Monthly archives: February 2008
I don't really want to get into the politics of new Dodger third-base coach Larry Bowa's rebellion against Major League Baseball's new helmet rule for coaches or I guess to be blunt, I don't want the commenters of Dodger Thoughts to do so, because political discussion is against the site rules. But to offer a few thoughts:
1) The argument that the helmets are uncomfortable echoes an argument people had against wearing seat belts when those became compulsory. If it wasn't common sense already, we learned that people get used to things and the discomfort disappears. Also, getting hurt less tends to be more comfortable than getting hurt more.
2) The argument that umpires are in more danger than coaches, if it's true, doesn't imply you should be fighting against helmets for coaches. It implies that we just need to consider helmets for umpires.
3) From a Dodger perspective, consider that Bowa is a man in authority, expecting to be listened to, telling the world that he has no intention of listening to authority.
You may agree or disagree with Bowa's opinion on helmets (we know where Vin Scully would stand). But I do think it qualifies as irony that on a day that criticism renewed of Dodger players running through stop signs, Bowa is running through one himself.
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I'm sure that during his time with the Dodgers, someone used "Julio Lugo" and "parasite" in the same sentence. To those people, here you go.
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Craig Brown of The Hardball Times looks back at baseball collusion of the 1980s and how that helped Kirk Gibson become a Dodger.
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From the Obscure but Memorable Dodger Department: Jack Perconte.
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The starting lineup for today's exhibition game, televised by ESPN at 10 a.m.
Rafael Furcal, SS
Juan Pierre will not play, according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise.
Update: MLB threatened coaches (or at least outspoken ones) with immediate ejection if they don't wear a helmet, reports Tony Jackson of the Daily News.
Shawn Green Retires
Former Dodger four-homer hero Shawn Green told Mark Hale of the New York Post Wednesday that he has retired.
"I had planned on retiring at the end of this contract," the 35-year-old Green said yesterday in a phone conversation. "If something where I could live at home popped up, then I would have had to take that under consideration. But I still don't know what I would have done."
That decision never really had to be made. The affable Green, a former member of the 30-30 club who once smashed four homers in one game, wrapped up his tenure with the Mets last season. He said yesterday that a bunch of teams then showed interest in him, but he indicated that he simply wasn't willing to be that far from his California home.
"There was some real solid interest from maybe six or seven teams," he said. "A lot of teams were pretty far across the country."
Green, who is building his dream house in Irvine with his family (wife Lindsay and daughters Presley and Chandler), added, "I wanted to stay here with my family. Not travel around the country anymore. I enjoyed playing a lot. I enjoyed New York. But for me, it was time to be home."
For the Dodgers, Green OPSed .876 in 798 games, hitting 162 homers and slugging .510. Defying those who said he needed Gary Sheffield in the lineup to protect him, he hit 42 homers with an adjusted OPS of 154 in the 2002 season. He is fifth all-time in OPS+ among Los Angeles Dodgers (minimum 2,000 plate appearances), behind Gary Sheffield, Mike Piazza, Reggie Smith and Pedro Guerrero.
Of course, his most memorable game was May 23, 2002, when he had a single, a double, four homers and seven RBI in six at-bats. That was part of an astonishing seven-game stretch when he went 17 for 32 with 10 homers.
Green was a frequent subject of interest in the early days of Dodger Thoughts - most notably as the subject of the article that first put this site on the map, "The Shawn Green of Old Will Not Return", which described how difficult it would be for Green to recover his power after his labrum injury. Green had slugged .510, .588, .472, .598 and .558 in the seasons before his injury; though he hit 28 homers in 2004, he never slugged above .477 again.
Other articles focused on his declining speed ("Green's Light Goes Red") and his prolonged 2004 slump ("Michael Eisner, Meet Shawn Green").
But though I wish the Dodgers and Green had faced up to his declining play sooner, I always liked Green. It's probably been a couple years since I've even thought about it, but remember the joy of waiting to see him cross home plate at Dodger Stadium after a home run and toss his batting gloves to a kid in the stands? He was a good guy who, for a significant stretch, could slam the ball. I hope, as he settles down in Irvine, he isn't shy about coming by Dodger Stadium for a game and getting some well-deserved applause from the fans - including the daughter of one reader here in particular.
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The Dodgers play their exhibition opener at 10:05 a.m. today. I believe the game is live on KABC 790 AM. The starting lineup is:
Juan Pierre, LF
Scully Bio Rhythms
Curt Smith's unauthorized biography of Vin Scully is on hold, for now, reports Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News.
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In this SportingNews.com column, David Pinto explores the phenomenon that may be on the verge of sweeping the Midwest: batting the pitcher eighth.
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ToyCannon is slaying me.
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Update: Is there any better praise than Takashi Saito praise? From Dylan Hernandez of the Times:
The two-day "Dodger Idol" competition has begun, as six players in their first big-league camps were forced to sing in front of their teammates. Garciaparra played the role of Ryan Seacrest, while Pierre was Randy Jackson, team physical therapist Sue Falsone was Paula Abdul and Jeff Kent, wearing a tight black shirt, was Simon Cowell.
Widely said to be the best performer of the day was right-hander Rick Asadoorian, a non-roster invitee who sang Billy Joel's "Piano Man" while playing a guitar and harmonica. "Genius," closer Takashi Saito said.
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The Dodgers said today they are putting 25,000 standing-room tickets for the March 29 Coliseum exhibition game on sale March 1. Some of the tickets, the team said, will actually be on the field. Given the dimensions of the layout, I think that can be taken literally.
They added that the Coliseum gates will open at 4:10 p.m., before batting practice.
More details on single-game ticket sales for 2008: "On Saturday, March 1 at 10 a.m. Dodger Stadium's Sunset Gate will open at 8 a.m. and fans who arrive by 8:30 a.m. receive a numbered wristband for a ticket lottery. ... A wristband number will be drawn at random, and that number will be first in line. This process allows for all fans to have an equal opportunity to win the first chance to purchase tickets."
The team said today that the promotions/giveaway schedule should be ready for release by Friday.
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Chipper Jones says that new Dodger Andruw Jones misses Atlanta, according to Carroll Rodgers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Jones knows that had he come through with runners in scoring position (.231), he might have had 130 RBIs. And what didn't show up in the boxscore were the wild swings that nearly left him on his rump.
"I just wasn't right," he said. "I thought I was right and I wasn't. Bad balance. Bad judgment. Bad approach. ... I just didn't produce the way I was supposed to. I don't make excuses. Didn't get the job done. Those years happen sometimes. You learn from it, and you move on. It was a bad time to struggle, but what am I going to say? You learn from that."
Chipper Jones, a rare Braves player with a chance to finish his career in Atlanta, senses some disappointment.
"He wants to be here," said Chipper, who played golf this winter with Andruw. "He misses it. He knows he's going to miss it. We talked a little bit. He only signed a two-year deal. He knows the restraints we're under monetarily. He knows that in two years he's going to get an opportunity to come back if he so desires and wants to work with Atlanta."
It's probably not that simple, though. The Braves traded for Mark Kotsay as a one-year bridge to center field prospect Jordan Schafer. ...
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Update 2: More on the Coliseum game from Ben Platt at MLB.com:
The game, which will start at 7:10 p.m. PT, is part of a full day of activity around the Coliseum. McCourt and Dodgers chief marketing officer Charles Steinberg announced that the club will hold a Fan Fest at the Coliseum from noon to 6 p.m. on the day of the game, with carnival-type games, baseball discussions with general manager Ned Colletti and other Dodgers personnel and autograph tables.
"The Fan Fest will start at noon and will be free of charge -- all you have to do is have a ticket to the game," McCourt said. "This way, you can come down at noon and spend the day with your friends and your family. There will be all kinds of activities that you would normally find at a Fan Fest, and this way, you can also beat the traffic and find a parking space.
"That is something we are focused on, because it's going to be a challenge getting all the cars into the stadium area. By coming early, that will help that, and we just got permission to open the gates at 4:10 p.m. so fans can actually be here to watch batting practice, which may be as much fun as watching the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game."
The Dodgers also announced that beginning at 11 a.m. on the day of the game, fans can park for free at Dodger Stadium, and a shuttle service will continue between the stadium and the Coliseum until 11:30 p.m. For parking reservations, fans can call Dodgers guest services at (323) 224-1507. This will enable the organization to know how many cars will be parking at the stadium for the event.
Off to the Races
From Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise:
Joe Torre declared Nomar Garciaparra the favorite to start at third base over Andy LaRoche. "Being the veteran guy, he has the inside track in being the starting third baseman," Torre said. Torre said he could tell LaRoche has been a bit anxious during the intrasquad games.
This might be a motivational tool for LaRoche, or it might be reality. But the end of March is still 32 days away. A track is just a track, and the outside track is still a track.
Los Angeles has learned to survive without an NFL team. Will we next learn to live without a newspaper?
Kevin Roderick has two posts at L.A. Observed that are pretty depressing.
Billingsley's Second Half
Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus continues to report that Chad Billingsley is more of an injury risk than most of us would suspect. Today, Carroll cited Billingsley's "control problems and questionable stamina."
Billingsley averaged 5 2/3 innings per start last season, at age 23. That number was affected by his transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation. In his first two starts of 2007 (in June), he totaled 7 2/3 innings.
From July 1 to his penultimate start of the season September 23, however, Billingsley averaged six innings a start. I can't imagine much more would be asked for a pitcher of his age, in an era in which you're trying to protect his arm. (His final start, in a meaningless game, was cut short in the second inning.)
During the aforementioned stretch, Billingsley walked 3.67 batters per nine innings, or perhaps more relevantly, 2.45 batters per six innings. Many Dodger fans know that Billingsley sometimes used a lot of pitches to get through a start; nonetheless, his season high was 116 in a five-inning outing August 13. Following that game, Billingsley averaged 15.7 pitches per inning through September 23, walking a batter every three innings. At that rate, Billingsley would get through a typical six innings on 94 pitches, walking two. That doesn't strike me as excessive.
Nothing physically has happened with Billingsley that I know of to justify any excessive concern with him, aside from the fact that, you know, he's a pitcher. I remain confident that, while he might have his rough patches, Billingsley will emerge as a Dodger ace this season. (And gosh, I sure hope I'm right.)
Update: Jinx. Billingsley has minor discomfort in his groin, according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise.
The discomfort is considered minor, as Billingsley will still throw in a simulated game. That said, he did say that the groin might have caused him to skip a start in an in-season situation.
Penny's Changeup: Achilles' Heel or Hidden Gem
Longtime readers of this site will remember Tom Meagher, who posted most recently about baseball at his blog, The Fifth Outfielder. Today, he sent along this e-mail about Brad Penny.
I remember reading the excerpts from the Bill James book on DT last week, and I noticed something interesting in John Walsh's article at The Hardball Times today.
The James book had said that Penny was turning to his changeup a lot last season, and Walsh's numbers support that, as Penny's in his list of the 20 pitchers that threw the most changeups in 2007. However, while James' comment seemed to imply that Penny's 2007 was fueled by a great changeup, Walsh's numbers show Penny's changeup in a different light.
