Monthly archives: January 2009
Lambo Draws First Blood
For those who haven't heard, Andrew Lambo has moved to the top of the Baseball America Dodger prospect list. In 2008, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound 20-year-old outfielder from Newbury Park followed an .807 OPS for Class A Great Lakes by going 14 for 26 with three homers for Jacksonville.
Here are the Dodger farmhands with the best tools, according to BA.
Best Hitter for Average: Lambo
Make It Happen: Inside-the-Park Home Run Derby
Spurred on by a joke by Dodger Thoughts commenter Jim Hitchcock, fellow commenter Humma Kavula had a nifty idea today.
Oh, I absolutely would watch the inside-the-park-home-run-derby. How about this...
Eight kids from around the U.S. are chosen as fielders. Put an age limit on it -- ten? Twelve? Point being, these are kids. (Pitcher remains a batting practice pitcher.)
Major Leaguers hit long fly balls and then run the bases. He must keep running until he crosses home plate. Kids field and try to tag him out. Major Leaguer gets five outs.
Each time around the basepaths, one presumes, he would get slower and slower, increasing the chances of running out of gas...
...yes, yes, I would watch that.
I would too. Let's get the lawyers to draw up the release forms and test it out at Dodger Stadium.
More reaction from Eric Stephen:
The only change I would make is to eliminate the need for a tag out. Just make the kids throw it into a general area before the batter/runner crosses home plate for the out. I don't want to see Pete Rose III obliterate a little kid who's trying to tag him.
Dodgers To Come on Down
While it's not true that Andre Ethier's arbitration case will be settled in the Showcase Showdown, the Dodgers' winter caravan will take the team to a taping of The Price Is Right on Wednesday. A full schedule of the week of community events can be found here.
Initial Gesture of 2009
The Dodgers' starting catcher will have "J. Martin" on the back of his jersey this season, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Russell Nathan Jeanson Coltrane Martin is doing so to honor his mother, whose maiden name is Jeanson.
(This should come as interesting news to Dodger publications director Jorge Martin, I'd say.)
Gurnick's feature on Martin also brings us one of the Dodgers' initial "fresh start" pieces of 2009.
Martin believes this also is the time he puts his game back on track. Those who had seen his first two seasons in the Major Leagues, and even those watching him for the first time, sensed something wasn't quite right in 2008.
Although still an All-Star and postseason starter, Martin wasn't the same player or person as the National League's Gold Glove and Silver Slugger catcher the previous year.
Speculation ran the gamut from a hidden injury to a swollen ego. Whenever asked, Martin said nothing really had changed.
But not anymore.
"I understand completely why people thought that," Martin said this week. "A lot had changed in my life. I think it's just part of growing up and maturing. I'm finally just taking responsibility and taking control of everything.
"If you watched me play the game, you couldn't question my desire or intensity. But things like nutrition, my preparation, my rest -- I wasn't 100 percent in those elements." ...
Oops, There Goes Another Rubber Tree Plant
Dave Cameron writes at Fangraphs about not giving up on propsects who hit a rough patch: "Don't judge a player with a long history of success on one bad season. Talent shines through, even if not immediately."
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Keith Thursby of the Daily Mirror points out that the 1949 Los Angeles Angels might have been more of a major-league team than the 1949 Chicago Cubs.
Little Big Mac
While I was filled with self-involvement in promoting my book, seemingly every other Dodger blog wrote about the offhand revelation by Dodger pitching coach Rick Honeycutt (to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com) that James McDonald would start the 2009 season in the bullpen.
My first reaction is that I don't think decisions like this are finalized in January, but I don't have a problem in principle with continuing to break McDonald into the majors as a reliever, as long as the Dodgers retain an open mind about him as a starter.
There's certainly no reason to worry about the Dodger bullpen depth. The Dodgers already have a mix of great young arms and moxieful veterans. While you always look for ways to improve your team, there's very little the Dodgers can do now that's meaningful.
I'll talk some about the Dodger starting rotation soon.
My kids like Webkinz.
There are nine Webkinz days on the 2009 Dodger Stadium promotions schedule.
Lost Episode 3 Chat Thread
It's Coming! 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die
I really think you're going to like it. Throughout last year, I applied the Dodger Thoughts approach of research and reflection (and joy!) to every aspect of Dodger history and the Dodger experience. The result was something that I think will be a lifelong companion to what you've seen here online. The goal was to make the book meaningful to old and new fans alike, and I was constantly finding new insights into Dodger people and events you'd think you knew inside and out.
Former Dodger owner Peter O'Malley was kind enough to write the foreword for the book, and also gave permission for me to use numerous old photographs, many of which have not been published in decades, if ever. Some of them just made me shake my head with delight.
The readers of this site were never far from my mind when I wrote the book. You are among the most dedicated Dodger fans in the world, and I aimed to satisfy. I'm hoping you'll think I did.
Anyway, here are some early ordering tips:
1) If you would like to attend a Los Angeles book release gathering in late April, don't order the book yet. You can buy the book directly there.
2) If you can't make the gathering and would like to pre-order the book online, do so directly from the Dodger Thoughts link on the left.
3) Eventually, the book will be in bookstores and you can buy it in person, though I don't know right now that you'll find it many places outside of Southern California and New York.
You won't want to miss such chapters as "The Sweetheart From '88" or "The Head-Spinning, Allegiance-Shifting, Authority-Defying Leo Durocher." Get excited for your copy (and your friends' and family's copies) of 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.
Farewell, John Updike
John Updike, the author of Rabbit, Run, which I have long considered my favorite novel, died today.
Updike, who also wrote the famous farewell to Ted Williams, "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," was a significant influence on my writing and the way I express my feelings toward life. "On purely literary grounds, he was attacked by Norman Mailer as the kind of author appreciated by readers who knew nothing about writing," The Associated Press noted today. Maybe so, but I'll still take him.
Here's the conclusion from his short story, "The Happiest I've Been."
"There were many reasons for my feeling so happy. We were on our way. I had seen a dawn. This far, Neil could appreciate, I had brought us safely. Ahead, a girl waited who, if I asked, would marry me, but first there was a vast trip: many hours and towns interceded between me and that encounter. There was the quality of the ten a.m. sunlight as it existed in the air ahead of the windshield, filtered by the thin overcast, blessing irresponsibility - you felt you could slice forever through such a cool pure element - and springing, by implying how high these hills had become, a widespreading pride: Pennsylvania, your state - as if you had made your life. And there was knowing that twice since midnight a person had trusted me enough to fall asleep beside me."
