All the best to you and yours (and your team) for 2011 …
The next Super Bowl in Los Angeles County, or the next World Series game in Los Angeles County?
I’m trying a different medium here …
Update: I was alerted to the mistake I made in using Joe DiMaggio as an example, since he was apparently retired when he began his relationship with Marilyn Monroe, but really, there are tons of examples that could go there.
The full value of this post is deferred until 2013 …
- Tim Dierkes of MLBTradeRumors took a look at backloaded deals around the majors. Here’s a sample: Cliff Lee’s new deal with the Phillies averages $24 million per year, but he’ll receive only $11 million in 2011.
In 2015, when Lee is poised to turn 37, he will be guaranteed $25 million. In 2016, when Lee is poised to turn 38, he will be due $27.5 million in salary or receive a $12.5 million buyout just for breathing. And the $27.5 million becomes guaranteed if he pitches 200 innings in 2015 or 400 innings in 2014-15.
The Phillies are taking a risk on the future in order to increase their chances of winning in the present. Might work, might not. But as Dierkes shows, several teams are going the deferred route. Deferred payments are not inherently mistakes. Whom you are paying is much more important then when you are paying them.
- At Fangraphs, Jesse Wolfersberger charts the offenses of the National League in terms of how well they got on base and how efficiently they drove those runners in last season. The Dodgers are in the bad quadrant — below average in both categories. Though they weren’t far from being in the good quadrant, we know that in terms of on-base percentage, they’ll be moving backward unless some holdovers post some significant improvement.
- If you really think dating a celebrity was the problem, then how come so many ballplayers who don’t date celebrities suck?
Warning: Non-baseball content ahead
Frustrated with my kids for chronic insubordination, I turned to desperate measures. I started reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” to them.
That’s no statement against the book – anything but. Harper Lee’s novel is iconic to me. I mean, it’s the Atticus Finch of novels, the Gregory Peck of publications. What more do you need to say about it? It is righteous in the best possible way, and I was resorting to it in the hopes that just by wielding it, its energy would turn things around.
But the book is arguably too mature for my 8-year-old daughter and definitely so for my 6-year-old son. (My 2-year-old boy listened with cheerful indifference for a few minutes.) Even the title was off-putting, my daughter going out of her way to make it clear that she didn’t want to read about any dead birds. I would have turned straight to the movie, but my kids have a much greater willingness to listen to words they don’t entirely understand than a willingness to watch anything in black-and-white, a bias that I have been unable to conquer with anything except Lucy Ricardo selling Vitameatavegamin.
The first paragraph of “Mockingbird” is promising: In those opening lines alone, we get football and a broken, misshapen arm. But immediately, the book then takes a dangerous turn into ancestral backgrounds that are more in keeping with “War and Peace.” My kids’ had limited sympathy for Scout having no ancestors who fought in the Battle of Hastings. As soon as the second page, I found myself having to skip ahead, past the history of Simon Finch’s persecution at the hands of the Methodists, onto the relative excitement of Atticus passing the bar.
The vocabulary challenges also escalated: If I wasn’t having to explain what an apothecary was, I suddenly was finding myself having exposed my kids to “jackass” and “son-of-a-bitch” on page 3, all in the context of an early Atticus case defending two, well, murderers. Live by the sword, die by the sword. That’s your grade-school bedtime reading for the night.
On the fourth page, before you even find out that your narrator Scout is a girl, you find out about Scout’s mother dying young. I was in a death spiral of my own.
Hope came in the next few pages, with the funny introduction of Dill, whose braggadocio about his reading ability got a laugh from my son. Shortly, on the seventh page, the specter of Boo Radley received its full, curdling introduction: Inside the house lived a malevolent phantom.
The clock having passed 9 p.m., half an hour past the kids’ bedtime, I stopped reading there at the end of that page. I had, to say the least, equipped them with supreme nightmare material, but at least I had worn them down.
I don’t know what happens next. I don’t know if I keep reading to them (seven pages down, 270 to go). Don’t know all three of us have the energy to keep going. Maybe I quit while I’m behind. Maybe I’ve done just enough to get them to give the movie a try.
And yes, I’m aware that the material only grows more fraught with peril. I should stop, even if they start listening.
I want to keep going, though. I feel like there’s a moment here. And even though part of me knows that I’m rushing into it, part of me doesn’t want to wait.
From the excellent HBO sports documentary “Lombardi”, here’s Vince Lombardi’s most famous quote in his own words — and his misgivings about it:
“Winning isn’t everything, but it’s the only thing. There is no second place. Either you’re first, or you’re last.”