Using linear weights values for each pitch, Walsh finds that Penny's changeup was, on balance, ineffective, so much so that the average Penny changeup contributes an extra .012 runs to the opposition. Only Jamie Moyer and Mike Maroth, both with ERAs over 5, had a worse run value for their changeups.
However, this doesn't necessarily mean that Penny's changeup is bad, and it doesn't necessarily even mean that his improvement wasn't due to going to the changeup more. Walsh breaks the numbers down by pitches put in play and those not, and here's how Penny's changeup stacks up against those of two other changeup-heavy hurlers:
So Penny and Hendrickson actually threw changeups about the same number of times, though Hendrickson throws them more often since he pitched less than Penny. While they both had about equal success on balls and strikes, when the pitch was put into play Hendrickson had excellent results while Penny generated an awful run value. Meanwhile, Santana is just like Penny in terms of the results of changeups that were hit, but is off the charts with the ones that made batters miss and missed bats more often.
So did Penny start going to the changeup more often and more effectively in working the count but just didn't have good enough fielding behind him for it to be a net positive? Did Penny going to his changeup more often just happen to coincide with his strong year? Or was 2007 the year that Penny learned to stop worrying about his changeup getting hit and used it more often to set up his other pitches so that they would be more effective? It's an interesting question since by the statistical line it just seems that Penny was lucky on batted balls, so it's obviously counterintuitive to attribute that success to a pitch that had such negative results.
That's the Spirit
From James Loney's chat at MLB.com:
dodgerblue1538: Hey James, my fantasy draft is tomorrow. What kind of numbers do you expect to have this year?
Loney: I expect big numbers, so pick me!
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On a less heady note, Jason Schmidt had his first ... well, not exactly a setback, but less-than-ideal moment, according to Ken Gurnick at MLB.com:
Schmidt, recovering from major right shoulder surgery, reported no pain, but said he took longer to loosen up and didn't feel adequately loose until near the end of his 53-pitch session.
"I've always been that way, even in games, which is why I've had such high pitch counts," said Schmidt. "Maybe I've hit a fatigue stage. I'm trying not to get frustrated and not put myself under the microscope. I've been through rehab before and I know you don't always feel better each and every time. It's just been going so good, you want it to just keep going all spring. But I know to expect to have dips like this."
Schmidt was not satisfied with the life or command of his fastball or his slider but said he's always had difficulty working on a slider without a batter at the plate. His curveball, however, had sharp break.
"He's going through a little period -- not hurting -- but maybe he doesn't have the life in his arm he had earlier," said manager Joe Torre. "That's normal for a pitcher. He has no physical problem."
Update: From Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise:
(Jason) Repko used an example of a reporter throwing only 40 MPH, and the reporter began to balk at the projected velocity. Juan Pierre, criticized for his arm strength, jumped in with impeccable timing, noting. "Now you see how it feels."
Looking Ahead at the NL West ... And More on Martin's Future
It's still February, which means that a lot could change - including some cobwebs shaking loose in my brain - but I offered some preliminary thoughts about the 2008 National League West in a discussion at Baseball Analysts.
Looks like the Dodgers might be underdogs this year: None of the four participants in the online chat picked them to win the division, though three (including myself) picked them to finish second.
There's no reason for Russell Martin, or any of our young players who are nearing arbitration, to accept a long term deal at any type of discount. Martin can easily point to Howard's deal and ask for $6 million or so in arbitration. With four years of arbitration coming up, how much does Martin stand to make for 2009-2012?
After doing some research on arbitration award patterns, Grant finds that Martin could command annual salaries of $6 million, $10.1 million, $15.1 million and $18 million over the four seasons (2009-2012) before he becomes a free agent.
This adds up to four years, $49.2 million. Still a very reasonable deal for one of the top players at his position, but compared to his peers he's getting massively overpaid. In those years, Brian McCann will get $24 million, while Joe Mauer, who has one more year of service time, will get $33 million in the last four years of his contract. Grady Sizemore, who I think we can agree is better than all of these guys, will get $20.7 million over a comparable timespan.
All this adds up to is that Dodgers missed the boat in signing Martin to a long-term contract. Ned Colletti says he offered an extension that Martin's agent turned down but unless it was at least in the ballpark of Mauer's deal, he wasn't really trying. The Ryan Howard ruling gives Martin zero incentive to sign for any less than $40 million over the next five years, and he could probably ask for more. This is why you need to wrap up your young stars sooner, rather than later, because you never know when the Phillies will come along and ruin everything for everyone.
Update: Leung reports that "Tony Abreu will be shut down for a few days due to discomfort with his surgically repaired abdomen."
My head was spinning after reading Diamond Leung's check-in with Maury Wills (on the topic of Matt Kemp, endlessly branded as the kid most likely to run into the street without looking both ways) in the Press-Enterprise. Here's a condensed excerpt:
"There's nothing wrong with going through stop signs," Maury Wills, the Dodgers franchise record-holder in stolen bases, said Saturday. "I love that."
... (later) adding that it's better to have a young player's aggression in taking extra bases toned down than the other way around.
Further down, there's this:
Wills is also helping Kemp learn to lay down sacrifice bunts.
"I told him I didn't want to see him bunting for a base hit or they might run me out of camp," Wills said, smiling.
That, however, didn't stop Kemp from at least considering it, even though he's looked upon as one of the team's main home run threats.
"Torre will bunt with anybody, that's what I heard," Kemp said. "You never know. I might drop down some bunts. Why not? Add another thing in my game they have to worry about."
Still later in Leung's notebook, there are mixed signals about Takashi Saito's use of a curveball and Russell Martin's willingness to rest.
I'm not saying these matters are life-or-death, just funky.
Pedro and Sandy
"Sandy's words were the first, first words I heard in Dodgertown."
So begins Pedro Martinez in his interview with Ben Shpigel of the New York Times about his relationship with Sandy Koufax.
Rafael Bournigal even gets a shout-out.
Meanwhile, in this story, Shpigel catches up with former Dodger folk heroes Olmedo Saenz and Marlon Anderson, now trying to keep things going with the Mets.
Update: Here's the article Shpigel wrote based on his interviews.
Twenty-one readers gave individual player predictions for the coming season to Dodger Thoughts commenter Eric Stephen. He averaged them out, and here's what he got:
Batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage
ERA/Walks + hits per inning pitched
Torre Pledges To Rest Martin More
At MLB.com, Ken Gurnick updates us on how Joe Torre plans to handle Russell Martin's workload :
"We had a quick chat on the field and the main thing is he wanted me to know what to expect," said Martin. "I've got to listen to a guy with his experience. He pretty much said he wants me to have a day off a week." ...
Even when Martin would take a rare day off last year, he would be seen running around the outfield shagging fly balls during batting practice or even taking grounders in the infield. That might also change.
"Maybe on days off, I have to shut it down and not do anything," he said. "I've had a lot of catchers with experience tell me when you take a day off, they're off. And take a mental day off. I'm used to thinking that every game is important, so I never want to not play. But last year, I saw how those games at the end of the year were so valuable and I wish I had felt better toward the end than I did."
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Nomar Garciaparra, emergency catcher? Maybe not, but he's not opposed to it, according to The Associated Press:
Garciaparra said he's prepared to play any position and joked he could take Russell Martin's place behind the plate if necessary, though Martin's Gold Glove and Silver Slugger season last year would suggest his spot is safe.
"Ask (Jason) Varitek - he was always scared," Garciaparra said, referring to his former Boston teammate. "He didn't want me to go back to catching. You think I'm joking, but ask him. ... I was the third-string catcher on the USA Team. It was a good thing I never had to get back there, but I was."
Catcher was Garciaparra's favorite position growing up, and he played it intermittently all the way through high school.
His last time pitching was an intrasquad game in college his freshman year at Georgia Tech, and he has moved around the infield during his 12 years in the majors.
"It's like being a kid," Garciaparra said. "I played everywhere. My favorite baseball player was Bugs Bunny. He played all nine positions in one game."
WHAP Is Not a Baseball Stat
Friend of Toaster Bryan Smith, who seems to be writing everywhere these days about baseball, is also keen on entertainment like I am. He recently co-launched a site, Wet, Hot American Produce, that has become a daily read for me. With Oscar Sunday approaching, this is a perfect time to introduce yourself to it.
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Jim Baker of Baseball Prospectus has some positive vibes about the Dodger rotation.
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As part of the team's ongoing 50th-anniversary-in-Los Angeles celebration, the Dodgers are looking for registered L.A. Marathon runners to trot together under the figurative Dodger banner during the March 2 event. Those participating will something Dodger-related to boost their running ensemble, as well as two tickets for a 2008 Dodger game.
If you're interested, send an e-mail to the team.
Hitch in the Dodgers' Spring Training Getalong
It's probably just a late-inning slap on Glendale, Arizona's behind, but Tony Jackson of the Daily News writes that the Dodgers move of their Spring Training camp "still isn't a certainty."
The statement came in response to complaints earlier in the day by a prominent Dodgers official that Glendale was slow in providing the club with the necessary documentation - most notably the aforementioned "scope of work," an official construction document showing all components of the planned facility - to ensure the club's specific desires for the facility will be met in full.
"There has been a lack of communication with regards to the guaranteed maximum price," said Craig Callan, the Dodgers vice president for spring training and minor-league facilities. "We look forward to receiving clarification from them, especially regarding the things that were in our original conceptual program versus the things we are actually getting.
"The clock is ticking." ...
Callan's main point of concern with Glendale centers on the possibility that the facility won't meet expectations of the two clubs. Callan said Dodgers officials already have compromised on several details, including allowing the reduction of fixed-seating capacity in the main stadium from 12,000 to 10,000, the reduction in size of the entire facility from 151 acres to 141 and the elimination of a dugout club behind home plate.
Lost Episode 4 Chat
My Lost Episode 4 post for Season Pass at Variety can be found here.
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James Means Business
Bill James is coming out strong in the public relations department today, first with the launch of his website Bill James Online ($3 a month for membership), but also as the subject of a Dodger-targeted press release for his new book, The Bill James Gold Mine 2008.
For example, under the section on the Los Angeles Dodgers, James offers the following insights, among others:
Walteromalley.com offers a photo essay of individual memories of Dodgertown, with names from Manny Mota to Archie Manning (the Saints used to train down in Vero Beach, too).
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Speaking of memory lane, Ducksnorts blogger Geoff Young (he covers the Padres, for those of you who aren't in the know) revisits the stars of the 1988 Pacific Coast League for The Hardball Times.
He begins by recalling the top-10 prospects in the league, as pegged by Baseball America:
1. Sandy Alomar Jr., C, Las Vegas (Padres)
Yes, I remember when Juan Bell was the bee's knees. I also saw him get ejected from the only minor-league game I've ever attended in San Bernadino. Bell helped bring Eddie Murray to the Dodgers, going to Baltimore with Brian Holton and Ken Howell 2 1/2 months after the 1988 World Series.
Young also has this year's edition of his Ducksnorts baseball annual on sale, so if you want to better know your enemy/neighbor from down south, this is the book to get. Highlights include:
You can see a free excerpt here.
