Baseball Toaster Dodger Thoughts
Monthly archives: April 2007


Historic Relief Performance by the Dodgers
2007-04-30 15:20
by Jon Weisman

The Dodgers learned the following from Dave Smith of Retrosheet:

In the last 50 years (since 1958), only five teams have accomplished what the Dodgers pulled off yesterday. In the game, the relief corps allowed just three base runners in more than 10 scoreless innings of work. The last time a team did that was the Red Sox on Aug. 20, 1997, in a game in which Nomar Garciaparra played. Coaching first base that day for the Red Sox and yesterday for the Dodgers was Dave Jauss, while Grady Little was Boston's bench coach. Prior to that, the only other teams to accomplish that feat were the Indians (4/27/84), Tigers (8/24/63) and the Dodgers (7/9/59). In that July 9, 1959 game for Los Angeles, Roger Craig pitched 11 innings of relief and allowed just three hits.

I'd also note that Norm Larker pinch-hit for Dodger starter Danny McDevitt in the top of the third inning in that game and hit a three-run homer. Those were the Dodgers' only runs until the 13th inning.

* * *

Tonight's game:


Retro Gameday

Update: Mike Lieberthal replaces Russell Martin in the starting lineup, batting eighth, and Wilson Betemit returns - batting sixth.

When Success Confuses
2007-04-30 09:00
by Jon Weisman

How did San Francisco Giants bloggers deal with their team's recent success after so many predicted doormat status? My weekly posting at's Fungoes takes a gander.

Also, I pick up last week's NL West blogger roundtable and ask what their favorite player from their team to watch is.

Quick Dodger note: Today is Brett Tomko's scheduled day to throw on the side, reports Tony Jackson of the Daily News, so he could be available to help out in relief tonight against Arizona after Sunday's 17-inning 5K. (Come on, is it really a marathon if you don't hit 20 innings?)

Jackson surmises that Chad Billingsley, Takashi Saito, Rudy Seanez and Chin-Hui Tsao won't be available, but that Jonathan Broxton and Joe Beimel will. Here are the pitch counts from the past three days (not counting warmup tosses, of course):

Joe Beimel: 7 on Sunday
Jonathan Broxton: 19 on Sunday
Chin-Hui Tsao: 6 on Saturday, 15 on Sunday
Rudy Seanez: 22 on Friday, 26 on Sunday
Takashi Saito: 22 on Friday, 24 on Sunday
Brett Tomko: 90 on Saturday
Mark Hendrickson: 85 on Friday
Chad Billingsley: 53 on Friday, 37 on Sunday
Derek Lowe: 86 on Sunday

Indeed, Beimel and Broxton should have no trouble bouncing back. Tsao hasn't thrown many pitches, but one can understand resting the recently recuperated pitcher after two consecutive days. Seanez could be good for an inning; Saito as well, although his is an arm we want to protect. And then there's Tomko.

All in all, a roster move shouldn't be necessary before tonight's game. If Randy Wolf gets in trouble tonight, then the Dodgers might have to do something.

Seven Years for Me and the Mrs.
2007-04-29 12:05
by Jon Weisman

And we feel fine ...

Today's game:


Retro Gameday

Are You Smarter Than a 12th-Grader?
2007-04-28 17:09
by Jon Weisman

The National Academic Decathlon is nearing its climax (in Waikiki, no less), and today the Times discussed the contradiction of Southern California excelling in the competition despite having some of the lowest-ranked high schools in the nation.

The unsurprising conclusion is that the AD gets extra attention here, but it left open the question of whether it's a good thing to show what extra attention can deliver, or whether it's a misallocation of resources. I guess some might be left wondering why we can't have it all.

Anyway, I think it was last year that I wondered aloud whether the AD would be good for television - something the nation can get involved in besides sports, singing competitions, being smarter than a fifth-grader or even spelling bees. If memory serves, people said the AD didn't lend itself to broadcast, which seems a shame. Maybe it's not, but I still would like to see some of the energy and enthusiasm we spend on popular culture somehow channeled into education.

* * *

Tonight's game:


Retro Gameday

So Much That Is Good ...
2007-04-28 08:10
by Jon Weisman

So many things went right for the Dodgers on Friday, you'd think they had won 10-1 instead of stealing a 6-5 triumph into the night.

Andre Ethier seemingly saved 20 runs with his glove.

Nomar Garciaparra hit with runners in scoring position - and with the bases empty.

Russell Martin continued to make himself the fans' choice for a bobblehead - erected Paul Bunyan style at City Hall.

Mark Hendrickson continued to defy gravity - four baserunners, four strikeouts and a run in five innings, his season ERA a zippy 1.66.

Takashi Saito, despite allowing a home run, threw with even more zest than usual, and then closed the game with the most genuine, infectious smile this town has seen since Magic's. I'm serious - it's amazing.

Even Juan Pierre gloved the long fly ball that ended the game without incident - though my be-bopping heart did lose the beat for a measure.

So many things went right, that despite being swept by the Giants, the Dodgers are still having a better week than the Padres, who have blown leads in losing their past three games - two of them in the ninth inning.

So many things went right, I hate to even bring up the third base mess, which saw Wilson Betemit benched despite reaching base twice Thursday - benched with prejudice, as Dodger manager Grady Little told Steve Henson of the Times: "We're not in the habit of continuing to repeat things that aren't working," Little said.

Even more disconcertingly, Ken Gurnick of quoted Little thusly: "He did a little better last night and hopefully he'll get it going, but he's at a point where he needs to get something going and needs to sustain it a while."

Even a Spinal Tap guitar can't hold the sustain if you don't play it.

I guess I can sympathize with Little some - he just can't seem to decide what he has in Betemit. And Little did surprise me by offering encouraging words for Chad Billingsley, who has Yhency Brazoban breathing down his neck and all but lost Friday's game in relief by allowing three runs in the sixth inning - before pitching a shutout seventh.

"He was a little rusty," Little told Gurnick. "It was a different man the second inning, the guy we're looking to see."

And Little's hands are somewhat tied with the Matt Kemp situation. The Dodgers are stuck playing musical chairs with their outfielders, and while the notion that Kemp is not a center fielder has lost traction with the increasing evidence that Pierre isn't one either, it's hard to imagine a reality where anything but an injury dislodges Pierre or Luis Gonzalez from their tenured positions. It's Ethier vs. Kemp (and James Loney if you like) for right field, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately prevailing.

So this is where I stand.

Plan A: Let Betemit play third base, even if it means riding out a rough patch.

Plan B: Though others have never dropped the call, I've left the Dodgers alone on moving Nomar Garciaparra to third base and elevating Loney to first. But if you're not going to commit to Betemit, they really should make this move.

First of all, the notion that Garciaparra is more likely to get hurt at third base is specious. There is less action at third base than at first base. There are more throws to make, but barely. As a team, the Dodgers are averaging fewer than two assists per game from third base. Fifty total chances in 23 games. We shouldn't be afraid of this.

Moreover, Garciaparra is, in his own way, a veteran version of Hong-Chih Kuo. It's almost inevitable that he's going to get hurt and/or decline in performance as the season progresses - having little to do with his position. After all, Garciaparra was playing first base last year when his body unraveled. The Dodgers should make the most of him while they can.

Look, this is no indictment of Wilson Valdez, who has exceeded expectations every day in 2007. But should Valdez's success forestall the Dodgers from trying to improve?

I'm not trying to be alarmist. The Dodgers are in first place. They've recorded two thrilling victories in six days. More is working than isn't. And indecision is part of life. I'm just recommending that the team parlay this optimism. A championship team doesn't settle for Wilson Valdez at third base. (It may not settle for Juan Pierre in center field, either, but that bridge is a way's off from crossing.)

Into the Chamber of Horrors ...
2007-04-27 17:00
by Jon Weisman
Talent Scouting
2007-04-27 09:40
by Jon Weisman

Don't have time to parse this myself today, but those with Baseball Prospectus access may want to dive into these young player ratings.

Schmidt's Recovery: 'Weeks Could Turn Into Months'
2007-04-26 21:57
by Jon Weisman

He's not a doctor, but that's the conclusion Ken Gurnick of draws in learning the latest about Dodger pitcher Jason Schmidt's shoulder sufferings:

Schmidt was disabled retroactively to April 15 with shoulder bursitis, and since then, he's done nothing but let the inflammation subside.

"At a certain point, I'll start the rehab from a strength standpoint," said Schmidt. "I'd like to rush it as fast as I can, but I'm not at the point to do that."

So once Schmidt is pain-free, he still must start exercises, then soft-tossing, long-tossing, bullpen sessions, simulated games and a Minor League rehab assignment before returning to the rotation. Weeks could turn into months. Schmidt had rotator cuff and shoulder labrum surgery in 2000, but he said he's never had anything like this.

"It's one of those things when you get into a game you don't realize," he said. "The shoulder is always crunchy, but the adrenaline takes over. It's still a little bit hot, so until it calms down, I'm doing nothing. The achiness is not what it was and the range of motion is better, but there's only one ultimate test -- to get back in a game."

It's good news, then, that Hong-Chih Kuo survived his latest simulated game without incident and beginning a rehabilitation assignment in Las Vegas. He gives the Dodgers one more option in case any of the existing starting five falter.

Forget the adrenaline, Jason. Take the time you need to heal right.

* * *

There was a squeeze play bungled. A fly ball uncaressed.

It saddens.

!pac yllaR

rally cap :(

Betting on Betemit
2007-04-26 16:13
by Jon Weisman

I predict Wilson Betemit's first 2007 homer will come before his first error.

Betemit is getting a shot at the No. 7 slot tonight, according to Inside the Dodgers, perhaps just to see if that can change his luck - maybe get better pitches to hit.

* * *

Tonight's battle to stay alone in first place:


Retro Gameday

Is It Time To Let Bonds Off the Hook?
2007-04-26 08:03
by Jon Weisman

I asked this question in the comments Wednesday night, and David Pinto asked it at Baseball Musings this morning: Isn't the prevailing assumption now that, despite what apparently happened in the past, that Barry Bonds is now clean - and if so, does that not reinforce that what he has been doing so far this season is legitimately incredible?

Bonds is 42 years and 10 months old, with an on-base percentage of .470 and slugging percentage of .808.

I have stood by my belief that Bonds is a Hall of Famer. The shorthand reasons are 1) he was a clear Hall of Famer before the first foreign substance hit his body, 2) his substance use was a reflection of what baseball rules and the collective bargaining agreement officially tolerated on a widespread level during the time in question, 3) given how widespread that substance use was among both hitters and pitchers, he shouldn't be singled out, and 4) given how studies on substance use conflict, it's unclear how much that substance use actually helped him.

Those reasons are debatable. But if Bonds is clean now, does that mean we should firmly stop singling out Bonds for derision? If what he did was part of a larger crisis in baseball, a crisis now being addressed, and if what he did didn't distort the record books as much as people think, what is the case against him?

I anticipate that the counterarguments to this are 1) he cheated, end of story, 2) this 2007 performance won't hold up if he's clean and 3) maybe he's not clean now.

* * *

The Mike Penner/Christine Daniels transformation story figures to get a lot of attention. Though a bit too snarky at times for my personal taste, especially on Morning Briefing for the Times, I've always thought Penner was an excellent writer. I look forward to reading Daniels.

I'm curious about his name choice. I'm not trying to be ultra-clever or anytyhing, but I can't help noticing that Christine/Christina appears to have become the dominant name for transsexual sportswriters, as Daniels joins Christina Kahrl of Baseball Prospectus. I believe there is a TV pilot about a transsexual sportswriter in the works - wonder what her name will be.

Update: Kahrl comments optimistically at BP.

April 25 Game Chat
2007-04-25 17:54
by Jon Weisman
Making a Good Pitching Staff Better
2007-04-25 08:59
by Jon Weisman

Despite losing their past two games, the Dodgers left me feeling good with the way they put the tying runs on base in the bottom of the ninth each time. (In fact, that has happened three games in a row – with the Dodgers succeeding in achieving the tie Saturday.)

