Monthly archives: July 2008
The Last Nine Innings Before Flipping the Switch
When Matt Kemp lined a perfect hit-and-run single the opposite way to right field in the sixth inning tonight, I beamed. I felt so proud of him. And I began to believe the Dodgers might actually beat Brandon Webb, straight up. Derek Lowe had thrown six shutout innings, retiring 10 of the past 11 batters. Russell Martin and James Loney were coming up to bat.
But even after Martin's infield quail bounced in front of second baseman Orlando Hudson's glove, allowing Kemp to reach second and Juan Pierre to score the first run of the game, the Dodgers couldn't hold on. Conor Jackson lined a fat fastball from Lowe leading off the seventh for a double, and Mark Reynolds and Chris Snyder followed with hits to give Arizona the 2-1 lead.
Still, the Dodgers had more chances. In the eighth, pinch-hitters Andre Ethier and Mark Sweeney singled, and Pierre bunted them to third. (I don't really mind the strategy when you're just trying to get one run to stay alive, though Pierre probably would have been a good bet to at least generate a productive out swinging away.)
Kemp came up, and quickly got in the hole 0-2 against Webb. But then he got wood on a changeup and lined it to Jackson in left field. Ethier tagged up, and I really thought he'd make it home. Jackson's throw was even slightly up the line. Ethier knew to slide on the opposite side of the plate. But he went in head-first, leaving his upper body close enough to the plate for Snyder to tag him on the face. Deflation.
And still it wasn't over. Despite throwing under 100 pitches, Webb didn't come out for the ninth inning - I suppose because of the shaky eighth. Arizona turned Webb's game over to Brandon Lyon again, just as the Diamondbacks did in their recent loss to the Dodgers. Lyon quickly got two out, but then gave up a single to Casey Blake.
Up came Andruw Jones. Jeff Kent stood in the on-deck circle to bat for Angel Berroa, and you were faced with the reality that you would rather see Kent/Berroa then Jones/Kent. Nonetheless, Jones it was, on the day that his $36.2 million signing officially became a failure.
Jones made contact. But even when Jones makes contact these days, he almost never generates any power. He hit a playable fly to left field, ending the game.
Manny Ramirez arrives Friday, amid speculation about whose place he will take in the starting lineup. Kemp is safe. Who plays among Ethier, Pierre and Jones?
Look, it should be Ethier. We all know it should be Ethier. He's the only one of the three that remotely threatens a pitcher. Pierre's a gnat; Ethier's a hitter. And yet, Ethier's the easiest guy for an Old School manager to rationalize benching against Johnson. Jones bats right, making him a candidate, but Pierre has actually been outperforming Jones against lefties in 2008. It's not as if Jones' wins many of these kinds of comparisons this season. And the fact of the matter is, you don't acquire Ramirez if you think Jones is going to amount to anything.
I don't think Friday's starter is necessarily going to be an indication of who the No. 3 outfielder is. We may continue to see Jones against lefties, but I believe he'll play the least. Ethier vs. Pierre? That's an open question, though I think we'll see a lot of Ethier at least in the late innings. I do think Ethier could come away with the third starting job, but I won't promise it.
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This quote on Diamond Leung's blog at the Press-Enterprise stirred some reaction:
Logan White spoke with Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris, and he said LaRoche was excited to go to Pittsburgh. Asked if White was sad to see LaRoche go, he said, "Not at all."
I asked Leung to give the context of White's response, and Leung replied that White meant in terms of "Look who we got back."
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Alex Eisenberg of Baseball-Intellect.com offers a scouting report on Ramirez.
We broke every Dodger Thoughts visitation record today, including the 2,000-comment barrier. And it was really a great day in the chat - filled with lively debate that included plenty of healthy but well-tempered disagreement. Not everyone is happy with what went down today, but I hope most of you who participated enjoyed coming here to talk about it.
Steal This Game
Brandon Webb, you think you're so tough. And you are.
Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
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Jeff Kent and Andre Ethier are out tonight with minor ailments, reports Tony Jackson of the Daily News.
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The Big One: Manny Ramirez Coming
Manny Ramirez, with a career EQA of .326 and a birthdate of 1973, is coming to the Dodgers in a three-way trade with Boston and Pittsburgh, multiple sources are reporting.
Initial reports, waiting to be verified, have the Dodgers sending away a prospect package of Andy LaRoche and promising 21-year-old Class A pitcher Bryan Morris. Also waiting to be verified is whether the Dodgers are compelled not to pick up Ramirez's contract options for beyond 2008. It has been reported that the Boston is paying the remainder of Ramirez's 2008 salary.
If the Dodgers acquire Ramirez, offer him arbitration and then lose him to free agency, they stand to pick up compensation in next year's draft - though they'll be still looking for at least one infielder to replace free agents Jeff Kent and Casey Blake.
But back to this year. If this is all true, the Dodgers now have an outfield with Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones. Assuming the right players shake out of this (it seems incomprehensible that two of these guys will ride the Dodger bench), this revolutionizes the heart of the Dodgers' batting order. Ramirez has been dogging it in Boston to a legendary degree lately, but has still been slamming the ball most of the year.
If Ramirez replaces Pierre/Jones in the lineup, this deal makes the Dodgers a more serious contender to finish over .500 in 2008. (I kid! I think they can do even better.) It weakens the Dodgers beyond 2008, but honestly, there's time enough to solve that.
It should also be noted that the further the Dodgers go into the playoffs, the more the deal would pay for itself. And it gets the press off the Dodgers' backs without forcing them to give up any young players off the current roster.
I don't watch Ramirez play much, and I know of his liabilities, and it might not help the Dodgers as much as the front office thinks it will, but if you're going to make a move for a rental, this is a kind of guy to reach for.
Matt Kemp, CF
If Rafael Furcal could make it back for just one month, that would really be nice.
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Paul DePodesta offers a primer on August trading.
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An anecdote from Dylan Hernandez and Bill Shaikin at the Times:
McCourt said that the Dodgers had acquired Ramirez at the end of a news conference announcing that the semifinals and final of the 2009 World Baseball Classic would be held at Dodger Stadium, stunning some of the players who attended the event.
"I didn't know what he was talking about," Chan Ho Park said. "I thought he was talking about Manny Mota."
Closer Takashi Saito wondered aloud if he had been traded.
State of the Pitching
The Dodger pitching staff on Trade Deadline Morning (with ERA+ figures for the starters):
119 Derek Lowe
101 Hiroki Kuroda
98 Clayton Kershaw
320 Jason Johnson
139 Eric Stults
75 Brad Penny
--- James McDonald
--- Jason Schmidt
If it were me, I would promote McDonald next week if Johnson needs replacement or Kuroda or Penny need more rest.
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Tony Jackson of the Daily News has a follow-up on Tuesday's "out-of-play" ruling at Dodger Stadium.
... it isn't clear whether the ball went out of play when it hit the flat surface, when it appeared to roll off the flat surface toward the stands just before Lewis finally picked it up or when a fan in the front row might or might not have touched it.
The flat surface didn't exist before 2005, when several rows of premium seats were added down each line. The old wall was too narrow for a ball to land on top of it. But apparently, the ground rules - which Hamilton said vary from ballpark to ballpark - were never revised after that 2005 renovation to account for the difference.
(Former major-league outfielder Darryl Hamilton, now an on-field operations official for the commissioner's office), said the on-field operations staff discussed the play at length during its weekly conference call on Wednesday. He also said the Dodger Stadium ground rules would be updated to clarify whether the flat surface is in play or out of play.
Have you ever seen a shutout end on a play at the plate? I haven't. Thanks to the Giants' Tim Flannery for sending that runner.
And many more thanks to the man on the mound.
My best prediction of 2008:
Chad Billingsley, RHP: I'm telling you, the sky's the limit for this kid. In 20 starts last season, he had a 3.38 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 112 innings. The areas targeted for improvement, control (51 walks as a starter) and endurance (5 2/3 innings per start), are well within reach for the 23-year-old in fact, hopefully solving the first will solve the second. I truly think he'll be the ace of the staff this season.
July 30 Game Chat
Deadline Distractor: Dodgers-Giants Flashback
The following was a real game, which I am presenting not in real time. Keep checking for updates.
Don't try to guess the game if you don't know it, and don't spoil it if you do. Just enjoy it.
Though I'm pressed for time, I wouldn't want to let Tuesday's game pass without congratulating Jason Johnson on his six shutout innings. You can dismiss it as a fluke or as "it was the Giants," but the guy got the job done without any offensive support (the Dodgers scored in the bottom of the sixth), and it mattered. He's had a rugged journey in recent years, and I'm happy for him.
I know the Dodgers are under a lot of pressure with the waiver-free trade deadline approaching Thursday. I'm probably remiss in not acknowledging the benefits of pressure, mainly because I don't like pressure. Pressure can often drive you to positive results. Deadlines can be good. The important thing, though, is to keep your cool. Don't stop thinking. Don't self-defeat.
The bullpen is fine. The pitching is deep. That doesn't mean that there won't be some bad games in there, but perfection isn't an option. (In passing, I just want to tell Brad Penny not to rush back until he's ready really ready.)
Third base is done for now. The team has made its choice.
There could be improvement in the outfield, but there's nearly $30 million of salary committed to that area, so I'm not sure what more can be achieved this year without causing more problems than are solved. I'm open to ideas.
Shortstop is a rough spot offensively with both Rafael Furcal and Nomar Garciaparra out, but given the absence of available offense at that position, I'd emphasize defense. And I'd note that if Chin-Lung Hu's problems this year were vision-related, as they now seem to have been (he's 15 for 34 at Las Vegas since his return from the disabled list), he needs to be reconsidered. Even if he OPSes .650 in the majors. In the absence of offense, infield defense might be the Dodgers' path to victory.
Keep Danny Ardoin as the backup catcher, but if Delwyn Young is going to be out for longer than two weeks, pursue other cheap but more effective pinch-hitting options for the bench.
Have faith in September. This is a deep organization, and there are guys in the minors who can help out.
Believe in your talent. Patience in the younger players has been paying off, in case you haven't noticed.
If there's a good move to be made, based on factors other than batting average and gamerness, make it.
To us, I say, if the Dodgers make a move, keep a cool head, at least when conversing.
July 29 Game Chat
Just makes me smile. I suppose this is rated PG-13 or so.
This beats the trade deadline, any day.
The Pivotal Play
Russell Martin shouted at Hiroki Kuroda to throw to first base on the one-out, fourth-inning comebacker with a runner on third and another runner having broken for second, but Kuroda didn't hear him, Ken Gurnick notes at MLB.com. Unfortunately, as the replays showed, Martin didn't point to first base.
If only Dodger fans were tamer.
"I yelled, 'One, one, one,'" said catcher Russell Martin, instructing Kuroda to throw to first base. "With the crowd, it's hard to communicate. If he doesn't hear the defenders yell, 'Going,' he's taught to turn around and fire [to second base]. The pitcher usually sees a runner breaking, unless it's a late break and that's what happened."