Update: Phil Gurnee moonlights from True Blue L.A. with a debut column at SportsHubLA.
Update 2: From Signe Hilton's Dodger press notes today:
Position players, meanwhile, today went through pop-up drills. A bright sun and swirling wind certainly made things interesting, as a handful of the pop-ups fell to the earth. The award for the loudest "I GOT IT!" calls goes to non-roster first baseman John Lindsey.
Hilton also said Hiroki Kuroda is scheduled to pitch on February 29, in the game that ESPN is televising. My goodness - that's just a week from Friday. And ... Dodger video coordinator and baseball operations assistant Nick English has passed the California bar exam.
Update 3: I'm peeking back into this can of worms because the words are so reasoned. John Sickels at Minor League Ball writes about Hee Seop Choi, whom Sickels called a Grade A prospect in 2003:
There is lots to consider here. Choi's final major league line is .240/.349/.437, +106 OPS, in 915 at-bats, obviously not anything close to what I anticipated. Choi detractors point to his struggles in Chicago and Los Angeles as proof that he was never very good. Choi supporters point to the injuries, the sporadic playing time, and the fact that he hit great for the Marlins in '04 (you can't spin a +132 OPS in 95 games as something bad). The pattern I see is that people who doubt Choi ignore the good points and people who like Choi ignore the bad points. It all counts.
I did not get to see Choi play in the majors as often as your average Cubs, Marlins, or Dodgers fan. The mental image I have of him remains the guy I saw in the minors, the guy who killed fastballs (including inside fastballs) and handled breaking stuff just fine, and who was a reasonably good defensive first baseman. Looking back on it, I don't regret the ratings I gave him. They turned out to be wrong, but based on the information I had at the time, the statistics, the scouting reports, and the personal observations, I have no regrets.
That said, even if Choi had stayed in the U.S. and gotten more chances, based on what we know now, he would not have been the slugging superstar I expected. He would instead have panned out as a useful slugging bat, at worst a Sam Horn, in the middle a Ken Phelps, at best a Cecil Fielder. In short, I think that Choi did get jerked around and wasn't handled well, and that under different circumstances he would still be playing in the majors right now, but I also think he legitimately wasn't as good as expected. Nevertheless, worse players have had long careers.
Hi Ho, Harrigan
The Dodgers today named Ellen Harrigan director of baseball administration, making her one of fewer than 10 women (including the team's own Kim Ng) to reach that level in the majors.
Harrigan started out with Toronto in 1981 and came to the Dodgers in 2000. In her most recent position, as assistant director of baseball administration, she dealt with player contracts and waivers, along with coordinating special projects for operations and scouting.
Jeff Kent Day
Perhaps you've noticed by now that, based on when Dodgers give their first Spring Training interviews of the year to the press, there are days, days in which every beat writer's daily report focuses on the same person. There was Joe Torre Day, and Jason Schmidt Day, and Juan Pierre Day, and so on.
Today will be Jeff Kent Day. He has arrived at Dodgertown, and here's the first sampling of what he had to say, from Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise:
"I've just been reading everything on the Internet and the magazines, and you can't believe half of everything you read. A lot of good talk.
"Gentlemen, my frustrations don't lie with anybody. They lie with wins and losses. ..."
The rest continues at Leung's blog. Updates from the other beat writers sure to come, though perhaps there isn't much more to add. In fact, if everyone (including me) agreed to put last year's controversy to rest, that would be a good sign for 2008. Tony Jackson of the Daily News might be going that route, leading his morning blog post with Kent but focusing less on him than Joe Beimel's hair and Internet groupie Troy from West Virginia, as well as Jason Repko's impending fatherhood. (I feel bad for Repko that he has to focus on fighting for a job during those first few weeks of parenting.)
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In three of six months last season, the Dodgers had an on-base percentage of below .300 in the leadoff spot. (May and July were much better.) Just one of the many things you can find out from the new batting-order outcomes tool at Baseball-Reference.com.
Second-Annual Screen Jam Oscar Pool
As host and defending champion of the Screen Jam Oscar Pool, I invite you to participate in this year's event.
Just like in in 2007, different categories will have different weight:
4 points: Picture
3 points: Lead and supporting actor and actress, director, adapted and original screenplay, animated feature, documentary feature, foreign language film
2 points: Art direction, cinematography, costume design, film editing, makeup, original score, original song, sound editing, sound (sound mixing), visual effects
1 point: Documentary short, animated short film and live-action short film
Tiebreaker: Time of day that the telecast ends in Los Angeles.
I'll post my picks before the broadcast begins - that's the deadline to enter. No cost for entry; low-value prizes to be determined, though I have some ideas.
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Chapter infinity in the long-running tome, Dodger Self-Sabotage, as told by shortstop Rafael Furcal to Tony Jackson of the Daily News:
"Hitting right-handed, I felt better. But left-handed, I couldn't stand on my ankle. But I didn't say anything because I wanted to keep playing. After the season, I got a lot of treatment before I started playing (in the Dominican Winter League), and that made me feel so good."
So, combining treatment with rest improved a player's physical condition and made him able to perform better. Fascinating.
Previously on Dodger Thoughts: "We Have Ways of Making You Go On the DL"
On the up side, Andruw Jones, among others, has a green light.
"Last season was very uncomfortable, especially with the bad start we had. There were a lot of questions and stories I had to address.
"I'm sure it took its toll on me, but when you walk into the clubhouse and all of a sudden the players aren't sure what they should say, what they shouldn't say, your coaching staff, that made it doubly uncomfortable for me. I just think over the last few years it was gradually getting to the point of not being a helluva lot of fun. The baseball was still fun, but aside from that ..."
Torre also indicated what he sees with his own eyes will have the final say in his decisions.
He'll rely on scouting reports and his coaches, at least initially, when it comes to making moves.
"Stats don't really tell you anything. You really have to watch these guys," he said. "You have to look and realize that you have a feel for what you want to do. Because numbers are important, but numbers don't tell you everything. Your eye has to tell you that."
How come no one ever asks the follow-up question, "What are you seeing that isn't reflected in a player's statistics? How are hustle or intelligence or desire not accounted for, if in fact they have an impact on performance? Or are you just looking at the wrong stats?"
Update: Odalis Perez has signed a non-guaranteed contract with Washington, Enrique Rojas of ESPNdeportes.com reports. "Odalis has worked extremely hard this winter and he is in top shape," Fitzgerald Astacio, a spokesman for Perez, told ESPNdeportes.com on Tuesday.
Andre Ethier Is a Veteran
Andre Ethier ...
If Joe Torre wants a veteran in the outfield next to Andruw Jones and Matt Kemp, then Andre Ethier is ready for duty. He's not a rookie; he's not a kid. This is his prime time.
I'm concerned with the straw men set up in defense of Juan Pierre. No one that I know of has blamed Pierre singlehandedly for the Dodgers' disappointing finish in 2007 - too much went on with the team for that to be the case. Everyone agrees that he's a nice guy.
All the criticism of Pierre since he signed with the Dodgers basically boils down to one simple, nothing-personal fact: He's not one of the team's best three outfielders. It's not that he's the devil, or that he isn't a better ballplayer than more than 99 percent of the people in the world, or that he doesn't have skills.
But Andre Ethier is a nice guy, too. Andre Ethier has skills. And at this time in their careers, Ethier, a rising player with a .279 equivalent average over the past two seasons (that's park-adjusted offensive value, including stolen bases or the lack thereof) and better defense, deserves to start over Pierre, who is over 30 with an EQA below .260 for the past two seasons.
There shouldn't even be a controversy over this, and the existence of one revolves around one factor - Pierre's contract - in the face of countless others. Between Ethier and Pierre, if you want a stolen base or maybe a bunt, Pierre's your guy. If you want anything else in the game of baseball, Ethier is.
Is Pierre "a strong asset" and "a championship-type player," as Ned Colletti asserts? Sure, why not. So is Ethier. So what's the point?
The Pierre debate isn't about Pierre in a vaccum. The Pierre debate is only about whether he deserves to play ahead of the other guy. You can value Pierre's game and still not think he's the team's best left fielder.
If respect is something to value in baseball, then it's time for Ethier to get his. Ethier has paid his dues; he's been a professional since 2003. He has never done anything to embarrass the Dodgers. He has had his struggles, which makes him pretty much like everyone else. He has pushed through those struggles to become the team's No. 1 option in left. Give Pierre's playing time to Ethier, and he will contribute the championship-type production that people like Colletti trot out in Pierre's defense. He'll do more.
It's not a philosophical debate; it's not a battle between scouts and statisticians. It's something there for everyone to see: Andre Ethier is a proven veteran, an asset and a readier contributor than Juan Pierre. If that's what the Dodgers want in left field, then they needn't look any further. We don't need the upcoming Spring Training to tell us that. We already know.
Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus mentioned today that his Team Health Reports are being run "in the order of finish for last year's Dick Martin Award," given for best team medical staff. So the longer we have to wait for the Dodgers, the extra disappointed we can be.
Three National League West rivals - Arizona, San Diego and Stan Conte's old club, San Francisco - have come ahead of the Dodgers. The gauntlet has been thrown.
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Strong article by Kevin Baxter in the Times about one man's efforts to bring baseball to Cambodia.
Dodgers To Be in Lasorda's Hands for a Week
The funny thing is, if you were going to put Tommy Lasorda back in charge of managing the Dodgers for eight games ... nah, I'm not sure there's anything funny about it.
I know this isn't in the spirit of the occasion - I know he can't really do any damage in a week (can he?) - but please be gentle with our boys' arms, Tommy.
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Meet Russell Martin footsteps-follower Lucas May, courtesy of Tony Jackson of the Daily News.
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How many links does it take to get the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? From Joe Frisaro of MLB.com via Fish Stripes via Baseball Musings, ex-Dodger Cody Ross underwent a unique procedure to try curing his ailing hamstring.
Finley or 4+1?
In about a month, my third child will be born. I'm finding it hard to believe that the last time I had a kid, not only had the 4+1 game not yet happened, but the Steve Finley division-clinching grand slam hadn't happened either. The Dodger playoff drought continues, but there simply have been some incredible moments for this team.
I find myself cherishing the 4+1 game more - in recent days, I've been listening on a continuous loop to a tape of the radio call that Dodger Thoughts commenter Stan from Tacoma sent me - even though the Finley game was incredibly dramatic and almost certainly more important. I mean, seven runs in the bottom of the ninth to clinch a division, and that game's second-best in my son's lifetime? Crazy.
By the way, I still haven't dropped the boy, but there was one time where I lifted him up in the air and banged his head against a whirling ceiling fan. Fortunately, it was Skull 1, Fan 0 - so I guess that was our biggest victory since August 2004.
At around 8 p.m., which coincidentally figures to be around halftime of tonight's UCLA-USC basketball game if I'm not mistaken, I am scheduled to be a guest of Ken Levine on KABC 790 AM.
It's alternative programming, like the Lingerie Bowl, only completely different.
