Monthly archives: June 2008
The following is presented merely as an FYI. I'm looking at the outs chart from Eric Stults' last start, which was noteworthy because he was charged with 17 outs via the air. Here's what I see:
I can't find the 17th out ... maybe it's still waiting to come down.
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Pierre Hits DL for First Time, Repko Recalled
Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise passed along the update.
No No-Nos of Late
Without a no-hitter since Hideo Nomo's at Colorado on September 17, 1996 - 11 years and 9 1/2 months ago - the Dodgers are in their longest no-hit drought since they went 11 years and 11 1/2 months between no-hitters by Dazzy Vance (September 13, 1925) and Fred Frankhouse (August 27, 1937).
Vance's no-hitter came 17 years and eight days after Nap Rucker's on September 5, 1908.
Today is the 18th anniversary of Fernando Valenzuela's sombrero-tosser ...
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Chin-Lung Hu: .224 on-base percentage, .206 slugging percentage, 14 OPS+
Today's game could be the tipping point of a very shallow cup.
Hu, by the way, has only 12 plate appearances in Las Vegas since his demotion and hasn't played since June 13.
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Opponents ... 000 000 000 011 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 - 2 Dodgers ..... 200 300 00x 000 000 000 100 020 30x 000 010 00x - 12
Look out below, though. Today's opposing starter, John Lackey, has allowed 13 runs in eight starts this year (1.65 ERA).
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Chad Billingsley, age 23, has these career numbers as a starter: 292 innings, 7.98 strikeouts per nine innings, 3.36 ERA.
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"I never make excuses, but the situations I have been in haven't been ideal for pinch-hitting ..."
Struggling hitters say the dardnest things.
Sweeney should not be at the top of any list of reasons the Dodgers have struggled, and you can argue that he's hit in tough luck. In 60 at-bats, he has put the ball in play 41 times, yet gotten only six hits. But yeah, the time has come - whether or not other Dodgers are ready to come off the disabled list. It doesn't matter whether or not you feel that Sweeney has deservedly been a .100 hitter. The question is what you think he will provide going forward, relative to other players. It's time for someone else to have a chance at that roster spot, even if it doesn't make or break the season.
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Best wishes to Dodger pitching coach Ken Howell, who has been hospitalized with a foot infection.
They Did It! I Missed It!
It is rare, my friends, rare that I have plans that prevent me from catching even a single pitch of a Dodger game in person, on radio or on television.
Almost as rare as a Matt Kemp cue shot that spins just inside the baseline and then makes a left turn under Jered Weaver's glove for an error.
Almost as rare as the Dodgers winning a game without a hit.
I'm catching up on the highlights now, but man. I am deflated and elated. What a game. What a memory I won't quite have.
I've seen unofficial and official no-hitters by Fernando Valenzuela, Mark Gardner, a perfect Dennis Martinez and Kent Mercker. But this would have been a nice one for the thumb.
But of course, I'm thrilled the Dodgers were on the right side of this one. They were on the right side, right? Right.
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Update: I wrote this in the comments below, but I'm moving it up here. This stuff about Major League Baseball not calling the game an official no-hitter is just stupid. I understand not giving someone a no-hitter when they allow a hit in extra innings. But if a team allows no hits over a complete game, it's a no-hitter. I don't even understand why that would be in question.
Metaphor for ... Something
An excerpt from Simon Rich's "Animal Tales," in The New Yorker:
"Hey, look, the truck's stopping."
"Did they take us to the park this time?"
"Noit's a fire. Another horrible fire."
"What the hell is wrong with these people?"
It's not intended this way, but I think it's a metaphor for me taking my kids to a Dodger game.
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Floods Take Home, Collections of Negro League Star
From Dugout Central:
(Art) Pennington, an 85-year-old former Negro League All-Star, lost his home in Cedar Rapids to the swell of flooding that has swept that part of the country. The home that Pennington had lived in since 1985 was, in all actuality, a small museum devoted to the great men who played black baseball in the 1940's and 1950's. Pennington said he used to have people just stop by out of the blue and ask to look at all of the memorabilia; asking to look at the history.
All of that is now gone.
Pennington was away with a friend when the flood waters destroyed his home and what took him decades to collect. He is now virtually penniless.
A Pay Pal fund has been set up at Pennington's website:
Do YOURSELF a favor; drop by that site and take a little time to read about a great former baseball man. Drop by and find out about another fantastic ballplayer that never had the chance to play in the big leagues.
Drop by and send him an email letting him know you are all pulling for him.
But most importantly, drop by and click on the Pay Pal button and donate a little something to help this man out. ...
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Outgoing Deadspin editor Will Leitch has a long conversation with Buzz Bissinger about the aftermath of their blogging bogdown on Costas Now. I don't agree with everything either party offers, but you can probably guess those spots by now without me writing further about them. It's still worth a read if you have the time.
Give It Up for Chan Ho Park
Every year it seems, I'm dead wrong about someone. Rudy Seanez, Takashi Saito ... the list goes back as far as Dodger Thoughts. This year, it's Chan Ho Park. Don't know what will happen from here on out, but you've got to hand it to him - he's been simply superb so far (2.52 ERA). And he's starting to do it with authority. In two starts, June 21 and tonight, Park has gone 11 innings and allowed one run on seven hits and two walks while striking out 16.
Dodger pitchers struck out 14 tonight, including the final six (by Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito).
Cherie and Bo Go to a Ballgame
The thaw is complete. Free shuttle service from Union Station to Dodger Stadium will start after the All-Star Break and continue through the end of the season, now that the Los Angeles City Council has approved the $70,000 expense, reports Bill Shaikin of the Times.
Buses will begin rolling 90 minutes before game time. I asked Shaikin how often they would come by here's his reply: "They're planning to use five buses in rotation, for what they believe will be an 18-minute ride. So, in theory, you shouldn't have to wait more than a few minutes for the next bus. In reality, I imagine it will depend on how many people show up and how quickly they can be loaded and unloaded, and no one will know that until the service starts."
Whether the shuttle will continue in coming seasons depends on whether (in the eyes of the powers that be) usage justifies the funding.
If I were guessing, I'd say the biggest problem would come at the end of the game, when everyone wants to use the shuttle at once, as opposed to the beginning, when people arrive in staggered fashion. I suppose some will leave the game early to get in line for the shuttle, but as we saw at the Coliseum game in March, that doesn't guarantee you a timely ride.
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Dodgers, Kershaw Believe a Solution Is at Hand
The Dodgers are far from blind to Clayton Kershaw's command issues, but remain confident he can solve them at the big-league level, writes Dylan Hernandez of the Times:
Whatever trouble Kershaw has had in the majors isn't enough to convince Manager Joe Torre that he would be better served refining his craft in the minors.
"I don't necessary see him going backwards in the quality of his starts," Torre said. "I think he's learning something. It might be something subtle every time out. I don't see him as being lost out there or not feeling he can handle the situation."
Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said he hasn't even considered the possibility of optioning Kershaw to Jacksonville.
"This is where you want him to continue to improve his trade," Honeycutt said.
The problem, Kershaw said, "is the same every time."
That is, command. ...
"In order to win, in order to go deeper into game, you've got to at least show you can throw three for strikes," Kershaw said. "I know I can do it. I'll do it."
He knows, he said, because he's doing it between starts.
Honeycutt calls himself a witness to that progress, saying he has seen Kershaw sharpen his breaking ball and stay tall on his back leg to keep his fastball low. ...
Dodgers Plan Six-Man Rotation Once Kuroda Returns
From Ken Gurnick at MLB.com:
After Eric Stults' complete-game shutout Wednesday night, the Dodgers manager said he would go to a six-man rotation until the All-Star break just to keep Stults in it. ...
He said a sixth starter would allow an extra day of rest for hard-throwers Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, as well as pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who is expected to return from the disabled list to the rotation next week. Torre said the idea stems from the fact that the Dodgers play 20 consecutive days leading to the All-Star break. When Kuroda returns to the rotation, Chan Ho Park will return to long relief.
Torre said the rotation would be re-evaluated for the resumption of play after the break, depending in part on the uncertain return of Brad Penny from the disabled list.
It's an interesting notion. I have no idea whether the extra rest will help or hurt in the short run, though I expect it could help in the long run. I wonder if any starting pitchers would thrown an inning of relief here or there.
Update: The return of Kuroda would give the Dodgers six starters with Park in the rotation. The return of Penny, whenever that comes, would then push Park to the bullpen.
Kershaw VII: Kershaw Na Na Na, Sha Na Na Na Na Na
Winless Dodger lefty? I'll show you a winless Dodger lefty. From June 1988 to June 1989, Fernando Valenzuela went 19 starts between victories.
His last loss in the streak came the night before the Dodgers' 22-inning game in Houston. Mike Scott beat Valenzuela and the Dodgers, 1-0. From Jerry Crowe's game story in the Times:
In the left-hander's last 10 starts, the Dodgers have scored 20 runs, only 15 of them while Valenzuela was still in the game.
"As Happy could tell you," said Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda, motioning toward former Dodger pitcher Burt Hooton, a clubhouse visitor, "when your team isn't scoring runs for you, all you can do is keep working and keep working until they do."
Said Hooton, unsmilingly: "And cuss your hitters."
Mike Scioscia commented on the adjustments Valenzuela, who had an ERA of 4.75 during the streak, was making.
"He's a different pitcher than he was. I think he's learning what he's going to have to do, but he's been just a pleasure to catch and watch improve over the last couple of months.
"I said in spring training that you shouldn't judge him in the first month. He had to learn what to do. But he's kept us in every game."
Valenzuela no longer relies only on his fastball and screwball, instead mixing a wider variety of pitches, Scioscia said.
"He has more of a balanced attack," he said. "He has a couple of different breaking pitches, a couple of different screwballs and even a couple of different fastballs.
"And he's going to be able to change speeds better than he did before, which is phenomenal because he was tremendous at changing speeds.
For the remainder of his Dodger career, Valenzuela went 23-21 with a 3.99 ERA, including of course a no-hitter.
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Commenter StolenMonkey86 noted Wednesday that the Fangraphs website offers a statistic on "out-of-zone swing percentage," which he comments might better measure a player's plate discipline and patience than pitches per plate appearance.
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At Bronx Banter, Alex Belth links to a 1989 clip of George Carlin talking baseball on Kiner's Korner.
Meanwhile, at Cardboard Gods, Josh Wilker finds Tommy John a bit dismissive of Pedro Martinez.
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Your infield today: James Loney, Andy LaRoche, Angel Berroa, Russell Martin.
Hooray for Eric Stults! Hooray!
He's earned it. He earned this shutout, and he's earned the right to stick around.
Good job, man!
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This isn't a Blake DeWitt scenario, where the kid made such a leap that you immediately start thinking fluke. This is a 28-year-old who has labored in the minors for seven seasons, and this season put it all together. He won't throw shutouts every game, but this is when you want to make use of all he's worked for.
Ballplayers Who Conceal Injuries Are Not Heroes - They Are Egotistical Goats
After being told he was going to be optioned, Dodgers reliever Scott Proctor revealed his elbow had been bothering him for "close to a month," according to Manager Joe Torre.
I thought the point was to help the team. How does hiding information that would help a manager make an informed decision about what's best help the team? How does preventing yourself from being at your best help the team?
I understand the instinct. I understand the mentality. Doesn't make it right. And it is so, so tiresome.
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Jackie Robinson, Take 2
Jackie Robinson's new plaque at the Hall of Fame was unveiled today. (Click to enlarge the image on the right.) Jack O'Connell of MLB.com has a report.
"We have adjusted plaques over the years that were found to have factual errors, but very rarely do we change the plaque for subjective reasons," Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Forbes Clark said. "We feel very strongly that rewriting Jackie Robinson's plaque is extremely important."
