Monthly archives: December 2007
What Can I Say?
Happy New Year, tout le monde!
Where Would You Like To Go That You Haven't Been Before?
Something random to talk about on the last weekend of the year, while I watch the New York Giants' epic quest to reach 11-5.
Art, Part II
painting of Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles-based art director Robert Landry sent me a copy of his own rendering of the great Dodger lefty, who turns 72 on Sunday.
"The painting is from a group of paintings of old ballplayers that I did way back in '01 or so," Landry writes in an e-mail. "Sandy was always one of my favorite players.
"I lived overseas when I was young - my dad was with an oilfield fabrication company - and can remember as a kid reading with awe in the International Herald Tribune about the finish of the '66 NL race and how instrumental Sandy was in winning the pennant. Me and my buddies were also completely bowled over when the Orioles swept them. I felt pretty bad for Dodgers fans. By then I was well on my way to being a complete Cardinal nut - another story entirely - but I've always kind of liked the Dodgers because of their long history as an underdog. Also, I guess you could say there is a connection. I was born in July 1955, in New Orleans, but in 1954 my mom and dad lived in Brooklyn. You do the math!
"Now that I am living in L.A., I have to say I've been following the Dodgers pretty closely, and though my first allegiance will always be to my beloved el birdos, I do root for the boys in blue, and I love going to Dodger Stadium."
Imagine Finding These Under Your Tree
Santa brought some Dodger prospects (here rated by John Sickels at Minor League Ball).
A continued happy holidays, everyone.
Could Kent Follow Kobe's Path to (Relative) Contentment?
Four-letter word, proper noun, starts with a K, seethes when crossed.
Reading Howard Beck's article on Kobe Bryant in the New York Times this morning, my thoughts turned somewhat unexpectedly to Jeff Kent.
It was unexpected because of the many differences between the Laker superstar and the Dodger 2014 Hall of Famer, but suddenly I found a fairly straight line between the two veterans' disenchantment with young players in their last full seasons - and wondered if Bryant's re-enchantment with his Laker teammates could presage something similar with Kent.
Seven months ago, Kobe Bryant's powerful hands were outstretched and cocked, poised to slam the figurative big red button that would blow up the Los Angeles Lakers, end an era and reorder the N.B.A. universe. Last week, those capable hands were flinging passes to Andrew Bynum, clasping the shoulders of Jordan Farmar, diagramming sets to Vladimir Radmanovic and holding up the foundation of the franchise that Bryant so badly wanted to leave.
The Lakers (16-10) arrived in New York on Saturday, tied with New Orleans for the fifth-best record in the Western Conference. They have won seven of their last nine games, including victories against San Antonio, Denver and Golden State. This season, they have also beaten Phoenix, Detroit and Utah. They are averaging 106.3 points a game, third best in the league.
And Bryant, the fabulously talented star with a penchant for drama, wore an expression of pure contentment.
"I'm very happy," Bryant said Saturday after the Lakers practiced at a Manhattan health club. They play the Knicks on Sunday. "I'm happy because we have a very close-knit group here. We're like brothers. We all get along, so the chemistry is great." ...
Again, I don't want to take this analogy too far. Bryant is different from Kent, the Lakers are different from the Dodgers (in part because Kent was hardly the only Dodger wailing to the press at the end of last season) and basketball is different from baseball.
But ultimately, even the worst interpretation of the Dodger clubhouse requires only that a) everyone gives even the appearance of growing up a little and b) the team wins more than it loses in a given month for rainbows to fill the skies.
For a time last spring, Bryant could hardly contain his feelings. He was anguished over a first-round playoff loss to the Suns, who also ousted the Lakers in 2006. He was seething at management's failure to upgrade the roster, which had only one other certified star, Lamar Odom, and too many unproven young players.
It had been three years since the Lakers won a playoff series, and Bryant's window for winning a fourth title was shrinking. He is only 29, but he just began his 12th N.B.A. season (and has logged 131 games in the playoffs). He can ill afford to wait for prospects like Bynum to develop.
At the height of his rage, Bryant was surreptitiously captured on video, in a parking lot, cursing General Manager Mitch Kupchak for failing to trade Bynum for Jason Kidd of the Nets. Bryant said his comments were not so much meant as a knock on Bynum as they were a strong desire to play with Kidd. Bryant maintains that his concerns have to do with the front office, not the locker room.
Happily for Bryant and the Lakers, the 20-year-old Bynum is starting to blossom at center. After Friday's games, he ranked 13th in the N.B.A. in rebounding (10.1 a game), 9th in blocked shots (2.1) and 3rd in field-goal percentage (.606). He was also averaging 11.9 points.
"He's been a big, big boost for us," Bryant said during a later interview in Harlem, where he joined 100 neighborhood children for a round of bowling. "Bynum's development has been remarkable, from last season until now. He just needs to continue to work, and continue to get better. He can be a big threat for us." ...
Could Matt Kemp, already an impact player yet still young in baseball years, rehabilitate himself in Kent's eyes the way Bynum has in Bryant's?
And could the rest of the kids - led, remember, by perhaps the most mature Dodger of all, Russell Martin, win over win-now teammates like Derek Lowe?
Some growth is necessary. As of Wednesday, the Lakers were the third-youngest team in the N.B.A., with an average age of 25.49 (behind Portland and Seattle, which are rebuilding). They are built on the veterans Bryant (26.3 points a game), Odom (14.2) and Fisher (12.1), who rejoined the team after a three-year absence. But the Lakers are also receiving contributions from Bynum, the 21-year-old Farmar and 23-year-old Sasha Vujacic.
Suddenly, the Lakers do not look so callow or unworthy of Bryant's presence.
I mean, James Loney and Chad Billingsley are better than Farmar and Vujacic.
Ultimately, I don't believe the Dodgers have to get along to win. I believe they might have to win to get along (just as Byrant's Laker rapprochement will last only as long as the Lakers are winning). But there's a lot of talent on the Dodger team to make that happen.
The Dodgers need to come to International Spring Training 2008 with a clear understanding that their enemies are the pitching staffs of their National League West rivals, not the guys putting the Dodger uniform on each day.
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Old friend Cody Ross gets the spotlight at The Baseball-Reference.com Play Index Stat of the Day.
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First it was Tower Records on Sunset closing, now the Virgin Megastore at Sunset and Crescent Heights. Will my kids even know what it was like to browse a record store?
December 22 Open Chat
Happy 45th anniversary to my parents, who met in '54, didn't see each other for seven years, then found each other again - for good. Love you both.
More Simplistic Starting Pitching Rankings: AL
Right back into the breach today: I invite the world to examine American League starting pitchers on my idiosyncratic terms at SI.com.
Once more, to reflect the community effort on the research for this column from several Dodger Thoughts commenters, I'm going to donate my pay for the column to the Kilimanjaro Climb for Clean Water.
Well, the last place I wanted to end up was on the wrong side of Firejoemorgan.com, but there I am (as well as on Bleed Cubbie Blue). No fun being lumped with the lunkheads FJM typically goes after.
Of course, maybe I was asking for this sort of treatment with my approach, but I just wish the critique had been more fair. There's a difference between exaggerating to make a point and just flat out changing what I was saying (as when he discusses the point values of my rating system.)
