Monthly archives: August 2008
August 31 Game Chat
Jeff Kent's Dodger Legacy
Jeff Kent, whose Dodger career began at age 37, is the greatest-hitting second baseman in Los Angeles Dodger history.
In his first three seasons in Los Angeles, Kent produced EQAs, adjusted for era, of .305, .295 and .301. Prior to that, there had been only three seasons of .295-or-better EQAs from second basemen in all of Los Angeles Dodger history: Jim Lefebvre (.300 in 1966), Davey Lopes (.310 in 1979) and Steve Sax (.313 in 1986).
If you go back to include Brooklyn days, only Jackie Robinson surpasses Kent offensively.
Kent didn't play long enough in Los Angeles to top Lopes or Sax in career value - Lopes is pretty much a no-doubter for the starting lineup of the all-time Los Angeles Dodger team but it is still remarkable to consider that this guy, acquired at the end of his career, ranks third all-time in runs created among Dodger second basemen of the past 50 years.
Though sometimes he could pleasantly surprise you, Kent won't generate many fond memories for his fielding or his diplomacy. In some respects, he evokes Tommy Lasorda in the ferocity of his strengths and weaknesses. A streak hitter and a streak personality, he could be heroic and exasperating, sometimes in the same day.
Before he left the team this weekend for an MRI that could possibly signal the end of his career, one month early, Kent chafed most Dodger fans. Often he could seem as much a problem as a solution. But before he goes, understand that when it comes to second basemen, Los Angeles fans have not seen a hitter like Jeff Kent.
Sigh of the Times
With the Dodgers at this moment firmly in a battle for second place with Colorado, I just wanted to let you know a couple of things.
I've written in the past that I see no incentive in giving up the season until it's over. It doesn't take a genius to see how big a longshot the Dodgers are becoming, but what do you gain by making a concession speech? We're not running for office, here. I'll still be following the games - even if we're headed into Losers Dividend territory.
I hope I've done decent work on Dodger Thoughts this year, though as always, there have been gaps. The new baby and the book deal both came within two weeks of the start of the 2008 season, so there have been times this spring and summer where I have had to choose between those things and this site. There have definitely been times that the site has suffered, though there have been posts I've been proud of.
Anyway, with the book's due date of October 1 nearing, I have already moved into sprint mode, which means you might not see me microanalyzing the team until after the season is over. I'm not going anywhere, but if you feel the site lagging here and there, please know that it's only temporary.
I feel every Dodger loss, that's for sure. This team has really disappointed me I thought it would be better than this, even though the reasons why it hasn't been have been discussed at length. Every season is precious, and if this one is over, its loss is felt.
But I urge you to enjoy what you can. Enjoy the players you like. Enjoy Vin. Enjoy the game. Life's too short to let the frustrations of the Dodgers bury us.
Quest for Redemption: Day 1 (of 1?)
Remember That Time in 2006 ...
... when the Dodgers were playing even worse than they are now?
Bad times ...
Elbert On His Way Up
The Dodgers plan to recall Scott Elbert on Friday, according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News.
Update: Clayton Kershaw will be optioned to Las Vegas to make room for Elbert, but return after September 1, in time to make his next scheduled start, according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise.
Kershaw XVI: Kershawnce To Dream
From the Dodgers' press release: "Wade had worked more innings (52.2) than any Dodgers reliever from the time he was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas on April 24 to the time he was placed on the DL."
Partners in Fallibility: Arizona and Los Angeles Stumble to the Finish
To paraphrase Gregory House, "Everybody loses." Dodger fans can't understand how their team is still in the National League West race; Arizona's faithful must wonder how their team can still be in first place. But there the Diamondbacks sit, mocking Los Angeles with their grandiose .511 winning percentage. It must feel pretty special (relatively speaking), right?
To get the lowdown on the day before another three-game showcase showdown between the two struggling clubs, I checked in with Jim McLennan of AZ Snakepit. Here's how our chat went:
Jon: Jim, the Dodgers have been nipping at Arizona's heels for months now, but haven't been able to do the leapfrog thing. In fact, now the Dodgers are back under .500 and as far out of the NL West lead as they've been all summer. How confident are you guys feeling about winning the division?
Jim: According to coolstandings.com, we have a 71.3 percent chance of winning the division at time of writing, but you'd be hard-pushed to find any Arizona fan who feels anywhere near that confident. Obviously, being in front is the place to be, and every game where the Dodgers don't catch up helps the Diamondbacks: time is on our side, not yours. That said, I'd be a lot more optimistic if both teams were playing well: it's hardly comfortable when our team motto is no longer, "Anybody, anytime," but "Well, at least Los Angeles lost, too." The question is as much, how confident are you guys feeling about not winning it?
Jon: The Phillies series, which reversed the Dodgers' four-game sweep of them earlier in the month, was as big a morale destroyer as I've seen all year, and things haven't gotten any better in Washington. But Arizona losing five of six during the same period just showed that, though Dodger fans shouldn't necessarily be confident, they shouldn't give up either.
Jim: Both teams made post-deadline moves, acquiring sluggers in Manny Ramirez and Adam Dunn. Why did the Dodgers not put in a claim on Dunn, to stop the Diamondbacks from getting him? And do you think either team has a realistic shot at signing their player long-term?
Jon: The Dodgers haven't addressed the claiming Dunn question officially; the conclusion we're left with is that it was a non-issue for them, and/or they didn't want to deal with the potential financial and roster implications of having him on the team. Neither of those answers are particularly satisfying for a lot of us.
The Dodgers will have the ability to sign a top-tier free agent this offseason, so I think they have a shot at Ramirez, but I don't know if the will is there. During the brief period in which Alex Rodriguez was a free agent last fall, the Dodgers didn't position themselves as serious contenders. I'm not saying the situations are identical, but I don't tend to think that a Ramirez deal will get done. I have to admit, I hadn't even gotten to the point of wondering whether Dunn would be with Arizona in 2009. What do you think?
Jim: While I'd like to see it, I'm doubtful we have enough room to make a competitive offer. It's a relatively thin free-agent market this year, and it's probable that we also have to replace Orlando Hudson at second base. If we hadn't already committed to paying Eric Byrnes through 2010, I could see us moving Conor Jackson to LF permanently, and making an offer, but I think we'll take the two draft picks and move on.
Here in Arizona, we expect to see pitching phenom Max Scherzer added to the Diamondbacks roster as part of the September expansion, though it's not sure if he will see playing time as a starter or strengthening the bullpen, which has struggled of late. Los Angeles have their own phenom in Clayton Kershaw, but there's some question as to whether he would be available in the playoffs, or even for the full season. How far do you see him going?
Jon: Part of the rationale behind the Greg Maddux pickup was to allow the Dodgers to stick to their plan of curtailing Kershaw's innings at about 170. You won't see Kershaw start in the playoffs even if the Dodgers have the opportunity, and I think he would be used sparingly in relief. Chad Billingsley, Derek Lowe, Hiroki Kuroda and Maddux would form the postseason rotation. It might be worth noting that James McDonald is another young starter who could see some action at least out of the bullpen in September.
I've noticed several commentators of late leaning toward Arizona because of their big three: Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and Randy Johnson. But Johnson's not exactly the pitcher he used to be. What's your feeling about the Diamondback rotation overall heading into the stretch run?
Jim: Johnson has been a second-half revelation. Many people expected him to flag, or be skipped occasionally to keep him fresh, but he hasn't missed a game all year - and has a 1.82 ERA, with a K:BB ratio of 53:7, in eight starts since the All-Star Game. He seems to have benefited from a side session he threw during the break, under the eye of pitching coach Tom House. Can he keep it up? Well, he could double that post-break ERA and still be a formidable #3. Personally, I'm more concerned about Doug Davis, who may be wearing down - understandably - after having his cancerous thyroid removed in April, or Yusmeiro Petit and his amazing .195 BABIP.
The Dodgers offense, even with Ramirez, is scuffling badly. The series opener against the Nationals made it eight consecutive games scoring three runs or less, tying an NL season-high. Is there a particular cause? And, perhaps more importantly for L.A., a cure?
Jon: They're slumping, slumping badly. This is a challenged offensive team, reliant for the most part on stringing hits together, but clearly, if this is some record-high streak of ineptitude in the NL for 2008, it's not the Dodgers' usual behavior. They are leaving runners on base rather than not getting them on in the first place, which is usually a sign that a team isn't hopeless at the plate. So the cure is time. Whether that cure will come soon enough, or with enough time remaining in the schedule, I don't know.
And yet, there's Arizona, with a chance to go four up in the division, letting San Diego knock out Webb. Neither of these teams can really seem to get their act together. Webb losing is obviously a fluke, but what is the Diamondbacks' biggest worry?
Jim: If anything is going to sink us, it's the bullpen. They have a second-half ERA of 5.34, and an 0-8 record after July 10. I've a nasty feeling manager Bob Melvin blew out Brandon Lyon's arm by using him in hard, back-to-back-to-back outings just after the break: his ERA before that was 2.43, but balloons to 12.75 since. Any apparent resulting lack of blown saves is largely because we've only had three in August - and Lyon had to be bailed out in one of those. While Melvin still professes confidence in his closer, I have little, and set-up man Jon Rauch, with his 6.19 ERA for us, isn't much more inspiring. We have good relievers - Juan Cruz and Tony Peña have generally been solid recently - but Melvin apparently dislikes using them in high-leverage situations for some reason.
