Nov 19

Ex-Dodgers Delwyn Young, Andy La Roche are castaways


Matt Slocum/APAndy LaRoche congratluates Delwyn Young after Young’s solo home run May 17 in Philadelphia.

Two seasons ago, the Dodgers gave away Delwyn Young, then sent Andy LaRoche away to get Manny Ramirez a few months later. Now, the Dodgers can have them back for nothing. Pittsburgh designated Young and LaRoche for assignment today.

Both players occasionally flashed ability but mostly have washed out. That’s not as big a surprise for Young, who was never expected to be much more than a bench player, but the bigger disappointment was LaRoche, whose fine minor-league career seemed to have him poised for a starting role. Indeed, yours truly insisted in 2008 that the Dodgers didn’t give LaRoche a fair chance to win the third-base job before deciding to trade Carlos Santana and Jon Meloan for Casey Blake, days before the Ramirez trade.

When LaRoche was sent away (along with minor-league pitcher Bryan Morris), I consoled myself with the fact that at least the Dodgers were getting a major talent back. And more than ever, there’s no doubt the trade was a major win for the Dodgers, especially with injuries and stagnating development making LaRoche a discard.

Either player might be worth a flyer on a minor-league contract, especially considering the Dodgers’ depth issues, but based on Ned Colletti’s past actions, if there’s any ex-Pirate he’d be taking a chance on for next season’s major-league roster, it would be today’s third DFA, Zach Duke. Duke is five years removed from the 1.81 ERA he posted in his rookie debut and hasn’t averaged more than 5.5 strikeouts per nine innings since, but he did have a 4.06 ERA in 2009 and will still only be 28 in April. For a general manager who saw potential in every R. Ortiz under the sun, Duke certainly seems like someone whose tires would get kicked.

And believe it or not, there’s a fourth ex-Pirate in the Dodger news today, though don’t expect to see him in Los Angeles. The Dodgers purchased the contracts of two players and added them to their 40-man roster – one was 28-year-old catcher Hector Gimenez, who had a .916 OPS for the Pirates’ Double-A team in Altoona – the first time in eight professional seasons he had broken the .800 mark.

The other was Luis Vasquez (25 in April), who had a nifty 2.68 ERA and with 39 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings, but all the way down in Single-A. Vasquez allowed only 24 hits but walked 26.

No, this doesn’t mean the Dodgers have solved their catching and bullpen issues. Nor, certainly, have they provided us an answer who will start in left field in 2011, though Colletti gave Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio (news via MLB Trade Rumors) this conversation piece: Jay Gibbons, Xavier Paul and Jamie Hoffmann are all considered candidates to be the outfield’s Opening Day third wheel.

* * *

Don Mattingly completed his managerial stint in the Arizona Fall League, and Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com touched base with him.

Nov 19

Regarding young players peaking early …

This article by Tim Marchman for SI.com about the development (or lack thereof) of young prodigies is an interesting read, and not just because it manages to mention Tom Brunansky twice in the third paragraph:

Since the most valuable thing in baseball is a young star signed to a cheap contract, I was fairly shocked when I learned the Arizona Diamondbacks are, if not actively shopping outfielder Justin Upton, at least willing to listen to offers for him. Perhaps they know secret things about him; perhaps new general manager Kevin Towers simply doesn’t like the cut of his jib. Most likely he’s available in the sense that all players are available. (Scoop: The Atlanta Braves would happily trade Jason Heyward to the Giants in exchange for Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner.) Possibly, though, the Diamondbacks have been doing some math.

Here is a filthy secret about young stars: They don’t generally improve. Baseball fans have it in their minds that a player will, at 27, be a better version of the player he was at 21. On average, that’s true. This chart, for example, is a bit technical, but shows that the typical hitter will, at 27, be about 10 percent more valuable per plate appearance than he was when he was six years younger.