The Miller's Tale
I tend to roll my eyes at the litany of Spring Training stories of rebirth, but if I could wish for one to turn out true, it probably would be Greg Miller's. Here's Tony Jackson of the Daily News:
Spotted Greg Miller working one-on-one with Rick Honeycutt on a side mound early this morning. They were working to hone a slight mechanical adjustment that Greg made last season, when he was battling those well-documented control problems that caused him to walk 46 batters in 28 2/3 innings at Las Vegas before he was demoted to Jacksonville.
"Everything for me is about staying on my front leg and being more direct to the plate," Miller said. "Last year at times, I got kind of directional with my lower body."
Asked if that was a reason for the wildness, Miller said it was partly to blame.
"Part of it, too, I'm willing to admit, was that I just got really frustrated with it and tried to muscle my way through," he said. ...
Miller turned 23 in November.
Deadline for Dodger Thoughts T-Shirts is Today
Don't forget: Get your Dodger Thoughts shirts before the clock runs out today.
The main design is on the front; the site URL is on the back. You can click on the images to see them in larger size. Your 100-percent cotton options are:
Deadline to order is Saturday, February 16, 2008. No refunds or exchanges. The deadline will help shirts get delivered by Opening Day.
1) Follow the above link.
Leave any questions in the comments - and thanks.
Inside the Dodgers: Let's Blog Two
Happy second birthday to the Inside the Dodgers blog led by team public relations director Josh Rawitch. I think it's safe to say that we've all got reason to celebrate this site's existence.
Birthday greetings also go to Russell Martin (25) and Ron Cey (60).
It was kind of fascinating to read the different Jason Schmidt reports as they flowed through the channels like tumbleweeds down a summertime Los Angeles River. From a distance, they all were essentially the same, but each one added to the overall tableau.
The day began with Dodger manager Joe Torre telling reporters that he wasn't counting on the pitcher being ready for Opening Day, as Dylan Herandez noted in the Times.
"I'm not saying he won't be," Torre said, "but I don't want to raise any red flags if he doesn't throw one day."
But it's easy to be conservative in February. The question as March 31 approaches, especially if understudies Esteban Loaiza or Hong-Chih Kuo (or any Dodger starter, for that matter) have their own problems, is whether Schmidt and the Dodgers will still be cautious if the pitcher has the appearance of being able to take the mound. Can they maintain the attitude that Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise was among those reporting Schmidt had after a big moment late last month?
Schmidt said he experienced somewhat of a breakthrough while working out with physical therapist Brett Fischer two weeks ago -- he was able to throw without some of the stiffness that had caused discomfort. Yet, he understands that coming back from a torn labrum, frayed biceps tendon and scarred bursa is a complicated recovery process.
"I don't want to read too much into it," Schmidt said. "It doesn't mean I'm over all the bumps. I still have a long ways to go."
Schmidt is scheduled to continue rehabilitation this spring and throw on a different schedule than the other pitchers. Torre would only go as far as to say he expected Schmidt to appear in some form of a spring training game.
To put this all in a larger context, John Nadel of The Associated Press caught that Schmidt didn't really think anything was wrong with him at Spring Training last year, even as batterymate Russell Martin did.
"Playing catch last year, playing long toss, the ball would just die at the end," he recalled. "It's different this year, the ball is carrying better. I didn't really think there was (something wrong last year). Spring training's always been an up-and-down thing for me."
Dodgers catcher Russell Martin saw it differently.
"Early in the spring, I remember he wasn't throwing as hard as I remembered when I faced him," Martin said. "The ball didn't have the same jump. After a couple weeks, with the velocity not picking up, I was concerned. He said he felt fine.
"After a while, he gained a little bit of velocity, but not as much as I expected. He reached 88 (mph), but that wasn't Schmidt-like."
Back in the present, Schmidt further put things in perspective within Ken Gurnick's MLB.com story.
"I thought this would be a piece of cake," he said. "It's been tougher than I thought. There have been bumps in the road.
"I've been confident I can come back the whole time. I didn't know how long it would take, but I never doubted it. I've been working every day since June. I've been pressing toward the goal [Opening Day]. I don't think one day will kill me if I won't be out there. There is that possibility that it may not happen right on Opening Day, and I'm sure I'll be able to deal with that."
Schmidt is now 35 years old with 13 seasons and nearly 2,000 Major League innings logged on that shoulder. He might be forced to become more of a pitcher and less of a thrower, but he's not far enough along to know even that. He said he's hopeful he'll come out of this good as new, or at least good enough.
"I don't know if I'll be better than I've ever been," he said. "I'll just be happy to compete. I'm not getting too up or too down. Just trying to stay on an even keel."
That's simply critical for a recovery that demands patience. As Gurnick wrote, "The labrum tear was not anticipated and was the most severe of the three injuries, requiring anchors to reattach it to the bone and the lengthy recovery time to ensure it won't detach."
The Dodgers seemed to have learned caution, but like many Spring Training stories, it's the kind of thing we hear every year. The team almost needs to keep Schmidt on the disabled list come Opening Day even if he's ready to pitch - to counter fears that their lessons of past seasons are being forgotten. It might be time for the team to set a new standard for caution.
The key to all this could be Kuo, who is out of minor-league options, and Loaiza, who burdens the Dodgers with a $7 million contract. The more capable they look, the easier it will be for the Dodgers to be drift along with Schmidt.
See them tumbling down,
Cares of the past are behind,
I know when night is gone,
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Meanwhile, as most of you know, a familiar face is taking a shot at making the Kansas City starting rotation, and we're not talking about Brett Tomko. At age 39, Hideo Nomo is attempting a comeback. Dick Kaegel of MLB.com has more:
He's wearing No. 91 on his back, not the 16 he showed to batters with his twisting windup in his NL Rookie of the Year season of '95. "The Tornado" was asked if his devastating split-finger fastball was as good as ever when he pitched this winter in Venezuela.
"So-so," he replied.
For the Caracas Leones in seven starts, Nomo had a 6.59 ERA, an 0-2 record and opponents had a .310 average. But he pitched just 13 2/3 innings, not much of a test.
Nomo was asked about it and gave a lengthy answer in Japanese.
"Some days it rained and sometimes he couldn't throw from the mound," translator Shingo Matsubara said. "But his shoulder and elbow -- he didn't have any pain at all."
In short, Nomo feels his right arm is ready. He had some setbacks after the removal of an elbow bone chip in June 2006. He also had shoulder surgery in October 2003.
"If, after the arm trouble that he's had, he is anywhere close to what he used to be, especially with this [split-finger] as an out pitch, we might have something," (Royals manager Trey) Hillman said. "We'll evaluate that when we give him opportunities and when he's ready to face hitters."
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The list of marquee Dodgers heading to China for the team's two exhibition games will be a short but worldly one, as Tony Jackson of the Daily News indicated: Andruw Jones, Nomar Garciaparra, Matt Kemp, Hong-Chih Kuo, Chin-lung Hu, Chan Ho Park and Takashi Saito. That might disappoint Dodger fans in Asia (a few of whom are faithful readers of this site, I'm happy to say) but will help calm those who worry the Beijing trip will undermine the team's preparation for the 2008 season.
"The most important thing is that the people we keep back and the people we take with us get their work in," Torre said. "You probably won't see a lot of pitchers because we are only playing two games, and that is a long way to go just to throw in the bullpen."
It should be noted that according to Gurnick, Saito won't be going to China.
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From Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times via Kevin Roderick's L.A. Observed, this little tidbit about new Times editor-in-chief Russ Stanton:
Colleagues describe Mr. Stanton, 49, as smart, low-key and (a) little quirky; he keeps an extensive collection of Los Angeles Dodgers bobble-head dolls in his office.
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Don't miss my other posts this morning: the celebration of Red Barber's 100th birthday and the reminder that Dodger Thoughts shirt sales end Saturday.
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Update: Dodger minor leaguer Wilfredo Diaz told police he was robbed at gunpoint while walking "walking from a nearby gas station along a dirt path that leads to Dodgertown," Lamaur Stancil of TCPalm.com reported today. (Thanks to Andrew Breitbart for the link.)
He said four men wearing black masks and dressed in black clothing appeared and yelled at him to get on the ground, the report states. One of the men pointed a handgun at Diaz and kicked the pitcher in his side while he was on the ground, the report said. The men took $10 and some change from Diaz and fled toward Aviation Boulevard, the report states.
Diaz turned 21 last month. He pitched for Ogden in the Pioneer League last season.
The first two comments to the article range from skeptical to mean-spirited.
Red Barber Turns 100
NPR, which was the radio home for the Friday morning chats of late, great Dodger announcer Red Barber with host Bob Edwards, is celebrating what would have been the Ol' Redhead's 100th birthday on Sunday by posting a remembrance and a series of radio clips.
Barber was born just before Spring Training in 1908 and passed away on October 22, 1992, just before the end of the World Series. He called games for the Dodgers from 1938 to 1953, mentoring Vin Scully at the start of the New Redhead's career.
Triangle Table with Dylan Hernandez and Diamond Leung
I know, for today, it should be a heart-shaped table. But those are on backorder.
In any case, before they were completely lost in the grind of covering the 2008 baseball season, Dodger beat writers Dylan Hernandez of the Times and Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise agreed to share some thoughts about the upcoming season. Really appreciate both of them participating.
And away we go ...
Jon: Just to get this out of the way, what are your thoughts on the clubhouse rift from last season, now that months have passed? Do you think the players will be on the same page this season? Do they need to be?
Dylan: Jon, as I'm sure you noticed, the tensions started to surface when the team started tumbling down the standings. Losing is what led to the changing of players' roles and the complaining by at least one player of how the club refused to part with its prospects to acquire an impact-type veteran. Whether the players are on the same page this season, or at least appear to be that way to the public, will depend largely on the results.
Diamond: Dodger players have said this offseason that whatever clubhouse problems they had were overblown by the media. Among casual observers, there seems to be the perception that a battle line was drawn between young and old across the room. It all probably falls somewhere in the middle. Russell Martin seemed to understand this in September. When Rafael Furcal initiated a conversation with him, Martin noticed writers were within earshot and deadpanned, "I don't know if I'm supposed to be talking to you (Furcal)." I suspect Joe Torre will come in with enough credibility to put an end to any nonsense, but we'll see.
Jon: I agree that the losing seemed to produce the grief. But before I move on, let me just ask if you think Martin is ready to emerge as the leader of this team. He has always seemed mature, and I thought his silence to the media (at least on the record) when all the stuff was going on spoke volumes. If the team slumps and any uniting needs to be done, can he be the one who does it? Does he have the respect of the veterans, should hard times hit and the rift ever return?
Diamond: It would seem Martin has all the tools necessary to be a capable leader. He comes to play every day, wants to play every day, and plays while hurt. He might not be a rah-rah type guy at this stage of his career, but his passion and production on the field make up for that, and those qualities can be infectious. As for the veterans, I'm sure they'd respond more to Martin putting the team on his back with what he does on the field anyway.
Dylan: Martin's willingness to play every day and, perhaps more importantly, learn, has earned him the respect of the veterans. Whether he'll be a more vocal presence and how he'll transition from being a precocious young player into a bona fide leader is something to keep an eye on over the next couple of seasons.
Management seems to be hoping that Andruw Jones can help unify the clubhouse, as Ned Colletti has mentioned on more than one occasion that Jones worked well with the young players in Atlanta last season.