In general, most of the national feedback has been negative, with people either critiquing individual ratings or the system itself. Some of those criticisms were fair given what I had outlined in the introduction, while others seemed to just ignore that part.
But, I always say, the burden's on the writer to be clear and convincing, not on the reader to be clearly convinced. One thing I might have done differently would have been to document more clearly in the column itself the detailed stats and scouting reports everyone compiled.
I'm still happy with what I set out to do, even if I'm now a category at FJM. I've enjoyed reading the site enough in the past, so it's only fair.
Update: My squad of tireless defenders has e-mailed FJM, and he has updated his post with some kind words. And his point is well taken - whatever my approach, I should have shown my work, especially in a mainstream forum like SI.com. Lesson for me, and no hard feelings.
The Simplistic Ranking System Goes National
My - or should I say, our - survey of National League starting rotations should hit SI.com soon:
I don't know if the reward fits the good deed, but in gratitude for several Dodger Thoughts commenters helping me with the research and offering suggestions, I'm going to donate my modest compensation for the column - specifically, to the Kilimanjaro Climb for Clean Water, a cause that my friend Brax Cutchin is deeply involved in.
Hamilton (L, 0-1)
Ducksnorts blogger Geoff Young (of all people, I say with due kindness!) revisits the 22-inning, Jeff Hamilton-pitching, Fernando Valenzuela-first-basing game at The Hardball Times today.
At True Blue L.A., ToyCannon writes about the skyrocketing cost of Dodger season tickets. I've long been a believer that teams charge what people will pay, as opposed to charging what they need. That's pretty much the way of the world. But it sure is painful to realize what some of us (like, thankfully, my dad) are willing to pay. Sometime, there has to be a tipping point, right?
I would hate to be a parent these days who wants to take his kids to a game and sit somewhere between the bases. Figure the cost of around $160.00 for tickets, $15.00 for parking. At least $15.00 per kid to keep him happy with food and your looking at a $200.00 night just for a simple baseball game. Plus they would want to leave by the 7th inning and would spend most of the time texting their friends or getting excited about a beach ball. It would make more sense to not got to two games and buy them a WII instead.
Mr. Judy Landers
You have to be of a certain age to appreciate or at least remember the Landers sisters, Judy (right) and Audrey. Back in the '70s and '80s, they popped up on TV sets and movie screens pretty regularly though in fact, Audrey has been working on Burn Notice this year. They had sort of a PG-rated sexiness, perfect for Love Boat/Fantasy Island-type work, though Judy was a bit more of the sexpot, while Audrey was the thinking man's Landers sister. (And then there's Teresa Ganzel, which is a whole other story.)
Shortly after he gave up his home run to Jack Clark in the 1985 playoffs, Dodger reliever Tom Niedenfuer married Judy, an event that always struck me as a sufficiently ample consolation prize for infamy. If I'm not mistaken, the couple celebrated their 20th anniversary last month, an achievement far more meaningful than any pennant.
Niedenfuer has kept a pretty low profile since the end of his career in 1990, as far as I can tell (scroll to the bottom), but it looks as if the rest of the family is aiming to gain a little exposure, as evidenced by this item on gossip site TMZ.
Anyway, I don't really have a point here, other than just as with last week's post, I really love it when I can connect my childhood TV-watching days with the Dodgers. I mean, Maureen McCormick and the Landerseses in five days. It doesn't get much better than that.
If you do want something tawdry to contemplate, though, try today's posting at Screen Jam.
Who Are They Kidding?
Kevin Baxter of the Times checks in with Dodger shortstop Rafael Furcal:
"It's tough when you've got a bad injury and you can't even stand up at home plate. I felt so disappointed with myself."
For the most part, however, he suffered in silence. Although the Dodgers' trainers and confidants such as infield coach Mariano Duncan knew he was in pain, few others, even teammates, knew how badly he was hurt.
Is this a joke? Furcal's ankle injury was one of the most obvious, most talked-about maladies of any Dodger season. He was clearly limited in his ability, clearly in need of an extended rest.
His wife, Glenny, knew because Furcal's silence spoke volumes.
"When he feels hurt, he never says anything. He just stays quiet. But at the same time, I know that he was expecting more and he was getting frustrated," she says, sitting in the living room of the couple's sprawling two-story, 11th-floor penthouse.
"He wanted to do more [but] he was scared to say something because he felt like maybe people wouldn't believe that he was hurt," Glenny remembers of the long, quiet nights in their La Canada home. "It was really bad. He would come home sad. When Raffy can't play well, he gets frustrated."
No offense to Furcal, none at all, but this is just delusional. Everyone saw him get hurt or read about it the next day. Everyone knew he was hurt. This was not a case for Sherlock Holmes. This was not the big "Rosebud" reveal.
The rest that Furcal has gotten since September 30 is the rest Furcal needed on March 30. It didn't help the Dodgers that he postponed it.
Instead, you can score another phyrric victory for baseball's macho, headgame culture. Is there anyone out there who can conquer the better-to-play-at-50-percent-than-heal, I'd-rather-play-poorly-than-make-excuses mentality?
What Is a Fourth Starter?
In the wake of the Dodgers' Hiroki Kuroda signing, Dodger Thoughts commenter Eric Stephen researched the realties of No. 4 starters in the National League. Enjoy his work!
With the recent signing of Hiroki Kuroda by the Dodgers, many reports peg Kuroda as the team's "fourth starter." What should we expect of Kuroda in 2008? How well will Kuroda have to perform to be considered a success? To define his success, we need to figure out just what a fourth starter is, and how will Kuroda compare with his 2007 Dodger counterparts.
The Dodgers' "Big Three" of Brad Penny, Chad Billingsley, and Derek Lowe are all above average pitchers. In 2007, they combined for 85 starts and put up stellar numbers, a combined 3.44 ERA and 133 ERA+. No team in the NL got better pitching out of its top three starters (ranked by IP) in 2007:
The Dodgers had the highest ERA+ at 133 (Note: When I plugged in Dan Haren's 2007 into Arizona's numbers to replace Livan Hernandez, their ERA+ is also 133) and highest winning percentage at .612. However, only the Washington Nationals got fewer starts out of their "Big Three," and only the Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals got fewer innings than the Dodgers.
Outside of the "Big Three," I lumped every other starter into a category called "The Rest." Here is how "The Rest" fared in the NL in 2007:
While other teams may have gotten worse pitching from the dregs of their rotation than the Dodgers, only the Nationals had more starts from their back end.
The Dodgers' pitching figures to improve in 2008 simply by having Chad Billingsley in the rotation for a full season (he only made 20 starts in 2007). Having Kuroda will also help, albeit it a hefty cost ($12.3 million for 2008 alone), as he simply has to replace the dastardly duo of Mark Hendrickson & Brett Tomko, who combined for a putrid 5.84 ERA in 30 starts and 155.2 innings in 2007.
Looking further into the numbers, it underscores how important depth is when evaluating potential starting rotations. There is simply no such thing as a five-man rotation, at least in literal terms. It really does take a village to build a pitching staff. In 2007, the average NL team used:
The Cubs got the most starts out of their top five starters, with 152. Here are the numbers for each NL team:
Chi - 152 (93.8%)
Those pesky Nationals again kept the Dodgers out of the bottom spot.