The Dodgers have had only occasional stinkers this season, playing 20 games and losing three of them by more than three runs.

The team has achieved this largely through its avowed strength, pitching. Even though there have been some offensive highlights so far this year (the OPS+ of Russell Martin, Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, Luis Gonzalez, Wilson Valdez, Brady Clark, Matt Kemp, Olmedo Saenz, Randy Wolf and Jason Schmidt are over 100), it seems even more clear than when the season started three weeks ago that the Dodgers have to eke out every advantage they can on the mound.

Against this backdrop, the Aprils of Chad Billingsley (6.52 ERA) and Rudy Seanez (5.00 ERA) look troubling. And with Chin-Hui Tsao settling in and Yhency Brazoban and Hong-Chih Kuo moving forward in their recovery from injuries, not to mention Jonathan Meloan pitching on fire for Jacksonville, Billingsley's and Seanez's places on the roster look less secure.

Seanez is the easiest to discuss. The 38-year-old has made it clear that he will retire rather than accept another minor-league assignment. For the depth-conscious Dodgers, that's a big incentive to keep him around. But is there a position where the Dodgers are deeper than right-handed relief? If Seanez had retired last fall, would anyone notice his absence? Seanez has struck out nine batters in nine innings, but he has also allowed 16 baserunners. There are so many guys in the Dodger farm system that could probably outpitch Seanez that I won't even get around to mentioning all of them in this column.

As for Brazoban, once he completes his rehab, his spot on the Dodger roster shouldn't be automatic. Even though he was a key member of the bullpen for parts of 2004 and 2005, enough time has passed that he should show minor-league dominance before returning to the team. (He is not out of minor-league options.) But if the threshold is Seanez, that probably won't be so hard for Brazoban to meet.

However, perhaps the threshold is Meloan. Lefty specialist Joe Beimel having faced 24 right-handed batters already this season, allowing a .748 OPS (compared to .448 against left-handed batters), the Dodgers can clearly do better. Seanez isn't the guy. If Brazoban isn't, perhaps Meloan is. The idea of Meloan, Jonathan Broxton and Takshi Saito smothering the opposition in the late innings (with Beimel grabbing the occasional lefty) is, frankly, thrilling.

But let's return to Billingsley and first of all, address the chatter that is already building that Billingsley can't pitch effectively in relief. I firmly believe it's too soon to know this. It's one thing to suggest that Seanez might be done, given his age, his recent career patterns and the fact he has pitched in relief all his life. Billingsley has pitched 13 1/3 relief innings in his regular season career. That's not enough to go on.

We need to look at a bigger picture. Forget about what Billingsley can or can't do, since we don't have those answers yet. We just need to ask what's best for Billingsley and what's best for the Dodgers.

If Billingsley is in the bullpen to conserve his arm at an age many people believe young pitchers are vulnerable to injuries, then let him be in the bullpen. Commit to that being his role for as long as you always meant to. And if Meloan or later Brazoban prove worth a look, let Billingsley go down to Las Vegas or Jacksonville. Make it clear that it's not that the team is giving up on him, but that it's a healthy part of his baseball education. But let's not saddle the kid with a negative self-fulfilling prophecy.

If Billingsley is only in the bullpen because Mark Hendrickson and Brett Tomko have been outpitching him, then there is an argument to put him back in the starting rotation in the minors and let him do the thing he was meant to do all along. Let him stretch out his arm again.

My feeling all season has been that the Dodgers have never stopped envisioning Billingsley as a starting pitcher, but feel he can contribute as a reliever while letting the veterans Tomko (and now Hendrickson, with Schmidt injured) do their thing. And I think in the back of the Dodgers' minds, there is at least a vague understanding that by keeping him in the bullpen, Billingsley will be fresher in the second half of the season – when, after possible fades by certain starting pitchers, the Dodgers may well need him most. This is plan A, and it's not a bad plan.

With that in mind, it may not make much difference whether Billingsley the Reliever pitches in the majors or the minors. The majors provide the best test; but the minors let him hone technique without as much pressure. There are arguments for both sides.

Ultimately, the Dodger bullpen should be the best it can be. For the sake of the 2007 season, it needs to be. There is no reason to make a snap judgment on Billingsley based on three weeks. But there is also no reason that the Dodgers should settle for mediocrity in the bullpen if there is evidence they can do better. Billingsley (and Kuo, and Greg Miller, and so on) will reach their potential, whatever it is, if the Dodgers remain positive about them as individuals.

The team needs to have its five best starting pitchers in its rotation. It needs to have its six best relief pitchers in its bullpen (or seven, though six should be enough). All there is to do is to uphold those mandates without making false assumptions.

* * *

Former Redbird Nation blogger and current Jenna Fischer brother-in-law Brian Gunn, along with his brother Mark, are writing the screenplay for Girlfriend Experience, Variety reported today. Rainn Wilson of The Office will star.

Be Gooder
2007-04-24 15:14
by Jon Weisman

Tonight, let me renew my sporadic plea to Dodger fans to be passionate for their team but sportsmanlike to Giant fans. No one should feel unsafe at the ballpark, no matter whom they root for.

* * *

Commenters have been tracking minor leaguer Clayton Kershaw's latest performance today. Through four innings, he had nine strikeouts.

* * *

In case people are wondering why I haven't written about the emergence of a tape recording of Sandy Koufax's first no-hitter, which has gotten a lot of attention this week, it's because I did four months ago.

* * *

New blog Dodgerama previews the Dodgers-Giants series.

Tonight's game:


Retro Gameday

Remembering Trax
2007-04-24 08:32
by Jon Weisman

Brian Traxler, a classic Obscure but Memorable Dodger, passed away in 2004. Bob Timmermann forwarded this rich SABR-sanctioned biography of Traxler by Rory Costello that I greatly enjoyed.

He had just 11 big-league at-bats in 1990, but Brian Traxler was still a cult figure. Over 13 years as a pro, the first baseman delighted fans across the minors, the Caribbean winter leagues, Asia, and independent circuits.

His immediate appeal was visual. "Trax" was rotund -- leniently listed at 5-feet-10 and 200 pounds, he often weighed up to 240 or more. He was likened to portly Phillie John Kruk, once remarking, "I actually met him while I was in Philadelphia. John Kruk was like, 'Are you my brother? How long have you been away?'" This author saw him for just one fleeting plate appearance with the Los Angeles Dodgers, yet he made an indelible impression: thickset, taking swift practice lashes with an intense, almost comical grimace. ...

Halberstam Writ Large
2007-04-23 20:18
by Jon Weisman

I've got more David Halberstam books on my shelves than I can count, mainly because for some reason they're spread on different shelves. Baseball books, history books.

But the book I'll always remember most of his is The Breaks of the Game, his account of a season with the Portland Trail Blazers. I packed it to serve me for a long trip when I was 15. It sure seemed long enough. But I couldn't stop reading it, and it was done before the first leg of the trip was over. So I had to read it again. And I probably read it a third time at some point.

The first thing I thought of after digesting the fact that he had died was, "I wonder what he was working on." You knew it was something, didn't you?

2007-04-23 08:49
by Jon Weisman

You can see how the 2005 season continues to scar me in my latest contribution to's Fungoes blog. "Some folks" includes me.

You'll forgive some folks in Los Angeles if they're still a little gunshy about the Dodgers, the winningest team in the National League so far at 13-6. Two years ago, their team, just like this one, was 13-6 and leading the National League West, only to finish the year in disastrous 71-91, Jim Tracy- and Paul DePodesta-firing fashion.

The common assumption is that the 2007 Dodgers can suffer no similar collapse because they are deeper. Luis Gonzalez and Nomar Garciaparra have been producing, but many fans root for players like Matt Kemp and James Loney to rise from understudy status (see below). Meanwhile, strong Aprils by Mark Hendrickson and Brett Tomko have shown that the Dodgers can handle an injury to a starting pitcher (Jason Schmidt) before even asking promising youngsters like Chad Billingsley and the rehabilitating Hong-Chih Kuo to move into the rotation.

When Russell Martin hit a walkoff grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning Saturday, an inning after the Dodgers scored the tying run on a walk, wild pitch, error and passed ball, you sensed that the opening scene of the "How They Reached October" highlights package was in the can.

But when Juan Pierre dropped a fly ball to center field Sunday, allowing the Pittsburgh Pirates to score their third run on their way to a 7-3 victory in Los Angeles, the rewrite team had its say. ...

I have no desire to get into a DePodesta argument today, but my feeling is that although the Dodgers are deeper this year thanks to the maturing farm system, this year's team could be in just as much trouble if the same number of injuries again hit the most critical personnel.

So much crashed down upon the Dodgers at once in 2005, it made the overall roster look worse than it was at the season's outset. After all, plenty of people, DePodesta fans or not, predicted that team to do well.

When you look at the '07 team, even with Mike Lieberthal as a backup, Martin appears almost indispensible - instrumental to the team's success. And no one truly knows what Kemp, Kuo, Billingsley, Loney or Andy LaRoche would do over a full season if forced to carry the load.

Are the Dodgers significantly better off at third base in 2007 than they were in 2005? Significantly better off in the outfield? I think these are fair questions.

Perhaps the pitcher's mound is the one place that this year's team seems in significantly better shape. But pitching is inherently unstable - the area most vulnerable to capricious injuries.

Personally, I'm optimistic about the 2007 Dodgers - but then again, I was optimistic in '05. Given that the 2006 team followed a midsummer 3-15 tailspin with a 17-1 reboot, all I know is this: One stretch of 18 or 19 games only sets the stage for the next.

Also in the column, I asked five NL West bloggers what the most common misconception was about the teams they follow - take a look.

Remembering and Forgetting
2007-04-22 10:35
by Jon Weisman

I was living in Washington, D.C. when the news came of the boating accident involving Indians pitchers Tim Crews, Bob Ojeda and Steve Olin - the first two former Dodgers. Crews and Olin were killed. It was so sad and so hard to believe. Sports Illustrated and ESPN covered the accident and its aftermath extensively.

Today in the Times, Bill Plaschke checks in on this mostly forgotten story by visiting with Crews' survivors, 14 years later.

One of the column's main points is how the Crews family has been forgotten by baseball, and while that's lamentable, I wonder if that isn't just human nature. Last week's Jackie Robinson celebrations aside, I'm not sure that it's natural for a wide circle of people to stay in touch with the family of someone who died. It's my experience, anyway, that life's everyday challenges force people to move on, move away - and only the very closest remain by your side.

In any case, it's a worthwhile column. If I could change just one thing about it, it would be to eliminate the final paragraph, which I think pushes too much of the focus back on Plaschke. It just wouldn't have been my choice to mention myself being thanked - not that Plaschke didn't earn it by making the trip to see the Crews family and sharing the memories. The final spotlight should be on them.

* * *

I apologize for keeping it maudlin this morning, but there's still no better news on the Willy Aybar front. From Mike DiGiovanna of the Times:

Much like the Atlanta Braves, Angels infielder Erick Aybar has been unable to reach his older brother, Willy, an infielder who has been AWOL from the Braves for a week and, according to his agent, is battling a substance-abuse problem.

"I call every day, and he doesn't pick up the phone," Aybar said. "It's weird, because I don't know what's going on. I feel bad for my mom. She's crying every day. Willy won't answer the phone for her too."

Willy Aybar, a former Dodgers infielder, failed to report to New York for a meeting with baseball officials Friday. He is believed to be in Boston with another brother, Francis.

"Vladimir [Guerrero] called him, too, and he answers," Erick Aybar said.

"I've never known Willy to have a drug or alcohol problem. In the Dominican Republic, he's a different guy. I don't know what's going on with Willy."

