Baseball Toaster Dodger Thoughts
Monthly archives: December 2008


Happy New Year
2008-12-31 17:56
by Jon Weisman

I'll never forget you, auld acquaintances. Be safe, and be well.

Are Gray Skies Gonna Clear Up?
2008-12-30 21:40
by Jon Weisman

UntitledYou'll see below a post about sadness. At the same time, I've been thinking off and on this week about happiness and Manny Ramirez. All this worry that he won't be happy if he doesn't get the deal we think he was expecting. The worry's legitimate, or rather the uncertainty is.

But if Ramirez were to sign with the Dodgers, for a contract well under the cumulative $100 million-plus he might have been led to believe he would get, are we so sure he'll be so triste? Doesn't it make sense that Ramirez would be more complicated than that? I can think of a hundred things that could make him happy while settling for $75 million or so guaranteed, from Angel Berroa as an overpaid sidekick, to proximity to some tasty restaurants, to the right therapist, to the scent of flowers in bloom, to ... you name it. As Mr. Cannon has indicated, Manny's legs might be a bigger worry than his head.

I don't know, folks. Maybe Ramirez's one-and-only motivation is the perfect contract. On the other hand, maybe that's Scott Boras' one-and-only motivation, and Ramirez is just looking for a combination of things, of which money is only one part, and a soft place to land is another. I don't think it's completely naive of me to declare case not closed.

Anyway, Bill Shaikin of the Times talked to Boras today, and learned that the communication lines are back open with the Dodgers. Ramirez is the team's first choice for left field, and one assumes the feeling might just be mutual, megacontract or megamegacontract. Happiness is relative, and money can't buy you love.

My Pets
2008-12-30 21:30
by Jon Weisman

Local baseball bloggers talking about their pets is usually the territory of Rob McMillin, but I hope you'll permit this interlude as the year winds to a close.

Five dogs passed through the Weisman household when I was a child. Four of them died young, without a chance for me to say goodbye to them. In 1972, we got a dalmatian, named Truly (I was the youngest of three kids and never once participated in naming the pets). She died at age 3, of kidney failure if I'm remembering correctly. I was 7 when I came home from Meadow Oaks Summer Camp in Calabasas to the news. My mom told me in her bedroom, and my next memory is sobbing in my post-camp bath, for the first time having to deal with missing someone and not being able to get her back.

Not too long after Truly passed, we got another female dalmatian, which was named Truly Too (yes, that was the spelling - I guess you can replace a dear friend), and weeks later, we added her brother, who naturally got the name Really. So now we had Really and Truly Too.

Now, despite their cinematic fame, dalmatians have a pretty bad reputation for behavior. I reflexively rise to defend their honor, but it is true that though completely loving, both Trulys were quite spirited. I think Truly Too in particular would have made a good free safety in the NFL - covering a ton of ground and eager for a leaping tackle. But by contrast, Really, in those late-'70s days, was more laid-back and more of a follower. On a number of occasions, Really and Truly Too broke out of the not-insubstantial fencing of our backyard (all our dogs were outdoor dogs) and took off roaming the neighborhood. I can remember us one time picking up the dogs at the Ralphs on Ventura and Winnetka, well over a mile from our house.

A few years later, my sister got a puppy for a birthday present (one that my father knew nothing about until it was too late for him to stop it) - a runt of a sheltie that was named Taffy. And so for a brief time, we had three dogs. But while on a trip to Carmel one September, we got word from our housesitter that one of our dalmatians had suddenly died. I wasn't immediately told which one, and I remember hoping, though knowing it was wrong to even have an opinion, that it was Truly Too, who was just a little tougher to handle. A suburban kid's Sophie's Choice. It did little to make me feel good to come home and find it was her: A blood vessel to her heart had burst. She was 5.

By this time, Really had already developed kidney problems, forcing him at a young age from a diet of dog food to one of rice and vegetables that my mother faithfully prepared in bulk on an ongoing basis. So you can imagine how I felt the clock was ticking on him. But in 1983, it was Taffy who died, also before her fifth birthday. She wasn't around one morning when I was getting ready for school, and by the time I got home, my mother was once again breaking bad news to me. A coyote had gotten hold of Taffy the previous night; all that was left was evidence.

I was closing in on my 16th birthday by this time, so my outward demonstrations of grief had evolved from sobbing to solemnity, but I'm not sure I'd say that experience was helping me adjust to the deaths any better. On top of it all, Really was particularly shaken, literally shaking. He had bonded more closely with Taffy after his sister died, almost immediately adjusting to a more sedate life. The escapes from Weismanville stopped, and after an early morning jaunt around the yard when we let him out of his dog run, Really would spend most of the day on a chaise longue, with Taffy curled up close to his belly.

So after Taffy was killed, when we got Really a new companion, a spitz whom my sister named Isis, Really visibly rebelled. He was too dignified to attack Isis, but he wanted nothing to do with her. As time passed, though she won him over (he was, after all, a soft touch), and soon they were pals as well.

But Really was growing more fragile. I spent fall quarter of my junior year in college in Europe, and as I left, I knew I might not see Really when I returned. For the first time, at age 19, I had the chance to say goodbye to a best friend. I held him on the lounge chair, talking to him, telling him to hang in there, but also telling him how much I was going to miss him. Treating him awfully close to something like a peer. About a month later, calling my parents late one night from a payphone in Rome, I found out that Really had walked over to a tree-laden part of our backyard, lay down and expired. And I sobbed like I was 7 all over again.

If nothing else, he had at least lived a full life. He was 12 when he died.

That left Isis, but despite our best efforts, we simply could not make our property resistant to entry and exit. Another coyote got her, also at a tender young age. And that was it for the pets of my childhood.

My most serious girlfriend of my 20s introduced me to friendship with a cat, which was something dramatically different, and also accompanied by the realities of allergies. Most times when I came over to my girlfriend's house, I did so with the knowledge that my nose would not be the nose I had always known. But I did start to get used to it, and was a bit more prepared when, 10 years ago, I met the woman I would marry. She was a transplant from New York with mixed feelings about being in Los Angeles, and had adopted a kitten the previous year to keep her company, naming him Simon. He and I met each other with some amount of mutual wariness, but grew fond of each other rather quickly.

Simon grew into an adult that was rather large. Almost every visitor would comment upon it. My wife and I thought he wore his weight rather well, arguing that his coat made him look bigger than he was. Still, we did try to regulate his diet, and would try to engage him in active play, at least until our kids started arriving. Then, we got distracted.

Although Simon had no qualms about annoying us with his meowing demands at sunrise to be fed, and had the common cat standoffishness that took affection more than it was offered, he really was a good guy. With the kids, he was a natural. Not once did he ever have to be told to be careful with them, and he clearly took any inadvertent rough contact from them with understanding – whereas grownups got snapped at if they rubbed him the wrong way. My youngest, now nine months old, might have been more fascinated by Simon than anyone, gasping with delight each time he watched him over the past few weeks.

A couple months ago, the unthinkable (or, in retrospect, all too thinkable) started happening. Simon wasn't finishing his meals. My wife took him to the vet, and he was diagnosed with (in no particular order) fleas, anemia and an ear infection. We treated him, and he seemed to recover quickly and fully. But last week, he started to lose his appetite again. We were out of town, so our catsitter took him to the 24-hour vet Friday night. Tests revealed more serious problems: fluid in his lungs, signs of heart disease, possible kidney issues. His outward condition took a dramatic turn for the worse.

We arrived home Saturday, landing at LAX with a phone message giving us the latest update. Long story short, after a couple of hours of discussion, we made the depressing decision to have him put to sleep. We didn't want the kids to see him this way, so my wife would go down to the vet while I stayed home with the children.

We sat the jet-lagged kids down and told them – told them simply Simon had died, rather than try to explain euthanasia to 6- and 4-year-olds. My middle child didn't have much of a reaction, but my oldest, my daughter, burst into tears and was barely consolable for the rest of the night. Both of them wrote farewell letters to Simon that my wife took with her to his farewell. My daughter's note was just heartbreaking.

The following morning, though, she had all but completely come to terms with Simon's passing. That's a good thing, I suppose, although it confounds me a little, because I haven't. I sit here wondering what we didn't do for him that could have forestalled his demise, and I still find myself at various times staring at the blank spaces where he'd be if he were alive.

And once more, I didn't get to say goodbye.

Kirk Gibson, 1989-90: The Hero's Magic Gasps, And Dies
2008-12-29 21:30
by Jon Weisman

In his first official at-bat following his legendary 1988 World Series home run, Kirk Gibson lined a single to right field to drive home new teammate Willie Randolph and give the Dodgers a 1-0 first-inning lead on Opening Day, 1989. Gibson then went to second on an Eddie Murray groundout, stole third base and, with a pump of the fist that called back his '88 heroics, scored on catcher Jeff Reed's throwing error. Four innings later, Gibson homered off 19888 Cy Young runner-up Danny Jackson.