Kuroda threw to second, where John Bowker had already rounded the base. Everyone was safe, and the bases were loaded. After that, despite a strikeout of the sub-.200-hitting Omar Vizquel (who had singled and scored in the previous inning), the roof fell in:
It was a Murphy's Law inning, and yet the Dodgers still almost came back and won. In a game that saw struggling hitters Mark Sweeney and Andruw Jones each get pinch-hit RBIs, that saw Omar Vizquel flail at a grounder Jeff Kent-style, they cut the deficit to one. And then, Kent hit a fly ball to the deepest part of the ballfield, but it just wouldn't go out. And that was that.
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The print edition of the Times sports section today had no advertising. That's the first time I've ever noticed that happening.
So close, so bitterly close ...
July 28 Game Chat
I want to make the playoffs. I believe in October Madness. I don't care if the Dodgers are the lowest-seeded team in the tourney. I want in.
Play for the future or play for the present? Sell or buy? These are false choices. An utterly phony construct. A team like the Dodgers, a team with four-star talent and a nine-figure payroll, doesn't need to choose. The Dodgers can make a longshot bid for the World Series without sacrificing their future. It's not nearly the riddle that some would make it out to be.
I had no emotional reaction to the trade of Jonathan Meloan and Carlos Santana for Casey Blake. I almost had no reaction at all. It was no watershed, no last straw. It's purely a byproduct of an organization whose values are incoherent.
The media, locally and nationally, is choosing the theme of the Dodgers' 2008 season. After Youth vs. Age made a bid for a repeat title, the leader heading into the stretch run is Front Office Dysfunction. Top Dodger execs are in disagreement; the team isn't easy to complete a trade with. This isn't news. It's not important. It's not even interesting. The press is breathless about the Dodgers' foreign relations, yet with few exceptions doesn't question the nonsense, the violence, being unleashed domestically.
Under the leadership of Ned Colletti and Joe Torre, the Dodgers are both arrogant and self-loathing. They over-compensate to a fault. They belong on a therapist's couch not because of their part in any organizational disagreement (disagreement and debate can be productive), not because opposing teams don't know where the buck stops, but because of a maniacal insecurity.
Yes, the Dodger lineup is infused with youth. Young players are everywhere - in the lineup, in the rotation, in the bullpen. It's not that Colletti and Torre don't want the youth to do well. It's that at the sign of trouble, they don't believe. They're on a roller coaster that they want no part of. In their perfect world, there is no youth.
They're addicts, and they can't stay on the wagon. Veteran talent is the drug and it feels so good, even if they wake up emptier than before. The Dodger leadership doesn't have the backbone to stand on its own two feet.
I'm an addict too. I'm not addicted to experience; I'm not addicted to youth either. I'm addicted to having the best possible player in the game, regardless of age. As far as I'm concerned, this is like being addicted to a glass of orange juice each day.
When life is good, Torre and Colletti love the kids. When there is doubt, the veterans benefit - not because they are better, but because they are veterans. Sometimes this is fine. In a pinch, Nomar Garciaparra has helped the Dodgers at shortstop. Casey Blake might hit 10 home runs for the Dodgers at third base in the next two months. Juan Pierre, of all people, might save the Dodgers from the nightmare of Andruw Jones.
But these ifs could apply just as easily to the kids as to the grownups. Age for the sake of age as an operating philosophy? Experience without regard to talent? It's an astonishing blindness. Experience should be a means, but when the chips are down, Colletti and Torre see it as an end. A million World Series veterans within arms reach for some quiet instruction or a pep talk aren't enough for them. They value experience over talent. A first-pitch swing, a strikeout, a botched rundown - any outcome at all - has an entirely different meaning to Torre and Colletti when experienced by a 35-year-old instead of a 25-year-old. The veterans spend an entirely different currency.
Experience will not make anyone better than someone that is better than them. Experience will not save you.
If the Dodgers had handed their team over to every available kid, some things would have gone right and some things would have gone wrong. Meloan might have been worse as a swingman than Chan Ho Park. On the other hand, it's almost mathematically impossible for anyone to have been worse than Mark Sweeney.
But permitting failure by youth strikes Torre and Colletti as the height of irresponsibility. They simply can't allow it on their watch. Veterans, on the other hand, don't fail. They just need more time - which is true enough, since the clock has fewer ticks left for them. It's like a reverse Logan's Run: Life begins at 30.
Except it doesn't.
The Dodgers' dysfunction doesn't center on trade talks. It centers on leadership that hides its eyes as the kids grab the car keys, yet doesn't bat an eye when Grandpa's shaky hand and squinty eyes take the wheel. Colletti and Torre might say they like their team - they might insist that they do - but they don't. It makes them cringe. They have conditioned themselves to believe that youth cannot be trusted in a crisis, even though some of the bravest men and most heroic have been callow. The Dodgers would be better off with John Hughes or Kermit the Frog in charge - with leadership that embraces the follies of youth because of their faith in youth, and that ultimately believes in a meritocracy.
Until the Dodger leadership works through these issues, regardless of what trades might be on the table, they'll always be undermining themselves.
The Dodgers' pitching can win any playoff series. Underdogs? Sure. DOA? No way. The team is one game out of first place, and you know what? I'm too old to thumb my nose at that. The Dodgers should go for it. And they can do it without sacrificing the future, without being desperate. If they fail, it won't be because they weren't experienced enough. It will be because they weren't talented enough. And the talent is there. It has been there all along. Show a little faith - there's magic in the night.
Mad Men: 'Meditations in an Emergency'
Mad Men channels the simultaneous feelings of accomplishment and yearning, of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, that accompany my daily existence in a way that suggests that my psyche is writing it instead of Matthew Weiner - except that my psyche isn't quite so brilliant.
Kershaw X: Kershaq Fu
I'm starting to wonder if these Clayton Kershaw headlines are bad luck.
Anyway, here's a little reverse psychology (via Wikipedia):
Shaq Fu is often cited as one of the worst video games of all time. The reasons for this are mainly concentrated in three areas - poor hit detection, a plot and dialogue that strained the player's suspension of disbelief, and the perceived intention that O'Neal was included as an attempt to boost the game's popularity.
The hit detection on the game is notorious for being extremely frustrating for the player. It is known to only allow hits that occur in the direct center of each character. ... In the June 2007 issue of Game Informer, Shaq Fu was #10 on the "Top 10 Worst Licensed Game Ideas (ever)" in the Connect section. In the same month, ScrewAttack's "Top 10's" series declared it the #1 worst fighting game ever released.
It was #4 worst game on Gametrailers.com's "Top Ten Best and Worst Video games".
Shaqfu.com is dedicated to destroying every copy of Shaq Fu by buying the game from anyone who owns it.
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Oh Really? Yes, O'Malley
Walter O'Malley goes into the National Baseball Hall of Fame today. Induction ceremonies will be broadcast on ESPN Classic and at the Hall's website, and Hall of Fame manager of visitor education James Yasko has a live blog.
DeWitt Sent to AAA
Blake DeWitt will head to AAA Las Vegas to make room for Casey Blake.
DeWitt is one for two with three walks in Las Vegas this season.
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Still not ready to make a final analysis on the trade. Here's another placeholder post.
At the end of the 2002 season, Casey Blake was 28 years old and had 26 career major-league hits (along with 11 walks).
Since that time, he has a .787 OPS. He turns 35 next month.
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So, what do you think is the Dodgers' thinking on Andy LaRoche? Do they think that injuries have sapped his ability? Do they think that his skills just don't translate to the majors? Or do they still have faith in him - just not this year?
I know LaRoche hasn't been impressing them, but I haven't gotten a solid sense of what conclusions they've drawn.
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David Wharton of the Times has a report on Friday's Dodger Stadium shuttle debut.
Dodgers Trade Meloan, Santana for Blake
Traffic on the Eights
In defense of my prediction that Andruw Jones would be benched when Juan Pierre returned, I didn't know that Pierre would be back a week before the end of July. So the trial period for Jones that I described isn't over yet. The benching of Jones could still happen by the time I suggested it would.
In the meantime, I'll say this. Yes, Jones could still improve this season. But what are the chances that he'll improve to the level that already being offered by Andre Ethier, who is benched for tonight (against a left-hander, for what it's worth)?
Tonight is one game, and we'll see what happens after that. But what Dodger manager Joe Torre is doing isn't right, for team performance or for fairness. Ethier has worked too hard (that's what they want, right?) and been too effective to be cast aside. Jones isn't going to hit a homer every three games this year. He is not the player they thought they were getting. He has a long way to go just to match Ethier's performance when other people said Ethier was slumping. Let Jones work his way off the bench like the other Dodger outfielders did.
It's one thing not to make lane changes willy-nilly, but Jones is a SigAlert in the fast lane, an overturned big rig in rush hour. It's time to go around him until AAA doesn't need to tow him.
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Nationals at Dodgers, 7:40 p.m.
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There will be non-permanent layout experiments at Baseball Toaster this weekend. We invite you to roll with it.
Update: Testy Torre (via Ken Gurnick at MLB.com).
Juan Pierre was back in the Dodgers' lineup Friday night, but so was Andruw Jones, which got the media asking pointed questions about Andre Ethier being the odd man out, which got manager Joe Torre a little testy.
"Because that's the way I wrote it down," Torre said, when questioned why Jones and his .166 batting average were in the lineup for the opener of a 10-game homestand and Ethier, batting .277, was not.
When it was suggested that Jones, who volunteered to return early from knee surgery, could return to a Minor League rehab assignment, Torre said: "When you get your team you can run it your way. For now, we'll do it our way."
Torre's brief annoyance with the line of questioning quickly shifted to a reasoned explanation focusing on the fact that Washington was pitching left-handers John Lannan on Friday night and former Dodger Odalis Perez Saturday night. Jones is batting .186 against lefties, Ethier .205. ...
Torre said he met with Ethier and asked for patience. At least for the first two games of this series, Ethier lost his job to a player (Pierre) returning from injury that he originally beat out in spring competition for the Opening Day job, while Jones remains in the lineup despite being a season-long disappointment. Matt Kemp, hitting .290, has pretty much been a starter since Spring Training.
"I told [Ethier] to just bear with me," Torre said. "I also told him how proud I am for how far he's come and just bear with me while I get a feel for how long it's going to take. It can't take a month. We have to make up our minds in smaller increments.
Pierre Activated, Young DLed
The Dodgers activated Juan Pierre and put Delwyn Young on the 15-day disabled list with "a right oblique strain."
I can't tell you how much I don't enjoy writing this. But in the endless history of Juan Pierre hagiography, this piece from Kevin Baxter in the Times deserves special mention.
Pierre, who was batting .277 in 73 games before Angels shortstop Erick Aybar accidentally fell on his knee during a play at second, could be back in the big leagues as early as tonight when the Dodgers, a game back in the National League West, play the Washington Nationals in the opener of a 10-game homestand.