Using Baseball-Reference.com, I ranked each team's starters by innings pitched to define each rotation slot, and averaged them. I used the league 4.43 ERA to calculate the cumulative ERA+, so they may be a bit off. Here are the numbers for the 2007 NL:
What's interesting is that even if you expand the average NL rotation to include six starters, that still leaves roughly 21 starts unaccounted for!
What does this mean for the Dodgers? None of the eight hurlers who started a game for the Dodgers outside their "Big Three" had an ERA+ of 100 or better. Only the Pittsburgh Pirates and Florida Marlins can share this dubious claim. Think about that for a moment. Nearly every team in the NL got league average innings out of at least one starter outside their top three. Not the Dodgers. David Wells and his 5.12 ERA in seven Dodger starts made him the fifth best starter on the team!
What does this mean for Kuroda? If they can get more than 124 IP with an ERA+ of 96 or more out of their newest Japanese import, they will be above average in the National League, and I'd call his season a success.
(Editor's note: And if the Dodgers' top three retain their advantage over the rest of the NL, so much the better.)
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In other Dodger Thoughts commenter news, Nate Purcell went through Kuroda's 2007 boxscores and determined (with some small amount of self-confessed margin for error) that Kuroda's groundout/flyout ratio was 2.25 to 1.
Vero Beach Farewell: March 17
The tentative 2008 Dodger Spring Training schedule:
Bennett To Back Up Martin
Backup catcher Gary Bennett has signed a one-year deal with the Dodgers, the team announced today. You may have seen his name in the news recently, but my memory of him will always be this: "Jordan knocks Bennett into Chinatown."
Preliminary AL Starting Rotation Rankings
As we discussed last week with the Preliminary NL Starting Rotation Rankings, my ranking system isn't meant to be scientific, but rather it's designed to give you a general idea of the quality and depth of a team's starting rotation. A margin for error intentionally exists. Points awarded based on the following categories (looking at three-year trends, with the most weight on the 2007 season):
Thanks again to the Dodger Thoughts commenters who supplied information. Further comments, suggestions and corrections encouraged. (Update: Revisions have begun.)
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (17 points)
Cleveland Indians (15 points)
Boston Red Sox (14 points)
Tampa Bay Rays (14 points)
Toronto Blue Jays (14 points)
Minnesota Twins (12 points)
New York Yankees (10 points)
Seattle Mariners (10 points)
Detroit Tigers (9 points)
Oakland A's (9 points)
Kansas City Royals (7 points)
Comment: I want to move one of the top three up a point - but which one? I'm leaning toward Greinke.
Baltimore Orioles (8 points)
Comment: I did the Orioles, White Sox and Rangers in a rush. Names might be missing or truly misplaced.
Chicago White Sox (7 points)
Texas Rangers (6 points)
Matt Patterson of The Oklahoman checked in with Dodger outfielder Matt Kemp in this interview:
Or, if you prefer passive voice ...
Dodger outfielder Matt Kemp was checked into by Matt Patterson of The Oklahoman in this interview:
Former Midwest City star Matt Kemp has packed a lot of life experience into his 23 years.
As a Bomber, Kemp helped Midwest City to a state championship in basketball, but he also saw two teammates, Shelden Williams and De'Angelo Alexander, investigated on charges of sexual assault. Kemp was also questioned by police as a witness. Charges were never filed, but it's an experience that sticks with Kemp to this day.
In his debut year with the Dodgers, Kemp hit .342 last season. He talks about life in LA, trade rumors and his feud with teammate Jeff Kent. Through it all, Kemp has called on his Oklahoma roots to stay grounded. ...
Kemp's "people are out to get you" philosophy, as expressed in the interview, is sad when you think about it - perhaps damaging in its own way somehow or indicative of damage already done - but perhaps also a pragmatic approach for him to have at this point in his life.
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Hiroki Kuroda is getting a $7.3 million signing bonus for 2007 and then $5 million in salary for 2008, according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News. For the purposes of the recently updated payroll worksheet on the Dodger Thoughts sidebar, I'm putting the entire $12.3 million under 2008.
Jackson said Kuroda would get $10 million in 2009 and $13 million in 2010.
Dodgers Sign Kuroda
Tony Jackson of the Daily News was the first to say it was a done deal, reporting the contract at $36 million to $40 million for three years, and now the Dodgers have announced that Hiroki Kuroda will be introduced as a Dodger at a 12 noon press conference Sunday.
Esteban Loaiza and Jason Schmidt are now competing to be the team's No. 5 starter. (No, Chad Billingsley cannot go back to the bullpen. He's proven too much that he belongs in the rotation.)
Dylan Hernandez of the Times still has the contract peaking at $36 million. We'll see who's right soon enough.
Previously on Dodger Thoughts: "Mutual of Kuroda". And since most are optimistic about Kuroda's potential impact on the Dodgers, here's a more pessimistic writeup from True Blue L.A.
Dodgers-Diamondbacks Quickie Comparison
C: Russell Martin vs. Chris Snyder
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Idaho State's visit to UCLA today is bringing back memories for a lot of people. The only time I remember crying after a sporting event was following this game: UCLA's upset loss to Idaho State in the second round of the 1977 NCAA men's basketball tournament. I had been vaguely aware of sports since before I was 5, passionate about them since before I was 8, but had never experienced that kind of shock and devastation over a game, and I was overcome.
I remember going into my parents' bedroom, where I expected my father, who has had UCLA season tickets since Pauley Pavilion opened, to join in my sorrow. Instead, he calmingly let me know that these things happen.
Do they ever.
Smiles, Everyone, Smiles
Time to turn those frowns upside down!
I don't remember this Wheaties ad with Ron Cey so well, but I do vividly remember the Gillette Foamy ad that comes after.
Also, I recognize the catcher behind Cey - I think he guested on Hill Street Blues among other shows - but I'm blanking on the name.
(And, of course, there's Chocolate Thunder!)
Steve and Cyndy Garvey, during happier times - no doubt because of the soothing presence of Jack LaLanne.
After posting the first two video clips, I thought of the headline for this post, because everyone was so happy. That headline then sent me looking for a clip of Fantasy Island. The one I found features a rather deep philosophical discussion between Roarke and Tattoo. Enjoy!
Update: Ricardo Montalban, Gary Burghoff, Tommy Lasorda, Steve Garvey, Fred Lynn, George Brett - it's all coming together! Can Kuroda throw like that?
Not to mention Leslie Nielsen saying, "Thou hast been found guilty of being servants of Satan!"
The irresponsible publication Thursday morning of names falsely linked to the Mitchell Report, in my view, is directly connected to the casual, all-in-good-fun passing along of rumors during the Hot Stove League.
A media culture that sets a standard of "someone else said it, so it doesn't matter if it's true" when the stakes are low is primed to have some of its members make the same mistake when the stakes are high. And so it went Thursday.
Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes about it this morning, although you almost get the sense that he thinks it's only a TV-radio problem. Instead, it's pervasive.
Cheating the truth to grow your audience is wrong. (And it's not as if I haven't ever made the mistake.)
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Mark Whicker of the Register takes the unpopular view regarding the Mitchell Report. I think it's worth a read, even if you don't agree.
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Back to your regularly unscheduled Dodger news soon, I hope ...
