Sep 24

Our rock in a hard place: Clayton Kershaw


Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesClayton Kershaw crossed the 200-inning mark and lowered his 2010 ERA to 2.91.

I’ve always been more than a little pumped when Clayton Kershaw takes the mound. But lately, it has gotten to the point where I’m afraid to miss him, because I’m afraid I’ll miss him throw a perfect game.

For the second time in his past three starts, Kershaw had no-hit stuff. Twelve days ago, Kershaw retired the first 10 Giants he faced, on his way to a five-hit shutout. Tonight in Arizona, Kershaw set down the first 11 Diamondbacks, striking out nine and allowing but four hits (and no walks) over eight innings in pitching the Dodgers to a 3-1 victory.

A solid single to right by Kelly Johnson ended Kershaw’s bid for a perfect game tonight. Johnson also singled in the seventh, and aside from John Hester reaching on a Russ Mitchell error, those were the only baserunners the Diamondbacks had until Chris Young’s leadoff single and Tony Abreu’s RBI double in the ninth. Kenley Jansen then replaced Kershaw. who threw 102 pitches. After one out, Jansen walked Stephen Drew to put the tying run on base, but he struck out Adam LaRoche and Ryan Church for a 22-pitch save.

On top of all his other talents, Kershaw has spent much of this season mastering his control. Last year, he walked 4.8 batters per nine innings. This year, he’s at 3.7, and since June 1, 2.8. In the first four innings tonight, nine Kershaw pitches landed out of the strike zone. His pitch count by inning before the ninth: 12, 10, 8, 12, 15, 13, 16, 7.

It was sad to see Kershaw’s bid for a two-hit shutout fray in the final inning, but still, he was mesmerizing. If Dodger fans have one thing to look forward to next season, if they have only one player writing poetry, it’s Clayton Kershaw. What a treasure.

* * *

Two players got their first triples of the season for the Dodgers tonight, and you can decide which is more surprising: Trent Oeltjen or Andre Ethier. Oeltjen drove in A.J. Ellis (1 for 2 with two walks) with his, Ethier scored following his. Reed Johnson added his second homer of the year in the ninth inning, and that was your Dodger onslaught tonight. (Russ Mitchell did get the first inside-the-park hit of his career, a seventh-inning single.)

Kershaw had his 18th sacrifice bunt of the season, putting him one away from Orel Hershiser’s team record for pitchers of 19, set in 1988.

* * *

Mediation on the McCourt case ended with no news of an impending settlement, reports The Associated Press. Comments Josh Fisher at Dodger Divorce: “… a settlement doesn’t have to come now. It probably won’t come now. After this trial comes to a conclusion, Judge Gordon will have 90 days to issue a ruling. You can bet he’ll keep the parties well-informed to his progress, and that they will have ample time to reach a settlement. It’s a hugely important case, one that could potentially create new California law, but the parties are unlikely to let it get that far. There’s just too much to lose.”

Sep 24

Kershaw LXXXIII: Kershawteau Marmont


Loomis Dean/Getty ImagesBing Crosby with Pirates Manager Billy Meyer during Spring Training, 1948.

Film of the classic 1960 World Series Game 7 was found in the wine cellar of Bing Crosby and will be shown on the MLB Network in December (first reported by the New York Times).

* * *

Hong-Chih Kuo will stay on a regular throwing program in the offseason, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, because long offseason rest has seemed to have done him more harm than good.

Sep 23

Nous sommes Jolie Louise

In some ways, I think “Jolie Louise” tells the story of the 2010 Dodgers and their fans. Click the link for the lyrics (scroll down for the English). They are him, and she is us.

* * *

In the wake of Denver Broncos receiver Kenny McKinley’s death, Woody Paige of the Denver Post wrote about his own brush with suicide, eight years ago. “In loving memory of Kenny McKinley, no longer ask “Why?” — ask “What can we do to save thousands of others?”

Sep 23

Jamey Carroll wins Roy Campanella Award

Jamey Carroll has won the fifth annual Roy Campanella Award for most inspirational Dodger, the team announced today. Carroll won a vote of Dodger teammates and coaches, and congrats to him for the deserved recognition.

But if history is any indicator, Carroll’s career highlights might be fewer and farther between from here on out.

Previous winners:

2006: Rafael Furcal
2007: Russell Martin
2008: James Loney
2009: Juan Pierre

Sep 22

Dodgers might have to pay Ted Lilly more than he’s worth in offseason


Dave Stephenson/Icon SMITed Lilly has allowed 11 homers and 10 walks since being acquired by the Dodgers.

On Trade Deadline Day, I got some grief for calling Ted Lilly “an inconsistent, 34-year-old pitcher in decline” – not so much about the “34-year-old pitcher part” as the other parts. I did say he would improve the rotation, but I saw some warning signs (which made me skeptical that the benefit would be worth the cost of the trade, which included swapping Blake DeWitt and two prospects and getting back Ryan Theriot).

In the immediate aftermath, Lilly pitched exceptionally, something I acknowledged most directly about a month ago following his two-hit shutout of the Rockies. But looking at Lilly today, the question marks about him haven’t gone anywhere.

Lilly, who had a 1.29 ERA in his first four Dodger starts, has had a 7.09 ERA since. Those numbers are skewed by two extremely poor starts – he has had quality starts in seven of his nine games as a Dodger. In any case, right now, Lilly has a worse ERA in 2010 than he had in 2009, and a worse ERA as a Dodger than he had as a Cub. So for all the plaudits he has received as a Dodger, his trajectory isn’t a straight upward line. And, he’s still 34 – he’ll be 35 in January.

None of this is to denigrate what Lilly has proven capable of – seriously, he’s done good – but simply to be on guard for what Lilly is going to be worth going forward.

According to several reports, both Lilly and the Dodgers seem to want come up with a deal that would bring the free agent back to Los Angeles in 2011. And heaven knows, the Dodgers need pitching for next year. But there’s a real risk of overpaying for Lilly.

Last winter, many Dodger fans felt the team couldn’t live without Randy Wolf. Milwaukee committed $29.25 million to Wolf for 2010-2012, and in the first year of that contract, he has been a below-average pitcher. And now he’s 34.

The winter before, many Dodger fans felt the team couldn’t live without Derek Lowe. Atlanta committed $60 million to Lowe for 2009-2012, and in the first two years of that contract, he has been a below-average pitcher. And now he’s 37.

Perhaps the best analogy to made with Lilly, however, is to use Casey Blake, a midseason acquisition who performed well at age 34 (35 that August) for the Dodgers in 2008, thus encouraging the team to sign him for three more years. They got in return a solid third baseman in 2009, a borderline one in 2010 and who knows what for 2011. The most likely path for Lilly would be similar.

One of the criticisms I got of my original assessment of the Lilly trade was that I failed to take his pre-2009 seasons into account, several of which (including a few in his prime) were poorer than his 2010 season. So how could I say he was in decline? Well, he was clearly in decline since 2009. If you want to look back farther than that, then you have a pitcher who was medicore at times, improved, and then most recently started to slip again.

Everything depends on cost, but based on what Lilly figures to command on the free agent market, if the Dodgers sign him, it could turn out to be a deal that looks good at first and not good at all in the end. The thing is, given the pitching vacancies the Dodgers are facing for 2011, that kind of fate with Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda or whomever might be unavoidable.

Sep 22

Resolution or desolation in the McCourt trial?

Mediation aimed at a settlement in the McCourt civil case have been scheduled for Friday, according to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports and The Associated Press.

Josh Fisher of Dodger Divorce on Tuesday’s Mccourtroom events:

… My gut feeling, the basics of which are shared by several close watchers, is that Frank and Jamie absolutely meant to execute the Massachusetts MPA–the one now extraordinarily favorable to Frank. Remember, it was not always so imbalanced. I believe that Frank wanted the upside and Jamie the stability. But, several years later, as the value of the team skyrocketed and the value of high-end real estate plummeted, Jamie’s late discovery of the document switch might have given her legal team all it needs.

Their argument is simple: if you have two sets of documents which are completely opposite on a material term, how can you enforce either? Jamie isn’t asking Judge Gordon to bless the California MPA. She wants the whole thing tossed, which would put into motion a series of events nearly certain to lead to the sale of the Dodgers.

Frank’s counter is pretty simple itself. Jamie admits to not reading either version of the MPA–she had no knowledge of the California Agreement until this year. If she meant to sign the Massachusetts MPA, the argument goes, and she never knew of the discrepancy at the time of execution, shouldn’t the court enforce the Agreement she meant to sign? Frank supports this case by trotting out witnesses who can testify to Jamie’s knowledge of marital property law and intent to insulate herself from the risks associated with the Dodgers acquisition.

At the end of the day, the lasting question is this: What do you do when two parties signed a document they never read containing Exhibits conflicting as to the most important item in the document? If you believe they meant one thing, is that enough? Or do you have to throw it all out on its face?

Those questions aren’t easy to answer, and each party risks a ton by leaving the issues up to Judge Gordon. That’s why the parties will meet Friday morning at 9:30 in front of Judge Peter Lichtman in confidential, non-binding mediation. Both sides are expected to present Judge Lichtman with a brief summary of exactly what they would want and need in a settlement. If, to use a term of art introduced to this litigation in Silverstein’s testimony yesterday, there is a nexus between the parties’ needs and wants, I believe it’s entirely possible this thing is resolved shortly. …

* * *

  • The state of Casey Blake, from Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness:
  • … There’s only been seventeen seasons since 1961 in which a third baseman 37 or older (since Blake will be 37 most of next year) has managed to even play enough to qualify for the batting title. Looking at that list, most of them are Hall of Famers (Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, Brooks Robinson, Wade Boggs, Cal Ripken, Jr.), or about to be (Chipper Jones) – and even then there’s quite a few dreadful seasons on that list. Do we really expect that Casey Blake is the one who bucks that trend?

  • In 2010, the Tampa Bay Rays are winning with a lower payroll than the Dodgers. In 2011, the Rays will be trying to do so with an even lower payroll, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times (via Hardball Talk).
  • Former Arizona manager A.J. Hinch has been hired as vice president of professional scouting by San Diego.
  • My little girl is eight today. Eight!  Goodness …  happy birthday, sweetie.
Sep 21

September 21 game chat

Jeremy Lundblad of ESPN.com compares the Dodger offense to Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki, and it’s not pretty.

Did you know that the Dodgers are on pace for the third-lowest September batting average for a team in the past 50 years — and that’s after batting .306 in the Colorado series?

On the bright side, here’s something from the Dodger press notes: “According to John Labombarda at Elias, (A.J.) Ellis became the first Major League player to go 7-for-8 or better in a series (.875 BA or higher, minimum seven hits) since Pittsburgh’s Freddy Sanchez had eight hits in nine at-bats in a three-game set at Wrigley Field in May 2009. The Kentucky native was the first player to do that for the Dodgers since Jim Gilliam went 7-for-8 in a two-game series at Chicago in August 1959.”

Sep 21

Pivotal moment could turn trial against Frank McCourt

Doubt intensified about the legitimacy of the post-nuptial agreement between Frank and Jamie McCourt after lawyer Larry Silverstein, who drafted the agreement on behalf of both, testified in court today that he altered the agreement after it was signed and didn’t tell Jamie about the change.

If, because of questions concerning the agreement, Frank loses the case or is forced to settle — two events that would lead to joint ownership rights — that could lead to a sale of the Dodgers, pending appeals if there is no settlement.

From ESPN.com:

In a key exchange, Jamie McCourt’s attorney David Boies questioned Silverstein about the change made to the agreement:

“The words that you wrote on the California version of exhibit A mean that Frank’s interest in the Dodgers is not included in his separate property, correct?” Boies asked.

“That’s not what I meant,” Silverstein replied.

Boies: “But it’s how it reads, correct?”

Silverstein: “Just going by the words that’s correct. But it was an error.”

Boies: “Who gets to determine which of the two versions is in error? Is that up to you, unilaterally?”

Silverstein: “No.”

Sep 20

Selfish good news: Logan White, De Jon Watson not going to Arizona

His loss is our gain: Dodgers assistant general manager of amateur and international scouting Logan White and assistant general manager for player development DeJon Watson are no longer being considered for the Arizona general manager position, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports.

For all the talk about Joe Torre and Don Mattingly, keeping the hope alive in the farm system is probably more important for the Dodgers’ future.

Sep 20

Dodgers against the Rockies: Bad until the last drop

No Cogs and Dogs today — we’ll be gearing up for the season finale edition in two weeks.

  • The Dodgers had 47 baserunners in three games against Colorado, yet didn’t take a lead until after the final pitch of the final game was thrown.
  • Joshua Fisher of Dodger Divorce was profiled by Billy Witz in the New York Times, which positioned Fisher as a future front office executive.
  • Today’s resumption of the McCourt trial kicked off with the SUV that Jamie McCourt was a passenger in, en route downtown, striking a pedestrian, according to KNBC reporter Conan Nolan. Update: The Associated Press reports that it was unclear whether McCourt was in the car when the incident happened.
  • Many think Casey Blake should or will become a part-time player for the Dodgers in 2011. As far as third-base alternatives, if the Dodgers want Andy LaRoche back (which they probably don’t), they can probably pick him up for cheap (which they probably won’t). From Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (via Dodger Thoughts commenter Hollywood Joe):

    … Neal Huntington, the Pirates’ general manager, must decide this winter whether or not to tender an arbitration offer to Andy LaRoche, though that seems unlikely.

    “Obviously, when we traded for Andy, we expected more,” Huntington said. “It’s tough to go from playing regularly to a bench role, and it can take time to get used to it. Some never get used to it. We’ve talked a lot about quantity of quality. We need to have a number of good prospects at every position. Andy LaRoche has a good chance to bounce back. You see guys like this in the All-Star Game every year. But, to this point, Andy is one example of why you can’t count on just that one prospect. They don’t always make it.”

    Believe it or not, LaRoche, who turned 27 last week, has now amassed more than 1,200 plate appearances in the majors, and he has a career OPS of .640.