You'll recall that almost a year ago, people were searching for the missing brother of Jose Cruz, Jr. (In a very quick search this morning, I can't find any record of him being located.) But more to the point, this also makes me think of JaRon Rush (brother of Brandon and Kareem), whose basketball career was derailed by alcoholism. The connections are tangential, but that's just where my mind went.

Anyone, I continue to hope things turn out okay for Willy.

* * *

Olmedo Saenz, Wilson Valdez and Brady Clark get starts today.

Today's game:


Retro Gameday

2007-04-22 00:40
by Jon Weisman

It was as if Shawn Chacon got tired of his wife nagging him: "Why do you leave your fastball on the floor all the time. Will you hang it up already?"

And on a 1-2 pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th, Chacon hung that fastball, and Russell Martin took him all the way to the cleaners for a 7-3 victory.

There was a lot to clean up this Saturday night, with pitchers on both teams having trouble finding the strike zone at critical times and catchers - including Martin - getting to tired to block balls in the dirt.

One key to the game that might be forgotten amid the Martin celebration is that despite being terribly wild, Brad Penny kept the Pirates in check, allowing three runs (two earned) over six innings despite walking in one run and wild-pitching in another.

Penny was throwing hard again - hitting mid-90s on the Prime Ticket radar gun - and perhaps as a result was having trouble hitting his spots. But he didn't give up the big hit. At his blog, Tony Jackson seemed to criticize Penny for showing emotion after his wild third inning ended, but it was perfectly understandable. More to what people are concerned about, it was completely directed at himself, and Penny regrouped to shutout the Pirates thereafter.

And so ultimately, pitching was key again for Los Angeles. Chin-Hui Tsao, Joe Beimel, Takashi Saito and Jonathan Broxton each threw a shutout inning to give the Dodgers time to rally. According to Josh Rawitch of the Dodgers, the team has not given up a home run in its last 58 1/3 innings. Nice.

One moment of controversy came in the bottom of the ninth when, with the Dodgers down 3-2, Andre Ethier walked. Dodger bench coach Dave Jauss either got instructions from ejected manager Grady Little or took his own initiative to have Valdez pinch-Wilson for Betemit, with a bunt in mind. I'm no fan of the bunt and I wouldn't have done it, believing that Betemit had a good shot of getting aboard, but the goal in this inning was just to get a run across, and the choice to use Valdez was legitimate to make.

In the short-term, it backfired when Valdez bunted into a force play, reminding us for the future that bunts are anything but automatic. But then Valdez went to second on a wild pitch, third on a throwing error and home on a passed ball, just like the Dodgers planned. Tie game.

And then in the bottom of the 10th, Martin burnished the cat. He can do our laundry anytime.

Downs and Ups, Part 2
2007-04-21 09:24
by Jon Weisman

Thanks in part to Juan Pierre OPSing .462 in the leadoff spot but .820 as the No. 2 hitter, the Dodgers have the following team stats:

.867 OPS in the No. 2 slot
.470 OPS in the No. 1 slot
.684 OPS in the No. 9 slot

Crazy way to go 12-5, huh?

A saner explanation: The Dodger team ERA dropped to 2.94 Friday.

Downs and Ups
2007-04-20 17:22
by Jon Weisman

Early season batting average on balls in play (BABIP) numbers for the Dodgers, according to The Hardball Times:

.500 Matt Kemp (.340 in 2006)
.417 Wilson Valdez
.400 Brady Clark (.299)
.390 Russell Martin (.308)
.348 Jeff Kent (.324)
.291 Nomar Garciaparra (.291)
.289 Luis Gonzalez (.281)
.286 Andre Ethier (.360)
.274 Juan Pierre (.306)
.250 Rafael Furcal (.335)
.200 Olmedo Saenz (.347)
.200 Ramon Martinez (.305)
.167 Wilson Betemit (.353 with Atlanta, .275 with Los Angeles)
.125 Mike Lieberthal (.265)

If you're at the bottom of this list, your batting average is more likely to go up as the season goes on, and vice versa.

* * *


Retro Gameday

Kemp Suffers (Minor?) Setback/Miller Shows No-Hit Stuff
2007-04-19 20:48
by Jon Weisman

Coming to you live ... from my house, where I am listening to the Pacific Coast League game between Las Vegas and Colorado Springs. Contrary to previous media reports, soreness forced Matt Kemp back to the AAA Las Vegas bench tonight and perhaps Friday, according to the 51s broadcast team of Russ Langer and Jerry Reuss.

Better news: Greg Miller hit the first two batters and walked two but pitched six no-hit innings on 77 pitches before being removed for a pinch-hitter.

Open chat continues in the thread below.

April Flowers
2007-04-19 14:30
by Jon Weisman

One of the little quirks of the season I have been tracking is this: the Dodgers haven't been involved in a game in which both teams scored more than four runs. In short, no slugfests. Nothing near it.

With Mark Hendrickson and Aaron Cook taking the mound in the Colorado sunshine today, today could have easily been that day. But Hendrickson was having none of it. Like Derek Lowe on Wednesday, Hendrickson needed a little double-play help behind him, but unlike Lowe, he took advantage – throwing five shutout innings before leaving with two out in the sixth and a 5-1 lead in a game the Dodgers would go on to win with ease.

The story with Hendrickson is the story with Brett Tomko – capable of great performance in the short term but not the long term. But as with Tomko, that doesn't diminish the value of getting that good performance in. He's the No. 7 starter on this team, yet he waltzed into Colorado and lowered his ERA to 1.62, which should put him in the top 10 in the National League by day's end - watch for it.

The story with Hendrickson, frankly, is the same as the story with Rafael Furcal, who is off to another slow start at the plate, but figures to come around. Every season has its surprises, and you just need to get more good ones than bad.

Here's an Ardil-22 for you: with Hendrickson pitching so well, his psychologist will be the first person I call if I get down. But can anything bring me down until Hendrickson stops pitching so well – at which point his psychologist will be useless to me?

* * *

Sadly, the above question could be for ex-Dodger Willy Aybar, who is going through some rough times. Aybar has been AWOL from the Braves, and I've been waiting for the other news shoe to drop. David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has it:

Suspended Braves infielder Willy Aybar is in Boston, struggling with substance abuse and trying to get his life and baseball career back in order, his agent told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The agent, Luis Valdez, said the distraught player was dealing with 'drinking and drugs' and that he drove alone from Atlanta to Boston to be with his brother, Francis Aybar, who lives there.

Minutes later, Valdez backpedaled a bit and said he didn't know if Aybar, 24, was involved in anything other than alcohol.

The agent said Aybar was too shy and embarrassed to reach out to anyone with the team. The Braves suspended him for three days after he failed to show up for injury-rehabilitation sessions Saturday and Sunday, then suspended him indefinitely on Wednesday when he failed to show up for a meeting with manager Bobby Cox.

Aybar is on the disabled list with a sprained right hand, which he hurt during winter ball and aggravated during spring training.

"It's a situation where he doesn't want anybody to help him," Valdez said. "He's embarrassed for himself, for his family." …

* * *

Someone else enjoying April is lefty reliever Joe Beimel, who cruised through two innings in the Rocky Mountains today, even with a rested Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito backing him up. My skepticism about Beimel has never really abated - can't promise it ever will - but again, so far, he's been getting it done. I'm happy to be his bulletin-board material if he needs it.

Broxton should have been used Wednesday instead of Rudy Seanez when the Dodgers were down by a Coors Field pittance of three runs, but I'll harp on that kind of decision another day. As it happens, I think the Dodgers may be on track to keep Chin-Hui Tsao over Seanez if and when that decision needs to be made. (In this case, my skepticism about a pitcher, Seanez, would be validated.)

And I can't let talk of hot Aprils go without mentioning Alex Rodriguez's latest exploit - a three-run homer to cap a six-run, two-out, ninth-inning comeback in New York. He has 10 homers this month for the Yankees. This Dodger fan is giving A-Rod a pat on the back.

* * *

Overall standings if the 2007 Dodgers had played in the NFL last season.

1. 14-2 Chargers
2. 13-3 Ravens
2. 13-3 Bears
4. 12-4 Colts
4. 12-4 Patriots
6. 11-5 Dodgers

* * *

Update: From Ken Gurnick at

With a scheduled day off Monday, Hendrickson might not start again until April 28, assuming Schmidt is still disabled, because Little wants to keep his other four starters on a five-day rotation.

"He might pitch twice in relief before he starts again," said Little, and he meant it. "

* * *

Update 2: I'm burying these Parking Thoughts down here.

1) I have formed no position on the opening of the Scott Avenue Gate, other than to be somewhat pleased that the nickname of "Billy Preston Gate" may be catching on.)

2) Complaints about Dodger Stadium traffic and parking seemed to diminish during last weekend's series against San Diego, including on Jackie Robinson Night.

3) The Dodgers urged patience with the system before judging its effectiveness.

4) Therefore, I'm just asking, since it seems to fly in the face of points 2) and 3), why is there a sudden need to open the Scott Avenue Gate?

Does that fly in the face of what the Dodgers have been promising their customers?

If the Scott Avenue Gate was on the table, would it have been more prudent just to open it under the old parking system?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but I'm a little curious.

Dodger Errata
2007-04-19 09:29
by Jon Weisman

Russell Martin's throwing error in the first inning Sunday has been rescinded in an official scoring change and a stolen base awarded to Marcus Giles in its stead, the Dodgers said today. No further explanation was provided, but presumably the scorer decided not to assume that Giles would be thrown out from the get-go, and since no other advancement took place, there was no error.

In other notes, Matt Kemp began a rehab assignment in AAA Las Vegas Wednesday, playing right field for five innings and going 0 for 3 but with no health repercussions.

* * *

A toast to the bride and groom at Bronx Banter:

More importantly, somewhere on a beach in Bermuda right around the time of the first pitch, our man Alex and his lovely bride Emily are going to become husband and wife. Please join me in wishing them a long, full lifetime of happiness, health, and prosperity together. Mazel tov!

* * *

Bob Welch at Cardboard Gods - I can't decide which part to excerpt, so go read the whole thing.

* * *

Remember, today's game is at 12:05 p.m.


Retro Gameday

* * *

Want another great pregame read? It's not baseball, but check out this book excerpt at of Sally Jenkins' The Team That Invented Football.
Continue reading...

A Rested Development
2007-04-18 16:27
by Jon Weisman

Luis Gonzalez, Jeff Kent and Russell Martin take a breather for tonight's game in Colorado:

Rafael Furcal, SS
Juan Pierre, CF
Nomar Garciaparra, 1B
Mike Lieberthal, C
Andre Ethier, RF
Brady Clark, LF
Wilson Betemit, 3B
Lucille II, 2B
Derek Lowe, P

Ramon Martinez and Clark give the Dodgers a boost defensively behind Lowe. Meanwhile, Lieberthal has not batted in the cleanup spot of any batting order since 2003, according to

* * *


Retro Gameday

We Have Ways of Making You Go On the DL
2007-04-18 08:20
by Jon Weisman

Trainer Stan Conte had to grill (Jason) Schmidt after the start Saturday to get him to admit that he felt discomfort. Schmidt repeatedly told reporters his arm felt fine.

"I got out the electric cattle prod," Conte joked. On Sunday "we could elicit some pain, and that warranted the MRI."

This passage from Steve Henson's notebook in the Times, following Conte's earlier pledge to take responsibility for making Dodger player health the best it can be, is some of the best news we could ask for this season.

It's as if Conte is Dr. Gregory House, knowing full well that "everybody lies." Without Conte's cross-examination, very possibly Schmidt keeps pitching, keeps pitching ineffectively (hurting the team) and makes his injury worse (hurting the team more). Now, we have reason to believe a healthy and effective Schmidt will return sooner.

I don't know why this is so difficult, other than athletes having too much pride, but what a breath of fresh air in this exhaust-riddled world it is.

* * *

Mike Lieberthal is expected to start at catcher tonight in Colorado, according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise, providing that rest for Russell Martin we were talking about Tuesday.

