Monthly archives: August 2007
More Surgery for Wolf
From Ken Gurnick at MLB.com:
Randy Wolf's season, which started with nine wins before the All-Star break, will end Wednesday with exploratory arthroscopic shoulder surgery. ...
The operation will initially be diagnostic and if damage is found, it will be fixed during the procedure. It will be performed by Dr. Lewis Yocum and Dr. Neal El Attrache at Kerlan-Jobe Clinic. Yocum performed Wolf's Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in 2005.
"I know something is not right," said a devastated Wolf. "I know my body. I learned from my elbow about the reliability of MRIs. It seems like 30 percent of the time."
Wolf tried to pitch with a torn elbow ligament for two seasons in Philadelphia, finally having Tommy John surgery and returning healthy last year. He suspects pitching through that pain might have led to whatever shoulder problem he has.
"If they find nothing, I'd be surprised," he said. "I know I tried to do everything I could. It just didn't work out. It's really unfortunate. I went in understanding the risk. There were three-year contracts I left on the table. I took that gamble. I lost. I'd do it again."
Emphasis mine. But I wish him the best.
This Associated Press article adds that Wolf "felt pain in his shoulder while throwing last weekend."
Update: Chih-Hui Tsao has also been shut down for the rest of the season, reports Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise.
Fernandomania Will Never Die
Everyone in New York is excited about the scoreless start to Joba Chamberlain's Yankee career. And the kudos are deserved.
Still, to put it in perspective, let's recall the beginning of Fernando Valenzuela's career.
Valenzuela allowed two unearned runs in his first game, ruling out any chance for him to go off on a career-starting scoreless streak. Nevertheless, he went 34 2/3 innings before he allowed his first career earned run.
Here's how he did in his first 80 2/3 career innings: 77 strikeouts, two earned runs, 0.22 ERA.
Remarkable. Has any pitcher ever had a lower career ERA at any point that was 0.01 or greater?
Valenzuela allowed two earned runs in his next game, then four on May 18, 1981, when he finally took his first career loss.
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Dodger Thoughts supporter CoachJPark, the unofficial record-holder for fastest ceremonial first pitch thrown at Dodger Stadium, is offering tickets for the September 11 game against the Padres. If you're interested, don't hesitate to e-mail him.
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If you have sent me an e-mail in the past day ... week ... month ... summer ... and I haven't responded, I truly apologize. (Unless you're a spammer.) My lack of reply probably indicates that I intend to write something meaningful, but I just keep falling behind. I will try to catch up.
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Arms for the Poor
One of the points I've tried to make all summer is that as much as the Dodgers have struggled to pull together a starting rotation after injuries, the team is not alone. That's the basis for my latest column for SI.com:
The season's on the line. Every game counts. And so, of course, that's why you've been seeing Fabio Castro, Horacio Ramirez and Jo-Jo Reyes on the mound.
MLB Starting Pitchers, August 20-26
Note: All statistics are for before the pitcher's start. For those pitchers who started two games in one week, the date of their first start is listed.
As soon as next week, after rosters expand, Nomar Garciaparra, Andy LaRoche and Tony Abreu could join the Dodgers' active squad. Who should be the regular at third base?
Garciaparra will get dibs, but if he's healthy, Andy LaRoche should get a long look. His walks earlier in the season with the Dodgers were underrated, and now his power has come on.
Porter Back on the Air with KLAC
Former Dodger announcer Ross Porter is returning to the airwaves on a regular basis, shortly but sweetly.
Beginning October 1, "Real Sports Heroes with Ross Porter," 90-second vignettes produced and narrated by Porter, will air every weekday afternoon on KLAC at 5:25.
"I've been in sports all my life," Porter said in a press release. "I'm tired of getting up every morning and reading the sports pages or listening to the sports talk shows when the stories are about an NBA referee fixing games, an NFL quarterback torturing dogs, cyclists being kicked out for the Tour de France because they're using drugs, and an allegedly tainted slugger breaking the home run record ... and on and on and on.
"There are people in sports who are doing positive things, and we want to focus on them. I think the public is craving for good news. We have been very fortunate in finding some fantastic and inspirational stories."
Porter developed the idea with his wife, Lin, and his agent, George Green.
Scott Proctor might need to rest for days, after throwing 45 pitches over three shutout innings (barely surviving the 12th).
On the other hand, look at what overwork has done for Russell Martin: a .942 OPS in August, including a double in the bottom of the 12th to send Jeff Kent (4 for 5) to third base and set up Shea Hillenbrand for the game-winning sacrifice fly (after Hillenbrand earlier hit a game-tying homer as the Dodgers rallied from five down). And Takashi Saito threw a shutout inning for the fourth day in a row. Thankfully, Thursday is an off day for Los Angeles.
Laurels also go to Matt Kemp, who has been unfairly lambasted in the press for making a few mistakes on the bases, as if this were an ongoing problem of his all season or as if veterans weren't also making bonehead plays. Kemp reminded everyone he's the best slugger on the team with his home run. And James Loney drove in four runs himself.
For pondering: Is the sacrifice fly becoming the symbol of this Dodger season?
Dodgers Add Loaiza
The A's, who had him signed through the 2008 season, floated Loaiza on the waiver wire to see if anyone would claim him, and the Dodgers have. As Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reports, "The teams did not complete a trade for Loaiza; the A's simply allowed the Dodgers to assume the rest of Loaiza's contract less than $1 million this season, plus Loaiza's entire $7 million salary for 2008."
So this isn't just a short-term, David Wells-type pickup. Loaiza is meant to help the Dodgers in September as well as next season.
Loaiza, who turns 36 this New Year's Eve, had a brilliant season in 2003, posting a 154 ERA+. From 2004-2006, he was average to below-average, before succumbing to injuries this year. As far as the stretch run goes, yes, I would give the recovered Loaiza a shot on the hill before Eric Stults (or David Wells, for that matter). Though I feel that Stults hasn't been given enough credit for the quality of his work, it's not as if his credentials are better than Loaiza's. On the other hand, it's a pretty thin line between all these guys, Mark Hendrickson and maybe even Brett Tomko. The main source of any faith I have in Loaiza is that he went at least seven innings in each of those two starts this month. This is like April or May for him.
As for 2008, Loaiza will join a rotation that in theory would include Brad Penny, Chad Billingsley, Derek Lowe and a diminished Jason Schmidt, with Hong-Chih Kuo waiting in the wings. Essentially, Loaiza is a straight-up replacement of Randy Wolf; his signing almost certainly means the Dodgers will buy out Wolf's 2008 contract option, a sad ending for Wolf as far as his attempted homecoming goes. It also means that pitchers like James McDonald, Clayton Kershaw and Scott Elbert would get more seasoning although, of course, injuries to any of the incumbent Dodger starters could happen at any time.
One thing about the Dodgers is that they have been fairly aggressive in removing failing starting pitchers from the rotation when they have healthy alternatives. Hendrickson and Tomko were always looking over their shoulders. If Loaiza proves to be mediocre next season, and McDonald continues to pitch well, I don't think the Dodgers would hesitate long to make a switch.
Still, with the way the Dodgers have been flinging money around the past two weeks, I still don't understand why draft pick Kyle Blair could not be signed. And I wonder if we'll find the A's were shrewd to let their remaining $8 million investment in Loaiza go just as he appears to be recovered.
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Today's 12:10 p.m. game:
2007 Dodger leaders in games started
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Stadium Renovations Continue From the Bottom Up and Inside Out
As discussed at Dodger Thoughts Day last month, the next phase of Dodger Stadium renovations will involve the concessions and restrooms. The Dodgers held a press conference today to offer the media some details.
A good amount of attention has been given to improving worker conditions, which are important in and of themselves, but which I also hope (but am not entirely convinced) will lead to better service. As I've expressed before, the Dodgers can make all the renovations in the world, but if the manpower isn't more effective on a nightly basis, people will still complain. We'll just have to see.
Also noteworthy is that the renovations seem focused on the stadium's field level. Other levels, apparently, will be improved in future years. Here are some excerpts from the press release:
The multi-million dollar construction project will expand the Field Level concourse to include nearly double the number of points of sale and restrooms, two new all-inclusive clubs for baseline seat ticket holders and a new energy-efficient and environmentally friendly cooling system.
With this redesign, all concession stands will now be served by the kitchen space behind them and those kitchens will be sized to produce and distribute the amount of food required for the number of patrons on each level. The ergonomically designed workspace will be outfitted with brand new state-of-the-art equipment, from grills, to refrigerators, to soda dispensers and ice cream machines and grilled Dodger Dogs will now be available at every concession stand on the Field Level. The addition of a new stadium-wide cooling system will lower temperatures in the workspace and all concession stands now will be fully compliant with ADA standards from both an employee and customer standpoint.
"With the upgrade in technology and improved work conditions workers will be able to better serve the Dodger fans," said Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary and Treasurer, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.
The widened concourses will feature a monochromatic color scheme utilizing stainless steel, gray tile, architectural metal panels, concrete, textured wall coating, and sculptured architectural panels accented with yellow highlights, which is consistent with the seat color on the Field Level. Taking hints from the existing language of the building, the open, airy concourse will provide more space for fans to move throughout the concourse and improve the lighting scheme and signage.
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Joe Sheehan and Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus had an interesting point-counterpoint today about the firing of Houston general manager Tim Purpura. Here's an excerpt from Silver's piece that I quote because it has relevance to Dodger fans:
There are 30 general manager jobs throughout baseball, and probably at least two or three times as many executives working in the game today who nominally have the resumes to fill those positions that is before considering the "outside-the-box" candidates outside the close circle of the industry. However, like the field manager's job, or perhaps the quarterback position in the NFL, it is generally much easier to eliminate patently unqualified candidates than to determine which of the credentialed lot are really going to add value when they step into the office every day. Under those circumstances when there are people like David Forst and Chris Antonetti and Kim Ng sitting around waiting for the musical chairs to rotate you need to perform.
Make no mistake: the general manager's job is exceptionally difficult. Unless you have an exceptionally strong infrastructure around you, you need to have formidable skills in both player development and performance analysis, a formal and informal aptitude for the economics of the talent market, and the people skills to appeal to a wide diversity of constituents (the media, your manager, your owner, your players, the 29 other general managers, and your junior staff). You need to be exceptionally good at multitasking, and you need to work exceptionally long hours under high-stress conditions, probably for much less compensation than you could make in the business world. I keep repeating this world "exceptional", but that is exactly what the general manager needs to be; it is extremely unusual to find this set of aptitudes within one person.