Brian Cartwright ran a study on catcher basestealing prevention for Fangraphs. "The task is to seperate the catcher's ability to throw out base stealers from that of the pitchers they are teamed with," Cartwright wrote. Among his findings
1) New Dodger backup Brad Ausmus has been trending sharply downward in effectiveness, though the low rate of stealing attempts against him implies that opponents haven't realized it.
In the comments on the study, Dodger Thoughts reader Xeifrank questions its viability.
Kent was a very good player for a long time, and an often misunderstood one. His lack of charisma and his businesslike approach made him an easy target, though his humorlessness should never have been confused with a lack of passion for the game. From this vantage point, he looks to be a borderline Hall of Famer at best. Even with no particular love lost for him as a fanone who spent years rooting against him as a Giant before settling down and appreciating his uneven virtues with the DodgersI'll admit that this still contradicts my gut instinct, but then that's one of the reasons for the five-year waiting period before a player reaches the ballot. Nonetheless, I strongly suspect he'll find his way into Cooperstown in due time, and if that's the case, it will hardly be the crime of the century.
Dodger Blogs Ready for 2009
Something that has become acutely apparent is how deep the Dodger blogosphere has become and how high the standards are. It's not just me and old stalwarts like 6-4-2 and Dodger Blues. (Yes, we're the aging veterans on the roster.)
The team and press blogs, Josh Rawitch's Inside the Dodgers, Tony Jackson's Inside the Dodgers and Diamond Leung's Press-Enterprise blog, along with the Times baseball writers on The Fabulous Forum, have emerged as indispensable sources for information and insight. Blue Notes became the go-to site for player interviews and really developed a smart, gracious style and outlook.
Eric Stephen's surge onto True Blue L.A. has been exciting, and helped it keep pace with the analysis and sharpness provided by Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness and Fire Ned Colletti Now. The Sons of Steve Garvey have grown up fast.
Baseball Savvy boasts a well-defined point of view and longstanding credentials as the champion for a Sandy Koufax statue at Dodger Stadium. Dodger Sims regularly updates the cold, hard projections about the 2009 Dodgers. The Trolley Dodger and Blue Heaven are particularly fun on the historical side.
And this isn't even everyone.
I like to think Dodger Thoughts is a big deal, but it sure isn't the only game in town. Reading all these other sites is a real kick in the pants, and while I might take it easy in these final few days of January, I know I'm going to have to be at the top of my game to keep pace with these other great sites. What a remarkable time to be a Dodger fan.
At Least Billy Beane Didn't Write This One
There was some hysteria over the weekend regarding the upcoming book The Yankee Years. The cover indicates that it was written by now-Dodger manager Joe Torre and Tom Verducci, which I suppose makes it logical for people to think that the negative quote about Yankee players and management came from Torre. Sports Illustrated columnist Verducci tried to bud-nip some of that talk.
The book is not a first-person book by Joe Torre, it's a third-person narrative based on 12 years of knowing the Yankees and it's about the changes in the game in that period. Seems to me the New York Post assigned this third-person book entirely to Joe Torre and that's not the case. In fact, if people saw that Post story they probably noticed there are no quotes from Joe Torre in it. Joe Torre does not rip anybody in the book. The book really needs to be read in context. ...
This is the result of hundreds of interviews with not only Torre but players, front office executives, executives of other teams, players on other teams. It's a 477-page book about 12 years of baseball history. Again, it's not a Joe Torre first-person book, so there's a lot of reporting that's presented in there in addition to Joe's insights.
Smart people will judge the book upon actually reading it and not reading preliminary reports prior to its publication. Once you understand the context of the book you understand the information. It's not a tell-all book. Anybody who reads it will understand that. ...
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Keith Thursby of the Daily Mirror looks at the final days of Los Angeles' Wrigley Field.
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This year marks the eleventh annual election of the Shrine, a major national component of the Baseball Reliquary, a Southern California-based organization dedicated to fostering an appreciation of American art and culture through the context of baseball history. The thirty individuals previously elected to the Shrine of the Eternals are, in alphabetical order: Jim Abbott, Dick Allen, Emmett Ashford, Moe Berg, Yogi Berra, Ila Borders, Jim Bouton, Jim Brosnan, Bill Buckner, Roberto Clemente, Rod Dedeaux, Dock Ellis, Mark Fidrych, Curt Flood, Josh Gibson, William "Dummy" Hoy, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Bill James, Bill "Spaceman" Lee, Marvin Miller, Minnie Minoso, Buck O'Neil, Satchel Paige, Jimmy Piersall, Pam Postema, Jackie Robinson, Lester Rodney, Fernando Valenzuela, Bill Veeck, Jr., and Kenichi Zenimura.
(The number to the right of candidates' names indicates the number of years on the Shrine of the Eternals ballot.)
1. Hank Aguirre (5)
This year, the kids are gonna play.
They might not still be kids, depending on your point of view. But they're still the kids, know what I'm saying? And they're gonna play.
Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp won't fight each other or Juan Pierre for playing time. Either and Kemp established themselves as regulars, and Pierre is either looking at Dodger fans wishing he was Manny Ramirez or a new home because he isn't.
James Loney played in 161 games last season. Russell Martin played twice that. They're fixtures.
Blake DeWitt, who still should only be heading into AAA ball this season, is slated to play the majority of games at second base. His precocious, up, down and up 2008 season and well-regarded attitude will give him a long look before the Dodgers panic.
Chad Billingsley is the staff ace. Clayton Kershaw, turning 21 in March, is already indispensable. James McDonald, with six career regular-season innings and 5 1/3 career postseason innings, is going to have every chance to help the team. Hong-Chih Kuo, Cory Wade, Jonathan Broxton, Ramon Troncoso, Scott Elbert - come and get it.
Chin-Lung Hu, Delwyn Young, Jason Repko and Eric Stults are blocked, but only Hu is a potential A-lister, and he's blocked by an All-Star (a fragile one), no crime considering Hu's turgid 2008. That still leaves five kids in the starting lineup and as many as eight on the pitching staff.
We're back at 1974. The kids have proven they belong. They are launched.
Now, we're just waiting to see if they can take us from cloud eight to cloud nine. Does doubles power turn into home run power? Do the pitchers challenge the hitters more effectively? It won't happen for everyone, but we might be surprised by how many kids it does happen for.
Free agents have been the fixation of this Dodger offseason, and not without good reason. But underneath it all, there's maybe even a bigger story.
This might be the year the kids stop being called the kids, and we start calling them the men.