* * *

Debate on the Billy Preston Gate: The dormant fifth entrance/exit to Dodger Stadium at Scott Ave. might reopen as soon as this weekend, as mentioned in the comments Tuesday.

Pros and cons, pros and cons ...

"Dodger traffic hungry for Scott," Chicken Corner

"Stadium called public resource," Chicken Corner

"Dodgers may open fifth gate to ease traffic flow," Times

* * *

Update: Neal Pollack describes his whirlwind adventure in the All You Can Eat Pavilion at Slate. Many highs and lows, but my favorite part - even though I wouldn't eat it - was the Rabbi's Nacho Dog.

During the national anthem, which was sung by a representative from Countrywide Insurance, The Rabbi returned to our seats with something very special.

"The Nacho Dog is born," he said.

This was not an unplanned birth. The Rabbi had come to the game intending to create the Nacho Dog. For some reason, he'd long dreamed of a hot dog bun slathered with nacho cheese and topped with jalapeños and salsa.

"I believe it will be a more highly evolved form of nacho," he said. "It still contains all the basic elements."

He took several studious bites.

"It's fantastic," he said. "It represents the best of American and Mexican culture on one bun. Welcome to L.A."

Pierre's Day
2007-04-17 22:12
by Jon Weisman

One by one, slow-starting Dodgers have broken out of their season-opening slumps, and the sequential nature of this has powered (pardon the expression) the team to 10 wins in its past 12 games and the best record in baseball. Luis Gonzalez, Nomar Garciaparra, Andre Ethier and tonight, Juan Pierre, who hit a deep, tiebreaking triple to right-center field in the seventh inning in Arizona and then scored on an error.

With a shaky five-inning performance, Brett Tomko reminded us that players tend to revert to their usual levels, but the Dodger organization seems to have an above-average number of players who can muster up a good game. Wilson Betemit - you're next, right? (With an unlucky .105 batting average on balls in play, he's the definition of due.)

Also encouraging is the pitching depth in the minor leagues in the early going, which is being further augmented by Yhency Brazoban and Hong-Chih Kuo coming back from injuries. The following Dodger pitchers are off to strong starts in AA and AAA:

Jonathan Meloan, Jacksonville: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB + HBP, 12 K
Mike Megrew, Jacksonville: 12 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 3 BB + HBP, 10 K
Justin Orenduff, Jacksonville: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB + HBP, 7 K
Eric Stults, Las Vegas: 15 2/3 IP, 16 H, 4 R, 6 BB + HBP, 14 K

... and there's more. Caveats, of course: Jacksonville's William Juarez entered tonight's game having thrown 14 shutout innings in two starts - then allowed 10 runs in four innings to Huntsville.

Anyway, one of my flaws is I don't always analyze too hard when the Dodgers are in first place. I'm too busy enjoying it.

Out From Me to Rich Donnelly
2007-04-17 20:27
by Jon Weisman

Honestly, if I were a policeman and I could pull a third-base coach over for drunken waving in of a runner, I'd have probable cause to breathalyze the Dodgers' Rich Donnelly.

With two out and Nomar Garciaparra on second base in a 4-4 game, Luis Gonzalez singled to left field. Donnelly was waving in Garciaparra before Garciaparra was halfway to third base and kept waving him in even though Arizona left fielder Eric Byrnes had fielded the ball with Garciaparra still shy of third.

Arizona catcher Chris Snyder caught Byrnes' throw a little up the first-base line, but Garciaparra had still only covered two-thirds of the distance between third and home. Snyder easily put Garciaparra out.

Hot-hitting Russell Martin, the on-deck hitter, could only watch.

Schmidt Headed for DL
2007-04-17 17:39
by Jon Weisman

From Inside the Dodgers:

Jason Schmidt is going to go on the disabled list with inflammation of the bursa sac in his right shoulder. Right now, the prescription is rest and we don't really have a timetable for his return.

One presumes Mark Hendrickson will take Schmidt's place in the rotation Thursday in Colorado.

Tonight's game chat continues in the thread below.

Wonderful Lemon-Scented Martin Sheen
2007-04-17 16:55
by Jon Weisman

Law & Order rips from the headlines - I rip from the comments:

Since Opening Day on April 2, Russell Martin will have caught 13 games in 16 days. Some are concerned that Martin is not getting enough rest because he has only missed one start, but I think the reason it seems like he's not resting is because of the off days the Dodgers have had.

Now, the Dodgers are playing 10 games in 10 days - let's assume with some assurance that backup catcher Mike Lieberthal will start at least one of those. With the off day on April 23, Martin will have started the season playing 17 games in 22 days. That's better than an off-day per week.

I understand there is concern about Martin burning out because he played so much down the stretch last fall, but I think it's still too early to worry for 2007.

Meanwhile, so far in this young season, Martin is 12th among all position players in baseball in Value Over Replacement Player. And no, that does not account for his defense.

* * *

Tonight's game:


Retro Gameday

Last Chance To Order Dodger Thoughts T-Shirts
2007-04-16 17:15
by Jon Weisman

Deadline is Tuesday. Information is here. The store is here. (The site is now working.)

* * *

If you think it is more likely than not that you would attend a Dodger Thoughts day at the ballpark July 21, please e-mail me at the address on the sidebar with 7/21 in your subject header. Also, let me know if you'd be willing to volunteer to help with ticket distribution. Dodger Thoughts commenter ToyCannon graciously handled it last year. (Update: Thanks to all who have offered to help with ticket distribution.)

* * *

Tonight's game:


Retro Gameday

A Good One To Pull Up a Chair For
2007-04-16 07:16
by Jon Weisman

Gosh, as Vinny might say, it was a splendid night at the ballpark. The celebration for Jackie Robinson was about as good as you can find in this age: meaningful instead of commercial, fulfilling instead of overwhelming. And as much as I enjoyed seeing Vin Scully as an active participant, carrying the day was Rachel Robinson, whose speech hit so many right notes. (I hope to have a piece at later this morning about her.)

It sounds as if those watching on television were rewarded with some memorable interviews with Robinson, Don Newcombe and others. I haven't seen those, but I got some hints in last night's comments, so I'll be checking the recording.

The even-longer-than-planned delay to the start of the game seemed to throw both pitchers off, though Randy Wolf later suggested to the media that an extra day off might have contributed to his first-inning wildness. Even Russell Martin, who would end up with another fantastic game, bumbled uncharacteristically when he had Marcus Giles hung up between first and second base and let him get away.

Nevertheless, it was practically an all-Dodger night, as they punt-passed-and-kicked newly millionaired Padres starter (and, while at Princeton, Jackie Robinson thesis writer) Chris Young out of the game in the third inning, just as San Diego had done to Jason Schmidt the night before. (Wolf ended up drawing more walks batting than he allowed pitching.) It was the kind of night where both Wilson Valdez and Andre Ethier had great games - for a while this season, it didn't seem like that was allowed.

And what a difference a year makes. Almost a year ago, a Sunday Padres-Dodgers game ended with the infamous bullpen meltdown in the ninth and 10th innings. This weekend, with the exception of Schmidt, Dodger pitching dominated the Padres from the top of the staff to the bottom.

Perhaps the key to the whole thing was Dodger batboy Johnny Garcia, a real team player. Sunday, Garcia let the bad karma center on him when an unlucky richochet of a foul ball hit him plum in the face. This stood in contrast to the last time the Padres and Dodgers played on a Sunday, the day before the 4+1 game, a day in which the Padres took over first place in the NL West with a victory, when Garcia grabbed all the Dodger glory with a stunning catch of a line drive last season. (From the Register:)

The play of the day Sunday was made by someone in a Dodgers uniform - but not one of the players. Clubhouse attendant Johnny Garcia was serving as a ball boy down the right-field foul line when he made a diving catch of pinch-hitter Paul McAnulty's line drive headed into the stands during the seventh inning. Garcia dove onto the padded divider between the field and the stands to make the highlight-reel grab - and then went back to picking up dirty uniforms in the Dodgers' clubhouse after the game.

As Garcia goes, so not go the Dodgers...

Update: My piece at about Rachel Robinson can be found here:

Rachel Robinson was married to Jackie Robinson for 26 years. She has been a widow for nearly 35.

So much was written about Jackie over the past several days, I fear that people might be suffering from Robinson fatigue by the time this piece hits your browser. And yet, I'm finding that one more thought lingers ...

On Sunday night, sitting in the stands at Dodger Stadium with my wife of nearly seven years and my stir-crazy 2- and 4-year old children as Rachel spoke to the crowd and the national television audience, wondering whether I'd be able to keep things under control at least until the first pitch was to be thrown, I listened carefully to Rachel's words but kept returning to the same question: How has she done it? How has she kept it all together?

I also check in briefly with the Dodgers' next opponent, the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks.

Jackie Robinson Night Open Chat
2007-04-15 15:59
by Jon Weisman
Slow Hand
2007-04-15 09:09
by Jon Weisman

Before the season started, I voiced largely irrational concerns about Jason Schmidt's health, based on how many innings he had thrown in his career, some occasional trips to the disabled list and not much else.

Now, with Schmidt's pitching speed drifting down to Greg Maddux levels without Greg Maddux's mastery, as evidenced by Saturday night's pounding at the hands of the Padres, everyone's worried.

I'm putting my faith in Dodger head trainer Stan Conte to spot whether there's a physical problem, even if Schmidt isn't admitting anything, and enforce Schmidt to take a rest if need be.

If Schmidt somehow isn't ailing, and the Dodgers have signed a latter-day Frank Tanana, it's going to be an interesting adjustment period.

* * *

Mark Hendrickson had another fine relief outing Saturday, cruising through five innings on 58 pitches while allowing a run and striking out four. Hendrickson falls under the same category as Brett Tomko and so many major league pitchers. It's not to denigrate their good games to point out that they have rarely been able to consistently generate them throughout their careers. They wouldn't have been fighting for spots in the starting rotation otherwise.

However, I'm happy to say that two of the most maligned Dodger pitchers heading into Spring Training this season have contributed nicely through the first couple of weeks, and they deserve applause for being above-average for as long as they can be.

* * *

Over the past two weeks, I've seen every one of the Dodger Thoughts guidelines for commenters violated. Every one. Considering that things haven't been going all that badly for the team this season, that's a little discouraging.

In particular, many have recently abused guideline No. 8, "Thank you for not making the same point over and over again." Please dial the repetition back.

In addition, some of the language used, while not profanity, has gotten a little cheeky. Please remember that children do come to this site, and that this is not a bar. Thanks.

Shifting Starters
2007-04-14 18:44
by Jon Weisman

Tonight's lineup:

Jason Furcal, SS
Rafael Martin, C
Russell Garciaparra, 1B
Nomar Kent, 2B
Jeff Gonzalez, LF
Luis Clark, CF
Brady Ethier, RF
Andre Betemit, 3B
Wilson Schmidt, P


Retro Gameday

2007-04-14 09:08
by Jon Weisman

Congrats to Eric Gagne on his successful return to the big leagues Friday night, with a three-batter, one-hit, one-strikeout, one-double-play save for Texas.

And congrats to the Dodgers for moving into first place in the National League West. The team has won seven of its past eight games.

Alyssa Milano Joins the Club
2007-04-13 16:22
by Jon Weisman

Thanks to those who pointed out Alyssa Milano's new baseball blog, *touch* 'em all. Alyssa is big on the Dodgers and selling clothes - just like me.

I guess a little friendly competition never hurt anyone. Don't forget: Dodger Thoughts offers T-shirts for the ladies too! (And remember, the deadline to order is Tuesday.)

* * *

The Dodgers announced that they plan to activate Rafael Furcal tonight and start him at shortstop, returning Chin-Hui Tsao to the minors. With the Dodgers facing their last scheduled lefthander for a while, Andre Ethier and Wilson Betemit are getting platooned out of tonight's lineup in favor of Brady Clark and Ramon Martinez.