What defines a great player, though, is that he isn’t anything like an average one. And Justin Upton is a great player, or close. Two years ago, when he was 21, he hit .300/.366/.532, good for an adjusted OPS of 129. In the last 30 years, just eight other hitters have done as well by that age: Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Ken Griffey Jr., Tim Raines, Rickey Henderson, Jason Heyward, Miguel Cabrera and… Tom Brunansky. That’s five players who are or one day will be in the Hall of Fame, one who’s on course to join them, a player who turned 21 in August, and… Tom Brunansky. Upton’s prospects are obviously high. …

Take our other young stars as guides to what may be in store for the lucky owner of Upton’s contract over the next five years. From ages 23 to 27, Rodriguez’s adjusted OPS of 153 was actually lower than the 160 mark he posted at 20. Griffey, Raines and Henderson all hit basically the same at those ages as they did at 21, while Brunansky hit much worse. Only Pujols and Cabrera hit new levels.

None of this is of course any knock on these players. Once you’re hitting like a Hall of Famer, there is no real improvement you can make, unless you’re Albert Pujols and thus capable of hitting like Mickey Mantle rather than Hank Aaron. (Scoop: St. Louis has a good first baseman.) The point is just that you can’t expect the kind of linear improvement from a historically talented player that you can from a merely excellent one. Baseball is hard, and going from great to greater is in many ways harder than going from good to great. …

If you’re wondering how this might apply to Matt Kemp, so am I. In some ways, it might not apply at all, and there’s certainly enough mystery about Kemp to suggest he might be an exception to any rule. But if it influenced me at all, the article made me think that Kemp could easily rebound to his earlier established level of success (2009), but perhaps just not ever exceed it by all that much.

* * *

Here’s the latest McCourt update, from The Associated Press:

Mediation between Jamie and Frank McCourt involving ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers will resume as they await a judge’s ruling on whether a postnuptial marital agreement is valid in their divorce case.

Superior Court Judge Peter Lichtman is expected Friday to meet with each side separately and present a settlement. Both McCourts are expected to be in a downtown courtroom and the terms of the proposal will likely be kept confidential.

Judge Scott Gordon has about five weeks to decide on the disputed 10-page marital agreement that exists in two versions – one that gives Frank McCourt sole ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and one that doesn’t. …

* * *

  • Get ready: It’s clear that next season will be the last before MLB adds a second wild-card team to each league. Starting in 2012, the wild-card teams will play each other for the right to reach the division series; the only question is how many games they will play.
  • The Dodgers had a lot of bad players in 2010, notes Jeff Zimmerman of Fangraphs. Only Pittsburgh, Seattle and Cleveland had more individuals who had negative Wins Above Replacement, and only four other teams (including the Angels) had more total negative WAR.
  • Been meaning to post about this for a few days: The setup for Saturday’s Northwestern-Illinois football game at Wrigley Field is crazy. (Update: Only one end zone will be used, writes Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk.)
  • Read this short elegy for slain publicist Ronni Chasen, by Margy Rochlin for L.A. Weekly.
Nov 18

De Jesus working his way back into relevance

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has taken a journey down into the Dodger farm system, returning with a couple of stories: a feature on Ivan De Jesus Jr., along with updates on seven other minor-leaguers. Here’s the opening to the DeJesus story:

One look at Ivan De Jesus Jr.’s numbers in the Arizona Fall League, which concludes Thursday, could yield the reasonable conclusion that the longtime Los Angeles Dodgers infield prospect is ready for the major leagues. One look at what he did in the Pacific Coast League this season could make you wonder why he didn’t receive a September call-up to a team that by September really didn’t have much to lose. …

In other news …

  • The desultory trade of James McDonald and Andrew Lambo has led the Dodgers to Double-A outfielder-infielder Anthony Jackson, namesake of ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dodger beat writer. The Dodgers have confirmed that Jackson has become the player to be named later coming from Colorado in September’s Octavio Dotel deal, Dotel having been acquired earlier this summer for McDonald and Lambo.

    Jackson is 26 years old and had a .676 OPS for Tulsa last season. The next time anyone wants to throw Dave Roberts-for-Henri Stanley in Paul DePodesta’s face, send ‘em this.