The new plaque denotes the importance of the valor Robinson displayed in opening opportunities in the Major Leagues for minorities as well as detailing the highlights of his 10-season career, which had been the sole subject of the previous plaque.
"Now the totality of Jackie's impact will be encapsulated on his plaque," Clark said. "The plaque is a career snapshot, and Jackie's snapshot was not complete without noting his cultural impact on our game. This is the right moment to place on Jackie's plaque his contribution to history not only as a Hall of Fame player but also as a civil rights pioneer." ...
"He wanted to be judged by the same standards that all the other Hall of Famers had been," Rachel Robinson said. "He would understand now that we need to go beyond that toward social change, and he would want to be a part of that and be recognized. I don't think he would object to that. He would understand this is an evolution."
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Eric Enders had a healthy critique of Ned Colletti in comment 144 of the last thread.
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Proctor to DL, Replaced by Falkenborg
From Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise ...
The Fortune Cookie
Howdy campers! Today, I'm interested in looking at whether the Dodgers' 2008 misfortune relates more to planning or misfortune.
Manager, coaches, training staff
Pitches per plate appearance, 2008
The training staff actually has shown some improvement in aggressive treatment of injuries, but given that it's their job to monitor players, it still seems too many health problems go unaddressed for too long. They cannot expect players to come to them every time they are hurt. They have to play Sherlock Holmes.
And here's some news: As bad as he was, Jones couldn't bring this team down while he was playing. The Dodgers lost only 14 the 35 games he started in center field this season, including only three of the final 15. That's right: The Dodgers are 21-14 with Jones starting in center, 14-27 without him. Sure, it's largely coincidental, but unless Jones' presence prevented the team from acquiring someone better, he hasn't caused much damage to the Dodgers' record to date.
As the pressure mounts on this team, the challenge for the collective front office is to grasp where the true strengths and weaknesses are. Dodger management must continue to show the patience that it preaches. And looking further ahead, the Dodgers have to minimize their poor acquisitions. Not every bad move is a product of hindsight. Some were bad gambles from the start.
Making young players the core of the team and filling the gaps with veterans was the right idea. But the execution of that idea has had some hits, some misses and some misfortune. For the long-term health of the franchise, it's critical for the Dodgers to recognize what goes in each of those three categories.
June 24 Game Chat
Jaime Jarrin: An Extended Visit
On Friday, I highlighted the Variety package on the Dodgers' 50th anniversary. Eric Enders contributed a feature on Hall of Fame-honored Dodger broadcaster Jaime Jarrin. Space considerations forced Eric to throw out about 90 percent of his interview when crafting his wonderful story, but no such constrictions apply here. Enjoy, at length, Enders' interview with Jarrin, on the occasion of Jarrin being honored at Dodger Stadium (and in doing so, you'll see why June 24 is such a special day).
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Tell me a little bit about your background and how you got involved in baseball.
I grew up about 40 miles south of Quito. I finished school in Quito because there was no high school in the town where I was born, Cayambe. I became interested in radio when I was 15 years old. A cousin of mine was a very well-known radio announcer in Quito, and he would take me to the radio station with him, and I fell in love with the microphone. I was always a very good reader. So then I took a six-month course on announcing, and I won a contest to work at HCJB, the Voice of the Andes, a very, very powerful radio station in Ecuador. I started working there when I was 16 years old. Then I became the announcer for the National Congress of Ecuador, the Senate, and I did that for three years.
HCJB is a radio station owned by an American organization, so there were many English-speaking people there. The American consulate in Quito used to come to the station quite often, and we became friends. And one dayhalf-seriously, half-kiddingI told him I wanted to come to the United States. He said, 'Come and see me,' so I went to see him, and 24 hours later I had my visa as a permanent resident. I came to Los Angeles because I knew there was a large Spanish-speaking community here.
I came to L.A. on June 24, 1955, and I started looking for work in radio, but there was only one radio station in Spanish in those days, KWKW. I went there and applied for a job, but there were no openings, so I started working in a factory, doing physical work for about six months, and I kept going back to the station. Finally, in December of '55, I was able to get a part-time job at the station. In a few months they gave me more time, more time, more time. Finally, I had a full-time job. By 1958, when the Dodgers moved to the West Coast, I was the news and sports director.
I didn't see any baseball in Ecuador, because in Guayaquil they play a little bit, but in Quito baseball is not known at all. So when I came to this country, I saw people around TV sets and radio sets, watching and listening to the World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Yankees. And I said to myself, that must be a great sport, because there are so many people so intensely watching this game.
So I started going to the games in Los Angeles. We had two Triple-A teams, the Hollywood Stars and the Angels. They used to play at Gilmore Field and the Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. I started going on Saturdays and Sundays to watch, without knowing that eventually the Dodgers would move to the West Coast. So the Dodgers move to the West Coast, and I knew some baseball, and one day the owner of the radio station, Mr. William Beaton, called all employees to his office to let us know that he has signed a contract to do the Dodger games in Spanish.
He said they needed two announcers, and looking at me, he said "I want you to be one of the announcers." I said, "Mr. Beaton, thank you very much, but I think I'm not ready to be in front of the microphone and call a game." I was already doing boxing every Thursday night, and I was very successful doing boxing. He said, "You know, you have talent for doing sports," and I said, "Yes, I know, but give me some time." He said, "Okay, but next year I want you to be with the Dodgers." So he took me to meet Mr. Walter O'Malley, and by 1959 I was ready, and I was hired, and here I am 50 years later still doing the baseball games.
What was it like learning baseball as an adult? Did you find it difficult to catch on at first?
Of course, everything is difficult at the beginning, but after a while I caught on and it wasn't too difficult. I had the ability to do it, and it was a matter of knowing the game. So I started studying. In 1958 I started reading every book about baseball, and listening to every game, and watching. In those days there was only one game on TV, on Saturday, that was it. So I listened on the radio. That's how I started.
What has your relationship with Vin Scully been like over the years?
I don't have enough words to say what he has meant to me and my career. He has been, really, the greatest helper I have ever had. It was a blessing to have him next to me. At the beginning, we didn't travel with the team. We used to recreate the games, the first six or seven years we didn't travel with the team. So we used to have a line between the city where they were and the radio station. We used to go to the station's studio to do the game. We had cartridges with sound effects for a single, for a double, for a triple, for a home run So we used to hear Vin and Jerry Doggett doing the game and we would translate simultaneously. [Other teams] used to recreate the games for years before that, but they were always at least half an inning or an inning behind. But in our case, we weren't behind, we were right there calling balls and strikes simultaneously. When there was a difficult play like a triple with men on base, then we had to wait until the play was over to come up with the narration, so it was difficult.
Vin was very, very helpful to us. He knew that we didn't have all the materials we needed, so before each game he was very kindhe didn't have to do thisbut he was very kind to give us the lineup in advance, because when they gave it on the air it was too fast and you couldn't get the lineup. So he would take the time to say, 'OK, Jaime, here's the lineup,' and he would give me additional information about the weather, the possibility of a rainout, the attendance, things like that. He was extremely nice. Then when I started traveling with the team, we became very, very good friends. Quite often, we have a night off and we'll be dining together, myself, Vin, and the traveling secretary, Billy DeLury. So he has been my inspiration, he has been my mentor, he has been my teacher, my friend. He has meant so much to me. It has been very, very special.
Now you and he are the two longest-tenured broadcasters in all of baseball. Did you ever see that coming when you first started?
To be honest with you, I never dreamed I would stay this long. You know, I was doing boxing, and I was very successful. I was doing lots of boxing championship fights from all over the world, especially for Argentinian television. I did the Thrilla in Manila from Manila between Muhammad Ali and Frazier, I did fights from Rome, from Monte Carlo, from Milan. I think I've done between 40 and 50 championship fights. When I started doing baseball, I thought it would probably be a matter of six, seven, eight, 10 years at the most and then I would move to something else. Spanish TV was coming on in the '60s. I think Channel 34 in Los Angeles came on the air in 1963 or '64. So I thought probably I would move to television or something like that.
It never, never crossed my mind that I would last this long with the Dodgers. But I fell in love with the game, and I still feel privileged to be doing what I love to do, and to have the best seat in the house, and to be treated with respect. I respect everybody and they respect me, and so there has been no problem at all. The Dodgers have been great, from Mr. O'Malley to Fox and now the McCourts, they have been wonderful to me. So why change? I am a very steady person. I was with KWKW for almost 51 years. I have been with the Dodgers for 50 years. I've lived in the same house for 43 years. I've been married to the same woman for 50-plus years. So I've been steady. If I like something, I stay with that, and it has really been a blessing to be with the Dodgers all this time.
In 1981, you started serving as Fernando's interpreter. How did that come about?
When Fernando came to the major leagues in 1980, he became very, very well-known, not in '81 but in '80, when he came to the majors and pitched in the last series of the season against the Astros and did so well. In my book that's when Fernandomania started, not in 1981 but in 1980 with that series against the Astros. Then 1981 came along, and he had to be the starting pitcher in the first game because Jerry Reuss was hurt and Burt Hooton wasn't able to go to the mound. So they chose Fernando to start the game and he was so successful at the beginning that the press was all around him. It was very, very difficult for him because he couldn't speak any English.
The first game, I think it was Manny Mota or somebody else who helped translate his words for the press after the game because I was doing the game upstairs. But for his second start, Fred Claire approached me and said, "Jaime, I would appreciate it very much if you could help Fernando at his press conferences because you work for the Dodgers, you're with him everywhere, you're traveling with the team. So could you help him?" And I said fine, great. So when he was pitching I would leave the booth in the eighth inning and go down to the clubhouse to help him. That happened in Los Angeles and in every city where we were playing.
How long did that go on for?
That went on for, I think, about two years. Then he started speaking English and there was no need for me to be helping him.
What was your impression of his impact on the Dodgers and on the game of baseball?
Oh, that was an unbelievable thing. It was something sensational. I honestly think that we will never see a year like 1981 again. The impact that he had, not only in Los Angeles, but everywhere, was unbelievable. Being in Chicago, Montreal, New York, Houston oh, it was a madhouse. Dodger Stadium was always sold out when he was pitching. I think he opened the doors for so many Latinos to come to the major leagues, because they saw this kid who didn't speak the language, and who was very young, become so successful.
I think he is the player who probably created more new baseball fans than any other player, because so many Mexicans, Central Americans, and South Americans who didn't care much about baseball, became interested in the sport because of Fernando. The impact that he had was unbelievable. He helped us very much, because thanks to him, we were able to create a very large radio network in Mexico. In Mexico we had almost 60 stations covering our games in every corner of Mexico. We became very successful because of that. Whenever Fernando was pitching, we had an audience in the millions.
I grew up in El Paso, and I was four years old in 1981. I think within the next year or two, the Dodgers had a radio affiliate there, but it wasn't an English-language broadcast. It was in Spanishit was you. I'd listen to the games at night, even though I didn't speak Spanish fluently. That's how I got to listen to Dodger games as a kid, because Fernando was so popular.
Yeah, because of Fernando, it happened to you, and it happened to thousands and thousands. I was invited to speak to Spanish classes at UCLA, at USC, because all of a sudden they were very interested in our culture and everybody wanted to be bilingual and learn some Spanish. It was really amazing. So many Anglos started listening to us because they wanted to polish their Spanish, or they wanted to learn some Spanish, and that was a very good way to do it.
What are your thoughts on the growth of the Dodgers' Latino fan base over the years since then?
That's one thing that I am very proud of. I think we planted the seeds, and we are now seeing the results of that. When I started doing baseball in 1959, the Latino fans coming to the Coliseum were probably six to eight percent. Now at Dodger Stadium, the Latino attendance at Dodger Stadium is between 38 and 40 percent. Thirty-eight to 40 percent! The same thing goes for cities like San Diego, Houston, Miami, Chicago, New York. The Dodgers were the first organization to have bilingual coverage on a regular basis. So we were the first ones to do it, and I think because of our success, some other ball clubs started respecting the Hispanic market in the United States, particularly here in Southern California.