Tonight's game:


Retro Gameday

April 15, 1947
2007-04-13 12:45
by Jon Weisman

If you read only 100 stories about Jackie Robinson this weekend, my new piece at might be one of them:

For most of us who didn't live through Jackie Robinson's first day in the major leagues, black and white images have embedded it in our memories. A stark snapshot of Robinson in his Brooklyn Dodgers cap, or frames of newsreel footage showing him running the bases.

According to Jonathan Eig's new book, Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season, when Robinson awoke early that day at Manhattan's McAlpin Hotel, the sight before him, his wife, [Rachel], and five-month-old son, Jack, Jr., was vivid and suggested anything but the historic day that was upon him. ...

A First-Rate Response From the Dodgers
2007-04-13 11:21
by Jon Weisman

See the update to the post below, which points to Josh Rawitch's latest post at Inside the Dodgers.

And now, I'm as eager as you to get back to talking about baseball. Here's a fresh topic: Tonight, the Dodgers meet the Padres for the first time since you-know-what. Where were you during the 4+1 game?

(Parking comments can continue in the thread below if you like - this thread's dedicated to baseball.)

It's Like Being Lost in Voice Mail Hell
2007-04-12 22:20
by Jon Weisman

I want to be supportive. Don't you know I want to be supportive?

And you know I'd rather talk about balls and strikes than this.

But I tell you, they make it hard. has published its own article about the Dodger Stadium parking situation, and it's almost embarrassing. And I truly hate saying that, because I like the writer, Ben Platt, and I love the Dodgers.

I don't begrudge the Dodgers trying to spin things positively, but to suggest that the new system is working because a) the only fan having trouble with it is the longtime fan and b) "for the average person, not much has changed at all" shows that the Dodgers still flat-out don't understand customer service, much less human emotions.

They're treating this situation like it's an Alaskan oil spill, and we're just watching it on the news. They don't understand that we're the birds. And even if they're going to clean up this mess, right now we're still sitting here with oil soaking through our feathers.

Some longtime fans who attended Opening Day left so despoiled by the experience that they are seriously afraid to return to Dodger Stadium. Do the Dodgers honestly think the best way to address this group is to essentially blame them for being resistant to change?

The Dodgers don't get that people don't want to hear their complaints minimized, even if the Dodgers are right. They don't get that with a 50 percent increase in cost, people expect better than the status quo. They don't get that simply pretending to listen to suggestions from the people who are making complaints, who might have lucid things to contribute, might be a good idea. They don't get that it is worthwhile to soothe a customer who is angry, even if he is too angry.

And man, they sure don't get that the only apology mentioned in the article on their house publication shouldn't be an apology from a customer.

"Excuse me, sir," said the attendant, who was directing traffic. "Would you please put your placard up on your rear-view mirror? We need to know where you're supposed to go."

The driver apologized and proceeded to the inner circle of the stadium.

It's all so Pleasantville, it's like I'm watching a sex-ed film from the 1950s.

The Dodgers know how to make excuses. They know how to stick to their talking points. They don't, however, seem to have the first clue about how to relate to the disaffected. I honestly feel bad for them, because they are putting all their eggs in this tiny, tiny basket.

"I think the education system was kind of a difficult one," (senior vice president of communications) Camille Johnston said. "So little has actually changed once you're inside the stadium (not true) that now that people have heard about it, and it should run pretty smoothly this weekend."

There you go. You can't say they haven't laid down the parking gauntlet. On Friday's Cap Night, they're going to have about 16,000 cars arriving during weekend getaway rush hour. And the Dodgers are betting that those cars are going to be satisfied with the return on their $15 parking investment. I tell you, they are braver souls than I.

I'm going to write this in bold, even though I've said it before, just so the point isn't missed, just so it's clear that I do understand that the system shouldn't be judged on Opening Day alone. If this new parking system proves successful, the Dodgers get to have the last laugh on parking.

At the same time, I'm starting to feel that this week's issue is not about the parking at all. I don't particularly care to be a prima donna, spending my time writing about traffic and parking when, on one level, I feel lucky just to be able to attend the games of my favorite team. But I'm starting to care less about the parking, and more about the Dodgers' tone-deaf response to their most dedicated customers. Even if the Dodgers are right, where is the expression of sympathy for the customers who feel wronged? Is it really a sensible approach to essentially suggest that the customers are spoiled?

Just say "We're sorry." And then say it again. And then say it again. And then say it a hundred more times until you're fed up saying it and you can't bear to say it anymore and you just feel it's so unfair you ever had to say it in the first place.

And then say it a hundred more times.

And then, you might turn this corner. Because that is how a business treats a customer that it cares about.

I know I've been offering some amount of unsolicited advice this week, but honestly, it's because I really want this to succeed - not just because I want to get to and from the games quicker, but because I truly want an organization that I love to get as little bad press as possible. I want people to respect the Dodgers. I want people to venerate the Dodgers.

"We do believe the system works," Johnston says. Wrong. The system doesn't work until it works. Can I please suggest a little more humility, rather than this stoic defiance? You've got 56,000 fans coming to celebrate Jackie Robinson on Sunday. At 5 p.m., I'm praying that Robinson's milestone will be what they're talking about.

Update: Josh Rawitch responds very thoughtfully at Inside the Dodgers:

I guess more than anything, I want everyone that reads this blog and any of the others that are out there to know that we truly empathize with everyone who has experienced growing pains with the new parking system and I don't know how to make it sound sincere over the Internet, but we are absolutely listening to your comments and in cases where it's possible, implementing them.

More importantly, I know that Jon made it a point to bold the fact that if this system works, that we will have the last laugh and I want to assure you that no one here is looking for a last laugh. This is not a Dodgers vs. the Fans issue and there will not be anyone here saying "I told you so," if and when this system proves to work out to everyone's liking. We all come to work each day looking to improve the fan experience and that is really what matters (in addition to winning). Without the fan support, this organization is nothing and I sincerely mean that.

I know that expressing empathy (or sympathy or whatever you want to call it) when it's asked for by Dodger Thoughts is a little like bringing flowers home to your wife after she's told you that you never bring her flowers, but I cannot express more strongly that we do listen to your comments and we do try to implement them whenever possible. For example, on Tuesday night, when one of the gates was backed up after the game and another had emptied quickly, we re-routed fans to the open one to help get them exit more easily. And the suggestions for a shuttle from Union Station that were made on this blog continue to be discussed, though I can tell you that the last time we tried to do that, we discontinued the service because so few people used it. These are only two of the many ideas being considered to improve the parking situation.

We have numerous people who are reading message boards and blogs several times a day and they are talking to fans in the stands every night. We also have several parking experts (who understand this far better than you or I) here until 2 a.m. after night games, meeting with our own staff members and trying to assess every single thing that took place in the parking lots that night.

To Jon's point, I don't believe there is anyone here who thinks the "customers are spoiled." That said, we obviously know that when things change, it makes it the most difficult for the people who are the most used to the "old way," which in this case are our long-time fans and season-ticket holders. This is not us blaming them for resisting change. It is the reality of making a change and again, their opinions matter more than anyone realizes.

To the point about "last laugh," I didn't mean like a cackle - just that ultimately, if the system works, then that's great.

These Fielders Might Not Get That Dirty, But They Are Clean
2007-04-12 08:22
by Jon Weisman

The 2007 Dodger infield of Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, Ramon Martinez, Wilson Valdez and Wilson Betemit, plus the pitching staff, has made one error (by Garciaparra) in 206 chances this season.

* * *

I did not attend Wednesday's game, but the sense I'm getting is that the new Dodger Stadium parking system is adapting at least able to handle the smaller crowds (not that the old system couldn't). Any truth to that? What were your Wednesday experiences?

The next big challenge will be Cap Night on Friday, followed by a huge challenge in Sunday's Jackie Robinson Day - an event where we really to keep people in a celebratory mood.

Update: Sons of Steve Garvey maintains its naysaying vote.

No, I'm Not All Put Out
2007-04-11 17:00
by Jon Weisman

Luis Gonzalez has four putouts in 61 innings this season. I believe the last ball to make contact with his glove is still the Barry Bonds fly he dropped five nights ago.

However much of that is beyond his control and however much isn't, isn't that amazing?

* * *

Going into Tuesday's Dodger game, here's how Dodger hitters ranked in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), according to Baseball Prospectus.

1) Russell Martin
2) Wilson Valdez
3) Luis Gonzalez
4) Matt Kemp
5) Jeff Kent
6) Jason Schmidt
7) Brady Clark
8) Olmedo Saenz
9) Brad Penny
10) Derek Lowe
11) Randy Wolf
12) Brett Tomko
13) Mike Lieberthal
14) Marlon Anderson
15) Andre Ethier
16) Ramon Martinez
17) Wilson Betemit
18) Nomar Garciaparra
19) Juan Pierre

* * *

Tonight's game:


Retro Gameday

Our Top Stories Tonight ...
2007-04-10 22:45
by Jon Weisman


Brett Tomko was fantastic tonight, pitching six innings of one-hit ball (a drive to the wall that a good center fielder would have hauled in), walking three and striking out nine. Tomko has pitched well before and will pitch well again - the problem has always been that he hasn't been able to replicate it enough. And when he's bad, he can be quite bad. But he handled the heart of that Colorado lineup with aplomb.

Chad Billingsley disappointed in relief, allowing the Rockies to tie the game 1-1 in the seventh. But a few innings after the Dodgers blew their own bases-loaded opportunity, Joe Beimel served up a stuffed-sack surprise by inducing a 1-2-3 double play from Matt Holliday.

And then the guy whose name may become symbolic with heroism in Dodger annals, Russell Martin, bookended his first-inning run with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly (following a walk by Wilson Betemit and a single by Pierre). Twelve pitches by Takashi Saito later, the Dodgers had a taut if not tautological victory.

I don't know about you, folks, but I'm happy to be 5-3.



It was fascinating, simply fascinating.

It took longer than ever to get from the parking payment booths to my eventual parking space before the game, and as short as ever to get out of the parking lot onto the freeway after the game.

To be fair, I hedged my bets a little on the departure, leaving with one out in the ninth. But to my great elation, the path between Lot L and the outer ring, often closed in recent years, was open, and I basically flew toward the downhill Downtown exit. To freedom.

The reason I hedged my bets was because of the bizarre gridlock I encountered upon my arrival. Going uphill at 6:50 p.m. to the parking kiosks was nothing unusual, but once I had handed over my season parking pass, I was stuck. General parking folk to my left cruised to their spots, but we weren't moving. On my right, the outer ring was completely closed off to traffic. And ahead of us, the inner ring was filled with cars, and it took nearly 15 minutes just go about 200 yards. It really wasn't working.

The two experiences led me to conclude that maybe, just maybe, the Dodgers might have the right idea by encouraging people to park close to where they are going to enter or exit, but they still need to allow people the freedom to freelance. But it was just one man's experience. Don't know how the people leaving after me fared.

Earlier today, the Times interviewed me for an article on Dodger Stadium parking (I haven't yet seen if I survived into the final version), and I think I probably came across as pessimistic, but I did try to stress that what I wrote on Dodger Thoughts earlier today - that while we couldn't know for sure whether the Dodgers' new parking plan would succeed or fail without giving it a chance, we did know that they need to be accountable. I think they're doing some things right and some things wrong. Hopefully, they can go the right direction from here.

Kemp To Disabled List, Tsao Recalled
2007-04-10 16:00
by Jon Weisman

Perhaps because the injury is serious, or perhaps as part of the Dodgers' 2007 better-safe-than-sorry policy, or perhaps for fear that Dodger starting pitching isn't ready to handle six innings every day, the Dodgers placed wall-bouncing outfielder Matt Kemp on the 15-day disabled list and recalled reliever Chin-hui Tsao from Triple-A Las Vegas.

Much will remain in flux, however, with Rafael Furcal on track for activation later this week.

Brace yourselves, though. Wilson Valdez has climbed the pop charts to, oh my, No. 6 on the Dodger hit list. Andre Ethier and Wilson Betemit will be behind him.

