Monthly archives: September 2007
Dodger Thoughts, July 19:
In an interview with NBCSports.com this morning, I was asked which Dodger was most likely to have a big stretch run. And I thought, there's Russell Martin, but you'd expect him to taper a bit under his workload by season's end. There's Rafael Furcal, but we don't know whether his ankle will allow it. There's Nomar Garciaparra, who is too due. There's Matt Kemp and James Loney and Andre Ethier, but they're already doing so well that it's almost impossible for them to kick it up a notch.As it happens, Loney had a monster September and Billingsley got only four outs in his final start of the year Saturday. Still, Billingsley had a 3.12 ERA in the second half this season, capping a fine sophomore year and adding to the promise of a great career. As I like to point out, Billingsley is ahead of Don Sutton at this stage of the game.
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From my vantage point at Saturday's meaningless game, thanks to great seats passed to me by Dodger Thoughts commenter LAT, Andy LaRoche looked agile at third, and Matt Kemp hustled. Call me crazy.
The crowd seemed like it was ready to fall in love with Chin-Lung Hu. He wins people over: first with his name, then with his game.
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There is no tomorrow:
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Savor That Aroma
The Losers' Dividend
I've decided to go with the apostrophe in the headline this year, although it's legit with or without.
From September 25, 2005:
The last two Dodger games I have attended, a loss and now today's victory, have been the two most pleasant I've been to all season. Both came after the team's sub-.500 status was assured, a condition that seems to have weeded out the high expecters (expectants? expectationers?) who would only be satisfied by a victory. The best that people hope for now is that a baseball game be played. That's all. Throw the first pitch and we've already won. The Dodgers of September 2005 offer no other guarantees, and so we find ourselves at the major league equivalent of Little League, where it's a celebration when someone doesn't fall on his head and it's considered poor form to rain criticism or curb hope. Call it the Losers Dividend. It's a very relaxing, freeing payoff (abetted by the ease of ingress and egress to Dodger Stadium that the smaller crowds provide), enough to make one up and move to Kansas City or Tampa Bay so this can be reinvested and experienced permanently.I'll be at the game Saturday night, catching up with a friend visiting from out of town, a friend I spent a big chunk of the '90s going to Dodger Stadium with. For those three hours, I won't care what place the team is in. Take me out to the ballgame ...
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But Did She Move a Trash Can?
U.S. soccer goalie Hope Solo is rational but brash. If you've been following the Dodgers over the past week, you know where that's getting her.
From Philip Hersh of the Chicago Tribune:
Solo, making her World Cup debut, started the first four games of the tournament, allowing two goals in the first 62 minutes and none in the next 298. But Ryan chose Cup veteran Scurry as goalie for the semifinal based on past performances against Brazil in big games, especially the 2004 Olympic final.
When Scurry delivered an effort of much less quality Thursday, it was too much for Solo.
"It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that," Solo said. "There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves.
"And the fact of the matter is it's not 2004 anymore. ... It's 2007, and I think you have to live in the present.
"And you can't live by big names. You can't live in the past. It doesn't matter what somebody did in an Olympic gold medal game in the Olympics three years ago. Now is what matters, and that's what I think."
It's Jeff Kent's instigational outspokenness - in a young player! Look out below.
While U.S. women's soccer team coach Greg Ryan admitted that "in hindsight, you can say maybe the easier decision was to do it the other way," that doesn't mean there won't be punishment for the goalie's Sololoquy.
Speaking today at a Shanghai hotel, Ryan made it clear, by implication if not point-blank, that Solo's statements may have cost her not only a start in Sunday's third-place game against Norway but likely jeopardized her status as the U.S. goalie of the future.
Ryan, who became head coach in 2005, said reconciliation is possible if "both parties are sincere." He added, in a hardly veiled threat, "One of the great strengths of American teams is the talent pool of our goaltenders."
Coach made the wrong decision, frustration should have been handled in-house, tensions rise after embarrassing loss, yada yada yada, can't everyone just be smarter next time?
U.S. women's soccer coach Greg Ryan has pulled off quite a hat trick. His boneheaded decision to bench young goalkeeper Hope Solo for veteran Briana Scurry torpedoed the United States' bid for a third World Cup, ruined Scurry's legacy and created an unnecessary controversy.
Way to go, coach. Even Grady Little is wondering what on earth you were thinking.
Calming the Waters
I originally titled this post "The Youth Movement Fights Back," but perhaps that isn't the best terminology. After all, those of us defending the kids aren't doing so simply because they're young, but because they happen to represent a great chance at building a winning team. It's more like, "Rationality Fights Back."
In any case, in the Times today, Grady Little takes the pro-youth platform ...
"We know the course we're on and we're going to stay the course," Little said of the Dodgers' commitment to youth. "The course they've been taking since they won a World Series here in 1988 is not working. This course we're on right now, we're going to try to make it work."
... while Ross Newhan graces us with this (forgive the unusually long excerpt):
Didn't the younger players basically try to carry the Dodgers down the stretch, such as it was?
Didn't the expensive older players, through injury, inconsistency or both, flame out to a large extent?
Isn't it a misnomer to even say the Dodgers operated with a full-fledged youth movement in 2007?
If this was a full-fledged youth movement, why wasn't James Loney -- who batted .380 in triple A last year and .414 in the spring and whose shoulders are now aching from toting the offensive burden in September -- up from the start rather than being recalled June 10?
If this was a full-fledged youth movement, why weren't Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier playing every day, why not endure Andy LaRoche's third base growing pains for the entire summer, and why sign Luis Gonzalez as a free agent or re-sign Nomar Garciaparra?
For a full-fledged youth movement, look to Arizona and the team that is about to win National League West, although that kind of first-year magic is rare.
Most full-fledged youth movements result in competitive capitulation for a year or longer.
With the Dodgers, who were legitimately alive in the division and wild-card races until mid-September, this was transitional integration -- and it might have led to October if some older players had stayed healthy or performed better. ...
The Dodgers obviously have bridges to rebuild, management issues, approaches and relationships (from the front office down) to re-examine and resolve, but make no mistake:
Although this is a difficult market in which to operate a development camp, the long wait for a nucleus of the current caliber to emerge from what had become a fallow farm system at times justified the 2007 route and demands caution if the club is now thinking it should break up that nucleus.
Trade 23-year-old Kemp and his 10 home runs, 10 stolen bases and .331 average in 94 games? Trade 23-year-old Loney and his 14 homers and 63 RBIs in only a half-season?
I say, bring on Tony Abreu, Delwyn Young, Clayton Kershaw, Chin-Lung Hu, that much more talent and attitude.
I say, forget this semi-youth movement and officially make it full-fledged.
Delwyn Young - History Is Calling
All-time Los Angeles Dodger Single-Season leaders in OPS+
Minimum Plate Appearances: 2-4 John Hale (1974), 540
Minimum Plate Appearances: 3-8 Pedro Guerrero (1978), 317
Minimum Plate Appearances: 9 Darren Fletcher (1989), 308
Minimum Plate Appearances: 10-14 Cody Ross (2006), 301
Minimum Plate Appearances: 15-17 Tim Bogar (2001), 233
Minimum Plate Appearances: 18-24 Delwyn Young (2007), 213 through Wednesday
Minimum Plate Appearances: 25-73 Marlon Anderson (2006), 207
Minimum Plate Appearances: 74-156 Rick Monday (1981), 196
Minimum Plate Appearances: 157-633 Mike Piazza (1997), 186
Minimum Plate Appearances: 634-657 Adrian Beltre (2004), 163
Minimum Plate Appearances: 658-701 Shawn Green (2001), 155
Minimum Plate Appearances: 702-711 Tommy Davis (1962), 148
Minimum Plate Appearances: 712-714 Shawn Green (2000), 118
Minimum Plate Appearances: 715-730 Brett Butler (1991), 114
Minimum Plate Appearances: 731-736 Rafael Furcal (2006), 107
Minimum Plate Appearances: 737 and up Maury Wills (1962), 99
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The Pause That Refreshes: Russell Martin
In this kidney stone of a September, let's all take a moment and thank our lucky stars for Russell Martin, winner of the Dodgers' Roy Campanella Award for Most Inspirational Player.