Jon: Okay, onto the makeup of the roster and the lineup. Obviously, you haven't gotten to spend much time with Joe Torre yet, but we did get some signals last month that Juan Pierre isn't guaranteed 162 games this season. What do you foresee happening with the outfield?
Diamond: Management does indeed appear to be more open-minded about sitting Pierre this season. Last year, it seemed having that him hit lower in the order was as far as Grady Little would go, and if my memory serves me correctly, Pierre was even inserted into the game as a defensive replacement to preserve his streak of consecutive games played. Ned Colletti has called Pierre a complementary player, and my guess is he'll be eased into that role. I can see Pierre as the opening day left fielder and platooning with Andre Ethier. The more productive of the two would then have his playing time increased as the season progressed.
Jon: Let's talk about the infield. Last month, Colletti seemed open to the idea of Andy LaRoche getting the starting spot at third base, but even the most favored rookies during Colletti's tenure have usually needed to wait until at least May to get in the lineup regularly. With most of the lineup locked in, however, could LaRoche truly get the call, allowing Nomar Garciaparra to become a pinch-hitting specialist?
Dylan: I think so, if only because the Dodgers would like the roster flexibility they'd have with LaRoche as the starter. On the bench, Garciaparra could fill multiple roles - backup at first and third, and an experienced bat off the bench, which Torre said was something he wanted - and save the team a roster spot. That's particularly important in a year when Delwyn Young is out of options, as it'll allow Torre to decide whether he wants 11 or 12 pitchers. (Of course, if Garciaparra beats out LaRoche, the Dodgers could always send LaRoche to Las Vegas and have Abreu back up at second and third. But Colletti basically said last month that LaRoche would have play his way off the roster to not make the club.)
Both Garciaparra and LaRoche enter the spring with serious question marks. Can Garciaparra bounce back? Can LaRoche, who looked completely overwhelmed last September, make the necessary adjustments to become an everyday big-leaguer? Neither question can be answered with any certainty right now.
Diamond: Colletti seems very willing to give LaRoche a fair shot at the starting job, and Garciaparra has said all the right things about accepting any role given to him. At the same time, I still think Garciaparra must be considered the incumbent at third base. LaRoche will need to prove his back is healthy so that he can play consistent defense and all the minor league offensive exploits we've heard about start to translate on the major league level. Let's also keep in mind he's only 115 plate appearances into his career.
Jon: Clearly, what happens at third base will directly affect the makeup of the bench. But if you had to pick one dark horse to make the Opening Day roster, who would you pick?
Diamond: It wouldn't surprise me if Ramon Martinez were to somehow make the team. Assuming LaRoche makes it, Martinez would be battling Tony Abreu and Chin-lung Hu for a utility role. Abreu will have to prove first of all that he's healthy, and he'll also need a nice spring to prove that he shouldn't need to "knock the door down" from Las Vegas. Hu will likely be asked to see some more pitching in Triple-A, where he could potentially play some more second base to improve his versatility. Martinez can play second, third and shortstop on the major league team. He wouldn't need to hit a whole lot behind a strong bench consisting of the fourth outfielder, whoever doesn't start at third base that day, and presumably Delwyn Young.
Dylan: If they go with 12 pitchers, they might want to have an extra lefty in the bullpen. Is Eric Stults enough of a dark horse to be called a dark horse? (For that matter, is Martinez?) If Stults doesn't qualify, I'd say one of the two left-handed non-roster invitees they recently signed, Tom Martin or Mike Myers.
Jon: As for the starting rotation, will the Dodgers play conservative with Jason Schmidt? And perhaps more importantly, do you think Jason Schmidt will play conservative with Jason Schmidt? And who else has a realistic chance to be his understudy in April besides Esteban Loaiza?
Dylan: Stan Conte tends to be on the conservative side, so I'm guessing, yes, the team will be conservative with Schmidt. I don't know if Schmidt can be expected to be conservative. What can be expected of Schmidt, however, is for him to be honest. It's up to the trainers to use that information and take what they deem is the best course of action.
Colletti picked up Loaiza and his $6.5 million salary for this season believing he could be in the rotation, so he'll be given every chance to win a spot if Schmidt can't go. If Loaiza, for some reason, isn't an option, next in line would probably be Hong-Chih Kuo, who started his rehab before the end of last season.
The Dodgers have three pitchers who spent significant time on the DL vying for that fifth spot and are basically hoping that at least one of them will be healthy at all times.
Diamond: Management has always been enamored by Kuo's potential, and it's just a matter of staying healthy for him. That he's out of options and has traditionally struggled coming out of the bullpen might once again make him a contender for the rotation. The Dodgers have invested plenty of time and money in him and should give him every opportunity to succeed.
Jon: I'd say we're close to wrapping this up. For a final question on the eve of Spring Training, could you fill in the blank? The Dodgers' fate in 2008 depends mostly on ______________
Diamond: It depends mostly on whether or not the kids fulfill their potential sooner than later. Matt Kemp, James Loney and Chad Billingsley have already shown they can be front-line major league players, so imagine if they kept it up over a full season. Add the All-Star play of Russell Martin, starts from Andy LaRoche and solid contributions from Andre Ethier, and the Dodgers would be in great shape. They made strong free-agent signings and have former All-Stars in their lineup and rotation. The kids playing everyday would also result in a veteran bench. The big question is how much of an opportunity the youth movement will get to thrive at the onset under Joe Torre, who inherits the tough task of easing the transition.
Thanks, Jon, for inviting me to participate. Dodger Thoughts is an everyday must-read for me, and I want to also thank the site's readers for checking out my coverage, especially on the blog. Whoops, sorry for the Rule 9 violations on there.
Dylan: . the health of the pitching staff. The addition of Jones, coupled with the return to health of Furcal, would seem to indicate that this team will be better offensively than last year's. Pitching, as Torre has said repeatedly, is the key. The start of last season's slide coincided with that period when Randy Wolf, Hong-Chih Kuo and Chin-hui Tsao went down. The freefall started when Brad Penny and Derek Lowe suffered their respective abdominal and hip injuries.
Jon, I'd also like to thank you for the invitation to chat. See you at the park.
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Jason Schmidt agreed that he might be ready to start the season on the active roster, reports Tony Jackson of the Daily News.
"I have no idea," Schmidt said. "It will dictate itself. I would like to say yeah, I'll be ready, but we really don't know what is going to happen down here."
Schmidt's rehabilitation isn't happening in a vacuum. The only other serious contender for the fifth spot is Esteban Loaiza, a 13-year major-league veteran who probably will go to the bullpen if Schmidt is ready.
The most recent of Loaiza's 37 career relief appearances came in 2004, when he was pitching for the New York Yankees and Joe Torre.
Loaiza has never been a reliever for more than a few weeks at a time.
When he was asked if he could make such a transition, he said he didn't know.
"I can't really answer that question right now," he said. "It's not my decision. I just have to perform and do my best and see what happens."
Meanwhile, is there something to be said for giving even your best pitcher's arm a little bit of extra rest during the season? David Pinto of Baseball Musings makes a persuasive case, and then passes along a story about the A's debating whether the opposite happened in the case of Rich Harden.
Convenient Off Day
Beloved NBC sitcoms 30 Rock and The Office are to return with new episodes April 10, Variety reports. The Dodgers are kindly taking that night off so everyone can watch.
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Please make sure to get your Dodger Thoughts shirt orders in. Deadline is this Saturday!
Choosing the Most Obscure but Memorable Home Run in Los Angeles Dodger History
Spurred by thoughts of Jason Schmidt's blast last season, I leave the nominations to you for the time being. What was the most obscure but memorable homer in Los Angeles Dodger history?
As always, it's a fine line when it comes to choosing. If no one remembers it, then it doesn't qualify. But if the mention of it doesn't cause people (or since I'm judging, me) to say, "Oh yeah ... I do remember that," then that's probably not it either.
Someday, Hong-Chih Kuo's shot last year might make the list. But right now, it's too fresh. Similarly, I'd even say that Dusty Baker's homer on the final day of the 1977 season to give the team four 30-homer men isn't obscure enough, either. Dick Nen? Forget about it.
Mike Scioscia's homer in the 1988 NLCS actually strikes me as one to consider. It's still not obscure enough, but it doesn't feel like anyone talks about it any more.
On the other hand, some homers are plenty obscure but have limited meaning to others. I vividly remember Eric Karros hitting a pinch-hit, three-run homer his rookie year to beat Pittsburgh, on a night when I was depressed about my life and desperate for something good to happen. But who else would remember that?
Maybe Raul Mondesi's second homer, coming in extra innings on that Opening Day comeback victory over Randy Johnson and Arizona? Maybe Dave Roberts' inside-the-parker against the Yankees? (Nope, that was actually double and an error).
Well, I open the floor to all of you. Hopefully, a flood of fond memories will come pouring out.
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Fans of Breaking Bad and Friday Night Lights should check out my recent posts at Season Pass, which has been humming with content virtually every day this year.
As rumored for the past few days, Mark Sweeney will be in Spring Training with the Dodgers this season (pending a physical), having agreed to contract terms with the team. Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterpise says that Sweeney would get $600,000 this year, but it sounds pro-rated - he's getting $125,000 if he makes the team. Sweeney can also earn up to $300,000 more in bonuses.
Meanwhile, read another classic story from ToyCannon at True Blue L.A.
Kareem Abdul-Jabaar has begun blogging for the Times (link via Kevin Roderick at L.A. Observed). I know he has more important things to talk about, but so far, my favorite part is, "Click here to listen to what a skyhook sounds like."
Update: Here, Abdul-Jabaar comments on each of his Sports Illustrated cover appearances. (Thanks to Eric Stephen for the link.)
Saito, Broxton and Beimel Try To Buck Trend
It's going to be very interesting to see whether the Dodgers can get good years out of relief pitchers Takashi Saito, Jonathan Broxton and Joe Beimel in 2008, after each performed well in 2006 and 2007. With the exception of Eric Gagne, the team arguably has not gotten three consecutive quality seasons from a relief pitcher this decade.
This dovetails with my conclusion that with only scattered exceptions, relief pitcher excellence does not repeat from year to year.
For that SI.com report, I used the Adjusted Runs Prevented statistic from Baseball Prospectus. Today, I tried a different approach. I used BP's WXRL, which the site defines as "expected wins added over a replacement level pitcher, adjusted for level of opposing hitters."
What follows below is a chart of WXRL per nine innings pitched. I did not include pitchers who started a significant number of games in a given season. Note that some of the players on this list pitched very few innings, including Gagne in 2005 and 2006.
By this measure, here are the Dodgers' best multi-season relievers of the decade (without taking into account innings pitched):
1) Eric Gagne (0.87, 1.01, 0.90)
Newhan on Dodgertown
I don't think I properly appreciated Ross Newhan when he was with the Times, which is saying something since I believe the (semi? mostly?) retired baseball columnist's tenure there began before I was born. But I sure enjoy reading him now.
Newhan has two new articles up at the Times relating to Dodgertown, and they may forestall your need to read any others about the team's final Spring Training there. Newhan embraces the Vero Beach nostalgia but doesn't wallow in it; he also embraces the physical, fiscal and psychic discomfort of the place. And the racism.