  • Retired catcher Brad Ausmus has taken his celebrated brain to the Padres, where he will be a special assistant in baseball operations.
  • Former Dodger reliever Cory Wade has signed a minor-league deal with Tampa Bay, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America, while Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. passes along the news that veteran Justin Miller has signed a minor-league deal with Seattle. We’ll always have April-September 2008, Cory.
  • Gary Wills has a nice piece on a man of admired/worshipped, Doonesbury’s Garry Trudeau, in the New York Review of Books (link via Bronx Banter).
  • Franklin Avenue’s fifth-annual Great Los Angeles Walk is set for Saturday, rain or shine. This year’s version marks a return to the event’s roots — traversing Wilshire Boulevard from downtown to its end in Santa Monica.
Nov 17

Pride, teamwork and the Tooth Fairy

“Daddy, I have a surprise for you.”

My 8-year-old daughter has been tooth-loss challenged her whole life.  She was the last kid in her class to lose a tooth, watching with agony as the Tooth Fairy visited every one of her friends’ bedrooms but never her own. Finally, she had a breakthrough this year, but still, it’s been slow going.  Her remaining front tooth had been hanging on like a monkey on a vine, hanging on with the tenacity of Alex Cora at the plate against Matt Clement.

Finally, as I greeted her after work Monday night, just before dinner, she opened her mouth and showed the double-sized gap. Victory!

Not to be outdone in his desire to reap a ruthless, toothless reward is my 6-year-old son. Tooth loss comes more naturally to him, and conveniently, he had a wiggler front and center on his bottom row. Merging greed with courage, he asked his mom if she might be able to pull it out.  It was close enough to make it possible … annnnnd … victory!

Ladies and gentlemen, we had a doubleheader.

My wife makes the Tooth Fairy arrangements in our household. But as she went into my daughter’s bedroom late at night, the boy, who chooses to sleep on her floor in a sleeping bag most nights, sat straight up. My wife had to withdraw discreetly. She then declared herself too tired to stay up any later, and so, for the first time ever, Tooth Fairy logistics fell to me.

This was something like replacing Clayton Kershaw with Ramon Ortiz.

I mean, sure, if I could just groove a fastball past these kids, there’d be no problem. But their heads were just hammered to their pillows. It was going to take some sort of clever curve to strike this exchange of cash for choppers. Plus, their floor creaks like Independence Day fireworks.  Conditions were against me.

My first time in, there was just no chance.  My son stirred again, sitting up.  I asked if he was okay, as if I just happened to be hanging out in the neighborhood, kissed him and left the room.

Well past midnight, I gave it another go.  This time, my son stayed asleep. But I couldn’t reach either tooth, not without using a forklift to boost their noggins from their pillows.  How does the Tooth Fairy do this?

A little after 4 a.m., I woke myself up for a third attempt.  Time was running short.  I went in, and finally had some luck. They had shifted positions. I could reach my daughter’s tooth, safe in its little Tooth Fairy pouch. I extracted it and replaced it with her reward ($3, upped from $2 thanks to the ever-increasing peer pressure of classmates who have been getting $5 – no lie!).

However, though my son was now near the edge of his pillow, I could not find that tooth.  He had to be lying right on top of it or something.  I was beside myself.  I tried and tried to get my hand to it, but I just couldn’t.  Worried that the jig would soon be up, I stuffed the money underneath and just hoped that somehow, there would be a chance to get the tooth before he woke up.

When I came back into our bedroom, my wife had awakened, wondering what I was doing.  I cursed the Tooth Fairy nightmare I was enduring. She didn’t hesitate. Coming out of the bullpen like Orel Hershiser in the ’88 NLCS, she went in for the save.

And here’s the evanascent point of this post.

Teamwork dictated that I would root for her to succeed. Pride dictated that I wanted her to have as much trouble as I did.  I was torn.  Her success would shine a light on my failing. Her failure would threaten to bring down the entire carefully constructed Tooth Fairy enterprise.

“Be mature,” I finally said to myself. “You want her to get that tooth.”

But as the moments passed, leading to her empty-handed return, I can’t say that I didn’t still feel a dash of peace.

Later, I would realize that the end of the story should have been predictable all along. My son woke up, saw the money and didn’t even notice that his tooth hadn’t been taken. As it turned out, it had somehow escaped his pillow entirely and had taken residence underneath where his midsection had been. The jig wasn’t up — it was rigged against me!