Thanks for everything, Russell.
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Enough Is Enough
Today, I read yet another column scapegoating one of the team's most valuable position players, Matt Kemp, for the Dodgers' fall into fourth place - and going on to suggest that he could be traded, maybe should be traded.
The player is being criticized for a bad attitude, even though he is surrounded by veterans with bad attitudes. Different kinds of bad attitudes, perhaps, but bad attitudes nevertheless.
The player is being critcized for speaking out in the press, even though he did so in response to veterans speaking out in the press.
The player is being criticized for on-field mistakes, even though veterans have repeatedly made the same on-field mistakes.
The player is being criticized for perhaps not being willing to learn, even though the veteran that started this whole thing has been one of the most irascible, stubborn people in baseball, whose baserunning in the past two seasons indicates that he hasn't learned nearly as much as he wants us to think.
Headline from inside today's Daily Irony: Sweeney hopes to stay on as a voice of experience
Yes, Mark Sweeney. The veteran who made the single dumbest baserunning mistake of the year.
I have had it with the utter stupidity that has come out of the Dodger clubhouse and local papers this past week.
Bill Plaschke writes that Kemp's "power and speed have been negated by silly at-bats and baserunning mistakes."
Negated?? Are you serious??
The silly at-bats have already been factored into his on-base percentage and slugging percentage, which currently stand at .364 and .509. Yes, those are the numbers of the irresponsible Kemp.
The baserunning mistakes? What have there been, five? Ten? Let's say the latter. Instead of 198 outs in 294 plate appearances, give Kemp 208 outs in 294 plate appearances. Wow, what a change.
Is third-base coach Rich Donnelly going to be traded in response to the baserunning mistakes on his watch?
Mustering the resilience to read to the end of Plaschke's column, I found that the nuance of the suggestion is that Kemp be traded for a veteran in his prime that won't be worried about losing his playing time to Kemp and therefore won't be resistant to mentoring him. Brilliant idea - except the guy you're worried about mentoring won't be around anymore.
Here's an idea that apparently isn't good enough for the papers: Why not have the manager and coaches do the damn mentoring? Seriously, what else are they there for? If Grady Little and the coaching staff are too weak to do it, then bring in a drill seargent. Hell, bring in Lou Gossett, Jr. and have him go all Sgt. Foley on Kemp.
Apparently not. Apparently, I'm left to understand that the young brats in the Dodger clubhouse won't heed anyone currently in the Dodger organization, but will pay attention to some 28-year-old, $14 million-earning All-Star to be named later? Apparently, this isn't Plaschke's idea, it's the Dodgers' (though none of Plaschke's sources for it are named).
This is our plan for the future?
Look, I get that every player has his price. There are people out there better than Kemp, and if you can get one of them and keep him, that's great. But that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about a fundamental misunderstanding of what has happened to the Dodgers this year.
Throw the babies out with the bathwater. That's the operating strategy that has been suggested over the past week. Amazing.
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On Tuesday's pregame show, Rick Monday spent five minutes interviewing Rich Donnelly, with both agreeing that chemistry is overrated and winning takes care of it all.
Donnelly says he believes in "team math" over "team chemistry" - in other words, "the math of a three-run home run."
Today in the Times, Dylan Hernandez writes that according to Little, "results were responsible for the revelation of clubhouse tensions."
"I think every team has them," Little told Hernandez. "We had them last year. We made it to postseason. We had them this year. We didn't make it to postseason. You don't hear about a lot of things when you're able to win and you win through them. When you lose, as a result, then they start getting blown away."
The Dodgers know that tales of bad chemistry are the effect, not the cause, of the team's losing. So why are so many pretending otherwise?
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More fun quotes: It's gotten so bad, this almost qualifies as comic relief. From Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise:
"The way (Russell Martin) plays, he's bound to be hurt sometime."
- Mike Lieberthal
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Update: The following is from former Dodger Dave Stewart, now an agent:
The fact is there are veterans on (the Dodgers) who played adequate at best all season long. They're a year too late and on their way down. Penny's the only veteran starting pitcher the Dodgers could count on. Lowe has more losses than wins, Wolf and Schmidt got injured, and Hendrickson, and Tomko pitched poorly with ERAs of 5.26 and 5.80 respectively. Chad Billingsley on the other hand, who entered the league last season, has been their stopper since he's been in the rotation. Andre Ethier, who also started playing in the big leagues last year, has been a stabling point for them in the outfield. Another young guy, James Loney, has been nothing but good when they've played him. Relief pitcher, Jonathan Broxton, has only pitched 170 career innings so far, but has been very solid this year (80IP, 2.93ERA, 96K, 1.16WHIP). And, this may only be Russell Martin's second season in the majors, but he's already made an All-Star team (.299BA, 18HR, 85RBI, 85R, 21SB). If anything, the Dodgers have waited too long to play their young guys more.
Bottom line... I think the way Kent handled this whole situation is complete garbage. I wasn't in that clubhouse, but chances are he didn't say a damn thing all year long and waited until they got eliminated to criticize and cry like a baby. If you have concerns speak up. Don't wait until September to let your frustration come to a head. Furthermore, if a veteran player doesn't want to play a leadership role, that's obviously their choice. However, if you don't want to be a leader then you need to shut up.
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Update 2: Check out our heroine, Dodger Thoughts reader Molly Knight of ESPN.com, guesting at the Kamenetzky brothers' Blue Notes.
What a Difference a Week Makes
The last time the Dodgers took the field at home, they were serious National League wild-card contenders. Now, the playoffs merely represent the art of the barely possible.
The rookies are under the microscope more than ever from the media's standpoint. Strange, isn't it? Though the season is all but over, though the kids have by numerous measures excelled this season, though they actually deserve the benefit of the doubt because they have the time and ability to improve, the opposite is the case.
Dodger fans, I suspect, are mostly of a different mind. There will be those who only recognize the most recognizable, and will be disappointed to see tonight's lineup missing Nomar Garciaparra, Rafael Furcal and Luis Gonzalez. But more and more people have been exposed to Matt Kemp, James Loney, Russell Martin and friends, and are tantalized by how close the organization is to recreating the mostly homegrown champs of the 1970s and 1980s.
Everyone needs to do their best on the field. That's really the only message that needed to be sent to any player, young and old, in the tumultuous past week. Just do your best on the field. Management needs help, but it doesn't really need the players' help.
There are going to be some big decisions coming up for the Dodgers this offseason. Shortsightedness will be a killer.
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Two Quick Links
Danny McDevitt, who pitched the last game at Ebbets Field for the Dodgers and threw a shutout, gets profiled today in the Times by Jerry Crowe:
When the Dodgers played their final game in Brooklyn, on a Tuesday evening 50 years ago Monday, the sadness enshrouding Ebbets Field was so impenetrable that not even a five-hit shutout by Danny McDevitt could shake it.
Setting the depressing tone, Vin Scully recalls, was the song selection of organist Gladys Goodding, whose music infused the maudlin mood.
"If I remember correctly, the very first song she played was 'My Buddy,' a pretty down song, and it went down from there. All of us in listening to the music were aware of her mental state, and I'm sure she was dipping into the brown bag, and the music kept getting more depressing every third out. ...
"Everybody knew they were done," Scully says of the Dodgers' time in Brooklyn. "There wasn't a soul in New York that thought they were coming back."
Except one, apparently.
McDevitt, a little-known rookie left-hander on a team littered with name stars such as Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella and Gil Hodges, says he had no idea that game would be the Dodgers' Brooklyn swan song. This may explain how McDevitt, who had made his major league debut only three months earlier, effectively maintained his composure on a gloomy Sept. 24, 1957, pitching the Dodgers to a 2-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in front of 6,702. ...
Crowe's story goes on to note that McDevitt later directed anti-poverty programs in the Mississippi Delta and Mobile, Alabama, at one point living next to Byron De La Beckwith, who was later convicted in the Medgar Evers murder.
"I'm helping these black kids down there and he's my neighbor," McDevitt says of the Klansman. "I used to go to the backyard and he'd make these wax bullets for his .45. I could outshoot him, so he knew that I was dangerous."