But enough gloom and depression! Who - presumably outside of Manny - do you expect to step up and carry the Dodgers through the last month of the season?
Jon: Aside from Ramirez, I think it's really going to be up to the younger non-rookies - Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, James Loney and even Russell Martin, though he has logged more than 1,000 innings behind the plate, to have enough left to carry the offense. It's getting to be too late for Rafael Furcal to have much of an impact, though perhaps he might be able to offer occasional help off the bench in September. But overall, I think the key to the Dodgers winning will have to be pitching depth. Though Los Angeles can't match Arizona ace-for-ace, the Dodgers do have a solid staff top-to-bottom. There have been some blown saves, but I'm still confident in the group overall. I'm really hoping they can keep the muzzle on opponents in September.
And who will be Arizona's heroes, should they have heroes?
Jim: Justin Upton should return, and certainly has the chance - if he can regain his April form, where he batted 327/.372/.554. It's a big "if" however, since he hit below .200 after that. Third-baseman Mark Reynolds is notoriously streaky, so could get hot down the stretch too. But it's the rotation that has taken Arizona this far, and it'll be them that we need to keep us in games. In particular, I'd love to see Davis come through with some clutch performances: it'd be the ultimate feel-good story off the season, to go from being diagnosed with cancer to leading his team into the playoffs.
Looking into the post-season, how do you think the Dodgers would match-up against the other contenders? Who do you fear most?
Jon: I mostly fear the television industry making fun of the Dodgers even being in the postseason. I can't even think about potential Dodger playoff opponents. I just know that the pitching staff would have to come up huge, and the Dodgers would basically just need to get some of the luck that has eluded them since 1988.
Jim: I look forward to the ESPN angst if L.A. or Arizona make the playoffs, and the Yankees don't, despite a better record! I feel the same about Arizona's chances - but once you reach the playoffs, the first 162 games become meaningless. That's probably the biggest thing either of our teams have in their favor.
Jon: Okay, that should do it for now, Jim. Thanks for the chat and we'll just wait to see if Colorado passes both these teams by ...
DeWitt Returns, Replacing Ozuna
The Dodgers have on-based .378 in their past three games, putting 48 runners on base, but they have stranded 37 and grounded into eight double plays. The team has four doubles, no triples and no homers in its past 127 plate appearances.
Arizona has a day game at San Diego today. The teams were scoreless after five innings, but Arizona scored four in the sixth to take the lead.
Update: Incredible. San Diego rallies to win, 5-4, and sweep the Diamondbacks. There is mud in Joyville...
Could the 2008 Dodgers Beat the 2005 Dodgers?
Arizona refuses to let the Dodgers off the hook. The Diamondbacks have lost four out of five - most recently, Brandon Webb dropping one to the Padres on Tuesday to illustrate how misfortune isn't confined to the Dodger clubhouse. (The Mets' coughing up a 7-0 lead in Philadelphia provides more evidence.)
It's for those reasons that I can't allow myself to surrender on the Dodgers, even though they're mired in their worst week of the season.
But just to show I won't completely ignore the ugly side of things, here's something for you to chew on: a quick-and-dirty comparison (it is after midnight, after all) between the 2008 Dodgers and the 2005 team that lost 91 games, its manager and general manager.
First base: The platoon of Hee Seop Choi and Olmedo Saenz has been a match for James Loney. We'll give Loney the edge thanks to his defense and the 156 innings three years ago that Jason Phillips played first.
Second base: The 37-year-old Jeff Kent in a walkover over the 40-year-old urchin.
Shortstop: With Rafael Furcal's hot start an increasingly distant and marginal memory, Cesar Izturis and Oscar Robles appear to be on par with the uneasy melange of Furcal, Chin-Lung Hu, Luis Maza, Angel Berroa and Nomar Garciaparra.
Third base: The revenge of Mike Edwards? He led the 2005 Dodgers with 294 innings at third base despite a 69 OPS+. Yet, he, Willy Aybar (140), Antonio Perez (101) and Robles (86) can walk proudly alongside Blake DeWitt, Andy LaRoche and Casey Blake.
Left field: We'll give this one to the current Dodgers over Ricky Ledee, Jayson Werth, Edwards, Jose Valentin, Jason Repko and Jason Grabowski - though it took the benching of Juan Pierre (.246 EQA) for the '08 troupe to triumph.
Center field: The collapse of Andruw Jones might be too much for Matt Kemp to overcome. Milton Bradley, Repko, Werth and J.D Drew could get the win here, but this will go down to the wire.
Right field: Drew had a 145 OPS+ in 72 games, and Jose Cruz, Jr. added a 142 in 47. Werth and Repko brought down the average just enough to make the Kemp/Andre Ethier combo competitive.
Catcher: Russell Martin gives the 2008 team its first clearcut, start-to-finish victory, over Phillips, a 21-year-old Dioner Navarro, Mike Rose and Paul Bako.
Overall, the maligned 2005 offense had a higher OPS+ than the 2008 team.
Starting pitching: We'll give this one to the '08ers. Derek Lowe was the team's best starting pitcher three years ago, having a season not too different from the one that now makes him a middle-of-the-rotation starter with Hiroki Kuroda and Clayton Kershaw, behind Chad Billingsley. The 2005 season was also the year of Scott Erickson, Rule 5er D.J. Houlton and a struggling Edwin Jackson, a year that the Dodgers had more trouble filling the No. 5 slot than they have had in 2008.
Bullpen: With Eric Gagne missing all but 14 games, Yhency Brazoban imploding in midseason and reinforcements hard to find, the 2005 bullpen is no match for the current relief crew, even with Takashi Saito limited to 39 games.
The 2008 Dodgers easily defeat the 2005 Dodgers in adjusted ERA, and in so doing, give themselves the edge in this internecine showdown for the ages. But it's a lot closer than you'd have imagined, isn't it - especially considering the current team has the advantage of a higher payroll and the further flowering of the Dodger farm system.
Since 1992, the worst Dodger team aside from 2005 was the 77-85 bunch in 1999. (Hellooo, Carlos Perez.) Though they are only three games out of first place with 30 to play, if the 2008 Dodgers finish the season 11-19, they will become the second-worst Dodger team since 1988. If they finish the season 19-11, they'll probably be playing ball in October.
McCourt May Give Marathon a Run For His Money
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Enough with talk of anger and passion and pride. Everyone on the Dodgers wants to win. It's just a matter of whether they can.
I'm not joking when I say this made me sad:
Dave Freeman, an advertising agency executive who co-wrote "100 Things to Do Before You Die," an adventure-seeking and often unconventional travel guide that personified the way he lived his life, has died. He was 47.
Freeman died Aug. 17 after falling and hitting his head at his home in Venice, said his father, Roy.
Published in 1999, "100 Things" was one of the first contemporary books to create a travel agenda based on 100 sites and then market it with a title that reminded mortal readers that time was limited. ...
Destiny Rides Again
I know it's not as popular an explanation as "he doesn't have a closer mentality," but Jonathan Broxton blamed a flaw in his mechanics for his command problems.
It's certainly plausible. One of three things usually happens when Broxton pitches in a save situation: he walks a batter, he gives up a cheap hit or he blows a hitter away. Opponents are slugging a mere .322 against him in these situations this season, thanks in large part to them achieving a .378 batting average on balls in play. (With the bases loaded this season, opponents are batting .500 on balls in play.)
In 135 plate appearances, opponents have six doubles and one home run. This does not describe someone who is getting hammered when there's a save to be had. The guy has not had great command or great luck.
For some, that's no excuse - a great closer isn't supposed to even allow bad luck to beat him. Broxton has been beaten; there's no doubt about that. But he has hardly been beaten consistently - he has 10 saves in 12 opportunities since Takashi Saito was injured, plus a win and another two losses in non-save chances, and a one-two-three inning in his other game. He has allowed a minuscule .567 OPS in that time. In 16 innings, he's allowed 21 baserunners while striking out 23. And by the way, he has successfully stranded all eight baserunners he has inherited from his teammates in that time. There is no fatal flaw - nor, if you argue for the fatal flaw, anything conclusive that it is mental not physical.
Is he the Dodgers' best closer for the moment? As you know, that's not really a question that interests me, since I rebel at confining your best relief pitcher to save situations in the first place. But sure, if you want to say Hong-Chih Kuo is better right now than Broxton, I'm not going to argue. I adore Kuo. But anyone who thinks Kuo would never blow a save either is living a fairy tale. And no one else in the bullpen is legitimately better than Broxton - they're allowing baserunners all the time.
In general, Eric Gagne and Saito raised the standard for Dodger closers to one almost impossible to match. Closers do blow saves. Rail against the fates all you want, but it's true. It's not knee-jerk defensiveness to say that for every argument that Broxton can't do the job, there's a counter.
A 25 percent failure rate in 16 games. That's your evidence that this 24-year-old righty can't close. He hasn't been as good as we'd like, but he's been pretty reliable, and only figures to get better if he can avoid getting tarred and feathered in the process.
To encourage a spirit of open-mindedness, I will try not to overreact to the notion of Andruw Jones playing first base - though I was sorely tempted to do a spit-take.
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Update: A bigtime piece from Alex Belth today at Bronx Banter.
Overcoming Depression Open Chat Thread - With a Question
We'd like to make a one-night, Saturday-Sunday, no-camping, motel-or-hotel trip with the three little ones to Sequoia National Park in September or October, driving up from Los Angeles. We'd leave at dawn to get there at a decent hour, but it's not like we're going to be hardcore about what we can accomplish. We just want to see some big trees and nice scenery and generally enjoy ourselves.