So, did I pass the Teamwork Test, or did I fail? I’m not sure. I just know that I don’t belong in this league. As far as I’m concerned, I’m ready to go back to the sidelines. The Tooth Fairy will have her job back.

Nov 16

It’s whom you pay, not when you pay them


Ric Tapia/Icon SMIThe problem isn’t that the Dodgers are still paying Jason Schmidt; the problem is that Jason Schmidt couldn’t pitch no matter what date his paychecks arrived.

With a third of Hiroki Kuroda’s new contract coming in the form of a signing bonus to be paid in 2012 and 2013, naturally the subject of the Dodgers deferring salaries has come up again. On that subject, let me make these points:

  1. Though they have certainly turned it into an art form, deferred payments are nothing unique to the Dodgers or the McCourt ownership. They can’t even lay claim to the grand-deferred-daddy of them all, the Mets’ 35-year Bobby Bonilla plan.
  2. Deferred payments aren’t an inherently bad way to operate a business. To oversimplify, if you are making good investments with the capital as you hang onto it, you will come out ahead.
  3. The primary issue with the money the Dodgers owe players who are no longer on the roster isn’t the money — it’s the players. The problem is not that they’re still paying Jason Schmidt, Juan Pierre or Andruw Jones — it’s that those contracts were so unfortunate, period.  We could have taken Schmidt to a $47 million lunch at the Palm a few years ago and called it a day — it wouldn’t have made that deal turn out any better.
  4. Remember that some deferred contracts did not start that way. For example, Jones’ deal was restructured to accommodate the 2009 Manny Ramirez signing, so that the Dodgers would have other options besides Jones and Juan Pierre in left field. The ongoing flow of cash to Jones are less about a philosophy of deferring payments than about trying to make lemonade from lemons.
  5. Backloaded contracts that are used on productive players have the potential to be good. Keeping Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda to single-digit millions now, enabling the team to spend more to address other pressing needs, is a viable strategy — especially if you believe that down the road, more TV dollars and a better economy might make the backloaded contracts easier to pay off.
  6. Certainly, there’s an argument that the Dodgers should reign their spending and stop buying players on credit. Heck, I’m one of those rare birds who would watch a homegrown, low-rent squad. But if you do that now, given the chaos in team ownership, you’d have to brace yourself for a 2011 team as leaky as a bad roof.
  7. Yes, the McCourt ownership could sell a house and take care of all this year’s deferred payments in an instant. But I’m not holding my breath for that.

In a nutshell, the timeframe for paying player salaries is fairly low on the issues bedeviling the Dodgers. Achieving a combination of good decisions and good luck regarding the roster is far more important. Even as the McCourt drama plays out, the Dodgers will thrive or dive depending on their personnel choices.

Eventually, the Dodgers will either operate one season on a limited budget, or they’ll find the revenue to bring their finances back to steadier ground.  I’m betting on the latter. In any case, what matters is that they spend their money wisely, whenever they spend it.

Nov 15

Kuroda deal is done for $12 million

Hiroki Kuroda has officially returned to the Dodgers for 2011, receiving an $8 million base salary plus a $4 million signing bonus that will be paid out over the following two years. Not only did the Dodgers not make a multiyear commitment, but Kuroda isn’t even really getting a raise despite having his best year with the Dodgers in 2010. Kuroda made $13 million in 2010, the final year of a three-year contract that averaged $11.8 million. Take this with a grain of salt for a guy earning eight figures, but this one wasn’t all about money. He could have gotten a bigger deal elsewhere.

“When we ended the season, we had really two guys (who were) bonafide major-league starters signed in Chad (Billingsley and Clayton (Kershaw),” Dodger general manager Ned Colletti said in a conference call. “We needed to upgrade the rotation, certainly needed to add to it. We did it with the signing of Ted (Lilly), and getting Hiroki back was another great move for us.

“We were interested in doing something maybe with an option for another year, but our appetite was one year as well. It fit with what he was looking to do and it fit with what we were looking to do.”

Colletti said it was uncertain whether the Dodgers would sign a fifth veteran starting pitcher – amid other concerns about the position players – but that the team would certainly explore it.