Problem No. 1: We'll start with a low-key but fundamental issue. There are several more useful ways to summarize a player's abilities than batting average. It's like starting off by telling us that my kid is a B student at Hits Per At Bat Elementary.
That's more than two weeks ahead of some doctors' estimates -- but not a moment too soon for the Dodgers, who clearly miss Pierre's speed at the top of the lineup.
This is gonna be tough to prove. The Dodgers have a .550 winning percentage and are averaging 4.75 runs per game since Pierre was hurt - both better than they were doing with him. Now, it's possible that the Dodgers would have done still better with Pierre than with his replacements in the lineup, Delwyn Young, Jason Repko and Andruw Jones. But Baxter has set up the question as an issue of who's batting leadoff.
Although Matt Kemp, who has batted first most often in Pierre's absence, has a .393 on-base percentage and a .532 slugging percentage in the leadoff spot -- both far superior to Pierre's .327 and .318 figures -- he has also struck out nearly a third of the time, and only six of his 22 stolen bases have come when he was batting leadoff.
This is the clip they'll show at the awards ceremony. Talk about being committed to an agenda. The construction of the sentence suggests that Kemp's superior on-base and slugging percentages are less important than a) the kind of outs he makes and b) ...
I tell you, b) deserves its own reward. Baxter is actually knocking Kemp down for having a low percentage of his season stolen bases in the leadoff spot. Kemp has batted leadoff in 22.2 percent of his plate appearances. He has stolen 27.2 percent of his bases in the leadoff spot. I mean, Baxter's measuring stick is not only nonsensical, it actually works against him.
As for a) - in general, strikeouts are no worse an out than any other kind of out. Yes, there are times when a flyball or grounder will advance a runner, just as there are times when those might cause a double play. But overall, there's simply no question which is more important: out types or one's OPS.
The crazy part is that there is no spot in the batting order where strikeouts are less of an issue than the leadoff spot. In the first at-bat of the game, there are literally no runners to advance. In most later at-bats, you're batting after the pitcher's spot. It's simply crazy to suggest that strikeouts are a problem for a leadoff hitter.
Oh, and by the way: Kemp and Pierre have both seen 3.8 pitches per plate appearance this season.
Pierre, meanwhile, is the toughest outfielder in the majors to strike out, and his 35 steals still rank second in the league despite the fact he has missed a month.
"He doesn't give us the power threat that Matt gives us. But he knows how to lead off," said Dodgers Manager Joe Torre, who promised Pierre would be at the top of the order when he returns but did not say where he would play him in the team's crowded outfield. "He's going to make the pitcher work hard and be a threat on the bases. He's a good spark plug for us."
And the Dodgers could certainly use a spark plug. Although they are 11-9 without Pierre, the Dodgers have hit .253 -- slightly below their season average -- during that span, scoring two or fewer runs six times.
Again, Baxter relies on an objectively less relevant stat - batting average - to make his argument. Yet the Dodgers' on-base percentage (.327) and slugging percentage (.402) have both been higher in Pierre's absence.
"He's got speed, he's got everything," said Mike Easler, the former Dodgers batting coach and now their minor league hitting instructor. "He can turn a ballgame around." ...
Pierre doesn't have everything. I mean, we know this. If someone says something that's completely false, the reporter isn't required to accept it. Unless he just wants to.
The thing is, Pierre's return to the lineup could help the Dodgers at this point. They have a serious problem in the outfield right now, so serious that even Pierre might help solve it. And yet, Andruw Jones' name doesn't even appear in Baxter's story.
I understand the reality that Pierre will bat leadoff when he returns to the lineup. But is that what journalism is about? Cobbling together flawed evidence to justify a flawed reality?
There's no reason Kemp has to remain the team's leadoff hitter. The .925 OPS and speed has provided there can be an equal or greater asset in the heart of the order. But to suggest that the leadoff spot has been a problem, that the Dodgers are lacking a spark plug, is irresponsible. And it's not like it's even difficult to see. In fact, the only way you can't see it is if you're so determined to advance a storyline that you'll steamroll your way through it, logic or no logic.
Editorially, it makes sense to write about Pierre's imminent return from the disabled list. Analytically, someone needed to challenge the conclusions in this story before it went to print.
Update: After I wrote this piece, I was thinking about it and realizing that if it weren't for this one part - "and only six of his 22 stolen bases have come when he was batting leadoff" - I might not have bothered writing this morning. Without that portion, you're left with comparing Kemp's batting skills to his strikeouts, which is tiresome but nothing particularly unusual to see. There were other problems with the story, but this line about the stolen bases was just so strange and vexing.
Then, when reading the Times sports section in print, I noticed that the online version was actually edited from this: "while stealing only six bases."
In other words, someone in the sports department - Baxter or an editor - actually gave this portion of the article special attention, for good reason, since criticizing Kemp for stealing "only six bases" in 19 games (a pace for 51 in 162 games) would be ludicrous. Yet the edit doesn't solve the problem, it exacerbates it.
Either that, or the online version was the intended version, and the print version had extra words cut for space, yet preserved the silliness of using Kemp's six steals against him. Neither scenario is very consoling.
End of the Line
Sadly for them, these folks (and others, per Diamond Leung at the Press-Enterprise) will need to ride the trolley to Dodger Stadium ...
Luis Maza has been outrighted to Class AAA Las Vegas.
Infielder Ramon Martinez, who played for the Dodgers from 2006-07, was released from Class AAA Las Vegas.
Class AAA Las Vegas reliever Greg Miller was placed on the disabled list with lower back tightness. ...
Who's on Board?
Hi, I'm Ebbet. You might remember me from your rides with the Blue Crew Fan Club. Maybe you've even colored me in. Well, check out what my big brother is up to ...
The revived Dodger Trolley begins service Friday night. It provides free (thanks to your fellow taxpayers) round-trip service between subway-accessible Union Station and Dodger Stadium's back-of-centerfield parking lots, starting 90 minutes before game time and concluding 60 minutes after the game ends. Buses are scheduled to depart every 10 minutes, with two stops along the way to the stadium, for all remaining home games this year. Could be good (even if it's no Choo Choo Soul).
More details can be found here.
The Story of the Road Trip
Dodger starting pitchers allowed 25 earned runs in 25 2/3 innings. The ballparks played a role. The offense only scored enough runs to win three games. But the offense also bailed the pitching out of what otherwise might have been a 1-5 or 0-6 trip.
Clayton Kershaw got off easy. The combined line for Dodger minor-league prodigies-turned-relievers Greg Miller and Scott Elbert on Tuesday: nine runs (seven earned), three hits, four walks, two hit-by-pitch, one wild-pitch, one-third of an inning. (Rob McMillin's 6-4-2 tipped me.)
Elbert still has a 3.00 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 27 innings this season for Jacksonville. Miller's AAA Las Vegas numbers are almost insane: 45 1/3 innings, 46 strikeouts, 48 walks, 53 hits, 3.58 groundout-airout ratio, 7.94 ERA.
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As God As My Witness ...
After tonight's game, we deserve this:
For Old Times' Sake
There may be one final edition of Dodgers Adult Baseball Camp (or fantasy camp, if you prefer) at Dodgertown in Vero Beach before the franchise leaves there forever. It would take place November 2-8, but first, Dodgertown assistant to the vice president Nancy Gollnick is trying to assess interest. Follow the link and send her an e-mail if you're game.
The first Dodger fantasy camp in Arizona is currently being planned for November 2009.
Kershaw IX: Kershawk the Monkey
Clayton Kershaw was 4 for 15 at the plate this season for Jacksonville, but is 0 for 8 with the Dodgers. Will Coors Field produce his first hit?
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The Dodgers have decided they got what they could out of Eric Stults for now, and have optioned him to make room for Kershaw, writes Diamond Leung of the Press Enterprise. Stults should return by September 2 and could still contribute this year.
Leung adds that Juan Pierre will begin his rehab assignment Wednesday - ahead of schedule.
Scenario: When Pierre is activated, Andruw Jones is "rested." And if Pierre, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier appear not to cave in, Jones continues to get a lot of rest.
Update: From Tony Jackson of the Daily News:
... while Joe (Torre) did say on the one hand that he isn't ready to sit Andruw Jones ... on the other hand, Torre didn't rule out the possibility that Andruw could find himself sitting if this keeps up much longer.
Click the link to Jackson's blog to read Torre's quotes.
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Prediction: Pierre Will Replace Jones
Out since June 29, Juan Pierre is reportedly about 10 days away from a rehab assignment, which I would guess would be short. And then, Joe Torre will have four outfielders for three spots again, Delwyn Young notwithstanding.
Here are their numbers since June 30:
Andre Ethier: .379 on-base percentage, .584 slugging percentage
Matt Kemp: .365 on-base percentage, .519 slugging percentage
Andruw Jones: .255 on-base percentage, .167 slugging percentage
Season totals in EQA:
I was a long-leash guy for Jones. But that leash reaches its limit in two weeks as far as I'm concerned. And I predict that it will for Dodger manager Joe Torre as well. I know it's hard not to be cynical and believe that the younger players aren't vulnerable, but in August of a pennant race, I think the evidence will be too much for anyone to ignore. Jones has until Pierre's return to show us anything. If not, he becomes the fourth outfielder.
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Meanwhile, there's rampant speculation that Andy LaRoche, who reached base in his first three at-bats Monday, is being showcased for a trade. My advice to the Dodgers, as always: Make sure you know how to value what you have. My advice to readers, as always: Don't overreact to rumors.
It's a Good Win
I'm sorry, but I'm not going to be upset that the Dodgers only won by six runs tonight. Yes, you'd like them to coast after being up 16-3 in the fifth. Yes, you'd like to avoid running through the bullpen. But just because you score eight runs in the first inning doesn't mean that this stops being Coors Field for the other team. Clearly, this was a night for scoring, and in the end, the Dodgers won - by a lot. I'm going to disagree with Vin tonight: This was anything but a "frowner."
Kershaw To Start Tuesday
JJJ alternative Clayton Kershaw will be recalled to start Tuesday's game in Denver, various reporters are reporting.
In the meantime, I just have to say, I'm worried about the Rockies. Yes, the Dodgers had a huge day Sunday, but a sweep by Colorado - which just swept Pittsburgh - would put the Rockies only three back of Los Angeles.
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Update: From Josh Rawitch at Inside the Dodgers:
LaRoche will play the entire series...Nomar just a little achy, which is why he's out...Kershaw could be up again soon according to Joe Torre and when he comes up, he's likely up for the rest of the year...Jason Johnson will be the long man out of the bullpen going forward...Sweeney's activation is on hold and we'll have a plan for him by the time the road trip is over...we're looking at a weekend rehab outing for Penny and an early August return to the bigs.
So, Is This What I'll Look Like in 10 Years?
The bizarre on top of the bizarre ...