* * *

Tonight's game:


Rob McMillin's Retro Gameday

The Day After
2007-04-10 09:00
by Jon Weisman

John Stodder made me laugh out loud with his photographic instructions of how to get in and out of Dodger Stadium.

The most responsible thing for Dodger ownership to do would have been to test the new parking system before raising parking costs 50 percent to pay for it. Putting that aside, I'm willing to give those involved time to fix what's wrong. And it should be said that a) some people got in and out of the stadium without trouble, b) some people probably blame the system for a late arrival when they should blame themselves for not leaving for the game early enough c) no system, new or old, can eliminate traffic completely, especially on Opening Day.

But certainly, there are plenty of indications that the McCourts may have made driving and parking in Dodger Stadium worse than before.

Perhaps the most discouraging indication is that the new parking attendants seem to have been hired and schooled in the same manner as the food and beverage concessionaires: without any premium on expertise or efficiency, and indeed, with no small disdain by some of them for the people they are hired to serve. As Stodder writes, "tell the parking lot attendants who were just standing around, watching this mess passively that, if they can't think of what to do about it, at least pretend to care."

That message should go straight to the top. The McCourts need to be responsive to fan complaints, not in denial. Something didn't work yesterday. Something might not work again tonight. If that's true, the Dodgers need to be prepared to say why things aren't working and what they plan to do about it. They need to be able to say what's going to be different tonight or Wednesday.

They can't just blame the fans for not knowing what they should be doing, ask for patience, then be silent. This is the approach they took when they first bought the Dodgers, and it was a disaster.

Like I said, maybe time will heal these parking wounds. If the Dodgers have the last laugh on this, we'll all be happy. But this very morning, the Dodger organization should be preparing for how to address the public in case it doesn't. And those fail-safe plans absolutely should include a rollback of the parking fee to $10 and other meaningful considerations.

The McCourts have uranium in their hands, playing with the driving fates of Southern Californians. If McCourts know what's good for them, they will approach this dilemma with a commensurate level of care.

Don't blame the drivers - they've basically been given no alternative means to get to the ballpark.

One More Week To Order Dodger Thoughts T-Shirts
2007-04-09 22:58
by Jon Weisman

Purchase shirts here
More information here

Deadline to order is Tuesday, April 17, 2007.

* * *

Jason Schmidt just had a cramp according to media reports and is expected to be fine. Matt Kemp is day-to-day, which means he shouldn't be out for three months. Rafael Furcal might start a rehab assignment as soon as Tuesday night, according to Ken Gurnick of

Postgame Ughress
2007-04-09 17:04
by Jon Weisman

On the phone with my brother and father right now - both with 20-plus years of experience negotiating Dodger Stadium traffic. They are still in the stadium parking lot, having moved "a foot and a half in 35 minutes." My brother calls it "truly a disaster" and "the worst I've seen it," even accounting for it being Opening Day.

The parking consultants, he says, are standing around and occasionally shrugging.

* * *

If you have nothing better to do, follow Edwin Jackson's first start of the year.

Kemp Injured - Schmidt Too
2007-04-09 14:21
by Jon Weisman

Matt Kemp, having trouble tracking the ball in right field, smashed his head and shoulder into the wall trying to catch a drive by Jeff Baker of Colorado in the fourth inning and had to leave the game (under his own power, with Dodger staff by his side). Earlier in the inning, Kemp juggled but caught a fading drive to the corner by Matt Holliday.

An inning later, Jason Schmidt injured a hamstring covering first base on a grounder.

Andre Ethier and Mark Hendrickson were the subs.

Will Roster Thoughts Ever End?
2007-04-09 07:40
by Jon Weisman

Things sure turned around for Luis Gonzalez this weekend, didn't they? Not only did he pound the ball, but after he dropped Barry Bonds' fly ball in the eighth inning Friday, the Giants did not hit a single fly to Gonzalez in the 13 innings he spent in left field Saturday and Sunday.

With Gonzalez and Juan Pierre secure as ever in the outfield and Matt Kemp hitting .462 after one week and starting today, I still wonder when Andre Ethier will play - or if he will even stay on the roster given the current infatuation with Wilson Valdez. But as Dodger Thoughts commenter Bhsportsguy points out:

After (today), there is only one LH starter scheduled in the next 9 games, David Wells, who is slotted to start Friday night for the Padres (they could skip him but that seems unlikely based on his first outing of the year). Other than that start, the Dodgers will face two righthanders for the Rockies after (Jeff) Francis, two tough righthanders in (Jake) Peavy and (Chris) Young for the Padres over the weekend, two righthanders in Arizona next week as well as (Aaron) Cook and (Josh) Fogg for the Rockies in Denver.

That bodes well for Ethier, but the pressure will be on him Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Valdez is this year's Cody Ross, who drove in seven runs in one April 2006 game. He has made unexpected spectacular contributions, but that doesn't expand the roster any. Potentially, after Furcal returns, we will see Valdez in a platoon with Wilson Betemit, and the Dodgers dropping Kemp or Ethier down to the minors. But I still can't quite believe it.

A few people (such as Tony Jackson of the Daily News) are noticing that Ramon Martinez is every bit the 1 for 15 with great fielding that Betemit is - and less, since he doesn't have four walks. Dodger manager Grady Little is riding Martinez in the short term, but Betemit will be back.

Wrote Jackson:

For now, the Dodgers remain committed to the switch-hitting Betemit as their everyday third baseman - even though Little said Martinez will start there again in today's home opener.

The fact that Betemit has drawn four walks - including a key one with the bases loaded in the fourth inning Saturday to bring in the tying run in a game the Dodgers went on to win - is an indication Betemit is having decent at-bats. Betemit also has hit several balls hard, which indicates that he isn't in a full-blown slump.

"I don't think it's a slump," Betemit said. "I only have 15 at-bats. I'm trying to make adjustments every day, just going up there and trying to have the best at-bats I can."

He also has played dramatically improved defense, not committing an error in any of the first five games while playing one of the most difficult positions.

"He is just struggling to get hits," Little said. "He has played outstanding defense for us, but he is just struggling to find holes. It will come. He just needs to be better."

Betemit is out of options just like Valdez, so he isn't going anywhere once Rafael Furcal returns from the disabled list. Given that the Dodgers were willing to send James Loney down, that could mean a temporary demotion for Ethier or Kemp until the next, inevitable Dodger injury. Even with Tony Abreu and Martinez as backups, the Dodgers may not be willing to risk losing Valdez, who is destined to be known as "the kind of player championship teams have in their organization."

Up to now, I have never thought Valdez would be on a Dodger team with healthy middle infielders, but I may have to chalk another one up in the Wrong column.

On the other hand, the Dodgers survived the Larry Bigbie out clause and managed to keep him in the minor leagues, so maybe they'll sneak Valdez through.

In other news and notes:

  • In this feature on Jason Schmidt, Steve Henson of the Times reminds us why there are worse things in the world than being a hypochondriac:

    "For two to three years I was fearful," he said. "Every time I'd get sick, I thought I had cancer. I never looked at it from a realistic point of view. I could have stubbed my toe and thought I had cancer."

    The worries had a rational basis. His mother, Vicki, died of brain cancer at 53 about six months after she watched her son pitch against the Angels in the 2002 World Series. Several other of Schmidt's relatives have had the disease.

    After the 2003 season — during which he posted a healthy 17-5 record and 2.34 earned-run average — he was so distraught over headaches and stomach pain that he traveled from his home near Kelso, Wash., to Arizona for tests to rule out the Big C.

    "He had legitimate symptoms, and because of what he had gone through with his mom, we wanted him to take the right tests and put his mind at ease," said Stan Conte, the Giants' trainer at the time and now the Dodgers' trainer.

    Schmidt eventually worked through his grief and accompanying qualms by contributing money to brain cancer research and reaching out to people suffering from the disease, and to their families. ...

  • Ex-Dodger phenom Edwin Jackson makes his first start of the year for Tampa Bay tonight. Like Brett Tomko, the Dodgers' starter Tuesday, Jackson hasn't pitched competitively since Spring Training.

    The Rays' fifth starter expects to have to work out some kinks as he makes his season debut tonight. He threw a simulated game Friday afternoon and admitted it "definitely felt weird" after so much idle time.

    Manager Joe Maddon hopes Jackson is able to regain the spring form (four earned runs in 20 2/3 innings) that won him the final rotation spot, but knows it won't be easy.

    "I'm concerned that he's going to be a little bit rusty, but by the same token I'm going to consider that he may be rusty - I'm not going to judge too harshly," Maddon said. "We've just got to get him back into the flow. He had pitched so well in spring training, and that last outing against the Red Sox was very, very good."

    Jackson's only start in the majors last season came at Texas, when he allowed five runs in seven innings but retired the final 11 batters he faced. If nothing else, that outing will provide him a frame of reference for the stadium he'll be working in tonight.

  • Nice piece by Rich Lederer on Baseball Analysts about John Herbold, who won 938 games as a high school and college baseball coach in Southern California.

  • Eric Gagne will return to the major leagues with Texas pitching in non-save situations, according to the Dallas Morning News (via David Pinto of Baseball Musings). As Pinto correctly points out, "Of course, as we saw in last night's Texas game, there can be plenty of pressure earlier than the 9th inning. Just because the Rangers are going to bring him out to start the ninth for a while, there's no reason they can't use him with the game on the line in the seventh."

  • Even if he weren't a Stanford grad, I'd be recommending this interview with ex-major leaguer David McCarty posted at Baseball Prospectus. McCarty talks about the value of not being rushed to the big leagues, not being labeled, looking for larger sample sizes, Moneyball, defense and more.

  • Later this morning, I hopefully will have my second installment on the National League West at Fungoes, the new blog at

    Update: Here it is:

    Last in the alphabet but first in salary among 2006-07 free agents, Barry Zito entered the sixth inning of his second start as a San Francisco Giant with a 3.60 ERA.

    Three of the next four batters hit grounders on the infield. The fifth batter of the inning was a major leaguer whose roster status is so tenuous that every game might be his last. Then came a journeyman who isn't even the most famous major leaguer with his own name.

    But by the time the inning was over, the Los Angeles Dodgers had carved up the $18 million-a-year Zito much the same way area code surgeons once carved up Los Angeles -- leaving an enormous chunk of 8.18 as his ERA.

    Trailing only 2-1, Zito allowed infield singles by Jeff Kent and Matt Kemp to sandwich a clean shot to left-center by Luis Gonzalez. Wilson Valdez (career OPS entering the game of .548) tripled, and infielder Ramon Martinez, known by fans of both Arrested Development and the former Dodgers pitcher Ramon Martinez as Lucille II, hit a sacrifice fly. ...

    Oh - and here's to a great home opener for everyone!


    The following quote appeared on my baseball page-a-day calendar today, from Dave Barry.

    "If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to save the infant's life without even considering if there is a man on base."

  • Goon for a Weekend
    2007-04-08 15:00
    by Jon Weisman

    That's me. More great stuff from Wilson Valdez and Luis Gonzalez today. Again, I'm happy to be wrong for another day about them - the point I've been trying to make is just that to me, Wilson Betemit and Andre Ethier are capable of the same or better. But my cap's off to the Z boys.

    Lineup Uncertainty
    2007-04-08 09:50
    by Jon Weisman

    We're a long way from Pedro Guerrero at the hot corner, aren't we?

    Over the past two seasons, the Dodgers have given significant third base time to Oscar Robles and Cesar Izturis. Today, Ramon Martinez will play there with Wilson Valdez getting a second start at shortstop.

    In the absence of good offense at third base, it makes sense to go for the best defense. But is Martinez any more a natural third baseman than Wilson Betemit, who beautifully charged a bunt with a barehand grab-and-throw Saturday and also recently made a nifty backhanded stop in a crucial situation? Though he has only one hit (with four walks) this season, Betemit has not let that undermine his fielding.