“Too soon to tell,” he said. “We’ve still got a lot of oars in the water, a lot of different things going on. … (Signing Kuroda) doesn’t close the door on anybody, but I can’t be specific on any free agents.”

Colletti said that the deal came together rather easily. He talked to Kuroda’s U.S. agent, Steve Hilliard, with a week to go in the regular season, and then to Kuroda on the final day of the season, telling him “just let us know when you know what you want to do.”

About two weeks later, Hilliard said Kuroda wanted to come back for one more season, and the deal came together relatively easily.

“I think when you know what you want to do, and you have the opportunity to do it, some people want to procrastinate and drag it out, other people are comfortable with what they want to do,” Colletti said.

“I think he had a good experience here in L.A. I think he liked being a Dodger. I think his family liked the idea of coming back. … As it was potentially a good fit three years ago, I think he looked back on it and felt it still would be.”

On other topics, Colletti said that he has had three or four informal conversations with Joe Torre, but is waiting for Torre to spell out “what he wants to do and when he wants to do it” with regards to whether he will return to the Dodgers in some capacity.

Colletti wrapped up by saying he expects to formally announce the 2011 Dodger coaching staff in the next couple of days. “We’ve got a pretty good feel for it, there’s just some other details we’ve gotta tie up,” he said.

Nov 15

Falling in (and out) of love


Ken Levine/Getty ImagesHome plate umpire Charlie Reliford approves as Dodger rookie Eric Karros slides home safely past catcher Mike LaValliere of the Pirates on May 24, 1992, one day after becoming a hero.

On the night of May 23, 1992, Dodger rookie Eric Karros came up to bat as a pinch-hitter. The situation: two runners on in the bottom of the ninth, Dodgers trailing Pittsburgh by two runs, sitting in last place at 15-22, and me unemployed and preparing to move away from my Los Angeles hometown while still nursing a breakup with my girlfriend. Could he bring some hope to my broken heart?

As baseball player and baseball fan, Karros and I were made for each other. We were born three weeks and two days apart. He was a product of the farm system, and I had long been partial to products of the farm system. A last-minute addition to the Opening Day roster, it was nice just to have Karros on the team, but he was still only getting partial playing time at first base while the Dodgers tried to mine some remaining value out of Kal Daniels and Todd Benzinger.

He was part of the future of a struggling Dodger team whose future was much in doubt. He was also the batter who could give me relief from the deep funk I had descended into. I desperately wanted him to succeed.

Karros extended Pirates reliever Stan Belinda to a full count, and then launched one to deep left-center … deep … back … gone! The fourth home run of his young career, giving the Dodgers a comeback victory. I jumped out of my head in joy. I was so happy, I wrote what I believe is the only piece of fan mail to an athlete. At age 24, I was thanking Karros for his home run and telling him how deeply important it was to me.

A more sober head prevailed in the morning, and I never sent the letter. But I was firmly in the Karros camp – he was one of my guys.

Given that Karros ended up hitting 266 more home runs for Los Angeles to become the Dodgers’ all-time leading home run hitter since moving west, you might have expected it was an eternal romance between Karros and me. But it didn’t work out that way.

As the decade progressed, he was an up and down player. In my memory, many of Karros’ homers came when the game wasn’t on the line. His power numbers hid a poor on-base percentage. He would start slow and then tell the fans they shouldn’t be bothered. Irrational or not, he wasn’t the player I wanted him to be.

The final straw for me was an incident in 1997 when he called out Ismael Valdes in the Dodger locker room and the two fought. The press (which I wasn’t a part of at the time) took Karros’ side, something I suspected was because the press couldn’t be bothered to get quotes from anyone who didn’t speak English as a first language. It motivated me to write another letter, this time to the Times, and this one I sent. I’m not sure who I was madder at, the press or Karros – I was just mad. Maybe Valdes was at fault, but no one was even trying to tell the whole story.

The residual damage to my feelings toward Karros was serious. Five years after I had fallen in love with him, I had fallen out.  The romance was over, and nothing he did, not even a relatively awesome 1999 season (.362 on-base percentage, .550 slugging) could change it.  A running joke in my family was that Grandma Sue always liked Eric Karros, and whenever she went to a game with us, I would say how lousy he was – and then he would go 4 for 4 with a homer. I actually owe Karros some thanks for giving Grandma such pleasure and the two of us such fond memories.