But the Dodgers lost the game, 6-4. Good beginnings, unhappy endings - this was the story of Kirk Gibson's post-1988 Dodger career.

Even before that '89 season opener, there were already signs that Gibson's health was going to remain an issue, wrote Gordon Edes of the Times.

There had been some question whether the Dodgers' heavyweight, Gibson, would be able to go nine rounds Monday. Two or three days ago, Manager Tom Lasorda said he was convinced that Gibson was really hurting, and even after the game Monday, Gibson said he was a "mess." ...

"When I'm on the field I'm going to play hard, I'm going to force myself to play my game. I wouldn't have been out there if I was only going to run half-speed and not steal bases. . . . The other (team) doesn't care if I'm hurting, so when I go out on the field I don't ask for a get-well card."

When he came off the field, however, you could say it was a different story. Gibson played in the Dodgers' first 10 games, the last of which was their home opener April 13 - a game that he had to leave after the sixth inning, Edes wrote.

Trainer Bill Buhler said the Dodger left fielder, whose spring has been marred by knee, hamstring and shoulder problems, complained of being stiff and sore all over. ...

"It's just against my better judgment to continue playing," said Gibson, who even with his injuries has been the Dodgers' most productive hitter with eight runs batted in.

Despite that admission, however, Gibson is reluctant to concede that he will, indeed, sit out a while.

"I don't know that," he said. "I'm not really in the mood to talk about it."

Gibson started four of the next nine games, up to April 25. At that time, he was still managing a fine April for the Dodgers: a .393 on-base percentage and .460 slugging percentage. But his left hamstring locked up on him, forcing him from the game in the fifth inning, and he went on the disabled list for nearly a month.

When Gibson came back, on May 23, he came back strong. He played in 36 consecutive games, starting 35 of them. When extra innings and a doubleheader forced the Dodgers into 53 innings of baseball in three days, June 3-5, Gibson played 44 of them, with an OPS of 1.198. Through June 18, he was still on-basing .391 and slugging .493. The Dodgers were 34-33, but just 5 1/2 games out of first place in the National League West.

But then Gibson's contributions started to plummet. From June 19 to July 22, Gibson turned into a 2008 Andruw Jones: .121 batting average, .195 OBP, .196 slugging, .391 OPS. (If that weren't enough, he was the victim of a carjacking at gunpoint in his driveway after a 2-1 loss to San Diego on June 28, the Times reported.)

On July 23, with his OPS having dropped more than 200 points to .680, Gibson took himself out of the lineup. Wrote Bill Plashcke:

He was weary of fly balls he couldn't chase and fastballs he couldn't rip and ultimately, Kirk Gibson's competitive burn gave him no choice.

After the Dodgers' 8-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates Saturday night, he asked to meet with team officials. It had become obvious, they weren't going to make it easy for him. You don't just bench most valuable players. He would have to do it himself.

So he flatly told them that his legs were killing him. And then he asked them, would they please take him off the roster.

"I don't have the ability to do the things expected of me," Gibson said Sunday after being placed on the disabled list for what could be the rest of the season. "As much as I wanted to tell myself I could do it, as positive as I wanted to be . . . reality is reality."

His problems were officially diagnosed as a sprained medial collateral in his right knee and a chronic left hamstring sprain. Gibson, who missed 27 days earlier this season with a left hamstring injury, translated them in different terms.

"I came back too early from the first injury, I still felt it," he said. "Then it got worse and worse and worse. Now, I hardly have any strength in my lower body at all, and I can't do anything. People who say I don't use my legs to hit, that's not true." ...

Why did Gibson wait until now to force that decision?

"I was trying to deal with it," Gibson said. "I am committed to my teammates. I have a contract, an agreement to give my best effort. I was dealing with this the best I could. I thought I would work through it. I couldn't."

Two weeks later, the Dodgers announced that Gibson would have season-ending surgery on his hamstring, with the hope - underline hope - that he would be ready for Spring Training 1990.

"This is the last alternative I have right now," Gibson told Steve Springer of the Times. "It worries me that this could bother me throughout my career. Everyone knows I want to play the game."

In fact, Gibson was out for more than 10 months, not returning until June 2, 1990. From Mark Heisler:

Kirk Gibson strode back into action Saturday night. He drew several standing ovations and, on the first big league pitch he'd seen in 10 months, hit a towering fly toward the right field seats.

Oh no, it couldn't be. ...

Not this time.

The ball came down in Paul O'Neill's glove, a foot in front of the fence. Kirk Gibson went 0 for 4 in the Dodgers' 8-3 loss to the Reds. If there was hope that he'd limp back out and turn the season around like it was the ninth inning of the '88 World Series opener, that hope did a serious fade. ...

Gibson's surgically repaired left hamstring, which had sidelined him since last July 22, may still be bothering him. His remarks before Saturday suggested something less than perfect confidence in it. ...

His 1990 campaign belatedly began 2-for-23, one walk. Within just a few weeks, trade talk began to surface, with Gibson himself eventually acknowledging he would welcome a move, ideally back to Detroit. In early July, Plaschke reported that Gibson and Dodger general manager Fred Claire shouted at each other in Lasorda's office.

Lasorda's door was closed, but the shouting was loud enough to be heard throughout the clubhouse. Although neither Claire nor Lasorda would comment on the nature of the dispute, it was apparently a culmination of frustration over Gibson's situation on the team.

Coming on the final day before the All-Star break, it provided a fitting end to a fitful first half in which the Dodgers finished with 10 losses in their last 16 games and a 39-43 record. ...

While discussing Gibson's status with him Sunday, Claire reportedly became upset and began scolding Gibson. He reportedly told Gibson that he should think less about himself and more about the team. He accused Gibson of having a bad attitude.

Gibson, who has played out of position in center field this season without complaint, became incensed with the remarks and began shouting. The two men reportedly began stalking each other around the room with Lasorda serving as referee.

When the meeting ended, Gibson left the office to the stares of hushed teammates. ...

It might have hardly been coincidence that around this time, Gibson started to find himself at the plate again. In 32 games from July 1 to August 11, his OPS was .966, propelling him to .867 on the season. It was this surge that appeared to stop the Dodgers from completing a July 31, deadline-day deal of Gibson to the Tigers, for pitcher Steve Searcy (career ERA from 1988-92, 5.68).

And then, suddenly, it was all gone again. Gibson hit no home runs for the remainder of the year, his OPS falling to .573 over the final two months, to finish at .745 for the year. It was an above-average 107 OPS+, so he was hardly a failure, but the glory days in Los Angeles were over.

In November, the Dodgers signed Darryl Strawberry. And on the first day of December, barely two years after his exultant limp around the Dodger Stadium infield, Kirk Gibson signed a free-agent contract with Kansas City.

Ross Newhan penned the epilogue.

Gibson never received an offer from the Dodgers, although Fred Claire, team executive vice president, said Saturday he had informed agent Doug Baldwin that he was prepared to offer arbitration before the Dec. 7 deadline, meaning Gibson could have stayed another year if he had wished.

"With our outfield structure, I couldn't go beyond that," Claire said, adding that he thinks a healthy Gibson will pay dividends for the Royals, and that he is deserving of thanks for his contributions to the Dodgers.

"The Gibson chapter was a success," Claire said. "I don't know if in the history of the game there was a player who signed as a free agent and became a most valuable player the next year. That speaks for itself." ...

Reduced to a part-time role by leg injuries and forced to undergo an experimental hamstring surgery, Gibson batted .213 over the next two years, hitting only 17 home runs. It was a span of frustration that seemed to bottom out in September when Gibson batted .159 with no homers and four runs batted in.

Amid the struggle, frustrated by his slow recovery and by what he felt was a half-hearted attempt by Claire to satisfy his desire to be traded to an American League team near his home, Gibson engaged Claire in a clubhouse shouting match that Claire says was talked out and forgotten the next day.

"Kirk said what he had to say, and I said what I had to say," Claire said. "I have nothing but respect for him."

Speaking by phone Saturday, Gibson said he regarded the Dodger experience as positive, although Los Angeles was the culture shock he expected, and that Kansas City will be better for a country boy.

"I did a lot for the Dodgers, and the Dodgers did a lot for me," he said. "I think we both have our memories."

That's Entertainment
2008-12-29 06:24
by Jon Weisman

Despite the crumbling economy, people continue to spend tons of money at the movies - even though not all of them are of World Series quality. Considering how many tickets at Dodger Stadium (reserve, top deck) are priced below that of a movie, I'm not sure that there will be the big 2009 attendance downturn that some are expecting. Enough people still want their entertainment.

The test will come on the high-end tickets and on concessions, but come April, there might be sufficient optimism about the ultimate recovery of the economy to re-encourage spending. I'm not making a prediction or suggesting there won't be any decline at all. I think the pull of the Dodgers might be enough to withstand these dire times.