What's your favorite thing about Los Angeles?
The weather! The weather is unbelievable. I love it.
Who was your favorite player to watch over the years?
Well, at the beginning, it was Roberto Clemente, even though I didn't get to see him much because he was with the Pirates, but he was in the National League. He was really something to see. His presence it was amazing. His way of playing, hitting, and throwing was a delight to see. He was my first idol.
On the Dodgers, not an idol, exactly, but the player I liked the most when I was first starting was Willie Davis. He was extremely nice to me. He knew that I was very green, he knew that I was very young, so he took me under his wing and he helped me a lot. He was very special to me. And Don Drysdale, also, was an extremely nice person. Later on, of course, we became colleagues when he started doing the television for the Dodgers. We became very good friends also. And then, of course, Fernando Valenzuela, who is now working with me. I admire him as a ballplayer and also as a person. He has taken advantage of the opportunity that he had, he's invested his money very well, he's a very decent person. He's a gentleman all the way. And as a ballplayer he was really very special.
What's it like working with him now, and were you disappointed that for many years he didn't want to be associated with the team?
You know, Fernando will always be a very special friend of mine because I have been with him from the very beginning. The first game he pitched was in Atlanta and the first batter he faced was the catcher, Bruce Benedict. He hit a fly ball to center field. So I have been with him all the time that he was with the Dodgers, then he left the Dodgers and he didn't want to be associated with the Dodgers until Derrick Hall was able to convince him to come back. I don't know the reasons why he was away, but I was very pleased when he decided to come back to us because he is so, so well-liked in Los Angeles. He's so popular. It's amazing, really. That's why he doesn't stay until the end of the game. He leaves in the eighth inning because if he leaves when everybody's leaving he'll be mobbed and he won't be able to leave the stadium. It's been great to have him with me. I saw him when he was a player, and now he's starting another facet of his career with me also.
He always seemed very shy. Has he overcome that as a broadcaster?
He's always been shy. He's still very shy. He is some type of an introvert. He doesn't like the spotlight on him, and he's a very reserved person. He's more vocal now. He has improved in that regard. He just started with uswell, five years ago. Time flies. He was really very nervous. But little by little he's been opening, opening, opening, and now he's more relaxed. He's doing a very solid job.
Of all the games you've called over the years, which was the most memorable, or what was your favorite call that you've made?
The perfect games are always very unique. I did the perfect game by Sandy Koufax, the perfect game by Tom Browning of the Reds against the Dodgers, and another perfect game by Dennis Martinez against the Dodgers.
Those games are really special. And the no-hitter by Ramon Martinez also. And of course, the game in 1988, the Gibson home run in the first game of the World Series, that's very special to me. And more recently, the game that we had two years ago against the Padres when the Dodgers hit four home runs in a row to tie the game, and then Garciaparra hit another home run in the 10th inning to win it. That game was really unbelievable.
The perfect games were very exciting in the eighth and ninth innings, and the same with the four-home-run game. And when Hershiser had his streak of innings, when he erased Drysdale's record, those games were unbelievable. The entire '88 year, Hershiser had a year that my goodness. Very few people will match that. He won the Cy Young Award, he set the record for scoreless innings he even helped win a game in relief against the Mets. So that entire year was great for Hershiser. And he is one of my favorite, favorite players.
Do you remember the words you used to describe Gibson's home run?
To be honest with you, no, I don't remember. I did exactly what I always do, but probably I was more excited. But I don't remember anything in particular.
I know you used to cover other news events. What were some of the most memorable things you covered?
When I came to the United States I started doing news on KWKW. I was able to create a complete news department at the station, and I did the special events. I was the first one to go to Mexico to broadcast the grito ceremony on the night of September 16 from the national palace there. I was at Shea Stadium when the Pope came for the first time to America. I was with President Johnson when the United States gave a piece of land along the border, the Chamizál, to Mexico. I attended the meetings between President Díaz Ordaz of Mexico and Richard Nixon in Puerto Vallarta, then another one in Coronado, California. I was also able to attend the meetings between President López Mateos of Mexico and Lyndon Johnson in Los Angeles. Then I was assigned to cover the funeral of President Kennedy from Washington. That was the most challenging job I have ever done, because in 1963 when I was assigned to go to Washington, my English was extremely limited, and I didn't know anybody in Washington. It was very cold, I arrived there without knowing anybody, and I was able to cover the funeral from the cathedral and from Arlington Cemetery. That was a very difficult job to do, and also the most exciting job I have ever done. I got invited to the White House three times. Twice by Nixon, and once with Fernando to lunch with Presidents Reagan and López Portillo of Mexico. So I had a very exciting career in news before I dedicated myself full-time to sports.
When did you start doing sports exclusively?
I went full time with sports oh, probably in 1974.
Do you have any regrets about that?
I have always been a journalist, and I loved that. Sometimes I miss it, but I don't regret leaving it in favor of baseball because, you know, I'm a very practical person. When the kids started to grow up and they were in high school and getting ready to go to college, I had to improve my income. And doing news, I was getting the union scale, plus a bonus because I was news director of the station, but that's it. No other way to make more money, and in sports it's wide open. Then I fell in love with baseball and I said this is my cup of tea, and I decided to leave the news. Also, the news was more difficult for me because of all the traveling.
How old were you when you learned English, and how difficult was it for you?
When I was in Ecuador, I took English in school for eight years, and I thought I knew some English before coming to this country. But when I got here, I was lost, to be honest with you. It's so different, you know, to learn English in this country compared to school over there. It was very difficult. So my advice to anyone who wants to come to this country is to really hit the English and try to learn as much as possible because that's the main barrier that we have, those of us who come here as immigrants.
Yet now you speak it well enough that you could broadcast in English.
No, no, no, I don't speak it well. My problem is that I speak Spanish all day long. I spoke it at home because I wanted my children to be bilingual, and thank God they are. And then I speak Spanish in my job all the time. If you want to learn a language, you have to isolate yourself from your own language. Go someplace where nobody speaks your language. Then you will be able to learn. So it's very difficult, and I tried to do my best. That's why I don't do any work in English. They have offered me jobs doing English, and I said no, no, no, no. I prefer doing Spanish because I like to be perfect in my work, and I don't command the English language the way I should in order to be in front of a microphone.
Any final thoughts?
It has been a great experience to be with the Dodgers for 50 years. Everybody's surprised to see that Vin Scully has been with the Dodgers for 59 years and I've been with them for 50. It's really amazing to see that our two announcers have more seniority than everybody else. That's very unique. The recognition that I've received really humbles me, and I'm very thankful to this country. This June 24th will be my 53rd year in this country, and I never thought I would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the first Hispanic to win the Ford Frick Award while living. And then to have a star in HollywoodI'm the only Ecuadorian with a star in Hollywood. So it's been great.
Well-Deserved Ceremony for Jarrin
The Dodgers will honor Jaime Jarrin for his 50th anniversary as Dodger broadcaster in a pregame ceremony Tuesday.
Remembering Carlin on the SNL Premiere
I posted a remembrance of George Carlin at Season Pass on Variety. It's not all-encompassing; it's just a moment that has stuck with me for the past 30 years or so. Alex Belth and Scott Long are also coming to terms with his passing.
Tales of Whoa
From the Dodger press notes:
Los Angeles is 9-19 beginning May 23, and only the Houston Astros (7-19) and Seattle Mariners (8-18) have a worse record in that time. Despite winning just nine of their last 28 games beginning May 23, the Dodgers have lost only 2.0 games in the standings to first-place Arizona, which has an 11-17 record in the same span. Los Angeles enters today 4.5 games back of the D-Backs. In fact, the Dodgers have gained 1.0 game since the start of play on June 14.
The Dodger pitching staff has posted a 3.73 ERA (102 ER/246.1 IP) during that 9-19 stretch, which ranks fourth in the NL and ninth in the Majors in that span. The offense, however, has scored only 89 runs beginning May 23, which is the lowest run total in the Majors during that time.
Also noted: Dodger pitchers have 108 strikeouts in their past 106 innings, with team leader Chad Billingsley poised to build upon that today.
Vote of Confidence, With an Explanation
Dodger owner Frank McCourt has given general manager Ned Colletti a vote of confidence, in a manner of speaking, writes Bill Shaikin in his well-written Sunday baseball column for the Times.
"I have the utmost confidence in Ned and his group," McCourt said. "We've come light-years in terms of having more of a team in the front office."
This is not to diminish McCourt's satisfaction in no longer having to referee intramural disputes, but the object is to win, not just to play nice. Colletti could win, or try to, by trading young talent for veteran help before the July 31 trading deadline.
"We have never made a decision during my ownership based on immediate, near-term, win-loss results," McCourt said. "That's not how we're built. That's not what we're about."
The apparent conclusion, then, would be that Colletti would be safe no matter how the Dodgers finish. Colletti and McCourt agreed last year, after all, that the Dodgers should not package young talent for Johan Santana, Miguel Cabrera or Mark Teixeira.
However, McCourt refused to say whether Colletti will keep his job if the Dodgers finish with a losing record.
McCourt called it a trick question, and not unjustifiably. If the Dodgers spiral toward last place, he doesn't want to be reminded of a quote he gave in June. He gave a quote in support of Paul DePodesta three years ago, then fired him before the Dodgers had lost even one more game.
That leaves Colletti with no assurances, and with no idea what kind of team the Dodgers might be fielding by the trading deadline.
To that point, Shakin adds that "Colletti insists he won't go for broke to try to keep his job, to showcase himself for the owners."
Update: Seattle will be granted permission to interview Kim Ng and/or Logan White for its general manager vacancy should the Mariners desire to request it, Shakin writes. Apparently, it's Colletti's decision. Read into that what you will.
Update 2: And one more from a busy Shaikin: The Union Station-Dodger Stadium shuttle bus is coming back next month, pending Los Angeles City Council approval.
Under the plan, the city will cover the estimated $70,000 cost of the program through surplus funds in the transportation department, with the Dodgers responsible for marketing. City Council President Eric Garcetti said he expected fans would pay a nominal fee to ride the shuttle.
"It'll be a lot less than parking at Dodger Stadium," Garcetti said. "Save your money for Dodger Dogs."
The shuttles would run from Union Station, with two stops along Sunset Boulevard, enabling fans to connect from Amtrak, Metrolink, the downtown DASH shuttle and several city bus lines. The estimated ride time from Union Station would be 16 to 19 minutes, according to city documents.
Right Under Your Nose
The Times, which has some pretty thoughtful blogs in its stable, offers in Sunday's editions a lengthy piece by David Wharton that strongly suggests sports blogs have finally started cleaning up their act - once again operating under the assumption that every blog was gossipy trash in need of janitorial. Lip service is barely paid to the idea that most sports blogs have had integrity long before a site like Deadspin even came into existence, or that there are newspapers out there that can outshame almost any blog.
If I were the Kamenetzky brothers, who bust their humps on at least three local websites - two under the Times umbrella - I'd be seriously offended.
Guess what: If you want to write about blogs like Deadspin - that is, blogs that offer a spicier brand of quality but quality nonetheless - feel free. But the ongoing preoccupation with those blogs just reminds us that given the opportunity, newspapers are at least as eager to focus on the sensational as anyone else. If that's the case, so be it - but don't act as if you're above it all. At the risk of being self-serving, it speaks volumes that a site like mine - though it hardly has to be mine, because there are plenty of others to choose from in Los Angeles - can operate right in the Times' hometown and not earn a mention in an article about sports blogging. Mainstream newspapers and writers claim to want integrity in sports blogging, but when it's right in front of their face, they don't find it particularly worthwhile to talk about, do they?
Live and Learn
The latest on Hiroki Kuroda, from the Press-Enterprise and the Times.