Recognizing our limitations, can anyone offer any recommendations about what areas we should target, as well as eats and lodging?
Also, Mad Men was supoib, as usual.
The Password Is 'Ridiculous'
A cloud of fatigue hovers over us. A cloud of weary despair. It's quiet, too quiet, like the moment after the sheriff rides in to clean up the town, and just muddies himself in the process. Who can we trust? Who can we believe in now?
The dust chokes the back of our throats. What happens next? Is there a hero left among us? Will outlaws forever rule the West?
Kershaw XV: Kershawn of the Dead
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Since he essentially became the starting right fielder this month, Andre Ethier has sat out four games. On the days before being benched, he is a combined 1 for 17 with two walks.
On August 12 against today's left-handed starter, Cole Hamels, Juan Pierre started and went 1 for 4. Ethier grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning, then had a game-winning RBI single in the ninth.
Ethier, who homered Friday night, is starting today.
Outfield/designated hitter starts for the season, through Friday:
Outfield innings this season:
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If Russell Mountain catches nine innings today, that will give him exactly 1,000 for the season.
In Which I Offer a Blunt Lament ...
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From the Dodger press notes:
The Dodgers are expected to have three future Hall of Famers in the lineup tonight for just the fifth time in L.A. Dodger history, as Greg Maddux will take the hill with Manny Ramirez and Jeff Kent behind him. The last time the Dodgers had three Hall of Fame players on the same team was for six weeks in 1969 after Jim Bunning was traded to the Dodgers from the Pirates and joined a pitching staff that included Don Drysdale and Don Sutton.
Of course, the aformentioned 1958 trio wear Dodger caps on their Hall of Fame plaques, unlike the 2008 bunch.
You Do the Math - All-Time Edition
This might be my favorite Onion story of all-time - it certainly is for recent times.
Sometimes, The Onion is only as good as its headlines - the stories are all downhill after that. But this piece (excerpted below) touched me in the soul part of my brain.
6-Year-Old Stares Down Bottomless Abyss Of Formal Schooling
CARPENTERSVILLE, ILLocal first-grader Connor Bolduc, 6, experienced the first inkling of a coming lifetime of existential dread Monday upon recognizing his cruel destiny to participate in compulsory education for the better part of the next two decades, sources reported.
"I don't want to go to school," Bolduc told his parents, the crushing reality of his situation having yet to fully dawn on his naive consciousness. "I want to play outside with my friends."
While Bolduc stood waiting for the bus to pick him up on his first day of elementary school, his parents reportedly were able to "see the wheels turning in his little brain" as the child, for the first time in his life, began to understand how dire and hopeless his situation had actually become.
Basic mathwhich the child has blissfully yet to learnclearly demonstrates that the number of years before he will be released from the horrifying prison of formal schooling, is more than twice the length of time he has yet existed. ...
"Even a 50-year-old adult would have trouble processing such a monstrous notion," Wasserbaum added. "Oh my God, I'm 50 years old." ...
Is the Clock Ticking Already?
August 20 Game Chat
The Dodgers' High-Stakes Gamble
Payroll ceilings are nothing new for the Dodgers. They've been status quo for about 99 percent of the franchise's existence. As recently as 2005, it was assumed by most supporters and detractors alike that there was a limit to how much Paul DePodesta could spend on the team. Then, with Ned Colletti as general manager, the post-2006 decision not to pursue Greg Maddux, who earned praise for his impact on that year's playoff drive, was certainly a function (in part if not in its entirety) of budget concerns.
The Dodgers have given out big contracts for years and years, but they have always had to make up those expenditures with savings elsewhere.
Only in the fall of 2007 was there a hint of possible ends-justify-the-means change. When the Dodgers committed to spending $8 million for at most 13 months of Esteban Loaiza, a pitcher on his last legs, because there was a chance he might win a game that would get them into the playoffs, you could argue that the Dodgers had thrown their financial spreadsheet out the window. Even then, it's possible that the Dodgers had thought ahead and simply budgeted for a playoff push, and decided they had no one better to spend it on than Loaiza.
Then came the Andruw Jones signing at a club-record $18 million average per year, which more or less sought to rectify (although I'm sure Ned Colletti would prefer "augment") the Juan Pierre deal from the previous offseason, and once more you could excuse someone for thinking that the Dodgers would spend whatever it took - rightly or wrongly - in pursuit of a title.
So now we come to the past month, during which the Dodgers have acquired Casey Blake, Manny Ramirez and Maddux without dishing out much more than the cost of the phone calls. Some have interpreted this as a sign that the Dodgers are in trouble financially. But a payroll limit doesn't necessarily signify trouble. The team's outlay of salary for 2008 is still about as high as it has ever been the fact that the Dodgers don't empty every last dollar into their players' bank accounts isn't significant in and of itself. Even Richie Rich will draw the line somewhere.
But just as there as a limit to one's financial resources, no matter how loaded you are, so is there a limit to one's minor league resources, no matter how deep your system is. The Dodgers have in fact been spending over the past month they've been spending their investments in Andy LaRoche, Carlos Santana, Jonathan Meloan, Bryan Morris and one or two Padres to be named later. Money doesn't grow on trees, but neither do promising minor leaguers.
Let me reiterate that as much as I have stood in LaRoche's corner, I offered guarded praise for the Ramirez trade. And I won't evaluate the Maddux trade until I know whom the Dodgers are giving up that's not me being coy; there's just no way of knowing right now. As for Blake, I still feel that if LaRoche had just been put at third base in May and left there, he was capable of generating Blake's current production (111 OPS+) as a Dodger. But let's say for the sake of argument that I'm wrong, as surely those who have been clucking at LaRoche's early struggles in Pittsburgh will say.
The truth remains this: Colletti and Frank McCourt have not stopped spending, contrary to what many have written. They've just gone back to spending stock instead of cash. They've traded startups for blue chips (of relative size) on the exchange. And it's compounded by decisions to spend millions on a Loaiza but not a fraction of that on a highly regarded draft choice like 2007 pick Kyle Blair. (The Dodgers can say that the major- and minor-league budgets are separate, but the song remains the same.) Blair might not pan out, but was there any chance that Loaiza was worth what the Dodgers forked over for him?
Like any company making investments, the Dodgers can be judged on different criteria. There might be a windfall at the end, or their might be a depression, or some combination. But the significance of spending talent in the place of cash should never be downplayed as inconsequential. Money doesn't grow on trees; neither do minor league prospects. You can't assume that revenues will always flow freely; you can't assume prospects will either. No matter how fertile the Dodger minor league system has been in the most recent years, a drought is always around the corner. And the Dodgers will never spend enough to get by without them.
The Dodgers are still playing a high-stakes game. They aren't getting anything for free - they are still placing bets. You can give thanks for every Blake homer or Maddux-induced groundout and still be gripping the edge of your seat nervously, in more ways than one.
Top of the Stairs
Why has the Dodgers' pursuit of Arizona felt like this?
Since losing their second game of the season, the Diamondbacks have won nine consecutive games after beginning the day tied for first place in the National League West. (Thanks to Dodger Thoughts commenter Gagne 55 for the tip.)
Bowl of hell! Bowl of hell! Bowl of hell!
Update: ToyCannon at True Blue L.A. has a sobering look at things, though keep in mind there's still 5 1/2 weeks of baseball left.
Hoping Stults Enjoyed the Per Diem
The exact phrasing from the Dodgers' official Greg Maddux announcement:
The Los Angeles Dodgers today announced that they have re-acquired right-handed pitcher Greg Maddux and cash considerations from the San Diego Padres for two minor league players to be named later or cash considerations.
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"It's very rare that you get the opportunity to add a pitcher like Greg even one time, let alone twice," Dodger general manager Ned Colletti said.
His Imminence, Greg Maddux
The wait (if you were waiting) is all but over. Greg Maddux, baseball pitching legend and guru-in-action, benefactor of large parks and fine defenses, is unofficially on his way to the Dodgers for a player or players to be identified in times hence.
I've written about this before: Petco Park has been hiding some of Maddux's decline, leaving him arguably no better than the Dodgers whose innings he will take. That doesn't mean he can't or won't help, any more than we know whether the trade will be worth it while we're ignorant of whom the Dodgers gave up.
Jeffy Being Jeffy
Jeff Kent's remarks to T.J. Simers in the Times (criticizing Vin Scully for suggesting that Manny Ramirez was responsible for Kent's recent hot streak) were something that I was going to ignore, but given the recent surge in publicity they've received, I'm going to speak up about them - in defense of Kent.
I know - upset of the century.
The thing is, sure, it's possible that Ramirez has provided a boost to Kent on some level. On the other hand, Kent was a streak hitter long before Ramirez arrived, and it really is unfair to conclude without cross-examination that the only reason for Kent's latest success is Ramirez.
Studies have shown that lineup protection - being boosted by having a strong hitter behind you - is mostly a myth. That doesn't mean there aren't exceptions in the short or even long term, but certainly there's more than enough evidence to question whether Ramirez is really having the kind of effect Scully and others suggest, much less the only effect.
Convenient explanations abound everywhere. Kent's recent surge is owed to Ramirez; Ramirez's .424 batting average is owed to no one but his own fiendish mind. There might be some truth to both, but there's plenty of gray area.