[Interview: Jerry Izenberg, Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger]
He told me one day, “I wish to hell I’d never said that.” I said, “Well, don’t you believe it?” He said, “What I believe is, if you go out on a football field Sunday, or any other endeavor in life, and you leave every fiber of what you have on that field, when the game finally ends, then you’ve won, and to me that tells a lot more than the final score. And I never made that clear.”
* * *
- At the end of the 2010 season, after all midseason spending was factored in, the Dodgers had the No. 9 payroll in the majors, according to Maury Brown at Fangraphs. The Dodgers spent $109.8 million. That was good for fourth in the National League, though the Dodgers finished with a better record than two of the three teams that spent more money: Philadelphia ($145.5 million), Chicago ($142.4 million) and New York ($127.6 million). San Francisco was 11th in the majors and fifth in the NL at $101.4 million. Texas reached the World Series with a $74.3 million payroll. The Dodgers’ end-of-year payroll in 2010 was 17 percent below their end-of-2009 payroll, according to Brown.
- Takashi Saito signed a one-year contract with Milwaukee. Adam McCalvy of MLB.com reports the value at $2 million plus incentives.
- A chart of Baseball America’s Top 100 prospect lists from 1990 to 2010 has been posted at Beyond the Box Score by Jeff Zimmerman.
- The Dodgers will once again have their developmental minicamp for prospects at Dodger Stadium shortly after the New Year. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has details.
- Gurnick also has an article on newlyweds Clayton and Ellen Kershaw taking a goodwill trip to Africa in January. Ellen has been to Africa four previous times. As far as offseason workouts, Gurnick writes that Kershaw has been throwing for a month.
- Don “Full Pack” Stanhouse has had a quite successful post-baseball career in business, writes Benjamin Pomerance in a long feature at Baseball Savvy.
- Here’s more information about bunting in 2010 than you could ever dream of — featuring mentions of Clayton Kershaw and the possibility that Juan Pierre might be the majors’ most harmful bunter — from Lucas Apostoleris at Beyond the Box Score.
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireChin-Lung Hu
Chin-Lung Hu’s days as a Dodger prospect are over. After eight years in the organization, Hu (27 in February) was traded today to the New York Mets for 25-year-old minor-league lefthander Michael Antonini.
Antonini has primarily been a starting pitcher in the minors and was exclusively so in 2010, posting a 4.32 ERA with 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 23 Double-A starts and a 5.11 ERA with 6.1 strikeouts per nine innings in six Triple-A starts. This does not compare favorably, for example, with the credentials John Ely had when he was acquired by the Dodgers a year ago, so I wouldn’t count on Antonini being much of a factor in 2011. But you never know.
Hu hasn’t shown any potential with the bat since 2007, when he had an on-base percentage of .364 and slugging percentage of .507 in Double-A and Triple-A combined. In his major-league career, Hu has a .241 OBP and .283 slugging over 191 plate appearances. Nonetheless, he could be Juan Castro for some team, and I always thought the Dodgers could be that team.
Ultimately, Hu was out of options and there were doubts he’d make the Opening Day roster, so this is a way of salvaging something for him, given the odds against him.
Hu leaves Los Angeles with the most plate appearances (191) of any Taiwan-born player in major-league history, ahead of Hong-Chih Kuo (36) and Chin-Feng Chen (25).
Something that never fails to make me laugh is when people get ticked off because a live Dodger game broadcast isn’t available on television or the Internet.
I understand the sense of entitlement — many of us have been conditioned to expect to be able to watch upwards of 162 Dodger games a year, not the least because many of us pay something for the privilege. So on the rare occasions when rights issues prevent access to a live broadcast, it can be a shock.
Nonetheless, I’m always taken back to a time in my younger days when it felt like a true privilege to see the Dodgers on TV.
As I recall, when I began watching baseball in the mid-1970s, you still had limited visual exposure to the Dodgers, especially in their home whites. Games from Dodger Stadium were never on, except in the postseason or maybe if there were a key game down the stretch in September. Even if the Dodgers made a rare appearance on NBC’s Saturday Game of the Week, I think hometown viewers were hampered by blackout rules at least some of the time. Part of the excitement of the Dodgers making the playoffs actually involved just getting to see them play at Dodger Stadium live on TV.
Road broadcasts were more prevalent, but even then they were largely limited to weekends, especially when the team traveled beyond San Francisco or San Diego. From Monday through Friday, the Dodgers were largely a radio event. Then it was the morning paper the next day, and then you might catch some highlights nearly 24 hours later in the short sports segment on the local news. And that was it. Coverage ended then.
