    The club would not confirm the deal, which would be contingent on Schmidt passing a physical exam. Schmidt's physical condition is no secret to the Dodgers, who recently hired his trainer with the Giants, Stan Conte. Colletti also has familiarity with Schmidt, having helped acquire him as the Giants' assistant general manager.

    A Schmidt signing would enable the Dodgers to trade from the following surplus of starting pitchers:

    1) Derek Lowe
    2) Brad Penny
    3) Chad Billinglsey
    4) Hong-Chih Kuo
    5) Mark Hendrickson
    6) Brett Tomko
    7) Eric Stults
    8) D.J. Houlton
    and other minor leaguers

    Schmidt and Randy Wolf can't be traded this offseason.

    Penny will be the focus of trade rumors as they come, but I can't help thinking that Hendrickson and Tomko also have value to other teams that need back-end starting pitching more than the Dodgers do now.

    * * *

    Schmidt is a talented pitcher, but he is surely expensive - that projected salary is almost twice what Derek Lowe makes - and does not come without risk. Turning 34 in January with nearly 2,000 career innings, Schmidt in 2006 saw his strikeout rate drop to its lowest point since 2000.

    But Schmidt is still above-average through and through, and might well help form a perfect bridge between the Dodgers' veteran starters and the up-and-comers like Billingsley, Kuo, Scott Elbert and Clayton Kershaw.

    The Dodgers should look to have six starting pitchers available to guide them through the long season - especially, as others have pointed out, as insurance against injuries or overwork for Billingsley and Kuo - but one of those six can be a veteran mediocrity like Tomko or Hendrickson. That's what a swingman/long reliever is for. If Schmidt falls into place, the team can afford to trade Penny.

    Of course, if the Dodgers can get value for someone besides Penny, so much the better, but I'll confess to being among the group that would hate to see the Dodgers trade Billingsley or Kuo before we see what these young pitchers can really do in a Los Angeles uniform.

    * * *

    Update: The Dodgers officially announced the signing of 34-year-old local boy Mike Lieberthal to a one-year contract with a club option for 2008 to back up Russell Martin. His best days are behind him, but he's a nice pickup for the backup role and figures to be much more content than Toby Hall, who will be jettisoned somehow.

    How Will Playing in Boston Affect Drew's Stats?
    2006-12-06 10:22
    by Jon Weisman

    At Baseball Analysts, Rich Lederer has a post analyzing "All Things Boston," including his thoughts about the J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo signings. Among other things, it elaborates on Nate Silver's negative projection in Baseball Prospectus for Drew.

    Drew and Lugo figure to be major upgrades over Trot Nixon and Alex Gonzalez. Whether using Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP) or Win Shares, it appears as if the newly acquired duo could be worth as many as five or six additional wins next year. Although Drew and Lugo are on the wrong side of 30 (both turned 31 in November), they are actually ever so slightly younger on a combined basis than their predecessors.

    Peter Gammons likened Drew to former Boston All-Star Fred Lynn in his ESPN Insider column last Saturday. I'm on board with that comparison. Lefthanded-hitting outfielders both, talented, laid back, and injury prone. While neither fulfilled the huge expectations placed upon them after their outstanding college careers and sizzling debuts in the majors, Lynn was one of the more valuable players in his day and Drew has been a productive force as well. ...

    As Silver points out, the move to the AL could also have a negative impact on Drew's homers in 2007. Perhaps, but it is important to point out that three of the four competitor ballparks in the AL East are friendly to LHB in terms of HR. Yankee Stadium had a LHB-HR park index of 118 from 2004-06, Rogers Centre (Toronto) 116, and Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay) 105. Only Oriole Park at Camden Yards (96) suppresses home runs for LHB. The NL West, on the other hand, is more balanced with Bank One Ballpark (Arizona) and Coors Park (Colorado) heavily favoring HR by LHB and AT&T Park (San Francisco) and Petco Park (San Diego) hurting LHB-HR by a similar degree.

    It really is about expectations with Drew. I can't say it enough. He is not the most valuable player, just a valuable player.

    'Blowings of Kevin Mench'
    2006-12-06 08:45
    by Jon Weisman

    Dodger Thoughts commenter Eric Enders offers selected comments from the previous thread, "translated (via Google) into French and then Spanish and then back into English."

    206. Xeifrank
    Parents could have supported its rotation with the company/signature of Maddux. Parents have a good enclosure who can thus absorb probably the additional returns of the beater in their principles. But just I do not see Parents the marking of many races with this formation and only stage of the baseball of jarros. vr, Xei

    210. saltcreek
    207. Is Guzman always only what 22? If it never reduced its exits of strike it will be a force in the commanders. He straightens had the inferior year the last year.