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Dodger Three-Run Homers, 2008
Matt Kemp, June 7
Kemp hit a grand slam April 26. The Dodgers have 12 two-run homers this year and 30 solo shots.
Kershaw VI: Kershaw's, Foiled Again?
Trivia: Clayton Kershaw has pitched in 15 games this season without earning a win as a pitcher. Why?
Jacksonville (0-3, 2.28 ERA)
Los Angeles (0-1, 3.75 ERA, 116 ERA+)
Kershaw arguably has pitched well enough to have a 11-3 minors/majors record this season (with a no-decision for the May 22 game).
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Variety Salutes the Dodgers
It has been a personal and professional treat to shepherd a special section in Variety saluting the Dodgers in their 50th anniversary year in Los Angeles. I really encourage you to check out the issue at newsstands Friday, because it looks pretty great. But you can get a sneak peek at the stories online.
Because Variety is an entertainment trade paper, our content necessarily had to make a connection between the Dodgers and Hollywood but this was far from a limiting concern. We found all kinds of angles to cover.
Stuff I wrote or put together:
Pieces by great writers/friends of Dodger Thoughts:
And more from Variety staffers and frequent contributors
Hope you like it. And again, if you can get it in print Friday, you might find it's a keeper.
Shouldering the Load
With Hiroki Kuroda potentially headed for the disabled list with an impingement and tendinitis, here's a rotation estimate for the coming days:
Today: Eric Stults
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Stults brings his career .412 batting average and .529 slugging percentage to the lineup today. He is 7 for 13 when he doesn't strike out.
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Rich Lederer pays tribute to his father, former Dodger beat writer George Lederer, at Baseball Analysts. George would have been 80 today. It's a must-read. I wish the Lederer family all the best.
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From the Dodgers and Josh Rawitch:
Beginning today, DirecTV is changing the FSN Prime Ticket and FSN West channel numbers. FSN Prime ticket will move from 653 to 694 and FSN West will be switched from 652 to 692. The change is only applicable to DirecTV customers and does not affect any other satellite or cable operators.
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In case you didn't know: Even if you can't make it to Dodger Stadium, you can subscribe to the very Dodgers Magazine that is sold at the ballpark. Click the link for details.
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The Dodgers released the collective roster for Saturday's Hollywood Stars game, which is now a softball contest that will take place after the Dodgers-Indians game that afternoon. There are some names there that appeal to me for idiosyncratic reasons:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (NBA Hall of Famer), Jon Lovitz ("Saturday Night Live"), James Denton ("Desperate Housewives"), David Arquette ("Scream" trilogy), Sean Astin ("Lord of the Rings," "Rudy"), James Van Der Beek ("Dawson's Creek," "Varsity Blues"), Adam Carolla ("The Adam Carolla Show"), Tom Arnold ("True Lies," "Roseanne"), Camryn Manheim ("The Practice," "Ghost Whisperer"), Cristian de la Fuente ("Dancing with the Stars," "In Plain Sight"), Garry Marshall ("Happy Days" creator, "Pretty Woman" director), George Thorogood (George Thorogood and the Destroyers), Carlos Mencia ("Mind of Mencia"), Kendra Wilkinson ("The Girls Next Door"), Zac Levi ("Chuck"), Neal McDonough ("Band of Brothers"), Yvonne Strahovski ("Chuck"), Tobin Bell ("Saw" movies), Wallace Langham ("CSI"), Kenny Johnson ("Saving Grace"), Bailey Chase ("Saving Grace"), Michael Rosenbaum ("Smallville"), Kevin Frazier ("Entertainment Tonight"), Chris Rose ("Best Damn Sports Show Period"), Mike Bunin ("My Boys"), D.B. Sweeney ("Eight Men Out," "The Cutting Edge"), Patricia Kara ("Deal or No Deal"), David Berman ("CSI"), Jon Wellner ("CSI"), Samm Levine ("Freaks and Geeks"), Josh Gomez ("Chuck"), Vida Guerra ("Livin' The Low Life"), Peter Ishkhans ("Peter Perfect"), Adam Sessler ("X-Play"), Morgan Webb ("X-Play), Tony Todd ("One Tree Hill"), Kristin Holt ("American Idol," "Cheat"), Layla Kayleigh ("America's Best Dance Crew," "Attack of the Show"), Osvaldo Rios (""El Juramento"), and Yasmin Deliz ("Vivo," "The Chicas Project").
Russell Martin and James Loney will be team captains.
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Dodger Thoughts Picnic: August 16
Happy to invite readers of Dodger Thoughts to a picnic gathering at 11 a.m. August 16. Yes, this year's event will be away from Dodger Stadium; however, some of you might want to plan to go to that evening's game against Milwaukee at 7:10 p.m.
The gathering will be bring-your-own-food-and-drink fest. But if there's anyone out there who wants to show off their cooking or baking skills, be my guest.
We just need to pick a site that allows for some fine picnic dining (including grilling?), a little softball tossing or playing, and a playground for the kids. Please feel free to nominate locations below. And if there's anything else to suggest, let me know.
Hope you can make it ... wear sunscreen!
Tiger's Tale Grows More Fabled
It's not that I can't be impressed when an athlete plays through major injuries in pursuit of a title. I'm still in awe of Jack Youngblood playing on a broken fibula in the 1980 Super Bowl for the Rams. And of course, Kirk Gibson speaks for himself.
And even though Tuesday's game was a debacle, Kobe Bryant certainly showed he could play through an injury for months at a time.
Now, we find that Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open with injuries much worse than we realized. He has a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a double stress fracture of the left tibia.
Woods will sit out the remainder of the 2008 season, without regret as far as I can tell. And I tip my cap to him - again.
Nevertheless, I remain convinced that you can perform under such duress for only so long and in most cases, you need to be a superstar to make it worthwhile. We're not in the championship round. Injured Dodgers still need to get well.
Update: From 2004, here's SI.com's Top 10 Playing With Pain Moments.
Dodgers assistant general manager, scouting Logan White has some positive vibes about the Dodgers' 2008 draft that he expressed to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise. And darned if there isn't some Moneyball residue therein.
A live chat with White, assistant GM, player development De Jon Watson and scouting director Tim Hallgren starts at 2 p.m. at Dodgers.com.
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Lakers-Celtics chat at The Griddle.
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Update: Hiroki Kuroda is getting an MRI, reports Leung.
"I would have liked to have been told sooner," Manager Joe Torre said of Kuroda, who the Dodgers signed this offseason out of Japan. I understand it's probably my fault the communication isn't as easy. I probably should have talked to him more, and maybe it would have been easier for him to tell me."
Folks are calling the Mets the "laughing stock of baseball" for the way the front office handled the firing of manager Willie Randolph. Of course, the Dodgers have known that designation once or twice or thrice this decade.
In the end, the world at large tends to care only if the ends justify the means. The means - sometimes all too appropriate a word choice - tend to get lost in the shuffle of victory.
What examples can you think of in baseball where a laughing-stock move ended up being worthwhile.
(I should add that sometimes the shame only reflects the execution of the choice, not the choice itself.)
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The Dodgers plan to call up Eric Stults to take Brad Penny's rotation turn Friday, reports Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise, although Penny's MRI revealed no structural damage to his shoulder. Good decision all around.
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Another gem from Earl Pomerantz.
A Dodger Stadium Tragedy, 1970
I had no idea, but of the two deaths at professional baseball games caused by foul balls in at least the past five decades, one came off the bat of the Dodgers' Manny Mota in 1970, writes Kevin Baxter of the Times:
It happened more than 38 years ago, yet Manny Mota still can't bring himself to talk about it.
"It's very difficult," the Dodgers coach and former All-Star outfielder said. "It brings up bad memories."
"It" was a foul ball Mota lined into the seats down the first base line at Dodger Stadium during the third inning of an otherwise uneventful mid-May game against the San Francisco Giants in 1970. But what made this foul ball different from the thousands of others Mota hit into the stands during his 20-year big league career was that it hit a 14-year-old boy in the head, just above his left ear.
Five days later, the boy was dead.
"I felt guilty because I hit the foul ball," Mota said quietly in Spanish. "And a young boy lost his life." ...
May 21 editions of the Times that year reported the boy's passing. "After taking two aspirins at the stadium first aid station, (the boy), who 'ate, lived and breathed baseball,' went back to his seat and watched the rest of the game." But after his condition worsened at home, he was an admitted that night to a hospital, where he "lapsed into a coma and never regained consciousness."
The victim's name was given in the 1970 article, but since it was not cited in Baxter's piece, I'm assuming unless I hear otherwise that his family would rather it was not publicized. On the other hand, I am seeing it elsewhere online, so I may reconsider.
"I am very sad and very sorry and there is not much else I can say," Mota told Ross Newhan in a May 22, 1970 game story. "It is part of my life and I will try to live with it."
Bad Moon Rising
Through 69 games, the 31-38 Dodgers are two games ahead of the pace of the worst team in Los Angeles history. The 1992 Dodgers started the season 29-40.
In 50 years, only one Los Angeles Dodger team (1995) has made the postseason with a record below .500 at this stage.
Here are the best 93-game finishes in Los Angeles Dodger history. The 1963 Dodgers went 60-33.
Happy Dad's Day, Dad
I love you, and the Cubs have the best record in baseball. What more could you want? Happy Father's Day!
Irony for Dummies
Say what you will about how damaging Rafael Furcal's bulging disk has been, but at least he's been doing the right thing by sitting out the games. Tonight, you can read everywhere about how Brad Penny pitched today with shoulder problems, even though he said to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise and others that he knew beforehand that he "probably" shouldn't have. But he pitched anyway, because he didn't want to put the team in a horrible spot.
Some of the best moves the Dodgers have made this year have been yanking injured players onto the disabled list, and some of the worst have been allowing them to be gamers, to no good end. I've been hoping that they'd start to gravitate further toward the former, but the Penny example shoots some holes in that theory. While I'm impressed that Penny has been able to throw as hard as he has all season considering his problems, I just wish, when the Dodgers' pitching depth has been one of their strengths, he hadn't taken so long to try to get better.
Apparently, there's a good chance they're about to repeat the process with Chan Ho Park, who has a pinch in the back of his shoulder but says he's able to pitch anyway. I'm no doctor, but isn't almost axiomatic that in this comeback season following years of struggle, Park's better served getting rest than pitching with an aching wing?
At least the Dodgers scored some runs today, reminding us of the possible.
When the Going Get's Tough ...
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From Diamong (sic) Leung of the Press-Enterprise:
Shortstop Rafael Furcal has been diagnosed with a bulging disk and has been limited to conditioning exercises, leading Dodgers manager Joe Torre to realize he might not have his leadoff hitter back in three weeks, as he'd been told. ...
(Angel) Berroa, however, is hitting .133 and isn't the best defender either. In the first inning Friday, he botched a rundown play, allowing Detroit's Carlos Guillen to elude a tag by sliding underneath it and returning safely to third base.
Torre said he would give Blake DeWitt a look at shortstop before thinking about turning to All-Star catcher Russell Martin, who has said shortstop is his dream position to play.
But on a night when Andy LaRoche started for the first time at third base, Torre called DeWitt his starter there.
"I'm more apt to move LaRoche around," Torre said. ...
Scully and Wooden ... For the Aging
The night was billed as "Scully and Wooden ... For the Kids," and indeed proceeds for the evening will benefit those at Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA.
But the content of the 90-minute chat at the Nokia Theater, across Chick Hearn Court from Staples Center, was for the grownups, and generally speaking, the older you were, the more meaning it probably had. Not just because John Wooden and Vin Scully have been part of your lives longer, but because of how prominently reflections on career, life and death figured in the conversation.