But still, we fell out of love. It happens.

It actually hasn’t happened for me for the current group of homegrown Dodgers. Maybe I’m different, or maybe the circumstances are.  I still have fond thoughts of Russell Martin, though he hasn’t been much of anything for a couple of years and who will likely be wearing a different uniform next season. Chad Billingsley struggled in 2009, and I stuck by him, just as I’m sticking by Jonathan Broxton. James Loney is producing worse numbers as a first baseman than Karros, but I’m hanging in there even if it means going down with the ship (a ship that might be traded within the next year). Even the mysterious Matt Kemp is, for me, a case of “Stand by your man.”

For that matter – not to give the impression that I’m nothing more than a softie – I don’t seem to have too many hard feelings about Karros anymore.  I remember the good times …

Fans have their own breaking points, though, and for many, they have already been breached. That’s part of what makes this offseason tense: tight relationships in a tenuous state. It’s always sad when love goes south, especially when you’re a hopeless romantic and it’s the ballplayer next door.

Nov 14

Catching up with Ross Porter …

Nice job by T.J. Simers of the Times catching up with Ross Porter – make sure to read it.

From the Dodger Thoughts archives: “Next Stop Porterville” (forgive the typographical annoyances). Can’t believe six years have passed since that interview.

* * *

The economy is treating some people right: Kirk Gibson’s “She is … gone!” bat, jersey and batting helmet sold for more than $1 million combined at auction Saturday.

Nov 13

Reports: Kuroda close to returning to Dodgers on one-year deal

From the Dept. of Pleasant Surprises, Hiroki Kuroda is on the verge of returning to the Dodgers.

Negating earlier fears that Kuroda would want a multiyear contract that would take him out of the Dodgers’ spending range, we have since been learning that Kuroda wants to take a short-term approach to his future in the U.S., and is close to signing a one-year contract believed to be worth $12 million, albeit according to anonymous sources.

This signing would solidify the front four of the Dodger starting rotation. That still leaves other areas for the Dodgers to focus on: the remaining uncertainty in the outfield, the infield, at catching, at pitching. So much uncertainty, in fact, that it still seems clear to me that the Dodgers’ 2011 fortunes still heavily depend on rebound seasons from players already in-house.

Kuroda, who suffered through an injury-plagued 2009, was someone who had such a rebound season in 2010. Hopefully, he’s still got even more bounce for the 2011 Dodgers.

  • Dylan Hernandez of the Times has some tidbits. Among them: The Mattingly family requested the Dodgers trade minor-leaguer Preston to get him a fresh start. Also, Cosmo Kramer could be a batboy.
  • Joe Posnanski writes movingly (no shock there) about his father, Bruce Springsteen and “The Promise.”
Nov 11

Third base: The cold corner


John McDonough/Icon SMIRaul Mondesi

Last time the Dodgers won a Gold Glove at the following positions:

C – Russell Martin, 2007
1B – Steve Garvey, 1977
2B – Orlando Hudson, 2009
SS – Cesar Izturis, 2004
3B – None
OF – Matt Kemp, 2009
OF – Steve Finley, 2004
OF – Raul Mondesi, 1997
P – Greg Maddux, 2008

The timing wasn’t right for Ron Cey or Adrian Beltre to win Gold Gloves for the Dodgers …

* * *

  • The history of Bill Russell as Dodger manager gets a long look back at the Hardball Times from Steven Booth, who is searching for parallels (and coming up with mixed results) with Don Mattingly’s nascent tenure in the hot seat.
  • Sam Miller of the Orange County Register questions a system that makes relievers 35 percent of Type A free agents.

* * *

All my best wishes and thanks to the nation’s veterans on this day …

Nov 11

Farewell, Dave Niehaus


Joe Brockhert/APDave Niehaus

One-of-a-kind Seattle Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus, there since the team’s inception in 1977, passed away Thursday at age 75. Former partner Ken Levine mourns him lovingly:

The best way for a baseball announcer to endear himself to a new audience is to be with a winning team. You report good news every night and the fans will love you. Piece of cake. When I first became a broadcaster for the Seattle Mariners in 1992, I joined Dave Niehaus, who had been their voice since day one back in 1977. He said to me, “I figured it out, Kenny. For me to get to a .500 record, the team would have to go 2042-0.”