2008-12-29 06:11
by Jon Weisman

Ex-Laker Ronny Turiaf was welcomed back to Staples Center as a visiting Golden State Warrior with a video montage on the scoreboard and an ovation by Laker fans, writes Mike Bresnahan of the Times. Compared to a Dodger Stadium atmosphere that is sometimes remarkably unwelcoming for former players in other team's uniforms, no matter the circumstances of their departure (Shawn Green, anyone?), this sounds nice.

Sit Wit' DeWitt
2008-12-28 21:53
by Jon Weisman

Dodger Thoughts reader Terry Austin passes along this four-part interview by Richard McGill with Dodger second baseman Blake DeWitt.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

* * *

Don Newcombe, Tommy Lasorda, Mike Scioscia and Sparky Anderson are among those participating in a fundraiser January 10 for the Toberman Neighborhood Center in San Pedro. Capacity is being limited to 300 people, at $250 per ticket. Bill Sharman's wife, Joyce, is one of the organizers. For more information, call (310) 832-1145 x102.

* * *

New Dodger blog to check out: Reflections of Blue ...

Prospect Park
2008-12-28 12:00
by Jon Weisman

Prospect guru John Sickels looks at the Dodger system at Minor League Ball. "The Dodgers system has thinned out a lot, and actually looks a bit weak right now, though I trust Logan White and his people to recharge quickly," Sickels writes, adding that "some of the Grade C guys at the lower levels have the potential to get higher grades once they prove themselves more fully, and this system could look much deeper a year from now.

2008-12-25 09:17
by Jon Weisman

Ben Walker of The Associated Press recalls the Mercy Bowl, a fundraiser in support of the families affected by a tragic plane disaster involving the Cal Poly football team. (Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, to be more specific.)

All my best to everyone.

A Yankee Story You Can Only Adore
2008-12-24 13:34
by Jon Weisman

Alex Belth's tour de force: his magnificent true-life fable of the final night at Yankee Stadium.

The Play's the Thing
2008-12-24 06:01
by Jon Weisman

Level-playing field? Equality of opportunity? To quote from the jaunty 7-Up ads of my youth, baseball never had it, never will. The Yankees' CC Sabathia-A.J. Burnett-Mark Texeira super-splurge shouldn't bother anyone. That's what they do, and you could almost say that's what they're for. Like Jessica Rabbit, they're drawn that way. Would you have Othello without Iago?

Did the Yankees buy a 2009 title? More than a century of baseball history, exclamation-pointed by last season's shining Rays, says not. In a single given year, some teams have no chance of winning. But over a period of years, every team has some chance and no one to blame but themselves if they can't ever reach the postseason. And the postseason, always and forever, will belong to Fickle and Fate.

Further and more specific to the coming season, is the Yankees' financial dominance any more of an advantage than what members of the National League West have going for them - namely, the mediocrity of their peers? I'll not shake my fists at the heavens when I see San Diego, Arizona and Colorado in retrograde and the Giants still trying just to regain their status as a planet.

The Dodgers have their own garden to cultivate, and many (or Manny) options in the shed. Be the best you can be, physically, intellectually and emotionally, and let everything else fall as it will. That's the only game in town.

Year-End Beginnings
2008-12-23 08:19
by Jon Weisman

To continue this community-themed final week of the year, I extend an invitation for never-before commenters - hey, kids on vacation, this includes you! (with your folks' permission) - to dive in and say hello. Give us your thoughts about the Dodgers or anything else - all opinions welcome - or just wave your hat and say hi ...

So, How're You Feeling?
2008-12-21 18:07
by Jon Weisman

Looking back, this was a big year for me, and so when I look back, I feel pretty good. But uncertainty welcomes 2009, driven by events both global and personal, and I'm a bit discombobulated. The late-'80s Rolling Stones non-classic "Mixed Emotions" has been the Billboard No. 1 in my head, a long distance dedication from the future.

But enough about me. How are you?

The Voice of Experience
2008-12-20 07:30
by Jon Weisman

Blue Notes has a lengthy interview with Dodger veteran Clayton Kershaw.

Shallow Thoughts, by Jon Weisman
2008-12-19 05:00
by Jon Weisman

Without giving this a tremendous amount of deep thought, I offer this: Ethics, as much as we might like them or believe them to be divorced from emotions, rarely are.

If it weren't so early in the morning, I'd have tried to make that funny.

If you define cowardice as running away at the first sign of danger, screaming and tripping and begging for mercy, then yes, Mr. Brave Man, I guess I'm a coward.

Furcal, Dodgers Bathe in the Sweet Blue Rain of Priorities Lost and Found
2008-12-17 17:02
by Jon Weisman

The eclectic compound of exceptional talent and fragility that constitute Rafael Furcal are back in the Dodger medicine chest - pending a physical (dun dun dunnnn) - with the Dodgers posting the news on their website.

The 31-year-old shortstop's contract reportedly pays "$7.5 million next season, $9.5 million in 2010 and $13 million in 2011 ... (and) includes a $13 million team option for 2012 with a $3 million buyout, and the option could become guaranteed depending on his performance." That means that the Dodger payroll for 2009 is only moderately affected by his renewal, and the piper really won't consider calling for a while. (Update: Ken Gurnick has the annual digits at "$6.5 million, $8.5 million and $12 million. The team option for 2012 is for $12 million, but vests with 600 plate appearances in 2011. There is a $3 million deferred signing bonus.")

There's a lot going on in terms of the he-said, he-said of the past two days, which I won't be getting into here (mostly out of personal lack of interest), but here are comments from Braves general manager Frank Wren that leave it unclear whether Furcal himself ever authorized his representation to give an offical yes to Atlanta.

"(Furcal agent Paul Kinzer) asked us to get the term sheet over. The reason we didn't get it over that night when we reached agreement on the terms is because he said, 'I just I just gotta make sure Raffy's OK with this. He said, 'As soon as I talk to Raffy I'll call you back.' And then he called me back at midnight saying he still hadn't just to give me a heads up so I could go to bed. He said, 'I haven't talked to Raffy yet.' I said, 'Well call me if you get him, and I'll do the term sheet and get it to him at that moment.' And he didn't call me back until the middle of the night and left a voicemail. So we got up, got the term sheet, and that's it."

Prior Tee Evades Furcal, Dodgers
2008-12-17 16:09
by Jon Weisman
Journalists Definitely Not Furcal's Top Priority
2008-12-16 21:10
by Jon Weisman

It's the dawn of a new day. You could argue about who came off worse in Tuesday's meanderings - Rafael Furcal, his representation or baseball's beat writers. But then it's never pretty watching sausage being made, isn't it?

Anyway, the sunrise didn't bring us any news about where this particular link was going to be delivered. So while we wait:

  • Sherry Stern of the Times peeks at hotels near the Dodgers' new Camelback Ranch Spring Training facility.

  • Ramon Troncoso is discussed as a "hidden gem" at Fangraphs.

  • Furcal Reemerges as Dodgers' Top Priority
    2008-12-16 16:30
    by Jon Weisman

    If the pattern holds, this'll be obsolete by the time I publish this. Anyway, it just goes to show that I should always obey my policy of not acknowledging a signing until it's official, because multiple news sources (including Dylan Hernandez of the Times) are reporting that the Dodgers and Rafael Furcal are still talking contract - despite earlier reports that Furcal to Atlanta was a done deal. This is getting almost Hochevarian!

    Furcal No Longer Dodgers' Top Priority
    2008-12-16 09:29
    by Jon Weisman

    Rafael Furcal has agreed to terms with his old team, the Atlanta Braves, on a three-year deal, pending a physical (which should hold at least a smidgelet of intrigue). Thus, the Dodgers bid farewell to one of Ned Colletti's better free agent signings. He was the right player, even if he had the wrong physical condition. But I don't have the confidence in him staying healthy with the Dodgers. Staying healthy with another team? Well, that's another story.

    Still, I'll be haunted by his key errors in 2007 and 2008. Haunted too much, but haunted nevertheless.

    Furcal Should Not Be Top Dodger Priority
    2008-12-15 13:34
    by Jon Weisman

    I like Rafael Furcal, quite a bit in fact, but the injury-riddled shortstop's on-field future is at least as uncertain as that of the top free-agent outfielders available to the Dodgers. And if you have to settle for a good-field, no-bat player in the lineup, shortstop is where you want him, where he can make more plays that matter. Better Chin-Lung Hu than Juan Pierre.

    The Dodgers should prioritize an outfield signing. Then, if Furcal doesn't agree to terms and they have to settle for Hu batting eighth (with Ivan DeJesus, Jr. rising through the system behind him), no one should mind.

    * * *

    EQAs for the past three years, 2006-08 (.260 is average):

    Bobby Abreu, age 34: .324, .293, .299
    Pat Burrell, age 32: .300, .312, .300
    Adam Dunn, age 29: .286, .311, .303/.304
    Manny Ramirez, age 36: .344, .303, .317/.403
    Juan Pierre, age 31: .253, .258, .252
    Andruw Jones, age 31: .301, .257, .177

    Dodger salary commitments to date for 2009 sit in the $70 million range.