Today at the Television Critics Association press tour, a man began asking strange questions to NBC execs Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff about the future of Tonight Show host Jay Leno, who will be leaving the show next year. Turns out that this was really Leno himself in beard-and-bald disguise, as part of a planned gag.
I had planned to attend and would have seen this, but had enough work to do after last week's In(law)vasion 2008 that I decided to just head into the office and leave the TCA coverage to the daily staff. And so, my credential was left unclaimed at the press table. Unclaimed, that is, until Leno grabbed it himself to complete his costume.
So if you ever wanted to see a bald Jay Leno wearing my name on a lanyard, the wait is over.
My colleague Stu Levine tells me that at the end of it all, NBC's brass even thanked him - meaning me, only not really - by name. It's a day that will live in famy.
Six of One
Having pushed to reach my filing quota by the end of the fiscal year, I can now proudly celebrate the sixth anniversary of Dodger Thoughts. Six! Thanks to everyone for your support - I really mean it.
Dodgers on July 21, 2002-2007
2006: Cardinals 2, Dodgers 0 (Dodgers 47-50, 3 1/2 games out)
2005: Dodgers 1, Phillies 0 (Dodgers 43-62, 6 1/2 games out)
2004: Rockies 6, Dodgers 5 (Dodgers 54-39, 2 1/2 games up)
2003: Rockies 4, Dodgers 1 (Dodgers 51-47, 10 1/2 games out)
2002: Giants 6, Dodgers 4 (Dodgers 56-43, 1 1/2 games out)
All in a Day's Work
"Veteran Selectivity": Big, patient at-bats by young and old alike keyed the second big Dodger comeback in three days. We're all in this together. (Also, this was an unjinxed rally thread.)
"Gem Webb": It's saying something to note that even as he held the Dodgers to one run over eight innings, Brandon Webb has been better.
"Dodgers Replace Maza with Ozuna": Who scored the tying run.
"Solid State": The winning run was driven in by a very solid, much appreciated Andre Ethier triple.
"Eat at Dave's": The Dodgers spoiled Arizona's home cooking.
"Disaster or Stroke of Genius?" Eric Stults and Jason Johnson lead the Dodgers into Colorado with a first-place tie in the NL West, rather than a deficit.
"If Somehow You Haven't Said Enough About DeWitt and LaRoche, This Is Your Thread": This time, Andy LaRoche silenced the naysayers. You can decide for yourself whether or not it was an honest at-bat.
"Back to It": The kids (mine, that is) played together so nicely this morning that I had time to catch up on a lot of Dodger thoughting today. This afternoon, inspired just a little extra by Tim Brown's column, I played all kinds of games with them - and missed the ninth inning in the process. I like to think that helped the Dodgers in the end.
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Ramon Troncoso had the biggest game of his career, and not just because he got his first major-league win. He faced seven batters, allowing no hits or walks, striking out five - including one that reached base on a wild pitch. The other two outs came on grounders.
In 14 appearances this season, Troncoso has pitched shutout ball 11 times. Since his return to the team in June, he has allowed two runs on nine baserunners in 11 innings while striking out 14 (although he has allowed four of six inherited runners to score).
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San Francisco second baseman Ray Durham has been traded to Milwaukee. He had a down season last year, and he hasn't always come through against the Dodgers, but he's done enough damage to my psyche that I'm happy to see him out of the division.
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Friday Night Lights had its day before the television press today, and there are Season 3 spoilers everywhere. I'm excited for the upcoming episodes (beginning in October), but watch out if you don't want to learn any secrets.
Working the count vs. Brandon Webb in the first three innings today ...
Under 30 average: 5.83 pitches (3.00 balls)
It's just a sampling, but I thought I'd mention it in case someone decides to talk about who can follow The Plan.
In the bottom of the first, Garciaparra and Kent bungled a rundown play. Garciaparra, the shortstop, was chasing a runner back to first base and waited long enough to throw to Kent that Kent bailed out, allowing the runner to make it back safely.
Jones, for his part, nearly created an inside-the-park homer for Stephen Drew in the bottom of the fourth, though Garciaparra bailed him out with a nice throw home.
In 52 innings over the past three seasons against the Dodgers, Brandon Webb has allowed seven runs (1.21 ERA) on 44 hits and 13 walks. He has started seven games, and he is 7-0.
Trivia: Who hit the only Dodger home run in that span? The starting lineup for that game will stir some memories, or embers, or members ...
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Dodgers Replace Maza with Ozuna
The Dodgers announced today they have signed 33-year-old former White Sox infielder Pablo Ozuna (released by Chicago July 8) and designated infielder Luis Maza for assignment.
Ozuna's claim to fame was a 2006 season when he had a 105 OPS+ in 203 plate appearances. Last season, his OPS+ plunged to 47, and this season he was at 71 (18 for 64 with two walks). His career batting average is .285 in 695 plate appearances, but with two home runs and 22 walks.
Career games by position:
74 third base
When he gets a start at third base over Andy LaRoche, it's not going to be pretty. Ozuna is a career .302 hitter against lefties, so if you don't care about walks or homers, he's your guy.
A quote getting a lot of play today, and deservedly so, is this one from Andre Ethier in T.J. Simers' latest for the Times:
"They don't like consistent players in this game unless you're older," Ethier said. "They want to see the young guys flash a lot of stuff or they get impatient."
I think it's a good quote but also obfuscates an issue. It's okay to be inconsistent as long as you get the job done in the end. I don't think Ethier is undervalued because he's "consistent." In fact, Ethier has never struck me as a consistent player. His first summer in the majors he was flashing all kinds of stuff. He's run hot and cold ever since he arrived. The sum of it all: he's a good player.
If we could do a second take, I would have Ethier rephrase thusly:
"They don't like solid players in this game unless you're older," Ethier said. "They want to see the young guys flash a lot of stuff or they get impatient."
Eat at Dave's
This Steve Lopez column in the Times is about a week old, but some of you might have missed it. It highlights Dave Pearson, a longtime chef at Dodger Stadium. The video accompanying the article is worth a gander as well. Vin Scully says that he needs a "decompression chamber" to adjust to food on the road after enjoying a homestand of Pearson's cooking.
Also from last week, in the New York Times, KNBC reporter Doug Kriegel recalled his days as an Ebbets Field hot dog vendor.
Disaster or Stroke of Genius?
Ever since I heard journeyman Jason Johnson would be starting for the Dodgers in Colorado on Tuesday, I've been wondering is there could be a hidden reason why the team's umpteenth best pitcher would be handed the ball at this stage of the season.
Would Clayton Kershaw, James McDonald or Jonathan Meloan be better? Would Brad Penny, who had a pain-free 40 pitches the other day, be a more valuable addition to the roster even if throwing for only a couple of innings?
Here are some Devil's Advocate (or Angel's Advocate, if you prefer) points on JJJ's behalf: 3.82 ERA, 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.28 groundout-airout ratio this season in the hitter-happy Pacific Coast League. By comparison, Eric Stults, whom I've backed as a legitimate 2008 option and who will start at Colorado on Monday, had this resume: 3.59 ERA, 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings, 1.04 GB-air ratio.
McDonald has had a fine season in AA Jacksonville, including a nearly 9.0 K/9, but his groundout ratio is 0.69. Given that you probably don't want him making his first major-league start in Colorado, it makes sense to pass on him at least for this start. Similar issues affect Meloan.
A good case can be made for Kershaw. I'd be up to see what he could do. But I'm not heartbroken over waiting. If Johnson gets bombed, we might see Kershaw, who hasn't allowed an earned run in his past two starts for the Suns, real soon.
And of course, you could just start the game with Hong-Chih Kuo, whose qualifications I shouldn't have to detail at this point.
In any case, the best strategy might be something radical that I'd not normally endorse. Instead of activating Mark Sweeney (which is pretty much plan Z in any good strategy anyway), the Dodgers could use their bullpen depth as a strength and throw the entire staff at the Rockies. Play matchups. Tell your pitchers not to hold back on their stuff in the hopes of coaxing an extra inning out.
In other words, whether or not JJJ is the right choice, lighten his burden as much as possible. The pitcher that gets sent down to make room for Mark Sweeney will actually be more valuable next week.
Update: Good guy alert - Johnson is one, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. "He pitches with an insulin pump, is a true role model to countless diabetics and a tireless charity worker."
If Somehow You Haven't Said Enough About DeWitt and LaRoche, This Is Your Thread
The debate over Blake DeWitt and Andy LaRoche has reached nauseating, intractable, Pierresque levels, with the two sides making no impact on each other. So the only thing I'll pass along is Joe Torre's rationale for his admitted preference for DeWitt, as told to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise:
"A lot of the young guys, if they're not hitting well, will let it affect the other side," Torre said. "He (DeWitt) is pretty grounded.
"It's not affecting his defense. And he's going to give you an honest at-bat." ...
Torre said he was going by "feel" in choosing DeWitt to play the majority of the time.
"It probably worked against LaRoche that I've seen so much of DeWitt," Torre said. "It's not anything against LaRoche. Blake is filling the bill, so to speak."
Look, there's no two ways about it. LaRoche lost his job due to injury. There's nothing to indicate that LaRoche gives you a dishonest at-bat, or that he lets his hitting struggles affect his fielding. DeWitt just got a chance to earn his way into Torre's good graces. These things can change in a minute, but that's the story for now.
Back to It
Well, I've survived In(law)vasion 2008 and now have to get back in the regular swing of things. With my Google Reader list numbering more than 1,000 stories, that's going to take some effort. But here's a short one to start: I remember when Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports was a regular ol' bachelor. Now he's showing us how you conquer Cats in the Cradle Syndrome with this hit-you-where-you-live piece on taking his kindergarten-age son to Yankee Stadium 10 years ago. My two oldest are on either side of kindergarten, after all.
July 19 Game Chat
All even, 66-game season, thanks to Friday's happy ending...
July 18 Game Chat
JV Division Heats Up
In our little corner of the baseball world, this is the start of something big: showdown after showdown with Arizona. In the words of Steve Martin, "Are you feelin' it?"
Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News wants to know what readers of this site think about KABC's Sunday night sportstalk show with Ken Levine and Josh Suchon. In an e-mail, he asked:
What is their take on the show so far this season? Especially when compared to past seasons? Do they like the two-man combo - especially this two-man team - versus the single broadcaster taking calls? Maybe compare it to those who've done it in the past - Ross Porter, A Martinez, etc.
2008 Emmy Nominations Chat
Mad Men made it, which was my main concern ...
'The Running Novelist'
... Once I began my life as a novelist, my wife and I decided that we'd go to bed soon after it got dark and wake up with the sun. To our minds, this was a more natural, respectable way to live. We also decided that from then on we'd try to see only the people we wanted to see, and, as much as possible, get by without seeing those we didn't. We felt that, for a time at least, we could allow ourselves this modest indulgence. ...