Can you imagine how many truly bad, ugly games he has called over the years? Not a lot of good news to impart there. The Mariners for the first twenty years were just God awful.

And yet people in the Pacific Northwest clung to his every word. The attraction was not the team; it was listening to Dave. His passion for the game, vivid descriptions, and magnificent voice made any baseball game sound exciting, even a Mariners’.

Prior to joining Seattle, Dave worked alongside Dick Enberg calling games for the then-California Angels. Team owner Gene Autry once said to Dave, “You call a hell of a game. It’s not the one I’m watching but it’s a hell of a game.” Actually that’s only half true. It was the game you were watching, only better. Because Dave had something that so few announcers have today – SHOWMANSHIP. You were not just getting play-by-play, you were being told a tale by a master storyteller. Name me a better way of spending a warm summer night sitting out on the front porch.

Dave Niehaus passed away yesterday at age 75. Like all of Seattle, I’m devastated. We didn’t lose an announcer; we all lost a member of the family. Personally, Dave was the greatest broadcast partner I ever had. I’ve been very lucky to work with some of the best, including four Hall-of-Famers. I greatly respect them all and am eternally grateful for their friendship.

But I loved Dave Niehaus.

Within Larry Stone’s Seattle Times tribute is a quote from Ken Griffey, Jr. to ESPN Radio: “He meant everything. Everybody talks about the players who went there and the players who left, but he made the Mariners who they are. Without him, the guys out there are nothing. Day in and day out, he brought the excitement and drove thousands and millions of people to the ballpark to come watch us.”

Nov 10

You can look …

Window shopping …

  • Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com offers this offseason preview for the Dodgers.
  • The Dodgers have scouted 26-year-old Japanese middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Times, and an anonymous source told Hernandez that Nishioka is interested in playing for the team. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness takes a longer look at Nishioka, whose batting average has fluctuated between .260 and .346 in the past two seasons but has always had an on-base percentage of at least .350 in Japan. The Dodgers would have to win a posting auction just to earn the right to negotiate with Nishioka.
  • An Adam Dunn signing would make sense on multiple levels for the Dodgers, writes Michael White of True Blue L.A., calling him “the best free agent option for this team,” though Dunn is not Ned Colletti’s type of player.
  • Bids on Kirk Gibson memorabilia were approaching six figures as of Tuesday, writes Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Baseball America has a list of minor-league free agents. Cory Wade, who had a 4.91 ERA in 29 1/3 innings at Albuquerque, is among those on the list.
  • Finally, Hernandez has a long interview with Don Mattingly that is definitely worth a read.
Nov 09

After regrouping in San Diego, DePodesta takes on New York

It will never be a clean slate for Paul DePodesta, whose post-”Moneyball,” sadly controversial tenure with the Dodgers made him a third-rail persona.

But this piece by Mark Simon of ESPN.com, following DePodesta’s first conference call with reporters since the Mets hired him as vice president of player development and amateur scouting — a title that probably drew guffaws from those who viewed him as nothing more than a stat geek — is a good way to wipe the slate as much as possible.

You can tell people a thousand times that “Moneyball” wasn’t about on-base percentage, that it wasn’t a rejection of scouts, but some will never believe you. Well, here are some excerpts from No. 1,001:

For those who think that the Mets espousing Moneyball philosophies will mean a strict adherence to baseball analytics and a formulaic, stats-over-scouts approach to player acquisition, some clarification may be in order. …

“Moneyball has taken on a lot of connotations that weren’t intended,” DePodesta continued. “Moneyball doesn’t have anything to do with on-base percentage or statistics. It’s a constant investigation of stagnant systems, to see if you can find value where it isn’t readily apparent. It can be anything. At the time, it happened to be using statistics to make us better decisions. That’s not always the case. There are new frontiers we need to conquer.” …

There was excitement in DePodesta’s voice with regards to his primary role, overseeing player development and amateur scouting. The Mets will have directors for each, both of which will report to DePodesta. Former Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi will oversee the professional scouting side of baseball operations.

“For me the draft is the best day of the calendar year, though it’s certainly not the most glamorous,” DePodesta said. “It’s something I love getting involved in, getting out and seeing players. With my background from the last few years, I’m probably not as married to the college player as some may think. I have certain things I look for, pitching- and hitting-wise, but I’m open to any type or shape of player and any type of background.”

What’s the message that DePodesta wants to send to the statistically inclined portion of the fan base, one that has reacted overwhelmingly favorably to the news of each of these hirings?

“We’re still going to be wrong, probably often, but hopefully we’re disciplined enough in our processes to be more right than we are wrong,” he said. “The guiding principle is uncertainty. We want to try to understand and corral that uncertainty as best we can to help us narrow our choices to guide our intuition to the best choice possible. Hopefully we’re right more often than we’re wrong and hopefully we’re right when it counts.” …

“I’m probably one of the few people out there who was really, really concerned during my college years about being labeled a dumb jock,” DePodesta also said (according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com on Twitter.), “and then was labeled a geek once I got into my professional career.”

Nov 08

Eyes on the ayes: Twelve votes would put Garvey, John in Hall

Maybe the Dodgers will retire a number this year after all …

  • Steve Garvey and Tommy John are among a group of 12 eligible for the Hall of Fame if they can earn 12 out of 16 votes from a special committee, according to Inside the Dodgers.

    … The 12 individuals who will be considered by the Expansion Era Committee in December for Hall of Fame Induction in 2011: Former players Vida Blue, Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Al Oliver, Ted Simmons and Rusty Staub; former manager Billy Martin; and executives Pat Gillick, Marvin Miller and George Steinbrenner. Martin and Steinbrenner are deceased; all other candidates are living.

    The 16-member electorate charged with the review of the Expansion Era ballot features: Hall of Fame members Johnny Bench, Whitey Herzog, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Tony Perez, Frank Robinson, Ryne Sandberg and Ozzie Smith; major league executives Bill Giles (Phillies), David Glass (Royals), Andy MacPhail (Orioles) and Jerry Reinsdorf (White Sox); and veteran media members Bob Elliott (Toronto Sun), Tim Kurkjian (ESPN), Ross Newhan (retired, Los Angeles Times) and Tom Verducci (Sports Illustrated). …


    I’m skeptical that Garvey gets (or should get) the support he needs, though certainly it’s as good a look at the Hall as he’s ever had. Personally, I think Miller is most deserving.  The results announcement will come Dec. 6

  • Jared Massey of LADodgerTalk did some research and thinks that an abrupt change to Jonathan Broxton’s slider caused his 2010 downfall.
  • Stadium Review offers a mixed review of Dodger Stadium, though correspondent Drew Cieszynski did say the fans were loud. You might quibble with some points, but overall it’s a pretty fair assessment.
  • Paul DePodesta is moving from San Diego to the New York Mets as their vice-president of player development and amateur scouting, once again working for Sandy Alderson, the new Mets general manager. I’m always nervous about posting DePodesta news for fear that it will reignite a tired debate, but I didn’t want to ignore it.  Congrats to Paul.
  • End of an era: Next year, for the first time in more than two decades, Jon Miller and Joe Morgan will not be doing Sunday Night Baseball telecasts for ESPN, though Miller might stick around to do radio. Richard Sandomir of the New York Times believes that next year’s booth might be Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine.
  • Rob Neyer of ESPN.com made note of the Toronto Blue Jays trading a player to be named later for Colorado catcher Miguel Olivo, whose option they bought out for $500,000. For that price (and an offer of salary arbitration they expect to be denied), the Blue Jays expect to pick up a supplemental first-round draft pick.
  • Matt Bush, known for years as the disastrous No. 1 overall choice of the 2004 draft (by San Diego), has been making a comeback, having converted from shortstop to pitcher. Tampa Bay has added Bush to its 40-man roster, notes David Brown of Big League Stew, after he did his best Kenley Jansen imitation, striking out 20 in 13 2/3 innings over 10 minor-league games this season.