As for Kent being rude or silly in calling out Scully ... well, Kent's personality quirks are hardly news, are they?
Nuts - somehow I missed one right in the wheelhouse. Josh Rawitch of the Dodgers reminded me this morning that the Dodgers had leadoff and walkoff homers on August 29, 2006: Rafael Furcal in the first inning and Ramon Martinez in the 16th.
I still believe that my note about the Dodgers homering on their first and last pitch for the first time in Los Angeles holds up.
Another Hoisting, Lads
It sure is pretty seeing yet another hale fellow thrust upon his Dodger teammates' shoulders, though Dodger fans could have done without the pitching and defense combining to surrender yet another Clayton Kershaw lead.
Anyway, forget about the goats - here's to the heroes. Andre Ethier and friends, take another curtain call. Ever since Takashi Saito and his smile went on the disabled list, the best smiles after a Dodger win have been those shared by Ethier and Matt Kemp when they find each other for their jump and bump.
Ethier had his second walkoff hit of the week, and missed one Saturday night by inches.
This game marked the first time in Los Angeles Dodger history that the Dodgers homered on the first and last pitches they faced in a game, according to year-by-year research I did on Baseball-Reference.com's Batter Events Index. In fact, Los Angeles has never had leadoff and walkoff homers in the same game, regardless of whether the leadoff batter swung at the first pitch.
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James McDonald pitches for the third time with the Las Vegas 51s tonight.
Update: McDonald struck out six in 3 1/3 innings but allowed five runs on six hits and two walks.
* * *
Update 2: Here's how today's finish made me feel. This is for you, Angie - I mean, Andre.
This had nothing to do with today's game, but I can't let it go by.
Kershaw XIV: Kershawl We Dance?
7 8 9
First of all, the spectacular outfield play (follow the link and then click on the "featured video" tab beneath the viewer) of the Brewers was the story of this game.
As for the ball that they didn't catch, Andre Ethier's 394-foot, 35-inch drive to center field, Matt Kemp will get a lot of grief for not advancing past second base when it fell for a single. Kemp started to go halfway to second base, as is the norm, then returned to first base to tag up. I think the ball was definitely hit high enough, to a great outfielder (Mike Cameron), that it was logical for Kemp to think it would either get caught or get out. It wasn't some liner to the gap. Kemp also had a first-base coach 20 feet away that certainly could have instructed him. That being said, it is a huge bummer that Kemp was only at second base. Kemp gambled in a rational but unconventional way and didn't win.
Ethier homered earlier in the game, but Hong-Chih Kuo allowed his first home run in about three months to surrender the Dodgers' 2-1 lead. Ethier scored the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, but was unable to make a play on a low drive to right field in the top of the 10th, allowing Milwaukee to take the lead again - this time, for good, as Manny Ramirez struck out to end the game.
But it still was about the outfielders. Corey Hart practically did a face plant after his leaping catch of a fly to right. Russell Martin hit one about 90 rows into the left field stands, but Gabe Kapler was able to leap into the stands and catch it. Cameron had a diving catch that he made look easy, and Kemp had a long fly to right in the eighth. It was a pretty eventful game for one that was a pitcher's duel for the most part, and unfortunately for the Dodgers, it ended just on the wrong side of happiness.
Update: More conversation has centered on Kapler being able to make the catch without interference from fans in the stands. As I wrote in the comments below: "I know everyone's riding that fan. Me, I like to see the players decide the game, not the fans. ... The fan completely had a right to the ball. And if I were in that situation, I might well have gone for it. But I'm not going to be the one chewing out a fan for thinking that he's not part of the game."
Special thanks to former Dodger Matt Luke, feel-good story of the 1998 season, for his guest appearance and to the Dodgers for arranging it. Luke showed up and chatted with us in the shade (thankfully) by the picnic tables for a good 45 minutes, which was a treat.
More thanks to BHSportsguy for doing all the legwork organizing the picnic, and to Bob Timmermann for his entertaining trivia quiz and to both for joining me in offering prizes.
Hopefully, those who continue from the picnic to the game tonight will keep the good times rolling.
Dodger Thoughts Picnic Today
Elysian Park, 11 a.m. Details here
August 15 Game Chat
The Dodgers' ThinkCure radiothon to raise funds for cancer research is underway with ongoing Dodger-themed programming running on KABC 790 through Saturday night, if I'm not mistaken. It will also be a ThinkCure-themed Friday-Saturday at Dodger Stadium, and the online auction is open.
Click here to join me in making a donation to the cause.
* * *
Cory Wade gets nice interview/appreciation treatment from Andrew Kamenetsky at Blue Notes.
When people talk about the Dodger "kids," it's a club with membership generally consisting of Chad Billingsley, Jonathon Broxton, Andre Ethier, James Loney, Matt Kemp and Russell Martin. When they talk about rookie pitchers, Clayton Kershaw takes center stage, with guys like Scott Elbert and James MacDonald even gaining chatter in a "can't wait until he's finally here" kinda way. In the meantime, however, there's a member of the roster that would seemingly fit into either camp (rookie hurler, just turned 25), yet probably couldn't get identified in a police lineup by the average fan.
His name is Cory Wade, and since getting called up with little fanfare on April 24, he's very quietly embarked on one of the better 2008 campaigns of any Dodger. ERA of just 2.56. 37 strike outs against 13 walks. Opponents hitting a scant .223. A more often than not reliable sixth/seventh inning option. Basically Scott Proctor (cited by Wade as an early mentor), only considerably more effective. Yet for some reason, whether you're talking about fans or media, Wade has managed to fly under the radar all season.
And as far as he's concerned, everyone should keep up the good work. ...
* * *
August 8: Hong-Chih Kuo has thrown eight pitches in his first inning of work. He needs three outs for a save. He is replaced.
August 14: Hong-Chih Kuo has thrown 18 pitches in his first inning of work. He needs three outs for a save. He is not replaced.
I'm being a bit disingenuous here - the situations weren't identical. But still, I'm glad Joe Torre showed more willingness to entertain the two-inning save.
Penny and Wade Go To Disabled List
Eric Stults has been called up to take Penny's spot on the roster, and his Stults' alphabetical-order buddy Tanyon Sturtze had his contract purchased to take Wade's position on the active roster - as well as the 40th spot on the 40-man roster. Those of us eager to see James McDonald will have to wait.
Stults had a 4.69 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 23 innings since returning to Las Vegas from Los Angeles. Sturtze had a combined 4.38 ERA this season with Jacksonville and Las Vegas, with 39 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings.
Update: From Matt Hurst of the Press-Enterprise ...
Manager Joe Torre said that Penny "didn't feel right. He didn't say anything about pain, he just didn't have the freedom he'd like to have."
Wade, who was 2-1 with a 2.56 ERA in 40 games, has a shoulder, that Torre said "has been nagging him. He tried the other day to throw a curveball and it was bothering him."
* * *
Beat writer David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News had this to say about Dodger Stadium this week:
Another gorgeous day here at Chavez Ravine. Was just talking with Phils PR man Greg Casterioto, and I think we both agree that this is the best park in the majors. I still haven't been to Wrigley, but I can't imagine it touches this. The weather is perfect, the scenery - mountains rising in the background, palm trees in the goreground (sic)- is beautiful. Walk to your car and you overlook the city skyline. The field is immaculate. It's amazing this place was built in 1962. It feels a lot newer.
* * *
Because CC Sabathia pitched Wednesday, he won't be scheduled to appear during the Brewers' weekend visit to Los Angeles. Sabathia, who homered while striking out 10 Dodgers as a Cleveland Indian on June 21, has a 1.55 ERA (280 ERA+) and 60 strikeouts in 64 innings since being traded to Milwaukee.
This West Coast trip hasn't treated me (personally) or the Phillies very well so far! I've blown two saves/leads in two nights and, in turn, have put us in a tie with the Mets for first place in the National League East.
Baseball will humble you and teach you. It isn't the failure that defines your character, it is the way you handle the failure. Bouncing back is something we're all seeing on a global level right now watching the Olympics. The one thing I can guarantee is that I will put everything I have out there each time I pitch sometimes it won't be enough, but at least I can look myself in the mirror after competing. This is a performance league and getting back to performing well is a process of much importance.
That said, the addition of Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake has certainly changed the level of pressure for some of the talented young players in the Dodgers lineup.
The players hitting in the 7 and 8 holes were being asked to hit 3, 4 or 5 just a month or so ago. Confidence is high in Dodgertown. We play 162 games for a reason, the season will play itself out and weathering these storms is part of it. ...
Details on Saturday's Dodger Thoughts Picnic
View Larger Map
The picnic area is a nicely treed, horizontal strip of land that will allow for catch, wiffle ball and other games that don't require an entire ballfield not to mention the Bob Timmermann "Riddles from The Griddle" Dodger Trivia Challenge. There is also a small play area for children.
Please remember that while some attendees will be bringing extra food, there are no guarantees you are responsible for your own food and non-alcoholic drinks. Absolutely no alcohol is permitted. There are a couple of barbecues for grillin'.
Though the picnic is scheduled to end at 2 p.m., you are free to hang out afterward, especially since some of you will want to attend the Dodgers-Brewers game at 7:10 p.m. Dodger Thoughts takes no responsibility for any injuries, loss of valuables or other strife suffered before, during or after the picnic.
