Aug 08

Dodgers replace Garret Anderson with Jay Gibbons

Twenty-three days before rosters can expand Sept. 1, the Dodgers have decided they can’t wait on Garret Anderson anymore. Jay Gibbons, with a .969 OPS in Albuquerque this season, had his contract purchased by the team, which designated Anderson for assignment.

Don’t expect miracles. The 33-year-old Gibbons had a .621 OPS with Baltimore in 2007, the last time he was in the majors.

Aug 07

Loney wins JV game for Dodgers in 10 innings, 3-2

Given the lack of action throughout most of tonight’s Dodger game, my attention diverted to Albuquerque, where the Isotopes fell behind 10-0 in the third and 12-1 in the sixth before rallying to send the game into extra innings, tied at 12.

Nevertheless, it would be remiss of me to ignore Hiroki Kuroda retiring 17 in a row shortly after an early two-run homer, a Matt Kemp sacrifice fly (nearly a grand slam) that ended up plating two runs, a woolly three innings of shutout relief from Hong-Chih Kuo and Jonathan Broxton, and finally James Loney’s walkoff single to win it for the Dodgers in 10 innings, 3-2.

Tonight was the first time the Dodgers gained ground on San Diego, San Francisco and Colorado on the same night since June 24.

And now, back to Albuquerque

Aug 07

Enough rope to hang yourself with

I wrote a post this morning, then held back publishing it because it just seemed as if there were way too many words being spent to talk about Garret Anderson, relative to his importance on the team. After mulling it over, I’ve decided to run it, but with this disclaimer: There are way too many words being spent to talk about Garret Anderson, relative to his importance on the team.

The reason I’m running it is because in the end, I do want to make this point: This semi-tradition the Dodgers have of saving a roster spot for an over-the-hill bat, just because he’s a veteran, is not a good tradition.

I made a similar point in March.

Anyway, here’s the post:

* * *

George Sherrill struck out the only batter he faced in the Dodgers’ 6-3 loss to Washington on Friday. In his past six games, Sherrill has faced 16 batters and given up only three singles and no walks. It’s his best stretch of the season since April.

Sherrill used a lot of rope to climb back to this brief stretch of effectiveness. From May 2 to July 19, according to Baseball-Reference.com, Sherrill allowed a 1.043 OPS and an ERA of 8.10, with 12 of 20 inherited runners scoring against him.

The Dodgers gave Sherrill and Garret Anderson the entire season to solve their problems, a decision based largely upon the fact that they had had past success, along with the fact that they couldn’t go to the minors. You could say largely the same for Ronnie Belliard, who started the season 11 for 26 (.423) through April 23 but is 18 for 108 with 16 walks (.513 OPS) since.

Younger players, generally, did not get the same leeway. Xavier Paul certainly didn’t do well in the majors this year, with a .591 OPS (.455 after the All-Star break), but he also didn’t get as many opportunities as Anderson and was sent back to Albuquerque three different times, the last after the Dodgers traded two minor leaguers to acquire Scott Podsednik to replace him as Manny Ramirez’s understudy.

The rationale for Paul is that he (and in turn, the Dodgers) would benefit more with him playing every day in Albuquerque than sitting on the bench in Los Angeles. It’s not a crazy rationale, though there’s a counter-argument that Paul has learned everything he can in the minors, and that what would benefit him most is major-league time, even if he’s not playing every day. Is Paul going to overcome what stymied him over the past month by playing in Triple-A?

The Dodgers were even more impatient with some of their young pitchers. John Ely, who as recently as two months ago could be credited with saving the Dodgers’ season, had five poor starts in seven tries and was not heard from again. Carlos Monasterios was yanked in and out of the rotation. While Ramon Ortiz got 30 innings to prove himself, James McDonald didn’t even get 10. While Russ Ortiz got six games, Scott Elbert got one.

You can’t say the Dodgers gave no younger players a chance, but you can say that struggling older players generally got the benefit of the doubt over struggling younger players. You can also say that benefit of the doubt was largely a waste of time, Sherrill’s recent 16 batters notwithstanding.

I’m not suggesting the Dodgers should ban old players from their clubhouse, of course – I hope that’s clear. And I understand that many of these guys weren’t here for no reason. Sherrill was outstanding in 2009. Belliard certainly hit at the end of the 2009 season. The Ortizes were mainly a product of crazy roster problems in the bullpen at the end of spring training. Extenuating circumstances abound.

But at a certain point, with some of these players, enough is enough.

There was really no excuse for Anderson to hang around this long. And maybe in 2011, the Dodgers should think twice before dedicating a roster spot to that veteran off the bench based on a track record that is no longer relevant. Maybe, just maybe, the Dodgers should try giving that last roster spot to a younger player, promise they’ll stick him through thick and thin (the way they did with Anderson), and see what happens. Give that spot to a player who, even if he doesn’t hit, can bring some speed or defense to the game. Just as an experiment.

Aug 06

Kershaw LXXIV: Kershasta McNasty

This was to have been the Clayton Kershaw-Stephen Strasburg showcase showdown. But you can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you find you get what you need. But sometimes not. Sometimes, you get what you get and you don’t get upset. Unless you do get upset. But don’t worry, be happy.

* * *

The lack of improvement on Manny Ramirez’s calf prompted another MRI exam, Joe Torre told reporters today. We’re waiting to hear the results.

This weekend, Jamey Carroll should pass Russell Martin to move into fourth place on the team in games played this season. The reserve infielder has played in all but 14 games in 2010.

The Dodgers will have at most five players who reach the 130-game mark this season. I thought it might have been a long time since that happened, but in 2008, the team had only four players reach that plateau. Last year, eight players made it.

Aug 05

Nomentum: Padres 5, Dodgers 0

Bullets from a 5-0 loss:

  • The Dodgers now have 12 shutouts this season. The Los Angeles team record is 23 in 1968; next after that is 17 in 1966 and 1989.
  • The Dodgers have been held to two runs or fewer in 11 of their past 15 games.
  • James Loney batted with two runners on in the fourth, sixth and eighth innings, but the Dodgers’ RBI king came up empty each time. The killer was a towering blast to right field that went to the wall before being caught.
  • Chad Billingsley extended his scoreless inning streak to 24 2/3 innings before getting touched up for three runs in the fourth inning. Five of the 10 baserunners he allowed came in the fourth, the only inning in which the Padres scored. Billinglsey left for a pinch-hitter after six innings, three runs and 90 pitches.
  • With a ninth-inning double-switch, Andre Ethier made his first career appearance at first base.
  • Ethier and Ryan Theriot each reached based three times.
  • Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has precise details about Russell Martin’s season-ending injury.
  • James McDonald struck out a career-high eight (including six of his first seven batters) while pitching six shutout innings in his Pirates debut.
  • The man McDonald was traded for, Octavio Dotel, was victimized by an almost inexplicable inside-the-park homer in the ninth inning tonight by San Diego’s Chris Denofria.
  • Ronald Belisario threw off the mound this afternoon; Joe Torre said he would probably start a rehab assignment Saturday.
  • Don Hawkins, a church group leader, collapsed on the field at Dodger Stadium before tonight’s game and passed away. All my condolences to his family and friends.
Aug 05

Why Russell Martin won’t be so easy to replace


Kirby Lee/US PresswireRussell Martin

You won’t have trouble finding people who think Russell Martin’s potential season-ending hip injury is no big deal. “He wasn’t hitting anyway, so who cares?”

Here’s why it’s a big deal, to both Martin and the Dodgers.

For all the decline Martin has had since his All-Star days not so long ago, the 27-year-old still brings a healthy on-base percentage to the table. This year, for example, Martin’s OBP is .347. He’s no Ted Williams, but that places him in the top 12 of major-league catchers with at least 150 plate appearances this year and fifth among catchers with at least 300 plate appearances. In other words, barely a handful of teams in the majors could match the Dodgers for catcher OBP.

With the Dodgers, Martin is sixth in OBP if you include semi-regulars Manny Ramirez and Jamey Carroll and the departed Blake DeWitt. Without that trio, Martin jumps up to third, behind Andre Ethier and Rafael Furcal - and of course, Furcal’s status today is at least a bit uncertain. On a team struggling to piece together runs, Martin helped keep an inning alive more than most. And he was always there, until now.

The tandem of Brad Ausmus and A.J. Ellis probably can’t match Martin’s on-base production. Ausmus’ .343 OBP in limited duty last season was his highest since 2005 in Houston. Ellis can do better than the .246 OBP he has had in his short major-league career – he has hung consistently over .400 in the minors – but it’s a leap to suggest that he can jump to one of the highest catcher OBPs in baseball.

If that’s a drop-off, the decline of power in Martin’s absence might be more of a dive. Yes, Martin’s power has disappeared, his slugging percentage falling from .469 in 2007 to .330 in 2009-10. But that’s still higher than the .311 slugging Ausmus has had since turning 34 seven years ago. Meanwhile, Ellis has had a sub-.400 slugging percentage with zero homers in 100 games at Albuquerque over the past two seasons – so forget about him showing any power in Los Angeles. Whatever you think of Martin’s power, these guys are worse.

Some might be prepared to give Ausmus and Ellis points for defense, and maybe they’re right. But Martin, who was ripped for his work behind the plate in 2009, showed something closer to his Gold Glove form this year in my subjective opinion, including a much-improved throwing arm. He has thrown out a career-high 39 percent of runners trying to steal. The Dodgers are tied for 11th in baseball in fewest stolen bases allowed, with 10 of the 55 coming on Ellis’ watch in only 133 2/3 innings behind the plat (one every 13.3 innings) compared to 43 in 791 1/3 for Martin (one every 17 innings).

The chances of the Dodgers finding someone outside the organization to replace Martin this season are slim to none considering the available options – which, keep in mind, would come at a cost – and frankly, it’s not like it will get easy in the offseason.

All that being said, you really do have to wonder whether Martin will be back with the Dodgers in 2011. Despite what is perceived to be a poor 2010 season that has now been marred by health concerns, the arbitration-eligible Martin can expect a raise to about $6.5 million in salary for next year. (If that seems unfair to you, remember that he got paid $1,187,500 for 2006-08 combined.) Even a hale and hearty Dodger front office might balk at that figure for a catcher with Martin’s productivity concerns.

Now, the Dodgers might look at the options and negotiate a deal with Martin – the team rarely takes cases to arbitration, after all. But it’s very possible that Martin and the Dodgers will be going their separate ways to fend for themselves.

What a sad, unexpected ending that would be. Inside of two years ago, Martin was so important to the Dodgers in my mind that he was the only active player to get a separate chapter in my book – a great catcher, and a great Dodger. Even though he hasn’t been the same the past two years, this might be the end of an era, and it shouldn’t pass without notice.

Aug 04

Near no-no still a yes-yes for Vicente Padilla and Dodgers: 9-0


Jae C. Hong/APVicente Padilla

Vicente Padilla’s extraordinary run of starts since returning from the disabled list in June nearly peaked with a no-hitter tonight at Dodger Stadium.

Padilla came within eight outs of the gem before allowing a line shot off the glove of a diving James Loney by Ryan Ludwick. Padilla gave up one other hit over his 105 pitches, settling for the fourth shutout of his career and second of the two-hit variety, and the Dodgers defeated the Padres, 9-0.

With the Dodgers seemingly losing a player a day, Padilla let everyone take their minds off their troubles. After walking two batters (one intentionally) in the second inning, Padilla retired 14 in a row before the Ludwick single. Since June 19, Padilla has pitched 60 innings and allowed 12 earned runs for a 1.80 ERA. His nine strikeouts tonight give him 52 in that time. He has not allowed more than two runs in his past eight starts.

The Dodgers, who have won consecutive games following their six-game losing streak, scored three runs in the second inning, the crowning blow a two-RBI dunker by Scott Podsednik. Ronnie Belliard added an RBI double in the third, and then Padilla – left to bat for himself in the bottom of the eighth following much suspense – drove in a run with his second hit of the night.

That kicked off a five-run inning for the Dodgers – their biggest output since a six-run inning July 3 – capped by a two-run homer by Andre Ethier. Ethier also had two doubles, while Casey Blake and Jamey Carroll added two hits for the Dodgers.

Dodger pitchers have held San Diego to a single run on five hits over the past two games combined. Since the All-Star Game, Dodger starting pitchers have allowed 35 earned runs in 123 innings for a 2.56 ERA.

If not a turnaround, tonight might amount to a false positive for a crumbling Dodger team, but temporary relief is better than none.

Aug 04

Russell Martin has torn labrum in right hip

The Dodgers placed Russell Martin on the disabled list for the first time in his career, because of a torn labrum in his right hip. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Reed Johnson was activated from the disabled list. A.J. Ellis and Brad Ausmus will share catching duties.

Update: I asked baseball injury expert Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus about this. His response: “If the acetabular labrum is torn, this is devastating for the Dodgers. In the short term, Martin would be done for the season. We don’t really have good comparables for this – as far as I know, no catchers have had the procedures. Most have been very successful – Chase Utley, Alex Rodriguez, Brett Myers and more, just in baseball. The long term prognosis should be good, but the taxing nature of the catching position adds an element of uncertainty. If he has the FAIL surgery (femoral-acetabular impingement/labrum) he’d be out for approximately three to four months, which would have him back in time for spring training.”

Given the millions Martin could expect to earn if the Dodgers retain him for next season, I’m wondering if Martin has played his last game in a Dodger uniform.

Aug 04

Rafael Furcal’s MRI is negative (in the good way)

Rafael Furcal’s MRI exam showed nothing of note, and he’s expected back in the lineup next week, Joe Torre told reporters today. We shall see …

Fellow MRIer Russell Martin was “in the machine now” as Torre was speaking, so no update on his condition yet. Knowing that Martin would be out for at least a few days, the Dodgers recalled A.J. Ellis and optioned Xavier Paul. Torre also noted that Reed Johnson’s minor-league rehabilitation assignment is just about complete and that the Dodgers will activate the reserve outfielder in the next day or so, either placing Martin on the disabled list or making another move. (I know what you’re thinking …)

* * *

From the Dodger press notes: “Tonight, Dodger fan Jorge Bahaia will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Bahaia and his wife, Elsie have traveled from their home in El Salvador to watch one Dodger homestand every year since 1945 and have also never missed a Los Angeles Dodger World Series game at home or on the road. 50 of the Bahaia’s family members and friends will be on hand to watch Jorge toss out the first pitch. ”

* * *

The Dodgers’ starting lineup, five years ago tonight:

Cesar Izturis, SS
Oscar Robles, 3B
Milton Bradley, CF
Jeff Kent, 1B
Ricky Ledee, RF
Antonio Perez, 2B
Jose Valentin, LF
Dioner Navarro, C
Brad Penny, P

* * *

Gene Maddaus of L.A. Weekly pens a lengthy look at Frank McCourt’s pre-Dodgers real-estate dealings in Boston and how that bled into his Dodger ownership and relationship with Jamie McCourt. Plenty of interesting excerpts; here’s one:

… In April 2008, Jeff Ingram, a Boston real estate banker who had worked for the McCourts since 1999, wrote an e-mail to both McCourts titled “Getting on the Same Page.”

“The most important thing that has to be accomplished is for the two of you to get on the same page on both the family finances and aspirations and the strategic direction of the companies,” Ingram wrote, sounding more like a therapist than a banker. “If there are common goals, I believe the journey will be more fulfilling and enjoyable for you and for everybody else.”

For her own sense of comfort, Jamie wanted to have $250 million in the bank. Given that the McCourts owned mostly large, illiquid and leveraged assets, the only way to achieve Jamie’s goal, Ingram wrote, would be to sell a minority stake in the Dodgers.

That was directly counter to McCourt’s ambitions, which involved not only holding on to full ownership of the team but also building a football stadium and ultimately turning his company into a global sports enterprise.

“If you aren’t on the same page,” Ingram wrote, “I sincerely hope you can have the conversation in the spirit of ‘Look what we accomplished’ and ‘How do we want to spend our time going forward.’ Please appreciate the moment and work together to determine what is best for you and your family. … From a personal perspective, I really hope you can find a common ground.” …

Aug 03

Lilly really lifts chilly Dodgers, 2-1


Danny Moloshok/APTed Lilly gave up a solo homer to Miguel Tejada in the first inning, a single to Adrian Gonzalez, and nothing else.

New Dodger starting pitcher Ted Lilly retired the final 20 of the 23 batters he faced in his debut with Los Angeles tonight, and Russell Martin’s two-run, second-inning double made the outstanding performance count for a 2-1 victory over San Diego, ending the team’s third six-game losing streak in six weeks.

The only mystery with Lilly’s performance was why he was removed from the game after throwing 87 pitches over seven innings, 65 for strikes. But Hong-Chih Kuo and Jonathan Broxton closed things out, Broxton inducing a game-ending double-play grounder from new Padres outfielder Ryan Ludwick after first giving up a soft single to Jerry Hairston Jr. and, one out later, an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez.

Lilly’s two-hit performance in his first Dodgers start came on the sixth anniversary of Brad Penny’s two-hit performance in his first Dodger start (a game that ended with Eric Gagne nearly blowing a three-run lead in the ninth). Let’s hope things go considerably better for Lilly than they did for Penny the next time out.

Aug 03

Slumping Jeff Weaver heads to DL; Rafael Furcal next?

Jeff Weaver, who has allowed 14 runs in 13 2/3 innings since July 1, decided that it might be a good idea to admit that he was pitching with a knee problem. The Dodgers placed Weaver on the disabled list today with left knee tendinitis, and called up Ramon Troncoso from Albuquerque.

… “They kind of pried it out of me,” Weaver said. “Obviously, I wasn’t able to command my pitches like I need to. It’s my landing leg, obviously, so there has been some inconsistency with it. Now is not the time to go out there not at your best. It’s frustrating, but it’s not something that is going to get worse or anything. It just needs a little time to work itself out. Hopefully, this will give me a chance to get it stronger.”

Weaver said he didn’t sense club officials were upset with him for concealing his injury, which he says came on gradually.

“They didn’t really say anything about it,” he said. “I think more than anything, they were happy I came forth with it instead of continuing to go out there with it.” …

* * *

Rafael Furcal is out of the starting lineup tonight, with Joe Torre telling reporters today that the All-Star shortstop is having an MRI on his back. Torre said Furcal felt something in his lower back on a throw, and that he is hoping it is not related to the back trouble that sidelined him for weeks and months in the recent past.

Also, Manny Ramirez has suffered yet another setback, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

* * *

The Dodgers’ magic number to avoid last place is 42. Any combination of Dodger victories and Arizona defeats adding up to 42 will keep Los Angeles out of the cellar.

Aug 02

My thoughts turn to Vin


US PresswireVin Scully, during last year’s offseason.

I have no insight into whether Vin Scully will retire after this season. My hunch is that he won’t walk away easily. He still sounds filled with so much spirit – more than any of us have, I’m guessing – that I think with whatever schedule adjustments continue to be necessary, he will press on.

But there is always the possibility that these are the final two months of our time with him on the air. And however the Dodgers are playing, I have to find a way to appreciate that time. Even if they are not his final two months, I so want to savor them.

Thirty-six regular-season games remain at home and on the road against National League West opponents.

* * *

“Leave it to the Dodgers, going back all the way to the borough of Brooklyn, to get three hits in the inning and not score a run,” Scully said at the end of the first inning tonight.

Scully doesn’t get upset when the Dodgers play badly, and fans don’t mind. In fact, they appreciate it.

There are things that bother Scully – from people who fail to acknowledge the heroes of D-Day, to the way the post-O’Malley organization discarded Mike Scioscia – but even then, he measures his words carefully and civilly.

The result on the field never bothers him. And fans don’t mind.

I do get upset when the Dodgers play badly, but sometimes I’m told I’m not upset enough, not angry enough. I’ve certainly been told that I’m not angry enough about the ownership situation, even though I’ve expressed my displeasure with it more often than I can count.