Thanks to this pattern, I've been able to work efficiently now for twenty-seven years. It's a pattern, though that doesn't allow for much of a night life, and that sometimes makes relationships with other people problematic. People are offended when you repeatedly turn down their invitations. But, at that point, I felt that the indispensable relationship I should build in my life was not with a specific person but with an unspecified number of readers. My readers would welcome whatever life style I chose, as long as I made sure that each new work was an improvement over the last. And shouldn't that be my duty - and my top priority - as a novelist? I don't see my readers' faces, so in a sense my relationship with them is a conceptual one, but I've consistently considered it the most important thing in my life.
In other words, you can't please everybody.
Even when I ran the club, I understood this. A lot of customers came to the club. If one out of ten enjoyed the place and decided to come again, that was enough. If one out of ten was a repeat customer, then the business would survive. To put it another way, it didn't matter if nine out of ten people didn't like the club. Realizing this lifted a weight off my shoulders. Still, I had to make sure that the one person who did like the place really liked it. In order to do that, I had to make my philosophy absolutely clear, and patiently maintain that philosophy no matter what. This is what I learned from running a business. ...
- Haruki Murakami
Russell Martin in for a few innings; Takashi Saito out for six weeks. Those two pieces of news came at about the same time during Tuesday's All-Star Game. The first ended up being an underestimation, and it's hard to think that the second isn't a lowball figure as well.
The plan is to "reevaluate" Saito near the end of August - in other words, the Dodgers aren't even counting on a recovery by then. We're going to be very much in team spirit in turning blue, because we'll be holding our breath so long on Saito.
Saito was a gift to us, but it's still a tough way to lose one of our most beloved recent Dodgers. The good news is that Dodger general manager Ned Colletti said he would look in-house both to fill Saito's status (Jonathan Broxton) and his roster spot. Since Saito himself was discovered on the cheap - as opposed to, say, Danys Baez and Lance Carter - this seems like a good lesson learned.
Quite an exciting two days of exhibition baseball (including quite a showcase for ex-Dodgers). I have to say, though, that once again, starting national-appeal games well after 8 p.m. on the East Coast is another example of baseball shooting itself in the foot. Even if the game doesn't go extra innings, you're not even allowing East Coast viewers 2 1/2 hours of viewing before the 11:00 hour. Give up some money on the front end, start the game no later than 7:30 or 8, and give yourself a chance of showing more viewers a tell-your-friends finish that'll keep 'em coming back for more.
A Canadian Dodger in King Yankee's Court
Loved that at-bat Russell Martin had off Mariano Rivera just now in the All-Star Game's 10th inning for a single - and the way he chugged to third on Miguel Tejada's hit-and-run chopper. He deserved to score the winning run, but a double play killed the inning.
A Midsummer's Dose of Doggett and Lacy
Bob Timmermann and The Griddle have a Dodger recap from 1972.
No Runs, No Drips, No Errors
Another headline that tests if you are of a certain age ...
So, I guess I missed the biggest swinging at the Derby since Big Bad Voodoo Daddy ...
If their cup can string together a connection with my cup, you can eavesdrop on my conversation with Ken Levine and Josh Suchon on KABC AM 790 at about 7:30 tonight.
July 13 Game Chat
Start your comments with an S to save sore-armed Takashi Saito. Sigh.
July 12 Game Chat
Big family week coming up, so posting could be light ...
It's Official: Dodgers Out of Vero Beach
The Dodgers have officially terminated their facility use agreement with Dodgertown in Vero Beach, reported The Associated Press.
"I guess there's no particular place in the world - including my home - that holds more memories for me than Dodgertown," Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully said Friday in the Dodger Stadium press box that bears his name.
"I've been going there for 59 years, and just imagine the parade of players, coaches, newspapermen, owners and managers that went through there. So it really has always been cherished ground for me. But nothing is forever, and it was time. I mean, that was hallowed ground for the Brooklyn Dodgers. But it should be closer to Los Angeles, so I'm all for it. To me, there's no deep sentiment. I'm not touched by leaving there." ...
Scully, who had former Dodgers coach Leo Durocher as a roommate at Dodgertown for several years, is one of a handful of Dodger luminaries over the years who have been honored with a street named after him in Vero Beach. This spring, he asked Callan to save him one of the signs that say "Vin Scully Way."
"It's one of those things that would be nice to have," Scully said. "I'll hang it on the front door of the house and really confuse the mailman."
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Things That Went Wrong for the Dodgers That Have Nothing To Do with Listening Skills
In no particular order:
1) Rafael Furcal was injured.
But by all means, let's blame those insufferable kids who can't listen for everything the kids who represent a great deal of everything that's good about the 2008 Dodgers. Players are getting hurt left and right, players are old, players are ill-chosen but who cares? The kids aren't perfect, so they must be the problem.
You know, in my own life, I'm not accomplishing everything I wanted to. I think I'll blame my kids. Because I've seen other 3- and 5-year-olds who are perfect. So it must be my kids' fault.
Look, you can trade Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and Carney's for all I care if you can get a proper return. But good luck trying. In the meantime, if you're going to scapegoat, get a clue. This isn't my approach, but if you want to advocate a culture that espouses professionalism, responsibility and effectiveness, then demand the release of Andruw Jones. If it's those values that matter, if you want that kind of shape-up-or-ship-out integrity, blame Jones for reporting to the team without any of them.
Otherwise, just shut up.
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This post from Joe Posnanski features two of my favorite people in the world: Bruce Springsteen and Chuck Culpepper. Or three, if you count Rosalita.
July 10 Game Chat
Is the Dodger Front Office Any More Dysfunctional Than the National Media Covering It?
Here are two separate issues:
1) There's X amount of dysfunction in the Dodger front office.
Z what I mean?
The Dodgers may be prudent, or they may be paralyzed, or some combination of the two. Whatever the case, inaction is not by definition a bad thing, any more than action is. If reasonable or even unreasonable minds disagree on making a move, maybe the move shouldn't be made.
Knocking a pitching-rich, offensively challenged team for not trading a hitter for CC Sabathia or Jack Wilson needs to be supported by more than rants of "Who's running the show?" The Dodgers are a difficult trading partner? Good, if that means they're going to be less stupid than they have sometimes been in the past.
I don't know all the details of the past week, but I do know this. The Dodgers exist to win baseball games and please their fans. They do not exist to make other teams' or other journalists' lives more interesting.
In the past five games at Dodger Stadium, there has been a no-hitter, a one-hitter and a two-hitter - and the Dodgers have won all three (with a caveat). Even Chad Billingsley held Atlanta hitless for the first four innings Tuesday; the Braves went 0 for 36 in the first four innings of their series in Los Angeles. Great job, moundsmen!
My Modeling Debut with a Model Mom
The picture above was taken at our old house in Encino in 1969. I'm the happy little lad on the left on my mother's knees. At some point, I'm told, the photo was sent to Redbook magazine, which was planning a beauty makeover story. My mom was one of three women selected as subjects.
Mattingly's Return Official
The Dodgers officially announced that Don Mattingly will assume the role of hitting coach after the All-Star Break, with Mike Easler being reassigned within the organization. I've seen some people suggest that this is a demotion for Easler, and I suppose if it had been decided he was doing a gangbusters job, they might have done something else with Mattingly, but it's not as if Easler wasn't an interim fill-in for Mattingly to begin with.
Easler was the hitting coach at Jacksonville in 2006 and Las Vegas in 2007.
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A Month of O'Malley Honors Gets Underway
Walter O'Malley will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 18 days. Getting a jump on the celebration, the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission unveiled a bronze plaque in his honor. Ross Porter emceed the ceremony.
"My Dad would have been very proud of this recognition in the Coliseum Court of Honor and especially expressed his gratitude to the Coliseum Commission for making it possible for the Dodgers to play at the historic Coliseum for four seasons," said Peter O'Malley, President, Los Angeles Dodgers from 1970-98. "From the very beginning in Los Angeles, fans have had a love affair with the Dodgers that has become generational. It started with the unique baseball dimensions at the Coliseum and with fans listening to broadcasters Vin Scully and Jaime Jarrin (both Hall of Famers) on their transistor radios." ...
Some other notables who have been recognized with the "Coliseum Court of Honor" include: Knute Rockne (1955), "Pop" Warner (1956), Baron Pierre de Coubertin (1958), "Babe" Didrickson (1961), President John F. Kennedy (1964), Amos Alonzo Stagg (1965), Cardinal McIntyre & Mary's Hour (1966), Daniel Reeves (1972), Kenneth Washington (1972), Francis "Frank" Leahy (1974), Jesse Owens (1984), Pope John Paul II (1987), Pete Rozelle (1998), Jim Murray (1999), John McKay (2001), Jackie Robinson (2005), Vin Scully (2008) and John Wooden (2008).
In related news, induction ceremonies for the Baseball Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals will take place at 2 p.m. July 20 in a public ceremony at the Pasadena Central Library. Admission is free. Buck O'Neil, Emmett Ashford, and Bill Buckner are being honored.
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Joe Torre shared some of his thoughts about the leadoff spot with Brian Kamenetzky of Blue Notes. An excerpt:
Torre: His (Matt Kemp's) on-base percentage right now is pretty good. I've had some unorthodox leadoff hitters through the years. Before I came here, where we have a couple with Furcal and Pierre, I've had one guy over the years that really I was comfortable with as a leadoff hitter, and that was Chuck Knobloch, and all of a sudden he stopped trying to steal bases. I had Jeter, who was a free swinger. Soriano, and we all see how much of a free swinger he is. Early on with the Yankees, we had Tim Raines, whose speed wasn't what it once was. The thing is you get somebody up there you don't mind getting extra at bats, (but) I think you have to have the ability to run the bases and steal bases.
BK: Not to pick on Juan, whose OBP was far lower through June, as a manager is there any preference to having that more traditional guy, even if it's with a lower OBP, does that offer something that the other way doesn't?
Torre: On-base percentage is important. Juan is not going to walk. The pitcher's going to say "here, I dare you to hit it," because he hits mainly singles. Matt, they'll be a little more careful because he has a little more punch. In Juan's case, you'll accept a little lower on-base percentage because you know when he gets on base he can do some damage because he's an accomplished base stealer, and he certainly knows how to hit, and this year we've had a bonus in that he's knocked in (runs). His batting average with men in scoring position is terrific. He's gotten up that extra time, and the fact we've had men on base, he's done a good job for us.
Spring Training 2009 Update
Next Tuesday is the deadline for the Dodgers to formally notify county officials representing Vero Beach about their intentions to move to Glendale, Arizona for Spring Training 2009, Laurel Scheffel of TCPalm.com reminds us.
"As of right now, it does look good (for the facility to open on time in 2009)," Dodgers vice president of spring training and minor league facilities Craig Callan said. "... The decision is not up to me, but we will definitely notify Indian River County by July 15."
The Dodgers will face a $575,000 fine for economic damages if they do not return to Vero Beach in 2009 without notification by Tuesday. ...