    211. CanuckDodger
    207 -- Since ready Guzman is not equal MLB for rays of the devil, she is not in quienquiera "pocket," and if some explorers do the affluent bolt to you, she can never be ready MLB, whereas #20 written by the player who the next year can help in the commanders before five years.

    220. The list harmed
    Is this selection #22 cracks of the round one of the original one of embusqués 1ros? Does not have to go to the animals for Juan Pierre who signs, or arbitration was not offered? As soon as Juan Guzman contradicts the twentieth selection during the discussion of 2007 contours, I wonder itself if people do not forget the Eighties and years 90, when practically EACH high SIMPLE selection of the contour of embusqué was flamed outside spectacular way. An pleasant position of the contour is not automatically gimme.

    229. natepurcell
    Nate, I hope that the point of contacto/de the doblez does not finish. Nah I does not think that it is. In order to happen hardly of They are by another crisis of half of the life. The complete circle of the James with field of broom was insano.

    241. ToyCannon
    the authorization I had to thus read all repost I of posts not something but to verify this connection with the not-filtered commentaries of BP. It is the silverplated aspect of silver of Nate who Pecota for JD drew in Boston. If it comes near this projection, the nation of RedSox will be a bitter place.

    247. ToyCannon
    Blowings of Kevin Mench. Almost all his energy the summer last wine during the scratch of Homer from 8 games. To clear that and was it extreme ugly. Shootings with the goal in 119 then games pressed only 5 that flute. Homer in more than 100 with the beaters in the NL. Great Jenkins of oscillation 7 with the mill would have something then does not matter who who I heard mentioned differently. Its line of the race of 279/350/499 works for me if Ned must have a veterinary surgeon.

    Hub Fans Bid JD a Doozy
    2006-12-05 16:36
    by Jon Weisman

    If nothing else, J.D. Drew sure knows how to raise expectations for himself. You'd think a guy so shy (or reserved) would be worried about that, but he is all business. I don't mean that as a pejorative - just as an observation. He is something of a contradiction.

    Now that the Boston Red Sox have signed Drew to a five-year contract worth $70 million, my question is this:

    What kind of performance will Red Sox fans require of Drew to be satisfied with him?

    My initial thoughts: at least a .300 batting average, 25 home runs, 100 RBI, .950 OPS, 140 games played, one huge clutch hit and one clutch catch a month - including one in the first week - along with some slightly lesser hits of renown, good vibes from the clubhouse, and a cinematic moment of playing through pain.

    Every year.

    If the Red Sox keep Manny Ramirez, that will lessen the pressure on Drew. But with Drew, very often it was less a case of "What have you done for me lately?" and more "What did you do firstly?" His rep has proven hard to shake, and the sooner he can lay waste to it, the more happiness he may be able to find. And, in fact, even if the fans aren't happy with him, that won't necessarily mean Drew won't help the team.

    Most likely, Drew will be a big asset some years but not others. And if the Sox win a World Series one of those years - who knows, Drew might be allowed to carry Dave Roberts' gear at Oldtimers' Day.

    Dodgers Sign Saito for 2007
    2006-12-05 11:52
    by Jon Weisman

    Takashi Saito will return to the Dodgers (on a one-year, $1 million contract with $300,000 in possible incentives), the team announced this morning. Saito, who outpitched National League Cy Young Award runner-up Trevor Hoffman in 2006, struck out 107 batters in just 78 1/3 innings pitched and led all National League relievers in opponent batting average with a .177 mark (minimum 200 batters faced).

    The All-Time Dodger Alphabet Team
    2006-12-04 23:47
    by Jon Weisman

    Just to lighten things up this offseason ...

    (Subject to revision - and of course, wide open to debate. With some exceptions.)