Just for curiosity's sake: If ye plan to attend, say "Aye" followed by a number one greater than the number of the person who said "Aye" before ye. And if ye plan to bring a guest, raise yeer number accordingly. However, RSVPs are not required.
See you there!
From the southbound 101
From the southbound 5
High Horses Wouldn't Drag Me Away
From the Apocalypse Now Dept.: I do not accept Jayson Stark's premise on ESPN.com that Manny Ramirez is going to create a new class of baseball malingerers. (Commenter BHSportsguy provided the link.)
If Manny Ramirez wanders into the free-agent market this winter and gets anything close to the four years and $100 million he believes he'll get, think about the message that would send, the precedent that would set.
It would, in effect, be an open invitation to every selfish superstar in baseball to pull a Manny. Act up. Stop hustling. Stop trying. Refuse to play. Make up an injury. Whatever you have to do to get back out there on the free-agent market. It's all worth it.
Why not? If bad behavior winds up delivering a $100 million reward for Manny Ramirez, why wouldn't two or three, or 50 or 100, other great players think, "Heck, it worked for him. Why not me?"
Fifty or 100? Could this be more alarmist?
Ramirez is an individual who takes existing modes to extremes. He is not inventing the wheel of misfortune or misdeeds. After the season, the Dodgers and other teams will weigh the pros and cons of signing him to an expensive contract, just as they did with Andruw Jones, Kevin Brown, Darryl Strawberry and countless other players whose personalities affect their performance, simultaneously for better and for worse.
Boston had ample time to take a stand with Ramirez, to look at the big picture, and chose not to. I'm not judging them for it. And the thing is, Stark doesn't appear to be judging them for it. Rather, he appears to be judging Dodger fans for taking advantage of a situation they had nothing to do with making.
Life sure is beautiful these days on Planet Manny. Uhhh, a little too beautiful.
Hey, we couldn't be happier for those Los Angeles Dodgers, who are selling about 30,000 tickets a day now that they've moved their home games to Planet Manny. But we'd like to ask one little question of all those people in L.A. who are showering their man Manny Ramirez with so much love:
For a man who decided his personal net worth was more important than an entire franchise and all the people who played with him, covered for him, depended on him?
Sheez. How sad is that?
"It really bothers me," one GM said this week of the Manny-mania lovefest that has unfolded in L.A. "What he did in Boston was criminal. Now he goes there, and everything's OK? No, sir. It doesn't change the fact that how he got there was criminal."
If Ramirez goes south on the Dodgers this season or in any potential future seasons, believe me, we'll suffer the consequences. But for Stark or these anonymous GMs to suggest that Dodger fans should turn their nose at a player whose misbehavior went 99 percent unpunished by his previous franchise, a player whose behavior was hardly less contemptible than the sad sack of preparation that Andruw Jones was this season, that's a bit rich. If the Dodgers cut Jones tonight and he hit 10 home runs for the Red Sox in September (yes, it's just a hypothetical), would Fenway's fans stay silent?
Someday, Ramirez might be the Dodgers' problem. Right now, though, he's their solution - thank you very much. I'll be on my feet with every hit.
The Big Things
Nah, you couldn't give up on this game. You can't give up on this team. Not until it's over.
When the Dodgers signed Andruw Jones, it set the stage for them to have one of the toughest lineups in the National League, one through eight. While they wouldn't have the best hitter in the league, they would have a bottom half that had no weak links.
That, clearly, didn't materialize - that is, until Manny Ramirez arrived. Not only did that push the Jones/Juan Pierre combination out of the lineup (after Joe Torre kindly ended his flirtation with keeping Pierre in over Andre Ethier), but it meant that, assuming they weren't using their third-string shortstop, the Dodgers' No. 8 hitter would be anything but an automatic out.
Think about it. Even if opponents pitch around Ramirez, who is now 21 for 45 with nine walks, three doubles and five home runs (1.430 OPS), when the next four batters are some combination of James Loney, Russell Martin, Casey Blake and Nomar Garciaparra, opposing pitchers never really get to relax. And just think if Rafael Furcal can play, even a little, even just to be Garciaparra's tag-team partner instead of Angel Berroa.
Ramirez has been a difference maker, to say the least. He is already fifth on the team in Value Over Replacement Player, measured against players who have been with the Dodgers all year. His EQA is more than that of Jones and Pierre combined.
This is a good lesson about the little things. I can guarantee you that teams weren't afraid of the Dodgers little-thinging them to death a month ago. The Dodgers needed someone powerful in the middle of the lineup. Eight months after signing Jones, they've got him.
* * *
Andre Ethier. Wow. Game-winning hit Tuesday, over-the-wall catch tonight, followed by a home run. He has also become tops among Dodger regulars in pitches-per-plate appearance (Jones notwithstanding). He is coming on, right when the Dodgers need him.
Meanwhile, has Jeff Kent been a (good and bad) streak hitter this year or what?
* * *
Reality check: When 12th pitcher Jason Johnson has two innings under his belt and you let him hit for himself after a two-out Russell Martin double in the fifth, then take him out after allowing one baserunner in the next inning, things still aren't quite right.
Those eating chowder while marching with Mark Sweeney will note that he has reached base four times in nine plate appearances since the All-Star Break. Putting aside whether that's a fluke, he was used to pinch-hit for Brad Penny in the third inning. Still, the fifth inning presented a situation for Pierre or even Pablo Ozuna. The one thing these guys can do with some regularity is hit singles. I realize that both Ozuna and Berroa are being saved to relieve Garciaparra and Kent, and there were certainly some pitchers I'd have left in, but trust me, the bigger risk tonight was not using a pinch-hitter in that situation. I would have used Ozuna.
I can't wait for rosters to expand.
* * *
With Penny, who gave up three home runs that Ethier couldn't catch, it's not the firepower. He was frequently in the 90s tonight. But he wasn't fooling anyone except Jimmy Rollins. What is causing his pitches to be so fat? It's something the Dodgers will have to answer.
* * *
Still, no way can you give up. These Dodgers, they find ways to lose, but they find ways to win. You just don't know with them. You just don't know until they go bust ... or boom! Nomar, we might be afraid (you too) you'll hurt yourself being lifted onto your teammates' shoulders, but no doubt about it - you've done it again.
Falkenborg Departs for Realsies
'In the Deep Freeze ...'
Keith Thursby of The Daily Mirror at the Times finds a story from 50 years ago today looking at the Dodger minor leaguers. Quoting Dodger minor league system head Fresco Thompson:
"You know, it's a strange thing. Most people regard the Dodgers as a bunch of doddering veterans who are only a couple of jumps shy of collecting their Social Security checks each month. Actually, that's not the case.
"People think of our ball club in terms of Pee Wee Reese, Carl Furillo, Duke Snider, Carl Erskine and the like. But you take those men out and we've got the youngest club in the National League. Gil Hodges is only 34. He ought to be right at the peak of his career. Instead, he's having his worst season in baseball and folks think he's a fugitive from a wheel chair.
"Otherwise, we have a young team. Men like Charlie Neal, Don Zimmer, Dick Gray, Joe Pignatano, John Roseboro, Gino Cimoli, Don Drysdale, Danny McDevittt, Stan Williams.
"In the deep freeze we've got Tom La Sorda, who has won 16 for Montreal, including three shutouts. For infield bolstering we have George Anderson in Montreal, who has made six straight all-league teams.
"We need outfield reinforcements and should get them from Don Demeter, Solly Drake, John Glenn, Ron Fairly, Don Miles, Tommy Davis and the fabulous Frank Howard, the 6-foot, 5 1/2-inch All-American basketball player from Ohio State."
* * *
Larry Bowa chatted online Tuesday with Dodger fans - at length and on a variety of topics, I'd say. One revelation that perplexed me is that he definitely feels like taking more chances on the bases when the Dodgers are winning:
Gob_Bluth: Coach Bowa, what factors go into you deciding whether to "send" a player home?
Bowa: The score is very indicative of whether you'll be more or less aggressive. If you're ahead, you'll take more chance to add on or if you're behind, you'll have to be more conservative. ...
4ublue: Why do you send some runners like Loney the other night when it looked to all of us like he would be out with an average good throw?
Bowa: When you're up four runs and you try to add on there, if we were behind or tied, the situation would have been different. I'll do that again if we're up four or five runs. It took a perfect throw to get him.
Regarding the Loney example, I think the questioner is correct - a typical throw was what retired Loney. More to the point, with Casey Blake on deck and one out, why would Bowa feel the compulsion to get that run in? Even though the Dodgers were winning - especially because they were winning - what's the urgency?
Considering the Dodgers gave away leads in the previous two games, considering there were six innings of baseball remaining against a tough offensive team, Bowa is all too cavalier in this respect.
Update: I need to clarify what I wrote. It's not that I think that you can't take more chances when you are winning. It's that I think winning doesn't justify taking ridiculous chances.
* * *
James McDonald threw his second straight 10-strikeout victory for Las Vegas (though somehow he is getting only one groundout for every five outs in the air) and remains an option for a pre-September callup to bolster the Dodger pitching staff.
* * *
460. Jon Weisman 2008-08-12 21:52:13"So for the second time this year, Andre Ethier gets a walk-off base hit - against a very tough lefthanded reliever."
- Vin Scully
Kershaw XIII: Kershawp Around the Corner
Jones has been a much better hitter than Clayton Kershaw this year.