Although the (Arizona) facility's Nov. 19 groundbreaking was later than originally anticipated, the construction crews are making up lost time by working double shifts each day, he said.
Almost all the stadium walls are up and the two-acre pond that divides the ballpark is almost completely filled, which will provide irrigation for the fields currently being prepped for sodding.
"Everything is moving at lightning speed," Callan said. "There has been a lot of transformation out there in the last couple months."
Julie Frisoni, communications director for the city of Glendale, said the construction company, M.A. Mortenson, is sending a letter to the city guaranteeing the facility will be done in time for 2009 spring training.
However, if the Tuesday deadline passes without a change to the timeline and the ballpark is not finished by the start of spring training, Glendale will be required to pay the teams a fine of $250,000 per game, minus what the teams recoup playing elsewhere. ...
Meanwhile, Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald tracks the Baltimore Orioles' progress toward a move to Vero Beach for Spring Training 2009 or 2010.
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Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News understandably found it odd that in Tuesday's 12 noon FSN Prime Ticket replay of Monday's near-perfect game by Hiroki Kuroda, the lone hit (by Mark Texeira of Atlanta) was edited out - especially considering that the replay broadcast was only three minutes shorter than the game itself.
July 8 Game Chat
Captain Jon's Happy Funtime Parade
Pick your favorite Dodger starting nine - regardless of ability. Who would make the starting lineup of players you liked the most?
Get Manny Mota off the bench. Trade for Pedro Martinez. Give Abraham Lincoln "Sweetbreads" Bailey the spotlight he deserves. Show us the lineup that would bring the biggest smile to your face.
Here's my working lineup, subject to revision:
Vin Scully, CF
Dodger Thoughts Picnic: August 16 at Elysian Park
The Dodger Thoughts picnic will take place August 16 at Elysian Park, a Raul Mondesi throw from Dodger Stadium. For the second year in a row, Dodger Thoughts commenter BHsportsguy has taken the lead in carrying out the logistical work, reserving Section 1A of the park for the event.
The picnic itself is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., though BH tells me that he'll have some sort of breakfast treat for those who arrive as early as 9:30 a.m. to keep him company as he locks down the site from pirates. Otherwise, it's bring your own food and, as they were officially called in college, EANAABs (Equally Attractive Non-Alcoholic Alternative Beverages). Alcohol is not permitted in the park. There are barbecues and picnic benches.
In addition, you're welcome to hang out after the picnic is over - the Dodgers host the Brewers that night at 7:10. (Just note, of course, that I take no responsibility for any injuries suffered during the picnic, with or without me there. The chance for injuries has decreased, however, because there won't be a softball diamond - though there is room for Wiffle ball or maybe Over the Line.)
I hope people will enjoy the informal gathering. We won't have a game to distract us, but I hope (for better or worse) it makes mingling a little easier for a change.
The map below shows you where the entire park is. As we get closer to the date, I'll pass along the most specific driving instructions possible. So we can get something of a headcount, please let me know by e-mail or in the comments below if you plan to attend - thanks!
Dodgers in 2-D
"Play Ball! Images of Dodger Blue, 1958-1988," a photo exhibit drawing exclusively from the Los Angeles Public Library's historic photo collection (that includes pics from the old Herald Examiner archives), opens July 12 at the downtown Central Library and runs through November 9 in the first floor galleries.
Few of these images have been seen in public since the Herald folded two decades ago. In addition, Dodger team historian Mark Langill will give a talk at noon on August 13.
Just One Look: Kuroda Just Misses Perfect Game
Absolutely leaving the Braves punchless for most of the game and threatened only on a couple tough infield plays through seven innings, Hiroki Kuroda lost his bid for a perfect game Monday when Mark Texeira doubled in the top of the eighth. Instead, he settled for his second brilliant game of the season, a one-hit, no-walk, 28-batter, 123-minute shutout of Atlanta.
Kuroda averaged under 10 pitches per inning for much of the game, finishing with 91. He didn't allow a fly out until the final batter of the fifth inning, and ended up getting 21 of the 28 batters to strike out or ground out.
Blake DeWitt's charging barehand pick-and-throw of a Gregor Blanco bunt in the seventh (and no, I'm not bothered by the attempt) was the biggest heartstopper of the night and seemed to hint that everything might break Kuroda's way. But on a 2-2 pitch the next inning, Texeira sent one down the right-field line, far from Matt Kemp's reach.
Nomar Garciaparra's two-run homer in the fifth inning spared the Dodgers the agony of being shutout during Kuroda's attempt. Imagine: If Kuroda had gotten the perfect game, Garciaparra would have had game-winning homers in this and the 4+1 game - both of which put the Dodgers in first place in the National League West. Oh yeah, that's right. First place. It counts. At least, tonight.
Congrats to Kuroda!
Who Are These Guys, Ken Whiffy, Jr.?
Dodger centerfielders are on pace to strike out 197 times this season.
And now, to the main event:
Update: Tom Meagher of The Fifth Outfielder runs a marathon response to Ned Colletti's recent interview with Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise.
Pondering the Next Step of Dodger Thoughts
Let me first begin with a quick progress report on my book, 100 Things Dodger Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die. I'm roughly two-thirds done with the first draft, which is something of an achievement, yet doesn't leave me a whole lot of cushion for the October 1 copy deadline. Next week's In(law)vasion 2008 will eliminate about 10 days of writing, and then I'll be gunning to finish the rest of Draft 1 by September 1, so that I can have a month for revisions, which are critical.
It's been exceedingly enjoyable to work on, except for the time pressure. Discovering new tids and tidbits about subjects I thought knew inside and out, or finding great quotes buried in the archives, has been as much a pleasure as getting a Dodger Dog grilled just right. But the labor of sitting down almost daily to start researching a new topic turns me into something of a zombie from time to time. The pattern has been to stay up well past midnight every other night (knowing that the kids start rising about 6:30 a.m.), then try to recoup some sleep in between.
I've actually developed an idea for a second book along the way, something less fragmented than the current project, although I don't know if I should be trying to dive back into long-form writing immediately. In fact, when I'm not obsessing over 100 Things, I have been wondering what my next move should be. I've had one question that I finally decided to throw out to you all. Is there some level of content for Dodger Thoughts that would encourage you to commit to a donation, something equivalent to the cost of a hardcover book?
I have no plans to take this site behind a subscription wall; donations would still remain voluntary. I know that people like things online to be free. Plus, there are several other Dodger blogs out there with worthwhile content I'm just one of the gang now. Still, I'm wondering if there's anything readers would pay for. More frequent posts? More game wrap-ups? More minor-league coverage? More coverage of other baseball teams or other Los Angeles sports teams? More historical pieces? More commenter-oriented activities? More updated content on the sidebar (for once)? Or would "more" anything just be overkill?
My thinking is this: As you can imagine, I only get a small fraction of gross revenue from each book sold. But as the owner of Dodger Thoughts, to put it bluntly, I would get it all. That would justify a greater investment of my time in the site. Heck, if there were enough interest, I could even start paying a fraction for guest pieces maybe even start building a real live sports section but we're getting ahead of ourselves. Essentially, Dodger Thoughts has the potential of surpassing a book as a much more rewarding business model for everyone. I earn enough money to stop the site from being a financial sinkhole, I don't quite have to stop exercising for the rest of my life to make ends meet, and you not only don't have to wait 6-12 months to read my work in print form, but you get more Dodger Thoughts than before.
Anyway, just thinking out loud here. As you know, I've never been in this site for the money. I've always wanted the money, but I've never expected it. At the core, I do enjoy writing about the Dodgers. If you enjoy reading, let me know what you think about trying make even more of this site. Is this the limit, or a platform? You can tell me if Dodger Thoughts will always remain free to be, you and me.
(If you're not a commenter but would like to e-mail me on this subject, please do.)
When the Dodgers got off to a 22-4 start in 1977, Sports Illustrated sent Larry Keith to see why they were so up. A fella by the name of Ron Cey had a lot to do with it.
Among other things, though, there was this detail about playing the Dodger starting eight as a unit throughout Spring Training, which I don't recall ever hearing about.
Lasorda insists the daily lineup card explains everything. "They're winning because they're outstanding," he says. "I'm not surprised by our success at all." Lasorda does admit he may have expedited matters some by working his eight regulars Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Smith, Cey, Steve Garvey, Monday, Baker and Yeager as a unit all through spring training. Before the preseason schedule began, Lasorda kept them on their own private practice field, where they got plenty of extra batting practice and could train, he says, like heavyweights preparing for a championship fight. He started the eight in the first intrasquad game and again in the exhibition opener. All spring he played them together and rested them together; they became a single body with eight equal parts. When it was suggested last week that the Mets might want to break the unit up by trading slugger Dave Kingman for Baker, Lasorda replied, "If I have any say, the answer will be no. And I do have the say."
I still suspect the talent thing had more to do with the Dodgers' success, but the anecdote adds to my nostalgia for that team.
An Ironic Burst of Optimism About Sports Fans Online
I'm pretty sure it's been said recently that sports fans on the Internet have no shame, morals, ethics, common courtesy or some combination of the above. But apparently, when we go to the games themselves, we're princes - or so the Dodgers are kind enough to believe (or naive enough to hope).
Dylan Hernandez of the Times has a follow-up story on the previously mentioned TravelZoo promotion that makes available tickets for this week's Dodger home games at prices as low as $3. He writes:
Under the latest promotion, offered by Dodgers.com to Travelzoo.com members, $16 reserved seats cost $3, $20 lower reserved seats $6, $28 infield reserved $9 and $50 field box seats $18. To purchase tickets, fans can log onto (the site) and use the promotion code TZOOJULY.
Steve Shiffman, the Dodgers' vice president of ticket sales, said the method of distributing tickets wouldn't attract the kind of fans who misbehaved and prompted the cancellation of the once-popular promotion that included $2 right-field pavilion seats on Tuesday nights.
Because this promotion is Internet-based, Shiffman said, "You're targeting an affluent crowd, a computerized crowd."
I'm making no predictions whatsoever for this week's games, but I'm not convinced that the Internet is a rich man's playground or that drunken louts can't click the little blue link. However, I sincerely hope for the best, because it's true - we're not all Deadspin commenters. Nice to get the benefit of the doubt for a change!
And yes, by the way, it does appear that TravelZoo is getting sufficient publicity for its efforts.
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Howard Cole of Baseball Savvy got some nice ink tonight about his quest for a Sandy Koufax statue at Dodger Stadium in a Times package concerning monuments at baseball parks.
LaRoche Would Gladly Pay You Tuesday for a Chance To Play Today
Andy LaRoche has 40 plate appearances in the 23 games the Dodgers have played since his callup. Twice, he has started a season-high two games in a row. Each game he has homered in, he has been benched the following day.