Kemp Arm No. 1
Matt Kemp had the best throwing arm of any center fielder in baseball last season, according to a study by John Walsh for The Hardball Times. Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier also ranked above average in the same category. The study takes into account both outfield assists and the number of times an outfielder prevents a baserunner from attempting to take an extra base, as well as the situations involved.
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Tom Meusborn of Chatsworth and Scott Muckey of Crespi were honored Wednesday with the Tommy Lasorda Lifetime Achievement Award as the most outstanding high school baseball coaches in Southern California.
Ardoin, Ausmus, Aw ...
Honestly, I don't exactly know why the Dodgers do this to themselves. It's nothing personal against Brad Ausmus, whom the Dodgers have signed to a one-year contract for 2009 at $1 million plus incentives, according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise. But each year, the Dodgers convince themselves that a veteran offense-free catcher will be worth the cost of an extra few hundred thousand dollars over a minimum-wager, and then they wake up in May and realize they can't live without Russell Martin playing every day.
I know that there aren't 30 good hitting catchers in baseball, let alone enough to give you a solid backup. But why spend anything on these guys? If the Dodgers were really committed to their veteran moxie and ability to work with pitchers, that would be one thing, but each year, that stuff flies out the window. It's all Martin, all the time, and so a million dollars for Ausmus and his .216 EQA vs. the minimum for Danny Ardoin and his .214 EQA doesn't make sense. And neither are going to be of any help should Martin suffer a major injury.
I don't really care who the Dodgers' backup catcher is - except for the sentimental feeling that it would have been nice for a coffee-cupper like Ardoin to get to spend a full year on a roster, rather than a 16-year clockpuncher like Ausmus. So I'm not up in arms or anything.
But Martin's going to play all the time. That's his fate, just like it was the fate of Oceanic 815 not to complete its intercontinental journey. Pretending otherwise shows that sometimes, the Dodgers just get lost.
Lost Season Premiere Chat Thread
No spoliers! If it hasn't aired on the West Coast, don't talk about it. That includes scenes from upcoming episodes. Otherwise, enjoy!
Kent To Announce Retirement Thursday
The Dodgers sent out a press release informing us that Jeff Kent will announce his retirement from baseball Thursday at 11:30 a.m. at Dodger Stadium. Kent signed his first professional contract 20 years ago this June, and played in 2,298 major-league games, setting the record for home runs by a second baseman and slugging .500 in his career.
As I wrote last summer, despite joining the team at age 37, Kent in the final four years of his career became 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).
Young Dodgers visited a Laker practice today, and Dodger photographer Jon Soo Hoo has the snapshots. (Is that term demeaning for a pro's pro? I hope not.)
Rhett Bollinger has the story for MLB.com
... another superstar stated his interest in playing left field and batting third for the Dodgers -- Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.
"Put me in left field and I'd run it all down. I'm faster than Manny," Bryant said before adding he'd like to bat third. "I want the clutch situations. Put me in that pressure spot."
That's what Michael Jordan said.
Martin, Broxton Sign
Russell Martin has signed a 2009 contract for $3.9 million and Jonathan Broxton for $1.825 million plus incentives, according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise.
Update: If an arbitration hearing takes place for Andre Ethier, he will either come away with $2.65 million or $3.75 million for 2009, reports Tony Jackson of the Daily News. But expect a settlement before then.
Inauguration Day Open Chat
Feel free to chat below - without making politically tinged comments - about today's Inauguration. (Yes, baseball talk is still welcome.)
The strength of others amazes and spoils me.
And, I just want to add, I wouldn't mind being Pete Seeger when I grow up.
Have a wonderful day.
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A Dodger Thoughts reader has sponsored a new ad on the sidebar that supports Hungry for Music, whose mission is "to inspire underprivileged children (and others) by bringing positive musical and creative experiences into their lives." They have a series of baseball-related CDs that are worth a look, both for your personal enjoyment and to support the organization.
Reserve reserve outfielder Jason Repko and the Dodgers have agreed to a $500,000 contract for 2009, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
Speaking at the Bakersfield College Baseball Hot Stove Dinner (which was also attended by Clayton Kershaw and Blake DeWitt), Colletti gave an update on Ramirez without even being asked, according to Zach Ewing of the Bakersfield Californian:
"There's no question we're trying to re-sign Manny (Ramirez). We made the highest offer in the history of the franchise, what would have made him the highest-paid outfielder in the history of baseball. So we didn't start out low. ... All indications are he wants to play here, and hopefully in the next couple weeks we can have some strong dialogue with his representatives and get him in uniform."
At the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation fete at the Hyatt Century Plaza Hotel, McCourt asserted that the proverbial ball was in Boras' court, and that the Dodgers' last offer to Ramirez wouldn't be their final one, reports Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise.
"Everyone knows we want to have Manny back. We've tried to make it very clear," McCourt said. "I certainly hope that message has been delivered to the player by now."
As for the parameters of the offer, McCourt said, "I always feel there's room for discussion."
For all the impatience that fans might have toward the Dodger approach, the imminent start of Spring Training works in their favor, whether with Ramirez, Adam Dunn or any other outfielder or pitcher they seek to sign. In this game of chicken, the Dodgers have the luxury of being able to move forward as an organization (public relations challenge or not), but the unsigned players on the free agent market are stuck on the sidelines. Unless a New York Yankee suddenly tears an ACL, the opportunities for a player to find a lucrative contract aren't expanding.
And for that matter, with the Manny vs. Dreamfields debacle fading ever so slightly in the past, with few options lining up for Ramirez, the Dodgers are reclaiming a public posture that is valid. There is consensus in the baseball world that a long contract for Ramirez from a National League team is risky if not ludicrous, and no American League team (save for a 11th-hour change-of-heart from an organization like the Angels) seems interested. Boras might say Ramirez deserves five years, but my mother thought I should have started on my eighth-grade flag football team - until someone in power agrees, it ain't reality. Honestly, I doubt Boras has hopes of getting more than four years for Ramirez at this point, which makes three years (or two plus an option) a logical compromise - even shorter than I suggested back in November when questioning why everyone was acting as if the Dodgers were making a mockery of the negotiations.
The Dodgers aren't guaranteed to get Ramirez, but I'd be very surprised if they didn't get someone of value for the outfield. As for pitching, there are some good and not-so-good names still out there, so I would only worry that the Dodgers will make the wrong choice, rather than make no choice at all.
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In New York today, they are mourning Bronx Banter contributor Todd Drew, the sensitive, community-focused writer who passed away from cancer last week at age 41. Alex Belth will read Drew's Yankee Stadium Memory at the service. My sincere condolences to Drew's family and friends.