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Though not about baseball, this Times article breaking down the post-injury treatment of Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett, whose life and limbs were in jeopardy following a tackle, might fascinate you as much as it did me. The prognosis for Everett (quadriplegia, breathing from a ventilator) has flipped about 180 degrees, and the medical world is trying to discern what conclusions, if any, it can draw from Everett's treatment. (It helps to have the very best, very quickly - that's for sure.)
By Mistake, An Open Chat Thread
'Congratulations, Universe - You Win'
T.J. Simers is lecturing the Dodgers and their fans about behavior and respect.
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Here's my latest tour of the National League West at SI.com's Fungoes.
Also, Dodger Thoughts reader Erin Wilson has a new blog going: Blue Thoughts, though she says she will soon change the name because the blog's scope has expanded beyond the Dodgers.
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The California Parks Foundation is having a charity online auction on September 27th and one of the items is a Dodger fan package including box seats to a game. Proceeds will help to protect and preserve California's state parks, but bidders do not have to live in California to bid.
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Update: Mark Whicker of the Register strikes a blow for sanity:
The fact that they're 22-29 since then is a disaster that James Loney, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin and Chad Billingsley have done their best to prevent.
The Dodgers lost because they got one victory out of Jason Schmidt, and because Randy Wolf didn't pitch an inning after July 3, and because Hong-Chih Kuo was gone after June 26, and because Derek Lowe went from 16-8 to 12-13.
They lost because Rafael Furcal and Juan Pierre, the 1-2 hitters, rank 53rd and 57th in NL on-base percentage, and because Jonathan Broxton began throwing home run balls at game-breaking times, and because Nomar Garciaparra had 24 extra-base hits all season, and because there wasn't enough bench to sustain everything.
They did not lose because of their kids or because of Kent, for that matter, since the second baseman had a scorching July and had a .498 slugging percentage. ...
The Dodgers' instability has traditionally spawned a culture of complaint, and that's a problem Little, Ned Colletti and Frank McCourt must fix.
It's simple self-preservation. Generally, players get more selfish the older they get and the more often they're traded. Bringing in the Wise Old Veteran only works if the WOV can still play. If he can't, he starts politicking for more innings and that one final contract. You could heat the Yukon with all the deadwood that lives in the Dodgers' room.
Youth Movement Bullet Points
It does not make sense to blame a youth movement for a team's troubles:
One of the phonier damnations of the Dodger farm system accuses the team of failing to produce a bonafide star from the minor leagues, despite the Dodger system being highly rated for years. The flaw in the argument is that until recently, these so-called high rankings for the Dodger farm system did not exist.
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Today's 1:40 p.m. game:
Five, Five, Five, Five, Let's Sing a Song of Five
Spat! The Musical
Lyrics by Grady Little, Ned Colletti, James Loney, Matt Kemp and Jeff Kent
Call Me Responsible
Losing Is For Losers
I think he shares that frustration
If I wanted to clarify anything
The season is over
Is there any sense of loss?
The Kids Are Alright
We're playing hurt
Who said he was a leader?
The younger guys
The older guys
That's not just in baseball
Having fun is part of the game
Call Me Responsible (Interlude)
We've got a lot of people in there
It'll be fine
We just have a lot of people
It's not a good thing
In a lot of ways
(Building cohesion) has been something
Our 2008 Third Baseman's First Name Should Start With the Letter 'A'
The Open Wound: The Day After
Okay, I've read Bill Plaschke's Times column on the Jeff Kent quotes three times. And as put off as I was by the way it began, it is worth some scrutiny.
It starts off by saying:
This youth movement has officially gotten old.
I thought it would work, I really did, but I admit today that I am wrong.
Right away, you think you know what the column is going to argue. But then, on the third read, I finally focused on a paragraph I was glossing over.
A youth movement works only when the veterans are flexible enough to move. The Dodgers veterans, it turns out, were not.
To me, despite everything else in the column, this means Plaschke is not blaming the youth movement itself. If you read the whole column, he blames - it's hard to say really. Everybody? He seems to be reassert that the team's direction was correct, but within that framework, everyone could have handled things better. And that's a reasonable hypothesis.
Plaschke goes on to assign partial responsibility for this clubhouse combustion to manager Grady Little, a man who earlier this month he said was handling the transition superbly. Now, Plaschke isn't so sure, but goes on to absolve Little by saying he had an impossible task keeping everyone happy.
Was it impossible? I want to think not, but I don't know. In any case, I still think having the right players on the field at the right times is more important than keeping them happy in the clubhouse. Not that the latter isn't important at all, it's just less important.
Anyway, the point Plaschke seems to be going after is subtle - almost too subtle. Here's how the column ends:
Kent's comments show Little has lost a part of the clubhouse he must win back before that can work.
As for Kent, he will make noises about retiring, especially since the Dodgers will reduce his playing time next year while playing Tony Abreu. But I've got 9 million reasons he will return, his option having vested on Thursday, not coincidentally the same day he publicly complained.
In case he is wondering if the Dodgers bosses were listening, I've got three words for him.
They'd better be.
What exactly is the message Plaschke wants Dodger leadership to get, and how does he want them to react in tangible terms? Am I being dim? I've read the column four times now, and I still don't really know. Is it, "Do the youth movement, but do it right?" If so, I agree with Plaschke - with the qualifier that I still am not completely sure everyone agrees on what "doing it right" means.
Update: The copy editors of the Times didn't quite get the subtlety, either. Their print headline for the column's jump: The youth movement is a flop.
And To Think They Wore All Those Funny Costumes Without Complaint ...
Jeff Kent had a fine offensive season, but next to him, Takashi Saito and Brad Penny, it was the kids who kept the Dodgers in contention.
Apparently, that's not how Kent sees it, according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise:
According to Kent, one of the problems was the amount of young players on the team.
"Especially when you have a lot of them, it's hard to influence a group of them. I don't know why they don't get it - professionalism, how to manufacture runs, how to keep your emotions in it."
"I'm angry and disappointed and perplexed and bitter."
Dodger Thoughts commenter BHsportsguy offers this reaction:
I have heard him say that he thinks there a lot of good young players that can play too (on his Prime Ticket interview).
I think the frustration blew up over the last couple of weeks starting in San Francisco and ending here.
Probably what set it off was the continued merry-go-around at third base, by now Loney and Kemp have been around, they make some mistakes but those are outweighed by their talent.
But my guess is that certain guys felt that Nomar and Gonzo should get most of the time and unless he was tired, Kent probably should play too.
All this being said, I think it is a poor choice of words and is something that should have been kept in the clubhouse.
I agree that the Dodgers, young and old, probably have lots of steam to let out over the team's late-summer collapse.
Still, Dodger rookies have my permission to sit the next hazing ritual out.
Update: Ken Gurnick has more at MLB.com:
"Right now, I can't give an answer to the future. I'm trying to get through the emotions of the season right now, rather than about the possibility of next year.
"We're in a bad spot right now. Elimination time is three games away. Soon, we'll give up the ghost and it's going to be painful. We're close to the end of the season and close to the end of a career for me. I'm running out of time and a lot of kids don't understand that. They haven't been there."
When you hear there's a split between the older Dodgers and the younger ones, some of it can get a little personal, especially when somebody's inevitably about to take away your job. But for Kent, it's strictly professional. He remembers being a young player that respected veterans and learned from them and he doesn't see that happening with this generation, or at least the large group of 20-somethings in his clubhouse.
"I don't know what it is, but especially when you have a lot of them, it's hard to influence a lot of them," he said. "Don't get me wrong -- we have a lot of good kids. But it's hard to translate experience. I don't know why they don't get it.
"It's professionalism. It's manufacturing runs, keeping your emotions in it. Experience can pull you through more than inexperience, experience helps more than inexperience. It's hard to give experience, just like that," Kent said, snapping his fingers.
Kent seems to be saying that the kids are talented but misbehaved - kind of like my kids. Perhaps the kids aren't respectful enough; perhaps they aren't suffering enough, feeling enough disappointment. Still, I wonder, considering how well the kids performed, how much they contributed to the cause, why is he pointing the finger only at them? And certainly, has the effort of the core kids been any less at all than that put out by the grownups?