Newhan, I sense, has only gotten better with age. Hope we keep seeing his byline from time to time.
On the Air
I gave an interview on the Dodgers for MVN.com. It starts about five minutes into the podcast, after some split views on the team by hosts Brandon Rosage and Joe Aiello, and includes a couple of, well, atypical questions.
Aside from having a pioneering and distinguished career, Kilpatrick was also the father of Erik Kilpatrick, who played Curtis Jackson on The White Shadow.
Staying in touch with friends and colleagues is definitely a problem for me, but I remain surprised when it's a problem from the Dodgers. From tales of new manager Joe Torre having trouble connecting with his players, to Diamond Leung's account at the Press-Enterprise of Russell Martin and Grady Little missing each other, it just seems unbelievable, and a bit sad, that in this age of communication proliferation, we struggle so much to have a normal conversation.
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Folks, don't wait to get your Dodger Thoughts T-shirt orders in. Sales are lagging in this current run, which could mean this will be your last opportunity for a long time to buy a shirt.
The deadline is February 16, but don't wait until the last minute. Order now. If you're having any problems, please don't hesitate to e-mail me.
I've had this headline stored since April 3, but never found a story to go with it. Time to use it or lose it.
13) Brad Penny, RHP: 83 career win shares.
Now, the flameout of Strawberry after his 28-homer debut in Los Angeles is well-chronicled, but it's not as if Landreaux or Castillo set the house afire (other than the latter tutoring Fernando Valenzuela with the screwball). The distinction seems to relate to the retired players' World Series rings with the Dodgers current involvement with the organization. Castillo and Landreaux are "active members of the Dodger Legends Bureau and recently participated in the 50th anniversary Dodgers community caravan."
Reprise: 2008 Opening Day Locks
I kinda short-circuited my thread from earlier today on the established members of the Dodger roster, so I'm bringing it back to the top.
But I'll add some small bits of news, courtesy of Ken Gurnick at MLB.com:
Trainer Stan Conte reported from Arizona that he watched pitcher Jason Schmidt throw off a mound. Conte said Schmidt continues his recovery from serious shoulder surgery, and Conte was pleased with what he saw. Schmidt is expected to be throwing off a mound in Spring Training.
The Dodgers also announced the signing of Jason Johnson to a Minor League contract. Johnson, 34, has a career Major League record of 55-98 and pitched in Japan last year.
Firejoemorgan.com and The Office: Worlds Are Colliding
So, I've interviewed Michael Schur, the Emmy-winning writer of The Office (and also the man who plays Mose). And I've been critiqued by Ken Tremendous, the razor-sharp mind behind Firejoemorgan.com.
Little did I know they were the same person.
It's blowing my mind, man.
As bummed as I was to become an FJM target ... now I have to ask, when does the intelligence behind that site find a TV audience?
2008 Opening Day Locks
Every player has a story to tell, a challenge to conquer, a skeleton to uncloset - even the players guaranteed to be on the Opening Day roster (unless they're disabled or traded).
Here are 21 locks that are loaded:
Brad Penny, RHP: A Cy Young candidate for much of 2007, Penny has won over some of his harshest critics. Curiously, the improvement in his performance and durability comes with a decline in his strikeout rate, to 5.8 per nine innings. His second-half ERA also jumped in 2007 (2.39 to 3.84). At the same time, opponents batted .302 on balls in play last season against Penny, which is not particularly lucky, and he still performed well. He also reduced the number of home runs allowed dramatically. As much as he has blossomed, Penny, who turns 30 in May, is more of an enigma than ever. Overall, I'd expect something closer to his second-half performance of 2007, but not necessarily worse.
Chad Billingsley, RHP: I'm telling you, the sky's the limit for this kid. In 20 starts last season, he had a 3.38 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 112 innings. The areas targeted for improvement, control (51 walks as a starter) and endurance (5 2/3 innings per start), are well within reach for the 23-year-old in fact, hopefully solving the first will solve the second. I truly think he'll be the ace of the staff this season.
Hiroki Kuroda, RHP: Kuroda's chief task is to avoid the big inning. If he gives up three runs every six innings, his ERA isn't going to excite anyone, but he'll still be preserving the bullpen and giving the Dodgers a chance to win. But it won't be enough to pitch three shutout innings and then call for a rescue after hanging a four-spot in the fourth. Kuroda needs to provide damage control at the back of the rotation anything on top of that will be a bonus.
Jason Schmidt, RHP: Schmidt's chief task is to tell the truth.
Jonathan Broxton, RHP: Broxton, you'll recall, had that disappointing finish to 2007 when it appeared he was tired: 10 appearances in 14 days, 7 1/3 innings, nine runs, 11 hits, five homers. The Colorado Rockies would have been within their rights to vote Broxton a playoff share. Still, it's safe to expect we'll have the (not so) old Broxton back. Including the late-season meltdown, he still finished with a 2.85 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 82 innings, and only one other home run allowed. With Saito getting older, Broxton (he'll still only turn 24 in June) might be called upon to pitch in the ninth inning more this season. His OPS allowed in the ninth last season was .751, compared to .531 in the eighth. On the other hand, he was much less lucky in the ninth, with opponents batting .372 on balls in play (compared to .269 in the eighth). Generally, Broxton had no problem pitching in pressure situations (.634 OPS allowed from the seventh inning on in close games), showing that he is a closer in everything but name.
Joe Beimel, LHP: Beimel hasn't been a disaster against right-handed batters (.745 OPS allowed), which is why the Dodgers have been able to sneak full innings out of him from time to time. But he really remains at his best against lefties (.490 OPS allowed. 25 strikeouts of 108 batters), so the team shouldn't lose sight of what his true strength is.
Scott Proctor, RHP: Last season, Proctor arguably pitched better with no rest days (.684 OPS allowed) than he pitched with some rest (.738 OPS allowed in all situations). However, his ERA splits don't correlate with that he had a 3.81 ERA with no rest, compared to 3.65 overall. ERA, of course, does not factor in inherited runners, but in any case, the perception that Proctor wears down with overuse might be faulty. My guess he's just inconsistent, and not entirely reliable in late and close situations in general (.788 OPS allowed). In other words, the 31-year-old is a pretty typical major-league reliever.
Rudy Seanez, RHP: "If you subtract six or seven (bad) games, his ERA would have been under three,"Ned Colletti told Tony Jackson of the Daily News. That's pretty much true of any pitcher, which is why, for example, I went out of my way to note that Broxton kept his ERA under 3.00 even when you include his worst games. Seanez did perform surprisingly well last season, but let's not start making excuses for him. He's 39, and there's not going to be much milk left in this cow. However, there's probably no better time to use him than early in the season.
Gary Bennett, C: Almost hopeless offensively his OPS+ has been below 70 every year since 2000 though a 7 for 11 finish to the season raised his 2007 OPS from .546 to .621.
Jeff Kent, 2B: I'm gonna reprise old writings here. Now that he has been relieved of batting cleanup, now that the Dodgers can replace him defensively in the late innings without worrying about removing the centerpiece of the offense, Kent should continue to be an asset in 2008, even assuming he hits a post-40th birthday decline. It should be noted that he OPSed .863 after September 1 and .917 after the All-Star break last year.
Rafael Furcal, SS: He'll tease you, and unease you - all the better just to please you. He'll expose you, when he snows you off your feet with the crumbs he throws you. He'll take a tumble on you, roll you like you were dice, until you come out blue.
Nomar Garciaparra, IF: Garciaparra's OPS+ fell from 120 in 2006 to 78 in 2007. An atrocious first half (.654 OPS) dragged him down. His second half in 2007 (.814 OPS in 134 plate appearances), however, gives me hope that he can fill Olmedo Saenz's role better than Saenz did last season. (Saenz had an even more precipitous decline; his OPS+ fell from 132 in 2006 to 63.)
Juan Pierre, LF-CF Last year, in 729 plate appearances, Pierre had 236 total bases (on hits), 33 walks, 64 steals and six HBPs, while getting caught stealing 15 times and hitting into 10 double plays, for a total of 314 bases. According to Baseball Prospectus, he had a .255 EQA.
I'm counting on Jones improving from a career-worst year and providing better defense as well. But it is surprising how close the two were in offensive production in 2007.
Matt Kemp, OF: In 477 career plate appearances, Kemp has 25 walks and 119 strikeouts. That's the biggest concern about an otherwise precocious offensive performer. He also batted .411 on balls in play, which is the kind of average Andre Ethier had much of 2006 but was unable to maintain. Kemp's fast, but he's not The Flash. You might have to knock about 50 points off Kemp's 2007 on-base percentage of .373 ... unless he figures out some plate discipline. If he does, look out.
Andre Ethier, OF: Ethier's 2007 showed that a sophomore season doesn't guarantee improvement over freshman year. But with nearly 1,000 career plate appearances before turning 26, Ethier's OPS+ is 108, his on-base percentage is .357 and his slugging percentage is .464. That's nothing to dismiss. He also has earned some plaudits for his defense. Would love to see what he'd do if he were actually given some job security.
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New Dodger chief marketing officer Dr. Charles Steinberg (do you have to say "Dr." even when it's not relevant?) has a lot on his mind, according to Doug Miller of MLB.com.
This could be good, and then again ...
There's plenty of room in Steinberg's head for more creative promotions and Dodger Stadium innovations. After all, according to Steinberg, sometimes all it takes is a personal experience or clubhouse coincidence to spark a summer-long fad.
"Try to tell me why everybody stops what they're doing and sings 'Sweet Caroline' in Boston," Steinberg says. "There's a Rally Monkey in Anaheim. The Beer Barrel Polka is a signature in games in Milwaukee.
"I don't think you can necessarily try to invent some gimmick and impose it. I think you need your eyes and ears open so that when something emerges and connects, you're ready to capitalize on it."
There's logic there ... although that logic could also be translated as "Beachballs for everyone!"
Posturing Continues on Martin Contract Negotiations
Dodger All-Star catcher Russell Martin indicated Tuesday that he isn't opposed to signing a longterm contract with the Dodgers now, according to published reports, but only if the initial offer from the team is "legitimate."
Last month, we learned that Martin's agent, Bob Garber, declined to negotiate with the Dodgers this offseason. Martin essentially corroborated that, though his implication is that it was because Garber immediately sensed the Dodgers' offer would be unsatisfactory.
"It's kind of a touchy thing," Martin told Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise. "I told (Garber) if it wasn't going to be a good offer not to even bother, so that's the conversation that they had."
To Dylan Hernandez of the Times, Martin added: "It's not up to me and Bob. It's up to the team. If the team wants to offer something legitimate, it'd be idiotic not to look at it."
While the specifics of the conversations Garber and the Dodgers had are vague, each party has now tried to make the case that the burden to move things forward is on the other. There's no ticking clock - Martin can't become a free agent until after the 2012 season - but no one wants to see these talks drag out.
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Look out: According to Hernandez, the freight train known as Matt Kemp is looking better ... stronger ... faster:
Kemp spent most of the winter working out in Arizona, sculpting a frame that he said now weighs around 220 pounds. He was up to 240 at the end of last season.