Moreover, the general manager's job is to a large extent a zero-sum position. You can be the 25th best general manager in baseball, and you're still losing ground relative to your peers, just like the 9th best poker player in the world will lose money if the eight better players are sitting at the table with him. What you want, ideally, is for your general manager to be within the top half of the active GMs in baseball, or to have the potential to join that group with a moderate amount of additional experience. From the available evidence, Tim Purpura was not among the top half of baseball GMs today, and, I don't know that he has more potential to become so than someone like Antonetti or Ng.
Andrew Grant also has a worthy piece about the relationship between Dodger general manager Ned Colletti and risk at True Blue L.A.
Selling high on a player is a risk. There's the guarantee you're going to get slammed by the media initially, plus the risk that no one will let you forget it if the player doesn't come back down to Earth. Even if the guy never does a thing after you trade him, people will still rip on the move, generally with an argument containing the words "who's to say" (the Lo Duca clause). If you sell low, no one but obsessed people like me will care. The media will give you kudos for getting rid of a struggling player, and unless that person goes on to be a hall of famer, it's likely there won't be any notice if the player succeeds elsewhere. No one that actually matters is calling for Ned's head because Werth has found success elsewhere. For all the reasons that the media hated Paul DePodesta, no one with a voice has made one peep about getting rid of Shane Victorino. Similar things happen if you buy low. ...
A good GM needs to be bold. A good GM needs to take risks. If you just sit there and make safe acquisitions all day, you just turn the game into an auction for overvalued talent, and that's a game that no team but the Yankees can win. Until Ned Colletti starts making moves that have some chance at upside with some risk attached, we'll be watching the same type of mediocrity we've been accustomed to the last 20 years.
The last thing I want to do is knock Ramon Martinez after driving in runs in six consecutive games (10 RBI in that period), so just consider this a little perspective. With the bases empty this season, Martinez is 7 for 62 with four walks and a double: .167 on-base percentage, .129 slugging percentage.
With runners on, Martinez is 16 for 59 with six walks and three doubles: .314 OBP, .322 slugging.
A relief of a comeback win for the Dodgers on Monday, after Derek Lowe surrendered an early lead. Martinez had the game-winning RBI, and a thrilling double play ended the game.
August 27 Game Chat
Wells vs. Stults
One starter faced 23 Mets batters; the other faced 24. One starter's performance was deemed inspirational; the other's desultory.
Now, I was out of the house all weekend and I didn't see the games. So I'll ask those who did watch: If you scored David Wells vs. Eric Stults like a prize fight, was there really that much to separate the two?
Leading off my post at SI.com's Fungoes today, I speculate what a difference it made in the playoff race for the Dodgers when Greg Maddux went from Los Angeles to San Diego. (My father provided the inspiration for this idea.)
There might be all kinds of reasons why the San Diego Padres are 3 ½ games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the wild-card race, but perhaps this is the simplest: Greg Maddux.* * *
It's time to offer your opinion on the defensive abilities of the Dodgers at Tangotiger's 2007 Scouting Report by the Fans for the Fans.
Key points: A ranking of average should refer not to an average player at his particular position, but an average player at any position. And don't look at any fielding statistics - just rely on what you've observed.
August 26 Game Chat
Thoughts From the Southeast
How Tampa Bay manager and former Angels coach Joe Maddon approaches the use of statistics, as told to David Laurila of Baseball Prospectus:
Andrew and James Click supply me with a lot. I get the regular packet on a daily basis, and I go to ESPN.com and look at what's presented there. Then, Clicker presents me with this analysis based on groundball and flyball percentages, like, is this guy a groundball or flyball pitcher, and do hitters with a bit of an uppercut maybe have a better opportunity to hit against him than someone who is more of a flat-swinger. This is the kind of stuff I've paid attention to in the past, but now the information is there to look at, and it's backed up by numbers. So I might make a decision of who to play based on whether someone appears (on the printout) in blue, or if they appear in red, which is a negative, or in black, which is more neutral. Then I'll try to read into it deeper to see if there's anything I can use to exploit a matchup. Another thing I'll do is look at the opposing pitcher to see how he's been doing recently, and sometimes I'll look at box scores to see how he did in right-on-right, or right-on-left, matchups against certain hitters I'm pretty knowledgeable about. I'm telling you man, when I'm trying to set this thing up on a daily basis, I'm looking at a variety of sources of information. I'm always looking for an edge. My mind never really shuts off. ...
The notion of the 'old school'- it's very difficult to get someone from that genre to want to study stats and analyze them as a method of making decisions. Instead, it's going to be primarily based on previous history, gut reaction, and whatever the book says. That's where the old school differs, and I'm not saying it's wrong, but that group just wasn't used to having all of this information available to make a decision. Of course, that group will make fun of this group, because in their minds the decisions are being made by a computer as opposed to good old baseball common sense. That always makes me laugh, because to me the best way to make decisions is to combine that good old baseball common sense with the information that is available - then you morph into this even better baseball mind. Somebody mentioned to me that they think I'm a pretty good combination of the old and new school, and I think that's the highest compliment I've been given as a manager and an instructor.
Regarding ex-Dodger Edwin Jackson, who is enjoying a fine second half, Maddon added the following:
When you look at Edwin Jackson this year, and how he started out, it would be easy to say that in most places he'd be long gone by now. But we're developing him into what he's going to be in the future, which is a power pitcher who can throw his 99th pitch at 99 miles per hour.
It's Always Something
Brett Tomko "pitched early in the season with a back stress reaction." (Ken Gurnick, MLB.com)
David Wells "threw a light side session, saying later it was the first time he had thrown off a mound since being designated for assignment by San Diego on Aug. 9." (Tony Jackson, Daily News)
Update: A couple days when it was really bad, I didn't think I was going to be able to pitch, but I got put out there," Tomko said. (Diamond Leung, Press-Enterprise)
Trainer Stan Conte confirmed the back issue, but neither he nor Manager Grady Little believed it to be serious enough to warrant a disabled list stint.
"We never heard of anything that would be bad enough to keep him from pitching," Little said. "Everyone has ailments."
Update 2: From the press notes:
Dodger first baseman James Loney currently owns the largest differential between home and road slugging since 1957 among all players with a minimum of 225 plate appearances. Loney is slugging .280 at Dodger Stadium and .702 away from Chavez Ravine, a difference of .445. The next closest player on the list in Glenn Davis, who slugged .724 on the road in 1990 and just .349 at the Astrodome, good for a difference of .375.
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Today's 12:55 p.m. game:
Dodgers Shed Tomko
From 1998 to 2005, Brett Tomko had one above-average season. On January 3, 2006, the Dodgers somehow thought it would be worth committing $8.7 million over two seasons, plus at least another $1 million to buy out a third-season option, in the hopes that Tomko could have one more good campaign.
Today, the Dodgers finally admitted it isn't going to happen, designating Tomko for assignment with just a week to go before rosters expand.
Also, the David Wells signing became official today - the Dodgers just sent out the press release.
"David is an established veteran and has a long track record of success," said Dodger general manger Ned Colletti. "He's a true competitor who has pitched well down the stretch numerous times, and we believe he can do so again this season."
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Today's 4:10 p.m. game:
More on Mota
Born on February 18, 1938, Manny Mota batted .337 after his 40th birthday. He played in 92 games after turning 40 - 91 as a pinch-hitter and one in the field, on May 25, 1979, the night the Dodgers hit seven home runs against Cincinnati. (Tom Seaver and Frank Pastore allowed 17 runs in a combined 4 1/3 innings.)
Mota's last hit was an RBI single October 5, 1980 - the day the Dodgers tied the Houston Astros for first place in the season's 162nd game, forcing a playoff. (No Dave Goltz/Fernando Valenzuela comments below, please.)
Mota also had a memorable 162nd game in 1977: On October 2, he hit his 31st and final career home run, pinch-hitting for Bobby Castillo (the man whom legend says taught Fernando Valenuela the screwball was making his first career major-league start). The opposing pitcher? Mr. James Rodney Richard, who struck out 14 Dodgers in a 6-3 victory.
His last stolen base came just over a week earlier, on September 23, 1977. With two out in the top of the 11th inning at Houston, Mota pinch-hit for Ron Washington with Glenn Burke on third base, and walked. He stole second - perhaps a concession to make sure Burke didn't try to come home. Lee Lacy struck out, and the Dodgers lost in the 12th.
Mota's penultimate game in the field, final career start and final game with more than one plate appearance was way back on July 12, 1977 at Houston. Mota singled to lead off the top of the second and grounded out to lead off the top of the fourth. Obscure but memorable Dodger John Hale pinch-hit for Mota in the top of the fifth and homered.
Mota's last complete game was June 22, 1976. He went 1 for 3 in a 6-0 shutout loss to the Reds' Fred Norman.
Mota's final error came in 1972, a season before he made his first and only All-Star Game. (Mota was batting .351 at the 1973 All-Star break.)
Mota's first career hit came April 21, 1962 - an RBI single in the eighth inning for the Giants. Mota entered that game as a pinch-hitter for Chuck Hiller in the top of the third.
Mota made his major league debut on April 16, 1962, flying out to center in a 19-8 Giants victory. His first career pinch-hitting at-bat was the following day, grounding out for Eddie Bowman in the ninth inning of an 8-7 loss. Both games, the opponent was the Dodgers.
You know who else appeared as a pinch-hitter for San Francisco that day? Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Don Larsen.
Reports: Dodgers Sign David Wells
In 11 games from May 15 to July 16, Wells pitched fewer than five innings once and allowed more than three runs once. In four subsequent starts before the Padres shed him, he allowed 26 runs in 16 2/3 innings. Guess the Dodgers are hoping inactivity is just what the Boomer ordered.
Update: A full list of over-40 Dodgers comes courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com. Wells, at age 44 and three months, would make the top 10:
1) Hoyt Wilhelm (49 and 11 1/2 months in final game as a Dodger)
At 42 and nine months, Roberto Hernandez is 11th.