"Todd was a gentle, compassionate man, but no pushover," Belth wrote. He loved sports writing, loved baseball, and was an unyielding optimist."
Lots of little tidbits for a Friday in January. Brace yourselves - after Martin Luther King Day and the inauguration, 2009 is about to get rolling ...
In addition, infielder Tony Abreu, who missed the 2008 season, says he's back in business, that there's no tension between him and the Dodger organization over all the time he has been sidelined, and that he's ready to try to win over Dodger manager Joe Torre.
"Everything's fine, everything's fine," Tony Abreu said.
The 24-year-old infielder went into spring training last year as a candidate to start at second or third base but missed the entire season because of a hip problem that required surgery. During a season that the Dodgers had to make numerous changes on the left side of their infield, Abreu heard about other players getting chances that could've been his.
"I thought a lot about that," Abreu said of missing out because of a second lower-body operation in as many years. "I didn't know why that happened to me. But right now, I have a chance."
He said he played seven or eight games at the instructional league in Arizona and felt fine. He said he worked out this winter at the Dodgers' training facility in the Dominican Republic and said he is now down to 195 pounds, some 11 pounds lighter than he was a year ago. ...
Said Martin (who also brought his girlfriend on the Camelback tour): "Who wants to build barriers? That's why they tore down the Berlin Wall.
Hu went back to Taiwan during the offseason and saw a doctor to check up on the blurred vision in his right eye that caused him to go on the disabled list. The doctor gave him the same advice as his coaches have - relax and don't put too much pressure on yourself.
To be clear, I don't interpret this to mean the doctor was dismissing the eye problem.
A TV producer friend of mine once told me that there were so many struggles with the show he was working on at the time that it was as if it had been created on a Native American burial ground.
And so it was with Andruw Jones, now officially canceled.
Save Friday Night Lights - Now
Friday Night Lights concluded its third season tonight, two nights before it started its third season. Thirteen episodes have aired to a small audience on DirecTV over the past four months, and now the same 13 will air on NBC beginning Friday.
That Friday Night Lights had a third season at all was a miracle - its split deal with the satellite company and the network was a Hail Mary unprecedented in television history. Given that a piece of its diehard audience will have already seen the final season before NBC begins airing it, given that this is already considered a dead show walking, it's hard to imagine ratings will improve enough to justify a fourth season.
But I have to tell you, the fourth season would be worth it. The past 13 episodes marked a return to form for Friday Night Lights, an improvement over the good-but-flawed second season, and the final two episodes ranked with the very best in series history, not only providing a catharsis, but also setting the stage for future storylines that could be among the most interesting the show has had. And while some characters will have moved on, there is still a healthy core that would have legitimate reasons to return and grow.
Granting that this is a quixotic quest, I am taking the time to point out that if there is to be a campaign to save Friday Night Lights, it has to start now. NBC and DirecTV will likely make their decision about the fate of the series long before the season ends.
For those of you who haven't seen the show, I urge you to take the time to a) watch one of the first-season episodes via DVD, iTunes or any other means you can find, and/or b) jump right into the third season this Friday. (And give it a fighting chance - don't watch with one hand on the remote, ready to flip to something else. Watch at least a full episode, if not more.)
For those who have already been watching, start recruiting friends, acquaintances, strangers and enemies to watch now. Start your e-mail and Internet campaigning now.
It's not just a football show. It's a show that truly has something for everyone. I love it. My wife loves it. My in-laws were blown away by it. This is not a show that is overstaying its welcome. This is a show that knows, better than ever, what it's doing. Don't be someone who discovered the show after it was too late, like the Johnny-come-latelies on Freaks and Geeks, Arrested Development or My So-Called Life.
Keep Friday Night Lights alive. And start now.
Scully on Scully
"Another thing, in those days, radio and television wasn't a cottage industry. Now everybody has a television set, don't they? The approach in those days was, we were always told to be quiet, don't talk. Ball one, strike one, fouled back, don't say much else. Today under those circumstances, we'd be talking up the drama, the tension, telling people who Don Larsen is, what he does. We were somewhat intimidated by talking in those days." ...
Joe Torre has been on record as far as I know as a big proponent of Manny Ramirez, but he apparently expressed reservations about the slugger to one source - Mr. Ron Howard.
Times film columnist Patrick Goldstein blogged last week at The Big Picture that Torre is all too conscious of Ramirez's defensive limitations.
Howard and I are big baseball fans -- the first time I met him, back in the 1980s, we went to a minor league baseball game in Montana, where he was filming "Far and Away." So his first question to me was not "Do you think I'll get a DGA nomination? -- which he did today -- but "Do you think the Dodgers will sign Manny Ramirez?" As it turns out, Howard had far more insider knowledge than I did, because he's pals with Dodger Manager Joe Torre, who told him that he loved Manny's hitting and impact on the team but was concerned about whether Manny's legs would hold up playing left field in the National League. Torre figured he might be a better fit in the American League, where Manny could DH more often.
If nothing else, this reminds us that there might be a reason, besides speculation about the organization's finances, that the Dodgers don't move their offer to Ramirez beyond two or three years.
Farewell, Preston Gomez
Catching Up With a No. 1
The No. 20 overall pick in that Draft, he was the prototypical projectable right-hander coming out of a Texas high school with an incredibly high ceiling. He made a brief debut in the Gulf Coast League back in 2007 and was poised to really get going on his pro career in 2008.
That's when things started going wrong for Withrow. He was spring was delayed because of a bizarre injury -- a cut suffered while handling a snorkeling mask. When he was about ready to return, he was sidelined with a sore elbow that kept him out until August. Obviously, the Dodgers weren't going to take any chances with their first-rounder, but this wasn't a case of an organization being overly cautious. Withrow needed to shut it down for as long as he did to ensure his health, both short- and long-term. ...
Withrow has recently worked with the Dodgers' strength and conditioning coach, Brendan Huttman, on a program and his arm seems to be working just fine. When healthy, he's shown a fastball that can sit in the 92-94 mph range, with the hope that there's more there as he matures. He's got a good curve and a feel for a changeup. His dad pitched in the White Sox organization and served as his son's pitching coach in high school, so for a pitcher his age, he's got a clean and repeatable delivery.
And now he seems to be more or less back to where he was a year ago. He'll come to the Dodgers' new Spring Training facility in Glendale, Ariz., again ready to truly get his pro career underway, this time as a right-hander about to turn 20 years old. ...