History is what happened, not what I wish it would be. New revelations might add or subtract from that history, might force me to alter my interpretations of events, but they don't erase what happened on the field, in the record books or, most of all, in my memories. The homers, the strikeouts, the visceral images in my mind joy and pain remain. The rewrite exists as a new chapter. And, the rewrite, as reliable as it might or might not be, is rarely the last chapter.
Eliminating unfair advantages is a worthy if quixotic goal. Unfair advantages on the socio-economic level, putting aside the physical level, begin at birth, and multiply both with and without our intending them to. Pretending that unfair advantages don't exist or haven't existed throughout time is pointless.
No asterisks. What happened, happened. We don't have to like it, but it happened. The game was what it was; life was what it was. We should always try to do better, but we can't do so by papering over the past.
Clarification: My "no asterisks" statement refers to the record books themselves. I thought that was implied, but that was a little careless of me. The fact is, I place a mental asterisk next to this era, as I do with other events in baseball like the pre-integration era.
It's simply not practical to alter the baseball record book. There are too many people involved, simultaneously, to do it. That being said, what's the imperative? When a missed call determines victory, when a team wins on the strength of a fifth down or the clock not running properly, do we go back and change the result years later? No, we live with it and try to make sense of it. Maybe, if there's a chance for it, have a laugh about it.
There are a million events in history that I'd like to change. Applying Liquid Paper to the encyclopedia won't change them.
But just because someone's in a record book doesn't mean you have to honor him. The record book provides information of what happened - your decision of how to interpret that information is your choice. For example, some will think it's a bad thing to be in the record books for most losses by a pitcher in a season; others will find ways to admire the feat. It's up to the individual to decide, though certainly we can talk about it - maybe even come to a consensus from time to time.
The news today will alter some of my interpretations; it just won't change what happened or how much I enjoyed it while it was happening.
We're living, thinking creatures, each and every one of us. We can interpret. We're capable of perspective. We don't need baseball to impose it for us. We need baseball to take steps to address this problem for the future.
December 13, 1956
On the 51st anniversary of the day the Dodgers announced they were trading Jackie Robinson to the Giants, John Klima writes about the legendary ballplayer for BaseballLibrary.com.
Pierre To Stay, Apparently
More from Diamond Leung at the Press-Enterprise:
"I don't have any interest in trading Matt Kemp," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "We plan on having him here." That doesn't mean, however, that Kemp would necessarily be an everyday player if Andre Ethier remains a Dodger. Colletti also said he doesn't plan on trading Juan Pierre.
What wasn't said:
1) that Ethier wouldn't be traded
Update: Ken Gurnick at MLB.com ...
If he's not trading Kemp, what about Juan Pierre or Andre Ethier, the other two outfielders in the primary quartet? Colletti was non-committal.
He said he spoke with Pierre about the acquisition of Jones, which will force the move of Pierre to left field if he is not traded. Colletti said he was satisfied that Pierre would accept the shift. The remaining $36.5 million on Pierre's contract will be a significant hurdle to clear in any trade.
"The main thing he got across to me is that he wished he had more of an inkling to our thought process," Colletti said of Pierre. "He said he just wished he knew a month ago. I didn't know. Who knew?"
Colletti signed Pierre last winter to a five-year contract that has come under constant fire because of Pierre's weak throwing arm and low on-base percentage. Nonetheless, Colletti said the addition of Jones could dramatically improve a Dodgers lineup with Pierre still in it. ...
"I believe the team has the power potential to score in different ways. And it has the added factor of speed with [Rafael] Furcal and Pierre on top providing a different dynamic. How many teams have the speed to steal bases with the top two and have five possible with 20 homers?"
What's this nonsense about Pierre not knowing the Dodgers were looking for a new center fielder? It's been talked about overtly since the regular season ended.
Update 3: Last add from Leung is "People can think what they want about Juan and the position change, but he's a great guy," said Mark Pieper, Pierre's agent.
The Tallest Dodger Is Derek Lowe
Mark Hendrickson will cease to be a Dodger at 9 p.m. tonight, according to Josh Rawitch at Inside the Dodgers. (I believe it was unintentional that this news came under the headline of another story, "A Great Day ...") Commenter LOB was the first to spot the news.
Jason Repko, Joe Beimel, Yhency Brazoban and Scott Proctor did get contract offers, according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise. (Thanks to commenter Worz.)
Hendrickson pitched 197 2/3 innings for Los Angeles, allowing 234 hits (including 22 home runs), walking 57 and striking out 140. Acquired to be an effective innings eater, his ERA with the team was 5.01 and pitched seven innings in a game just once.
Previously on Dodger Thoughts: "Something Ventured, Nothing Gained?"
It's Like The Amazing Race*!
Some names you know, some names you don't, but come March, they'll all be part of history the Florida-China-Arizona Spring Training Extravaganza. From the Dodgers:
Right-handed pitchers Tanyon Sturtze, Mike Koplove and Brian Falkenborg headline the group and will be joined by fellow right-handers Rick Asadoorian, Fernando Desgue and Greg Jones. Left-handed hurler Brian Shackelford, outfielder John-Ford Griffin, first-baseman John Lindsey, infielder Angel Chavez and catcher Danny Ardoin are the others coming to Vero Beach, joining catcher Rene Rivera, pitcher Chan-Ho Park and infielder Terry Tiffee, who were previously announced as non-roster invitees.
Sturtze, Falkenborg, Lindsey and Park have all been in the Dodger organization before - Lindsey hit 30 minor-league homers for the Dodgers last year. Sturtze, of course, was in the famous Brian Myrow trade.
*I have never seen The Amazing Race, so I don't know if it's really like that.
Mutual of Kuroda
About four years ago, my toddler daughter and pregnant wife went on a trip to Jamaica, where relatives had rented a house for a week. Nervous about the trip, I bought for the first time in my life one of those insurance policies at the airport, just before the plane took off. Whether it was sensible or not, it eased some anxiety.
Is that what Hiroki Kuroda is? Insurance?
Kuroda has a career ERA in Japan of 3.69 and strikes out between six and seven batters per nine innings, while walking very few. He averages about seven innings a start, though he has never had to make more than 30 starts a year.
And he might be about to get a big three-year contract from the Dodgers.
This news has been greeted with two types of reactions, the first and perhaps most important being that regardless of how well Kuroda performs, his presence now will forestall any potentially damaging offseason trades by Dodger general manager Ned Colletti. While you can't rule out the notion that Kuroda could make a younger pitching prospect or two expendable (particularly if combined with an outfielder), what exactly would Colletti be trading for?
If you can believe him, Colletti has already said that the addition of Andruw Jones to the lineup made him comfortable with the current Nomar Garciaparra/Andy LaRoche situation at third base. An acquisition of Erik Bedard from Baltimore would force both Jason Schmidt and Esteban Loaiza out of the rotation.
That leaves the bullpen. Colletti has overpaid for relief in the past, but that's been with players he grew fatigued of, like Joel Guzman and Edwin Jackson. No such fatigue exists for Clayton Kershaw, James McDonald or even Scott Elbert at this time.