"I had to shed some pounds so I could move a little bit more," Kemp said. "I feel quicker, I feel way stronger. Last year, I was over in the Dominican playing winter ball and I didn't get to work out as much. I was doing baseball stuff."
Martin's feeling like six million bucks as well.
Martin also spent time working out in Arizona. Though Martin appeared broader-shouldered on Tuesday than he did in the fall, he said he lost weight, something he credited to reducing his body fat percentage from close to 10% to 9%.
"I feel more explosive," Martin said.
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A retired lawyer has been researching the mostly untold story of Babe Ruth's mother for more than a decade. Here's the story, from Rick Maese of the Baltimore Sun. Since Scott Templeton didn't write it, it's probably reliable. (Link via Baseball Think Factory)
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Travel editor Gary A. Warner of the Register describes his final journey to Dodgertown in Vero Beach - including the difficulties for West Coast fans to make the trip, but also the memories that will be left behind.
The Dodger Thoughts 2008 Spring Training Primer
In the years that I've been doing Dodger Thoughts Spring Training Primers, this might be the most set roster I've encountered. I count only four open roster spots, except in the event of injury or trade. That doesn't leave room for too many surprises - though probably one will come.
With boarding calls for Vero Beach approaching, here's how things look.
Starting Pitchers: Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Jason Schmidt*
Swingman: Esteban Loaiza
Bullpen: Takashi Saito, Jonathan Broxton, Joe Beimel, Scott Proctor, Rudy Seanez
Catchers: Russell Martin, Gary Bennett
Infielders: James Loney, Jeff Kent, Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra
Outfielders: Andruw Jones, Matt Kemp, Juan Pierre, Andre Ethier
*Jason Schmidt, RHP: Just checking to make sure you read the definition of "Lock" above. It's not that he's a lock to be healthy, it's that he's a lock to be on the Opening Day roster if he's healthy.
Most Likely to Succeed (4)
Delwyn Young, OF-2B: Nothing does a young Dodger more good than to do well in small opportunities. Late last season, Young hit above his head with a .417 on-base percentage/.647 slugging percentage in 36 plate appearances last season. Out of minor-league options, Young should easily qualify for a spot off the bench as a pinch-hitter, fifth outfielder and emergency second baseman.
Tony Abreu, IF: There seem to be few hard feelings remaning over last season's Sports Hernia Kerfuffle, and given that the Dodgers were prepared to go without Ramon Martinez in 2008 by buying out his option, I still like Abreu's chances of getting the job as middle-infield backup. A poor spring by LaRoche would also keep Abreu in line to get some time at third base. Sure, now that Martinez is back in the organization on a minor-league contract, the Dodgers could start Abreu in Las Vegas - and there are some who would rather see him play full-time anyway. But it just seems clear that the Dodgers know Abreu is superior to Martinez at this point, and the determination to win the division in 2008 should encourage the Dodgers to get what they can out of Abreu from the beginning of the season.
Hong-Chih Kuo, LHP: I think the Dodgers are past the point of worrying whether Kuo would be better as a starting pitcher or a reliever. They're just wondering if he can stay healthy for consecutive months. Being out of options, Kuo should make the Opening Day roster if he's upright, especially if the team goes with 12 pitchers. As a left-hander, he even has a shot joining the otherwise all-righty Dodger starting rotation if Schmidt can't answer the bell. He'll stick as long as he's healthy and effective.
Next in Line
Yhency Brazoban, RHP: Brazoban is in the same boat as Repko: guaranteed contract with minor-league options. With the signing of Seanez, 10 righthanders are ahead of him; that's a lot, but the odds that one of them is on the disabled list on Opening Day aren't bad. The Dodgers could also choose Brazoban as a 12th pitcher over a healthy Kuo if they don't have faith in the latter as a reliever. But Brazoban is going to have to show something in Spring Training.
Mike Myers, LHP: He's 38, but Myers pitched 40 1/3 innings for Joe Torre in New York last season with a 2.66 ERA. Yet the Yankees cut him in August, and when he landed with the White Sox, he gave up 17 earned runs in 13 2/3 innings. By season's end, the southpaw had allowed one home run in 123 plate appearances against lefties. So in an organization that is lefty-light, Myers could land a spot.
Eric Hull, RHP: No, he's not going to make the Hall of Fame, but the 28-year-old Hull has quietly positioned himself to be a 2008 contributor. I mean, if a 2.74 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings in Las Vegas, culminating years of steady progress, doesn't get you a long look, something's wrong.
Jonathan Meloan, RHP: Dodger fans in the know pleaded for his callup last summer. By the time he came up near season's end, after the long-winded Roberto Hernandez experiment, Meloan was entering a desperation situation. He struck out seven in 7 1/3 innings but walked eight and allowed nine runs. Now, the Dodgers have said they're going to try to make Meloan a starter, as he was in college. There's debate over whether he has the mechanics to hold a spot in a major-league rotation, but as far as April 2008 is concerned, the conversion seems to buy him a ticket to AAA. Still, the guy's a strikeout pitcher knocking on the door, and that surely makes him a strong candidate to make the team.
Greg Miller, LHP: There could hardly be a better story this spring than Miller making the team. A Clayton Kershaw before there was a Clayton Kershaw, Miller reached AA at age 18 in 2003, striking out 40 and walking seven in 27 innings. But first his health and then his control betrayed him, and four years later, he was struggling. He walked 89 in 76 2/3 innings in 2007. But he also struck out 97, and the Dodgers still like him. If he can show any control in March, he immediately puts himself back on the fast track.
See You Midseason?
James McDonald, RHP: Is McDonald the fifth-best starting pitcher on the team right now? Quite possibly, after an eyecatching 2007 in which he struck out 168 in 134 2/3 innings in the minor leagues while walking a mere 37. The Dodgers aren't likely to rush him into the rotation during the first week, but it would take quite a reversal to keep him from making his first major-league start this season.
Clayton Kershaw, LHP: Never heard of him. Must be a scrub. But what the heck, if the Dodgers feel like he deserves a chance, who am I to stop them?
John-Ford Griffin, OF: Do you realize that players born in 1980 are about to hit the downside of their careers? Wow. Anyway, Griffin, who was born in November 1979, has gone 7 for 23 with two homers and three walks in two brief trials with Toronto, and OPSed .818 in AAA last season with 26 round-trippers. A left-handed swinger, it's not out of the question that the former Yankee first-round pick could ride the stagecoach to Los Angeles if Juan Pierre or Andre Ethier pulled a hammy.
Ramon Troncoso, RHP: Troncoso, 24, went from Inland Empire to Jacksonvile in 2007 and pitched well in both places. In fact, the reliever blew the Cal League away, allowing only three earned runs in 30 innings, before settling in nicely with a 3.12 ERA for the Suns. The 2007s of Meloan and Hull show how hard it can be to get a callup, but keep an eye on Troncoso nevertheless.
Cory Wade, RHP: Like Troncoso, Wade (25 in May) also rode the Inland Empire-to-Jacksonville express - and finished at full-speed with a 1.36 ERA and 33 strikeouts (against 11 walks) in 33 innings for the Suns.
Scott Elbert, LHP: Still only 22, Elbert is coming back from surgery. Wth a career minor-league ERA of 3.21 and 370 strikeouts in 321 innings, can I just dream of him returning to full strength?
Eric Stults, LHP: Well, he doesn't have D.J. Houlton to fend off any more, but with Kershaw, McDonald and maybe Elbert or Meloan on the rise, Stults (5.82 ERA, 30 strikeouts in 38 2/3 MLB innings last season) has a very small window left to make an impact in a Dodger uniform. In fact, it's quite possible Los Angeles won't get another look at the 28-year-old, even though Dodger general manager Ned Colletti has him in the running for a relief spot, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
Angel Chavez, IF: There has been speculation that Chavez could be this year's Wilson Valdez (for better and for worse), but already there's a difference Chavez is still only 26. (Hey, that's the age Ramon Martinez II was when he got his first sustained big-league action!) A veteran of both the Giant and Yankee organizations, Chavez had a .336 on-base percentage and .433 slugging percentage in AAA last season. Don't know his defensive value.
John Lindsey, 1B: Look, a guy hits 30 homers (and 32 doubles), I'm gonna take notice. Lindsey had a banner 2007 in the Dodger system, after planning to retire in 2006. I'd be more excited if a guy with that much power walked more than 35 times it's hard to imagine he wouldn't struggle against tougher major-league stuff. But I'd love to see him get a shot.
Brian Falkenborg, RHP: Falky! Renwoned for his 14 1/3-inning stint with the Dodgers in 2004,Falkenborg returns after bouncing around San Diego, St. Louis, Portland and Memphis. He pitched well in AAA last season (3.25 ERA, 58 strikeouts/17 walks/two HR/52 2/3 innings), but the 29-year-old has to hope that he hasn't already peaked.
Matt Riley, LHP: Lefty alert! Lefty alert! It's like starting Dodger Monopoly with Park Place and Broadway, but even with the advantage of being a southpaw, the 28-year-old Riley will still need some friendly rolls of the dice to make the team. He hasn't pitched in the majors since giving up 14 runs in 12 2/3 innings for Texas at the start of 2005. He missed all of 2006, then began his recovery in Jacksonville in 2007 with a head-turning 29 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings and 1.47 ERA for the Suns. Battling control problems, Riley kept striking 'em out once promoted to Las Vegas but saw his ERA balloon. Still, his ability to strikeout lefties will allow him to audition to be Beimel's understudy.
Tom Martin, LHP: Familiarity might be in Martin's corner. He was part of the brilliant Dodger bullpen of '03, not to mention the National League champion Colorado Rockies in '07. But he hasn't been effective in quite some time - lefties OPSed .872 against him last year. Don't count him out, but don't count on him.
Check Back in a Year or Two
Mario Alvarez, RHP: Struck out 103 batters but allowed 171 baserunners in 107 2/3 innings in high-A ball last season, making 14 starts in 33 appearances. He turns 24 in March.
Xavier Paul, OF: For two years, Baseball America has said that Paul has the best outfield arm in the Dodger minor leagues. Does he have a bat to compliment it? A .795 OPS in AA at age 22 last season doesn't rule it out, though he has struck out 489 times in 518 career games.
Rick Asadoorian, RHP: Years ago, the now 27-year-old was considered something of a five-tool outfield prospect. But he never broke through, and took up pitching full-time last season in the Reds organization after a stellar emergency stint in 2006. So he's a project, albeit one that struck out 48 (but walked 28) in 52 2/3 innings in AA.
Lucas May, C: With five minor-league seasons under his belt, May isn't soaring through the system, but he is progressing to the point where you can see him earning a major-league paycheck someday. He had a .778 OPS for Inland Empire last year, including 25 homers and 25 doubles. Getting on base enough could be his downfall offensively.
Fernando Desgue, RHP: Struggling to find information on the 26-year-old, though it appears he had a 2.25 ERA for Oaxaca of the Mexican League in 2006 before slumping in 2007.