'Tempus Is Fugiting'
The headline above refers to a throwaway line that Vin Scully tossed during a Dodger broadcast last April. It's just the kind of thing that makes him so special to me. (Here's a clue if you need one.)
In that spirit, at the risk of making a daily habit of linking to The Daily Mirror, I pass along this remembrance of mid-20th century Times sports columnist Ned Cronin by his son, Jerry. It's really well worth the read.
Separately, here's a link to the Times 40-years-ago-today coverage of the Jets' Super Bowl upset over the Colts.
Motivated, Mota Vetted
Guillermo Mota's days as a major leaguer seemed to be winding down a year ago. From the day in 2004 that the Dodgers sent him with Paul Lo Duca and Juan Encarnacion to Florida, through the end of the 2007 season, the only good stretch of baseball Mota had offered was followed by a 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing substances.
Last season, with Milwaukee, Mota managed to be decent, striking out 50 batters in 57 innings with a 105 ERA+. Here is his OPS allowed by month in 2008:
Fluctuation City. Anyway, the Dodgers are giving him a physical, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Times, a physical that will cost them seven figures of 2009 salary if he passes. (Yeah, I know, that's sort of a perverse way of looking at it.)
Mota might have a decent 2009 season, but is he any more likely than the numerous cheaper candidates the Dodgers will have their disposal? Not really. This is quibbling over an amount of money that won't make or break the Dodgers, but still sometimes, I'm puzzled by the players the Dodgers feel are worth a risk versus the ones who scare them off.
Update: Chin-Lung Hu and Hong-Chih Kuo have pulled out of the WBC too, notes Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise.
Wallach Makes That Left Turn
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Update: Lovable Franklin Stubbs has been named hitting coach for Class A Inland Empire, the Dodgers announced today.
Jon Says Rickey
Once upon a time, I got to ride shotgun around the Long Beach Grand Prix course for two or three laps with Al Unser, Jr. behind the wheel. It went by in a flash, it wasn't like I was driving, but I got my taste of the fast lane.
And once upon a time, I got to see Rickey Henderson in a Dodger uniform, and I feel similarly privileged. Congrats, Rickey, on your imminent induction to the Hall of Fame.
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Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise has some of the interview that Kim Ng gave XM's Lee Hamilton this weekend. Here's an excerpt:
The most important thing is to just keep talking. I don't think we've drawn our line in the sand at all (at two years or two years plus an option year). I do think it's going to take a lot of discussion. I do think Scott is out there looking at his other options, and Manny is looking at his other options. I think a lot of other clubs are a little slow progressing as well, which is probably adding to our situation because obviously Manny's going to find the place for him. So it's all intertwined.
I wouldn't be surprised to see us do some things in the next couple weeks. Maybe a little flurry here and there. Hopefully we can get some things done. We're definitely working the phones. We've got a lot of people that we're talking to, both relievers and starters, and obviously Manny. We're just going to have to wait and see. ...
Leung also links to a WFAA interview with Clayton Kershaw.
Saito To Join Penny With Red Sox
Guaranteed no more than $2.5 million according to press reports, Takashi Saito will put on a Red Sox uniform in Spring Traning, along with former Dodger teammate Brad Penny, whose base salary has been reported at $5 million. Both pitchers have passed their physicals.
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Voting for the 2009 Weblog Awards has begun. I don't think this is the kind of thing a local blog like Dodger Thoughts could seriously compete in, but follow the link to make sure your favorite blogs in all categories are represented.
Scott Erickson, you've been replaced.
At Baseball Prospectus, Shawn Hoffman makes the case that a salary cap would actually harm major league baseball's small-market teams:
Let's say, in some far-off universe, MLB owners and players actually did agree on a salary cap. With it would come the normal provisions: a salary floor at around 75-85 percent of the cap, and a guaranteed percentage of total industry revenues for the players. Since the players have been taking in about 45 percent of revenues the past few years, we'll keep it at that figure (the other three major sports leagues, which are all capped, each pay out over 50 percent).
Using 2008 as an example, the thirty teams took in about $6 billion (not including MLB Advanced Media revenue), for an average of $200 million per team. Forty-five percent of that (the players' share) is $90 million, which we'll use as the midpoint between our floor and cap. If we want to make the floor 75 percent of the cap (a low-end figure, relative to the other leagues), we can use $77 million and $103 million, respectively.
With a $103 million cap, nine teams would have been affected last year, and a total of about $286 million would have had to be skimmed off the top. Since total salaries have to remain at existing levels, the bottom twenty-one teams would have had to take on this burden, which had previously been placed on the Yankees, Red Sox, et al. On the other end, fourteen teams would have been under the payroll floor, by a total of $251 million. Even discounting the Marlins' $22 million payroll, the other thirteen teams would have had to spend an average of $15 million more just to meet the minimum. Some of those teams might be able to afford it; most wouldn't.
Imagine being Frank Coonelly in this situation. Coonelly, the Pirates' team president, has publicly supported a cap. Had our fictional cap/floor arrangement been instituted last year, the Pirates would have needed to increase their Opening Day payroll by $28 million. Not only would the team have taken a big loss, but Neal Huntington's long-term strategy would have been sabotaged, since the team would have had to sign a number of veterans just to meet the minimum payroll.
Now fast forward to 2009. Let's say the Pirates' sales staff runs into major headwinds, with the team struggling and the economy sinking. The team's top line takes a hit, falling $10 million from 2008. The Mets and Yankees, meanwhile, open their new ballparks, and each team increases its local revenue by $50 million. If the twenty-seven other teams are flat, total industry revenues rise by $90 million (not including any appreciation in national media revenue). Forty-five percent of that, of course, goes to the players. So even as the Pirates' purchasing power decreases, the payroll floor actually rises. ...
Not entirely unrelated: Ken Belson looks at the effect of the nation's economic woes in the 1930s on baseball for the New York Times.
2008-09 Offseason Summary to Date
Management and coaching
Front office and staff
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Update: Brazoban, Carmen Cali, Travis Chick, Nick DeBarr, Mitch Jones, Edgar Martinez (pitcher), Luis Maza, Jacobo Meque, Val Pascucci, Steven Randolph, Scott Strickland and Erick Threets signed to minor-league contracts and invited to Spring Training.
Some Folks Just Like the Dodgers
In a story topped by the news of the Dodgers' one-year contract offer to relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman, Bill Shaikin of the Times reports that 2009 season ticket sales for the team remain strong.
The Dodgers will meet or beat their season-ticket sales from last year even if they do not sign Ramirez, chief operating officer Dennis Mannion said.