Toward the late 1970s, we got ON TV, which was a pay TV service that came over-the-air at night on what was normally Channel 56, I believe. You had a set-top descrambler that would allow you to receive the ON TV feed. They had a deal to broadcast a bunch of Dodger games (team historians will recall that pay broadcasts of the Dodgers were discussed from the team’s earliest days in Los Angeles). That was kind of a transforming moment for me as a fan, the idea that a garden-variety Dodger home game could be seen in our own living room.
My dad also gave me a subscription to the Sporting News around this time. This was not only before the advent of the Internet, of course, it was before the arrival of something like USA Today. This was basically the only detailed print coverage you could get of teams besides the Dodgers during the year. There were weekly reports on each ballclub, national columns and a reprint of every boxscore. Next to listening to Vin Scully, Jerry Doggett and Ross Porter, it was the Sporting News that taught me about the rest of the contemporary baseball world.
The Sporting News also gave you the best baseball stats at the time. In the Times each Sunday, they would run batting averages, runs, hits, homers and RBI for hitters (with a minimum number of plate appearances) and equivalent basic stats for pitchers, but in and only in the Sporting News would you get much more detailed stats, and get them for every single player.
I owed my dad yet another thanks at that time, by the way — when I began going to sleepaway summer camp for five weeks at a time each summer, he would send me the Times sports section to help me keep tabs on the team. Otherwise, I’d have hardly had a clue. I do remember one postcard my Dad sent me talking about Dave Parker’s throwing arm on display at the All-Star game.
That’s the way it was. Barely more than a generation ago, following the Dodgers took effort. It took, dare I say, a little moxie. Some of the means to an end are really products of their time. In the 1980s, there was a phone number — I want to say (900) 976-1313, even though it’s been about 30 years — that you would pay 50 cents to call just to get scores, and I remember us using it when we were on vacation. Otherwise, it could have been days before we’d know the result of the game.
ESPN rose during the 1980s, but I didn’t have it until about 1989. When I went away to college in ’85, I still mostly relied on the next day’s San Francisco Chronicle or San Jose Mercury News and their two-sentence recaps in the league roundups to get Dodger results, although I did come to have the option of going into the Stanford Daily offices once I started working there and accessing wire service recaps of games directly.
By the time I graduated, began working in newspapers and paying for cable myself, I could pretty much stay abreast of everything. Or at least, I thought I could. None of it was like what the Internet offers today. As late as 1992-93, when I was in grad school in Washington, D.C., if there was a late West Coast game, I could only follow the action with the ESPN ticker scoreline on the bottom of the screen. I think I received my first e-mail and browsed my first Web page in 1994, only eight years before the birth of Dodger Thoughts. And portability — getting live updates on demand, on the go — came even later. There was a little pocket-sized gadget on the market that I had that would give you score updates, and then I got my first cellphone shortly after 9/11, in 2001. Not even a decade ago.
Today, I’m a slave to the onslaught. Sneaking looks at my cellphone for game updates, browsing tiny Web type like an addict, voraciously reading every posting about the Dodgers that I can find online. It’s a ridiculous bounty. And yes, I can get frustrated when I have to wait painful extra seconds for the latest pitch. But in the end, I just have to laugh. We have it good — a little too good, maybe.
Hard to think of anyone who communicated the glory of competition better than Bud. My best thoughts to his family and friends.
Happy holidays, everyone.