Mike Koplove, P: Koplove, 31, has thrown nine MLB innings since 2005. Any reliever can get on a hot streak, but it's hard to picture the righty being much of a factor.
Alfredo Simon, RHP: So many of the Dodger non-roster invitees are relievers, it's almost surprising when a starting pitcher pops up. Well, here's Simon he turns 27 in May, and he made 22 starts in AAA for Oklahoma. Unfortunately, in 119 innings, he allowed 85 earned runs (6.43 ERA) and walked 46 while striking out 73. His career ERA in the minors is 5.03.
Greg Jones, RHP: A journeyman from the Angels system. He had a minor league season in 2005 that was notable, but he was 28 then and is 31 now.
Chan Ho Park, RHP: This year's Jose Lima/Scott Erickson/Aaron Sele/Joe Mays slot couldn't have gone to a more familiar face: the 34-year-old (man, I feel old I can still remember his debut in '94) Park, who hit rock bottom last season. He pitched only four innings in the majors, while making 24 starts in the minors to the tune of a 5.97 ERA. Crazy thing is he still has a strikeout pitch, but he just gets hammered 29 homers allowed in 139 2/3 pro innings last season. He hasn't had an ERA+ above 100 since his final Dodger season in 2001. How that could possibly change is beyond me, but karate kicks and Fernando Tatis won't change my fond memories of him. The beat writers will certainly get a day's worth of copy out of him.
Brian Shackelford, LHP: Another former position player, Shackelford switch to the mound and made his major-league debut with Cincinnati shortly before his 29th birthday and etched out a 2.43 ERA in 29 2/3 innings. But 2006 was a mini-horror show (13 runs in 16 1/3 innings), and at age 31, he finds himself far down the totem pole.
Tanyon Sturtze, RHP: Yeah, the Yankees got more out of Sturtze than the Dodgers got out of Brian Myrow after that May 2004 trade kind of. Sturtze tallied 166 innings in three seasons with New York as a reliever and spot starter, but they weren't particularly effective innings in the end. Last season - a lost year - found him pitching 11 1/3 innings split over four levels of Atlanta's minors - quite a feat when you think about it. Somewhere amid the non-roster invitees is a guy waiting to duplicate Rudy Seanez's surprising 2007 comeback. Superficially, Sturtze might fit the bill, but I'm not counting on it.
George Lombard, OF: A second-round draftee by Atlanta back in 1994, the 32-year-old Lombard has only one noteworthy major-league season to his credit, a 2002 campaign with Detroit in which his OPS+ was 85 in 72 games. Last season saw even his AAA OPS dip to .717.
Terry Tiffee, 1B-3B: The switch-hitter went 12 for 44 with four doubles and two homers for the Twins in 2005, but hasn't improved upon that. Last season, in AAA in the Oriole organization, Tiffee OPSed .701. Little power, no speed, 29 in April I'm not feeling it.
Danny Ardoin, C: Ardoin, 33, has a career OPS in the majors of .604, and that's with most of his career spent with the Rockies. Stuck in the minors last season, he OPSed .624 in 61 games. No, catching is not a strength in the Dodger minor leagues.
Rene Rivera, C: Rivera is 34 years old and has 34 career major-league hits. Which column will get to 40 first? Update: Misread the birthdate - Rivera is 24 years old. So, which column will get to 100 first?
Gary Burghoff, RHP: Nasty, nasty stuff, but also very dated. Tommy Lasorda loves him.
Super Tuesday Chat Thread
This thread is open for nonpartisan chat on today's Super Tuesday action.
I'll kick it off with a question. Why don't absentee voters get sent an "I voted" sticker. Is the system afraid they'll wear the sticker without actually mailing in their ballot. Is this the voter fraud I've heard so much concern about? I voted absentee, and I want to wear the ribbon.
Good, Bad and Ugly
In my latest column for SI.com, I suggest four things about baseball I'd like to keep as they are and four things I'd like to change.
Meanwhile, there was more sad news on the police blotter today, this time coming out of the Dominican Republic. Troubled ex-Dodger Willy Aybar was arrested on a domestic violence charge and is being held without bail, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPNdesportes.com.
In something of a surprise given that negotiations appeared to hit a standstill in January, the Dodgers and Rudy Seanez agreed to terms on a $550,000 contract with up to $750,000 in incentives, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Times. Just in time, no doubt, to be included in Dodger Thoughts Spring Training Preparedness Week.
The one-year contract calls for a base salary of $550,000 and a $150,000 bonus if the 39-year-old Seanez makes the Dodgers' opening-day roster. If Seanez isn't on the roster because of an injury he sustains in spring training, he will be paid the entire base salary. He will receive about a quarter of that as a termination fee if he is cut for performance reasons.
Seanez could earn up to an additional $600,000 in bonuses based on his number of appearances. Seanez will collect $75,000 for pitching in his 45th game, another $100,000 for his 50th, $125,000 for his 55th and $150,000 for both his 60th and 65th.
I spent all last season expecting Seanez to turn into a pumpkin looks like I'll be back at it again.
The Dodger Thoughts T-Shirt Store - Re-Opened for Business
With Spring Training approaching, we're going to take our first extended look at the 2008 Dodgers this week. But to kick things off, I'm pleased to say that you can once again buy Dodger Thoughts shirts.
The main design is on the front; the site URL is on the back. You can click on the images to see them in larger size. Your 100-percent cotton options are:
Deadline to order is Saturday, February 16, 2008. No refunds or exchanges. The deadline will help shirts get delivered by Opening Day.
1) Follow the above link.
Leave any questions in the comments - and thanks.
Mattingly's Wife Arrested
A hint of the domestic issues that drew Don Mattingly away from his hitting coach position with the Dodgers revealed themselves this weekend when his estranged wife, Kim, was arrested on charges of public intoxication and disorderly conduct, according to Kate Braser of the Evansville Courier-Press. I wish each of them both the best in trying to recover from their troubles.
On a lighter note, there's something about Charley Kerfeld scouting Odalis Perez that just amuses me, for reasons I can't rightly explain.
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Update: Daily News columnist Dennis McCarthy is borrowing Tony Jackson's blog to write about his trip to Dodger Fantasy Baseball Camp in Vero Beach.
The rookies that would be me were sent to the batting cages while the veterans the 87 out of 117 guys and one woman attending this last scheduled Dodgers Fantasy Camp in Vero Beach, Fla. stood around and had a good laugh grading us so we could be put on their teams.
I tanked it big time. In 20 pitches, I whiffed 15 times and hit five meek foul balls.
"Nice going, rook," said Bernie Silverman, a 71-year-old retired optometrist from Sherman Oaks. ...
* * *
A fun story comes from Al Doyle at Baseball Analysts on 19-game winners in baseball.
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Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times learns that Bill James is launching a new website this month. In James' words:
The basic idea for the site is that I wanted to have a place where I could communicate directly with my readers, to publish articles and get feedback from the audience in real time. It isn't a blog, as I understand the term, because I think blogs are essentially opinion-driven, as opposed to research-driven. Not trying to limit what you can do in a blog; I'm sure there are blogs of all types. Anyway, what I do is, I find a question, I do research, I write it up, which is what I have always done; I don't really traffic in opinion very much. I do write some "columns," as opposed to articles, and columns are opinion pieces.
But a site, to be most useful to a reader, to really become a part of the reader's life, needs something new all the time, something happening every day. To create that "something happening all the time," we have created a lot of "information packages" that of course will be automatically updated.
How to do that? Well, obviously there is no point in telling the readers the things that they already know, so we have gone through a years-long process of trying to identify everything there is about baseball that we don't know, that the reader doesn't have any way of finding out. Then we created "profiles"I guess there are 30 or 40 of them now, and will be morewhich contain all kinds of information about the teams and the players that you don't have any other way of knowing, at least now; of course other people will rip us off, and the same information will be appearing on other sites in a matter of months.
We'll also do games, and I do hope to have 25 or 30 other writers writing there eventually. But it is hard to get that process moving before there is money coming in, and so far, it's all been money going out.
For What It's Worth
The Dodgers would gain an estimated three victories in 2008 by starting Andre Ethier and Andy LaRoche over Juan Pierre and Nomar Garciaparra, according to statistical research by David Pinto at Baseball Musings. (Baseball Toaster impresario Ken Arneson and contributor Ryan Armbrust helped build the method.)
Beimel Avoids Arbitrationizing
Joe Beimel and the Dodgers ducked the High Noon of salary arbitration this morning, the Dodgers just confirmed.
Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com writes that the deal is for $1.925 million for 2008. Beimel had been requesting $2.15 million, while the Dodgers had submitted a figure of $1.7 million. I believe it's safe to say each laid down their guns in the same fashion.
How Jackie Robinson Got Tommy Davis From the Yankees
Dylan Hernandez of the Times passes along this story from Thursday's Jackie Robinson Legacy Day:
So influential was Jackie Robinson that a single phone call from him to Tommy Davis changed the course of Davis' life. ...
Davis recounted how as a high school senior in Brooklyn, he was days away from signing with the New York Yankees when he received a call from Robinson.
Davis recalled turning to his mother with the phone still pressed to his ear and saying, "Jackie Robinson's on the phone! Jackie Robinson's on the phone! Jackie Robinson's on the phone!"
Said Davis: "He was trying to tell me of the advantages of playing for the Dodgers. I didn't hear and I didn't care."
Two days later, he signed with the Dodgers.
Hernandez goes on to describe Thursday's event, which was organized by the Dodgers' chief marketing officer, Charles Steinberg. Steinberg created a similar event in (of all places, as Bob Timmermann points out) Fenway Park. Thursday would have been Robinson's 89th birthday.
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An update on ticket prices comes from Bill Shaikin of the Times.
For the first time, $10 will not be enough to admit an adult into Dodger Stadium or Angel Stadium on the day of a game. The Dodgers have increased the game-day price of tickets in the left field pavilion to $13 and in the top deck to $11. The Angels have raised the price in the right field pavilion and on the upper view level to $12, although children can sit in right field for $5.
Tickets for the March 29 Coliseum exhibition officially go on sale Saturday.
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More prospect lists: Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus presents his Dodger Top 11, along with his top 10 Dodgers under the age of 25. Here's the latter:
1. Chad Billingsley, RHP
There's some talent for you. Clayton Kershaw is the best left-handed pitching prospect in the game, yet he's third on this list. He might have a bit more upside than Billingsley, but the latter is already there, and if you are looking for 2008 breakout candidates from a pitching perspective, don't be surprised if Billingsley finishes in the top five of next year's NL Cy Young Award voting. While Kemp's .342 average last year for the Dodgers is a bit of a fluke, he's still an immensely talented outfielder with star potential, and the same could be said for Loney, who the Dodgers luckily seem to be done screwing around with. Broxton showed closer potential in his first year as a set-up man, and he has the attitude to pitch the ninth as well.
Despite a significant and highly successful graduation rate, the Dodgers have continued their track record of outstanding scouting and player development to refurbish a system that remains well above average despite multiple big league-bound departures. No team in the history of the game has a better track record of identifying and developing top-level talent, and that tradition continues.
My favorite comment in Goldstein's article comes from a scout, who describes Hu's defensive instincts as "bordering on psychic."
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