The club projects to sell about 24,000 season tickets, the same as last year, he said. The sales pace is ahead of last year, he said, citing the Dodgers' first trip to the NL championship series in 20 years and the price freeze on season tickets.
Renewal payments are due Friday, and Mannion said he does not expect the uncertainty over Ramirez to impact most of the roughly 10% of accounts still outstanding.
"We've had plenty of 'Hope you sign Manny' but not 'You won't see a penny from me if you don't,' " Mannion said.
Still, he said, the Dodgers probably could sell another 2,000 season seats if they do sign Ramirez. At the average ticket price of $29.66, according to Team Marketing Report, plus the roughly $17 that each fan spends on food, drink and parking, those additional 2,000 seats would translate into about $7.5 million in gross revenue.
Would the last 2,000 season seats available average out to $30/game seats? I don't know.
Anyway, there's the added factor of whether some season tickets go un-used if the team doesn't sign Ramirez, thus shaving food, parking and concession income, but based on the above, I don't see the Dodgers' overall regular-season revenue for 2009 declining compared to 2008, in which they went without Ramirez for four months.
The year-to-year data on luxury suite sales might be interesting to see.
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As for Hoffman, there was some detailed discussion of his value in Tuesday night's comments, beginning at the 307 mark. Hoffman's ERA was 5.08 in the first half of 2008, 1.59 in the second half, which perhaps illustrates nothing more than the ineffectiveness of ERA as a measuring tool for relief pitchers, but could also help account for the difference of opinion on him.
I'm not someone who tends to think the Dodgers need to spend mid-seven figures on a 41-year-old reliever, but I would also go as far to say as, if you put money aside, Hoffman probably would help more than he would hurt.
Beyond that, as much as I've supported Jonathan Broxton as the Dodger closer, I won't get up in arms if he goes back to being an eighth-inning pitcher, because the closer designation itself doesn't mean much to me. Often the most important work for the bullpen comes before the ninth inning, which means that Broxton would get much meaningful use. And as some have pointed out, if you keep Broxton's save totals down, you might keep his potential future earnings down (in, say, a salary arbitration hearing) - and so in a twisted fashion, Hoffman's presence would mitigate his own cost.
I was stunned by the news that Pat Burrell had signed with Tampa Bay for $16 million over two years. The former Phillie won't go down as the most feared hitter of his generation, and he gives back some of his value on defense, but at age 31, he has a career OPS+ of 119, and four consecutive seasons above 120 (averaging 152.5 games per year in that time). He has even walked 216 times in the past two years. And he's going to be making less than Juan Pierre.
For that matter, Burrell will make less than Milton Bradley, who has apparently agreed to a three-year, $30 million contract with the Cubs. Bradley is a fine hitter but one who comes with his own set of problems, some of which the media is only too happy to overemphasize. "Bradley's history of temper flare-ups could be cause for as much concern as the injury history," writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, even though his paper reports that Bradley has missed only nine games in his career because of suspension.
Ever since he got caught up in domestic abuse allegations in 2005, I have abstained from weighing in on Bradley's character. Nevertheless, I find that many of those who make a moral case against Bradley are much more forgiving of serious personal flaws in other ballplayers. As far as on-field performance goes, I'd be more worried about Bradley's physical condition than his mental condition.
But my main point is, I think the Rays made a great deal with Burrell. It never occured to me that he could be signed so cheaply. For all the attention the Yankees and Red Sox have gotten this postseason, the Rays aren't going anywhere.
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Chad Billingsley is one of seven pitchers that Peter Bendix of Beyond the Box Score picks out as potential victims of the "Verducci Effect." For a decade, Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci has been tracking young pitchers who increase their innings count by more than 30 from the previous season, finding that they are poised for setbacks. It's admittedly anecdotal, but it's something to keep in mind.
Here are the pitchers that Tom Verducci listed as being possible victims of the so-called Verducci Effect in 2008:
Wow pretty convincing evidence for this theory. Kennedy was awful at the major league level; Carmona was hurt for much of the year and ineffective when healthy; Gorzelanny's ERA went up nearly three full runs; Gallardo got hurt and missed most of the season (although this is unfair, as his injury was a fluke unrelated to his shoulder or arm).
Jimenez defied the Verducci Effect, pitching nearly 200 innings and showing tremendous improvement. Gaudin pitched primarily out of the bullpen and maintained his production. However, five of the seven players that Verducci identified as being particularly risky were either hurt or very ineffective in 2008.
Of course, caveats abound: there is no control study, and we know that pitchers especially those under 25 are inherently risky, not just pitchers who have had big innings increases. Furthermore, this is a very selective sample: in order to accumulate a large increase in innings, you have to be pretty effective perhaps even more effective than your "true ability," thus making regression more likely. Still, the results are convincing, and Verducci writes of similar results from past seasons as well.
Billingsley, 24, went from 147 innings in 2007 to 212 in 2008 (including the playoffs). Others on the 2008 Watch List include Tim Lincecum and Cole Hamels.
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Update: Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus writes about the outfield market, and invokes the name Jody Reed:
I love Manny Ramirez as a player, and I'm on record making the argument that the off-field problems that predicated his trade from Boston may have been overstated. (At this point, six months and a lot of conversations later, I don't know if I still hold that position. It's not relevant here, regardless.) It's not clear, however, that he's worth twice as much or more per season than the other guys in this pool. More that the others? Sure, he's the best player out of this bunch, even granting the poor defense and the advanced age. He's also the most likely, save perhaps Dunn, to sustain his performance over the next three years. With all that, though, there's just no way he's worth twice as much per season as Bradley is. He's not worth three times what Burrell will make. You're not paying for his Hall of Fame past, remember; you're paying for his future.
Right now, the best contract for Ramirez is the one that he no longer has available to him: his one-year, $20 million option that was voided when he accepted a trade to the Dodgers. At the time, it seemed silly to suggest that Ramirez wouldn't do better than that. Now, looking at the contracts signed by his peers, it seems silly to suggest that he will. The signings of Burrell and Bradley have to affect how the Dodgers, the Giants, and other potential suitors regard the price on Ramirez's head. Of course, the buyers aren't entirely rational, and Ramirez has some markers that these other guys don't. He's fresh off of the two great months for the Dodgers and the perception that he carried them to the postseason. Still, the gap between where the market sits for corner outfielders who can hit but not field$8 million to $10 million per season for a three-year dealand the current set of rumors on Ramirez is too wide to be ignored. Abreu and Dunn are still available; there's no reason for a team to spend twice as much as it has to to get maybe an extra win or two. Even pricing Ramirez just off of last year's performance, which may overstate the gap between him and the rest of the field for 2009 and beyond, a reasonable estimate would be approximately $16 million per season on a three-year contract, plus an option on a fourth year. ...