So at a minimum, a Kuroda signing could be a down payment protecting the farm system for perhaps the entire 2008 season, assuming no catastrophes befall the starting lineup. It'd be a rather extravagant down payment, considering that annual salary of Kuroda and Jones probably match up to Alex Rodriguez's.
Beyond that, whether Kuroda will himself contribute to the 2008 cause remains uncertain. Despite Takashi Saito defying all naysayers to become true genius on American shores, there are multiple examples of pitchers who flounder when crossing over from Japan. Kuroda is not Hideo Nomo; he is not Daisuke Matsuzaka. Kuroda turns 33 in February with a declining strikeout rate. The absolute best-case scenario, short of the still-unexplained miracle of Saito, might be for him to become Derek Lowe someone who succeeds as long as hitters don't hit the ball through one hole after another.
"Kuroda a very strong power pitcher with a low to mid-90s fastball and a wicked forkball," Mike Plugh of Baseball Prospectus wrote last month. (Thanks to Dodger Thoughts commenter MikeB for the link.) "In addition, he features a plus shuuto, something like a screwball, as well as an effective change. Even if he only pans out as a third or fourth starter in the majors, he will give you innings, work deep into games, and he should be fairly consistent start to start."
Grimmer scenarios would have him batted around like any number of Dodger punching bags from the past few years. When your non-miracle upside is middle-of-the-road starter, that doesn't leave a lot of margin for error.
However, I don't think it's entirely unrealistic for Kuroda to fool hitters his first time through the league, and that by the time hitters catch on to him, Kershaw, McDonald or Elbert are ready to step in. Of course, then you have the issue of benching a man with an eight-figure contract again, but I guess we'd just have to cross that bridge when we come to it.
I'm neither down nor up on this signing. I once again use my Dodger Thoughts-given right to just not be sure.
From Jon Heyman of SI.com:
The Tigers were right to ignore baseball's ridiculously arbitrary slotting system, whereby teams use a player's draft position as the guideline for what his signing bonus should be. By ignoring it, Detroit was able to sign the better prospects and put them in a position to make this trade. The Yankees also have wisely ignored MLB's bonus recommendations. And now the Mets' Minaya told Baseball America and Newsday they may have to rethink their resolve to stick to the system. Being what Minaya called "good citizens," has cost them big time.
Previously on Dodger Thoughts: one of a few stories I wrote about a sore subject I kind of decided I shouldn't bring up again.
* * *
Jeff Kent tendered his non-resignation, Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise reports. Thanks to commenter Eric Stephen for spotting it before I went to bed.
Annals of 'Face of the Dodgers'
Spotted on Sunset Boulevard: a billboard calling out "Hello, Joe" with a mug of the Dodgers' new skipper.
And homegrown Russell Martin continues to wait for the spotlight to properly find him. Someday, Martin's going to die as he lived: dancing the can-can in a Dodger uniform and a catcher's mask.
Do You Spell It 'Catchup' or 'Katchup'
Catching up on things I didn't get around to posting ... as reported elsewhere, ex-Dodgers Eric Gagne, Milton Bradley, Paul Lo Duca and Randy Wolf have all agreed to terms with new teams over the past few days. Just in case you missed it.
Some other links:
True Blue L.A. has been a good read of late, with pieces on potential lineup problems for the Dodgers and even more so for the Padres, and another piece on lineup construction.
Baseball Analysts discusses the Andruw Jones and Torii Hunter signings before heading into a discussion of total bases per swing, a stat designed to shine a light on bat control and strike-zone judgment. James Loney appears in a top 10 that also includes Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Barry Bonds, Hanley Ramirez, Jorge Posada and ... Jeff Keppinger?
Preliminary NL Starting Rotation Rankings
Based on the information supplied by Dodger Thoughts commenters - many thanks, all - I am trying to rank the starting rotations of the National League. Here's a preliminary look. I awarded teams points based on the following:
I looked at three-year trends, with the most weight on the 2007 season. I reserve the right to revise the points I gave individual pitchers and in turn the team rankings. Meanwhile, I still see this as a collaborative effort. If you see something you disagree with, or a team that is missing a pitcher, by all means, offer your suggestions or corrections in the comments below. Also, if you'd like to suggest a way to tweak the point system - without losing too much of its simplicity or joie de vivre - let me know.
As far as the Dodgers are concerned, right now there's no doubt that the acquisition of an above-average pitcher could all but ensure the team has the best rotation in the league. But even without that acquisition, the Dodgers sit near the top. (However valid or invalid this point system is, the talent the Dodgers have compared to other teams is clear.) No NL team has more than three clearly above-average starters.
Comment: Even if either takes the mound regularly, I don't expect Schmidt or Loaiza to turn in season performances that are better than average. On the other hand, I give Kuo a point despite his questionable health. Overall, one point combined for those three pitchers seems fair.
Update: After much unresolved debate below, I've decided to put both Kuo and Schmidt in this spot but keep the team point total the same.
*extra point given to Martinez for his super above-average potential
Comment: I thought about giving Lilly one less point and Zambrano one more point, but it all evens out for now.
* Would give Carpenter two points if he were to come back before midseason
Wouldn't It Be Nice If There Was a Baseball Game Today?
Arms and the Young
The prospects of a Tim Lincecum-Alex Rios trade is generating passion up in San Francisco, with Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News advocating the move, Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles arguing against as well as rebutting Kawakami, and then Kawakami countering McCovey this morning ... concluding thusly:
Good-to-very-good young hitters, for a team that has none, are vital. They are the lifeblood.
So I could be wrong. Yes, with Lincecum, I could definitely be wrong. Even if I'm wrong, though, I'm pretty sure I'm right about the bigger picturethe Giants need hitters like Rios more than they need possible pitchers like Lincecum.
I repeat: I love the passion and the debate. I will love it if I'm right and I will still love it if I'm very quickly proven wrong.
I will stand my ground on this and I hope the McCovey Chronicles stands by what it believes and keeps bashing me on this issue.
On other issues in the present and future, I assume we will totally agree. Or maybe not.
But on Lincecum-for-Rios If I'm wrong, I'll say so. That I promise. Always. I always do that.
I bring this up not to get involved in that internecine debate - although it's nice to see Kawakami fight the message instead of the messenger - but to excerpt this Buttercup-relevant portion of Kawakami's latest:
I like Lincecum's future. He's fun to watch. But I like him better as a future closer than as a 36-starts-a-season startergiven his size and the chance that his motion isn't repeatable for 220 innings a year for 5 to 10 years without back, shoulder or elbow problems. Just a subjective opinion.
I was around Pedro Martinez when he was a rookie. I wrote the story for the LA Times the day they traded him for Delino DeShieldsand I wrote the damn story knowing the Dodgers totally screwed up. I wasn't supposed to put opinion into the story, but I think I did anyway, it was that obvious that early.
Pedro was a free and easy small pitcher. Loose and explosive. Natural and fiery and amazingthough Lasorda didn't believe in him.
I remember calling up Brett Butler the day it happened, and Butler telling me that it was probably a terrible mistake. And it obviously was one of the worst trades in the last 30 decades.
I could be wrong, but I do not feel the same way about Lincecum. I think he's destined to be a closer. Possibly a dominant closer. But unless you're the Yankees or Red Sox, a closer is not as valuable as even a No. 3 starter.