* * *
Broxton Deserves Faith
At True Blue L.A., Andrew Grant does us all a favor and shatters some myths about Jonathan Broxton's lack of closer mentality. Grant acknowledges that Broxton hasn't been perfect but puts it all in perspective. (Note that the June 7, 2007 game that is mentioned represents one of the Dodgers' worst defensive ninth innings in recent times, which is saying something.)
The most disturbing part about the accusations that have been flung at Broxton has been the lack of recognition that for most of his career, Broxton has been facing down situations more difficult than protecting a ninth-inning lead. Those appearances where he keeps the other team from scoring in a tie game, for example, don't grab headlines, but they are most meaningful.
My theory about people who conclude that Broxton doesn't have the toughness to be a closer is that they don't mentally record the many times he does succeed, that the memory of failure is simply overpowering.
Now, as ToyCannon brought up in the comments Monday, there might be issues with Broxton's arm strength or health to fret over. That, we'll have to keep an eye on. But Broxton is plenty good to be trusted when the chips are down.
* * *
Nomar Garciaparra will return from the disabled list tonight and start at shortstop (still waiting to hear who will go off the active roster). The Dodgers react to Cole Hamels starting by making James Loney the best No. 8 hitter in the game for one night and letting Juan Pierre get some outfield work in. Juan, you just catch all the balls and then shovel them to Manny for the throws.
They Love Us More Than We Love Ourselves
Headline at the Philadelphia Daily News:
Phillies can't dodge LA's potent lineup
From David Murphy's story:
If it weren't obvious by the moves that ticked across the transaction wire in late July, it was obvious last night: The Dodgers have upgraded an already-potent lineup. And on nights where they get adequate pitching as they did from Derek Lowe last night they are a very formidable opponent.
The Phillies and Kyle Kendrick found out the hard way, suffocating under the weight of 16 Los Angeles hits and a six-run third inning jump-started by the most famous set of dreadlocks to hit Los Angeles since Coolio's first album.
"They've got a tough lineup now," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. ...
The problem with these postdeadline Dodgers is that the bottom half of their order thanks to Ramirez' presence at cleanup now is equipped to make life after Manny miserable for an opposing starter, which it did following Ramirez' RBI hit.
First baseman James Loney drove in two more runs with a single to right-center, Russell Martin singled (Loney was thrown out at the plate by Jayson Werth) and Casey Blake, newly acquired from the Indians, hit a two-run home run to fashion a six-run lead.
To put it in perspective, Los Angeles' No. 5, No. 6 and No. 7 hitters last night entered the game hitting .290 with 180 RBI and 168 runs scored. The Phillies No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 hitters, meanwhile, were hitting .283 with 166 RBI and 207 runs scored. ...
* * *
Bill Shaikin of the Times checks in on Clayton Kershaw's innings count today:
Kershaw will set a career high for innings in the first inning tonight. He has pitched 122 innings this season in the major leagues and minor leagues, matching his minor league total last season. In the spring, the Dodgers talked of targeting him for 25 innings per month, then 170 innings for the season.
He pitched 32 2/3 innings last month. If he starts every fifth game for the rest of the season and pitches six innings every time, he will have pitched 176 innings, before any possible playoff games. "It's something we're conscious of," pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "It's not something we're dwelling on."
For a young pitcher, studies have shown that a significant jump in innings from one season to the next can increase the risk of injury. Honeycutt said the Dodgers are focusing less on strict limits and more on how Kershaw and his arm react to each start.
"The main thing, for me, is monitoring him between his starts, to see how he bounces back," Honeycutt said. "His arm and his well-being come above everything else. We're very conscious of that." ...
It seems fine to me that the Dodgers could simply shut Kershaw down after September 28, postseason or not, because the team wouldn't need as many starting pitchers in October. The question is whether the Dodgers are capable of properly interpreting "how Kershaw and his arm react to each start." In the past two years, pitchers including Jason Schmidt, Brad Penny, Hiroki Kuroda, Randy Wolf and Takashi Saito have all spent time on the disabled list with arm woes. It's not that all these cases are the fault of the coaching and training staff, but it certainly doesn't indicate that they can reliably prevent injuries.
In any case, Kershaw has not averaged many pitches per start this season. So far with the Dodgers, he has broken 90 pitches only four times. He did throw a major-league career-high 108 in his most recent start Thursday, so perhaps he'll be on a shorter leash tonight in a beguiling matchup with Philadelphia's Cole Hamels.
* * *
Several have reported that Andruw Jones could go on the disabled list with a sore knee. Writes T.J. Simers of the Times:
"That knee is still sore," (Joe) Torre said of Jones. "We'll see what the doctor has to say."
Ten minutes later Jones was spotted in center field trying to catch a fly ball - hurdling the 3 1/2-foot white fence used to hold back fans before the game, and looking like an Olympic hopeful.
It's like the reverse of the "Who are these guys" scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: a case not of relentless pursuers but relentful ones. The Dodgers buck their leads Saturday in the bottom of the 10th, Sunday in the bottom of the ninth - hanging offenses, you'd think and still they're only 1 1/2 games out of first place in the National League West with seven weeks to go. Ask yourself how comfortable you'd feel with a 1 1/2-game lead with seven days to go, and you'll know how insignificant that deficit is.
Even so, staying sanguine hasn't been easy in the past 24 hours. Opportunity lost is one thing, but here come the NL East-leading Philadelphia Phillies to town for four games to make things rougher. Plus, this afternoon, Arizona picked up slugger Adam Dunn and his career .303 EQA in a low-cost waiver trade from Cincinnati, a deal the Dodgers could have blocked had they chosen to, raising questions over whether Ned Colletti and Frank McCourt were (pick your cliche) asleep at the wheel or handcuffed by previous boondoggles. The notion that it would have been a problem if the Dodgers had somehow ended up with Dunn doesn't ooze with merit.
Most of all, it just gets tiring to settle for solace in the failings of other NL West teams, rather than being able bulk up with pride or, more importantly, confidence in the remaining fate of your own. It's true that getting to the playoffs with 83 victories is more important than winning 93 and missing out, as will be the case in other divisions. If the first scenario happens, the Dodgers will apologize for their sins just as soon as George Mason or the 2006 Cardinals do. (Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1988 of Kirk Gibson and Orel Hershiser could have worse scripts than an underdog bid for a title.) It doesn't mean that the losses don't take a beating on you. Getting flogged each time you think you're about to break free is just a rough way to live.
But in a sluggish economy, you adjust expectations. The going rate for an NL West title is falling to around 85 victories, and at the core the Dodgers only trail the Diamondbacks, 60-58, in that pursuit. Los Angeles' two recent stirring wins in Arizona didn't guarantee success. The team's two shaky losses in San Francisco don't guarantee failure. If they keep giving 'em rope, the Dodgers should just keep taking it.
* * *
Seeking solace the usual way ... the episode seemed appropriate.
August 10 Game Chat
You Know It's True
The one-eyed man is king in the land of the blind, which is certainly an interesting place for a Dodger squad with the facial stability of Mr. Potatohead to be.
It was a team loss tonight: rough situational hitting, shaky defense and one double too many allowed to Dave Roberts. Arizona lost even bigger, dropping not only a home game but losing their star second baseman, Orlando Hudson, to a serious wrist injury.
The Dodgers are still trying to get all the pieces in the right place, still trying to plug those holes. It's an endlessly fascinating game ...
August 9 Game Chat
Out There in the Fields
Bringing back an old Dodger Thoughts feature: Tell us something in the comments that we might not know about a team other than the Dodgers.
Or, chat about the Dodgers. Or the Olympics. Or whatever. It's a lazy Saturday...
Jones Tries to Straighten Out
Tonight, Joe Torre has boldly given Andruw Jones another shot at redemption - inserting him in the starting lineup against noted if fallen San Francisco curveballer Barry Zito. Jones has seen 90 curveballs this season, according to Josh Kalk, and has an .067 batting average (and slugging average) against them. (Thanks to commenter Eric Stephen for the link.)
Jones hasn't swung and missed at all that many, but he definitely hasn't been able to do anything with them.
* * *
Welcome back, Brad Penny. (Brian Falkenborg has been designated for assignment, according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News.)
* * *
Confidential to the women of Los Angeles, perhaps America, perhaps the world: Your sunglasses are big enough. If they get any bigger, your faces and your desire to look at pictures of yourselves 20 years from now will disappear forever.
I don't know nothin' about fashion, but I'm just saying ...
* * *
On the Horizon: Andrew Lambo
David Laurila of Baseball Prospectus has an interview with rising Dodger prospect Andrew Lambo today. Here's his introduction:
Andrew Lambo is making a name for himself with the Great Lakes Loons. Rapidly emerging as one of the top prospects in the Dodgers organization, the 19-year-old Lambo has been one of the best players in the Midwest League this summer, earning All-Star honors while ranking among league leaders in several offensive categories. A left-handed hitting outfielder who was taken by Los Angeles in the fourth round of last year's draft, Lambo debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 2007 where he hit .343/.440/.519 in 54 games. With the Loons, Lambo is hitting .293/.348/.487 with 15 homes runs and 49 EXB (extra-base hits). A notable facet of the lefty swinger's game is an ability to hit southpaws; on the season Lambo is hitting .333/.382/.552 against left-handed pitchers. ...