A year ago, I posted these 33 theses on the doors of Dodger Thoughts. Let’s see how they have held up …
|1) Frank McCourt will prevail in the courts against Jamie McCourt and retain ownership of the Dodgers.||No||Failed to anticipate the Great Adverb Dispute.|
|2) Rather then sell the team, McCourt will take on a minority partner to improve his cash flow.||TBD||It might not be quite that simple.|
|3) The incentive for the minority partner will be the Dodgers’ ability to make a profit, with potential for greater revenue from development of the Dodger Stadium property.||TBD||This plus the TV contract.|
|4) The project to turn the area behind center field into a gathering place of restaurants, shops and a Dodger museum will begin by 2015.||TBD||I sure was looking ahead, wasn’t I?|
|5) The Dodgers will earn enough money over the coming decade to remain competitive, though they will never spend like the Yankees or Red Sox.||TBD||Fans are probably pessimistic about this one, but we’ll see.|
|6) The Dodgers will sign a veteran with an unexciting name to take the No. 4 spot in the 2010 starting rotation, completing their offseason in much the same manner they would have even if the McCourts weren’t divorcing.||Yes||Hello, Vicente Padilla.|
|7) Observers will decry the state of Dodger starting pitching entering the season, even though it will probably match up well with every team in the National League West except San Francisco. (Arizona’s No. 4 starter: Ian Kennedy?)||No||San Diego ruined this prediction for me.|
|8) The focus will be on what the Dodgers didn’t do, ignoring how thin the pitching market was and how little their division rivals have improved themselves.||Yes||This was a safe one.|
|9) Spring training will come as a relief, as the conversation returns to baseball and, despite all that has happened, the sight of Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw roaming the field becomes too intoxicating to resist.||Yes||Spring Training was relatively enjoyable this year.|
|10) Exhibition performances will excessively color people’s views of the coming season, even though Val Pascucci’s .429 batting average in March 2009 failed to carry over into the regular season.||Yes||This at least applied to the Dodgers themselves, vis a vis Les Ortizables.|
|11) Sportswriters will blast the Dodgers for not acquiring a big name, then criticize every move Manny Ramirez makes while knocking the Dodgers for all the money spilling out to Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre and Jason Schmidt.||Kind of||Not all sportswriters, but certainly some I can think of.|
|12) People will be intrigued with how Russell Martin explains that this will be the season everything will be OK for him.||No||“Intrigued” seems strong in retrospect, plus Martin got hurt in March.|
|13) Chad Billingsley will gamely turn the other cheek as reporters and fans insultingly question his manhood. Then he’ll go out and throw bullets.||Yes||He wasn’t red-hot to start the season, but ultimately this came true.|
|14) The Dodgers will not get off to as hot a start in 2010 as they did in 2009, when they were 10-3 and 21-8.||Yes||To say the least …|
|15) The Dodger community will be on edge, as it becomes clear to all that 2010, like most years, will be a season-long challenge.||Yes||To say the least …|
|16) Jokes about portable concession stands will grow old fast, yet continue to be told.||No||This died down more quickly than I expected.|
|17) Lines at Dodger Stadium food stands will remain long anyway.||Yes||No change here.|
|18) Nevertheless, the Dodgers will remain in the thick of the National League West race into May, when the McCourt case launches in the courts.||Yes/no||Dodgers had the best record in the NL at one point, but the trial was delayed.|
|19) The free-for-all between the McCourts’ lawyers will be annoying beyond belief.||Yes||All those fun revelations and accusations …|
|20) Kershaw, Kemp or Andre Ethier will suffer a setback, while Martin, James Loney or Rafael Furcal will experience a rebirth.||Yes||Setback for Kemp, rebirth for Furcal (until he got hurt, but I’m counting it).|
|21) Ramirez will have his ups and downs but will regain some of the fans he lost in the final months of 2009.||No||I could probably prove this true on a technicality, but I won’t try to push this one through.|
|22) There won’t be as much Dodger walk-off magic in 2010 as there was in 2009.||Yes||There was some moments early on, but they didn’t carry on.|
|23) Forced to rely on the farm system for pitching depth, the Dodgers will benefit from some precocious performances.||Yes||John Ely, Carlos Monasterios and Kenley Jansen, among others, did some good for the team.|
|24) “Don’t Stop Believin'” will be gone, but “God Bless America” will return.||No/yes||Oh well.|
|25) With the dust from the courtroom settled, the Dodgers will make a trading deadline deal.||No/yes||Deals came while dust was still swirling.|
|26) The biggest moment of the year will be when Vin Scully announces his plans for 2011.||Yes||You can argue with me, but I’m counting this one.|
|27) With almost nowhere to go but down after two National League Championship Series appearances, 2010 will almost surely end as a disappointment for the Dodgers.||Yes||This had a chance to be wrong in summertime, but in the end it was right.|
|28) The Phillies will not win the NL title, because it looks too much like they should.||Yes||That’s the way it goes …|
|29) The Dodgers will have more reason to be nervous after the 2010 season, when the team has to replace Ramirez and Hiroki Kuroda while giving even bigger pay raises to the homegrown talent — even those who had subpar years.||Yes||Even though Kuroda and others are back, if we’re talking about how most people felt at the end of the 2010 season, there was more nervousness and pessimism than 2009.|
|30) Minor league pitchers Aaron Miller, Chris Withrow and John Ely will come to the rescue, sooner or later, either by becoming major-league ready or major-league trading chips.||No||Given the way Ely ended the season, it’s hard to tally this one in the Yes column.|
|31) The Dodgers will have enough talent to stay competitive, but not enough to make them prohibitive favorites.||Yes||I’ll probably get some heckles on this one, but if the 2010 Giants could win, I’m not ruling out the 2011 Dodgers.|
|32) The Dodgers will continue to be good enough to keep all but the most reactionary fans hooked, yet weak enough to keep all but the most tolerant fans unsatisfied.||Yes||Accurate, no?|
|33) Fans will start to pay attention to the ticking clock that is the end of the 2012 season, when Martin, Loney, Kemp, Ethier and Billingsley are scheduled to become eligible for free agency.||No||I’m not sure enough people are worried about this.|
|Total||19-7-7||What does this mean? I have no idea.|
I’m now listening to the Friday, October 3, 1980 Dodgers-Astros game, thanks (again) to Stan from Tacoma. After the first inning came this epic from Vin Scully:
So what’s new? Not bacon. Bacon is almost as ancient as time itself. It was mentioned by Aesop in the sixth century B.C. It was a staple in medieval Europe. And in Norman England, bacon was so universally accepted, it was sometimes used as money. And monastery monks awarded bacon to husbands for not quarreling with their wives. Indeed, bacon is no Johnny-come-lately. Through the years, it has survived the competition of thousands of new products, and the bacon bin continues to be a popular spot in our modern supermarkets. One reason is the quick energy it survives, and another its matchless flavor. Which brings up the most flavorsome bacon of all: Farmer John. For this is a bacon with a sweet, savory goodness from hush-hush secrets in the curing, plus a much heartier Western flavor from Farmer John’s old-time Western way of doing the smoking. No other bacon like it — if you haven’t tried it, why delay any longer? The next time you shop, take home the bacon from Farmer John.