To clarify, it was a joyous evening, through and through. (There are no plans to repeat the one-time telecast of the event, though we'll see what the bootleg market has to offer.) Times columnist T.J. Simers, who initiated the gathering, declared shortly before the event began that reverence would be off-limits, and while his banter and questioning style verged on the annoying at times (I know, shock), it did serve to free up sides of Scully and Wooden that the public doesn't get much exposure to. The 97-year-old Wooden in particular knocked off several one-liners at Simers' expense - I mean, real winners - much to the delight of the crowd. And Simers actually did ask the favorite curse question: "Goodness gracious sakes alive" for Wooden, "Darnit" for Scully.
Little of the conversation settled on UCLA basketball or Dodger baseball, however. There was the isolated wonderful story about Jackie Robinson challenging Scully to an ice-skating race even though Robinson had never put on skates in his life - "That's how I'm going to learn," Scully recalled Robinson pointedly saying - and an almost offensively odd line of questioning from Simers to Wooden about how angry a man Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was and is, even though the former center has been nothing less than a warm and open personality in this town in recent years. (Even if Abdul-Jabbar were still angry, why exactly would that be relevant?) But to his credit, Simers opened the door for Wooden and Scully to talk more openly about themselves and their personal histories and feelings.
Scully said that he had been raised not to show emotion, whether it be rubbing the hand that the nuns at his grammar school slapped with a ruler because he was using his left when they wanted to retrain him to use his right, or whether it was about emotional pain or fear. And Scully said he was less of a man because of it. Simers asked Scully how he has weathered the adversity in his life, and Scully responded that he depended on his faith, and that he had learned not to ask "Why?" when things went badly. After all, Scully pointed out, you don't ask "Why? when fortune smiles kindly upon you.
The story of Wooden's deep and abiding love for his late wife, Nell, is not new, but remains truly affecting, and details only enrich it. Wooden had been working in the fields one day when Nell came up to visit, but stayed away from her out of embarrassment at how dirty and sweaty he was. When Nell later asked him why he hadn't approached her, he said that she was afraid she would laugh at him. She replied, "I would never laugh at you," and Wooden never dated another girl. (When Simers noted that Wooden broke his coach's rule about dating during the basketball season religiously, Wooden cracked, "I wouldn't use the word 'religiously.' ")
And now, though he by no means tries to hasten it, Wooden does not fear death, because death will bring his reunion with Nell. Wooden recited from memory, without so much as a blip, a poem that former UCLA center Swen Nater wrote for him after hearing him speak about Nell:
Once I was afraid of dying,
But those days are long behind me;
Fear of leaving does not bind me,
I fear death. I fear it greatly, and I fear the death of members of my family even more. I fear it achingly. My wife fears death even more than I do. (We joke, though it's entirely based in truth, that we're both most afraid of her dying.) My parents are now in their 70s, and I feel blessed that they are still alive, yet I'm not at all ready to let them go. And I live in utter fear for the safety and livelihood of my three children, and am not sure how something happening to one of them would not destroy my wife and me. I know death comes to families every day and the survivors survive. Except those that don't. Some don't.
I don't have faith. I can dream, but it's just a dream, not a belief. I do have beliefs, but they aren't comforting ones. I am living in this life, working to make it better yet reluctant to work so hard that I miss it along the way. I know - that's not an original conundrum, but it's ever-present.
And I know those unconfrontable days are coming. I can't dodge them forever.
It was fascinating for me to hear Wooden and Scully on these subjects, yet frustrating that I could not share in their apparent peace of mind. It's not enough to make me change my beliefs. At the same time, neither Scully nor Wooden, each of whom have suffered through the loss of a spouse (and in Scully's case, a child), not to mention their parents, achieved their peace of mind without the greatest of trials.
And so, as I head toward bed tonight and find myself looking for comfort after what frankly was an exhilarating evening, I have this to tell myself. If you can't believe in an afterlife, at least force yourself somehow to believe that there is life after death in this world, that it's possible to survive when the loss of a loved one tries to smother you.
I don't know if it will work, and I'm not eager to find out. But someone remember to remind me when the time comes. If it does work, that will be the greatest reward Vin Scully and John Wooden will have ever provided me. Which is saying something.
Maybe this one was for the kids after all. Because I feel as much like a child as I ever have.
Prelude to Scully-Wooden
We won't hear T.J. Simers ask John Wooden or Vin Scully what his favorite curse word is, but it should still be a great night. Fox Sports Prime Ticket, 8 p.m.
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Innerspacing Brad Penny
Tom Meagher of The Fifth Outfielder is going 20,000 Leagues Under Brad Penny to figure out what's going on with him. After all his exhaustive research, he still considers his study a work in progress, but here's what he's concluded so far: "It seems that hitters have laid off of or have been deceived by the slower fastballs (again, hitters that can differentiate them seem to be laying off the splitter, bolstering its success) and batters are not having too much difficulty getting the bat on the higher velocity (fastballs). It really does seem that hitters are waiting for a typical Penny fastball and slapping them for singles." Eric Enders gets praise along the way for an on-target hypothesis.
When They Had a Bounce in Their Step ...
From the Times, August 30, 1977:
Dodgers Kiss Off Cubs and Morganna
L.A. Wins, 3-1; a Visitor Stops Garvey in Tracks
By ROSS NEWHAN
In the first inning of the Dodgers' 4-1 victory over the Cubs at Dodger Stadium Monday night, a well-endowed lady later identified as Morganna Roberts Cottrell came out of the field-level seats along the left-field line and began a dash toward the plate, where Steve Garvey was preparing to hit.
Garvey first hid behind umpire Jerry Dale and then relented, allowing Cottrell, an exotic dancer who made a practice of this sort of thing several summers ago, to kiss him on the cheek.
Cottrell then bounced back to the gate in left field, where she was arrested for trespassing.
The event was noteworthy in the light that the figures Cottrell brought into the game were not that much more impressive than some of those the Dodgers took out of the game. ...
Steve Rushin of SI.com wrote a Where Are They Now feature on Morganna in 2003.
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Cubiclemate Michael Schneider of Variety has the first extended details about NBC's so-called spinoff of The Office.
Matt Kemp's suspension has been reduced to two games. (Kemp will sit out games today and Friday.)
Will Jake Peavy reduce the Dodgers to tears?
Dodgers at Padres, 12:35 p.m.
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For fans of Battlestar Galactica and The Wire, Brian Lowry of Variety has a commentary linking the two series together in our Emmy Drama Preview.
In honor of Andy LaRoche's 2008 Dodger debut (at first base tonight), here are some words to contemplate from Francois de La Rochefoucauld:
To know how to hide one's ability is great skill.
Absence diminishes little passions and increases great ones, as the wind extinguishes candles and fans a fire.
We always love those who admire us, and we do not always love those whom we admire.
In the adversity of our best friends we often find something which does not displease us.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
Some people resemble ballads which are only sung for a certain time.
True bravery is shown by performing without witness what one might be capable of doing before all the world!
Too great refinement is false delicacy, and true delicacy is solid refinement.
One may outwit another, but not all the others.
The gratitude of most men is but a secret desire of receiving greater benefits.
It is the prerogative of great men only to have great defects.
We are more interested in making others believe we are happy than in trying to be happy ourselves.
Preserving the health by too strict a regimen is a worrisome malady.
In jealousy there is more self-love than love.
We sometimes see a fool possessed of talent, but never of judgment.
We hardly find any persons of good sense save those who agree with us.
Not sure LaRochefoucauld's views on coquetry apply, but have at them
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Dodgers at Padres, 7:05 p.m.
Dodgers Need To Be More Kuoactive
... Despite being better according to both simple and advanced stats, Joe Torre refuses to use Kuo at all. Since splitting a start with Chan Ho on May 17th, Kuo has made just three appearances, once when down 4-0 against the Cardinals, down 6-3 against the Mets, and down 6-1 against the Mets again. In that same timespan, Scott Proctor, by far the least effective Dodger reliever this year, has appeared nine times, three times in medium to high leverage situations. Chan Ho Park has appeared six times, four of them in high leverage situations.
Even though Kuo is third on the team in ERA and leads Chan Ho and Proctor in every pitching category from ERA to walk rate to WHIP, Kuo is the one relegated to mop up duty while the latter is being used while the outcome of the game is still in still in doubt. The entire year, Kuo has only faced 20 batters in high leverage situations, versus 52 in medium leverage and 80 in low leverage. Kuo is our third best reliever according to FIP but he's rarely, if ever used when the game actually matters.
What's even more bizarre is that Joe Torre's low opinion of Kuo seems based on one start, where he allowed five runs in 3.2 innings. After that start, Kuo was removed from the rotation, and has only pitched eight times since, twice in high leverage situations. This is completely insane behavior because outside of that outing, Kuo has pitched 33.2 innings, and allowed three runs. We have a lefty who can strikeout over a batter an inning, and he's been relegated to Scott Erickson status seemingly entirely because of one bad start. ...
Heir to Kirk Gibson
The way Russell Martin dashed home from second base on an infield single by Matt Kemp in the seventh inning tonight, you might have thought it was 1988 all over again. It was enough to just about make you believe.
Kershaw IV: Kershawshank Redemption
Dodgers at Padres, 7:05 p.m.
Tonight, 20-year-old Clayton Kershaw faces 42-year-old Greg Maddux.
On September 2, 1986, 20-year-old Greg Maddux faced 39-year-old Nolan Ryan.
On April 18, 1970, 23-year-old Nolan Ryan faced 38-year-old Jim Bunning.
That's all I've got for now. Clayton Kershaw, born in 1988, two games removed from a pitcher who was born in 1931.
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I really want to make something clear about my earlier post today. It was not an analysis of Ned Colletti. It was a statement that Ned Colletti deserves more attention than he has been getting, relative to the attention the Dodgers' younger players have received. The outcome of that attention, at least as far as I was concerned, was a subject for another day.
Nor was it a statement that the Dodgers' season should be summed up in two words. It was a statement that, however, if you were going to try to sum up the season in two words, Ned Colletti is a better place to start than "the kids."
But you know me. I'll have plenty more to say about the Dodgers ...
Update: I haven't been speculating on when Rafael Furcal will return to the Dodger lineup, maybe because I was too resigned to news like this, from Tony Jackson of the Daily News.
... best-case scenario is he is activated the week before the All-Star break -- and so far, there is nothing about this whole matter that would suggest the best-case scenario is the most likely one ...
Jackson adds that Nomar Garciaparra will play shortstop when he starts a rehab assignment, "possibly by the end of this week."
Two Words on the Dodger Season (Or 2,000 - Take Your Pick)
Information Underload to Information Overload
I find the Dodgers endlessly fascinating, and if you're here reading this, you probably feel that way at least occasionally.
Dodger coverage was still barebones when I graduated from college, nearly 20 years ago. Your local paper would have a game story and some notes. Vin Scully, Ross Porter and Don Drysdale were your entire broadcasting team, each working individually to tell you what was going on in a game and occasionally commenting on what strengths or weaknesses the Dodgers might have.
National coverage before the explosion of the Internet consisted of hanging on for acknowledgement by ESPN (if you had cable) or USA Today, Sports Illustrated or The Sporting News. Accusations of East Coast bias always hung in the air, but the challenge to conventional wisdom about baseball, as represented by Bill James' Baseball Abstract, was a small fraction of what it is today.
Sportstalk radio perhaps offered a precursor to what the Internet age would ultimately offer, as this was the one forum where the common fan could find a voice. But the medium had already descended into the land of mindless, knee-jerk opinions, and was not to be taken seriously by anyone.
Today, of course, there's round-the-clock chalk talk on the Dodgers. Newspapers, though suffering as an industry, offer more than ever before: blogs and online-only reports in addition to their regular coverage. So do various local and national broadcasters. The Dodgers offer news via their own website. Message boards are everywhere. And then there are your garden-variety independent contractors, like me. Somewhat to my amazement, as someone who has blogged for more than five years with a philosophy never to force myself to write if I had nothing to say, I never run out of topics. Not in the dog days of summer nor the cold days of winter. If I take a break for more than a day or two, it's usually because of what's going on in my non-Dodger life, not because of what isn't going on with the Dodgers.