McDonald Won't Be Serving Los Angeles for a While
James McDonald won't be coming up to pitch for the Dodgers, and it looks like a wise decision after all, reports Tony Jackson of the Daily News.
McDonald is 6-2 with a 1.65 ERA since his promotion from Single-A Inland Empire. But he also has thrown 125 2/3 innings this season, and his velocity, which reached the 92-93 mph range earlier in the season, is topping out now at 87-88. That probably is a sign he is tired, and that could be enough to dissuade club officials from calling him up this year.
So the Dodgers have conceded that we're stuck with Brett Tomko on Sunday in New York. This is a disappointment, but what needs to be done is simply plan to have Tomko on a short leash. As little potential as there is for him to provide six quality innings, he has a decent shot at three or four. Just plan to keep him on the shortest of leashes. Remove him at the first sign of trouble, not the fourth. And honestly, release or hide Roberto "one-inning max" Hernandez and call up D.J. Houlton or Eric Hull to back Tomko and Saturday starter Eric Stults up.
The last time I took the train was from Denver to Glenwood Springs, about five or six years ago. It took forever, but it was still fun for a change of pace.
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Early wakeup call, folks! Today's 10:05 a.m. game:
Update: James Loney and Andre Ethier have been benched so that Ramon Martinez can start in the infield and Luis Gonzalez in the outfield. (Shea Hillenbrand is playing first base.) This is exactly the kind of self-defeating behavior I was talking about Wednesday. Unless somebody's hurt, it's just not right.
Update 2: It isn't a story in the mainstream press when third-base coach Rich Donnelly waves home any number of runners to their doom, but when Matt Kemp makes a mistake ... oh, you kids. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has the details.
Also from Gurnick ... what do Billy Ashley and Ramon Martinez (II) have in common? And, Grady Little gets defensive ... sigh.
For Richer or Poorer
Do I ice her? Do I marry her? Which one of these?
Some people head into marriage full speed ahead. Others scrutinize their betrothed's looks and personality all the way to the altar. Neither is a surefire way to attract or avoid marital bliss. But at a certain point, scrutiny becomes tiresome for everyone involved.
The preacher has asked the Dodgers if it will take Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, James Loney to be their lawful, wedded starters, for richer and for poorer, and the Dodgers are so close to saying yes. But they're not quite there.
They're definitely on board with the "richer" part. It's "poorer" that gives them have second thoughts.
They are haunted by the ones that got away, by the ones they wished had got away, by older dalliances that they can't quite shake. They would rather have their hearts broken in a familiar way than a new way.
And so what we have here, gentlemen, is a failure to commit. Kemp and Ethier are sharing playing time with each other and Luis Gonzalez, while Loney has been benched (for either Mark Sweeney and Olmedo Saenz) twice in the past five games.
It's not that the Dodgers don't savor the thought of Kemp and Ethier and the white-picket outfield fence, or Loney patrolling their infield of dreams. It's as if they understand too well that marriage isn't a fantasy but a road with potholes, that divorce is painful.
Let's face it Loney, Kemp and Ethier do not come fully mature, nor do their cousins D.J. Houlton, Eric Hull, James McDonald or Jonathan Meloan. Any relationship with them brings inevitably uncomfortable or embarrassing times.
Meanwhile, just when you think Juan Pierre can't possibly have a decent month, he goes out and puts up a soothing .836 OPS in August, with eight steals in eight attempts.
Even Gonzalez, given up for dead, is OPSing .864 in his past seven games. Even Shea Hillenbrand, given up for dead, had four hits Saturday. Even Ramon Martinez, given up for dead, had three critical RBI on Sunday. Even Roberto Hernandez, given up for dead, pitched a scoreless 13th inning Saturday.
There are going to be ups and downs with in any relationship with a ballplayer. We know this. Over a given period of time, any player can look like a winner or a loser.
But at a certain point, you need to stop playing the field. At this time in the season, Grady Little and Ned Colletti should know enough about their organization to know who deserves their love.
Saenz, we know, cannot hit righthanders right now, if he can hit anyone.
Brett Tomko, we know, cannot give you a quality start.
Hernandez, we know, is a coin-toss when it comes to getting out of an inning without allowing runs.
Even though all have slumped at times this year, Kemp, Ethier and Loney have 2007 EQAs of .297, .285 and .286. The people they have shared playing time with, Gonzalez, Pierre and Saenz, are at .279, .255 and .231.
It is the younger trio that should get the benefit of the doubt. If Pierre is hot and you want to keep him in the lineup, then keep Ethier and Kemp alongside through thick and thin. If Gonzalez shows some spark off the bench or Pierre cools off, than let Pierre take a seat on the bench. If he's such a wonderful human being, he shouldn't be above being treated like everyone else with his ability.
Don't justify your inability to commit with doubletalk that suggests Pierre never needs a rest but Loney does every week. Don't keep talking about Tomko's stuff or Hernandez's savvy when a crop of minor league pitchers even if they aren't worldbeaters yet bring more relevant advantages.
A dream of perfection should not blind yourself to Mr. or Miss Right. It's clear who the brides and bridesmaids are in Dodge City. It's time for the Dodger lineup to commit to saying "I do" to Loney, Ethier and Kemp, and it's time for the Dodger pitching staff to try dating Hull, Meloan, McDonald and Houlton.
Do I ice her? Do I marry her? Which one of these?
Marry her, Charley. Just because she's a thief and a hitter doesn't mean she's not a good woman in all the other departments. If she was some kind of fashion model, well it wouldn't last more than thirty days. But you and she is in the same line of business. You are lucky you found each other, you know that, Charley?
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Andy LaRoche and Tony Abreu would also deserve promotions, except both continue to be bothered by injuries, according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise.
"The Dodgers continue to seek medical opinions on Abreu, and offseason surgery is a possibility," Leung writes.
Am I correct that the snickering should stop over whether Abreu's health problems are real?
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Tonight's 4:05 p.m. game:
Who is the face of the Dodgers? That's the question ESPN.com has been asking, and if you click this link and hunt around a bit, you can find my answer. Update: This link will take you to the Dodger page directly.
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Dodger first baseman Wes Parker made the all-time Rawlings Gold Glove Team, according to The Associated Press.
Update: Wes Parker communicates his gratitude to Inside the Dodgers:
This award wraps up my career in the most beautiful way possible. I did not expect it. I had a shorter career than the other honorees, have been retired the longest (one year longer than Willie Mays) and was not sure fans would remember me after 35 years away from the game. Also, I am the only one of the nine who is not, or will not soon be, in the Hall of Fame, so am thrilled to have won.
I took great pride in my fielding. The first base position, I think, has been slighted over the years by players thinking they have only to catch throws and dig balls from the dirt to play it well. Nothing could be further from the truth. Dedicated first basemen charge bunts, range to their left and right for grounders, dive for balls, run all over the place for pop-ups and use their arms aggressively. They take risks, go after everything and defend their ground with pride and determination. And in doing all this they expand the position from one of passivity and conservatism to one of action, excitement, daring, beauty and grace.
I was lucky to have been born with good eyesight, quick reactions and a younger brother, Lyn, who for ten years smashed ground balls at me in our front yard. We were just two kids doing what we loved but that period between the ages of eight and 17 clinched for me the respect I have always felt for good defensive play and tried to exhibit during my nine-year career with the Dodgers. ...
Superman, Then and Now
The subject of my first feature story after becoming a full-time sports reporter was this piece I did for the Daily News on a Kennedy High School shooting guard named Garret Anderson. It ran on December 12, 1989, nearly 18 years before the 10-RBI game Anderson had tonight for the Angels.
A BIRD? A PLANE?It hasn't been a super season for the 35-year-old Anderson, who was OPSing only .713 entering tonight's game before getting a two-run double in the first, an RBI double in the second, a three-run homer in the third and a grand slam in the sixth, but I've always had reason to root for him, and I'm happy for him tonight.
Have you noticed it's been nearly a week since I wrote anything meaningful about the Dodgers?
It's not for lack of thinking about them. I'm juggling concerns and hope. I have lots of thoughts, and I hope you don't mind if I let them percolate a little longer. (Not trying to make these thoughts seem bigger than they are just trying to give you a little update.)
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Tonight's 4:05 p.m. game:
Update: What a lost year for Willy Aybar. David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:
Willy Aybar had surgery Tuesday to repair a broken hamate bone in his right hand, abruptly ending the troubled Braves infielder's tumultuous season before it every really began.
Aybar spent three months in a substance-abuse rehabilitation facility in South Florida, after opening the season on the disabled list with a hand injury and being suspended April 15 for skipping injury rehab.
Aybar, 24, is expected to be out 6-8 weeks recovering from surgery on the broken hamate, an injury that usually occurs when a player is hit by a pitch or takes an awkward swing. The Braves expect he will be ready to play winter ball, and tentatively plan to bring back Aybar next season.
The injury is in the same area of his right hand he hurt playing last winter in his native Dominican Republic, which sidelined him much of spring training following his late arrival for visa issues. ...
On his blog, O'Brien adds much more, which I would strongly urge you to read. The section on Aybar begins partway down:
If you don't want to hear sympathy for the kid, if you think he should just go away and that the Braves should cut the cord, I understand. I really do. So maybe you should just skip the rest of the blog. Not a problem.
If you're still here, here goes ...
Update 2: Randy Wolf "is pain-free and is hopeful of resuming throwing on Wednesday," reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Gurnick adds that "Wolf said he does not expect to start another game for the Dodgers this year, but is hopeful he can return in a relief role."
Also, Gurnick writes that Andy La Roche, "nursing a back disk problem, has missed two weeks of games at Triple-A Las Vegas, but is expected to return to action this week."
Update 3: The Dodgers benefit from the Phillies' misfortune: Cole Hamels (3.50 ERA) is getting an MRI because of elbow soreness and will miss his Wednesday start, reports Todd Zolecki of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
In advance of this week's big series, Joshua Worley at Dodgerama takes a close look at the Phillies.
'Zona Zoning In?
What will the order of finish be in the National League West? That was my question of the week at SI.com's Fungoes, and five bloggers from around the division replied.
August 19 Game Chat
August 18 Game Chat
August 17 Game Chat
Sorry I was such a downer last night. The fact is that Thursday was a great night at the ballpark. I only wish every Dodger opponent could play as poorly as the Astros did Thursday. In any event, just wanted to get things off to a fresh start today.
Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News points to this fan survey that the Dodgers have commissioned. Hoffarth believes that the question about what radio station you listen to the most may play into where the Dodgers continue broadcasting their games after their current contract with KFWB expires. Of course, the fact that I hardly listen to KSPN 710 AM, for example, doesn't mean that it is or isn't a good radio home for the Dodgers.
In any case, there are some questions you might want to voice your opinion on.
The survey ends with not even a thank you, but an awkward attempt to get you to establish or log into an MLB.com account. But who cares? The wind's at my back. The Dodgers have won two in a row, and the weekend is coming!
Sweet and Sour
For eight innings, it was a great night - finally. A relative breeze.
Roberto Hernandez came in to pitch the ninth. His 1,000th game, a fact noted on the scoreboard. I don't care what you think of Hernandez - that's a big deal. But only a handful of people could muster the wherewithal to applaud.
And then Hernandez gives up one run, cutting the Dodger lead to five, and the booing starts.
I know it's been a frustrating month, but come on. Is there any class left among Dodger fans? Honestly, from a player's perspective, what is there to like about us? Yes, we show up, but that's it. We've become way too brittle. The concept of supporting a player when he's down is completely out the window.
Like I said, it was a great night. But ... I don't know. I just don't know.
Elvis Has Left the Parking Lot
What made me do a double take, actually, was reading that Rita Wilson was in the film. The credit is not in her Internet Movie Database listing, but it was probably not a credited part. What made me do another double take was to see that she appeared in a Brady Bunch episode as a rival cheerleader to Marcia.
But enough about Rita Wilson, Marcia, and Elvis. Here's an update on the Dodgers' Spring Training move to Arizona, from David Davis at SoCal Sports Observed.
And oh yes, there's a ballgame tonight ...
* * *
Pound (Your Head Against a Wall) Foolish
The Dodgers would rather spend money on washed-up infielders than a potential starting pitcher.
For the amount of money that the team has paid or will pay guys like Ramon Martinez, Wilson Valdez and Shea Hillenbrand this year, the Dodgers could have had Kyle Blair, a first-round talent whom they stole with a fifth-round draft pick because of signability concerns. And even though Blair came down from a requested $1.5 million signing bonus to $1.1 million, according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News, the Dodgers are walking away.
"We were unable to come to terms," Dodgers assistant general manager Logan White told Jackson. "We wish Kyle Blair the best and know he is going to have a good career. We just weren't able to get it done. He is a good kid. I talked to Kyle today, and there is disappointment all around that we weren't able to get it done. But there certainly is a positive feeling toward Kyle, and I think he feels the same way towards us. I think everybody made as much effort as they could, but it was just a no-go."
Again, let's reiterate. It's not that the Dodgers don't have the money to spend. It's that they choose to spend it on declining or completely declined players. They choose to spend big chunks on low- or no-ceiling players like Martinez, Valdez, Hillenbrand, Mark Hendrickson ($2.925 million this season) and Brett Tomko (nearly $10 million guaranteed for 2006-2008, even if they buy out his 2008 option) - players that anyone can see are of minimal help. They would rather eat crackers for dinner than take a chance that for the same amount of money, they might end up with steak - if they could show the slightest bit of patience and discipline.
What am I missing? The eminently respected White is publicly on board with letting Blair go, but I still don't understand. This isn't a case of a player like former draft choice (and 2007 MLB top pick) David Price, who was determined to go to college. Blair was ready to make a deal. So unless Blair has suffered an arm injury, unless the Dodgers suddenly had reason to reverse their opinion of him, this makes absolutely no sense. It would be one thing if the Dodgers were being thrifty as a rule - if they didn't waste their money on the untalented. But they can't keep themselves from shopping for the shiny toys with the lead paint.
Mark Sweeney had a brain cramp Wednesday night - remarkably stupid, but something that with two seconds of extra thought he would never allow to happen. But the Dodgers, with all summer to prepare for this moment rationally, cannot see the forest for the trees. This is the blunder of the week - and potentially much more significant. I don't care if Blair never makes it out of AA ball. If he has the potential that he is professed to have, the Dodgers have made a huge mistake.
There is a real philosophical disconnect symbolized by not signing Blair. Yes, the Dodgers have Matt Kemp, Andy LaRoche, Clayton Kershaw, James Loney, Russell Martin, Jonathan Broxton. But they cannot rest on those laurels. Nobody's perfect, but it does get to a point where if your major skill is retaining talent that you should obviously retain, then that's not a lot to hang your hat on - especially when in fact you're not retaining all the talent that you should obviously retain. They either need to stay aggressive in their approach to the draft, or stop wasting money that could be better spent. And why not both?
* * *
Update: The notion that MLB discouraged the Dodgers from paying X amount of dollars for Blair is unsatisfying. If the reality is essentially that MLB is making it impossible for a drafted player to be signed, that has to be challenged. And, in fact, other teams are doing just that, going above the slotted money to sign their draftees.
Draft Signing Deadline Perspective
Something to think about with the Dodgers' deadline to sign Kyle Blair 11 12 hours away, from Rany Jazayerli at Baseball Prospectus:
In theory, as a result of the changes in the draft process this year, teams ought to have considerably more leverage than they have in the past. In theory. The creation of a firm August 15th deadline eliminates the ability of draftees to drag out the negotiations (by attending junior college or playing in the independent leagues) until just a week before the following draft. More importantly, the new rules which gives teams that do not sign their first rounders a compensation pick in virtually the same slot next year, gives teams a considerably more palatable option than in the past, when they would only get a compensation pick at the end of the supplemental round.
There is a principle in negotiations known as BATNA short for Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. Basically, this refers to your fallback plan in case a negotiation breaks down. In previous years, the BATNA for a team negotiating with its first-round pick would be the compensation pick at the end of the supplemental round the following year. As the BATNA would typically be a lesser player than the first round pick, a team's leverage was not very high. If the alternative to signing, say, Brien Taylor was to get the 50th overall pick the following year well, that's why the Yankees ponied up the big bucks to sign him.
The change in compensation rules for this year dramatically improves the BATNA for teams. If the Devil Rays don't sign David Price, they get the #2 overall pick next year. Given that Price would be back in the draft himself, you could make the argument that the Devil Rays' BATNA is equivalent in value to Price. They can play hardball with him, knowing that if he doesn't sign, they can replace him with equal value next year. The same goes with the Royals, who if they don't sign #2 overall pick Mike Moustakas will have the #3 or #4 (if Price also doesn't sign) pick next year; and the Cubs, who will have the #4, #5, or #6 pick next year if Josh Vitters doesn't sign.
But here's the catch, and here's why Scott Boras is such a brilliant negotiator: the value of the BATNA drops the deeper into the draft you go. If a top talent like, say, Rick Porcello a consensus Top-5 draft pick on talent alone were to drop deep into the first round, the BATNA of whichever team drafted him would not be a comparable player. Meanwhile, no matter where Porcello is drafted, his BATNA to go to college doesn't change at all.
The Detroit Tigers could not resist when Porcello fell to them with the 27th overall pick. And with the deadline approaching, they apparently could not resist giving Porcello almost everything he was asking for. And for good reason: the Tigers' BATNA was pick 27A next season, and the odds that a player of Porcello's caliber will fall that deep into the draft again are slim to none. The Tigers don't appear likely to be drafting at the top of their first round on their own accord anytime soon, so from their standpoint, this might be their last opportunity to nab a premier player in the draft for a very long time.
This is classic game theory: a rule change that should give teams more leverage in general because they have a better BATNA than before gives a specific team in a specific circumstance (a team that drafts a top talent late in the first round) less leverage specifically. And we know it only takes one outlier to drive up values for the market as a whole. For proof, just look at Scott Boras' work every winter. ...
Is All-Time Los Angeles Dodger Home Run Leader Eric Karros Bigger Than a Bread Box?
Much bigger, it turns out. In fact, a bread box isn't even the proper unit of measurement ...
The Stupidest Thing I Ever Did on the Job
Without thinking, I once shouted across the Daily News newsroom a joke that I was getting fired - while someone about 20 feet away from me actually was getting fired.
My joke went one direction, right as security was escorting the guy the opposite direction.
And there was nowhere for me to hide.
Kind of like how Mark Sweeney was going one way (jogging to second on a one-out pop fly well behind home plate), and a chance at tying the game was going the other way, and by the time he was doubled up at first base, there was nowhere for him to hide, either.
I don't think the Dodgers had had their two-runners-out-on-one-play-at-the-plate moment yet this year, but now they have.
Forget it, Mark. It's Chinatown.
Rally Thread - No Waiting
Sometime this afternoon, right about when I got the news that Shea Hillenbrand was starting, I started to develop flu symptoms. Correlation or causation?
I hope the cure comes sooner than later.
* * *
Calf Roped: Garciaparra to the DL
Now we learn from Josh Rawitch of the Dodgers that Nomar Garciaparra has had a strained calf "for a while." Today, he goes on the disabled list. Shea Hillenbrand is now your starting third baseman, with Wilson Betemit gone and Andy LaRoche and Tony Abreu battling their own mini-crises.
Lineup roulette: Matt Kemp is in right field, batting third. James Loney has been dropped to fifth, Russell Martin has been dropped to No. 6, Andre Ethier is batting seventh, and Juan Pierre is back up at the No. 2 spot.
Can you imagine the crow I'll be chowing if Hillenbrand becomes a Dodger folk hero?
Also, Eric Hull has come up to the latest bullpen buckin' bronco. And Abreu, with little explanation, was de-in-activated from the AAA Las Vegas inactive list.
Eyes on the Prize and All That
The thing to remember is the big picture. This is what many of us asked for. We didn't ask for the losing or the lineup frustrations or the Shea Hillenbrands, but we asked for the franchise's core to remain intact. We were thinking long-term.
At Baseball Analysts, Rich Lederer has a great story about his close encounter with Mark McGwire years back.
Hendrickson To Bullpen; Hillenbrand, Unbelievably, Up in Place of Young
Instead of Wilson Betemit and Jonathan Meloan, the Dodgers now have Shea Hillenbrand and Scott Proctor. And even if you thought poorly of Betemit's year, it's lightning and thunder compared to the drizzle Hillenbrand has delivered.