    Sign an outfielder. Let Pierre serve as his backup/late-inning defensive caddy. See if Jones appears resurrected in Spring Training, and if he does, make a trade. If he doesn't, prepare to dump him.

    * * *

    Here are the 11 sub-.800 OPS months of Ramirez's 16-year career, in reverse chronological order:

    .741 May 2008
    .629 April 2007
    .749 August 2007
    .796 September 2006
    .725 May 2005
    .496 June 2002 (21 plate appearances)
    .680 June 1995
    .647 September 1995
    .465 May 1994
    .782 July 1994
    .502 September 1993 (debut)

    Update: Furcal's agent said Furcal will decide which contract offer to accept by Tuesday, according to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports.

    I don't know if this renders part or all of my post moot. If so, that would be the second time that's happened to me in the past week. Sigh.

    Looking Into the Daily Mirror
    2008-12-13 22:25
    by Jon Weisman

    Job-hunting at the Winter Meetings
    Kevin Baxter of the Times has a feature on those non-athletes who dare to dream of a career in baseball.
    The Daily Mirror is the Times history blog run by Larry Harnisch, with the assistance of Keith Thursby. They take a day-by-day look at Los Angeles history, usually 100 or 50 or 40 years ago to the day, and they've had no shortage of interesting stuff – including but certainly not limited to material on the Dodgers. I thought it would be nice to pause and have a chat with them.

    Jon: Just to start things off, what got the Daily Mirror blog going?

    Larry: Aaron Curtiss of the Times website came to me in early 2007 and asked if I would be interested in doing a true crime blog. The original idea was to cover the big, landmark crimes, like the Black Dahlia, Bugsy Siegel and the Manson family, that everybody knows about. But my idea was that if we only did the big crimes, readers would have no reason to come back every day. Since I'd been involved in the 1947project with Kim Cooper and Nathan Marsak, a fabulous blog that went day by day through 1947 and then 1907, I suggested a daily blog of vintage crime.

    I started out posting about March 1957 and have been rolling ever since. Last year, I began experimenting with 1908, an era of Los Angeles history that fascinates me but is an acquired taste for most people, and 1938, because of the Harry Raymond bombing, which ultimately set off the recall of corrupt Mayor Frank Shaw and the election of reform Mayor Fletcher Bowron. We're about to turn over into 1959, which should be another great year.

    I should add that I'd been twisting Keith's arm to write about historic sports, and he graciously agreed. I can't say enough good things about what he brings to the Daily Mirror.

    Jon: So Keith, once your arm was sufficiently twisted, what was your approach? The Dodgers have certainly prominently featured, which I guess is no surprise considering that '58 was their first year in Los Angeles. Were you looking for any kind of news in particular?

    Keith: First, I have to thank Larry for the invite and his patience through the year. I really started with not a lot of time to think or plan. I just started looking through the papers, a month at a time. Since this isn't a sports blog, I was hoping to catch whatever the paper was covering about the Coliseum, crowds, anything that would be more than just baseball. I wanted to include the baseball, of course, but I wasn't sure how many pure sports fans I'd find.

    Jon: Talk a little about the effort that goes into putting these posts together. It's not as if it's just cut and paste from a website.

    Keith: I am not in Larry's league here. He probably does 20 posts to each one of mine. I make a list each month of what I'd like to do if I can get to it all and then make some priorities (Dodgers, the stadium fight, the '58 and '68 Rams, college football and then anything else). Let's say it's a story about a player who wanted to be traded from the Dodgers. I want to tell the daily story and how it was reported, but I better make sure I know who he got traded for and how the career ended up. Sometimes, if the subject is big enough, I'll look up their obit because there might be some better detail or perspective that will add to the post. So it's rare that I can get a clip and write about it. My bigger issue is time management.

    Larry: Assembling the posts is fairly time-consuming. The Daily Mirror may not look like it takes much time, but it's like a second job.

    Before anything gets posted, there's all sorts of research that has to be done. I work several days ahead so I have enough time to look things up and follow the threads of a story, and I never know when a seemingly simple story is going to take a complicated turn.

    I don't always have the time to write a long post and in those instances I'll do a survey of the day, including the front page, or the cover of the second section, a page from the theater or movie section and if Keith isn't writing that day, the cover of the sports section. Naturally, 1958 and 1968 resonate more with sports fans than 1938, although I did have one person ask me about the 1938 USC-Notre Dame game (a big upset for USC).

    If possible, I like to augment the posts, for example the opening of "The Buccaneer," with a clip from YouTube, or an audio clip.

    The movie star mystery photos are a special case. I enjoy them quite a bit but I end up scanning at least five photos, one for every day of the week. And the Daily Mirror readers are sharp so I have to pick people who might seem obscure.

    Beyond that, there's a lot of formatting and layout to be done and uploading all the photos and page images is cumbersome. I've done a fair amount of experimenting and I'm always trying to figure out something better.

    One feature I have expanded is the "Voices" elements: profiles or interviews with people who have died to accompany their obituaries. The Paul Newman profile was extremely popular, for example. And Tammerlin Drummond's 1990 interview with Barack Obama has also been reposted many times since I put it on the Daily Mirror. Working ahead gives me the latitude to drop everything and post a profile within minutes of learning that a prominent actor or musician has died.

    Jon: Looking back on the year, what were your most interesting discoveries about the Dodgers or favorite posts?

    Keith: I really liked the mix of it all. My two sons (now 19 and 16) went with me to the Coliseum game against the Red Sox (neither had been to the Coliseum) and I wrote about that and about the Dodgers' worries in 1958 about getting enough parking at the Coliseum. So that was a fun way to start the season. It was interesting to just read the stories —the Times style of sportswriting was transitioning from a more folksy style to what became the section I read growing up in the 1960s. So I tried to find examples to put in the Mirror. I was surprised what a great quote O'Malley was and how often he was in the paper. And the politics of the stadium fight have been fascinating.

    Jon: And you, Larry?

    Larry: In some ways, they are all my favorites. I give every one the best treatment I can, although I'm sometimes stretched pretty thin. There are a few stories that are so complicated I can't do them justice and that bothers me, but there are only so many hours in the day. The stories and photographs of the Gordon Northcott case, which formed the basis of the movie Changeling, were terrible, but I was glad to be able to dig into the archives and share all that material.

    What I treasure most are hearing from relatives of people that I've written about. For example, I wrote a post about a young man who was driving while he was drunk and got stuck on the railroad tracks in Alhambra. A good Samaritan came along with a flashlight, walked up the tracks and stopped the train, saving this man's life. Months after I wrote that post, I got an e-mail from the man's son who said that his father had passed away without ever mentioning that incident.

    There are similar incidents that I don't write about because they're private family history. But I think that's the most rewarding part of the blog. I always write my posts as if they're going to be read by a relative. I don't like the style that's so common in true crime, the "Hollywood Babylon" school of writing, that uses a snide, superior, condescending tone. These were folks just like us.

    Jon: But overall, how different a feel do you get for the Los Angeles of 1958 as opposed to the Los Angeles of 2008? Or should I ask what the similarities are?

    Larry: If I had a mission statement it would be something like: "The past was never a kinder, simpler time." I have two main goals for every post: One of them is to cover as much as possible the people that the Times marginalized or ignored the first time around. So that means I'm especially interested in history that isn't about straight, white Christian (usually Protestant) men. Of course, I say that being a straight, white Protestant man, but that's how it goes. But I'm always looking for items about people of color; about gays and lesbians; about women, etc. This can be fairly challenging since the major newspapers ignored African Americans – sometimes I have to go to the black newspapers, the California Eagle and the Los Angeles Sentinel – and reading those papers is like being on another planet. I've also gone to One, a gay magazine that started in L.A. in the 1950s, to try to get a handle on that. And I think we need to be able to confront the ugly stereotypes that appeared in the paper, especially the comics and some of the ads, and be honest about them.

    The other goal is to emphasize all the challenges that resonate with living in Los Angeles today: Transportation, housing, employment, public safety, the environment, etc. And honestly, we don't have these issues figured out any better than our great-grandparents did. In many ways, we're stuck with decisions made 100 years ago, for example, the layout of our streets for the most part. There's almost nothing I enjoy more than writing about Los Angeles having terrible traffic in 1908. And I especially enjoy challenging the notion that the Los Angeles streetcar system was perfect. It's not that I hate the streetcars, per se. I think they look cool and I would love to ride them. But by the time the streetcars were scrapped we had outgrown the era of having mass transit move on fixed rails in the middle of the street. (Look at what happens today with drivers trying to beat the Blue Line cars to a crossing.)

    On the other hand, people who glorify the past seem to have very little idea of how primitive medical care was in the last century. Those advances and product safety laws (I've lost count of the number of children who ate ant paste and other toxic compounds) are some of the major differences today.

    The bottom line is we haven't figured out the big issues, transportation, housing, public safety, sanitation and the environment, any better than our great-grandparents did. As far as traffic goes, we are running as fast as we can to stay in the same place, just like Alice in Wonderland.