    A - Pedro Astacio over Sandy Amoros
    B - Dusty Baker over Adrian Beltre, Joe Black and Bill Buckner
    C - Roy Campanella over Ron Cey
    D - Don Drysdale over Tommy Davis and Willie Davis
    E - Carl Erskine
    F - Carl Furillo
    G - Pedro Guerrero over Steve Garvey, Eric Gagne, Kirk Gibson and Burleigh Grimes
    H - Gil Hodges over Babe Herman and Orel Hershiser
    I - Cesar Izturis over Kazuhisa Ishii
    J - Tommy John over Jimmy Johnston
    K - Sandy Koufax
    L - Davey Lopes over Clem Labine
    M - Van Lingle Mungo over Rube Marquard, Mike G. Marshall, Ramon Martinez I, Raul Mondesi and Manny Mota
    N - Don Newcombe
    O - Claude Osteen
    P - Mike Piazza
    Q - Jack Quinn over Paul Quantrill
    R - Jackie Robinson over Pee Wee Reese
    S - Duke Snider over Don Sutton
    T - Derrel Thomas
    U - Fred Underwood
    V - Dazzy Vance over Fernando Valenzuela
    W - Zack Wheat
    X -
    Y - Steve Yeager
    Z - Don Zimmer over Geoff Zahn

    Fun Name Team
    A - Whitey Alperman
    B - Sweetbreads Bailey
    C - Cannonball Crane
    D - Fats Dantonio
    E - Ox Eckhardt
    F - Jack Fimple
    G - Welcome Gaston
    H - Still Bill Hill
    I - Bert Inks
    J - Binky Jones
    K - Elmer Knetzer
    L - Charlie Loudenslager
    M - George Magoon
    N - Bobo Newsom
    O - Whitey Ock
    P - Ed Pipgrass
    Q - Jack Quinn over Paul Quantrill
    R - Jimmy Ripple
    S - Franklin Stubbs
    T - Sloppy Thurston
    U - Fred Underwood
    V - Dazzy Vance over Fernando Valenzuela
    W - Mysterious Walker over Possum Whitted
    X -
    Y - Earl Yingling
    Z - Don Zimmer

    The Maddux Matter
    2006-12-02 09:04
    by Jon Weisman

    Some tough decisions provide nice fringe benefits, like the tax break you get when you sell stock at a loss. The mistake you can make is to put the fringe benefit ahead of the primary decision. You don't want to sell a stock headed for a big rise just to get a small check from the IRS. Nor do you figure to want to keep a stock that is falling, only so that you can avoid the capital-gains tax.

    Somehow, this relates to the debate over whether the Dodgers should have offered arbitration to free-agent pitcher Greg Maddux. The nice fringe benefit would have been that if Maddux declined arbitration in search of a two-year contract, the Dodgers would receive draft pick compensation.

    However, the risk would have been that if Maddux accepted, the Dodgers would have him in their rotation in 2007, at least for half the season - my understanding is that he would not be eligible to be traded until June. And the question you have to ask yourself is whether Maddux deserves to be in that rotation. Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Randy Wolf, Hong-Chih Kuo and Chad Billingsley might be better pitchers to have in your starting five. By offering Maddux arbitration and forcing one of them to the sidelines - unless you trade one of those five - you might be weakening your team. Draft-pick compensation might not necessarily make up for that.

    At the same time, if the Dodgers are still interested in Maddux, as this report by Steve Henson of the Times indicates, then I can't understand why the team wouldn't offer arbitration. At that point, it does seem like a no-lose situation - either he rejects the team's offer, as Julio Lugo is expected to do with his, or he accepts it, and you have a livable one-year deal with a pitcher over 40 that sets you up to trade someone like Penny for more offense or provides depth in the rotation to protect against injury.

    It's a little perplexing.

    * * *

    We learned this week that J.D. Drew's contract with the Dodgers did not allow the team to offer him arbitration and gain draft-pick compensation if he opted out of his contract after two years, as he has. While this is another disappointing development, the one thing that I keep trying to remind people is that the Dodgers did not hand Drew and agent Scott Boras this option like an after-dinner mint. It was part of the overall negotation, and what it's worth, it no doubt saved the team money over the course of the contract.

    Whether you think the Dodgers should have signed J.D. Drew or not is one thing, but the idea that the team was too stupid to realize what it was doing, in the context of the overall negotiation, doesn't track. You give something to get something, and the Dodgers gave up security with Drew to get a valuable player for two years.

    * * *

    A Santo Domingo reporter for Dominican Today published this interesting tidbbit from Grady Little:

    "I know how to handle Manny Ramirez. I respect him as a player and he was a marvelous ballplayer in Boston. There aren't many like him and the Dodgers need a player of his stature," said the Dodgers manager.

    "Manny would be a great Christmas present. Who wouldn't want a gift like that?" added Little, who was attending trials for young players at Santo Domingo's Olympic Stadium along with the general manager Ned Colletti and other executives from the Dodgers.