Chuck Culpepper, whom I've mentioned in these parts before (he wrote this article, for example), is really a superb sportswriter. He has written a wonderful book called Bloody Confused! that I'd like to recommend to you. It's sort of a combination of Bill Bryson and Nick Hornby, although very much an original: a humorously sharp nonfiction piece about how Culpepper reached the limit of dealing with the American sports scene and headed over to England to dive blindly into that country's soccer culture.
I think my disinterest in soccer has long been part of the official record here, so you can imagine that if the book got me excited, you don't need a love for soccer to enjoy it. I'm not sure you even need a love for sports. But if you do like the game ... so much the better. It's just a thoroughly charming, entertaining tale.
Here's an excerpt:
Ten days after moving to London in February 2006, I went to see the club called "ChelseaTheyBoughtTheirTitle." Two generous lawyers invited me. I had heard much about ChelseaTheyBoughtTheirTitle and marveled that when English people around the country spoke of this club, the seldom settled for the roper terminology, "Chelsea," but always opted for the more demanding elocution of "ChelseaTheyBoughtTheirTitle," almost as if they were manifestly incapable of pronouncing "Chelsea" without affixing "TheyBoughtTheirTitle."
Chelsea, by then, epitomized the swanky London decade. It played in a swanky London neighborhood, in semi-swanky Fulham on the edge of utterly swanky Chelsea. Long a mainstay in English football and occasionally a powerhouse, Chelsea had become a full-on powerhouse in 2003 by that most time-honored of methods. A magnate had bought it Roman Abramovich, Russian oil, born in 1966, one of the twenty richest people on earth and had used that money in one of the noblest places a man can use it: on salaries that would enable the fans to watch their club beat the living hell out of the loathsome other clubs.
On this day, Sunday, February 25, 2006, Chelsea would play some straggler from the south called Portsmouth. I knew very little about this Portsmouth, save for some vague reckoning that it probably sat by the water. We had a Portsmouth in my home state of Virginia, close to Suffolk, Norfolk, Hampton, Windsor, Southhampton, Sussex, and Virginia Beach, as we're incapable of thinking up our own names save for the odd "Virginia Beach," which we concocted on our own by standing on a beach, then noticing we were in Virginia. In the spectacular wastefulness of the teenage years, I'd spent many nights among friends in Portsmouth, the Virginia version, driving around and around and around and around and around with no destination, much like NASCAR. I even lived in this derivative, Virginian Portsmouth for a year at age seventeen when our parents moved us from adjacent Suffolk while they finished our new house. I spent much of the year wallowing in spite that they'd moved us twenty-five minutes from our friends.
I often wonder why anyone has children.
For the 3:00 PM kick-off of Chelsea versus Portsmouth if I'd gone about one year prior, I might've mistakenly taken a train to Portsmouth we met at 12:30. From the station the London lawyer, Duncan, an understated and kindly sort of about forty, began shepherding myself and Jerry, my great friend for twenty-five years, a New York lawyer, and one of a smallish assortment of Americans who prefer the Premiership to American sports. Duncan led us through a maze of streets away from the stadium hubbub, to a fine gumdrop of a pub I could not find again if you gave me three hours and one London A-to-Z map guidebook already turned to page 99.
The pub half-teemed with Chelsea fans, but with the real deals, the long-sufferers, those who knew Chelsea before it changed its name to ChelseaTheyBoughtTheirTitle. These people had weathered lean decades before striking Russian oil. They had not just straggled in from Tokyo or Chicago or Mayfair professing satellite TV devotion after Abramovich helped turn Chelsea into a global brand. Even Jerry had signed on in the 1990s, safely before the Roman Empire.
In a small ring of six Chelsea fans, then, I stood for more than two hours, talking, listening, learning and drinking enough beer to stagger a large farm animal. We chatted about the leaner Chelsea years, about the astounding fitness of rugby players, about some upcoming expose of an alleged gay orgy among Premiership players, about how Americans watched women's soccer during the 1999 World Cup but Britons never would, about how they'd love to have Wayne Rooney on Chelsea, about how most Britons can't abide the NFL's abundant halts. It was sublime, this pregame. To a wayward sportswriter, these hours proved so magical, so alleviating of life's puny worries, that I realized at once I'd spent two decades missing something. ...
It only gets better. Do consider giving it a buy.
It's In the Hole
Clayton Kershaw's past three starts:
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Joe Torre's latest musings on batting order, per Ken Gurnick at MLB.com:
Torre said he and the coaching staff have considered Cardinals manager Tony La Russa's preference for batting his best slugger, Albert Pujols, third, the pitcher eighth and putting a speedster, in St. Louis' case former Dodgers shortstop Cesar Izturis, ninth. That way, Pujols bats in the first inning and in subsequent at-bats he is preceded by three position hitters.
"We're flirting with a number of things, even moving Manny (Ramirez) to third," said Torre. "The nine-hole hitter gives you three guys to get on. We would have [Juan] Pierre batting ninth. We haven't gone there yet."
Ramirez hit his fourth home run today and is 13 for 23 with four homers, one double and two walks as a Dodger (1.746 OPS).
Kershaw XII: Kerdyshawck
Be the ball, Clayton ...
(This does not constitute an endorsement of ceaseless quotes from this film or a debate of the film's merits.)
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Puff 'n' Stuff
Manny Ramirez passed Ernie Banks and Eddie Matthews on the career home run list Wednesday. I know those guys aren't as high on the charts when they used to be when I was a kid, but passing Banks and Matthews (and Mel Ott, too)? That still makes me go wow.
Here's where Ramirez sits:
521 Willie McCovey
Tonight, Derek Lowe became the first starting pitcher in Los Angeles Dodger history to allow at least 13 hits in a start of fewer than four innings.
Lowe pitched his second 13-hitter as a Dodger. Ken Howell holds the Los Angeles record for a game by allowing 15 hits.
The Story Behind Dodger Thoughts Rule 9
At the bottom of the right-hand sidebar, it states: "Thank you for not ... 9) typing 'no-hitter' or 'perfect game' to describe either in progress."
Every no-hitter is subject to being jinxed by someone saying the words "no-hitter," likewise with "perfect game." Different people in the world have the jinxing power for different games. Since we don't know in advance who has the jinxing power, the rule is that we assume everyone has it.
I am not a religious man, but I believe in this.
Radio and TV broadcasters are exempt from Rule 9.
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An Olympic Anthem
If I were writing about something that happened 20 years ago 20 years ago, I'd be talking about when I was a baby. Today, I'm talking about being a college student the last time Asia hosted the Summer Olympics before this weekend and the only time the continent hosted me.
I got a job as a production assistant for NBC and spent five weeks in Seoul, working all but one day of my voyage. It was quite an experience, taking place just before my senior year - in fact, I missed the first few days of school (as well as Orel Hershiser's scoreless inning streak) because of it. But it was worth it.
That fall, I also began writing a column for the sports section of The Stanford Daily. The piece below was my debut, sent via Wally Matthews' TRS-80 across phone lines extending half a world away and published September 27, 1988 ...
Great Comeback, Anguishing Loss
Use your best reliever in a tight situation whenever it comes up. If you need an out - give yourself the best chance of getting the out. Worry about the rest later. Rest pitchers when they need to rest - not because you've rendered them irrelevant by using lesser pitchers.Luck and misfortune, good performances and lesser ones, sent the Dodgers into extra innings Tuesday. For the second time this season, rain short-circuited the outing of the team's best starting pitcher, Chad Billingsley. Joe Beimel hit Rick Ankiel with an 0-2 fastball with the bases loaded. James Loney hit into two double plays ... yet his weakest grounder of the ninth kept alive a four-run, game-tying, ninth-inning rally initiated by Andruw Jones' third home run this season.
Andre Ethier, Russell Martin and Jeff Kent also had key hits in that ninth and Casey Blake a sacrifice fly, while Manny Ramirez showed great discipline in taking a walk when the Cardinals were almost-but-not-quite pitching around him. (Jason Isringhausen blew the save, but that doesn't change the dancing quality of the pitches he threw to the Dodgers' new cleanup hitter.) Matt Kemp and Ethier then added singles in the 10th ... yet Martin had one of his poorest at-bats of the season, hacking away at the first three pitches before capping it with a hopeless swing at a pitch in the dirt.
Cory Wade pitched admirably in relief (and even drew a walk in his first career plate appearance after being down 0-2), handling the ninth and 10th innings and reinforcing what an unsung hero he has been to the bullpen this season ... yet the game ended with the Dodgers sending Jason Johnson, who had thrown 87 pitches 56 hours earlier, instead of Jonathan Broxton, who was available, to face the Cardinals' best hitters in the bottom of the 11th. (Hong-Chih Kuo was declared unavailable, which was understandable.)
The manager's rationale for saving Broxton is that he is the closer, and you don't want to rely on Johnson to protect a lead. This is like worrying about who will guard the safe in the morning after you've left it unlocked overnight. It gets tiresome to repeat this, but when you know one run will cost you the game, you should be using your best pitcher. The alternative is a) you get to use a lesser pitcher when there's more margin for error after your team has scored runs, or b) you get to use a lesser pitcher with no margin for error, but at least you know you gave the game your best shot.
Now, that argument places Broxton in the game even earlier, which I'm fine with - it could have easily minimized the deficit the Dodgers had to overcome. From the article linked above ... The Reliever Reciprocity Rule, or Triple R, or RRR:
If you would use a reliever in a given moment in a game with a lead of X, you should use him with a deficit of X. ... Close games are winnable, whether you are in the lead or trailing. If the reliever is available to work with a lead, he is available to work without a lead. If he needs to rest that game, he needs to rest no matter what.In other words, using Broxton sooner in a game won't make him any more overworked than using him later. If you know you're in a close game now, you don't need to try to guess whether you'll be in a close game the next day.