Fifteen years later, the Dodgers are contemplating the trade of another bright young prospect - only this time he's a hitter, Matt Kemp. (Of course, there's also the chance that perhaps the Dodgers' best pitching prospect since Martinez, Clayton Kershaw, could go as well.) The theory is that the Dodgers need more starting pitching to win the National League West in 2008, even though trading Kemp would weaken the offense.
I'm going to cut corners today and ask for help from the group on a project. (Seems like a good day for it, since Dodger Thoughts set a visitor traffic record Thursday. Welcome, everyone.)
I'd like 16 commenters to volunteer to scope out the NL starting rotations. I'd like you to supply the following information on the top 6-10 starting pitching candidates currently in each organization - no free agents:
Volunteer to take on one team. Place your report in the comments, and I'll compile them, and maybe we'll see whether the Dodgers are as desperate for starting pitching help as some people think.
We Will Forgive!
To Ned Colletti:
We, the undersigned, extend this olive branch in the hopes of freeing you from the burden of Juan Pierre.
Perhaps you still don't see that Pierre's skills fail to justify his position in the starting lineup for a contending baseball team. In fact, even factoring in his baserunning, he stands to be one of the weakest left fielders in the major leagues offensively. And defensively, his speed is less relevant than ever with the arrival of Andruw Jones in center field.
But perhaps you have come to fully understand Pierre's flaws, yet are imprisoned by embarrassment. The Jones signing itself is enough to draw attention to the shortcomings of Pierre and the ill-advised contract he received. Perhaps you don't wish to court further indignation from some quarters of the press who would mock you for eating most of his contract in a trade or allowing new manager Joe Torre to bench him.
We, the undersigned, are here to tell you not to feel any shame. No shame! We will support and defend and praise any effort you make to rectify the Pierre mistake. We all make mistakes. We are not too proud to forgive.
We understand that Pierre is a nice guy and very fast. We are not demanding his release. Fourth outfielder status is a reasonable compromise. Everybody wins. Including, most importantly, the Dodgers.
We, the undersigned, ask you to accept that Juan Pierre should not start for the Dodgers this season.
and those that follow
Dallas McPherson: Cautionary Tale?
Nothing like reading about a third baseman with a disk problem when you're trying to pump up Andy LaRoche as a Dodger starter. Not saying it relates directly - I have no idea how their injuries compare - but I couldn't help thinking about LaRoche when I read this from Mike DiGiovanna of the Times:
Though they didn't land Cabrera or Tejada, the Angels will enter camp with a power-hitting third baseman -- Dallas McPherson. Remember him?
Once touted as a 40-homer threat, McPherson was limited by injuries to 40 games in 2006 and missed all of 2007 after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disk in his lower back.
But McPherson played 11 games in the Arizona instructional league this fall, hitting .240 in 25 at-bats with two home runs, and he feels better about his chances of playing in 2008 ... somewhere.
"I don't care if I'm in A ball -- I just want to get back on the field," McPherson, 27, said. "I'm so far down the list right now, and rightfully so. I've had so many injuries, I was out for a year. I don't expect to be the starting third baseman, for sure, but I would like another opportunity."
McPherson, who is doing yoga in hopes of improving his range of motion, said his instructional-league stint went a lot better than he expected.
"My biggest fear was running the bases, and I was able to do that," McPherson said. "I was able to play third, a little first. I was able to bend down, move to my left and right, get out of the batter's box. I felt like my power was fine. I hit some good shots, drove the ball to the gap a few times. It was definitely something to build on."
This Could Bode Ill for the Forgiveness Letter Getting Read
From Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise:
Colletti then defended the signing of Pierre, who went for five years, $44 million.
"You tell me what you would do when we were sitting there with one outfielder, Andre Ethier, who had played four months of big league baseball and no other outfielder. It's easy to go back and re-write history ..."
We did tell him. Many times. As history was happening. Before history was happening.
Asked if it was the salary that was driving up expectations about Pierre, Colletti said, "Check it out on some blog, I don't know." Colletti later claimed never to have read a single blog entry in his lifetime.
More Perspective on the Jones Signing
Though I see plenty of upside if the Dodgers' next moves are solid, I'm not completely rosy on the Andruw Jones signing, because his low on-base percentage provides no safety net if Jones' home-run power, like that of 21st-century Dodgers Shawn Green or Nomar Garciaparra, never returns.
At 6-4-2, Rob McMillin excerpts other reactions and adds his own two cents to the sobering talk:
Oddly enough, Nate Silver called Jones "closer to Hunter in reality than in perception" at the end of the season, which makes sense: low-ish OBP, higher single-season home run totals offset by a precipitous plunge from previous levels.
As to whether the deal stinks: John Beamer at The Hardball Times looked at Jones' 2007, and concluded that
If you allow me to blatantly speculate, what appears to have happened is this: in the early few weeks Andruw was trying be selective but swung hard and fast when he saw a hittable pitch. He walked a ton, got a dash of luck but didn't hit many home runs despite playing well. In an effort to dial up the power he became less selective and more ragged and his production worsened considerably. Since then he has reigned [sic] in the power, focused a little more on contact and seen a corresponding change in his peripherals.Dave Studeman posted a followup piece that same day, finding that Jones' line drive rate has been falling over the last four years:
As expected, Andruw has lost a lot of oomph on his outfield flies (despite hitting more of them), but his line drive production has also declined; in fact, it's declined each of the past four years. Add in lower production on his groundballs and more strikeouts, and you pretty much have a quadruple whammy.That is, he's just not hitting the ball hard as he used to, and therefore isn't as valuable. But allow me to back off of this particular brand of pessimism for a moment and look at the bigger picture. The first question has to be, are the Dodgers improved? The only way that can be answered in the affirmative offensively is if you believe Jones is about to have a bounceback year. That could happen, but his 2007 was so bad that it could also belie a fundamental change in his value.
Assuming he does revert to something like his age-adjusted career norms, this gives the Dodgers the unusual situation of having a centerfielder capable of carrying both his weight and Juan Pierre's, who now moves to the traditional power spot in left. The good news there is that Jones can still get it done in center (109 Rate2), so at least the comical trend of baserunners tagging from first on balls hit up the middle can come to an end. This is arguably a desperation move, but it signals something far more important, and ultimately, valuable to the Dodgers: it shows Ned Colletti understands that the Pierre contract is an albatross.
Meanwhile, Dodgers public relations director Josh Rawitch adds this at Inside the Dodgers:
(Colletti) said that this doesn't necessarily mean we'll have to move an outfielder and he likes the depth it creates in the outfield. He also said it allows us to be more focused in our quest for pitching.
He also said this makes him a little bit more comfortable about the in-house options at third base. If something comes up that is a really great option, we would do it, but pitching is the greater priority.
Ned reached out to Juan Pierre last night to talk about how this affects him, but wasn't able to reach him. And when asked if he regrets signing Pierre, he said he absolutely does not. He can't re-write history, but he implored everyone to look back at the circumstances that we were in when we signed him (only one outfielder with more than a month of experience in the Majors - Ethier). He pointed out that Juan did exactly what we expected him to do and that he has never said that Juan was a franchise player. He's a very good player on a winning team and the reason we didn't win last year was not Juan Pierre's fault.