... the chance for Ramirez to break the bank is gone. There's not going to be a nine-figure contract, and Ramirez's AAV (average annual value) will almost certainly drop from his last deal. He took a risk in pressing to ensure that he would be a free agent this winter, and despite his fantastic performance, that risk looks like it will be for naught because of the glut of players with similar skill sets available. It won't quite rise to the level of Jody Reed or Juan Gonzalez, but right now, it seems that Ramirez left money on the table by not taking the first offer two years and $45 million made back in November.
I'm not convinced that Ramirez won't beat that November offer, but his final deal still figures to be a comedown from what he must have been expecting.
... For the Memories (Cont'd)
I did end my subscription about three years ago, however.
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RotoAuthority is doing something I always wanted to do: review the great Spring Training pronouncements of the previous year and see how they panned out. Matt Kemp and Russell Martin are mentioned in Part 1. (Thanks to Dodger Thoughts commenter Cargill06 for the link.)
Castro's Last Hurrah
"The split contract would pay Castro $700,000 in major league salary plus incentives beginning at 250 plate appearances," Leung wrote. "The 14-year veteran would make less in the minors, and he has an out clause in the contract."
Castro's OPS+ last season was 35 (100 being the major-league average). He played in the majors with the Dodgers from 1993-99, and started the first triple play in Los Angeles Dodger history.
Great Moments in Chutes & Ladders and Candyland History
It was still morning, but the Chutes & Ladders equivalent of Rule 9, warding off the jinxing of a no-hitter, was already in effect. My daughter was moments away from closing out what no doubt would have been the first victory in the game's history without climbing a single ladder or sliding down a single chute. Guinness waited on the wire to certify. But just before what might have been her decisive spin of the spinner, I landed on space No. 80, which takes you up a ladder directly to No. 100 and a win. From no-no to uh-oh, the shock on my girl's face was evident.
Next came Candyland. My eldest son joined in to play, but once more it came down to Daddy and daughter. It was a prototypical topsy-turvy game, but when all the candy cards had been exhausted, ensuring that everyone would be moving forward for the remainder of the deck, she held the lead, barely surmountable but likely sufficient. Then I landed on Lose a Turn, which should have all but clinched defeat. But her next draw fell short while using the final card, meaning that, with one space remaining between her piece and glorious Candyland itself, there would need to be a reshuffling of the deck. All the candy cards would be back in play, and drawing one would all but doom her to defeat.
Building the suspense, I shuffled and shuffled, four times, five times, six times, hoping irrationally that the more I did, the more confused those candy cards would be. Good sport that I am, I didn't want one to get any ideas. Still, it was tense as she drew ... a color! After a bitter C&L loss, a triumphant Candyland championship.
We wrapped things up with Yahtzee: I rolled a 329, not my career best but still satisfying in this early January trigameathon.
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Congrats to writer and friend of Dodger Thoughts Jonah Keri, for being named the 64th most influential Canadian in baseball! Russell Martin ranked 32nd.
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Update: David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke to Scott Boras today and is reporting that as part of their restructuring of Andruw Jones' contract, the Dodgers will cut Jones loose January 15, assuming he is not traded before then. I don't know if we can take this to the bank, but I thought I could pass it on.
In an almost unprecedented white-flag waving, 12 months and 20 days after their wedding day, the Dodgers and Andruw Jones have gotten the approval of the players' union to restructure (not reduce) the outfielder's contract, facilitating Jones' departure from the team, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
Jones will either be traded or released before the start of Spring Training and perhaps sometime this month, according to an industry source.
The agreement will allow Jones a fresh start elsewhere after a nightmare of a first season and provide the Dodgers with additional payroll flexibility that could be used to re-sign free-agent outfielder Manny Ramirez.
The Major League Baseball Players Association approved the unusual agreement because Jones will receive his entire salary, as well as the possible benefit of free agency should he be released.
Jones is owed about $21.1 million from a back-loaded two-year contract. Instead of paying that total amount this year, the agreement spreads out the Dodgers' payments for as many as six years. The amount deferred could be as much as $12 million.
Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May
With the Rose Bowl zippin' outta reach, let's tune in to the fledgling MLB Network (channel locator here) for their 4 p.m. broadcast of Game 5 of the 1956 World Series (I won't spoil the ending), with Kid Scully participating as one of the announcers.
Update: Man, I want that pocket encyclopedia ...
Update 2: Scully's call of the final out. For him, this is a bigger moment than Brooklyn's first World Series title the year before.
I think it would be safe to say that no man in the history of baseball has ever come up to hit in a more dramatic moment. That man is Dale Mitchell.
Yankee Stadium is shivering in its concrete foundation right now. Ball one.
Two out in the ninth inning, the Yankees 2, Brooklyn nothing, but this ballgame is right there on your screen: Mr. Don Larsen.
Strike one, and the crowd is roaring now, similarly to the day that Johnny Podres stood out there last year. But there is so much more at stake this afternoon.
[Big swing and a miss].
Now there is one strike left.
[Long roar, then a swing].
Fouled away, just to increase the tension.
[The final pitch].
Got him! The greatest game ever pitched in baseball history, by Don Larsen: a no-hitter and perfect game in the World Series! Never in the history of the game has it ever happened in the World Series. Only the seventh time in baseball history or World Series a perfect game has been pitched; 64,517 have seen it and a million more on TV. Don Larsen, a perfect game, retiring 27 Dodgers in a row.
And so hats off to Don Larsen. No runs, no hits, no errors, no walks - no baserunners. The final score: The Yankees two runs, five hits and no errors, the Dodgers no runs, no hits, no errors, in fact, nothing at all. This is a day to remember; this was a ballgame to remember, and above all, the greatest day in the life of Don Larsen and the most dramatic and well-pitched game in the history of baseball.
Mel, you've seen a lot of ballgames. This one you can put in your ring and wear it for a long time.
Well, Vinny, I've had the good luck of watching Johnny Vander Meer's second consecutive no-hitter over in Brooklyn, Allie Reynolds' two no-hitters in one season. I saw Virgil Trucks' second no-hitter, pitched against the Yankees, in one season. I saw Bob Feller pitch a no-hitter against the Yankees here. Vinny, I don't think you or I will ever see such a thing again.
No, I guess we can both say, we can go now.