He has a .791 OPS as a starter despite batting .174 on balls in play - he has struck out only four times. So he has been relatively successful as a starter. Beyond that, the complaints that he doesn't get a fair chance to play, to get in a groove, are legitimate.
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July 5 Game Chat
Link to come ... watching The Music Man.
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Update: Dodgers at Giants, 6:05 p.m.
Dodger Stadium At Bat
It's about to be Dodger Stadium's turn at Big League Stew's Big Ballpark Review at Yahoo! Sports, and blogger Kevin Kaduk wants your input:
Think about whatever park it is you call home and think about about the things that make it special. If you had guests in town, where would you take them before the game? Where would you take them after? How would you get there? What seats would you sit in and what would you order from the concession stand? If you were to get up from your seats, what would you show them? If you have an idea, make sure to send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is only one rule for the BBR and it's that there's no such thing as too much information. ... Don't be afraid to attach a picture. Be funny in your descriptions. Be creative. Tell us what each thing means to you. Tell us a personal story about it. ...
The scheduled deadline is Tuesday, so that Kaduk can run the review Wednesday. Here's the Camden Yards review to give you more of an idea. Remember - whatever you've got, don't just leave in the comments. Send it on through to the Stew.
Myths 'R' Us
The Dodgers won today for the 11th time in their past 17 games, moving within a half-game of first place if Arizona doesn't stage a second ninth-inning miracle in a row, thanks to contributions from players that have been boosted in these parts for a long time now. They also won today thanks to contributions from Nomar Garciaparra, who has been maligned.
But if you'll recall, Garciaparra was criticized in context. Last spring, I didn't feel that he should be the first baseman ahead of James Loney, and suggested that he be moved to third base. But the Dodgers insisted that was impossible, simply out of the question - until they moved him to third base.
I'm more than happy to see what Garciaparra can do at shortstop, though I share the skepticism that he can remain healthy. I do see his presence in the lineup as a definite boost in the absence of Rafael Furcal. But it makes me wonder about other ideas the Dodgers convince themselves are true, based on non-existent or even conflicting evidence.
I could go on, which is pretty sad. This post has some urgency I gotta say, life is sweeter when the Dodgers are winning - it really, truly makes me happy to a disproportionate degree - but it's a nagging worry that you can't trust the organization to truly understand what's working for them.
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Which brings me to Bill Plaschke of the Times: Are we supposed to think this is for real?
Part of the reason that Paul DePodesta was fired from his job as the previous Dodgers general manager was because, during his final aborted managerial search, he did not even inquire about the availability of Scioscia.
I read this 24 hours ago and tried not to write about it, but it's really been bugging me. In what universe could the Dodgers have possibly gotten Scioscia out of his Angels contract to manage the team - a team that unceremoniously gave him the boot. In what universe was Scioscia going to leave Arte Moreno to work for Frank McCourt - or for that matter, if he was such a lowlife in your eyes, DePodesta? And why are we hearing about this for the first time now, 2 1/2 years after DePodesta was fired?
I realize providing a source for these kinds of statements would be too much to ask, but could they at least pass the credulity test? It's bad enough that Plaschke has written another column suggesting that the Dodgers would be in first place if they had 25 Blake DeWitts. Nothing personal against DeWitt, but if that philosophy is true, I'm available for center field. I'm a hard worker and a great listener. I'll even get a sitter for the kids.
Yeah, it makes that much sense.
Doing the little things are great. They're valuable. Doing the big things are more valuable. Yes, David beat Goliath, but not over 162 games. If the DeWitts and the Juan Pierres are working as hard as they can and still aren't as good as the so-called lolligaggers - a group that somehow manages to include Russell Martin, among others - do I really need to spell out which group is more critical to winning?
Show us that the little things are more valuable. Are we to believe that the Angels have more ballplayers than the Dodgers, but less talent? Prove it.
I also remain incredulous that the core of younger Dodger players has been, in Plaschke's word, "coddled," considering that except for Martin, they were demoted, benched and put down in the press at every opportunity for much of the past two years. Loney, Kemp and Ethier always hit and field in the long run, yet for Plaschke it's all about the missing grounder to second base. Even Chad Billingsley, the best young pitcher in the National League West this side of Tim Lincecum, can hardly draw an ounce of respect in this town.
I sort of operate under the premise that I implicitly agree to disagree with Plaschke, considering how differently we see things with the Dodgers. He's doing his job as he sees it, and I'm doing mine, and he's not going to care about what I say, so why bother challenging him? But when I see a column like this one, it isn't clear to me that it has a requisite amount of fairness. Or maybe DePodesta should have checked to see if Miller Huggins would interview for Jim Tracy's job.
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According to Dylan Hernandez of the Times, Joe Torre believes that Mark Sweeney's strained right hamstring, which has reportedly been bothering the struggling pinch-hitter for the past month, has been a factor in his poor performance. If that's true, why wait until now to put him on the disabled list?
You see what I mean? Either the Dodgers have made an utterly phony DL move, or they've been just pointlessly slow in reacting to signs of trouble.
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Okay, enough moaning.
Dara Torres who was a senior at our sister school Westlake when I was a senior in high school at Harvard, will be going to the Olympics next month at age 41. I want to express my completely unearned pride her in achievement. I also went in the pool today, but spent much of the time doing somersaults, which I guess qualifies me for half a synchronized swimming team.
Anyway, big congrats, Dara.
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Update: Radio announcer Brad Golder of the Dodgers' affiliate in Great Lakes has been interviewed by David Laurila of Baseball Prospectus.
DL: Who is the best player wearing a Great Lakes Loons uniform right now?
BG: I think that Andrew Lambo, hands down, is the best prospect, and the best player, on this team. He's a hitter who can go to all fields with power, especially gap-doubles type power. He's also a real competitor. For some players there's an intangible you see when you're with them on a day-to-day basis, and with Andrew that's a swagger and confidence. He's an above-average defender in left; he gets good jumps on the ball, despite the fact that this is his first full year playing left field. He's probably a better defensive first baseman, but we have hardly seen him there, because with James Loney at first for the Dodgers, I think they see the future for Lambo as a left fielder. And I think he'll be well above adequate there, but his strength is hitting. He's a left-handed hitter who hits lefties better than righties, and he can go to all fields. He's the guy you want at the plate late, when the game is on the line, because he's far and away this team's best hitter.
Baseball Has Something for Everyone!
As I write this, Matt Holliday has just hit a grand slam in Colorado to cut Florida's lead to 17-16 with none out in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Meanwhile, Arizona and San Diego were scoreless (and then some) through five innings. San Diego has pushed across two in the top of the sixth.
Happy Independence Day ... From the Dodgers
Before today's game at San Francisco, two players will indeed be emancipated, at least temporarily, to make room for Andruw Jones and Nomar Garciaparra - assuming the latter can get past the gettin'-out-of-bed hurdle. (Don't laugh - I wake up backsore all too often.)
Remember back in April when games with the Giants were supposed to be gimmees? Not quite that simple, is it?
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By the way, the other day when talking about shortstops, I forgot to mention Ramon Martinez as a candidate to help back up the position. I realized this in the comments Thursday, but Martinez was recently reactivated at Las Vegas.
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Tim Brown writes at length about Dodgers assistant general manager Kim Ng and female baseball executives in general at Yahoo! Sports.
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Dodger Pitching in Three Parts
Update: Chad Billingsley now has a lower ERA this season (3.12) than Brandon Webb. Among NL West pitchers, only Tim Lincecum and Dan Haren are better than, as Dodger Thoughts commenter Nate Purcell (and before that, commenter Sporky!) calls him, "His Royal Thighness."
Kent Leaves Game With Injury
Jeff Kent left today's game with back stiffness, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, who added that Kent was "smiling as he reached the bench and did not appear to be in distress."
Six to eight weeks? Just kidding.
DL Deletion: Jones, Garciaparra To Be Activated Friday
Tony Jackson of the Daily News has a great quote from Dodger assistant general manager Kim Ng on the accelerated return of Andruw Jones and Nomar Garciaparra on Friday.
As for whether club officials have any concerns about what this will mean for Nomar's left calf and Andruw's surgically repaired right knee, assistant GM Kim Ng said. "We always have concerns. That is our job, to be concerned."
There's a quote from a movie or TV show this reminds me of, but it is on the run from Jonny Brain.
Jackson and others add that conversely, Brad Penny's return from the DL has been postponed to give him time to get better command.
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Furcal To Have Surgery - On to Plan G
My dad had severe back problems a few years back that made surgery seem inevitable. He worked his way through without having it, but then again, he wasn't trying to play shortstop for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Rafael Furcal is, however, and he'll have surgery Thursday to relieve pressure on a disc. He'll be out at least two more months. I haven't written much about the shortstop situation since he's been hurt because frankly, I'm at a loss. There's what we call a dearth out there, and it hasn't helped that backup plans Chin-Lung Hu, Tony Abreu, Luis Maza, Angel Berroa and Nomar Garciaparra haven't yet been able to fill the gap. I mean, the gap is like this (my arms are stretched real wide), and they've been like this (real close now).
Garciaparra is working his way back to the active roster in theory, but in the Associated Press article linked above, you can see even Joe Torre doesn't believe he can play every day. A trade is possible, though the outfielders and third basemen are probably safe for now given Juan Pierre's injury and the lack of alternatives at the hot corner. More likely, a pitcher would be the bait.
But I don't get into trade speculation - too many unknowns. What I can do is bring up a name that others in the comments have been brandishing for a few days: Ivan DeJesus, Jr. I've ignored him as a possibility because it would be way ahead of schedule for a 21-year-old with 80 games of experience at AA to become the starter for a Dodger team that, believe it or not, is only 1 1/2 games out of first place. But this is the year of Blake DeWitt, and so we can't say that stranger things haven't happened.
DeJesus (and isn't he a nice-looking lad) has an on-base percentage of .420 in the minors for Jacksonville this season - and Jacksonville isn't known for its offense. That's nearly a 50-point improvement from his 2007 season in A ball. I don't think it's stretching things to say that this is a big leap forward, and I don't know how much to trust it. But it does at least make it viable that he could be worth a shot in the majors. Forgive me, but I couldn't resist making this perhaps irrelevant comparison: Russell Martin had a .361 OBP in A ball at age 21 and improved to .430 in AA ball at age 22. Of course, Martin didn't come to the Dodgers until the following year, when he started the season in AAA. But the Dodgers don't need DeJesus to hit like Martin. They just need him to hit like a sentient being.
I'm always partial to giving the in-house option a shot before looking outside for help. Independent of that, what I'd really like to see is the Dodgers lose their dependence on offense from their shortstop. With Pierre out, the Dodger outfield has a chance to be more productive. (I won't get into Andruw Jones apparently imminent return, because again, that's too much of a wild card right now.) But it would sure help if the Dodgers could get their young third basemen to hit, to take the pressure off their potentially even younger shortstop. One weak bat in the lineup before the pitcher, the team can handle.