    I'm fine with rewarding players for great games, and Martinez and Valdez have certainly had those this weekend in San Francisco. With tough lefthander Barry Zito on the mound for the Giants, it's of little moment to me that Betemit rests this one day.

    But if Rafael Furcal needs more time to recuperate from his ankle injury - and a thousand bravos to the Dodgers for making sure he gets that time - I'm wary of the Dodgers giving up on Betemit for Valdez. Three hits in a Russ Ortiz-started game does not a hitter make.

    At some point, Furcal and Andy LaRoche should render all this moot. (Others muse about Nomar Garciaparra moving to third base, but that seems like a fantasy.) In any case, once Furcal returns, carrying someone like Valdez or Martinez at the bottom of the lineup would be easier to tolerate if, in fact, they help absolutely seal the left side of the infield defensively.

    But even with the holes in Betemit's offensive game, I find it very difficult to believe that the slap-hitting Valdez and Martinez can be more productive all-around players. And I'm thinking/hoping Betemit is a home run away from reminding people of this.

    Dodger manager Grady Little has indicated up to now that Betemit, who has notoriously struggled against lefties, will get a chance to prove himself as a full-time player. But if Martinez and Valdez so much as do anything positive today, a platoon may be inevitable.

    * * *

    With Betemit sitting today, it seems only natural that Luis Gonzalez should do so too. For this, the second of three consecutive day games, coming off a one-hit, no bungle game in the outfield that would enable him to rest with dignity, when there are no plans for him to play 162 games to begin with, I'm surprised a day off for Gonzalez isn't automatic. And it's not as if Andre Ethier is still worrying about when his first hit will come - Ethier doubled Saturday.

    This week, I've been inundated with so many quotes about how great a human being Gonzalez is that I'm a bit cowed to say anything too harshly against him. So I may have to ask some for forgiveness for speculating that the reason Ethier and Matt Kemp wouldn't start today in the outfield is because of a feeling that Gonzalez will sulk. I remember reading last year that Gonzalez was none too thrilled about having the kids in Arizona reduce his playing time. Maybe that was apochryphal - we know how that can happen, after all - but I simply can't understand why Ethier should have to be benched three times in a week while Gonzalez plays every day.

    Last season, Gonzalez OPSed .740 against lefties. The year before, .748. That's not good enough for a left fielder who rationalizes his poor defensive play with something along the lines of "I'm 39 - what do you expect." Frankly, that's not good enough even if, as Gonzalez suggested to Steve Henson of the Times, that his poor defense is merely a slump.

    In his past three games, after starting the season 0 for 7, Gonzalez is 5 for 11 with a walk. That's outstanding. But given that Ethier is a better fielder than Gonzalez and was a better hitter last season (including a small sample size .846 OPS against lefties), shouldn't Ethier get a chance for a similar rebound?

    * * *

    Today's game:


    Mr. Wilson Was No Menace
    2007-04-07 15:37
    by Jon Weisman

    As one of his solid detractors, I have to call out the great game Wilson Valdez had today: three hits, including a precise hit-and-run single, and flawless defense, shorthopping and backhanding balls and throwing bullets.

    Jon Weisman Update
    2007-04-07 11:44
    by Jon Weisman

    Wayne State first baseman Jon Weisman is on a tear in his senior season. Entering the year with a career OPS of .970, Weisman homered five times in a six-game stretch and now has an on-base percentage of .418, slugging percentage of .711 and OPS of 1.129. He has seven home runs in 76 at-bats.

    Previously on Dodger Thoughts: "Namesake Revisited," April 25, 2005 and "Topple-ganger," March 21, 2003.

    * * *

    Today at Cardboard Gods: Davey Lopes. Rated T for Teen.

    * * *

    Today's 12:55 p.m. game:


    Names in the News
    2007-04-06 22:08
    by Jon Weisman

  • Brad Penny: Kept the ball all around the plate, and the Giants made contact but couldn't do anything with it. Better offensive teams might not let him get away with what the Giants did, but you can't say he didn't do his job. A good first start of the season.

  • Russell Martin: Awesome defensively. Threw out two baserunners, blocked the plate on a throw home, and threw out Dave Roberts on a tough bunt.

  • Luis Gonzalez: Had two hits and made one good defensive play, throwing on target to Ramon Martinez. But dropped a Barry Bonds flyball in most distressing fashion. Honestly, we may have a Timmy Lupus, doubt-on-every-flyball situation here. Announcers keep trotting out that "I'm 39 - what you see is what you get" quote of Gonzalez's as if it's a good thing.

  • Ramon Martinez: Seemed to be all over the place tonight, making plays, including the key relay from Gonzalez to Martin. Biggest game he has had since his 16th-inning home run last August. Penny was the obvious choice for player of the game, but it's not shocking that Fox gave the honors to Martinez.

  • Juan Pierre: Hit into a double play and somehow wasn't able to catch an eighth-inning fly ball that was about a 6 in degree of difficulty. He certainly was running hard, but the ball seemed to be in the air forever. By the by, the speedy Dodgers don't have a triple or a stolen-base attempt yet this season.

  • Matt Kemp: Scored the scratchiest Dodger run of the season on an infield hit, error, wild pitch and fielder's choice.

  • Joe Beimel: Unflustered by Gonzalez's mistake and the ensuing intentional walk to Ray Durham that put the go-ahead run on base, struck out Ryan Klesko with seeming ease.

  • Nomar Garciaparra and Jeff Kent: Didn't hit for distance, but their double-single combo was enough to make a difference.

  • Takashi Saito: Two more hits allowed, but a called strike three on Dave Roberts shows he can still fool 'em.

    The pitching staff allowed 12 hits but still won throwing only 118 pitches.

    The Dodgers have lost more easily than they have won, so it's not an overwhelming 2-2, but it's 2-2 nonetheless.

    Update: James Loney went 0 for 5 for AAA Las Vegas on Friday and is hitless in eight at-bats since his first-pitch homer Thursday. Andy LaRoche and Tony Abreu were each 2 for 6 (LaRoche had an error). Delwyn Young was 3 for 5 with two doubles. Starting pitcher D.J. Houlton allowed two unearned runs and six baserunners in 4 2/3 innings while striking out five.

    For AA Jacksonville, William Juarez (seven innings) and Jonathan Meloan (two innings, fiveyesfive strikeouts) combined for a shutout.

  • Two for One
    2007-04-06 18:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Yes, it hurt when the Dodgers lost, but how many minded when the Brewers won?

    Now, we're on to San Francisco. Double the stakes. Dig in ...


    I Hate Predictions
    2007-04-06 09:10
    by Jon Weisman

    I really don't like making predictions about who will play in October. I think they're pretty useless the moment they're published, and their sole value seems to be to allow readers to point out how wrong you were. Which I usually am.

    So I was glad that when Baseball Analysts invited me to chit-chat about the National League West, I was mostly allowed to just think out loud in a way that doesn't force me to, you know, be right.

    Even at the end, when asked to predict the final NL West standings, I had free reign to undermine my own picks. Anyway, hope you enjoy the chat, which can be found here - Rich Lederer, Patrick Sullivan and Geoff Young have a whole lot of insights to share.

    Darryl Stingley and J.R. Richard
    2007-04-05 07:47
    by Jon Weisman

    Every now and then, something takes me back to the 1970s, my family's third decade as season-ticket holders for the Rams, when football was a big part of my life.

    The news of the passing of Darryl Stingley, whose paralysis from a hit by Jack Tatum introduced me to the harsh dangers of sports, just ... I don't know. It just stops me.

    It comes just seeing former Rams quarterback James Harris' name appear in all the Eddie Robinson obituaries and after Jeff Pearlman of reminded people of the talent of J.R. Richard, still the most intimidating pitcher in my mind that I recall from my childhood.

    I can't believe how many years are passing.

    * * *

    A study in contrasts: In the overnight comments, GoBears points out that for a stretch of 11 batters in the middle of Wednesday's game, the Dodgers took three pitches.

    This sandwiched the period when Dodger starting pitcher Jason Schmidt walked three batters in a row with two out in the fifth inning.

    "I just couldn't get them to bite at the pitches I wanted them to," Schmidt told Tony Jackson of the Daily News. "They were really patient at the plate."

    In the Dodgers' three-run eighth inning, the team took 20 pitches. Too many other factors were at play to draw any conclusions, not the least of which is the different pitchers on the mound for Milwaukee, but I wonder if the Dodgers paid attention to the Brewers' offensive approach.

    Loney Will Be Fine
    2007-04-04 23:21
    by Jon Weisman

    James Loney, as Randy Jackson (not the ex-ballplayer or Jackson 5 member) would say, I feel you, dog.

    But I'm not alarmed by Loney's frustration, expressed most recently through Ken Gurnick at

    When told Saturday night he was being sent back to the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s, Loney was told by management that he's ready for the Major Leagues, but the opportunity doesn't currently exist. Loney then told the team if a trade to another club is necessary to create that opportunity, he'd welcome it.

    "He didn't demand it. He suggested it as an option," said Joe Urbon, Loney's agent. "He was the best hitter in the Minor Leagues last year and they re-signed Nomar Garciaparra for two years. If James only gets to the Major Leagues when Nomar gets hurt, he could be sitting around until 2009. No one wants to be a Dodger more than James. But he's disappointed and frustrated. As he said, he can't help the [Dodgers] in Las Vegas." ...

    Urbon said the club's response to Loney's comments was "diplomatic." Urbon also said Loney understands the club can afford to keep him on ice as insurance for Garciaparra, who has an extensive injury history.

    "On that point, no one can fault them. They are the envy of every organization to have that luxury," said Urbon. "But don't say to the player you can't sit on the bench after signing a guy ahead of you for two years. It's hard to accept."

    Loney's situation, I have to say at the risk of once more revealing my utter self-absorbtion, reminds me much of my own when I was pursuing sportswriting full time.

    I was still working toward the long-term goal of becoming a columnist and the more immediate carrot of the soon-to-be-available UCLA beat, for which I was next in line. So I was willing to do the grunt work. For that matter, the belief that once I got a story, even a tough story, that I would tell the story better than anyone else, buoyed me. ...

    On another Friday, a few weeks later, Vacek told me I wouldn't get the UCLA beat. They were going to go outside the paper to hire someone (it ended up being Mark Alesia of the Press-Enterprise, if memory serves). Vacek told me I needed more seasoning. I said I had broken plenty of stories and that I didn't think this decision was right.

    Vacek then said, essentially, that he was tired of staffers coming into his office all the time asking for promotions, which astonished me. Ambition was now a character flaw. This was too much. I was 24 years old. I was way the hell too old to listen to that kind of blustering.

    An acceptance from the Master's in English program at Georgetown already in hand, I decided to give my two week's notice on my way back to my desk and officially did so Monday morning.

    I paid a pretty steep price for going my own way. Peers of mine at the Daily News and the Times, not to mention writers a decade younger, are all over the place holding major beats and writing columns and appearing on radio and television. And in the years that passed, I learned that almost no job is perfect. They each tend to come with their own stresses or unpleasantness or lack of fulfillment, in one fashion or another.

    Obviously, that did not close the door on my writing about sports completely, and it's nice to do it now on my own terms. ...

    The point I'd like to make is that frustration itself isn't a sin, and I think the Dodgers understand that. Loney's words won't change what's important in Ned Colletti's mind: a) what's Loney worth on the trade market and b) what's Loney worth to the Dodgers. In short, Loney can help the Dodgers while in Las Vegas, by reinforcing or increasing his value.

    No matter the frustration, no matter his eventual fate, Loney can only help himself and his team by being productive. Unless he's got plans to learn literary theory in college, that's what I expect he'll be.

    * * *

    Regarding the Dodgers' plans to have the entire team wear No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day, April 15, I guess we should be grateful the names are on the backs of the jerseys. Unless all those names say "Robinson."