But unless you are an ardent follower of the Dodgers or anything, for that matter all the different angles and nuances get sifted, molded, smothered, ignored, plundered, packaged and finally reduced into easily consumed morsels. Even in this information age, most learning takes place at the shallow end of the pool.
Simplicity at Its Not-So-Finest
So, at the risk of undermining my own purpose, you could sum up the 2008 Dodgers' season in two words.
The Dodger general manager signed Jones specifically to solve a weakness in the Dodger outfield. Jones instead exacerbated it with a .191 EQA (.260 is the major-league average) and a -8.3 Value Over Replacement Player in 154 plate appearances. His inefficiency and subsequent injury led to increased playing time for a previous Colletti mistake, Juan Pierre. And though the myth of Pierre (.249, 3.5) as bonafide leadoff man is alive and well, he remains the team's worst-hitting active outfielder even including his basestealing ability. Together, Jones and Pierre have:
373 plate appearances
Now, there's no doubt that the Dodgers have suffered without Rafael Furcal. Dodger shortstops have 263 plate appearances this season, and Chin-Lung Hu, Luis Maza and Angel Berroa have 109 of them. Their on-base percentage is .152, and their slugging percentage is .168, for an OPS of .320. This is worse than the post-Paul LoDuca catching combo of Brent Mayne and Dave Ross in 2004. By comparison, Dodger pitchers this year have a .325 OPS. But Furcal was so extraordinary while he was active (.349 EQA, 26.8 VORP by far the highest on the club despite the fact he will miss his 32nd of 64 team games tonight) that the Dodger shortstop position has been, on the whole, adequate.
And there's no doubt that Jeff Kent has struggled for most of the season. Until roughly 10 days ago, Kent (.242, 3.7) was abysmal at second base.
A Million Stories in the Dodger City
In fact, there are dozens of things going on with the Dodgers, if you want to look deep enough. They include:
All of these are interesting stories worth exploring further. None, by itself, has had the singular impact of Colletti.
So there you have it as far as explanations of the 2008 Dodgers go the short and the long of it, almost literally.
Now, the media hasn't ignored Colletti, but there's been an out-of-sight, out-of-mind aspect to him. When you're broadcasting or covering a game, he's not in front of you, so he's not an obvious topic of conversation.
On the other hand, the relative youth of the Dodger starting lineup and certainly, except for Kent, it is one of the youngest starting lineups in baseball has gotten inordinate attention, with particular focus on their mistakes relative to their contributions. Rather than rehash the reasons why this kind of coverage has been unfair and misleading, let me advance the following point.
Mistakes come in different forms. There are well-intentioned honest mistakes, there are mistakes made of ignorance, and there are mistakes made out of stubbornness. Some are more excusable than others. Some are more correctable, others more damaging. This matters when evaluating a team looking forward, but when looking back, a mistake is just a mistake, and its import is directly related to how it affects the win and loss columns.
In no way, shape or form are the mistakes made by Dodger players in their first, second or third seasons remotely as significant as the mistakes made by the Dodger general manager in his first, second and third seasons: Ned Colletti.
Let me make sure I'm perfectly clear. I'm not intending to evaluate Colletti systematically not today. Some of his mistakes have been honest mistakes, others out of ignorance, others out of stubbornness. That's not relevant to today's conversation. And to be sure, Colletti has made some good decisions.
What we're talking about today is the story of the 2008 season to date, and in particular since the Dodgers have lost more games than they have won what has gone wrong. And Ned Colletti has more to do with what is wrong with the Dodgers than any Dodger player, young or old, could ever be guilty of. The acquisition of the Dodgers' most damaging players rests entirely on the shoulders of Colletti and his advisors. (And when you hear a Dodger insider being quoted anonymously on the problems with the kids, it's getting a little hard not to wonder if a little misdirection isn't being pursued.)
Whatever your positions are on the moves Colletti has made, whether you are a fan or a reporter, whether you think about the Dodgers 24 hours a day or 24 minutes a month if you are trying to tell the story of what's gone wrong with the Dodgers, and you spend time hashing out what's right and wrong with the kids when you could be hashing out what's right and wrong with Colletti, you're missing the defining story. Period.
I'm not saying you have to do either. But one story is of way more value than the other.
Oh, and by the way, the Dodgers might still win the National League West. This is not a lost season yet. But speaking from the present, let's at least understand where the issues really are. Blaming a Kemp swing on a 2-0 pitch for the Dodgers being 30-33, when Colletti is spending $22.1 million this season on two craters in the outfield, is a remarkable failure of common sense.
What's the Story of the Dodgers in Two Words?
"Ned Colletti." Not "The Kids."
Baseball Toaster hero and star-in-the-making Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods is the subject of a nice interview by Brian Joura of The Fantasy Baseball Generals.
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Nice feature today on Dodger rookie reliever Cory Wade from Tony Jackson of the Daily News.
Logan White's Got Needs
Dodger Thoughts commenter CanuckDodger sends along this post-draft perspective on the Dodgers:
With the Dodgers' 2008 amateur draft, the seventh consecutive Dodger draft for which Logan White has been responsible, in the books, is it time to wonder if White's job has gotten harder, not easier? If the answer is yes, it seems counterintuitive. In most lines of work, the work gets easier, through either mastery or, at worst, sheer familiarity with a routine. But White appears to have had his job mastered from the word go, judging by the universal high esteem in which his 2002 and 2003 Dodger draft classes, his first two, are held, to say nothing of the warm bodies they have graduated to the majors. Job performance like that earns trust, and no small amount of it, surely. And yet, Dodger fans who have subjected White's latest draft effort to scrutiny are asking, in the fashion of Peggy Lee, "Is that all there is?" How do we explain Dodger fans being so underwhelmed? Maybe White is the victim of his own success, and has raised Dodger fans' expectations to unreasonable levels. Alternatively, White, like the protagonist of the second Austin Powers film, could simply have lost his mojo. Or, what I think is the most probable explanation, White's job has become more difficult than it used to be.
The description that Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus gave of the left field position on the Baltimore Orioles in recent years - a position manned by a succession of radio station contest winners and the occasional farm animal - is what Dodger fans may imagine the position of Director of Amateur Scouting in the Dodger organization was like before Dan Evans hired Logan White to fill the role, after Evans became general manager in late 2001. The Dodgers, at that time, had become legendary for a long string of dunderheaded first-round draft picks, and if any Dodger draftee turned out well, it was apt to be quite by accident, or dumb luck, like taking Mike Piazza in the 62nd round as a favor to Tommy Lasorda, a friend of Piazza's father. The Dodgers' farm system, entering 2002, was ranked by Baseball America as the 28th-best in the game, thanks in large part to years of Dodger draft futility. Anyone who has ever had to buy gifts for Christmas or birthdays knows that the hardest person to shop for is the one who "has everything," so to speak. A scouting director, at bottom, is a professional shopper, and in 2002 Logan White's new client, far from "having everything," on the farm, had, to not put too fine a point on it, nothing. The Dodger farm system was a blank canvas on which White could paint his vision. Not an enviable position for the Dodgers to be in, but certainly an enviable position for a new scouting director to be in, if he is up to the task, especially if he is working for a GM who has given him full autonomy, which is precisely what Dan Evans gave White, instead of meddling in the draft as some GMs are disposed to do.
Confronted with a Dodger farm system nearly devoid of talent at every level, White could draft whomever he wanted, procure whatever shiny object caught his eye, without giving thought to organizational needs or playing-time issues on the Dodgers' lower-level farm teams. White made "draft the best player available" his mantra, and with so many other clubs focusing early on college players, that left White with a wide selection of high school players who might be further away from the majors than the college players available, but whom White believed had higher ceilings than the college guys. White's 2002 and 2003 drafts were two of the most high school-oriented drafts in baseball over those years, which did not endear White to folks inclined to believe that high school players, and particularly high school pitchers, were bad risks on which to gamble an organization's fortunes. Working under Paul DePodesta in 2004 and 2005, White had to compromise with a GM from the school of thought that preferred college draftees with records of strong statistical performance over relatively unproven high school players, but the work of building up the Dodger farm system continued, even if White had to make some concessions to DePodesta's preferences, and that work also continued after DePodesta's regime gave way to that of Ned Colletti, the third GM White would have to work under in five years. Players whom White drafted as long ago as 2002 were only then reaching the top levels of the Dodger farm system, and soon enough many of them would make the jump to the majors.
Not counting the Dominican Summer League, there are six levels to a baseball organization's farm system, from rookie ball to Triple A, and that has given rise to a saying among scouts and player development people that it takes six drafts to remake a farm system, from the bottom to the top. With six drafts behind him, entering 2008, White's remaking of the Dodger farm system can be said to have been completed. The virgin white canvas White started with in 2002 was, now, a full picture, with mere bits of uncolored space remaining. The Dodgers' 2008 draft looks disappointing to fans, arguably, because it represents not new, bold strokes with an artist's brush, but filling in the blanks, or paint-by-numbers. It did not come without prior warning from White. In May, White gave MLB.com's Ken Gurnick a statement that Gurnick identified as an indicator of a sea change in Dodger draft philosophy under White: "What's different about this draft is that now we're in a position where we have to look, at No. 15, at going in a different direction than before and looking at need a little closer now." White turned out to not be strictly true to that declaration, as when it came time to make his first 2008 draft pick, at No. 15 overall, he went with the consensus best talent still available, high school pitcher Ethan Martin, who bears a strong resemblance to the players on whom White has used his first draft pick since 2003. So it was "business as usual" with the first-round pick. But starting with the Dodgers' second-round pick, it is unmistakable that the Dodgers were targeting players who appear suited to fill real or perceived gaps in the Dodger farm system.
Taking a college reliever early in the draft is widely derided as wasting a pick on a player with a rather limited ceiling, so that is clearly at odds with what had been White's modus operandi. But taking college reliever Josh Lindblom in the second round looks calculated to address a very specific issue on the Dodgers' near-term agenda: finding a suitable replacement for big league set-up man Jonathan Broxton when Broxton succceds Takashi Saito as the Dodgers' closer. Possible candidates for that job already in the organization - Scott Proctor, Yhency Brazoban, Jonathan Meloan and Ramon Troncoso -- have all lost some of their luster since as recently as the offseason, unfortunately. After taking Lindblom in the second round, the Dodgers' drafting Kyle Russell in the third round, Nick Buss in the eighth round and Steven Caseres in the ninth round appears driven by the desire to add depth to the Dodgers' somewhat thin collection of minor league outfielders, and, in the cases of Russell and Caseres, the desire to boost the system's power hitting. The Dodgers' farm system was also light, at the lower levels, on middle infield talent heading into the draft, which no doubt prompted White to draft shortstops Devaris Strange-Gordon in the fourth round and Anthony Delmonico in the sixth round (though Delmonico is said to profile better as a second baseman going forward).
It might be asked, continuing the painting metaphor, how White's doing paint-by-numbers work with the draft can be construed as more difficult than painting a picture on a blank canvas. It comes down to the breadth of creative possibilities in the one endeavor compared with the breadth of possibilities in the other. If a scouting director is open to the full range of players in a draft's talent pool, at every stage of the draft, and talent and upside are the only determinants in who is selected or rejected, the scouting director's draft "haul" (for want of a better word) is likely to be better than it would be if he is drafting according to position and demographics. Mixing and matching draft picks with farm system vacancies is a tricky business, because the strength of a given draft's talent pool may not align well with specific needs, or position vancancies, in an organization. To illustrate: White wanted a heavy combination of outfielders, middle infielders, relievers, and power hitters, and he wanted them to come from the ranks of players older than the high schoolers. But the best college hitters this year were corner outfielders, and this was a downright awful year for college outfielders. After White had spent his first two picks on pitchers, White used his third pick on a college outfielder and power hitter (Kyle Russell) with significant and likely insurmountable flaws just because that player was all that was left that satisfied the narrow criteria White was looking to fill, notwithstanding that there were many better talents still available who just happened to be high school players, a demographic White evidently had very little interest in, in 2008, after Ethan Martin filled what was probably a quota of one high school player for the first nine picks. This approach to drafting is, baldly, incontrovertibly, tantamount to a scouting director handcuffing himself. If he can maximize the talent he is getting out of the draft despite working within these kinds of limitations, he is truly a favorite of fortune.