He continued to say that as a team, we're not of a mind to give up three or four players for one star pitcher or player. He reiterated that we're not going to do something just to do it, but that we've zeroed in on two or three pitchers and will see if anything can happen. Obviously Kuroda remains a viable option.
Meanwhile, at SportshubLA, Kevin Arnovitz reminds us of the following:
It should also be noted that Kemp is 23, Ethier 25, and Jones 30. Of course, Jones is a defensive gem, and is a huge upgrade over whomever he replaces in the outfield and certainly over Pierre in centerfield. But, again, Jones doesn't represent any appreciable improvement over Kemp, or even Ethier, both of whose trajectories figure to rise (though Ethier's 2007 season fell a little short of his 2006 campaign), while it's doubtful that Jones will reach the heights of his 2005 totals.
Credit Colletti for securing a short-term deal and not hampering the Dodgers with a 33-year-old's $15M+ salary in 2010. Nevertheless, it's a mistake to conclude that a Dodger outfield composed of Jones in lieu of Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier will give them more offense.
Please feel encouraged to add your signature to the Forgiveness Letter to Colletti.
Update: Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus is bullish on the signing - if Jones replaces Pierre:
One year or two, this is a fantastic deal for the Dodgers, who get back-end-of-peak years from a Hall of Fame player without committing to his decline phase. Jones will bounce back in 2008, and he'll be a seven-win player over the two years of the deal. That's an enormous addition for a team that has been shooting itself in the foot for too long. What it means for Ethier or Matt Kemp is something that can be hashed out, but again, the player in the way isn't Jones, it's Pierre, who was a bad signing at the time, and remains so today. The Dodgers have an opportunity to show just how well they understand sunk costs by relegating Pierre to a fourth outfielder's role, to which he'd be reasonably suited. It would also give us a chance to test the whole "character" framework, to see if the fourth-best outfielder on the roster is able to accept that he, in fact, is that, and sublimate his desire to play more for the good of the team. That's leadership, right?
I love this contract. It will be far and away the smartest thing any team does this winter, and it pushes the Dodgers up a little bit closer to the Diamondbacks in the 2008 NL West race.
Update 2: Via e-mail, Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus commented about Jones' health. He doesn't think Jones has a major issue ahead of him - but then again, Carroll doesn't think Jones had a major issue behind him, either.
"Not much here - very healthy, projects well on health, never had a serious problem, takes his conditioning very seriously," Carroll said. "I wouldn't expect much change. If there's a slight concern, it's with his knees as he's added some weight over the years."
Wright Said Fled
As Dodger Thoughts commenter Canuck Dodger predicted, the Dodgers lost lefthanded pitcher Wesley Wright in the Rule 5 draft this morning, to Houston.
Update: From Ken Gurnick at MLB.com:
Wright, who turns 23 next month, was a seventh-round pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. In 2007, he went 6-2 with a 2.47 ERA at Double-A Jacksonville, then struggled to a 1-2 record with a 9.18 ERA at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Dodgers management wasn't surprised that he was lost, but decided that he was a longshot to stick with any selecting club for the entire 2008 season and expected to regain his rights.
"He's a left-hander with good stuff and needs refinement with his command," said general manager Ned Colletti. "He pitched well at Double-A, but Vegas was a big leap for him, where the ballpark plays like a Little League field. We protected seven players, but took a chance with him." ...
In the Triple-A phase of the draft, the Astros took Dodgers Double-A pitcher Giuseppe Norrito, but the Dodgers then selected Houston Double-A left-handed pitcher Victor Garate. The Dodgers also lost catcher Juan Apodaca to Cincinnati in the Triple-A phase.
Dodgers Sign Andruw Jones
Two years, $36 million. A good move that can be made better if the right outfielder is displaced. More in the morning.
Update: Okay, I couldn't resist getting this in before midnight.
This move improves the Dodgers, but they can shortcircuit it by overvaluing or undervaluing the wrong players.
Signing Jones (at the cost of a $12 million signing bonus, a $9 million salary in 2008 and $15 million in 2009, according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News - the fifth-highest average annual salary in baseball history, Dylan Hernandez of the Times notes) should not leave the Dodgers satisfied to play Juan Pierre in left field, nor need it push the team into trading Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier. An Ethier-Jones-Kemp outfield is practically a dream for this franchise.
Signing Jones should also not discourage the Dodgers from trying out Andy LaRoche at third base. LaRoche, many people believe, has as much power upside as any Dodger, including Kemp or James Loney. (LaRoche's career minor-league slugging percentage and OPS is higher than the others; I don't know how many Dodger fans realize this.) There are better third basemen out there, but there are also plenty worse, and giving up a good player for marginal improvement (let alone decline) would me a mistake.
Don't get me wrong: There are still good trades the Dodgers could potentially make, but the thinking here is solid - add talent without disrupting the core.
Jones, of course, made his major-league debut at 19, hitting two homers in the World Series that year, and has had an above-average OPS+ for eight of the past 10 seasons. Jones won't knock you out with his on-base percentage: career-high of .366, and only once above .350 in the past five years. His offensive value depends on his power, and what happened is that he went from 51 homers in 2005 to 26 in 2007.
That he fell on his face this past season, aside from putting a lie to the idea that imminent free agency guarantees a great year, reminds us that there are no guarantees from former All-Stars once they turn 30. Dodger fans need look no further than Nomar Garciaparra's 2007 to know that. At the same time, hopes are high that injuries were at fault and that the injuries have been solved. The Dodgers wouldn't be the Dodgers if they weren't taking a health risk, but I'm having trouble being pessimistic.
At least defensively, Jones will help. A winner of 10 consecutive Gold Gloves, no matter how quirky that vote can get, figures to be an improvement over Pierre in center.
The signing also fulfills my dream of pushing Jeff Kent down the batting order from cleanup, where he just doesn't belong. The Dodgers will be pretty righty heavy, however. Here's what we could see in April:
Rafael Furcal, SS
That ain't bad, folks. With Tony Abreu or Chin-Lung Hu subbing defensively for Kent in the late innings, I'm ready to battle with that lineup. And Kent should probably be able to ease even further down that batting order road as the kids heat up.
As for the Ethier-Pierre resolution, though Pierre figures to have the advantage because of his contract status and phantom value in the eyes of some, just remember that Colletti has every reason to boost Ethier, as he represents one of his most popular trades. And once you move Pierre out of center field, you render one of his few assets, his defensive speed, much less important. And remember, Colletti has cut bait on acquisitions that didn't work out the way he planned each of the past two seasons.
Certainly, though, the leading speculation is that Kemp or Ethier will go in a package for a starting pitcher. If that happens, he'd better be a gem, because a Pierre-Jones-Ethier outfield isn't nearly as compelling.
Meloan To Contend for Starting Role?
I believe this is the second time this has been mentioned this week, but Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise notes that Ned Colletti sees Jonathan Meloan as a potential starting pitcher in 2008, in Las Vegas if not Los Angeles.
2008 Goal: The National League Pennant
... not a World Series title.
Not that I don't want the Dodgers to win the World Series. But the American League looks so much stronger than the National League that I'm not going to fret too much about the Dodgers beating the AL's best. I'm willing to be Cinderella at that point.
Why does this matter? Because I don't want the Dodgers to make a desperation move that would subvert the development of the current core, out of fear that they're not good enough to win it all.