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Who's Zooming Who?
The Tony Abreu Saga (recently upgraded from The Tony Abreu Situation, now that the major Dodger beat writers began addressing it in their notebooks almost simulatenously) is strange to say the least. As Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise reports, the Dodgers do not seem to believe that Abreu is really hurt, when he says he is.
Questions the Dodgers have regarding the severity of an abdomen injury to demoted infielder Tony Abreu have led the team to place the rookie on the temporary inactive list rather than the disabled list.
Abreu originally suffered the injury July 6 while attempting to field a bunt by Hanley Ramirez of the Florida Marlins. He returned to play in four more games before complaining of the abdomen again upon being optioned to Class AAA Las Vegas.
"It's slightly strained," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Sunday. "Last time I saw, he was running from first to third in the big leagues."
That statement and the team's decision not to place Abreu on the disabled list illuminate the team's doubts about Abreu's injury.
Scott Boras, Abreu's agent, did not return a call for comment. Abreu, who is still being paid his minor league salary, underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam last week. It did not show signs of a sports hernia, the Dodgers said.
The argument is that Abreu is dogging it in the hopes of collecting major league salary even for the period he was demoted.
Despite a long conversation about this in the comments today, I still don't find the argument convincing.
There was never a reason for Abreu to think his July demotion would be permanent. With rosters expanding September 1, Abreu was guaranteed a recall then, if not sooner. And certainly, now that Wilson Betemit has been traded and Jeff Kent and Andy LaRoche have been stricken with nagging injuries, the team is practically crying out for a guy like Abreu. There's no way that the Dodgers want to be starting Ramon Martinez right now.
Abreu is losing major league salary right now that he could be earning if he were 100 percent.
Everyone acknowledges that Abreu was hurt in early July, and that he tried to make a go of it afterward but his play was subpar. Now which is more likely?
1) With LaRoche and Betemit heating up, Abreu tried to downplay the severity of his injury following July 6 so that he wouldn't lose playing time. After he was sent down, he lost his will to be stoic.
2) Abreu is faking an injury, a tactic that would kill his Dodger future.
I'm not saying I know whom to believe. I just don't know why we should take the Dodgers' word over Abreu's. The Dodgers are essentially basing the case on the fact that they can't figure out what's wrong with Abreu, so nothing must be wrong. Colletti's comment about seeing Abreu run from first to third a month ago is at best irrelevant, and at worse snarky, demeaning and wrongheaded. The Dodgers have anything but a spotless record in assessing the health of the players, and should be careful about throwing stones.
People have suggested that perhaps Boras is cutting off Abreu's nose (or abdomen) to spite the Dodgers' face. But again, it doesn't make sense that a bottom-line guy like Boras would actively seek to put a black mark on a client's career. The Dodgers will need a second baseman within 14 months, and Abreu could be that guy.
Or at least, he could have been. Now, Abreu will probably join the list that includes J.D. Drew and Luke Hochevar ballplayers that ran afoul of the Dodgers' sensibilities and, for better or worse, were banished like Nicki from the compound.
For roughly $33,000, the Dodgers could have paid Abreu's salary for 15 days on the disabled list and then seen what happened. Instead, they have a tarred as a malingerer a player in whom they have invested years of development money and effort, diminishing his value to the team either as a future infielder or as trade bait.
If the Dodgers are right about this, great. But if they're right, it certainly is a strange tale a lot stranger than a player who says he's hurt but can't figure out what's wrong.
* * *
The Dodgers have until Wednesday evening to sign draft pick Kyle Blair, a first-round talent that they nabbed in the fifth round because other teams feared they wouldn't be able to sign him. Supposedly, Blair does have a price he would give up his University of San Diego scholarship for somewhere above $1 million.
If Blair's ceiling is the Dodger starting rotation, if they can essentially steal another first-round talent out of the 2007 draft, then they should not be haggling over low six-figures in money. Forgo the next middling reliever and give the money to Blair.
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From Amy Dickinson's syndicated advice column, Dear Amy:
Dear Amy: My wife and I have a 2-year-old son who is my world.
I am a big Yankees fan and can't wait to take my son to games. My in-laws are way too smothering and involved with my son. My father-in-law micromanages every single decision that has to do with him.
I feel as if I am being undermined as a father. I also feel as if I have to rush to do specific things with him or my in-laws will accomplish these "firsts" in my absence (I work nights).
My wife is not a confrontational person, so she does nothing to address these issues. I have no problem expressing my feelings to my father-in-law, but I don't want to cause bad feelings.
The final straw was when my son came home from their house chanting, "Let's Go, Mets!" Although this sounds funny, I took it as a direct insult. They know that it would really bother me.
-- Not Just a Sperm Donor
Click the link for Amy's response. I have to say, my father-in-law is a Mets fan, but fortunately, he has not pushed an agenda.
* * *
My latest posting at SI.com's Fungoes starts with a big round of Rockies.
This Is Not My Beautiful Wife
Well. How did we get here?
Too many of the talented players on this 2007 Dodger team got hurt, and too many slumped - whether by means unlucky or deserved. (Follow that link - it will blow your mind.) In the end, that meant there weren't enough talented players to avoid falling to the bottom of the wild card race.
Catcher: For all the complaining about Russell Martin playing too much, even in July he posted an .858 OPS. Like almost every other Dodger, he is struggling in August (.635), but as much as people have a hard time believing it, there's nothing to indicate that the Dodgers would have more victories in 2007 if Martin had rested more in the first four months. Even conceding he might be a bit stronger now (though we don't know that it's true), the extra value he'd have would be negated by the extra playing time given to Mike Lieberthal, who has one extra-base hit in 62 plate appearances this season.
Ultimately, the lesson may just be that if a catcher is your team's MVP, your team needs help.
Remainder of 2007: When rosters expand in September, the Dodgers will carry three catchers (Chad Moeller appears to have been acquired from the Cincinnati organization for that purpose) and have more flexibility to use Lieberthal as a pinch-hitter. If the Dodgers fall out of contention, Martin will get some days off.
2008: Martin will finally reach the ripe old age of 25. The future is bright. Hopefully, he'll have a stronger supporting cast.
First base: The Dodgers made a strong statement of faith in James Loney by not trading for Mark Texeira of the Rangers. Loney has up and down stretches, but the aggregate product (125 career OPS+) is all that Dodger fans could have hoped for in 2007. Little's elevation of Loney to the No. 3 slot in the batting order, when Loney's most recent statistics might have argued against it, reflects the confidence the organization has in him.
Remainder of 2007: Pennant-race panic might put Loney on the bench from time to time, and there's always the possibility he'll have a disappearing September like Andre Ethier had last year. But for the most part, the Dodgers appear to have decided that the future at first base has arrived.
2008: Again, Ethier provides a cautionary tale with how his sophomore season began, but expect Loney to be entrenched as the starter.
Second base: While Jeff Kent has never been an ideal cleanup hitter for this team, and while his range at second base is about the size of an Easy Bake Oven, Kent's continued offensive strength at the position is hardly something the team should spit at.
Remainder of 2007: Kent needs 134 more plate appearances for his $9 million 2008 option to automatically vest. Barring a serious injury, that will happen.
2008: Assuming Kent doesn't retire this year, 2008 will be his last season. What would be lovely would be for the Dodgers to reduce their reliance on Kent by being able to drop him to the No. 6 spot in the batting order and being able to rest him on a weekly basis. They have a perfect opportunity to break in a new infielder without pressuring him, the way they have broken in players like Ethier and Loney. (Why, by the way, are people so confident that Tony Abreu is faking an injury? Why can't he just be hurt? Why couldn't he have been faking being healthy (like others have done) before he was optioned? Are the Dodgers so reliable in knowing exactly what's going on with their players' bodies?)
Shortstop: We'll never know what might have been had Rafael Furcal not collided with Jason Repko in Spring Training. What has happened, so far anyway, is arguably the worst full season offensively of Furcal's major-league career - an 85 OPS+ - though he still mixes in outstanding defensive plays with his errors.
Remainder of 2007: Chin-Lung Hu, the highly touted defensiveman who has come on to have an .893 OPS in AA and AAA combined this season, should get to be Furcal's caddy in September.
2008: Furcal will be 30 in the final year of his Dodger contract and looking to come back strong. Hu should begin the season further honing his skills in Las Vegas.
Third base: The thing I can't quite figure out is how Nomar Garciaparra is still batting .281. Forget the fact that his on-base and slugging percentages aren't much higher - he just rarely seems to do more than a 1 for 4.
I have to think that Ned Colletti felt victimized that Andy LaRoche got hurt just when he looked ready to be promoted for good. Colletti had to be counting on LaRoche after trading Wilson Betemit. I don't believe there's any way Colletti wanted Ramon Martinez to be starting as many games as he has the past two weeks.
Remainder of 2007: Just waiting for LaRoche to get well. Otherwise, it's praying for Garciaparra to have something left. Garciaparra has a .844 OPS the past 28 days, including .422 over the past seven.
2008: LaRoche should be ready to assume this position, but a) he has been injured three times in the past two seasons and b) by federal decree, Dodger rookies don't get to start in April. No one will have high expectations for Garciaparra, but short of an Alex Rodriguez pursuit by the Dodgers, the incumbent will probably get the Opening Day call, with LaRoche poised to take over after May Day.
Left field: Luis Gonzalez, who turns 40 on September 3, has killed the Dodgers since the All-Star Break (.501 OPS).
Remainder of 2007: The Dodgers will hope for some September veteran miracles from Gonzalez, but also will mix younger players like Delwyn Young into the lineup (along with Ethier, when Matt Kemp is in right).
2008: As much as Gonzalez hurt the Dodgers this summer, he has done them a huge favor as far as the future. It was one thing for Colletti to ignore the younger Garciaparra's second-half struggles in 2006; it will be impossible to ignore Gonzalez's. If Gonzalez wants to have a role in baseball greater than Mark Sweeney's, it will probably be as a designated hitter. Now that he has proven himself, Ethier should be the full-timer, with Young backing him up.
Center field: Juan Pierre's 30th birthday is Tuesday. He's looking like an old 30 to me. While Pierre has hardly been the worst player on the Dodgers during their recent struggles, this season reinforced the fact that he is not good, and will not be good.
Remainder of 2007: The fact that Kemp and Gonzalez have tailed off means that no matter how dissatisfied Little has become with Pierre, Little lacks that final impetus to bench Pierre and end his consectutive game streak. Only extreme performances by all three of those mentioned will change that.
2008: Yes, the Dodgers could form a starting outfield without Pierre, but it won't happen.
Right field: At age 25, Ethier has a 113 OPS+. Kemp, though again struggling with strike zone judgment (though several Dodger Thoughts commenters argue that no player gets rougher treatment from the umpires), is at 117. Kemp turns 23 on September 23.
Remainder of 2007: Ethier will get the majority of the playing time.
2008: The Dodgers need to commit to Kemp as an everyday player, through thick and thin, because of the ongoing potential of the thick. Having hung onto him through two trading summers, Colletti and Little will do this, I suspect.
April 2008 lineup:
July 2008 lineup:
In my opinion, there's a lot to like there.
Starting pitching: Brad Penny is having a career year. Chad Billingsley's bad starts are getting better, and his good starts are getting great. Derek Lowe is learning to pitch hurt. Mark Hendrickson's ERA swelled to 5.20, and Brett Tomko (5.49 ERA, 80 ERA+) is about to be caught by ex-Dodger Edwin Jackson (5.84 ERA, 78 ERA+), who has a 2.97 ERA since the All-Star break. (Jackson might not have a better career than Tomko, but at least he's on the upswing.)
Remainder of 2007: Unless the Dodgers attempt to pull a 2003 Jackson by promoting red-hot James McDonald (3.15 ERA, 143 strikeouts in 114 2/3 innings) from AA Jacksonville, the Dodgers will muddle through with their existing five, plus some spot starts from the likes of D.J. Houlton, Eric Stults, and maybe even Randy Wolf or Hong-Chih Kuo if they're able to get some work in.
2008: Looking at the projected batting orders for 2008, there are few question marks. With LaRoche as a stand-in for Garciaparra and Pierre the immovable object, you can already fill out that batting order. Such is not the case for the starting rotation.
As much as it didn't end up working out this year, the Dodgers will have little choice in such an injury-plagued position but to attack with numbers. Penny, Lowe, Billingsley and Jason Schmidt will be the front four, but only Billingsley doesn't have injury questions. You'll be able to knock me over with a feather if Colletti doesn't non-tender Hendrickson and buy out Tomko's 2008 option for $1 million, but that still leaves a spot in the rotation to fill - not to mention backups to have in place.
Help is coming from the minors - the Dodgers could perhaps try to sneak Houlton through the No. 5 spot until McDonald is ready for promotion. (Too bad Scott Elbert lost 2007 to injury, and Greg Miller lost 2007 to the wilds.) Colletti can also buy out Wolf's $9 million 2008 option for $500,000 and then see if he will come to Spring Training on a lower-priced deal. And Hong-Chih Kuo will give it another go. But that's not going to be enough depth to satisfy the GM. As much as the offense has struggled this month, I expect starting pitching to be priority one for the Dodgers this offseason.
Bullpen: When it's not overworked, the Dodgers simply have one of the best.
Remainder of 2007: Um, try not to overwork the bullpen.
One thing is that with September fewer than three weeks away, we're finally about to see Jonathan Meloan (2.08 ERA, 81 strikeouts, 54 baserunners in 57 minor-league innings).
2008: Four possibilities for Takashi Saito: 1) he defies the odds for a third season in a row, 2) he moves into a setup role, 3) age finally captures up with him, 4) he retires feeling good about himself. I'm going to guess he doesn't walk away from the game before the game walks away from him.
Jonathan Broxton, Joe Beimel and Scott Proctor will be back, no doubt joined by Meloan. Rudy Seanez will probably retire. Yhency Brazoban and Chin-Hui Tsao will try to come back from injuries. The bullpen will be in flux a bit, but it's not something to worry about now.
Remainder of 2007: In a two-week stretch, the NL West became Arizona's to lose. And that's still possible. The Diamondbacks are not the '27 Yankees, and they blew a 5-1 eighth-inning lead today against Washington. Meanwhile, the wild-card race is a jumble.
More than anything, perhaps, it was Derek Lowe's bad-hip start on Saturday that has made me lose faith that the Dodgers have it in them to come back in 2007. I'm not giving up - I'm already disappointed, so there's no disappointment to avert - but this ship has taken on a lot of water. The offense is simply going to have to pull a 180, at a minimum not letting any good pitching performances the Dodgers do get go to waste.
2008: We know Arizona is going to be a rival for a division title. We know Colorado is on the rise. We know the Padres will be tough if Jake Peavy and Chris Young carry on to next season, though the Padres don't appear to have the younger reinforcements the other three teams have. And for all we know, replacing Barry Bonds in the San Francisco lineup next season will be Alex Rodriguez. The NL West is ascending. The Dodgers are keeping up as well as any team, but because so much is dependent on the vagaries of pitching health, essentially there is going to be no predicting who will win.
2009: Just fooling around ...
Same as it ever was? Maybe not ...
If Nothing Else, Play Ball
Thirteen years ago today, they stopped playing major-league baseball entirely. I'd rather watch the Dodgers lose every game than see that happen again.
In any case, the struggling team sits a season-high six games behind Arizona (whose Brandon Webb has thrown 33 consecutive scoreless innings), two games out in the wild-card race. Here are the wild-card standings.
* * *
Today's 11:15 a.m. game:
August 11 Game Chat
Dodgers 2, Cardinals 1
First of all: Wow. And, whew.
The story I'm about to tell is a new story, and an old story. Practically a fable, yet 100 percent true.
5:38 p.m.: I get in my car to drive home from work.
5:46 p.m.: Dodger radio announcers Rick Monday and Jerry Reuss update me on the Dodger score for the first time.
5:54 p.m.: Second score update.
Between 5:38 and 5:53 - 15 minutes - one score update.
Really, it's incredible.
New listeners turn on the radio every second. Giving them the score as quickly as possible is simply the most important function announcers have. But these guys just can't do it.
Something I noticed in particular tonight is that for at least three consecutive half-innings, play-by-play man Monday did not give the score when coming out of commercial. If failing to provide the score every minute or two is like missing a free throw, failing to do after a commercial break is like blowing a layup. Monday is laying bricks left and right.
This, of course, has been going on for years with Monday, as we all know, but I'm still honestly trying to imagine what he is thinking. He goes on and on about baseball players and fundamentals, yet he can't get a grip on the most fundamental aspect of his own job.
People have been complaining about this forever. There's nothing else to say. After all these years, how can this not have been corrected by now? I really think Monday owes it to Dodger fans to start giving the score every minute or two, or explain why in the world he won't do it. Really, explain it - it's not like you don't have all this time.
If not, it's well past time for an intervention. Dodger brass needs to say something.
* * *
With Andy LaRoche battling injuries in Las Vegas, general manager Ned Colletti got itchy again about the team's depth. So he scratched by signing Shea Hillenbrand to a minor-league contract, who I at first ventured to concede might be a better alternative pinch-hitting in the 12th inning of a September game after rosters expand than Ramon Martinez ... but I'm not even 100 percent sure of that.
Houlton Heads Down
D.J. Houlton is headed for Las Vegas, and the Dodgers go back to 11 pitchers for the time being while making room for Mark Sweeney.
Pitch counts by the bullpen this week (Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday):
Rudy Seanez 25-0-14
* * *
Tonight's 5:10 p.m. game:
Update: James Loney got a vote of confidence from Grady Little today, according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise:
James Loney is hitting third and can be expected to do so for the remainder of the series.
"He has a chance to be a run producer," Manager Grady Little said. "One day you'll see him in the middle of the lineups regularly, and that day might be now."
"We'll give him a shot up there. If that doesn't look like a comfortable spot for him, we'll change it."
Dodgers Acquire Mark Sweeney
Three different blogs quote KNBR's Giants postgame show as saying that the Dodgers have acquired San Francisco pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney going to the Dodgers for a player to be named later - probably an unchoice prospsect.
Update: The Dodgers have confirmed the trade.
Sweeney is a left-handed pinch-hitter - he has more career pinch hits than Manny Mota, in fact - whose acquisition would mirror last year's pickup of Marlon Anderson (if only it goes that well).
Some have speculated this would mean the end of Olmedo Saenz in Los Angeles, but I doubt the Dodgers would cut bait on a player with three weeks until rosters expand to make room for another guy with the opposite platoon advantage. Sweeney has an .805 OPS against righties this year. More likely, the Dodgers would temporarily option Delwyn Young or a 12th pitcher to AAA.
This is the first trade between the Dodgers and Giants since Candy Maldonado for Alex Trevino in December 1985.
Update 2: Uh oh, looks like the Dodgers have gotten impatient with James Loney.
"Mark provides us with another experienced bat off the bench and from time to time he may be called on in a starting role," Dodger general manager Ned Colletti said. "He has tremendous makeup and will bring a lot to this club."
Joy to the world
Act like you've been there before? I don't remember how.
I Throw Myself on the Mercy of the Court
In appealing the balk call against Joe Beimel that allowed the go-ahead run to score for Cincinnati in the bottom of the seventh inning today, I cite the eighth amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
Ode to Joy!
Pass the Smelling Salts
Here are the Dodgers' batting stats for the past seven days.
Update: Juan Pierre has been dropped to the No. 7 spot in the batting order.
"One thing that probably will be consistent in there for a while is the top of the lineup," Grady Little told Tony Jackson of the Daily News. "I'm going to go with Furcal and Martin for a while at the top and put Juan down. Early in the season, there were some struggles there. Now, we're looking at nearly 450-500 at-bats. We need a little bit more on-base percentage. That is the bottom line right there."
It's a bit as if they think Pierre's on-base percentage struggles came out of the blue this season. I guess it's like that marketing tactic NBC used to use to promote their summer reruns: "If you haven't seen it, it's new to you!"
Jackson added that "Grady also made it clear Pierre isn't the only scapegoat for this team's freefall."
And this is true. No matter how you slice it, the batting order just isn't going to matter much until the entire roster - veterans and youngsters - stops slumping.