For all of the problems inherent in drafting to meet "needs," as frustrating as it is to watch unfold, Logan White may not have been at liberty to do anything different this year, so it is unfair to cast blame at his feet. Past White drafts emphasizing young players who require a fair bit of polishing, as well as recently increased recruiting of Latin American teenagers, is putting pressure on the rosters of our lowest level farm teams. Hypothetically, if White had used, say, his first eight picks in the 2008 draft on high school pitchers, because each time it was his turn to pick a high school pitcher was the best talent available, where would they all pitch? We have high school pitchers from last year's draft, top-round guys like Chris Withrow and Michael Watt, still not ready for low A ball and needing roster space and rotation slots on one of our rookie teams. A farm system is like a series of pipelines, and care has to be taken to prevent the formation of bottlenecks at any position that would threaten a deserving player's playing time and endanger his development. In addition to what is going on with our youngest pitchers, some of our position players - like Preston Mattingly, to name one -- need more time to develop in the low minors before they are promoted any further. Thus, it is understandable that the Dodgers, this year, decided that college players were needed more than high school players, with it being presumed that the college players could start a little higher in the system and move up a little more quickly. It is having to take something like that into consideration that is making White's job harder than it was when he started out with the Dodgers. The empty farm system of 2002 was no threat to bottleneck at any position, but it was also distinctly the kind of farm system that no Dodger fan wants to see attached to the Dodgers again, ever. Contemplating what a return to those days would be like, a Dodger fan may console himself with the thought that Logan White drafting for organization need because of a fairly full farm system is, by far, the lesser of two conceivable evils.
Hu Down, Who's Up? Probably LaRoche - Definitely LaRoche
The Dodgers have optioned Chin-Lung Hu, according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise. His replacmement might not be named until Tuesday, but you can expect it's Andy LaRoche, write Dylan Hernandez of the Times and Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
Update: Leung confirms it's LaRoche.
Shoulder of Fortune
Multiple media sources (such as this) said during and after Sunday's Dodger game that Brad Penny has been battling shoulder stiffness. While people have speculated that Penny's poor performance in recent weeks might be due to injury, I hadn't actually seen this declared anywhere. Frankly, given how hard Penny had been throwing during his slump, I had sort of ruled it out.
Anyway, Penny once again had a performance that might be called ugly but effective. In 12 innings over his past two starts, he's allowed 19 baserunners but only five runs.
There's no doubt his fastball has heat on it, but smothering the opposition like he has in the past is still a work in progress. Still, you could wish other spots in the Dodger lineup would be as uglyily effective as Penny.
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Navarro and Aybar Climb Back
I've been meaning for a while to write about Dioner Navarro. The former Dodger catcher, who went with Jae Seo to Tampa Bay in the June 2006 Mark Hendrickson/Toby Hall trade, has suffered through some rough times - the least of which was the 70 OPS+ he posted for the then-Deviled Rays last season.
In September 2003, his wife suffered a brain aneurysm and nearly died. In July 2006, his SUV flipped with him, his wife and infant son inside. (Everyone, amazingly, was okay.)
On the field, in May 2006 he went on the disabled list and lost his starting Dodger catcher job to Russell Martin. And this past April, Navarro suffered lacerations on this throwing hand.
Now, Navarro and his family all seem healthy - and so is Navarro's bat. In 152 plate appearances this season, his OPS+ is 117 (.364 on-base percentage, .427 slugging percentage). He has thrown out 9 of 29 attempted basestealers.
"The people around me have helped me tremendously," he told Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com. "They [coaches and teammates] always knew that I was capable of doing this, but having them [work with me] has helped my game so much."
Things are going so well, Navarro wasn't even suspended despite being involved in last week's Rays-Red Sox brawl.
Then there's Aybar, who was traded by the Dodgers to Atlanta for Wilson Betemit in 2006. A substance abuse problem was revealed in the spring of 2007, and then in February, Aybar was arrested in the Dominican Republic on domestic violence charges that were later dropped.
Of course, this is very often not the end of a domestic violence story, and I haven't found anything to indicate what kind of counseling or treatment Aybar is receiving. All I can report is that Aybar is now a Ray, and after recovering from a left hamstring injury that hastened his replacement at third base by Evan Longoria, Aybar is 12 for 41 with six doubles and a homer (132 OPS+) while playing some third, first and designated hitter.
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Lakers-Celtics Game 2 chat is at The Griddle.
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As the Infield Turns ...
The Dodgers seem poised to replace Chin-Lung Hu on the roster with Andy LaRoche, but that's no doubt predicated on LaRoche being 100 percent. The Dodger infielder, who has played first and second base in recent days along with third, was hit by a pitch in the hand Saturday night and left the game shortly thereafter. Today should bring more news. (The 51s play at 12:05 p.m.)
LaRoche has an .854 OPS for Las Vegas this season.
Hu, by the way, has played sparkling defense lately. There's little doubt he could benefit from more time in the minors to get his hitting back on track, but his imminent replacement, Angel Berroa, has one of the worst defensive reputations in the game for a shortstop.
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Justin Inaz of On Baseball & the Reds corroborates Dan Fox's earlier Hardball Times study showing that OPS, while not perfect, is a simple yet effective means of measuring offensive performance. But if you want to see how it measures up against other measuring tools, check out their reports.
Gross Production Average (GPA), for example, aims for more accuracy and easier interpretation, but is still working on gaining widespread acceptance and accessibility. Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) is further along the accuracy/complexity scale.
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A Baseball America on AAA park factors is excerpted by Rob McMillin at 6-4-2. Las Vegas boosts offense, but it's no Albuquerque.
Dodgers assistant GM De Jon Watson said that the organization does not alter plans or instruction for its young pitchers who must brave Las Vegas which the Dodgers have called home since 2001.
"It's about keeping the baseball on the ground and executing a pitching plan," he said. "We're making sure we're sticking to what we planned."
Through the years, the Dodgers, like the Rockies, haven't been shy about sending their more promising arms to Vegas. Edwin Jackson, Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton all spent a summer there, as Jon Meloan is this season.
Sticking to the script is something Watson and the Dodgers stress for their batters, too, even though Dodger Stadium is far less forgiving for them than Coors Field is for Rockies batters.
"We're trying to get all the kids to execute and swing the bat, regardless of the park," he said. "The key is to hit those mistakes when they get them. LaRoche, (Chin-Lung) Hu, (James) Loney . . . they all were there. We want them to be consistent with their work and preparation, and that will carry over when you play in the big leagues."
Update: LaRoche didn't start today but entered today's game at second base in the fourth inning and went 2 for 3 for the 51s.
Tiffee Designated for Assignment
The Dodgers designated Terry Tiffee for assignment to make room for Angel Berroa on the 40-man roster, though Berroa has not been activated for today's game.
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Farewell, Jim McKay
ABC sportscaster Jim McKay has passed away. He delivered so many memorable moments. I was too young to see him broadcasting from the tragedy of the 1972 Munich Olympics, but there's another Olympic moment of his I'll remember. After the U.S. hockey team beat the Soviets in 1980 - an event that was shown on tape delay in the West Coast - and Al Michaels asked us if we believed in miracles, McKay expressed his own sense of wonder, saying it was as if a team of Canadian college students had beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers in football. McKay always seemed to truly love sports and truly understand them.
Dwight White of those Steelers has also died, on Friday. He is the 17th former Steeler since 2000 to die before the age of 60, according to The Associated Press.
June the 6th, 1944
- Vin Scully
Because Pat Listach Was Out of the Question ...
The Dodgers today acquired 2003 American League Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa, who has since struggled to regain that level. The cost was 21-year-old Class A shortstop Juan Rivera.
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Update: From Ken Gurnick at MLB.com:
Technically, Berroa was assigned to Triple-A Las Vegas, but that is procedural to avoid the club being shorthanded Friday night. He is expected to be promoted to the Dodgers as soon as Saturday, most likely with Chin-lung Hu being sent to play every day at Triple-A. ...
The acquisition of Berroa could soon be followed by a promotion of Andy LaRoche, who is adding second-base and first-base experience to his resume while at Las Vegas.
"He could be called up any time," said manager Joe Torre. "He is close."
Also in Las Vegas, reliever Yhency Brazoban was placed on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. He missed most of the last two seasons with shoulder and elbow operations and had a 12.38 ERA in eight appearances.
And from Tony Jackson of the Daily News: Berroa is making an astonishing $4.75 million this season, but Kansas City is picking up the balance.
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Tom Meagher writes about Milton Bradley, Jayson Werth and Russell Branyan at The Fifth Outfielder.
A Season Just Going Wrong ...
What can you say? Even when Chin-Lung Hu triples and Jeff Kent homers twice, Takashi Saito can't hold on. Even after the team loads the bases so improbably in the bottom of the ninth and gets ahead in the count 2-0, Matt Kemp can't avoid the strikeout.
The past couple years, the Dodgers hit rock bottom in the second half of the season. This year, it's happening now.
Kent Shows Me
Two homers tonight to tie the game. Way to go, Jeff.
Andre Ethier has started a food blog, Dining with 'Dre. "I can't really call myself an expert or a true food critic, but I love to try new restaurants," Ethier says, "and so we though it would be cool to show off some of my favorites ... or maybe some of those that I won't be going back to anytime soon."
Ethier will also help cook and serve 1,000 Farmer John-donated Dodger dogs at the Union Rescue Mission at lunchtime Friday, after taking part in the Food Network's The Chef Jeff Project filming at Dodger Stadium. From the press release:
"The Chef Jeff Project" offers at-risk teens a chance to turn their lives around through culinary art and is led by renowned executive chef of the famed Café Bellagio in Las Vegas Jeff Henderson. Chef Jeff's proteges will get a unique chance to spend time with Ethier and Dodger legends "Sweet" Lou Johnson and Tommy Davis as part of the episode.
Male bonding: Molly Knight of ESPN the Periodical coordinated this conversation between the Dodgers' Russell Martin and Los Angeles-raised NBAer Tyson Chandler.
RM: What position would you play if you played baseball?
Blue Anniversary: We've reached the 40th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination. I wrote about my dad's experiences that night two years ago.
My dad's friend Ed Medvene got two seats behind home plate for the Dodger game against the Pirates on June 4, 1968. Don Drysdale took the mound that night, and nine innings later, he had broken the National League record for consecutive shutout innings held by Carl Hubbell and the major league record for consecutive shutouts held by Doc White.The Daily Mirror blog at the Times has several posts about Drysdale and Kennedy.
Also, NPR affiliate KPCC has begun a seven-part series on the Dodgers' move to Los Angeles. Here's part one.
Ahead of the game: A year ago, Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts wrote a long piece about Dodger third-round draft pick Kyle Russell. And here's a feature from Rick Brown of the Lakeland (Fla.) Ledger on fourth-round pick Devaris-Strange Gordon, son of major-league reliever Tom Gordon. (Thanks to DT commenter Underdog for the link.)
Hoops! Lakers-Celtics chat is taking place at The Griddle. Magic, Coop, Big Game James - go Lakers!
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Draft-O-Rama Ding Dong
Here's some pregame reading, courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball America.
Update: With their first pick - 15th overall - the Dodgers selected Ethan Martin, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound pitcher/third baseman from Georgia. Martin turns 19 Friday.