The Dodgers do need to improve to win the NL, but they don't need to improve radically. This might be blasphemy, but I'm comfortable with the idea of gunning to be No. 2 in 2008.
Parsing the Matt Kemp-Erik Bedard Rumor
Monday, it was Andruw Jones. Today it is Erik Bedard.
Yep, the Hot Stove League, de facto sponsored by Oscar Mayer Bologna, is in full swing. And they just keep pouring on the mustard until we gag.
The latest exhibit, from Amy Nelson of ESPN.com:
The Orioles and Dodgers may be close on a deal that will send left-hander Erik Bedard to Los Angeles, a baseball source said. The O's are in need of a center fielder and a closer who can play at the major league level, and the Dodgers seem willing to part with outfielder Matt Kemp and reliever Jonathan Broxton, who could come in a close in lieu of Chris Ray, out for the year after Tommy John surgery. "They want Bedard bad," said the source.
So, let's look closely at this.
The two teams "may be close" to a deal. No one can confirm that they're actually close. One source says that they might be. And as the "they" in the single, four-word quote indicates, that source is from outside the Dodger organization.
So what you're left with is just a run-of-the-mill rumor, one that might come true but really has no credibility and is most likely calculated to drive up interest in Bedard.
This comes a day after a widely circulated ESPN rumor that the Dodgers had offered Andruw Jones a two-year, $32 million contract was debunked mere hours later.
In the past two weeks, members of the mainstream press like Bill Conlin and Stephen A. Smith have been renewing across-the-board condemnations of bloggers for their irresponsibility, This coming from a world where irresponsibility is not only welcomed, but expected. Professional reporters not only pay no price for spreading rumors, for being the willing mouthpieces for organizations with agendas they are encouraged to do so.
Fortunately, a chunk of the baseball reporting world has embraced bloggers, which is a good thing. Because a many bloggers seek the truth not just random words disguised as truth. It's an example some people could stand to follow.
Meanwhile, again I remind Dodger Thoughts readers, if you want to have fun with rumors, have fun with them. Feel free to discuss them, but don't get riled up about them when most of them are simply, inevitably, false.
The Baseball America Prospect Report
Baseball America offers its annual review of the Dodgers' top prospects today, with a chat for subscribers being offered at 10 a.m.
One thing that the BA report called to my attention was the control of James McDonald, who walked 37 in 134 2/3 innings while striking out 168. That could be of value if and when he gets that promotion to the Dodgers. Top prospect Clayton Kershaw, for example, walked 67 in 122 innings.
Some other comments:
McDonald has above-average command of three average to plus offerings. His 11-to-5, 69-74 mph curveball is the best in the system, and he has the feel to throw it in any count. His 87-93 mph fastball plays up because of deception in his delivery and his ability to add and subtract velocity. ...
Kershaw pitches off a fastball that rests comfortably at 93-94 mph. He touched 99 a handful of times last summer, including once with Los Angeles general manager Ned Colletti in the stands (the Great Lakes scoreboard posted a reading of 101 on the pitch).
It was also interesting to see Scott Elbert still rank highly, even coming off injury.
For comparison with the pre-2007 report:
Somehow, the tumbling Greg Miller still surpassed Jonathan Meloan for best slider.
Update: True Blue L.A. invites you to vote on the Dodgers' top-30 prospects.
The Quotable Colletti
More of the New World According to Ned Colletti, from Joe Hamrahi at Baseball Digest Daily:
When I asked about potentially starting Andy LaRoche at third base this season instead of trying to trade for the big name hitter (like Miguel Cabrera), Ned responded:
"That's a possibility. He's of the same ilk as Kemp, Loney, Russell Martin. He'll have that opportunity. Nomar will be given a chance to bounce back as well. Plus we also have the option of Tony Abreu over there."
After discussing the rotation of Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, and Chad Billingsley as the top 3 starters, Colletti gave me a list of other potential pitchers who might fit into the rotation should nothing else change (and assuming Jason Schmidt is not healthy out of the gate).
"Esteban Loaiza, Scott Elbert, who was on his way to the Major Leagues before he got hurt, James McDonald who had a great year in AA, Clayton Kershaw how long someone with his ability can be held down in the minors remains to be seen."
Speaking of Kershaw, I asked if he would have a chance to make the big league club this spring given his age, or if they would let his work dictate where he winds up.
"Absolutely (he'll get a chance). You see what some young pitchers have done over the past few years, and just because someone is young, it doesn't mean he can't handle himself (at the major league level)." ...
And finally, I asked Ned what he might have done differently in 2007 if he had the chance. ...
Click the link to see the entire article. Note that his embrace of the youth isn't combined with a disembrace of the veterans.
The Powers of Boothe
The Dodgers today signed young American-Japanese right-handed pitcher Robert Boothe to a minor league contract.
"We feel Robert has a good chance to become an effective Major League pitcher," said Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti. "Our scouting department has followed Robert for a couple of years and his signing reaffirms our commitment to reaching out worldwide to find players. It is difficult to sign amateur players out of Japan and we are excited at this signing's historical significance."
Boothe, 21, attended Asia University and was sought after by as many as five teams in the recent Japanese Professional Baseball draft. He was a member of the All-Japan College All-Star Team that played in Holland this summer.
The six-foot, two-inch pitcher was born to an American father and a Japanese mother and has siblings that reside in the United States. He was scouted and signed by Japanese Dodger scout Keiichi Kojima.
"Robert is a quality athlete with a nice delivery, good arm action and a sound mix of breaking pitches which gives him a chance to become a future Major Leaguer," said Assistant General Manager of Scouting, Logan White. "I'm proud of the job Acey Kohrogi and Keiichi Kojima have done in making this a reality." ...
Westward Ho-nored: O'Malley Elected to Hall of Fame
The Hall of Fame has opened its doors for former Dodger owner Walter O'Malley, it was announced today. (More at The Griddle)
Previously on Dodger Thoughts: Til Death Do Us Part
If the Dodgers Do the Right Thing, Does It Matter Why?
If the Dodgers' current apparent stance is to trust in their younger players and not make moves out of desperation, does it matter whether this stance is motivated by 1) rational analysis of the roster after reflecting on the 2007 season and postseason or 2) a pure desire by ownership to conserve spending?
This is a theoretical question, based on no insight as to whether the real motivation is 1), 2) or a combination ... or whether the stance itself will hold through the offseason.
Before going to bed (too late) tonight, I'll posit that the why doesn't matter in the short term. I'll also posit that the McCourts aren't too cheap to sign free agents, figuring they can make up the spending through aggressive marketing and pricing.
But I was just wondering what you all think.
* * *
Assuming Andre Ethier would be the odd man out of the starting lineup or even the roster, rather than Juan Pierre, how much would an Andruw Jones or Aaron Rowand signing help the Dodgers?
Thank You For Not ... (19th-Century Version)
Rule 1's forefather is not safe for Dodger Thoughts!
(via Baseball Think Factory, where they're debating its authenticity)
Local College Basketball Diversion
Because Randy Wolf signing with the Padres just isn't enough ...
Kansas vs. USC, 11 a.m.
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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12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
09 08 07
Jon's other site:
Thank You For Not ...
1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity