Aug 19

‘You burned my heart with a flickering torch …’

Morning drive-time news …

  • Larry Bowa: Taking responsibility, sorta, kinda, not really. From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

    “They made two good plays,” Bowa said. “If he makes it, it’s a good play. If he doesn’t, it’s a bad play. I take the blame for it. I don’t think you guys [the media] have talked to me [about getting a runner thrown out] in three years, so I must be doing all right.”

    This was hardly the first time that Bowa sent a runner to his doom in brutal fashion, but whatever …

  • Features on Zach Lee’s arrival from Jackson, Kevin Baxter of the Times, Evan Dreilich of MLB.com and Al Balderas of the Daily News.
  • Some detailed Jonathan Broxton pitch stats and analysis comes from Think Blue Crew (via True Blue L.A.)
  • Some good news: Former Dodger Dave Roberts expects a full recovery from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Times.
  • It’s been 20 years since it was 20 years, Candy. You were so fine. (No, I wasn’t talking about you.)
Aug 18

Starting pitching again gallant, but Dotel brings the Goofus in 3-2 defeat


Chris Carlson/APLogan White introduces Zach Lee to Dodger fans before tonight’s game.

In the three games that Jonathan Broxton has pitched in since he lost his status as the Dodgers’ top reliever, he has twice been used in situations that, if I were manager, I would probably use the team’s top reliever.

Friday at Atlanta, he was the first reliever used with the Dodgers down by a run in the eighth inning. Tonight against Colorado, he was the first reliever used with the Dodgers tied in the eighth inning.

Those, for some reason, are considered lower-pressure situations, even though they are situations when it’s almost imperative you don’t give up a run. Certainly, they are tougher assignments than when you enter a game needing three outs with a three-run lead, as was the case Thursday in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, in the last two games he has pitched in since he was promoted to co-closer status, Octavio Dotel has flailed, giving up a walk and a game-winning single Monday, and then tonight’s crazy appearance in the 10th, walking three and throwing three wild pitches to bring about the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss to the Rockies.

Not trying to make too much of this, just that it’s kind of goofy. But then, such is the baseball scene in Los Angeles. Broxton certainly knows how ridiculous it can get.

Once again, Hiroki Kuroda pitched well: seven innings, seven baserunners, seven strikeouts. Once again, the Dodger offense struggled, compounded by a missed suicide squeeze attempt by A.J. Ellis. And once again, the Dodgers lost more of what little ground they have left in the playoff race.

The game’s final play had its own brand of poetry. With Reed Johnson on first base and two out, Scott Podsednik hit a blooper to center. Dexter Fowler dove but couldn’t glove the ball. Johnson, racing around the bases, tried to score, but was nailed at the plate in “from you to me” fashion by Troy Tulowitzki’s relay. Even Steve Lyons, on the postgame show, questioned why Bowa would send the runner on a longshot attempt against Tulowitzki’s arm.

Anyway … Manny Ramirez walked, singled and struck out as a designated hitter in his rehab game tonight. He had no health issues, according to the Dodgers, and is expected to play the field tomorrow.

Aug 18

August 18 game chat

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. sums up how pathetic the Dodger offense has been in the second half of 2010: .301 on-base percentage, .325 slugging percentage. You’ll note that Matt Kemp, sitting so that Jay Gibbons can get some at-bats (according to Joe Torre), is not exactly the only problem. The point again being, if you’re going to start looking for platoon advantages with Kemp, why not look for them with other Dodgers who have left something to be desired lately.

Or, just let your best players develop.

* * *

Aug 18

Clayton at 18


Ben Platt/Los Angeles DodgersLogan White and Clayton Kershaw, June 2006
Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw’s first Dodger mugshot

As mentioned on Dodger Thoughts on Tuesday, first-round draft pick Zach Lee will make his first appearance at Dodger Stadium before tonight’s game. Here are some photos from the day 18-year-old Clayton Kershaw made his Dodger Stadium debut, in June 2006.

Also, here’s a linkto what Dodger Thoughts had to say about Kershaw the day he was drafted.

Aug 18

Dodgers get Zach Lee … will they lose Logan White?

Larry Goren/Icon SMI
Logan White has supervised Dodger drafts since 2002.

Pretty nice 28 hours that Logan White just had.

Monday evening, White 2003 draftee Chad Billingsley finished his sixth consecutive quality start, with an ERA of 1.33 in that span.

Tuesday evening, White 2006 draftee Clayton Kershaw threw seven shutout innings in the Dodgers’ 6-0 victory over Colorado and moved up to third in the National League in strikeouts.

And in between, White converted his bold first-round selection of Zach Lee into what might be the coup of the 2010 draft.

Lee’s reported $5.25 million deal was more than twice the size of Kershaw’s draft-year signing, in part because of the leverage that college football provided Lee, but it also reflects the belief that Lee could make the kind of remarkable impact for the Dodgers that Kershaw already has.

We might not get to see all three of these pitchers in the same Dodger rotation – Billingsley becomes eligible for free agency after the 2012 season, while it might be a rush to get the teenage Lee to the bigs by then – but there is that tantalizing possibility. And even if it doesn’t happen, you can be pretty sure the past two nights haven’t gone unnoticed inside baseball.

Put another way, even if there comes a weekend series in the September 2012 stretch run with Kershaw, Billingsley and Lee on the mound for the Dodgers, will White be around to see it?

White has long been an attractive candidate for other front offices in baseball, certainly from a scouting viewpoint but also in terms of general manager openings.  Getting Lee to the Dodgers – convincing both parties to get on board – when almost no one thought he could, adds a new layer of appeal.

The signing arguably turned around a year in which, aside from Kershaw and Billingsley, things went a little south for White’s other prodigies. There was Blake DeWitt’s and James Loney’s lack of home-run power, Russell Martin’s ongoing fade and Matt Kemp’s backward steps. There was James McDonald once more not seizing the day (though he seems to be thriving in Pittsburgh), and Scott Elbert’s disappearing act. And there was a mixed bag of results on the development front in the low minors – some remarkable advances like that of Jerry Sands, some retreats by others.

But Kershaw, Billingsley and Lee serve as a reminder that betting on White is about as safe a gamble as you can make in – this can’t be over-emphasized – an inherently risky field. I have no idea what specific interest other teams will show in White, but as the Dodgers make their lengthy to-do list for the 2010-11 offseason, one item that needs to be on it is “Keep Logan White happy.” Unless you subscribe to the philosophy of, “If you love someone, set him free.”

Aug 17

Kershaw LXXVI: Kershawnna Karenina

Manny Ramirez is alive! He took batting practice at Dodger Stadium tonight and is close to a rehab assignment. Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Rafael Furcal felt tightness and will be held back from starting a rehab assignment for at least a couple more days.

* * *

Question: Are the Rockies more disappointing than the Dodgers this season, less or the same?

Related: Bob Timmermann explores “The Dodgers in 2010: The Year of Crabbiness” at L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence.

* * *

Elsewhere …

  • Zach Lee is expected to make an appearance at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, the team said.
  • Lou Gehrig might not have had Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), reports Alan Schwarz in a fascinating New York Times article.
  • Josh Wilker has a fine piece about Mickey Rivers today at Cardboard Gods.
  • Remember Brent Mayne, he of the last Dodger catching tandem that couldn’t hit straight before this one? Mayne has a blog and an interesting post about ballplayers as social misfits. (via Hardball Talk).
  • If it’s an upset that the Padres are in first place and the Dodgers are in fourth, it’s another upset that the Dodgers had a more satisfying 2010 draft than the Padres did. Paul DePodesta tells the story of what happened to leave San Diego’s front office disappointed at It Might Be Dangerous … You Go First.
  • Claudio Vargas has been granted his release by Albuquerque, the Isotopes said.
  • Former Dodger prospect Andrew Lambo has had his second setback of 2010 — a shoulder injury, reports Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • Sweet-hitting pitcher Micah Owings, whose career ERA and slugging percentage each start with the number five, has been designated for assignment by Cincinnati.
Aug 17

If you want to get more excited about Zach Lee, read this …

In case you missed it, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has much more from Dodger assistant general manager for amateur scouting Logan White about newly signed draft choice Zach Lee:

White said Lee’s contract won’t allow him to play football on the side.

“He is absolutely 100 percent dedicated to baseball,” White said.

However, in the unlikely event Lee changes his mind down the road and goes back to football, White said there are provisions in the contract that will limit the Dodgers’ financial losses, although he wouldn’t go into detail as to what those provisions are.

As a pitcher, White said Lee is a better all-around athlete than either Kershaw or Chad Billingsley, two recent first-round picks (2006 and 2004, respectively) who are now mainstays in the Dodgers’ starting rotation.

“He has an absolutely picture-perfect delivery and excellent arm action,” White said. “He is as pure as any pitcher I have ever seen. He has power stuff like Kershaw and Billingsley, but when those guys were younger, they would almost fight through a wall sometimes and try to overpower somebody, but they have grown and learned how to pitch more than just throw and be more effective with their pitch counts.

“I think Lee at the same age has a better feel for how to pitch than Chad or Clayton, and I don’t mean that to disparage them at all.”

White said Lee’s fastball touches 95 mph, but that he normally pitches in the 89-90 range, has a good breaking ball and a great changeup. …

Aug 16

Dodgers get their pony: Zach Lee signs

First the Dodgers Joc the world, and now they shock the world.

Confounding skeptics from coast to baseball coast, the Dodgers made good on their word and successfully delivered an offer to first-round draft choice Zach Lee reportedly at $5.25 million over five years, luring him from Louisiana State, where he had been about to embark on a quarterbacking career. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Back in October, I suggested that the divorce might bring about “a time when you buy the kids a nice pony to take their mind off the ugliness.” It took a while, but Lee is that pony, at least for the hardcore Dodger fan. It’s a remarkable turn of events and expectations.

Aug 16

Well, I mean, come on now … Dodgers collapse in ninth again


John Bazemore/APChad Billingsley’s seven innings of one-run ball went for nought.

Brooks Conrad won the first game of the four-game Dodgers-Braves series with his bat. He nearly lost the fourth game with his glove.

But the reorganized Dodger bullpen got in the way of that symmetry.

Los Angeles blew a ninth-inning lead yet again, allowing three runs to Atlanta in its final at-bat, turning a 3-1 victory into a 4-3 defeat.

On a night that saw the Dodger offense pull another disappearing act, Conrad made two errors in the eighth inning of tonight’s game, allowing the Dodgers to score twice to break a 1-1 tie. Update: The official scorer changed Conrad’s error on Reed Johnson’s at-bat to a hit.

Hong-Chih Kuo entered the game and worked a perfect eighth inning on seven pitches, then came out for the ninth and allowed two singles and a wild pitch to put the tying runs in scoring position with none out. Troy Glaus fouled out, but Conrad was walked on four pitches. Octavio Dotel then replaced Kuo.

Dotel walked pinch-hitter David Ross, and the Braves cut the lead to 3-2.

And then Melky Cabrera singled on a 3-2 pitch to drive in the tying and winning runs.

* * *

I know it’s a bit beside the point after what just happened, but I am just wondering …

Chad Billingsley pitched seven innings for the Dodgers and allowed one run on five hits and a walk while striking out eight. Billingsley struck out the side after issuing his only walk of the game in the fifth inning, then gave up a triple and sacrifice fly in the sixth. Otherwise, he was near impeccable. (Coincidentally, James McDonald also pitched seven innings of one-run ball for Pittsburgh tonight.)

I realize some people won’t get back on board the Billingsley bandwagon until he completes a perfect October, but surely he must have won a few converts back this season. He’s challenging hitters, pitching deeper into games, and his ERA in 20 starts since April 25 is 3.23.

Has anyone who de-friended him re-friended him?

Aug 16

From the top to the middle

Since holding the best record in the National League on June 9 with a 36-24 record, the Dodgers are 24-34 and have lost 11 games in the standings to the Padres (35-23). Losses today and tomorrow would allow the Dodgers to bookend their two 60-game stretches, 36-24 and 24-36.