Update 2: Al Balderas' version of Kent's quote in the Register:
"How do you teach the young kids?" Kent asked. "I don't know if the older guys said that about me when I was a young kid, too. I don't know what it is. Especially when you have a lot of them, it's hard to influence a big group of them. We've got some good kids on this team. Please don't misinterpret my impression of them. But as far as trying to translate experience, I don't know why they don't get it."
Update 3: And now Kevin Baxter in the Times:
"You can use all your fingers on your hand and point around," he said. "There's many, many things that have happened that are perplexing. Many things that have happened that are curious. Many things that have happened that are unfortunate.
"And you can't really put a finger on it. But you can point to it. Those things are disappointing. And frustrating as well."
Asked if those curious and perplexing things included Manager Grady Little's daily lineups and the coaching staff's game strategy, Kent responded: "Everything." ...
There has been an obvious and growing tension all season between the Dodgers' veterans and youngsters. Publicly, at least, that discord had remained largely under control and Kent is the only one who has spoken out on the record.
But as the Dodgers' postseason hopes began to fade, costing both the 39-year-old Kent and 40-year-old Luis Gonzalez what could be their final shot at a second World Series, the tension has bubbled to the surface.
Little Things Mean a Lot
Okay, here it is. It's nothing definitive, other than to remind people that the possibility that sacking the manager is a frying pan-into-the-fire situation. But for SI.com, a column I've written on Grady Little:
The easiest thing to do in baseball is to blame the manager. The hardest thing to do is find someone who can do the job better.
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Tonight's 12:05 p.m. game:
Do We Really Need This Level of Stupidity?
Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments of 2007 is how little progress the Dodgers have made in reducing their macho, injury-inducing culture.
From Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise:
(Jonathan) Broxton revealed he's had some soreness in his right arm after appearing in his 80th game -- the fourth-highest total in franchise history.
"I won't back down," said Broxton, who surrendered his second homer in as many days and his fifth this month. "I'll go until I get hurt."
This, a day after learning that Rafael Furcal's back problems are the result of him compensating for the bum ankle he hasn't rested in months.
The Coolbaugh Tragedy
There's a powerful story on the death of Rockies coach Mike Coolbaugh in this week's Sports Illustrated.
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The Dodgers might take a Spring Training trip to China next year, reports The Associated Press.
September 19 Game Chat
Kiss Me Deadly
There's so much I could say now, though most of it would be obvious and therefore pointless.
On a personal note, I do keep thinking about that error Rafael Furcal made 11 days ago in San Francisco. The team was on such a roll before that inadvertent stumble. For me, so much changed from that point on. It's been uphill ever since.
And the Dodgers' rivals keep winning.
Who better, in a way, than Takashi Saito to give up the crushing home run tonight? Someone whom we couldn't possibly be mad at. Someone who falters so rarely that when he does in a critical moment, one strike away from victory, resignation opens the door for you with utter grace. I'm enough of a sap to only tiptoe in, but I'm not looking back.
It's been a schizophrenic year. It's been a year of transition, a year of potential, and it has just gotten away from us. Everyone will have their opinion of what went wrong. It will be interesting to see how the Dodgers assess it. Some mistakes, like a Furcal error or a 1-2 pitch from Saito to Todd Helton, just happen. Some mistakes don't need to be repeated.
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I've had to come to terms with something recently. I tear up at movies. Like, pretty often, not just Brian's Song often. A movie hits me in a certain way, and I'm hopeless. It's the wife and kids that did it to me, and it's done.
And there is no crying in baseball, not for me. There's moaning and groaning and cursing, but no crying. I've invested ... well, I've invested every day since the 2006 season in this 2007 season, and yet nothing in a day like today moved me as much as the movie I saw for work this morning. Completely off guard, I was forced into surreptitiously wiping at my eyes.
I used to wonder whether I could ever be as happy when the Dodgers won as I was sad when the Dodgers lost. Not anymore. In all these years since 1988, I've changed. I've learned how to treasure the good in baseball, and fear the worst elsewhere. I'll remember last year's September 18, not this year's. And so even on a day as depressing as today was for the Dodgers, I'm going to keep the faith. I'm still looking forward to when they win.
Double Singleheader Day
Today's first game (12:05 p.m.):
* * *
Today's second game (5:35 p.m.):
Rafael Furcal is day-to-day (or, for the realists out there, season-to-season) with lower-back tightness, reports Kevin Baxter of the Times.
4+1 ... +1
Your Evening Sedative* * *
2006-09-18 22:34:0611:10 p.m.
Almost ... Almost ... YES!* * *
More memories provided by Ramona Shelburne of the Daily News.
* * *
Biding Their Time
From Al Balderas of the Register:
Most of the players who received their September promotions are spending more time trying to find ways to keep themselves busy, fresh, in shape and ready. ...
Pitchers Eric Hull and Jonathan Meloan have their own ideas about how to stay ready. Hull plays catch every day and throws regular bullpen sessions. Meloan goes out to the bullpen hours before each game and works on his windup and delivery, without throwing the ball.
"It's just something I do every day," Meloan said. "I like to get on the mound and do some reps so that if I do get the call, I feel like I can get ready faster.
"If I've already got a feel for it, I just have to get my arm loose. I'll throw a few pitches and I'm ready to go. I feel like if I don't do that, I've got to stay on the mound and find it (the feel). I don't want to be doing that when it's game time. Also I'm not pitching a lot right now so I'm just trying to stay fresh and know how it feels to throw from the mound."
Hull added, "You do need to face hitters to stay completely fresh and to get better, but you can work on stuff without hitters in there too."
The Dodgers bullpen and dugout might be at standing-room-only levels this time of year, but Little can be sure his seldom-used players will be ready to answer the call whenever it might come.
Gaping Generation Gap
"Dodgers rely on vets in stretch run"
And, of course, Roberto Hernandez (eight outs recorded this month) gets mentioned in the second paragraph, which asks the question, "So what will prevent this team from fading into obscurity as the season winds down?"
And, of course, Luis Gonzalez is there in the fourth paragraph to make like Clarissa and explain it all:
"Playing long enough, you can see when the rope is slipping away. Guys start pressing and trying to do too much," said Gonzalez, who was eliminated from the playoffs last season in September as a member of the D-backs. "That's where you hope that experience that guys have takes over, because those guys have been there before and learned from it. That's what carries a team down the stretch."
And, of course, though the contributions of less experienced players are mentioned, Hernandez is able to put it all in perspective:
"This is where veteran guys like Nomar, Jeff Kent and Gonzalez step up and lead by example," said veteran reliever Hernandez, who has been to the playoffs four times in his career. "The good thing about the young guys is that they're hungry. Those kids are excited and this is their first time experiencing this. You can feel the energy."
Indeed, as the article goes on to concede, "The youngsters have provided a boost as well."
Is it not safe to say that the Dodgers wouldn't even have a stretch run to contemplate if not, first and foremost, for the September efforts of first- and second-year players Kemp, Loney, Billingsley and Takashi Saito?
There's actually a story here. It's not that some of the veterans aren't helping, but it's that the kids are clearly leading the way. But why report actual news when you can pass along a cliche?
Arizona's Latest Magic Number: 58
At Fungoes on SI.com, I almost went as far as to hand the Arizona Diamondbacks their playoff spot.
Those Arizona Diamondbacks are wacky, but they're about to have the last laugh.The fact is, any NL team is capable of a 12-game collapse, so I'm not really assuming the Diamondbacks are in - just that the odds are with 'em.
* * *
Quick thought about Esteban Loaiza: It's entirely possible that he's going through the dead-arm period common to pitchers in April, and that he'll make a triumphant return to adequacy. It also seems almost certain that unless he were truly injured, he is going to get his next start, because it's a little too soon for Dodger general manager Ned Colletti to concede a problem in his $8 million acquisition.
But the Dodgers shouldn't act as if there are no alternatives to Loaiza. Neither Eric Stults nor D.J. Houlton has pitched as poorly for the Dodgers this year as Loaiza in his past two starts, and the pair could easily combine for six innings.
Killing Two Myths
The last thing I expected to read in the Ned Colletti cure-all era was that the Dodger clubhouse has poor chemistry, but Paul Oberjuerge of the San Bernadino Sun levies the charge:
Watch this team interact. On the field and off. Ask people who spend time with them on a daily basis. And the analysis is pretty much the same.
The Dodgers have an unhappy clubhouse.
They are a team in only one sense: They wear the same uniform. (At least until the next clubhouse-churning trade.)
The Dodgers' 2007 motto might as well be "All for one and none for all." It's every man for himself.
All you need do is spend a few hours in the dismal and dreary cellblock that is the Dodgers clubhouse to pick up the energy-sapping vibe. ...
And if they all wanted to talk about it, not that they really do, serious issues of language arise in a clubhouse where English, Spanish, Japanese and Cantonese are native tongues.
And, anyway, perhaps all they might agree on is this: They have little respect for management.
Oberjuerge moves on from this to question whether team chemistry actually leads to more victories, which of course, is eminently worth questioning. It's one of the oldest axioms of Dodger Thoughts: Winning breeds chemistry.
Despite Colletti's reputation for emphasizing chemistry and character, we've all seen him bring in players who strike you as something less than Mother Theresa - yet, he's gotten about a hundredth of the attention in this area that his predecessor received. Still, I can't say I'm not surprised by the piece - a pretty broad broadside it be. Widespread animus, widespread disrespect for the bosses? We'll see if denials or confirmations follow.
Update: Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise disagrees with the notion that the Dodger clubhouse is unhappy:
A recent article claiming the Dodgers have an unhappy clubhouse has come to my attention. That same article also claims that Cantonese is one of the numerous languages spoken in that unhappy clubhouse. Since I'm the only Cantonese speaker in that unhappy clubhouse, I wonder if I've said something to myself out loud that would lead someone to believe that the clubhouse would be unhappy. Probably not because I don't believe it to be true. Then again, what do I know? I'm a writer who actually walks through that unhappy clubhouse and talks to the players nearly every day.
I hear Spanish-speaking players unhappily joking around with English-speaking players. Some of them even speak both languages! I see Mandarin-speaking Taiwanese players unhappily playing cards and speaking English with Dominican players and American players. I've seen a Japanese closer communicate through the universal language of showing off a sword. I've seen Spanish-speaking players try their hand at the Japanese puzzle Sudoku.
* * *
Meanwhile, Sam Anderson in New York Magazine has had enough of Brooklynites mourning the departure of the Dodgers to Los Angeles:
The story of the Brooklyn Dodgers is very likely the most mythologized nostalgia bath in the entire 400-year history of New York. The official versiona legend you've probably fallen asleep to during late-night documentaries or wondered vaguely about while barreling down the Jackie Robinson Parkwaygoes roughly like this. A hundred years ago, Brooklyn was the meltiest part of the New York melting pot. In Bay Ridge and Crown Heights and Midwood, mustachioed fathers with giant Old-World biceps gratefully worked themselves to death so their newly American kids could play stickball and mainline egg creams. The only force strong enough to unite all of the fractured cultures was baseball ...
This is the origin myth of modern Brooklyn, a story hammered as deep into the borough's collective psyche as the Odyssey to the ancient Greeks': The Dodgers united a multicultural Eden, but O'Money ate Southern California's forbidden fruit, and the borough fell into darkness.
My first instinct as a skeptical modern inheritor of this legend is to punch it full of revisionist holes. The Dodger myth strikes me as one of the more self-indulgent stories a generation has ever cooked up in ahistorical homage to itselfan evergreen excuse for Manhattan's power elite to wax nostalgic about the colorful poverty of their Brooklyn childhoods. The Dodgers have been so persistently overinvested with meaningso puffed up on lofty flights of jock metaphysicsthat they're not even a baseball team anymore. They're every big idea you've ever heard of: Equality, Democracy, Community, America.
Fortunately, revisionism turns out to be fairly easy. ...
Be Quick, But Don't Hurry
An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
Make Hay While the Sun Shines
2008 vs. 1974
In 1973, the Dodgers suffered a profoundly disappointing September collapse, not completely different from the bad August stretch the 2007 team had.
The '73 Dodgers lost nine consective games and 11 of 12 from August 31 to September 12 to blow a four-game lead in the National League West. It was a year in which Davey Lopes and Ron Cey played their first full seasons as starters, and Bill Russell his second. Steve Garvey finalized his transition to first base.
In 1974, the core of the 1970s Dodgers began playing together in earnest, winning 102 games and the National League pennant. Except for center fielder Jimmy Wynn, the entire starting lineup consisted of homegrown talent.
Here's how the '74 Dodgers compare to the prospective 2008 Dodgers.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus and Baseball-Reference.com.
First base: Loney has been out of his mind lately, but he's certainly within the ballpark of the '74 NL MVP.
Second base: The two look even on paper, but Kent will be 11 years older than the '74 Lopes.
Shortstop: Although Furcal appears to lose this battle, there's little reason to think he won't be better in '08 than the'74 Russell.
Third base: Huge advantage for the '74 Dodgers assuming that Garciaparra gets the Opening Day call, but Ned Colletti might make a move here.
Left field: Not much potential difference here.
Center field: Another huge advantage for '74.
Right field: Kemp will need to stay on his game to keep ahead of Crawford, who was in his prime.
Pitching: The 2008 Dodger pitching looks potentially superior, but keep in mind that Dodger starters in '74 pitched a higher quantity of innings.
I could take this analysis a lot deeper, but all in all, the 2008 Dodgers really just need a toy cannon to emerge.
Whether we're talking about the final 16 games of the 2007 season or the first 162 of the 2008 season, Andy LaRoche is going to have to convince the Dodgers of his resiliency physically and mentally
From Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise:
LaRoche joked on his 24th birthday (Thursday) that he felt old. The way his bad back has acted up of late would seem to support that notion.
The third baseman has resumed taking ground balls.
"I don't feel anything at all," he said.
The Dodgers are a team that will use any excuse, real or invented, to reduce the playing time of any player not named Juan. Baseball doesn't offer many days off, so I understand the whole lying around thing, but to not muster the energy for half an hour of physical effort, with so much on the line for himself and the team, is worthy of some concern. If there is work to be done at this time of year and you can do it, you should do it.
LaRoche made a mistake. Moving forward, the key question is whether the Dodgers will compound that mistake. If LaRoche does do the work moving forward, if he makes amends, how quickly will the team respond by getting him back in the lineup? Will they be slow to use him, then regret not going to him sooner the same regrets they should have with a number of younger players whom we were told earlier this year, incorrectly, weren't ready.
This goes back to the fundamental question I asked earlier this month, which I still don't think has been answered:
Is the way the Dodgers limit the playing time of their young players at the outset of their careers an actual contributor to their ultimate success? Or are the Dodgers just missing out on opportunities to cash in on their prospect fortune?Please let me emphasize that no one is saying that LaRoche is the second coming of Alex Rodriguez. The point right now, with a playoff spot still within reach but an uphill fight, is nothing more than to get the best available players on the field, and even though LaRoche has looked overeager at times at the plate, there's still nothing to indicate that he isn't the best option at third base on the current Dodger roster. In his brief appearances, LaRoche has looked less overmatched on the field than Nomar Garciaparra, Tony Abreu, Shea Hillenbrand and Ramon Martinez, and for the next 16 games, that's all that matters.
LaRoche has to do his part, and the Dodgers have to do theirs. And then, either way, we'll start all over after the season.
* * *
It's exciting to see the Dodgers get off the mat. But this weekend, they play a first-place team while the Padres play a last-place team. The pitching matchups might actually favor the Dodgers, but you know that looking good on paper doesn't mean much in any given moment. You need to perform, and you need luck.
Just Like Last Time, Only Better
Countdown to 81 wins: just five more.
* * *
Update: For those not watching in the bottom of the third inning, with James Loney on second and Jeff Kent on first and one out, Luis Gonzalez singled to left-center field. Scott Hairston had to range to his left to get the ball, meaning that Loney, even with his slowness, could score easily. However, it was also clear that Kent should not be trying to go from first to third. Nevertheless, there was Kent, stumbling toward third, ready to kill the inning for no reason. Only a terrible throw from Hairston enabled Kent to reach third base safely. He would have been out by 15 feet otherwise.
On the next play, Kent was thrown out trying to score on a fly ball to short center field by Russell Martin. Mike Cameron broke the wrong way on the ball, thus enticing Kent to go, but still threw him out easily.
Even on a night in which the Dodgers have started out wonderfully, leading 4-0 against Greg Maddux, we can't escape that there is something simply fundamentally wrong about how they run the bases. It is not just Matt Kemp. It permeates the entire club. The coaches and the baserunners just can't seem to grasp the obvious.
Meanwhile, James Loney's career OPS as I write this, at age 23 and after 414 career plate appearances, is .904. Astonishing.
Update 2: In the bottom of the fourth, Kemp was on second base when David Wells singled. Kemp was looking down to make sure he touched third base and ran through Rich Donnelly's proper stop sign, only to jam on the brakes and scramble back to third. Kemp is no saint on the bases, to be sure. But he fits right in.
But the hit by Wells is the 10th off Greg Maddux in 3 1/3 innings, and he is knocked out of the game.
Update 3: .907!
LaRoche, Lowe, DeJesus All Healing
Derek Lowe will pitch no sooner than Saturday, according to The Associated Press. But there is doubt as to whether he could make the start, leaving open the possibility of the return of Eric Stults or some other audible.
And finally, an answer on Andy LaRoche - and new news of an injury to a minor leaguer - from Tony Jackson of the Daily News:
LaRoche is limited to pinch hitting because his chronic back problem has become an issue again. LaRoche is unable to bend over to field ground balls and thus hasn't appeared in a game in a week.
"It's not serious," (Dodger manager Grady) Little said. "He seems to be OK swinging a bat, but fielding ground balls is a little bit of a bother right now, so it will probably be a couple of days before he is available (defensively)."
Meanwhile, shortstop prospect Ivan DeJesus Jr. was at Dodger Stadium for a visit with friend and fellow Puerto Rican Ramon Martinez, but DeJesus had a bandage on his left wrist. He underwent surgery last week to repair torn ligaments he suffered when his hand collided with a sliding baserunner's helmet late in the season at Single-A Inland Empire.
"I was going to go to (the Arizona Fall League), but now I'm just going to rest and let this heal," DeJesus said. "I want to be 100 percent and ready for spring training."
DeJesus, 20, was the Dodgers' second-round pick in the 2005 amateur draft. He had a solid year with the 66ers, batting .287 with 22 doubles, 52 RBI and a .371 on-base percentage, and could be in line for an invitation to big-league camp next spring.
Let's Try a Different Approach and See What Happens
The Dodgers have begun preparing for next year's 50th anniversary celebration of the team's first season in Los Angeles. Click the link for lots of details. Of course, it will also be the 20th anniversary of the team's last World Series title, unless there's a nifty comeback in the next 18 days.
* * *
Derek Lowe will miss tonight's start as a result of Tuesday's pregame hand injury, according to Inside the Dodgers. Chad Billingsley will take the mound on four days' rest.
Andy LaRoche has been disappeared (figuratively) without explanation. Tony Abreu will start at third base.
Sunday, September 30, Bottom of the Fourth
A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes
A Happier 9/11
Originally published September 11, 2003
Twenty years ago today, Dodger Stadium hosted its greatest game.
It began swathed in bright blue skies and triple-digit temperatures. When it ended, 228 crazy brilliant minutes later, shadows palmed most of the playing field, and every Dodger fan who witnessed the spectacle found themselves near joyous collapse.
The game was between the Dodgers of Steve Sax and Pedro Guerrero, of Greg Brock and Mike Marshall ... and the Braves of Dale Murphy, of Bruce Benedict, of Brad Komminsk.
In the end, however, it came down to one man. A rookie named R.J. Reynolds.
So Weird: Racing for Home
For fun on an off day, here's a clip from the opening scene of an episode that I wrote for the Disney Channel series So Weird back in the late 1990s. In this scene, you'll see a fairly accurate depiction of the most unusual play I ever witnessed in person at a baseball game. (The real-life version was the final play of a 1989 high school playoff game I covered in Palo Alto.)
* * *
At U.S.S. Mariner, David Cameron assesses Seattle's Adrian Beltre signing, nearly three years later:
Obviously, that first year was rough. He couldn't have started his Mariner career any worse. His first two months in Seattle, he received 199 at-bats and hit a staggeringly terrible .236/.264/.357. Since most of baseball was already convinced that his 2004 season was a massive fluke, the early struggles simply fit into the already written narrative about a bad player who had a contract year and was now one of the worst free agent signings in baseball history. The story of the Adrian Beltre contract was written two months into a five year deal, and in general, the national perception of the contract hasn't changed much at all, as Beltre is often referred to as overpaid or disappointing. MLB.tv users will remember the last Rangers series in Texas for Tom Grieve's constant whipping of Beltre in particular.
Well, that story was wrong then and it's wrong now. The only better third baseman in the American League is some guy named Rodriguez who is running away with the MVP award and is already practicing his hall of fame induction speach. The only Mariner players who helps puts wins on the board with more regularity are Ichiro and J.J. Putz, and they both can lay a claim to being the best in baseball at their respective positions.
Adrian Beltre is a star, an underrated asset whose remaining two years on his contract are nothing short of a bargain. ...
Some Injuries Aren't Physical
Yep, the Dodgers had a winning week, but oh, what might have been. From SI.com's Fungoes:
Injuries rocked three of the four National League West playoff contenders over the past week -- but the one club to make it through unscathed could only take partial advantage. ...
Smile! Saito Says He Will Return to Dodgers in '08
It might have been more negotiating ploy than anything, but a year ago Takashi Saito was noncommittal about returning for his second season in the Major Leagues.
A year later, Saito said he's planning to return to the Dodgers for a third season in 2008.
"I've thought about it and I want to play for the Dodgers next season," said Saito, who has emerged as the most reliable closer in baseball, less than two years after making the club on a Minor League contract after an All-Star career in Japan.
Coming off a rookie season when he went from the Triple-A Las Vegas roster to closer in two months, Saito received $1 million for this year. He's already earned $100,000 in additional incentives with another $150,000 possible for games finished.
"I'll let my agent handle the contract," Saito said. "Last year, I hadn't talked to my family about returning. I've already had that conversation this year. So if the Dodgers want me to play, I want to play." ...
Saito has been just remarkable this year, allowing eight runs in 57 innings (1.26 ERA, 355 ERA+), striking out 71 while walking 10. Though this should be taken with a grain of salt considering his short MLB career, it's fun to note that Saito's career major-league ERA in 135 1/3 innings is 1.73, the lowest in Dodger history for anyone with 135 or more innings, according to Baseball-Reference.com. (Saito's career ERA+ of 263 is by far the best in Dodger history for someone with 135 or more innings, and it's second-best in MLB history behind Boston's Jonathan Papelbon.)
Does the Management Make the Men?
Is the way the Dodgers limit the playing time of their young players at the outset of their careers an actual contributor to their ultimate success? Or are the Dodgers just missing out on opportunities to cash in on their prospect fortune?
Once promoted, Russell Martin was thrown into the starting lineup without hesitation, but James Loney, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Andy LaRoche (not to mention Chad Billingsley) each have had to claw their way into their starting roles. We know why Martin was treated differently - the Dodgers really had no other catcher to turn to - but would Loney et al (and, in turn, the Dodgers) have suffered if they had gotten the Martin treatment? It's a valid question, though I have my own suspicions about the answer.
LaRoche is the person in this group whose playing time is most in question right now. The occasional day off for LaRoche, who only recently suffered from disk problems in his back and may still be learning to manage them, doesn't bother me. But when he doesn't start for two days in a row, one has to wonder about the rationale.
Is any other third baseman on the Dodgers better than LaRoche at:
Perhaps the Dodgers are afraid to break in a player during the final month of a pennant race. But LaRoche had his first taste of the bigs in the calmer months early this season. In his short career, whenever he has struggled in a game, he has bounced back - sometimes in the very same game.
It may be that whoever plays third base for the Dodgers will not make or break their playoff hopes, so I'm not sure how much I should care about the short remainder of LaRoche's 2007 season specifically. What I do care about is that I suspect that there is a lesson to be learned from the Martin/Kemp/Loney/Ethier/Billingsley examples. And I'm just wondering if the Dodgers have learned the right one.
* * *
Loney credited deposed Dodger hitting coach Eddie Murray for some improvements in his batting, according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise.
Loney has made small changes in his swing since being recalled in June. He uses his hands and hips to generate power and has a short swing -- techniques he credits former hitting coach Eddie Murray for drilling in him. Of keeping his swing consistent, Loney said, "It comes with experience."
* * *
September 8 Game Chat
Oh ... Oh No ...
For all the consternation that one might have about some of Grady Little's decisions, for me Friday night's game was all about pure baseball highs and lows: The exhilaration of James Loney's second home run, tying the game in the ninth inning, nearly offsetting the spirit-melting depression I felt when Rafael Furcal made his seventh-inning error. I can't remember the last time I felt so knocked off my feet by a misplay - I guess I had gotten caught up in the fever of the Dodgers continuing their comeback up the standings this week and the sublime pleasure of watching Loney, Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsley put the Dodgers in position to move another step closer to the wild-card lead. But with that low Furcal throw that Jeff Kent couldn't handle, everything seemed to just fall apart; MacArthur Park melting in the dark, all that sweet green icing flowing down. Not even Dan Ortmeier's game-winning homer for the Giants in the bottom of the ninth felt worse; that didn't take away a game the Dodgers had in the bag. The error, the error.
Your New Season Pass
Today, Variety launched Season Pass, a new blog devoted to thoughts and musings about television, particularly prime-time series. I'm proud to be one of eight contributors (perhaps more later) to the new site.
To commemorate the launch, we put together a chart with our initial thoughts about the new shows for this fall season. If you scroll your cursor over some of the ratings, which range from two thumbs up to two thumbs down, you'll also see brief comments about the shows. But we'll get to expand on these thoughts in the main blog.
The presence of Season Pass solves one of my ongoing problems with Screen Jam, namely finding time to post on it. That's because I now am compelled to contribute TV-related blog posts to Season Pass, so there's really no choice in the matter. For now, I'm going to keep Screen Jam alive for posts related to entertainment (including TV posts that don't fit the Season Pass mold), but it's possible that down the road, I might just consolidate my personal blogging back into Dodger Thoughts. (I experimented with allowing some film chat on Dodger Thoughts Thursday night, just to begin to assess the impact.)
In any case, I am hoping that many of you will check out Season Pass and bring some of that Dodger Thoughts community over there in the comments section. Of course, some of you will be limited in your input before the new fall season officially begins, but I do look forward to seeing your thoughts on the web pages of Variety.
Warning: The first person who mentions Juan Pierre at Season Pass gets a paddlin'.
* * *
You May Now Flip
Regular season tiebreaker scenarios involving the Dodgers, courtesy of the MLB Coin-Flipping Department and reported by MLB.com:
NL Wild Card
I'm not sure why there's no scenario for the Diamondbacks and Dodgers being tied for the wild card, let alone why there is Dodgers-Cubs and Dodgers-Brewers but not Dodgers-Cardinals. And MLB was really not inspired by the Braves' rally over Philadelphia the other day.
Lock the Door and Throw Away the Key - And Slip a Big Raise Underneath
The Houston Astros asked permission to interview Dodgers assistant GM of scouting Logan White for their vacant general manager position.
- Diamond Leung, Press-Enterprise
Sounds Like a Man With the Right Spirit - And a Good Dental Plan
"I broke a tooth playing tag in fifth grade in France, where I went to school for two years," he says. "I fell right on my face and broke my tooth. I had to get it glued back together, and I have had to have it redone two or three times since. But I have never really minded. I would rather break my tooth than get tagged."
- Russell Martin in Sports Illustrated
It's Not Second-Guessing; It's a Philosophy ... But Third Acts Are Welcome
Dodgers lead, 2-1, top of the seventh inning, two runners on, two out, starting pitcher Derek Lowe due up.
From Dodger Thoughts, June 3, 2005:
Let me say this again: The starter who was a better pitcher than the reliever when the game began, who was a better pitcher than the reliever in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings, in most cases goes from better to worse as the game enters the final innings.So today, even if the pinch-hitter for Lowe were to strike out, it still very likely would have been a better move than expecting Lowe to keep the Cubs off the scoreboard into the seventh and eighth innings. Especially in September, you have to go for the runs and pinch-hit.
As it happens, Lowe (Mike Fontenot single, Cliff Floyd walk) and Jonathan Broxton (Alfonso Soriano three-run home run) have combined to nullify James Loney's homer/double/two-RBI heroics, and the Dodgers trail Chicago, 4-2, entering the eighth.
Loney, Kemp and Ethier homer. Oh my.
Martin Returns to Lineup
Rafael Furcal, SS
* * *
Today's 11:20 a.m. game:
Update: Meant to mention this earlier, but the Dodgers have not homered since August 29.
Philday, Bloody Philday
It happens: Philadelphia blew leads of 8-2 in the eighth inning and 8-6 with two out and the bases empty in the ninth, losing to Atlanta and falling a half-game behind the Dodgers in the National League wild-card race.
A victory tonight would put Los Angeles within two games of the wild-card lead. Colorado, hosting San Francisco later this evening, could move within three games of a playoff spot.
Remember when the Dodgers' biggest problem was runners left on base? Now it is runners getting thrown out on the bases. This too shall pass ... to make way for another problem to overcome. It's baseball, folks.
* * *
Update: Russell Martin is not starting tonight. From Inside the Dodgers:
(Martin) went for a precautionary MRI on his left knee because of the way he went into home plate yesterday, but we still have no results. From what it sounds like, no one seems terribly concerned, but since Grady was planning for an off day tonight, it made sense to make sure everything is ok in there.
Without explanation, Shea Hillenbrand is batting sixth.
Update 2: I have to say, I am having nervous thoughts about Martin. I'm glad the Dodgers are having the MRI instead of just wondering about the knee, but I don't feel it's really in their history to run an MRI unless there's more reason for concern then they're letting on. Just have to hope.
Update 3: Randy Wolf did have a frayed labrum, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports. The good news is that it wasn't detached.
Disabled pitcher Randy Wolf underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder Wednesday, and doctors debrided frayed labrum and cleaned scarring on the bursa. The bursa scarring was anticipated. The labrum issue did not show up on previous MRIs, however, it is relatively minor compared to detached or torn labrum. Frayed labrum is usually trimmed, but detached or torn labrum requires anchors or sutures and a longer recovery.
"It's good news for Randy because nothing was structurally wrong," said Conte. "It's the best scenario for what we thought. He'll start rehabilitating in a week, and it should be six to eight weeks. He should be fully competitive by the beginning of Spring Training."
Where Wolf will be in Spring Training is an unknown. The Dodgers have a $9 million option on Wolf that can be bought out for $500,000.
* * *
Tonight's 5:05 p.m. game:
De Facto Wells-Tomko Trade Completed
Brett Tomko is heading to a more hospitable pitching environment in San Diego. We'll see if it helps.
And now you know the rest of the story.
* * *
* * *
Tonight's 5:05 p.m. game:
* * *
Update: Notes from Diamond Leung of the Press Enterprise reiterate that Garciaparra is only available to pinch-hit for now, and add that Hong-Chih Kuo had a throwing session scrapped today because of elbow soreness. Also, Tony Abreu appears to be completely healthy but asked for a day before talking to the press about it.
Go to Leung's blog to read one more amusing note concerning the perils of roster expansion.
LaRoche Forced To Be Disk Jockey
Andy LaRoche will need to be diligent in taking care of his back problems for the remainder of his career, writes Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise:
LaRoche suffered a partially protruded disk in his back this season, an injury that he will have to monitor for the remainder of his career.