No one ever complains that Scully isn’t angry enough. I mean, it sounds silly that someone ever would, right? Maybe it’s because he doesn’t identify himself as a fan. Maybe because I get excited when the Dodgers do well, it’s considered my duty to get angrier when the Dodgers lose.

But Scully was and is an enormous influence on me. He sees every game as part of something bigger. He sees the team as part of a larger team, going all the way back to the borough of Brooklyn. He sees the grand timeline of the Los Angeles Dodgers and baseball, and knows that one bad inning, one bad game, one bad month, one bad season and more, are just part of the journey. He’s able to see all that even as he nears the end of his own journey, however far away that hopefully remains.

* * *

Matt Kemp went 5 for 5 with a double and home run in the Dodgers’ 10-5 loss to San Diego tonight, but his night was marred when he failed to score on that first-inning play Scully described above. James Loney was thrown out trying to reach third base on Casey Blake’s single, the tag coming before Kemp crossed home plate.

When Kemp came up in the eighth inning, Scully discussed the play, not shying away from dealing with it objectively, but also without venom.

Scully certainly wouldn’t say that fans aren’t entitled to be upset about the fortunes of the Dodgers this year, but I do wonder why more fans don’t follow the tone he sets. They worship him, but they don’t emulate him. I don’t judge those fans for it; I just find it interesting.

If the Dodgers don’t salvage the 2010 season, you’re going to see me continue to channel my inner Vinny, as best as I can. I hope to be insightful; I hope to be entertaining. I hope to comment without anger, to find joy amid the sorrow, to see the forest for the trees (and avoid cliches when I can). It’s something I don’t do enough of in my non-Dodger life, but here, in the one place I seem to be able to pull it off most of the time, I mean to sustain it.

In a life replete with doubt and disappointment, go with Vin.

Aug 02

Manny, Andruw and the Juan


US Presswire, AP PhotosMurderers r’oh!

I’m hoping I’m the first one to point this out, but in any case, if the Dodgers’ tailspin continues and they unload their current high-paid outfielder to the White Sox, as has been rumored, we’d have the potential of seeing Manny Ramirez, Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones in the same Chicago starting lineup. (I won’t dare dream they’d actually play in the outfield together).

In the meantime, if he avoids any immediate setbacks, it appears Ramirez will start his latest minor-league rehab assignment this week.

* * *

The Dodger coaching staff is great at pointing fingers, except at themselves, writes Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone.

… The coaches will yell and scream about wanting to win, and so will Ned Colletti, but when it comes time to committing to winning, they refuse to do it. From Garret Anderson to George Sherrill to Ronnie Belliard, the Dodgers front office and coaching staff have always refused to shed dead weight because it would hurt the feelings of veteran players.

Instead of doing anything to win like they tell their players to do, the powers that be simply talk a good game and nothing more. They talk about how they want to win at all costs, about how the players should want to do the same, and they talk about a sense of urgency. However, when it comes time to actually take the very actions that will help the Dodgers win, it’s all bark and no bite. …

* * *

  • The Irony Committee approves this Ned Colletti quote on 710 AM ESPN (via True Blue L.A.) “You watch Ryan Theriot play, it’s going to remind you of Blake DeWitt and how hard he plays.”
  • From Dodger Thoughts commenter Nsxtasy1, in response to my  “A Team of Garret Andersons” post: During the same period, Garret Anderson has a .222 BA and .300 OBP. That’s right, the team is doing so poorly since the break that Garret Anderson is outhitting the rest of the team. Yes, Garret Anderson.”
  • The Dodgers are going with a less showy Matt Kemp poster at Friday’s giveaway, writes Roberto Baly at Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
Aug 02

A team of Garret Andersons

The Dodgers have had 602 plate appearances since the All-Star Break, close to the equivalent of a single individual season. Their offense in that time: .199 batting average, .268 on-base percentage and .297 slugging percentage.  By comparison, Garret Anderson’s numbers for the season are not much different – or aren’t different enough, anyway: .184/208/.276.

Before the break, the Dodgers were at .269/.338/.406. Now that’s different.

Averaging 4.8 runs per game before the break, the Dodgers have averaged 2.1 since.