    Pretty Much the Most Ridiculous Thing Ever
    2006-12-01 22:00
    by Jon Weisman
    Prospects Proper
    2006-12-01 09:53
    by Jon Weisman

    Kevin Goldstein ranks top Dodger prospects at Baseball Prospectus this morning. Clayton Kershaw is No. 1 among true prospects, while Chad Billingsley climbs over him when you include non-rookies age 25 and under:

    The Big Picture: Rankings Combined With Non-Rookies 25 Years Old Or Younger (As Of Opening Day 2007)

    1. Chad Billingsley, RHP
    2. Clayton Kershaw, LHP
    3. Matt Kemp, OF
    4. Andy LaRoche, 3B
    5. Scott Elbert, LHP
    6. Russ Martin, C
    7. Jonathan Broxton, RHP
    8. James Loney, 1B/OF
    9. Hong-Chih Kuo, LHP
    10. Andre Ethier, LF

    Pretty exciting list, considering that five prominent participants in the 2006 Dodger playoff team fill out the bottom five. Goldstein's article has details on the top 10 true prospects.

    P.S. Looking at Kershaw's birthdate made me realize that the Dodgers' No. 1 pick in 2007 probably will have been born after the Dodgers' last World Series title.

    Update: Here's a lineup and rotation the Dodgers could bring to a 25-and-under tournament.

    C - Russell Martin
    1B - James Loney
    2B - Tony Abreu
    SS - Chin-Lung Hu
    3B - Andy La Roche
    LF - Andre Ethier
    CF - Delwyn Young
    RF - Matt Kemp
    P - Chad Billingsley
    P - Scott Elbert
    P - Hong-Chih Kuo
    P - Jonathan Broxton/Jonathan Meloan/Greg Miller

    * * *

    Kevin J. Cunningham at is tracking who's getting which free-agent compensation draft picks. (Link courtesy of Baseball Think Factory)

    Update 2: In Ken Gurnick's preview of the winter meetings at, there are these tidbits:

    Colletti said he remains committed to Plan B -- create a surplus of starting pitching that can be used to trade for a hitter, although he cites the convenient GM shield of tampering when specific trade targets are suggested because they belong to other clubs. ...

    After watching middle relievers land hefty contracts, Colletti backed off earlier comments about bolstering the bullpen through the free-agent market and said he hoped to take care of that from within. ...

    Assuming Colletti can land a bat and it isn't a natural right fielder to replace Drew, the defensive position that player plays would set some dominoes in motion. Nomar Garciaparra could move around the infield or even to left field. Wilson Betemit could become a second baseman. Colletti has started mentioning Andy LaRoche as an outfielder, and Jason Repko is expected to return from injury. ...

    They have considered signing free agent Mike Lieberthal to watch Russell Martin play every day. They'll know by Friday night if the Phillies offer Lieberthal arbitration, which is unlikely but would require the Dodgers to fork over draft-pick compensation, something clubs don't do for backups.

    The Dodgers are expected to offer arbitration to two of their free agents -- Julio Lugo and Greg Maddux -- for different reasons. For Lugo, it's because they expect him to reject it and sign a multiyear deal elsewhere, which would entitle the Dodgers to compensation. For Maddux, they wouldn't mind if he accepts, because that would bind him to the club for one year, not the two years he's seeking.

    They are not expected to offer arbitration to Eric Gagne, Kenny Lofton, Aaron Sele or Einar Diaz. By the terms of the contract (J.D.) Drew voided, the Dodgers cannot offer him arbitration.

    In a sidebar, Gurnick calls the unloading of Joel Guzman "curious," which is not a sentiment I would have expected Gurnick to express. I tell ya, you think you know someone you barely know ...

    * * *

    New features coming to Baseball Prospectus for 2007:

  • A BP blogging project, tentatively titled Baseball Prospectus Unfiltered, in which BP authors share their quick takes on the latest baseball developments;

  • Community-based pages, including a series of forums for BP articles and unfiltered posts;

  • Increased use of multimedia, including original photography and podcasted audio

  • Improved sortable statistics, including player splits (what was Johnny Damon's VORP in games played at Yankee Stadium?)

  • Earlier debut of the PECOTA cards, in time for early-bird fantasy drafts.

    Will Carroll has a video report up at BP. I'm not sure I understand the logic of video reports without accompanying text, considering how many people sneak in their reading of BP at the office and wouldn't be allowed to view a video report with sound.

  • Movie Chat at Screen Jam
    2006-12-01 09:45
    by Jon Weisman

    Stuart Levine of Variety and I have a progress-report chat about this season's Oscar candidates at Screen Jam this morning ...

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