    I probably shouldn't joke, though it strikes me inescapably as a little goofy, almost like everyone's trying a little too hard. However, in intent at least and perhaps even in execution, it's a wonderful gesture. I'll be at Dodger Stadium that night, and I think I'll need the entire night in context to judge.

    Aren't We Already Carpooling?
    2007-04-04 16:15
    by Jon Weisman

    Acknowledging that they don't have enough legitimate parking spaces to handle a sold-out crowd of typical Southern California drivers, the Dodgers are offering incentives to those who carpool and arrive early – really early – for the home opener Monday: a free ticket to a future game if you are in one of the first 600 cars parking in Lot 15 between 9:30 and 10:15 a.m., plus early access to batting practice.

    The thing is, the whole idea of pushing for people to carpool to Dodger Stadium seems beside the point. We're not talking about drivers going to work, which is often a solitary affair because people from the same neighborhood don't necessarily go to the same place at the same time – and crisscrossing neighborhoods to pick up Dagwood takes longer than you might have to spare. It's much more common for people to go to Dodger Stadium in groups. It's a social event, after all: one time, one place, friends and family, bonding over baseball.

    Most automobiles headed for the ballpark, I would hazard to say, already hold at least one passenger. (And in the case of Driver's Training vehicles, more than one driver.)

    On the other hand, there is something to be said for getting more cars to arrive early at the game – though the one thing the home opener has going for it is that many people choose to make a day of it at the festivities-filled game, starting with an early arrival. Though I don't know how fair it is to those with logistical constraints, the responsible move for the Dodgers, both pragmatically and as a public relations gambit (assuming the organization wants to preserve its no-tailgating policy), might be for them to discount the parking fee for those who arrive 45 minutes or more before gametime. (In the future, maybe the development of fan-friendly fun beyond center field will change the dynamic.)

    In addition, there might be something to be said for inviting fans to stay later at the ballpark, instead of shooing them out. I'll never forget the day I brought a book to a summertime day game, planning to while away the postgame hours – in a park, after all – only to be kicked out of my seat within a half-hour of the final pitch.

    Here's the bottom line, though.

    In the end, we can carp all day long about how neither the Dodgers nor our city, county, state or nation of residence have facilitated public transportation down to Chavez Ravine and up the hill to Dodger Stadium. But it may simply be up to us to pick up the ball where they've dropped it, to rise above their failings, to heed the better drivers of our nature by somehow carpooling beyond our current level and leaving earlier for the game than one would have ever thought feasible.

    It's up to you. To paraphrase a Dodger Stadium peanut vendor's favorite quote, "Get busy living, or get busy whining."

    * * *

    Tonight's game:


    Breaking Down Luis Gonzalez
    2007-04-04 09:03
    by Jon Weisman

    I've been thinking for a while now that Luis Gonzalez could be this year's version of Fred McGriff 2003, an aging left-handed hitter with home-run notoriety that quite simply might not survive the season in the starting lineup.

    So while it's unfair to Gonzalez to jump to any conclusions two games into the season, I'm writing about this today because 1) I was jumping to these conclusions before the season started, and 2) Gonzalez's poor hitting and fielding at the outset is on everyone's minds.

    McGriff actually came to the Dodgers with better numbers than Gonzalez did - an EQA of .293 in his 2002 season, compared to .271 EQA by Gonzalez in 2006. For a short time in 2003, McGriff also defied complete hopelessness against left-handed pitching, which he had gravitated toward at the tail end of his career. And - something we should all keep in mind - after a .687 OPS in April, he heated up to .909 in May.

    But then McGriff broke down. Due to injuries and ineffectiveness, he reached base 35 times over the season's final four months.

    After Tuesday's game, when Gonzalez told Steve Henson of the Times "I'm not 21 either, but I go out there and play hard," it reminded me of this passage from Dodger Thoughts four years ago.

    This weekend, Jim Tracy held a 20-plus minute meeting with the players to get them to refocus their hitting approach. Despite his four hits in Sunday's game, McGriff didn't profess to get much out of the discussion:

    "It was the same thing that every manager says - we've got to play better," McGriff said. "We all know what we've got to do, you know what I'm saying? I know what I have to do. I have to play well and I have to hit. Other guys have to pitch well."

    Fred also compared himself to Tiger Woods. He wasn't saying he was as good at ... well, anything, as Tiger Woods. But McGriff was saying that people need to be patient, because everyone has to make adjustments. Just like Tiger Woods.

    Just like Zippy Chippy, too. No one really debates whether people have to make adjustments. The question is, can you make the adjustments?

    Can Gonzalez?

    Looking like the worst left fielder in baseball history isn't indicative of Gonzalez's true performance. He can still get hot - for a week, for a month, what have you. He'll have his "I told you so" moments. But there is reason for pessimism over the course of the season. Gonzalez is barely a league-average hitter. By his own admission, he is limited defensively.

    We don't know for sure whether Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp or James Loney - whichever one isn't playing in left field or languishing in Las Vegas - would do better this season. We don't. And we do know that they could do worse. If you peg Gonzalez at, say, a .260 EQA for 2007, there's no guarantee the others will match that.

    But I know which horse I wouldn't be backing for the stretch run.

    This discussion is moot, of course. It's not as if Gonzalez will be benched in the first week of the season. Short of an actual injury - and don't start rooting for people to get hurt - these things follow a pattern. A slumping veteran with clubhouse cachet gets rested a day to get his head together. Then, if he continues to slump, another day. Then maybe a couple of days. Then, even if the young replacement hits, the vet gets put back in the lineup to see if he can rejuvenate himself. Lather, rinse, repeat. Only after a solid investment of time would a manager initiate the difficult conversation.

    For Kemp and Ethier to play together in the Dodger outfield ahead of Gonzalez, they're going to have to do more than have potential. They have to do more than be as good as Gonzalez. They have to be measurably better. Otherwise, it's just not worth the angst for manager Grady Little to flip things around.

    Out of 344 position players in baseball, the Dodger starting outfield Tuesday ranks in the bottom 10 in VORP, according to Baseball Prospectus. There's job security for the taking, if anyone wants it.

    Sopranos Chat at Screen Jam
    2007-04-04 09:01
    by Jon Weisman

    The final nine episodes of The Sopranos will start one-by-oneing the cablewaves Sunday. For Variety, I supervised a special section that celebrates The Sopranos: The Final Season with articles on almost every aspect of production.

    Here's my lead story:

    While the television world slept in the winter of 1999, "The Sopranos" woke up one morning and got itself a gun.

    Creatively, "The Sopranos" shot to No. 1 with a bullet. Eight years later, as the series heads into its final nine episodes (beginning Sunday), its cold-blooded impact on the industry is still a marvel to those who remember life before Tony Soprano and his crew.

    "The first season of 'The Sopranos' is one of the most essential, transformative moments in TV history," Newsweek television critic Devin Gordon says. "It's arguably the best season of television that's ever aired, but beyond that, it challenged every artist, every viewer and every fan of culture to reconsider some long-held notions about the medium of television: that it was cheap and disposable, that it could be quality at its best but never art." ...

    The section hits newsstands Thursday and looks even better in print, so check it out.

    In the meantime, talk about The Sopranos or any other entertainment topics today at Screen Jam.

    Guy Caballero
    2007-04-03 14:40
    by Jon Weisman

    The span of 12 years between appearances in a Dodger uniform by reliever Rudy Caballero Seanez is among the longest in team history, according to team spokesman Josh Rawitch. Only Patsy Donovan (1890, 1906) and Vicente Romo (1968, 1982) exceed Seanez. Bobo Newsom also went 12 years according to the calendar (1930, 1942).

    Seanez had a 2.66 ERA with the Dodgers in 1994 but 6.75 in 1995. In his last game with the team before Monday, Seanez allowed a game-winning, 11th-inning home run to Philadelphia's Charlie Hayes on August 24, 1995.

    Delino DeShields went 4 for 5 in that game with what would have been a game-winning home run in the top of the eighth, except Todd Worrell blew the save in the ninth. DeShields is three months younger than Seanez.

    * * *

    In regards to Luis Gonzalez's struggles Monday, Tony Jackson offers this point-of-view shot from left field at Milwaukee's Miller Park.

    * * *

    Tonight's game:


    Matt Kemp is batting sixth. Ramon Martinez gets another start ahead of Wilson Valdez and will bat eighth.

    Keywords: Baseball, Life
    2007-04-03 09:07
    by Jon Weisman

    I'd just like to take this opportunity in between games to make sure readers are introduced to Cardboard Gods, Josh Wilker's fascinating blog that he has just brought to the Toaster. If it's possible to curl up to a good blog, this might be it.

    Voices Carry
    2007-04-02 15:37
    by Jon Weisman

    You can hear me tonight on Warren Olney's "Which Way, L.A.?" on KCRW and at I'll mostly be saying things out loud that you've already heard as an interior monologue while reading Dodger Thoughts.

    As far as today's game goes: Stuff happens. One game. I do wonder, however, whether the outfield play of Luis Gonzalez and Juan Pierre will start to eat at Grady Little if it continues to be erratic.

    I guess Little did leave Kenny Lofton down there, after all. But Lofton had that on-base percentage thing going ...

    Let's Go, Batter Up - We're Taking the Afternoon Off (In Our Minds)
    2007-04-02 01:28
    by Jon Weisman

    You can throw out the regular-season records for this tilt: Dodgers at Brewers, 11:05 a.m.!

    Gameday, if you dare


    CBS Sportsline

    * * *

    The Hardball Times is promising to regularly update John Dewan's revised version of Zone Rating during the season. For those who aren't aware, here's the key change:

    In the original Zone Rating, if a ball is hit outside of your zone but you range far enough to make a play anyway, that ball is added to both your plays made and your chances. The effect of this is to underrate players with outstanding range. Here's an illustration:

    Take two shortstops, call them Billy and Jason. Both players have three ground balls hit near them, two in the shortstop zone and one just beyond it, hit straight up the middle. Jason makes plays on the two hit in his zone but cannot reach the other ball. Billy makes one play in his zone, makes an error on the other, but makes a great play on the ball hit up the middle.

    The zone rating for Jason is a perfect 2/2. For Billy, its 2/3, even though both players have had the same opportunities, and recorded the same number of outs. The new Zone rating treats these plays differently. Balls in zone counts only those hit into your zone, and there is a separate category for balls fielded outside your zone.

    * * *

    Get a load of the Dodger talent born on April 2, 1945, as Rob McMillin reminds us at 6-4-2: Reggie Smith and Don Sutton. And Mike Kekich, who went 2-10 in 1968, but still ...

    * * *

    Update: has introduced a new baseball blog called Fungoes, and the plan is for me to write about the National League West every week. Here's my inaugural Fungo:

    Let me begin with a disclaimer: I have a soft spot for the state of Colorado. I'm a sucker for its mountains and mountain air, its entire outdoors-infused, breathmint-fresh way of life. The most mundane activity takes on a cleaner, crisper feel when I picture it at Rocky Mountain High.

    Colorado's baseball team has been sort of a reality-check to this travel-brochure fantasy. The Rockies have begun most baseball seasons DOA. It has been more than six years since their last winning season and more than 11 since their one and only playoff appearance, which immediately went downhill when Don Baylor's managing left Colorado with pitcher Lance Painter (10 career hits) striking out as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded at the end of a 5-4 defeat in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

    Look around the Internet, and few expect the Rockies to put an end to their misfortune in 2007. But there's a wind blowing out of Denver -- one that perhaps should send a little shiver down the spines of the Rockies' National League West rivals. ...

    Alex Belth of Bronx Banter will be handling the AL East.

    Update 2: Matt Kemp will start in right tomorrow, according to Ken Gurnick of Larry Bigbie agreed to go to Las Vegas, ending that drama.

    Meanwhile, Wilson Valdez may be around for a while longer, as Rafael Furcal might not return this week.

    Gurnick adds that Yhency Brazoban may appear in a minor-league rehabilitation assignment next week.

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