* * *

  • Ricky Romero (not Ricky Roma) just signed a five-year, $30 million deal with Toronto. What does that mean for Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers? Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness explores the topic. (Perhaps a propos to this, Rob Neyer of ESPN.com asks another question: Is Tim Lincecum’s slump permanent?)
  • Life Magazine has posted some previously unpublished photos of Babe Ruth at his final Yankee Stadium appearance in 1948. (Scroll down for the links to the different images.)
  • If you want a preview of the upcoming free-agent market in starting pitchers, Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk has it.
  • Linda McCoy-Murray and her work on behalf of the Jim Murray Foundation are profiled by Shelley Smith for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Aug 16

Dodgers rock around the clock with Joc

It appears he Dodgers will record at least one deadline signing, even if they don’t get Zach Lee. Eleventh-round draft pick Joc Pederson, son of 1980s cup-of-coffee Dodger Stu, has agreed to terms with the Dodgers, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

The report is attributed to multiple sources, albeit anonymous. Pederson, whose salary demands caused his drop from the draft’s highest rounds to the double-digits, reportedly would get a $600,000 signing bonus, higher than any 2010 Dodger draft signee to date.

Here’s a draft-day report on Pederson from Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone.

Aug 16

The good or bad of it

The good or bad of it, as I see it, is this:

If the Dodgers win their upcoming series against Colorado and Cincinnati as part of a 6-1 week, while Philadelphia and San Francisco (who play each other starting Tuesday) beat each other up as part of .500 weeks, the Dodgers might only be three or four games behind in the National League wild card race with six weeks to go.

That’s not all likely to happen – I’m not remotely suggesting it will happen – but it’s not so unlikely.

If it does happen, that means the Dodgers are firmly in the playoff hunt, even if the odds remain against them.

It doesn’t mean the Dodgers are a good team, let alone a playoff team. But you don’t need to be a good team to have a good week. And, rightly or wrongly, a good week can change your outlook significantly.

Aug 15

Deadline for Dodgers to sign top draftee: 9 p.m. Monday

With little for me to talk about regarding today’s 13-1 defenestration of the Dodgers – Tony Jackson has everything you could possibly want to know, including the tidbit that the Dodgers have gone three straight games without a run-scoring hit – I can finally turn my attention to Monday’s 9 p.m. deadline to sign 2010 draft choices, including No. 1 pick Zach Lee.

Bullet points:

  • The Dodgers aren’t the only team going down to the wire on their first-round draftee, as the chart accompanying Ken Gurnick’s MLB.com article indicates.
  • Kevin Baxter of the Times details how little the Dodgers have been spending on amateur talent lately.
  • Steve Henson of Yahoo! Sports bucks the conventional wisdom and suggests that the Dodgers will make Lee a legitimate bid, with lots of explanation why. Henson has a quote from Lee saying, “I know I’m going to have to make a decision if they make an offer.”

No single draft pick is a referendum on the Dodgers’ amateur talent strategy. The cupboard isn’t barren. But let’s just say that a team that spends its past year not signing its first-round pick, not offering salary arbitration to free agents and thereby forfeiting more first-round picks, not investing in international signings and not stopping from trading away handfuls of prospects each year is checking off a lot of boxes on the negative side of the ledger.

Let’s see what the news is at 9 p.m. Monday.

Aug 15

Singular sensations

From the Dodger press notes: “The Dodgers’ last extra-base hit was center fielder Matt Kemp’s two-run homer in the seventh inning on Thursday night and since then they have hit 21 straight singles. In fact, 14 of the club’s 15 hits on Thursday were singles meaning that 30 of their last 31 hits have been for one base.”

* * *

Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone has two weekend posts worth noting. Today’s is a straightforward “be careful what you wish for” about Russell Martin’s absence, because A.J. Ellis and Brad Ausmus aren’t doing the job at all. The other is a deeper post about coaching and challenging players. Really worth a read.

* * *

Another good read is Tim Kurkjian’s piece at ESPN.com on ending his remarkable, two-decade habit of clipping box scores.