Even though MLB.com profiles him as a pitcher, MLB announced him as a third baseman. From John Manuel at Baseball America:
Just four high school players were among the first 14 selections, and at the halfway point of the first round, the Dodgers added to that with Ethan Martin. However, commissioner Selig announced Martin as a third baseman, not a righthander. The Dodgers have had success with such athletes, such as James McDonald (from outfield to pitcher) and Edwin Jackson (who DH'd early in his career before going just to the mound).
Of course, this move really mirrors the drafting of James Loney, who was touted as a pitcher before the Dodgers ensconced him in the infield.
More from Keith Law at ESPN.com:
Martin is a two-way player. He came into the year as a potential first-rounder as a third baseman, but he didn't hit well at the beginning. He likes to pitch, and he shut down American Plantation H.S. (the team of prospects Eric Hosmer and Adrian Nieto) in February. He throws 91-95 mph. He has a chance to be an above-average bat at third base, and he obviously has a plus arm. I would be surprised if the Dodgers ... keep him as a pitcher because they tend to prefer guys with polish. He has arm strength, but not much polish as a pitcher.
Update 2: Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise indicates that the announcement was a mistake and that Martin was selected as a pitcher. Tony Jackson of the Daily News has more on Martin.
Update 3: Blue Heaven has Martin's baseball cards!
Update 4: From the Dodgers' press release:
"Ethan is a fantastic young athlete who excels on the mound with an exploding fastball and a sharp-biting curve," said Assistant General Manager, Scouting Logan White. "He is a terrific competitor with first-class makeup."
Martin last week was named the 2008 Gatorade Georgia State High School Player of the Year after going 11-1 with a 0.99 ERA as a senior at Stephens County High School (stats do not include last weekend's Class AAA Georgia State Championship Series). He also had 141 strikeouts in 79.0 innings of work entering the season's final series. Martin had entered the season as a Baseball America Second-Team Pre-Season High School All-American.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder was named as a 2007 AFLAC All-American after his junior season, during which he went 6-1 with 81 strikeouts and a 1.41 ERA.
The 18-year-old is rated by Baseball America as having the second-best fastball among draft-eligible high school pitchers. He is also rated by the publication as having the third-best secondary pitch amongst the same group.
"Ethan has a good angle on his fastball with late sinking action anywhere from 90-96 miles per hour," said Scouting Director Tim Hallgren. "He also has a plus-curveball that has late three-quarter downward action at the plate."
Martin entered the draft as the eighth-best pitcher and the 16th-best overall prospect among draft-eligible players according to Baseball America.
Although drafted by the Dodgers as a pitcher, Martin also played third base this season and hit .540 with 14 homers and 33 RBI in 31 games going into the Class AAA three-game final series last weekend.
Update 5: Ken Gurnick has more from White at MLB.com:
"He was a position player until two years ago, so he's got a fresh arm. He's already got a plus-curveball and he throws 90-95 mph every time out. He's still filling out, so he projects to get better. We did a lot of research on him and he's healthy." ...
White said Martin, as his body fills out, could be compared to Arizona pitcher Dan Haren.
"His arm action, his breaking ball, his athleticism - in some ways he reminds me of Haren," said White. ...
Last year's No. 15 selection was Devin Mesoraco, a high school catcher signed by Cincinnati for $1.4 million. Signability of Martin is not expected to be an issue.
A Thousand Paper Cuts and All That
By my reckoning, Clayton Kershaw threw 12 changeups in his first Dodger start - his most effective of his three appearances. Four changeups were taken for balls, five went for strikes and three were hit into outs.
Today, I was at work during his start, and Gameday was regrettably inconsistent in recording Kershaw's pitch types, but there were at least a couple of changeups in there. I don't think it's fair to say that the young lefty has only a fastball and curve. He has a change that can be effective, that should help prevent batters from sitting on his fastball, and it's a pitch that should only get better for him.
However, one of Kershaw's issues in the early going might just be the number of pitches that are getting fouled off. Here's the inning-by-inning foul ball count:
Inning 1: 6
I've never tallied pitcher foul balls before, but that kind of seems like a high percentage to me - particularly in the first two innings. Jeff Baker fouled off four pitches before hitting his first homer of the season that would account for all of Colorado's scoring. So I'm just wondering whether peskiness - i.e., difficulty putting away certain hitters - is the biggest threat to Kershaw's game right now. I'm not drawing any conclusions, but it's just something I'm going to keep an eye on going forward.
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The Dodgers have some of the best pitching in the National League, and arguably the very best relief pitching: second in relief ERA, first in relief strikeouts per inning.
But the offense is moribund. Since Rafael Furcal's injury, only Russell Martin has been anything special (and that's solely from an on-base percentage standpoint). Some players have been adequate, others profoundly the opposite. To get so little production from so many positions is simply too much for any team to overcome.
In 32 games since May 1, the Dodgers have drawn 89 walks (14 by Martin) and hit 22 home runs.
Things might look different soon, or maybe this will take a while. But there's no mystery right now. The Dodger offense rolls over too easily.
Kershaw III: Kershawker
Not only has Dodger manager Joe Torre told Tony Jackson of the Daily News and others that they don't intend to use Clayton Kershaw after today's start until the next time they need a fifth starter - June 14 at Detroit - he's indicating that Kershaw will only be an option of last resort out of the bullpen during that time.
"I think you're probably better off saying he would be available out of the bullpen than saying you would use him out of the bullpen," Torre said. "We could use this situation to save innings with Kershaw."
Club officials have placed a strict limit of 170 innings on Kershaw for the entire season because he threw only 122 last year, his first full season in professional baseball. He already has thrown 52 innings this season between Double-A Jacksonville and the majors.
Even with the resumption of regular off days - the club is off each of the next three Mondays - the Dodgers still will need Kershaw to start once a week, effectively becoming their designated Saturday starter.
Beginning June 24, the Dodgers will play on 21 consecutive days heading into the All-Star break, so Kershaw presumably will go back to starting every fifth day during that stretch.
It will be interesting to see how closely the Dodgers hold to this plan if Kershaw pitches well today. Meanwhile, some anecdotes from the past:
Update: Well, scratch all that. Kershaw will start in San Diego on Tuesday after all, Jackson reports today:
He then would start again the following Sunday at Detroit. Joe Torre leaves this stuff mostly to Rick Honeycutt, who keeps a detailed chart and is very cognizant of the innings-pitched limit that has been placed on Kershaw this season. What this also means is that Derek Lowe will get to pitch in Detroit, his hometown, when he would have missed that series if Kershaw had been skipped the next time through. As it stands, D-Lowe will now pitch the opener at Comerica Park a week from Friday.
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A suggestion by ESPN's Peter Gammons that Russell Martin will or should play shortstop won't be fulfilled, according to Kevin Pearson of the Press-Enterprise.
Martin said he made the comment to Gammons in humor, saying he would love the chance to play shortstop in a major league game. But Martin and Torre refuted it, with Torre saying, "I'm not a part of that plan."
"I'd love to play there, and I know I can play there," said Martin, who takes grounders daily at the position. "It was just me talking. It's a life goal to play shortstop at this level, but I'm a catcher."
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Kemp Faces Suspension for Tussle
Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp and Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba face short suspensions after a skirmish in the eighth inning that was born more of frustration than animosity.
In the top of the eighth, Torrealba got a close fastball near the chin. In the bottom of the eighth, with two out, Kemp struck out on a pitch in the dirt. The ball bounced so that Kemp was in Torrealba's path to the ball. Torrealba pursued the ball with maybe a little extra force in trying to push through Kemp, while Kemp's back foot kicked up against Torrealba's helmet. Kemp turned and shoved Torrealba and then stood facing him, and then Torrealba shoved Kemp with two hands into the throat. And then a bench-clearing wrestling match of almost no moment started, though in the moment you're always scared something catastrophic might occur. I was with Vin Scully in feeling that you just hate to see that happen, even if there was never really much unadulterated venom.
In interviews after the game, members of both squads seemed to feel little if any latent hostility, and Kemp himself was pretty much contrite.
"He kind of shoved me, and I shoved him back," he said. "It was a lot of frustration ... and it was stupid. Not a good decision on my part.
"It was dumb on both of our parts. ... It was frustration, no excuse to act like that."
It's impossible for the players not to be punished, but I would imagine it would be on the lighter side of brawl banishments. What Kemp did was less hysterical than how Larry Bowa acted when challenged earlier this year about being outside the third-base coaching box, but of course Bowa is not a starting player and therefore more expendable.
In Kemp's absence, whenever that comes, Delwyn Young, who had two doubles tonight as the Dodgers were being shut out on six hits and two walks, should get more playing time.
Brad Penny had a somewhat deceptive quality start: six innings with two runs allowed, but he ran up his pitch count early and ended up throwing 116. He also balked (for the first time since 2003, according to The Associated Press). Colorado had six hits and four walks. However, it's hard to blame this one on anyone but the offense. Dodger shortstops haven't had a hit since the Coolidge administration.
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Eric Stults, 28, is having a fine season in Las Vegas. After a slow start, the lefty has a 3.64 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings. Since May 1, he has allowed 13 earned runs in 44 2/3 innings (2.62 ERA) with 42 strikeouts.
The Specter of Odalis
Almost exactly two years ago, though it seems more like two eons, I was making the case that Odalis Perez wasn't done as a pitcher despite a horrific 2006 season.
Perez has alienated many of even his biggest supporters with his body language, his susceptibility to the big inning, his dismissive quotes and above all, his overall performance, and the last thing I came here with today is any kind of predetermined agenda to defend him. Perez is 28 years old, young but not so young that he couldn't be facing the end of his career.Perez never did turn it around in 2006 or 2007, for that matter. Well, he wasn't quite so abysmal with Kansas City as he was for those last few months in Los Angeles, but he was still pretty weak. Only in 2008, with an ERA+ of 102 for the Washington Nationals, has Perez (who turns 31 Saturday) shown the barest semblance of regaining form.
I bring this up because tonight's scheduled Dodger starter, Penny, fits the scarily Odalisian profile of being a former ERA title contender falling on harder times. Penny's 2008 ERA is 5.66 (77 ERA+), and he's striking out barely one batter every two innings. In only two starts this season has he struck out more than four batters, and not once more than six.
Like Perez in 2006, Penny is getting hammered on balls in play. His BABIP for the season .332, and in May it was .358. In 2007 Penny's BABIP was never higher than .333 in a given month and was well below .300 for the first half of that season.
Of more interest might be the fact that Penny, who in recent seasons has been living off a stingy rate of allowing home runs while his strikeout rate has declined, surrendered five round-trippers in 32 2/3 innings last month the most for him since August 2006. Not since 2002 has Penny for a season allowed more than a homer every nine innings. Inside and out, Penny has just been slapped all over the park. (Interestingly, however, his groundball rate has never been higher.)
During those times that I'm paying close attention, Penny still throws pretty hard into the 90s. I don't really see him laboring out there. I just see him getting in ruts where hits against him come in bunches, no matter what he throws. Is it possible he's just getting frustrated out there during tough innings and leaving the ball for batters to batter? Don't hold me to that belief - it's just something that's crossed my mind.
You see, I'm not really working overtime to be optimistic about Penny his falling strikeout rate has long had me worried he was a pitcher poised to implode. At the same time, he's been fairly effective for long stretches, as recently as April of this year, and so I'm not convinced we're witnessing the end right now.
My theory is that he is more a pitcher who is off his game than a pitcher who has lost his stuff. The specter of Odalis out there, and I can't be wholly sanguine. But like Lowe, who has oftened followed a bad month with a good one, I wouldn't bet against Penny turning things around on, if you'll forgive me, a dime.
Let's watch tonight and make note of how hard Penny gets hit, regardless of whether the batter reaches base or not. Let's see, just for tonight, if luck or stuff is the dominant factor.
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