  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness wants John Lindsey to get a longer look in the season’s final two weeks.
  • Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the outline of the guest managing jobs Joe Torre will hand out over the season’s final weekend. Normally, Torre lets a player manage the team if there’s a meaningless final game, but Torre is saving that for himself and moving up the guest job a day or two.
  • The one Dodger this season to have the top Web Gem on ESPN’s nightly recap has been … Ronnie Belliard. The highest-ranking Pacific Time Zone team on the team list is Seattle at 17th.
Sep 19

Searching for redemption: Dodgers rally for 11th-inning victory

Jay Gibbons, whose entire stint with the Dodgers has been a form of redemption, lost some with two failed catches in the first two innings today that contributed to four of the six runs allowed by Clayton Kershaw.

Jonathan Broxton is still searching for redemption. Broxton, who walked five in 32 2/3 innings before June 27, has walked 23 in 29 innings since and had to be bailed out after loading the bases in his short stint.

But Matt Kemp got some, tying the game with a homer in the seventh and RBI double in the ninth. George Sherrill got some, striking out Carlos Gonzalez with the bases loaded in the top of the 11th. And after eight seasons in the minors, A.J. Ellis continues to get his, stroking yet another hit with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th to cap a 7-for-8 weekend and win today’s game, 7-6.

And so the Dodgers got some, rallying from a 6-1 deficit to send the fans home smiling, if only for tonight. For a team that seemed to need the plug pulled early, it was a sight worth seeing.

Redemption operates on its own timetable, that’s for sure. With the Dodgers spending most of the past two months as its cuckold, it was nice to see it come around today, even if it’s still two-timing us.

Sep 19

The Losers Dividend, continued

I’m going with one of the best Dads in the world to Dodger Stadium today to see one of the best pitchers in baseball.

The Loser’s Dividend, September 25, 2005:

The last two Dodger games I have attended, a loss and now today’s victory, have been the two most pleasant I’ve been to all season. Both came after the team’s sub-.500 status was assured, a condition that seems to have weeded out the high expecters (expectants? expectationers?) who would only be satisfied by a victory. The best that people hope for now is that a baseball game be played. That’s all. Throw the first pitch and we’ve already won. The Dodgers of September 2005 offer no other guarantees, and so we find ourselves at the major league equivalent of Little League, where it’s a celebration when someone doesn’t fall on his head and it’s considered poor form to rain criticism or curb hope. Call it the Losers Dividend. It’s a very relaxing, freeing payoff (abetted by the ease of ingress and egress to Dodger Stadium that the smaller crowds provide), enough to make one up and move to Kansas City or Tampa Bay so this can be reinvested and experienced permanently. …

Tampa Bay wouldn’t have been a bad choice, as it turned out.

* * *

  • Old friend Takashi Saito has a 0.46 for the Braves since the All-Star Break, but his shoulder is ailing.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. noticed that Brandon Weeden, a minor-leaguer who came to the Dodgers in the 2003 Kevin Brown trade, is now quarterbacking at Oklahoma State. Weeden, who last pitched in the minors in 2006, will be 27 next month.
Sep 19

In your face with the pennant race chase

The Dodgers are out of the pennant race, but that doesn’t mean this pennant race isn’t worth paying attention to. Three teams are within one game of first place in the National League West, with Atlanta only two games ahead in the NL wild card race. Throw in Philadelphia, whose three game lead in the NL East will be tested by playing its next three games after today and its last three games of the year with the Braves, and we’ve got a bounce house of a final two weeks.

         
  Colorado San Diego San Francisco Atlanta Philadelphia
  82-66 83-65 83-66 85-64 88-61
Today at L.A. at St. Louis Milwuakee at N.Y. Washington
Monday off off off at Philadelphia Atlanta
Tuesday at Arizona at L.A. at Chicago at Philadelphia Atlanta
Wednesday at Arizona at L.A. at Chicago at Philadelphia Atlanta
Thursday at Arizona at L.A. at Chicago off off
Friday S.F. Cincinnati at Colorado at Washington N.Y.
Saturday S.F. Cincinnati at Colorado at Washington N.Y.
Sept. 26 S.F. Cincinnati at Colorado at Washington N.Y.
Sept. 27 L.A. Chicago off Florida at Washington
Sept. 28 L.A. Chicago Arizona Florida at Washington
Sept. 29 L.A. Chicago Arizona Florida at Washington
Sept. 30 at St. Louis Chicago Arizona off off
Oct. 1 at St. Louis at S.F. S.D. Philadelphia at Atlanta
Oct. 2 at St. Louis at S.F. S.D. Philadelphia at Atlanta
Oct. 3 at St. Louis at S.F. S.D. Philadelphia at Atlanta