    Keith: First, I keep reminding myself that I don't have much of a clue about 1958 Los Angeles. The stories in the Times only tell you so much. Wish there was a better picture of what it was like to be a Dodger fan at the Coliseum. You don't get that from reading the paper. Every time I hear from a Daily Mirror reader who was at the Coliseum, I try to engage them to learn more about what going to a Dodger game was like. I grew up in Los Angeles County, in Norwalk, but by the time I started going to Ram and Laker and Dodger games, they were all established teams in the area. What I have learned from reading so many stories is how excited the paper and the town was about getting the Dodgers. There was a certain positive tone. Even when it was clear the 1958 team was pretty dreadful, the paper moved on to write about the future and what the team would do to get better. And despite the controversies over Chavez Ravine there was an anticipation of what a stadium would mean for downtown (of course partly because the whole concept was backed strongly by the paper). I remember an editorial stressing support for the stadium effort mentioned that L.A. needed a zoo and would one day have one, but first it needed this ballpark. What a different place it must have been.

    Larry: The other thing I would add that I think is fairly important is that 50 or 70 or 100 years ago there was much more interest in what sort of legacy people were leaving for the next generation, whether it was buildings or the freeways, or the state university system, etc.

    Of course, today we hate the idea that they leveled Bunker Hill (I think they took it down about 40 feet) and ran everyone out of Chavez Ravine, for example, but as misguided as they may have been at times, people in an earlier generation were concerned with inventing a grand vision for the Los Angeles of the future, especially the Civic Center. Don't get me wrong. Developers wanted to get rich, and they did, but I think there was some heart in it.

    Today, development is all piecemeal, as if we're living psychologically and emotionally from paycheck to paycheck. In the old days, especially the 1950s, the Times would publish a big feature about a visionary plan for downtown or Pasadena about every six months or every year. We don't get that any more. Development is isolated and pointilistic. And do you think anybody has even wondered what major developments like the Grove in the Fairfax district or the Americana in Glendale are going to look like in 50 years? As big as those projects are, they were built strictly for the here and now.

    Dodgers Cut Loose Saito, Proctor, Brazoban, Berroa, Alvarez
    2008-12-12 18:24
    by Jon Weisman

    Tony Jackson of the Daily News passes along the news regardin Takashi Saito, Scott Proctor, Yhency Brazoban, Angel Berroa and Mario Alvarez. The Dodgers can still resign any of them, but so can any other team.

    Steiner Moved to Radio Full-Time - Slot as Scully's TV Backup Open
    2008-12-12 09:30
    by Jon Weisman

    Charley Steiner will work solely on the radio on Dodger broadcasts in 2009, Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News reports:

    Dodgers VP of communications Josh Rawitch confirmed that Steiner was OK with being taken off the 40-odd FSN Prime Ticket and KCAL-Channel 9 road game package that Hall of Famer Vin Scully passes on each season (all games East of the Rockies). Steiner will go back to working exclusively on the KABC-AM (790) radio broadcasts for the entire season with Rick Monday as his partner.

    The decision to make Steiner-Monday the radio team for all 162 regular-season games (after the three innings that Scully simulcasts to open each contest) also means a) Monday won't have to fumble around with play-by-play any longer and b) former Dodgers pitcher Jerry Reuss unfortunately won't be needed. ...

    So, where do the Dodgers look now for a strong TV presence -- and, if you're reading between the lines, a possible successor some day to the 81-year-old Scully, guaranteed to be with the team through 2009 by his latest contract to give him an even 60 years with the franchise?

    Steve Lyons remains under contract for 2009, so whomever does play-by-play will have that element of surprise to contend with.

    Start your list of candidates now.

    Make sure to follow the link to Hoffarth's story for more.

    I'm wondering if, even though Steiner has been sent to television, he (and Monday or Lyons) ultimately wouldn't be Scully's full-time replacement for TV games after he retires, and any newcomer would eventually end up on radio.

    Previously on Dodger Thoughts: "On the AAA Broadcasting Beat"

    Come Sail Away
    2008-12-11 22:37
    by Jon Weisman

    What Were They Waiting For?
    2008-12-11 16:57
    by Jon Weisman

    Vin Scully has been voted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame, reports Andrew Stewart at Variety.

    In other news:

  • Former Dodger Wilson Betemit has joined the White Sox on $1.3 million deal, notes Betemit OPSed .718 (86 OPS+) last season with the Yankees. (I failed to mention earlier that Tampa Bay traded Edwin Jackson to the Tigers on Wednesday.)

  • Jonah Keri announced he's going to write a Moneyball-esque (I think that's fair to say) book on the '08 Rays.

  • Hot 'n' Old Corner
    2008-12-11 08:23
    by Jon Weisman

    Not aiming for anything profound here, but in the wake of Casey Blake's three-season pickup by the Dodger TV network, I thought I'd scope out what were the most productive seasons by an age 35-or-over third baseman in Dodger history.

    OPS+ (minimum 200 plate appearances)

    127 Tim Wallach (36), 1994 – 466 PA
    121 Jim Gilliam (36), 1965 – 432 PA
    113 Billy Herman (36), 1946 – 211 PA
    110 Bill Madlock (35), 1986 – 421 PA
    107 Jackie Robinson (37), 1956 – 431 PA
    106 Tim Wallach (37), 1995 – 362 PA
    96 Enos Cabell (35) 1985 – 208 PA
    96 Jackie Robinson (36), 1955 – 390 PA
    93 Doc Casey (36), 1906 – 648 PA
    91 Frenchy Bordagaray (35), 1945 – 305 PA

    (Blake had a 110 OPS+ last season.)

    Runs Created

    72 Tim Wallach (36), 1994
    60 Jackie Robinson (37), 1956
    58 Jim Gilliam (36), 1965
    55 Jimmy Johnston (35), 1925
    52 Bill Madlock (35), 1986
    49 Jackie Robinson (36), 1955
    49 Doc Casey (36), 1906
    44 Tim Wallach (37), 1995
    44 Tim Wallach (35), 1993
    41 Doc Casey (37), 1907

    Here's how Blake and some of these players did in their age-34 seasons (Blake turned 35 in August):
    Robinson: 104 RC, 139 OPS+, .312 EQA
    Gilliam: 76 RC, 120 OPS+, .302 EQA
    Madlock: 72 RC, 110 OPS+, .263 EQA (Pit), .339 EQA (L.A.)
    Blake: 86 RC, 110 OPS+, .297 EQA (Cle), .269 EQA (L.A.)
    Cabell: 56 RC, 120 OPS+, .279 EQA
    Bordagaray: 64 RC, 103 OPS+, .261 EQA
    Johnston: 40 RC, 96 OPS+, .250 EQA
    Casey: 52 RC, 93 OPS+, .243 EQA
    Wallach: 54 RC, 79 OPS+, .237 EQA

    Reconcilable Differences
    2008-12-10 19:55
    by Jon Weisman

    Look, no one seems to enjoy a salary arbitration hearing. From afar, it appears to be some bastardized form of marriage counseling, where you air out all your grievances with your partner before coming to a reluctant agreement or, barring that, a third-party-imposed winner-take-all settlement.

    That doesn't mean divorce is a preferred alternative. But reading Diamond Leung of the Press Enterprise and Tony Jackson of the Daily News, you might get the feeling that the Dodgers do.

    The Dodgers own the Major League Baseball rights to Takashi Saito. If he wants to play ball in the majors next season, he does so at their pleasure. Otherwise, it's home to Japan - which might be fine for the 38 5/6-year-old reliever who was only able to throw 5 2/3 innings after the 2008 All-Star Break.

    According to Leung and Jackson, the Dodgers and Saito are so far apart in their negotiations for 2009 that general manager Ned Colletti is labeling the talks "a staredown." The Dodgers are offering an incentive-laden one-year contract, Saito wants more security. The beat writers are indicating (assuming they haven't been led down the wrong path) that if the parties don't come to an agreement by Friday, the Dodgers will release the rights to Saito rather than face an arbitration hearing.

    Why? Unless they are convinced Saito won't be healthy at all for 2009, why should they not continue negotiating with him, even if it takes them all the way to an arbitration hearing? Is this an overreaction to the Jason Schmidt fiasco?

    In the first half of 2008, opponents only had a .282 on-base percentage and .299 slugging percentage against Saito. He struck out more than 30 percent of the batters he faced. I'm the first guy to point out that reliever expiration dates come up fast, but I'm struggling to believe that Saito won't be worth to the Dodgers something close to what an arbitrator decides he's worth, even if he spends more time on the disabled list.

    The Dodgers are always advocating the need for pitching depth, yet since October they've cast aside Brad Penny, Joe Beimel, Chan Ho Park. I'm not arguing that they should have kept all of these guys, but unless Saito is just fried, surely the team that took a $47 million chance on Schmidt can take a sub-$4 million chance on him.