Today Is the First Day of the Rest of Your Offseason (Or Maybe Tomorrow Is)
To kick off the New Year, I went around the block and asked a few baseball-blogging comrades what they think the Dodgers should try to accomplish for the remainder of the offseason. None mentioned Claudio Vargas, but I present their opinions nonetheless.
Cliff Corcoran, Bronx Banter:
I would have urged the Dodgers not to re-sign Casey Blake or Rafael Furcal, but it's too late for that. I would urge them to bring back Derek Lowe, but it seems Lowe wants to return to the east coast. Their biggest need would seem to be another starting pitcher. A short incentive-laden deal for Ben Sheets could pay off big, but that risk is one the team still nursing Jason Schmidt might not be willing to take. On the opposite side of the risk/reward scale, Braden Looper could be a surprisingly solid bargain. Second to that, L.A. could use a legitimate backup catcher. Gregg Zaun and Javier Valentin are two that leap to mind.
The elephant in the room, of course, is Manny Ramirez. The Dodgers have been right to pursue him despite the fact that it would mean punting the second and final year of Andruw Jones' contract, but while Ramirez would be a boon to their offense, the Dodgers and their fans should not expect a repeat of his outburst over the final two months of 2008. Given their willingness to punt on Jones, the team should look elsewhere if its unable to land Ramirez, starting with Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell. A cheap, one-year deal for Jim Edmonds could be a budget-price alternative, as Edmonds could platoon with Jones in center while allowing Kemp to move back to right field where his 2008 splits suggest he's more comfortable.
David Pinto, Baseball Musings:
It strikes me that the Dodgers should be concentrating more on their starting pitching than their outfield. Kemp, Ethier, Jones and Pierre provide enough offense and defense that they should put their resources more into pitching. They've lost Penny and Lowe, and Schmidt isn't likely to contribute much. With the market for Lowe not that great, maybe they should try to resign him.
Rich Lederer, Baseball Analysts:
Signing Manny Ramirez should be priority No. 1. But, in defense of the Dodgers, management offered Manny a reasonable contract that apparently has fallen on deaf ears. Scott Boras may have overplayed his hand here, promising his client more years and money than what the market is willing to pay. The Dodgers have (rightfully) pulled their offer and are now reportedly pursuing other options (such as Adam Dunn or Bobby Abreu).
More than anything, I would remain committed to Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp while doing my best to move Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre (even if it means eating more than half of their remaining contracts). I believe the Dodgers should be pursuing longer-term deals with Ethier and Kemp, as well as James Loney and Russell Martin (and Chad Billingsley once he proves to be healthy after suffering a broken leg this winter). Buying out a year or two of free agency will give these players newfound wealth and job security while allowing the club to sign their best players at a discount to what it may cost by going to arbitration with them every year.
In addition to resolving the Ramirez situation and the contract status of these young players, the Dodgers need to acquire at least one reliable starting pitcher and another setup man, as I'm not convinced that Cory Wade will come close to duplicating his rookie season. The Dodgers should be in conversations with Derek Lowe if it turns out that the market is no better than, say, 3 x 12.
The Dodgers have lost more players than they have added, so it seems as if management has a lot to do between now and the start of spring training because I don't believe the farm system can fill the missing pieces of the puzzle. Bringing back Rafael Furcal was a good move. Bringing back Casey Blake? Not so good. The Mark Loretta acquisition was smart in terms of the cost and what it is he can bring to the club. It's time to step up: Make Manny a 1 x 25 "take it or leave it" offer that can turn into a 2 x 25 deal if he plays 150 games and/or gets 650 plate appearances. If that doesn't work, turn your attention to Dunn and offer him half of what the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira for (both in terms of years and average annual salary). A 4 x 11.25 seems like a fair contract for both sides and one which I would favor.
Tom Meagher, Fifth Outfielder:
My assessment is that the Dodgers should spend the remainder of the offseason trying to wisely use their payroll on free agents. I can't think of any trades they should be pursuing, given the relative immobility of any veterans they should trade and given that they likely won't get a decent return for any youngsters. Ramirez is the obvious target because, though he does not represent good bang for the buck, he's the only available free agent who would constitute a 2+ win upgrade at his position, given that nearly all the LF on the market have fielding prowesses that barely surpass Manny's.
I wouldn't mind an Orlando Hudson signing, though I'm completely unclear as to what the market for him is. If he's going to be cheap, then he might end up representing better value than Ramirez. Hudson could free up Casey Blake to be more of a super-sub type or simply a strict LF. I also haven't read up on the O-Dog's medical condition, so all I can say is that I suggest the Dodgers consider it and give it due diligence, what with Hudson being arguably a more valuable all around player than Manny. However, Hudson is a type A free agent, and I think that will prevent L.A. from even considering making a play for him, what with having pick No. 17 and all.
One of the best players on the market is one of my favorite players, but I hold out no hope for the Dodgers to pursue Milton Bradley.
The pitching market is thoroughly unexciting, and the Dodgers don't figure to get any starter that is well above average. The Dodgers are not in dire straits on the pitching front by any means, and Billingsley, Kershaw, Kuroda, McDonald, Stults and Troncoso could certainly be enough to get this team to the playoffs. The dilemma they face is that anyone they bring in in free agency will likely be an insubstantial upgrade from the latter half of those six, and anyone they bring in in trade would very likely require a misguided overpayment in prospects. Given their depth, as well as their ability to take on payroll (if not willingness), I would like to see the Dodgers pursue Ben Sheets: if they get 140 innings a year from him I'm guessing he'd still end up looking like a bargain (to me), but I don't have much knowledge of what it will take to sign him.
I'm not against rolling the dice on Takashi Saito, just as long as rolling the dice means a few million and not, like, Eric Gagne money.
I don't think the franchise can at all plausibly deny that they can afford to sign Ramirez, Sheets and Saito, and that would seem a pretty reasonable course of action. The knock on signing Sheets would be the lost pick, but if the Dodgers get a first-rounder for Lowe they shouldn't let that get in the way. The key here is that the Dodgers are good enough; they need to focus on adding very good or great players so that they can improve. Bringing back Furcal and Blake only brought back players who don't figure to contribute much more than league average overall value. The Dodgers have sufficient depth, between prospects and the veterans in the outfield, to forget about finding solid contributors and focus on finding great players, even if they are injury-prone.
In other words, the Dodgers already have a heightened replacement level on their roster, and it'll be a shame if they suck up the remainder of their payroll acquiring players who aren't much better than average when they take the field. And if they do have to resort to acquiring merely average players, it is obvious that stockpiling pitchers rather than position players is the way to go.
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with the Los Angeles Dodgers
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Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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