* * *
Today's 9:35 a.m. game:
Why Yes, We Do Poop Out at Parties
"Hello friends, I'm your Vitameatavegamin girl. Are your tired? Run down? Listless? Do you poop out at parties? Are you unpopular? The answer to all of your problems is in this little bottle.
Vitameatavegamin. Yes, Vitameatavegamin contains vitamins, meat, vegetables, and minerals. Yes, with Vitameatavegamin you can spoon your way to health. All you do is take a big tablespoonful after every meal.
It's so tasty, too. Tastes just like candy.
So why don't you join the thousands of happy peppy people and get a great big bottle of Vitameatavegamin tomorrow. That's Vitameatavegamin."
* * *
The Dodgers' past three games - their first shutout trifecta since the 1966 World Series:
L.A. .... 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 - 0
Previously on Dodger Thoughts, July 30, 2003: "53 innings, 3 runs"
L.A. ... 000 000 000 01 010 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 010 000 000 000 000 000-3According to Bob Timmermann, no Los Angeles Dodger pitcher ever lost two consecutive games by a 1-0 score until Chad Billingsley just did.
Get Well Soon?
In each of the next five games, the scheduled Dodger starting pitcher has a lower ERA than his opponent. Maybe we'll get to see Takashi Saito smile (more than once?) before the week is done:
Today: RHP Chad Billingsley (7-2, 3.43) vs. RHP Aaron Harang (10-3, 3.54)
* * *
Tonight's 4:10 p.m. game:
Another diversion ...
In his long consecutive appearances streak, how many games did Steve Garvey not start?
Bonus question: How many innings did he miss?
* * *
1975: Garvey's streak began on September 3, 1975. On that day, he started but came out in the middle of the seventh inning, missing the final two innings. He played complete games the rest of the season. The Baseball Page asserts that the streak could have been about 300 games longer had Garvey not sat out September 1-2 because of the flu. 0 starts, 2 innings missed
1976: Garvey was hit by a pitch in the top of the eighth on May 7 and left for pinch-runner John Hale. He also left in the top of the eighth on June 2, and missed the top of the ninth on September 17 (second game) and October 1. 0 starts, 4 innings missed
1977: Garvey left 17 games early this season - so I'm going to suspend my count of his innings missed. He missed his first two starts of the streak in this year, though. On May 28, Ed Goodson started at first base, and Garvey pinch-hit for Stan Wall as the final batter of the game, flying out in a 6-3 defeat. On August 15, Boog Powell started at first base, and Garvey walked as a pinch-hitter for Rick Monday in the ninth inning of another 6-3 loss. 2 starts missed
1978: Garvey came out of five games early but had 0 starts missed. On the final day of the season, Pedro Guerrero entered as a defensive replacement for Garvey in the bottom of the first and went 2 for 3 to finish his first big league experience batting .625.
1979: Garvey came out of nine games early but had 0 starts missed.
1980: Garvey did not start the second game of a doubleheader in Cincinnati on May 26. Guerrero got the call and went 3 for 4 to raise his 1980 batting average to .545. (Guerrero began that year 9 for 14 before slumping all the way down to .322.) Garvey popped out as a pinch-hitter for Charlie Hough leading off the top of the ninth of a 5-4 loss. Garvey left four games early. 1 start missed
1981: In this shortened MLB season, Garvey did not finish eight games, including September 7, when Mike Marshall pinch-ran after a first-inning RBI single by Garvey. 0 starts missed
1982: On May 2, Garvey pinch-hit in the fifth inning of a 13-1 loss. (Rick Monday started at first base, one of 22 games he played at that position as a Dodger.)
On May 22, for the first time in nearly seven years, the Dodgers won a game that Garvey did not start at first base. Monday was the starter in a 3-2 victory. Garvey entered the game defensively in the top of the 8th inning, failing to bat for the first time since the streak began.
Here's where things really started to get dicey. From June 28-July 4, including a doubleheader, Garvey started but did not finish seven consecutive games. He played all of July 5. Then on July 6-8, he started each game but was gone by the second inning. And on July 9-11, he came off the bench three straight contests, two of them losses.
He played almost all remaining innings from July 12 on, leaving three games early but missing only one more start. 6 starts missed
1983: Off to San Diego. Garvey started every game for the Padres, leaving five early, the last being the one in which he suffered his season- and streak-ending thumb injury on a play at the plate, in the first game of a doubleheader July 29. The streak ended when he did not play in Game 2.
Total: Garvey played in 1,207 consecutive games, starting all but nine, leaving 65 others early.
Blast From the Past or Total Blank?
Kershaw Jumps to Jacksonville
To give him a new set of challenges before the season is over, the Dodgers promoted 19-year-old lefty Clayton Kershaw, that ace we don't want to talk about lest the fates conspire to take him away from us, to AA Jacksonville, reports John Kennett of the Midland Daily News.
Kershaw has struck out 134 batters in 97 1/3 innings, but he has also walked 50.
"Obviously, (the Dodgers') goal was to get him out of here and give him a taste of Double-A before the season was over," said (Great Lakes Loons manager Lance) Parrish. "I think he is ready for that. (Is he) completely ready? I don't know. He still needs to get better command of his pitches.
"He certainly has the stuff. Maybe moving up to a team in first place and being able to pitch against Double-A hitters will help him focus a little better," added Parrish.
Loons' pitching coach Glenn Dishman agreed.
"At this level, he knew that he could sit there and throw fastballs by people, and (he) sometimes didn't have command of his fastball the way he needed to," said Dishman. "(At Jacksonville), he will rise to the challenge and know that he needs to hit his spots and still throw a 96 mile-per-hour fastball when he needs to."
In his story, Kennett paired Kershaw's step up with another player's step out. Catcher Parker Brooks, 26, has decided to retire from baseball to return to his Georgetown alma mater, having been accepted there for law school.
Knowing the timetable of these kinds of decisions as far as applications and acceptances, one assumes Brooks has had this plan for months, but it still had to be a melancholy moment. Brooks had an .811 OPS with Georgetown in 2005, but only 32 hits in three minor-league years.
"The irony is that they can both end up being extremely successful in different fields," said Parrish. "I have a feeling that Parker is going to be somebody special, and obviously I feel the same way about Clayton.
"Time will tell, but I feel that both of them are going to do pretty well in life," added Parrish.
* * *
Farewell, Hal Fishman. Another Los Angeles icon leaves us.
'Cause It's One, Two, Three ... Dedaddee ... at the Old Ball Game!
On vocals: The boy
Who can fill in these values for me?
This is not a timed test. If you're able to come up with this information sometime down the road, let me know.
Your Evening Sedative
Six weeks ago, it was runners left on base. The Dodgers were stranding too many of 'em, and critics felt it was indicative of a serious problem.
The team then averaged a nifty 5.4 runs per game in July.
Unfortunately, the starting pitching simultaneously deteriorated, and the team couldn't make the most of the offensive rejuvenation, going 12-13.
Things look serious again for the Dodgers, as the offense is back to grinding its gears. People are taking note of the Dodgers' failing with runners in scoring position again - I think they're 1 for their last 25 or thereabouts - as if this again is an irredeemable condition. July taught some people nothing.
Jeff Kent is out. James Loney, Russell Martin, Luis Gonzalez and Matt Kemp are having a tough time. So yes, that's making the offense look bad again, even though Nomar Garciaparra and Andre Ethier had solid weeks. But the same talent that carried the team in July (except for Wilson Betemit) is still there. It's unreasonable to think that the offense won't cycle upward again. Kent will come back any day now. And while no one thought Loney and Kemp were .400 hitters, guess what: They're not .071 hitters either, as Loney is batting in August.
The real concern remains the pitching, because the pitching continues to have a straightforward manpower problem. You lose Jason Schmidt, Randy Wolf and Hong-Chih Kuo (not to mention Scott Elbert) to major injuries and watch Brad Penny and Derek Lowe struggle through minor ones, you're going to have a problem. It's going to be a lot harder than we anticipated a couple months back.
So I don't know if the Dodgers are going to make the playoffs this year. There's never been a point that I've known. But before you rule them out, make sure you take notice that other teams have their own problems, and their own hot and cold streaks.
The Dodgers are four games behind the Diamondbacks, whom no one besides me and a handful of other folks seemed to give any respect three weeks ago. Suddenly, that lead is supposed to be insurmountable? Suddenly, they're an unbeatable foe?
The Diamondbacks themselves had a streak of ugliness before the All-Star break worse than the Dodgers are having now. Arizona went 11-19 heading into the All-Star game. The Dodgers, currently in their poorest stretch of 2007, are 13-17. (The Padres are 14-16 - only after winning four of their past five.)
So what's the deal? If playing bad baseball in the summertime means you're hopeless, then why are the Diamondbacks suddenly so unstoppable? As much as I've believed that they would contend all season, I still don't believe they are infallible.
It's going to be an uphill race now for the Dodgers, but the standings aren't the problem. The offense isn't the problem. The problem is the starting pitching. And even then, every single one of the Dodgers' NL West rivals is having problems with the back ends of their rotations.
So, sorry, it's too early to make plans for October. Too early to book a playoff spot, and too early to order the white flag.
* * *
For those of you who might want the Dodgers to show a little fire on the field, Brad Penny showed some today during his confrontation with umpire Gary Cederstrom - who himself seemed a little over-confrontational to me. Penny gets picked on for having a temper, but as long as he doesn't go overboard, I like the passion.
* * *
Update: Today's Fungoes at SI.com quickly describes the starting pitching issues that all four NL West contenders are facing:
Aybar Out of Rehab
From Carroll Rodgers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Infielder Willy Aybar has rejoined the Braves' minor-league system after "successfully completing a rehabilitation program for substance abuse," the Braves announced Saturday. Aybar hasn't played a game all year after opening the season on the disabled list with a hand injury and in the weeks that followed entering rehab.
The Braves are hoping they will have him back by the time the rosters expand in September, which would give them another backup on the infield. Aybar has played second and third base.
Aybar reported to the Braves' complex in Orlando a few days ago to begin working back into baseball shape and will head into a minor league assignment from there.