    Update: Dylan Hernandez of the Times echoes his colleagues: "The Dodgers might part ways with the All-Star closer if they can't agree on terms of a new contract to ensure they can avoid facing him in arbitration." The Dodgers should not worry about ensuring they don't face Saito in arbitration.

    Update 2: Andruw Jones hits ... the Dominican tarmac (via Kevin Baxter at the Times).

    Update 3: Ken Gurnick of adds medical details on Saito:

    The issue is his right elbow. He suffered a partial tear of a ligament that usually requires Tommy John ligament replacement surgery and a year off. But at age 38, Saito instead chose an experimental stem-cell injection and two months of rehabilitation. He returned to pitch six times in September and had a shaky playoff outing in Chicago but wasn't healthy enough to be included on the Dodgers' National League Championship Series roster.

    So he ended the season physically unable to perform, and for negotiation purposes, that's how the club remembers him. He's back home in Japan now and the Dodgers have medical reports as far as they go, but there's no way to really know his health until he pitches regularly in games. ...

    I'll admit, this gives me second thoughts.

    The Medium Isn't the Message - The Message Is the Message
    2008-12-10 16:25
    by Jon Weisman

    Congratulations to online baseball writers Christina Kahrl, Will Carroll, Rob Neyer and Keith Law for their acceptance into the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

    Off-the-Cuff Revelation: Schmidt Had Different Injury When Dodgers Signed Him
    2008-12-10 06:24
    by Jon Weisman

    Bill Shaikin of the Times read the Dodgers' Jason Schmidt insurance lawsuit and found that the team admitted it knew Schmidt had a rotator cuff injury at the time he signed his three-year, $47 million deal.

    In the suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the Dodgers argue the torn labrum that required surgery and limited Schmidt to six games over two years was unrelated to the rotator cuff injury and thus covered by insurance.

    Dodgers spokesman Josh Rawitch said Tuesday the team could not comment on a pending legal matter. ...

    It is believed the Schmidt physical included an MRI examination that confirmed the rotator cuff injury. In the suit, the Dodgers claim such injuries are not uncommon and said they awarded him the contract based on his success with the Giants.

    "Major league pitchers often experience such partial rotator cuff tears but nevertheless remain competitive and effective," the suit reads, "as Mr. Schmidt had demonstrated himself to be during the 2006 season immediately prior to joining the Dodgers.

    "The Dodgers therefore did not find Mr. Schmidt's preexisting rotator cuff condition to exclude him from consideration as a team member." ...

    In other news:

  • Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise expands on these notes:

    --If the Dodgers decide to give up on Andruw Jones, they might be able to trade him and only have to pay, say, $22 million of the $22.1 million they owe him.

    --Tony Abreu is making progress but remains more or less in recovery mode.

    --Ramon Troncoso is working on a curveball while working as a starter, but still is more likely to remain in the bullpen. And I still have to wonder if the Dodgers will think twice about this.

  • Ex-Dodger and Hall of Fame Oriole Eddie Murray is pursuing a position in the Baltimore front office, writes Roch Kubatko at MASN.

  • Nothing like In 'N Out home (or hotel) delivery, as Big League Stew illustrates. But remember - don't debate the fries.

  • Various unsourced reports this morning have CC Sabathia bowing his head, kicking the dirt with his feet and succumbing to the Yankees' $140 million, six-year contract offer (which might or might not have gotten a booster shot). We'll see if/when we get confirmation.

  • Cast Away
    2008-12-09 20:15
    by Jon Weisman

    Chad Billingsley had the cast taken off his broken leg a couple days ago and is healing as expected, Ned Colletti said today (via Ken Gurnick at

    Wishing Well
    2008-12-09 12:30
    by Jon Weisman

    What do Dodger fans want? Sports columnist and friend of Dodger Thoughts Jim Alexander of the Press-Entrerprise is planning a column in reaction to Jamie McCourt's much-dissected comments from a couple weeks back, and e-mailed to ask this site's readers for their thoughts in advance.

    I'm looking for some feedback for a column I'm writing on what fans really want from the owners of their favorite teams, and whether they're getting it. (And yes, Jamie McCourt is the inspiration for this idea.)

    I think I know, in general terms, what fans are looking for:

  • A decent facility (luxury boxes not necessary), with good access, plentiful parking and good sight lines.

  • Reasonable ticket and concession prices.

  • A team that they can be proud of, one that's capable of competing for a championship while not featuring a roster of thugs or bad guys. (Definition of "bad guys," of course, often depends on who's doing the defining.)

    Am I accurate? Are there other things you want from your owner that I haven't thought of? And how close has your ownership come to providing them?

    Thanks in advance.

    My reaction? I think Alexander's more or less on target, although one question is how one thing (reasonable ticket and concession prices) can affect another (a team we can be proud of). I'm actually not convinced that they need to affect each other, but certainly lowering prices would give owners the public relations cover to do less with the product on the field. Luxury suites have also helped with revenue in this day and age, although it will be interesting to see how filled they are next year in the current economy.

    Also, I would address the thugs in the stands before I worried about the thugs on the roster. I would mention ballpark security in the first bullet point, but I don't think that player thugs are such an ongoing issue that they need to be singled out for concern.

    In a way, if you really want to simplify things, you could summarize your wish list in these seven words: "Respect for the fan on every level."

    * * *

    Baseball Prospectus intern and fellow Hoya Ben Lindbergh explores one of my favorite topics today: relief pitcher volatility. He links to my 2006 article ("You need good relief, but you sure can't plan for it") in passing as he searches for potential reliever bargains for 2009.

    * * *

    The Dodgers' schedule for their Spring Training debut in Arizona is official, the team announced today. They open at Mesa against the Cubs on February 25, and their home opener is March 1 against their bunkmates, the White Sox.

    The ballpark, which has a capacity of 13,000, features ticket prices beginning as low as $8, with 88 percent of the ticket prices at $30 or less and 44 percent of all tickets available for $20 or less. There are a limited number of Home Plate Club season seats still on sale. Fans interested in purchasing season tickets should visit or call (323) 224-1471. ...

    Nine of the Dodgers' 17 contests at Camelback Ranch fall on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. ... The schedule also features a March 12 home exhibition game against an Asian Qualifier for the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

    * * *

    Update: Tony Jackson of the Daily News has quotes from Joe Torre regarding Joe Beimel and Brad Penny:

    On Beimel: "You make a decision as to what you want to do. We just felt Joe was inconsistent. He took the ball, whether good or bad, and went out there on a regular basis. I love Joe, but he wasn't as good against left-handed hitters as he had been in the past."

    On Penny: "I thought it was best that he go out there on his own. He was uncomfortable, and I know he had some physical issues. We tried to use him out of the bullpen, but I think he was a little hesitant about doing that. Maybe the fact he was becoming a free agent had something to do with that."

    Lefties had a .641 OPS against Beimel in 2008, compared to .490 in 2007 and .621 in 2006. More evidence of reliever volatility. Beimel didn't have a bad year, but he's probably not worth the dollars he thinks he deserves.

    * * *

    Update 2: Farewell, Robert Prosky: The Judge and Sgt. Jablonski. Prosky passed away almost exactly 25 years after his Hill Street Blues predecessor, Michael Conrad.

  • Dodgers Sue Schmidt Insurer
    2008-12-09 11:42
    by Jon Weisman

    The Dodgers have sued Ace American Insurance Company (They're in the White Pages!) for more than $9.2 million the team believes it is owed in insurance payments covering starting pitcher Jason Schmidt's shoulder injury, according to a wire service report posted on the Daily Breeze website.

    The suit, which demands a jury trial, claims Pennsylvania-based Ace American acknowledges that the right-hander suffered "total disability," but contends that a "special condition limitation" contained in the policy limited the number of days for which the Dodgers may recover benefits.

    That "special condition" covers disability arising from "conditions, afflictions and consequences of the rotator cuff" in Schmidt's right shoulder, the complaint states.

    The Dodgers argue in the suit that the limitation does not apply to Schmidt's right shoulder. ...

    (Thanks to commenter Fan Since 59 for the link.)

    * * *

    Some of the young Dodgers - including pitchers Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald and outfielder Delwyn Young - will be gathering at Dodger Stadium beginning Monday for a strength and conditioning camp, the Dodgers announced today. Dodger strength coach Brendon Huttman will lead workouts from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily through Saturday.

    Others scheduled to attend include minor leaguers Chris Withrow, Trayvon Robinson, Devaris Strange-Gordon, Justin Miller, Nathan Eovaldi, Jon Redding, Matt Sartor, Kyle Smit and Kyle Russell.

    Two more strength and conditioning camps will take place in January, along with the second annual Winter Development Program.

    Shake and Blake
    2008-12-09 08:21
    by Jon Weisman

    I really have not written much about Casey Blake. There's something about him that I find completely resistible. I find his bat resistible, his glove resistible, his beard resistible. But with the Dodgers perhaps signing him as early as today, I should probably say something about him.