For at least a few days more, it could be Luis Maza and Angel Berroa holding down the fort, and then Garciaparra stepping in. But DeJesus, I suspect, could outplay Maza and Berroa now. So maybe his time is coming, even if it's as a part-timer. DeJesus is scheduled to play in the Futures Game July 13. It sure would be something if he were called up before then.
Update: Last year, Chin-Lung Hu had a .380 on-base percentage but a .508 slugging percentage at AA, at age 23. I don't think we saw the real Hu on offense this season.
Let the Record Show: Kershaw's First Stint in L.A. a Success
Clayton Kershaw is headed back to Jacksonville today to make room for the activation of Hiroki Kuroda from the disabled list. The move makes sense if for no other reason than Kershaw was not needed to pitch until after the All-Star break, especially if Brad Penny comes off the disabled list this weekend.
So Kershaw is headed out, and congrats are in order. That's because the winless pitcher is a winner.
The silliness of actually thinking that Kershaw's quixotic quest for a victory this season reflected his ability was summed up by what happened Tuesday - he left the game with a 6-1 lead and one of baseball's best bullpens there to back him up, and still didn't get the win. Though he never pitched more than six innings for Los Angeles, Kershaw allowed two runs or fewer in six of his eight starts. He easily could have come away with victories in five of those: May 25 vs. St. Louis, June 4 vs. Colorado, June 10 at San Diego, June 15 at Detroit and last night at Houston. And that doesn't count a 2-0 loss to the White Sox last week. As it was, the Dodgers went 4-4 in Kershaw's appearances. He ably filled a hole left by ailing pitchers Penny and Kuroda, not to mention the released Esteban Loaiza.
Kershaw showed he had plenty of development ahead of him with regards to command, pitch use and endurance. But even factoring that in, however, he was generally effective: In 38 2/3 innings, despite walking 24 batters, he had an ERA+ of 99 (almost exactly the major league average) struck out 33 and allowed only three home runs. He did this at age 20.
Perhaps most importantly, Kershaw was not abused. He never threw more than 104 pitches in a game, and averaged fewer than 100 pitches per week. Ultimately, you'll want to see him pitch deeper into games, but here's the thing - he will. And when he does, look out.
Now he can go back to Jacksonville and work on his pitches. But he should go back with his head held high and every reason for optimism about the future.
The Dodgers already have a budding ace in Chad Billingsley. Clayton Kershaw will give them two. That is going to be huge for the team going forward.
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Update: Kershaw sounds disappointed, according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News: "Any way you spin it, I'm getting sent down. They can say they didn't have enough room, but they (brought) me up when they didn't have enough room, because all those (pitchers) were healthy then." Hopefully, he will be made to understand that his return to Jacksonville doesn't have to be considered a step backward.
The Times Drifts Toward a Coma
I cannot believe that the newspaper that I have read ever since I learned to read, a newspaper that I worshipped and cherished, that provided one of the great thrills of my life when it first published one of my articles, that I defended against the readers of the New York Times (there can be more than one great newspaper in America), I can't believe it is simply dissolving like the Wicked Witch.
Not so long ago, they said you could no longer make money in baseball. It wasn't true. You will never convince me that there isn't a market, even in the New Media age, for quality journalism. If the Times was inconsistent, it was also capable of greatness each and every day. But it is dying, really dying, and in desperate need of an intervention. The slide of the Times is like watching a druggie's descent into hell. They can't see the forest for the trees, and soon they won't be able even to see the trees. It's absolutely unbelievable.
San Fernando Valley Voted Against Dodger Stadium
Keith Thursby of the Daily Mirror blog at the Times notes that the close Proposition B vote in 1958 in favor of handing Chavez Ravine over to the Dodgers was made even closer by the fact that six Los Angeles City Council districts, including all four in the San Fernando Valley (where I grew up), voted against the measure.
Councilmen John Holland and Patrick McGee, two frequently quoted opponents of the stadium deal, served districts with the biggest margins against the Dodger contract.
Holland's 1970 obit by Times staff writer Doug Shuit included a quote that summed up his view of the contract. "It was the biggest steal of public lands and money since the trade for Manhattan Island with the Indians for a basket of beads," Holland said.
The city of Los Angeles had appopriated the land in Chavez Ravine long before the Dodgers' decision to move, but many found the notion that the public at large would enjoy seeing baseball games there to be small compensation.
The biggest support for Proposition B came from South Central, West L.A. and East L.A.
Manager Mike Brumley of the Dodgers' affiliate in Ogden, which got in a bench-clearing brawl with Idaho Falls on Monday, said animosity between the two teams had been building for days and has yet to dissipate, according to Trent Toone of the Ogden Standard-Examiner.
Brumley anticipates that those cited in Monday's fight will probably receive Pioneer League suspensions of at least three games.
According to Brumley, the bad blood between the teams had been building since Idaho Falls played in Ogden last week. It boiled over (Monday) when Idaho Falls starting pitcher Paul Raglione nailed Ogden leadoff hitter Devaris Gordon in the back with a pitch.
As Gordon started to first, Brumley said he was attacked by the first baseman and catcher from Idaho Falls. Then the benches cleared. ...
"What would have happened if me and Gordon had been the only ones on the field - what if we get jumped by their whole team and our guys stay on the bench? THey started the fisticuffs, we had no choice but to come protect. Our guys did a nice job of it. Had they not attacked, our guys don't leave the bench, and we play the game. So we're in a bad spot." ...
The Raptors and the Chukars play again on Pioneer Day (July 24) at Lindquist Field.
Ogden is already looking forward to it, Brumley said.
"They don't like us and we don't like them," he said. There will probably be bad blood all summer."
Time for some peace talks.
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I meant to post this a couple days ago, but there's a great story at Baseball Musings on how two fans of the book Dodger Dogs to Fenway Franks tracked down the seemingly reclusive author. I don't recall being as wild about this book as some people seem to be, but it's a great story, and maybe I should give the work another look.
Kershaw VIII: Kershaw Me the Money
Use your changeup, Clayton.
On Saturday, Idaho Falls hit two batters on the Dodgers' Ogden minor league team. On Sunday, Idaho Falls hit two more.
So maybe the Raptors had had enough when Devaris Strange-Gordon was hit by an Idaho Falls pitch leading off Monday's game. A brawl ensued, leading to 10 ejections. Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise has posted YouTube video.
Wrote the Ogden Standard-Examiner:
Idaho Falls starter Paul Raglione plunked Devaris Gordon with his second pitch of the game, leading to a brawl and a 31-minute delay that saw nine players ejected - including Raglione and Gordon - along with Ogden pitching coach Craig Bjornson and the catching coordinator for Idaho Falls's parent club Kansas City Royals.
All in all, five Raptors and four Chukars were sent to the showers, resulting in multiple positions being shuffled and pitchers finding their way into the batting order.
(Note: MILB.com lists six ejections for Ogden: Bjornson, Gordon, Lyndon Poole, Kyle Russell, Travis Vetters and Brian Ruggiano.)
In the video, Raglione gives Gordon a few quick one-handed shoves to Gordon's chest before an umpire comes between them. Gordon then shoves through the umpire to retaliate against Raglione.
Update: From Tony Jackson of the Daily News:
DeJon Watson, the Dodgers' assistant GM and player development boss, said he doesn't expect any suspensions to be handed down from the league office -- which, if it's like the league office of most minor leagues, probably consists of a desk, a phone and a fax machine in some guy's basement. ...
Why Tampa Bay? Why Not L.A.?
Not everything has gone right for the Tampa Bay Undeviled Rays this season. The OPS+ of first baseman Carlos Pena has tumbled from 172 in 2007 to 105 so far this season. Except for a 16-of-19 run on stolen bases, they're getting little from shortstop Jason Bartlett (59 OPS+, .238 EQA). Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton are not matching their 2007 numbers. Their best pitcher, Scott Kazmir, missed more than a month of the season, and Rocco Baldelli has been completely sidelined.
Yet the Rays, who lost 16 more games than the Dodgers last season, have already won 12 more games than Los Angeles this season. And they've done so without a single major acquisition during the past offseason except for grabbing Eric Hinske off waivers for $800,000 and a trade for pitcher Matt Garza and the aforementioned underperforming Bartlett.
The Dodgers actually have had better pitching this year, with an ERA+ of 117 to Tampa Bay's 110, although you can probably call it about even because Rays pitchers face a designated hitter almost every game. Conversely, the Rays' offense, with an OPS+ of 106, runs roughshod over the Dodgers' 87 - though of course it helps that Tampa Bay usually has Cliff Floyd (119 OPS+, .302 EQA), Hinske (136 OPS+, .319 EQA) or Jonny Gomes (94 OPS+, .276 EQA) batting instead of the pitcher.
Dioner Navarro (118 OPS+, .298 EQA) has blossomed this season at catcher, but he's still not better than Russell Martin. Thanks to his recent surge, James Loney is outhitting Pena by a slim margin. Despite the bottom-of-the-barrel work that Dodger shortstops have done in place of the injured Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles has still been stronger overall at that position than Tampa Bay.
But there are a few positions where the Rays clobber the Dodgers. Third baseman Evan Longoria, 22, has a .523 slugging percentage, 131 OPS+ and .317 EQA. Upton, 23, has a .397 on-base percentage, 123 OPS+ and .316 EQA. Gabe Gross and Hinske have also been a plus combo in right field. Conversely, Andre Ethier, Andy LaRoche and Blake DeWitt are all sub-par at this moment, and Matt Kemp (99 OPS+, .278 EQA) hasn't set the world on fire.
Tampa Bay is winning despite not having a single regular in the field older than Hinske, who turns 31 next month. (Designated hitter Floyd is 35.) At age 26, James Shields is the oldest starting pitcher. Three hugely important position-player starters are under 25. The construction of the surging Rays and the struggling Dodgers, at least in terms of who isn't on the disabled list, isn't all that different. What's different is that on offense, their young players are doing better than those of the Dodgers. It's not that the ship has sailed on Either, LaRoche or anyone else, not at all. It's that right now, they haven't been good enough.
Having a collection of good players gel at the right time does require some fortuitous timing. Look no further than the 2007-08 Colorado Rockies for a comparison. The Dodgers are hoping that the 30-year-old Furcal and 31-year-old Andruw Jones can return this month from the disabled list and revive the team in the second half of this season. If they do, stories will get written that it was a veteran infusion that saved the Dodgers. But if there's a lesson, it's not that you need veterans to win, any more than you don't need them. It's that you need good players to win, regardless of how old they are or how much money they make.
Update: At ESPN.com, Rob Neyer highlights the Rays' dramatic improvement on defense. The Dodger defense has not been nearly as good. Either way, both teams keep runs off the scoreboard.
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Update 2: Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods takes a stab at picking the Dodgers' all-time best players at each position.
Update 3: You can get seats on the field level for $18 and on the reserved level for as low as $3 for Dodger home games from July 7-13 through this Travel Zoo promotion.
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Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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