"The doctor said as long as I keep exercising it, it should be fine," LaRoche said. "There is a small chance it can get worse."
LaRoche said a minor back issue he thought he had dealt with during the spring worsened during a season that saw him receive his first major league call-up in May and end up spending time on the disabled list after returning to Class AAA Las Vegas.
Update: Something I had never focused on before regarding the whirlwind joy of Pedro Astacio's first major league game, of which I've written about frequently - Astacio's pitch count. From Tom Verducci of SI.com:
Once there was a day -- July 3, 1992, to be exact -- when a manager (Tommy Lasorda) gave the ball to a 21-year-old rookie (Pedro Astacio) for his first major-league start, said, "Go get 'em," and let him throw 144 pitches -- for a team hopelessly out of the race, mind you.
Honestly, I'm so happy I didn't pay attention to pitch counts back then. Not that pitch-counts have been recorded for every major league debut, but Astacio's is the second-highest of all that have been recorded, according to Baseball-Reference.com, trailing only Tim Wakefield. Ramon Martinez is 10th on the list.
Astacio's Game Score in his debut is the fifth-best in major-league history since 1957.
1) Juan Marichal, 7/19/60 - nine innings, no runs, one hit, one walk, 12 strikeouts, game score of 96
Update 2: A quick look at the stretch-run schedules of the NL West playoff contenders at my latest Fungoes posting at SI.com. Also, there's an audience-participation segment at the bottom!
Update 3: This year's free agent hitters get a preview from Rich Lederer at Baseball Analysts.
Pedro Martinez struck out his 3,000th batter Monday. I don't know how this didn't merit a headline in the Times - but it's a big deal, and I congratulate Los Angeles' Mr. What Might Have Been.
By One Measure ...
1) Chad Billingsley (age 23), 3.30
* * *
Encarnacion's Career in Jeopardy
The damage a foul ball did to Juan Encarnacion's left eye was the worst the St. Louis Cardinals' medical director has ever seen to a baseball player.
Dr. George Paletta was not optimistic Sunday that the outfielder will regain full vision after his frightening injury and resume his career.
"It's the worst trauma I've seen. Absolutely," Paletta said, adding that the future holds no guarantees. "You hope the best for Juan, but he suffered a severe injury with a very guarded prognosis.
"It's way too early to say whether he will or he won't, and if he doesn't what percentage of vision loss he may have."
Paletta said the eye socket was essentially crushed on impact, comparing the injured area to the disintegration of an egg shell or ice cream cone, and that the optic nerve had sustained severe trauma. Reconstructive surgery may not take place for several days while doctors wait for swelling to subside. ...
Wishing Juan all the best. The Dodgers know on-deck circle injuries, of course: Steve Yeager was nearly killed when shards of Bill Russell's shattered bat lodged in his neck. Yeager later invented the now widely used catcher's throat guard to protect himself.
Update: Ross Porter e-mails to say that it was former Dodger trainer Bill Buehler who actually created the throat guard.
There's Fever in the Funkhouse Now
Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise says it's "official" - joining the Dodgers from Las Vegas today are infielder Chin-lung Hu, pitchers D.J. Houlton and Jonathan Meloan (finally) and catcher Chad Moeller. No Andy LaRoche. Not even to pinch-hit.
The Moeller callup, by the way, frees Mike Lieberthal to pinch-hit before the 16th inning.
Update: In a bit of unexpected news, David Wells tonight began to serve the seven-game suspension he kept putting off as a Padre. The Dodgers have no off days this week, so they're going to need a starting pitcher Wednesday. (Esteban Loaiza is scheduled to pitch Monday.)
No announcement was made immediately, but Eric Stults will be back on the roster by then.
Update 2: According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Grady Little said LaRoche and Tony Abreu "were not promoted with Saturday's group to allow them a few extra games and innings in the remaining games for Las Vegas." If you say so ...
* * *
Be fair. Just be fair.
Twenty players in the National League have more walks as a No. 8 hitter in the lineup than Andy LaRoche.
LaRoche has 24 plate appearances with the Dodgers this year as a No. 8 hitter. The fewest plate appearance for someone with more walks than LaRoche as a No. 8 hitter is Rickie Weeks, who has 86.
Not a single No. 8 hitter in the NL has walked at a higher rate in 2007 than Andy LaRoche.
LaRoche won't continue to walk at this rate no matter where he bats in the lineup, but I remind you that to conclude his walks are a product of his batting in the No. 8 slot is a complete fallacy.
From Dodger Thoughts, May 19:
As more people have become aware of Andy LaRoche's preternatural walking ability since arriving in the major leagues, more people have written it off under the assumption that pitchers are working around him to get to the pitcher's spot.Friday, LaRoche went 4 for 6 with two home runs at Salt Lake. He doubled and scored the tying run in the ninth inning, then hit a game-winning two-run home run in the 11th. For the season in the minors, his on-base percentage is .399 and his slugging percentage is .594. Even accounting for Pacific Coast League inflation, this is big stuff. Since returning from the disabled list, he is 9 for 26 with five walks - a .452 on-base percentage.
Nomar Garciaparra is ready only for pinch-hitting duties at best; his attempts to run "have been met with sharp pain," according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise. Shea Hillenbrand has shown average-to-below-average range at third base while posting a .271 on-base percentage and a .382 slugging percentage. Hillenbrand has had a few big at-bats for the Dodgers, but fewer than we have a reasonable reason to expect from LaRoche.
Let's not waste any more time. Let's give LaRoche his shot - the shot that will not only give him a head start into 2008, but that will also give the Dodgers more of a chance of salvaging 2007.
(I should note that Tony Abreu has a .397 on-base percentage and .518 slugging percentage for Las Vegas.)
* * *
Be fair. Just be fair.
In the top of the first Friday, Jeff Kent broke a baseball custom by making the final out of the inning at third base. In the bottom of the first, Kent could not get a glove on a slow-rolling Adrian Gonzalez grounder to right field, a play that if made would have forestalled Juan Pierre costing the Dodgers two more runs by losing a pop fly in the nighttime sky.
His presence in the first inning helped bring the Dodgers one run and cost them three. And the team lost by two.
I point this out not to denigrate Kent, who at age 39 1/2 has the second-highest OPS+ and VORP of any Dodger hitter this season. I point this out because the Dodger beat writers did not. Yet those same writers are all over Matt Kemp whenever he makes a mistake.
To excuse them in part, it might be because Dodger manager Grady Little and some of the coaching staff indulge them with numerous quotes about how much work Kemp has to do (though maybe the Dodgers are just trying for some tough love with a young ballplayer).
In any case, the perception from inside the Dodgers that Kemp is not a complete ballplayer has apparently prevented the offensively challenged team from playing its best hitter every day. He does play most of the time, now, but is there any reason to rest him at all?
Choose your weapon. No Dodger (other than Delwyn Young with 14 plate appearances) has a higher batting average, slugging percentage, EQA or OPS+ than Kemp. Heck, even if clutch hitting is your thing, no Dodger has more RBI per plate appearance than Kemp, and only James Loney has a higher OPS with runners on base.
Kent has been thrown out more than once on the bases this week. Kent was one of two runners thrown out on one play at the plate in the opening game of the 2006 playoffs. In general, Kent's declining physical ability fills most of his baserunning and fielding attempts with unpleasant suspense. Whatever limitations Kemp has in his running and fielding, Kent has more. This is an objective fact. It is also true that Kemp's baserunning outs have been characteristic of a bad week or two but not of his play the entire year.
And Kemp is the better hitter. Today.
We forgive Kent because the good still outweighs the bad. Can the press and the Dodgers themselves finally begin to do the same for Kemp?
Pierre flubs, however innocently or sweetly, and he's a lock to be in the lineup the next day - despite an EQA that, even with Pierre's recent hot hitting, is still 49 points below Kemp's and a batting average that is 40 points lower. Citizen-hero Luis Gonzalez sighs about being phased out by Kemp and Andre Ethier, and he's back in the lineup the next day.
Matt Kemp, the Dodgers' best hitter, gets thrown out on the bases, and he's the one who has to prove himself all over again.
Be fair. Just be fair.
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Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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