    Here's a link to the Baseball Prospectus leaders in Value Over Replacement Player for third basemen. Blake's 2008 stints with Cleveland and Los Angeles are divided, so here's the top 10 if you add them together.

    1) Chipper Jones
    2) David Wright
    3) Alex Rodriguez
    4) Aramis Ramirez
    5) Troy Glaus
    6) Evan Longoria
    7) Jorge Cannot Cantu
    8) Casey Blake
    9) Melvin Mora
    10) Adrian Beltre

    Pretty incredible, huh? On the level just before bonafide All-Stars, you find unlikely standout Cantu, and then Blake.

    However, though except for one disastrous ninth inning in San Francisco he looks fairly solid in the field, Blake doesn't fare as well on defensive measurements, particularly the Ultimate Zone Ratings that were recently published on Fangraphs, where he finishes near the bottom of the pack. Beltre, for example, ranks high. But Beltre would cost players in trade. For the 2009 season, Blake is probably the better pickup.

    Even though Blake is 35 years old, which means that his production should be tapering as time passes, his ability to play three infield positions without embarrassing himself at the plate should help him remain a useful contributor over the next two or three years. If Chin-Lung Hu or Tony Abreu can step up in the coming year, so much the better. But if they don't, the Dodgers have a decent stopgap.

    The main qualm I have about a Blake signing is by passing on him and saving a few million here, it could make a CC Sabathia or Manny Ramirez deal more tenable. Because if you add one of those two guys to the roster, you'll be better off even with a $400,000 man at third base, or for that matter Blake DeWitt at third and a Mark Loretta-led combo at second.

    But even though he doesn't excite me, Blake won't be a bad guy to have around if the Dodgers bring him back.

    * * *

    The Dodgers added another body for Spring Training, reports Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise: Hector Luna, 29 in February with a career 84 OPS+ in 771 plate appearances. Luna has played every position but pitcher and catcher in the bigs.

    * * *

    Update: Ken Gurnick of writes that "Blake played most of the month of September with a badly bruised biceps muscle that hampered him hitting and throwing."

    Loretta Swift
    2008-12-08 22:16
    by Jon Weisman

    With cellphones and Blackberrys doing enough buzzing to process pollen, baseball's Winter Meetings got underway today, appropriately enough, in the gambling capital of the Great 48: Las Vegas, USA. And while the neon lights shone on Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, CC Sabathia and Manny Ramirez, it looks like the Dodgers' first spin of the wheel has landed on 37-year-old Mark Loretta, the 37-year-old infielder whom Ken Gurnick of reports will supplant Nomar Garciaparra as a right-handed utility infielder. (The Dodgers haven't confirmed, but Gurnick at least has an on-the-record source: Loretta's agent, Bob Garber.)

    Loretta EQAed an above-average .267 for Houston last season, and has had an on-base percentage of at least .345 every season since 1997. Against left-handed pitchers last season, Loretta's on-base percentage was .419 - meaning that he could form a platoon with Blake DeWitt. Gurnick, citing Garber, said that Loretta would earn $1.4 million next season.

    * * *

    As the Dodgers and others try to corral the best baseball players in the world, perhaps the timing is right for this tangent: Malcolm Gladwell's latest piece from The New Yorker, "Most Likely to Succeed: How do we hire when we can't tell who's right for the job?" Interesting stuff, particularly with regards to education, which I know is a favorite topic of numerous Dodger Thoughts commenters.

    * * *

    Update: Bill Shaikin of the Times argues that the Dodgers should sign Sabathia:

    What are they waiting for?

    The Dodgers need an ace in the starting rotation, in the clubhouse and in the community. Sabathia dedicates himself to all three. ...

    The Dodgers have been burned so often by Colletti's multiyear free agent signings -- injuries to Jason Schmidt, Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra and Bill Mueller, poor performances by Andruw Jones and Brett Tomko and the superfluousness of Juan Pierre -- that McCourt understandably is wary of the kind of proposal Sabathia would take seriously.

    Yet Colletti said "special circumstance" could compel the Dodgers to extend an offer beyond their general limit of three years.

    He said he has discussed the possibility of bidding five years -- or longer -- with McCourt, but with no authorization to actually do so. ...

    Sabathia wants to be a Dodger. If that really means something to McCourt, then he should go get him. Sabathia devotes himself to reviving youth baseball in the inner city, so the Dodgers couldn't beat this deal: Sign him for $130 million, and he'll build 50 youth fields by himself.

    Hall's Veterans Committee Passes on Dodgers of Various Duration
    2008-12-08 10:38
    by Jon Weisman

    Voting results:

    Results of the 2008 Post-1942 Players Ballot (48 votes needed for election): Santo (39 votes, 60.9 percent), Jim Kaat (38, 59.4 percent), Tony Oliva (33, 51.6 percent), Gil Hodges (28, 43.8 percent), Joe Torre (19, 29.7 percent), Maury Wills (15, 23.4 percent), Luis Tiant (13, 20.3 percent), Vada Pinson (12, 18.8 percent), Al Oliver (nine, 14.1 percent), Dick Allen (seven, 10.9 percent).

    Results of the 2008 Pre-1943 Players Ballot (nine votes needed for election): Joe Gordon (10 votes, 83.3 percent), Allie Reynolds (eight, 66.7 percent), Wes Ferrell (six, 50.0 percent), Mickey Vernon (five, 41.7 percent), Deacon White (five, 41.7 percent), Bucky Walters (4, 33.3 percent), Sherry Magee (three, 25.0 percent), Bill Dahlen, Carl Mays and Vern Stephens (fewer than three).

    Walk This Way
    2008-12-07 09:52
    by Jon Weisman

    Mike Davis is blogging. I found this out via Blue Heaven, which pointed me to Vin Scully Is My Homeboy, which had the link to the blog of the October 1988 Dodger hero, supporting class.

    Blue Heaven also has a link to some classic photos, including Babe Ruth in an LA uniform. (Follow the link for an explanation.)


    * * *

    Stanford (25-5) plays USC (28-0) for the NCAA men's water polo title at 3 p.m. today on the Farm.

    This Week on Fringe
    2008-12-05 20:15
    by Jon Weisman

    The Dodgers have signed four free-agent pitchers to minor league contracts, reports Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise: Carmen Cali, Travis Chick, Nick DeBarr and Eric Threets.

    World Baseball Classic-Dodger Stadium Tickets On Sale Monday
    2008-12-05 15:12
    by Jon Weisman

    Tickets for the March 21-23 World Baseball Classic semifinals and final at Dodger Stadium go on sale Monday at

    Greg Maddux, There Are No Words
    2008-12-05 14:21
    by Jon Weisman

    It was a pleasure. Congratulations, Greg Maddux, on the first day of the rest of your life, officially starting Monday.

    Maddux, 42, closed out his career with the Dodgers. He did not start in the playoffs and made his final appearance in the National League championship series, mopping up for Chad Billingsley in the game in which the Philadelphia Phillies eliminated the Dodgers.

    Maddux said that day he was not offended to serve as a mop-up man.

    "It was a privilege," he said. "I felt privileged to do it. I was glad I had a chance to pitch.

    "It stinks that we lost. But there's a lot of good young players here, and they're only going to get better. I think this team has a chance to be good for a while." ...

    Do the Dodgers Have Any Serious Competition for Ramirez?
    2008-12-04 08:38
    by Jon Weisman

    Buster Olney of offers an analysis of the Manny Ramirez situation that might be the most cogent I've seen from a national writer.

    Executives around baseball ... are having a difficult time envisioning how Ramirez would make more in salary in 2009 than if he accepted arbitration. He made $20 million last season -- although the present-day value was just a little more than $17 million -- and following a historic performance in which Ramirez hit .396 for the Dodgers in two months, driving in 53 runs in 53 games, his arbitration award would be breathtaking. Boras would be in position to set a new and stunning standard through that process, and could ask for A-Rod money.

    But accepting arbitration would represent a staggering surrender for Ramirez, who had hoped for a nine-figure contract, and for Boras, who has been talking a deal for as long as six years for the 36-year-old outfielder. One year for $28 million is a long way from 4 years, $100 million, or six years, $150 million. Some friends of Ramirez do not believe that he will allow Boras to take arbitration, as tempting as it may be. "This is not going to be an easy time for Scott," a friend of Ramirez said.

    The Dodgers now are perfectly positioned. They have twice dangled Ramirez opportunities for record-setting contracts -- the first being the $45 million offer, which would have established a new standard for outfielders, and the second being the arbitration. If Ramirez accepts the arbitration, the Dodgers would have only a one-year obligation on the aging slugger, and while none of the Dodgers staffers would ever say it out loud, keeping Ramirez on a one-year deal, with the carrot of free agency in front of him, might be the best way to keep him running hard. ...

    I think it goes without saying out loud that the Dodgers would prefer to have Ramirez on the shortest-length contract possible. In any event, Olney continues ...