The other rationale for using Johnson is that with the pitcher's spot having just passed by, you're hoping he'll be able to pitch until that spot comes up again. But the odds of getting that much work out of Johnson were slim - and in any case, the only pinch-hitters left on the Dodger bench were Danny Ardoin and Kuo. So that justification becomes rather irrelevant.
Tuesday's game was a big stew of good and bad - I didn't even mention that Mark Sweeney hit a solid line drive in the ninth that could have given the Dodgers the lead had the ball found its way past Albert Pujols. It's no fun watching the team hit into three double plays or fail to handle a few groundball plays competently. But that's all part of playing the game.
But a manager shouldn't have to be so ignorant of which is a more crucial, pressure-packed situation - the situation that truly requires a pitcher to close down the opposition - pitching in a tie game, or pitching with a lead. It's really rather remarkable that baseball conventional wisdom considers falling near the cliff more dangerous than falling over it.
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Tony Jackson of the Daily News talked to Martin and Torre about Martin's 10th-inning at-bat:
Martin said opposing pitchers don't appear to be attacking him any differently with Ramirez behind him than they were before.
"It's tough to say, but I haven't really noticed anything major yet," he said. "Guys are trying to get you out the way they always try to get you out. It's a game of adjustments. (In the 10th), I was just trying to get a ball in the air, trying to drive it to the outfield. I really wish I could have that at-bat back, but there is nothing you can really do."
Cardinals reliever Ryan Franklin struck Martin out on a 2-2 pitch in the dirt, a sign Martin might be over-adjusting with Ramirez on deck.
"Sometimes, it works against you," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "I think Russell got a little aggressive there. If you think having Manny behind you means you're going to get a pitch to hit, maybe you're not as selective. ... But again, he was aggressive, and I don't want to take that away from him."
The last thing I mean to do is come down on Martin, who is still tremendous. It was a noteworthy at-bat, but it was one at-bat.
Gibson Meets Bison
The Dodgers' 1980s reunion Saturday was attended by Dodger Thoughts commenter BHSportsguy. Here's two of several anecdotes he passed along - these regarding Kirk Gibson, who was in town as an Arizona Diamondbacks coach:
He expressed that he always has had a warm spot for the organization and the fans and today, respects them as a competitor. He was reminded of how the fans can raise the level of excitement when Manny came up in the ninth inning the previous night. He also told a story that when he first came up with the Tigers, they would talk about and show highlights of the 1968 championship team and he was sick of it and knew that the only way to stop it was to create a new memory to talk about. So this past winter, he was working out in Arizona with Orlando Hudson and Matt Kemp, and Hudson and Gibson were asking Matt if ever got tired of seeing the Gibson home run. Matt told him yes. So he told Matt, "Well, do something about it." He did not add what he thought about Matt as a player but I guess he might have done that somewhere else this weekend.
I wonder if Hudson added something like, "Yeah, Matt - do something about it. Come on! Oh, wait ..."
Gibson went through that fateful night, on how Mitch Poole told Tommy that Gibson thought he could hit. Lasorda told his side of story and then Gibson proceeded to talk about the at-bat. He repeated that the story about the scouting report on Eck's throwing a backdoor slider on 3-2 pitch to a left-handed hitter was true and he has the scouting report to prove it. (Tim Leary also said he has the same report when asked what his favorite memory as a Dodger was, he did not say it was his pinch hit, it was Gibson's homer.) Gibson said there was no way he could have hit a fastball that night.
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Brian Kamenetzky has some reflections on the pre- and post-trade deadline Dodgers at Blue Notes that you might find interesting reading. Rather than excerpt it, I invite you to check out the entire post.
The Standard of Success
From the Dodger press notes:
In three games with his new club, Manny Ramirez is 8-for-13 (.615) with a double, two homers, and five RBI. Over the last 75 years, the only other player to collect as many as eight hits over his first three games with the Dodgers was ...
They Don't Call Him Mister Ramirez
I don't necessarily expect the Manny honeymoon to last - surely he'll do something annoying at some point (in fact, his effort on the ball to the gap Friday already qualifies) - but I'll enjoy what I can out of it and try to put it all in perspective, evaluating the overall package instead of isolated incidents, good or bad.
McDonald Heads to Vegas
Like Clayton Kershaw, promising pitcher James McDonald has gotten a promotion from AA Jacksonville. Unlike Kershaw, McDonald will stop at AAA Las Vegas, according to Jeff Elliott of the Florida Times-Union. (Thanks to Dodger Thoughts commenter Dodgers49 for the link.)
McDonald, 24 in October, has thrown 118 2/3 innings this season, striking out 113 with a 3.19 ERA. Opponents are batting .227 against him.
It went almost unnoticed amid the Manny madness, but Kershaw had his second straight start of six shutout innings Friday, improving his season ERA+ to 110. He has thrown 115 innings this season in the majors and minors combined.
Here's where Kershaw ranks among others 20-and-under in ERA+ in Dodger history (minimum 50 innings).
My nephew Benny was on the Spike show Factory that aired on Sunday, titled "Camping." (Click on that episode after you folow the link.) He's the boy in the classroom in the second scene asking all the vexing questions. The show has a lot of improv, and he even came up with some of his own material. Nice job, Benny!
Won't You Go Home, Bill Bergen? Won't You Go Home?
On the weekend that Manny Ramirez matched Andruw Jones' single-season home run total, Angel Berroa became the dean of 2008 Los Angeles Dodger shortstops. Berroa logged his 283rd inning at short Sunday since the Dodgers acquired him, passing Rafael Furcal.
Berroa has an OPS+ of 38 and an EQA of .170. Jones, who leads the Dodgers' with 477 innings in center, is at 32 and .178. There's still talk outside the Dodger clubhouse of Jones accepting a minor-league assignment; I'll believe it when I see it.
Still, both Berroa and Jones are going to have to work a lot harder (or a lot less hard, I suppose) to become the worst hitter in franchise and major league history. Here are MLB's lowest OPS+ totals since 1901 (miniumum 225 plate appearances).
1) Bill Bergen (1911): -4
Brooklyn catcher Bergen played in 947 career games with a career .170 batting average, .194 on-base percentage and .201 slugging percentage. In the deadball era, he was the No. 1 corpse.
Jones does have the lowest OPS+ of the 21st century over a minimum 225 plate appearances, so there's that.
As for Juan Pierre, who told Dylan Hernandez of the Times, "All I've ever done was be Juan Pierre. I don't know why, for some reason, they're just sticking it to me this year," even if we were to evaluate him only against the world of Juan Pierres (as he seems to prefer), he has disappointed. His current OPS+ (68), on-base percentage (.324) and slugging percentage (.316) are all career lows. In his defense, his EQA (.254) has been unexceeded a few times in his career.
But this was Ramirez's weekend. He won't slug 1.154 forever, but I enjoyed it. (And what a weekend it was for the trade: Ramirez, Jason Bay and Andy LaRoche all homered since I was last at the office.)
Update: I was wondering how far down the Worst OPS+ list I'd have to go before I found someone who had a comeback season. Clyde Barnhart (No. 26), who had a 29 OPS+ at age 30 in 1926, zoomed all the way to 112 the following season.
Four on the Floor
Happy birthday to my oldest boy - still not dropped after four years!
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From Stoked to Soaked
I spent the game filling water balloons. The entire game.
No, I'm not bringing them to the stadium. But I might be thinking about tonight's top of the seventh and the bottom of the ninth as I hand them to the kids at my son's birthday party Saturday. And about Andre Ethier as well. Sigh.
Here's to happier events and life's treasures. Along those lines, enjoy a nice little story about Dodger Stadium's original organist, Bob Mitchell (from E.J. Stephens of The Magazine of Santa Clara).
Kershaw XI: Manny I
Snippet from an e-mail conversation about Manny Ramirez's Dodger arrival ...
Jon: "I think Manny in the middle of the order will make a bigger difference (than pitching), assuming he's at least 50 percent sane. Or I hope that he does. It would be nice if for once a new acqusition didn't go down the toilet."
Jon's dad: "Considering the caliber of the restrooms, I am sure even Manny will not go."
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The Significance of Ramirez's Recent Decline?
Manny, to a certain extent, has moved criticism from his playing ability to his personality. Remember the story of the off season? Manny was working out and was going to be in the best shape of his life. Despite the intense training, Ramirez put up numbers very similar to last year, with a little more power. The Red Sox had to look at that and say to themselves, "He worked his butt off this winter and he didn't improve much. The decline is real. Let's wait this out."
Manny probably thought he would come out like gangbusters, reaching 500 home runs quickly and wowing the front office with his return to dominance. Age, however, is eroding Manny's skills. He's so good that he can still be the best player on many teams playing at a lower level, but teams will pause before committing to an expensive, long term deal.
I suspect that was the big cause of the breakdown. Manny didn't meet his own expectations, but couldn't blame himself. He worked hard, said the right things to the press, even showed up to spring training on time. The Red Sox front office, however, saw the numbers, and the numbers said wait. Ramirez wouldn't accept that, so he acted in such a way that the Red Sox had to trade him, and received his wish. ...
Jon Weisman's outlet
for dealing psychologically
with the Los Angeles Dodgers
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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