* * *
August 4 Game Chat
The Boy Turns 3
He's actually got a Rainman-like ability to call out just about any car on the street. Something passed directly to him from his grandfather, and the boy now knows more cars than I do. Driving down the road or looking at one of the car magazines Papa brings over: "There's a Porsche Boxter." "PT Cruiser." "BMW." "Volvo." "A Mitsubishi." "It's a Missan." (The first N doesn't quite make it.) "Acura." "It's a Saab." "Mini Cooper." "There's a Scion." (He taught me that one.) "There's a Honda Element." "A Mustang." "Mazda Miata." "Lamborghini." Quite the little parlor trickster.
Last weekend, we spent an hour at Pep Boys before he got tired of it.
Anyway, you're doin' well, pal. I love you.
Previously on Dodger Thoughts: "Three Is a Magic Number"
Vital Saenz or Warning Saenz
Olmedo Saenz has been slumping, going 1 for 20 with a walk and two sacrifice flies since June 23, and has looked terrible at the plate in doing so, which makes him an odd choice to play first base and bat cleanup tonight. But I'm hoping that Saenz does still have some fight left in him.
After all, 23 plate appearances really shouldn't be enough to condemn a man to the gallows, should it? After all, the Dodgers' regular cleanup man and hottest hitter in July, the older Jeff Kent, had a stretch crossing from May into June in which he went 1 for 27 with no walks or sacrifice flies.
Prior to June 23, Saenz's OPS was .811 this season. It just seems too sudden for a well-rested Saenz to be through. It could be true, but I'm hoping not.
I might confine Saenz to facing lefties (like tonight's Arizona starter, Doug Davis) until he shows signs of life, however.
* * *
At True Blue L.A., ToyCannon had a wonderful post about Roberto Hernandez.
* * *
Periodically, Dodger Thoughts reader Stan from Tacoma generously sends me old tapes of Dodger broadcasts from years back, broadcasts that of course feature Vin Scully. While cleaning out my car over the weekend, I stumbled onto one that I hadn't actually gotten around to hearing.
Found treasure, right? I had no idea.
I listened to it as I drove to and from work all week. It was a game from 1969, and when I popped it in, I had no idea what game it was or what would happen. It was a trip back in time.
By coincidence, when it came time to write another piece for SI.com this week, I had the idea to simply chronicle how Vin treated the Barry Bonds extravaganza at Dodger Stadium this week, including how he would end up approaching the call if Bonds made history.
Well, you know what happened on the field Thursday night. Here's what happened with the column:
Two outfielders. Two milestones. One Vin Scully.
They Came To Bury Bonds, Not To Praise Him
Brett Tomko's command tonight was as bad as any Dodger starting pitcher I can recall seeing this season - he was wild every which way, and overthrowing on a number of releases - but the Dodgers almost won. In fact, Tomko almost got the win, somehow lasting five innings despite a 43-pitch first. He was one batter away from me wanting him pulled in each of the first two innings.
Opportunity lost for the Dodgers. Gotta move on. Like Barry Bonds.
* * *
Infielder Tony Abreu is still hurting, reminds Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Unlike Hong-Chih Kuo, however, Abreu isn't on the major-league disabled list, despite basically being injured ever since he was optioned to AAA Las Vegas. I wonder if, among other concerns, Abreu is counting the dollars he's losing to a relative technicality.
* * *
Whatever you might say about his offense since leaving Los Angeles - and he's actually having a pretty nice season this year, with a 119 OPS+ - Adrian Beltre's defense hasn't been in question for quite some time. So I guess I'm a little surprised that some people are still just realizing it, but better late than never.
From David Andriesen of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
The way Beltre has patrolled his gap -- and then some -- has his manager wondering whether we're seeing the end of the six-year stranglehold on the American League Gold Glove Award by Oakland's Eric Chavez.
"I think this is the year they're going to pass the torch," Mariners manager John McLaren said. "I respect Chavez greatly, he's a great ballplayer, but I think our guy's due. He's gotten into the American League and he's established himself."
Beltre is tied for third among AL third basemen with 11 errors, but that's almost meaningless. Errors are a dubious way of determining a defender's relative value, because they apply only to "routine" plays. Was Ozzie Smith a great shortstop because he caught the highest percentage of the balls hit right to him? No. A great defender's value lies outside the routine.
Other widely accepted defensive measures include range factor (putouts plus assists divided by innings), which expresses whether a fielder is responsible for more outs than would be expected on average; and zone rating, the percentage of balls fielded by a player in his typical defensive "zone," as defined by STATS Inc. Beltre leads the league in range factor and is third in zone rating.
But quantifying defense is an inexact science. The major leaguers who see him every day know greatness when they see it, and they see it in Beltre. ...
An Outsider Votes for Los Angeles
From Sporting News managing editor Stan McNeal:
When it comes to picking the best baseball town, I love L.A. Snicker all you want, but hear my reasons.
(Link courtesy of Bob Timmermann.)
* * *
Oh, and Barry Bonds will be in left.
What they may not eventually have this season is a spot in the playoffs, but -- and I can't believe I'm writing this -- maybe that can wait.
Maybe they have to sacrifice a September for James Loney, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to learn how to play in the heat.
Maybe they have to lose a division for Jonathon Broxton to learn how to pitch under the glare.
Maybe Dodgers fans, just this once, will agree to pay for two months of soaring, skidding fun with an October of silence. ...
In the past in this space, Dodgers general managers have been scolded for not making deadline moves while their division rivals loaded up.
But not since that 1997 team contained five rookies of the year have the Dodgers had such a foundation.
Not since the days of Piazza and Karros have the fans felt such a connection to so many kids.
And, who knows, in such a flawed division, they could still figure out a way to survive.
Their pitching is thin. Their kids are inconsistent. Their old guys are one hamstring from irrelevance.
But isn't this uncertainty a small price to pay for a chance at several years of solidity? And, with no postseason series wins in 20 years, isn't it about time the Dodgers paid it?
- Bill Plaschke in the Times
Yep, it's true. A year after hammering Dodger fans who wanted to preserve the future for not knowing what they were talking about, Plashcke has come around to a point of view myself and others have had for years now. And I appreciate that.
The one thing I felt was missing from this article is an acknowledgment that if he followed his own advice in the past, the Dodgers wouldn't have this foundation that he now has come to praise. But let's not throw the babies out with the bathwater.
The funny thing is, a few veterans like Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra have been playing their best ball of the season, while some of the kids are struggling. Matt Kemp and James Loney are in their first slumps of the season. Russell Martin looks weary, even if he says he's not. Jonathan Broxton gave up what could have been a costly run Wednesday. Chad Billingsley mixes excellence with mediocrity.
But the beauty part is, these names becoming established enough for everyone - not just prospect diehards - to tolerate the slumps that in baseball are inevitable. More and more people are taking a big-picture approach to the kids. More and more are accepting them. More and more know who the kids are, and are invested in them. People believe in them.
No one who roots for the Dodgers doesn't wish they hadn't gotten better at the trading deadline. And still, there are people who are impatient. The National League is there for the taking, and the Dodgers might not take it because as many kids as are currently playing, the Dodgers have hung on to more. And not all of that fruit will ripen.
Some are saying that for all the talk of the kids, the Dodgers are no closer to winning a World Series than they were in 2004, or 2002, or most years since 1988.
I disagree. I disagree because the Dodgers are contending in large part on the strength of players that will only get better in the next few seasons.
The team is in second place right now, and that might not look like progress to some. But there has been progress, and staying on this course, there's every reason the progress will continue.
If it doesn't take a brain surgeon at this point to know that the Dodgers shouldn't have given away the farm to acquire yet another Jeromy Burnitz or James Baldwin - if the standard of difficulty for being Dodger general manager has decreased thanks to the riches of the farm system - well, I'm glad. It's easy to see that there were very few possible good moves for the Dodgers to make in trade on Tuesday, and thankfully, the Dodgers chose among the lesser of the evils.
* * *
Folks keep bringing this up, so I have to add this P.S.: With regards to Plaschke's piece earlier this week asserting that Barry Bonds' 1997 pirouette after a first-inning home run is the source of why Dodger fans boo him and why the Dodgers haven't won in the playoffs, I'm still waiting to hear from a single fan who agrees with this premise. I'm still not convinced people remembered the pirouette before Plaschke mentioned it.
Eddie Murray's hitting into the double play, followed by Brian Johnson's home run, is what people recall from the '97 series in San Francisco, if anything. Those were the devastating events. And do you really think that without the pirouette, Dodger fans who boo Bonds today wouldn't be doing so?
It's a little disturbing to me - it feels like a new history being invented.
* * *
Update: In his first at-bat as a Yankee, ex-Dodger Wilson Betemit hit a three-run home run today.
He'll bob back to the surface eventually, but for now, the Dodgers have optioned Eric Hull to make room for Scott Proctor.
Oh, and Barry Bonds will be in left.
* * *
Read this piece from Joe Posnanski's The Soul of Baseball if you haven't yet.
And no, I still haven't met Vin Scully - for reasons not dissimilar to what Posnanski describes. I can't even wrap my head around what I'd say, or what I'd say first.
I did think of one question to ask Vin, though. "When you play poker, are deuces wild?"
(And by the way, what a hero.)
* * *
With regards to Alyssa Milano's latest blog post: Lucy was an outfielder. Snoopy and Linus were the double-play combination.
I thought the Dodger crowd acquitted itself well Tuesday night. Here's a piece I wrote for SI.com about the scene at the ballpark:
LOS ANGELES -- The people who thought they had tickets to see Ultimate Barry Challenge at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday must have been quite surprised to instead be presented with ... a baseball game.There were boos aplenty, of course - and it was disappointing that the Dodgers lost. But I had a good time at the game.
* * *
Colorado's sleeper playoff hopes took a hit when Rodrigo Lopez went out for the season with a torn labrum. At Bad Altitude, Mark T.R. Donohue moved straight into acceptance.
It seems to me as if Dan O'Dowd probably had some idea that this was going to be Lopez's fate before the trade deadline came and went, but the Rockies still elected to stand pat. None of the other teams in the NL West made significant additions, but the Braves may have sewn up the wild card with their deal for Mark Teixeira. Does O'Dowd deserve an earful for not pulling off any last-day deals? Woody Paige thinks so, but I don't. ... I know it's hard to imagine, but better miss out on the playoffs this year and contend for the next several than trade the future for another one-per-decade four-game postseason cameo.
Jon Weisman's outlet
for dealing psychologically
with the Los Angeles Dodgers
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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