    If he doesn't accept arbitration, they can say, legitimately, Hey, we really tried to keep him. They are willing to risk paying Ramirez as much as $30 million, which would seem to be the high end of any arbitration award, for just one season. If he signed elsewhere, most likely with a second-division team, then the Dodgers would get two draft picks as compensation, not bad considering that to date, they haven't paid Ramirez a dime in salary.

    Two quibbles with this paragraph. Simply offering Ramirez arbitration, even with the high salary potential, won't alone be enough to constitute a sufficient effort toward keeping Ramirez in the eyes of many Dodger fans. Secondly, Olney seems to forget that the two draft picks in compensation would be replacing Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris, for what that's worth.

    But Olney goes on to make a sound point, especially considering how the free agent market has evolved this offseason.

    There has been a push from the media in L.A. for the Dodgers to go to a third or fourth year to sign Ramirez, but a question that should be considered is this: Who, exactly, is competing with the Dodgers' offers? What force in the market would appear to compel them go beyond what they have on the table? And wouldn't it be poor management to compete with your own offer?

    Many of the traditional big-money teams won't be involved. The Red Sox aren't interested, of course, and the owners of the Mets are faced with the real concern that their new ballpark is named for a company that has been involved in bailout talks, as Richard Sandomir wrote this morning; internally, the Mets are talking very conservatively, reserving their available cash for pitching. If you thought the Yankees might emerge as a Ramirez bidder, keep in mind that they already have Xavier Nady, Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon as corner outfielders, and earlier this week, they decided not to offer Bobby Abreu arbitration because of the risk that he might get $16 million a year. Ramirez might wish for a big Yankee offer, but New York is not suddenly going to generate a $100 million proposal for him, or even anything remotely close to what Ramirez could make in arbitration with the Dodgers. ...

    Olney also addresses the Angels, Giants and Orioles but finds them unlikely partners with Ramirez.

    Olney concludes by linking to a Kurt Streeter column in today's Times that actually credits Jamie McCourt for stating the obvious - ballplayers sure make a lot more money than an egalitarian society would want. T.J. Simers gets closer to the real lesson - any serious conversation involving the Dodgers and their fans about the economy should start with what the Dodgers will do for their actual customers.

    Update: Kevin Goldstein has his Dodger prospect report up at Baseball Prospectus. He puts 2008 top draft pick Ethan Martin first, ahead of Ivan DeJesus, Jr., James McDonald, Scott Elbert and Andrew Lambo, though he writes about Martin that "the gap between what he is now and what he can be is about as wide as the Grand Canyon, and there is plenty of time for things to go wrong."

    Also, Don Stanhouse fans need to check out Cardboard Gods today.

    'Language Is a Complimentary Moist Lemon-Scented Cleansing Square'
    2008-12-03 15:45
    by Jon Weisman

    I'm delving into the Hugh Laurie-Stephen Fry combo for work reasons. Not an unpleasant task, as some of you might know.

    This clip from A Bit of Fry and Laurie has the kind of intellectual heft I've always aspired to on Dodger Thoughts ...

    * * *

    Take a tour of's Proposed Manny Ramirez Little League Park.

    Dodger Third Baseman Joe Torre
    2008-12-03 10:12
    by Jon Weisman

    On this date 40 years ago, the Times wrote, Atlanta turned down a Dodger offer of Willie Davis and Tom Haller for Joe Torre and Felipe Alou. (Thanks to Keith Thursby at the Daily Mirror for the link.)

    Atlanta countered with Rico Carty to accompany Torre in place of Alou, but the Dodgers rejected that – which probably turned out to be a mistake. Alou was mostly heading downhill after 1968. On the other hand, Carty, who missed the 1968 season because of tuberculosis, posted back-to-back OPS+ of 164 and 179 in 1969-70, though he averaged only 120 games per year. (Using the Similarity Scores method, Carty's stats are most similar to those of Pedro Guerrero.)

    In any case, Carty wasn't even the big prize. Three months later in exchange for Orlando Cepeda, Torre (who had begun migrating from catcher to the corners of the infield) went to St. Louis and strung together six fine seasons, winning the National League Most Valuable Player award in 1971.

    Davis and Haller continued to be productive for the Dodgers, so the non-trade wasn't a total loss for the team. And of course, Torre might eventually have blocked the development of Ron Cey or Steve Garvey. But Torre's near-presence might have made the 1969-1973 years a little less lean for Los Angeles.

    Eighteen Short Blog Posts About the Dodgers
    2008-12-02 16:57
    by Jon Weisman

    I believe, however irrationally, that there's a light at the end of the Chin-Lung Hu tunnel.

    I don't care what the highest-priced Spring Training ticket is, I only care that there are plenty of low-priced ones.

    I think Jason Schmidt will pitch at least 60 innings for the Dodgers this year, and at least 30 of them will be helpful.

    I'm willing to have a weak No. 8 hitter if he's a defensive whiz and Juan Pierre isn't batting leadoff.

    Couldn't the Dodgers trade Pierre using the argument, "Ex-Dodgers always do well."

    Ramon Troncoso's 2.25 ERA as a starting pitcher in the Dominican Winter League might be the best offseason development for the Dodgers – if it's not an entirely meaningless one.

    The thought does occur to me: What if Russell Martin is satisfied with how good he is? What if, like me, he doesn't have it in him to push harder for greater greatness (as exemplified by my use of the term "greater greatness")?

    I believe Matt Kemp and James Loney will look back on 2008 as a positive learning experience.

    I'm tired of people saying the Dodgers have 13 free agents to replace, as if that number is significant, when it includes people like Jason Johnson.

    Eric Stults does not deserve to be dismissed for having one bad start in Colorado.

    I wonder why the Dodgers have been so eager to turn on their own – like with Chad Billingsley in the 2008 National League Championship Series. Does group anger really work?

    I'm surprised how much sense a Randy Johnson one-year contract makes to me. Why not?

    I don't have an answer regarding Andruw Jones, but I hope he's been seeing an unphysical therapist.

    It almost scares me to think of the excitement a return of Manny Ramirez would bring – because of the sheer credibility he gives the team. Even though I know he wouldn't hit like he hit for the Dodgers last year. Even though the price might not be right. Even though CC Sabathia might make more sense. Crazy. Opening Day couldn't possibly come soon enough if Ramirez returns.

    The Dodgers should bump up their offer for Ramirez's third year, and then Ramirez should sign the dang contract and then negotiate a new one as an American League designated hitter when the economy is heading back for an upswing.

    If the Dodgers do conserve payroll this winter and pick up draft picks instead of free agents, they must fund the 2009 draft budget to the max.

    I have to remind myself that the Dodgers aren't the only team with major holes to fill.

    Pennants aren't won and lost in December.

    * * *

    Bonus: Josh Rawitch is excited about Camelback (or whatever the name ends up being) - and convincingly so.

    Arbitration Update
    2008-12-01 16:55
    by Jon Weisman

    The Dodgers have offered salary arbitration to Manny Ramirez, Derek Lowe and Casey Blake, says Josh Rawitch at Inside the Dodgers. and will receive draft pick compensation if those three players sign with other teams this offseason.

    Shuttle Stop
    2008-12-01 11:10
    by Jon Weisman

    It was reported last week that the Union Station-Dodger Stadium shuttle might have been too successful for its own good and is in jeopardy unless the Dodgers start to help funding it, writes Damien Newton of Los Angeles Streetsblog. (Thanks to 6-4-2 for the link.)

    It's a subject that might come up on the radio today, if the necessary connections are made. Kevin Roderick at L.A. Observed notes that "Dodgers co-owner Jamie McCourt will talk some more about her controversial comments about the Dodgers, their charities and the economy on Patt Morrison, KPCC (89.3 FM) at 2:30 p.m." and also passes along this relevant link to this commentary by his colleague, Bill Boyarsky.

    ... the Dodgers really need city hall for the big zoning and other regulatory changes required if Frank and Jamie McCourt, the team's owners, ever go ahead with a big residential and commercial development on the fringes of the 300 acres of Chavez Ravine that the team owns. McCourt always downplays his interest in such a development, but he's a real estate guy. And from where I sit in the stadium, looking over the parking lot, I can just visualize where the condos, stores, restaurants, bars and clubs would go. They'd call it Dodger City or Stadium Heights and it would be huge money making development when the recession ends and building resumes. And the new residents could use a tram to get downtown.

    City hall folks are entertained well by the Dodgers. Council members hang out in the McCourt luxury box. The mayor is welcomed in the McCourts' front-row seats. During one of those baseball interludes, the mayor and the council members should tell the McCourts: "You want that zoning? You want the EIR approved? Then put some money in for the tram."

    Everyone else in the city has to grease the way, usually with campaign contributions, for big zoning and EIR votes. Let the McCourts grease the way, too.

    Just before Thanksgiving, I asked Dodger public relations gyroscope Josh Rawitch about the shuttle situation, and he said that "we're working with local officials and agencies for a 2009 plan."

    Update: Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus suggests what he would do if he were Dodger general manager.

    Update 2: The Morrison-McCourt interview was taped Wednesday night.

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    About Jon
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