* * *
I continue to be impressed with Jerry Doggett’s work in this climactic series of 1980. With Scully on TV most of the time, much of the radio duties fell to Doggett, and he is rather superb. He is mixing in great background details but never letting them get in the way of keeping you abreast of the action, and his enthusiasm hits just the right note. Here’s a sample:
Here’s a breaking ball, ball two, two and nothing. Two and oh the count, and Cabell backs out of the batter’s box. Cabell lives in Anaheim Hills in the offseason. Some of the Dodgers live in Anaheim Hills: Jerry Reuss, Rick Monday. Reuss lives in the hills, and Monday is in Yorba Linda. The 2-0 pitch to Cabell: high for a ball, ball three. Enos needed a ride to the ballpark, and so he called up Reuss, says, “How ’bout a lift?” So Reuss, Monday and Cabell came to the ballpark together. But out there now, they don’t see eye to eye. (laughing) I wonder if they’re going to ride him home. If the Astros win, I don’t think the Dodgers are gonna want to wait that long for him. If they lose, Enos is welcome to the lift. There’s a foul, back out of play — he’s swinging on three-and-oh.
Doggett is kind of a forgotten figure in Dodger broadcasting these days, and I don’t recall him being in such good form in his final games, but he really was strong here and deserves to be remembered fondly.
In the game itself, the Dodgers got off to a rough start. Davey Lopes threw away a grounder from Astros leadoff hitter Joe Morgan in the first inning, leading to Don Sutton (the National League’s ERA leader) having to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam. Then after the Dodgers went down in order in the bottom of the first, Houston pitcher Ken Forsch delivered an RBI single to put the Astros up, 1-0. Doggett immediately recalled that Forsch and Nolan Ryan had hurt the Dodgers with the bat earlier in the year: Forsch had been 3 for 9 with three RBI against Los Angeles going into the at-bat, and Ryan hit a three-run homer on April 12, his first game at the plate in eight years.
* * *
Some pitchers get multiple looks, and some don’t. From May 15-July 24, 2009, Brent Leach had a 3.38 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings. Then his next five batters reached base and four scored, and he hasn’t seen the majors since. After a dalliance with starting pitching in the minors last season, Leach has been officially designated for assignment by the Dodgers, with news reports saying that he will play in Japan next season.
Leach’s departure clears a spot on the 40-man roster for Matt Guerrier. That leaves Hong-Chih Kuo and Scott Elbert as the only lefty relievers with major-league experience currently on the 40-man. Of course, we’ll start to see more non-roster invitees on minor-league contracts in the coming weeks.
* * *
Is it true that the Minnesota Vikings’ legendary Jim Marshall survived being trapped during a blizzard by burning his money? According to Brian Cronin at the Fabulous Forum, yes.
* * *
It’s the first anniversary of ESPNLosAngeles.com … hope you all have enjoyed the content …
Here’s what some of the other folk are up to …
- With Clayton Kershaw signed to an imaginary long-term contract, Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. got to work on Chad Billingsley’s multiyear deal in a snowglobe.
- Could the Dodgers have matched the Brewers for the Zack Greinke trade? Phil Gurnee of True Blue L.A. explores. (Answer: Not really.)
- Former Dodger reliever Yhency Brazoban signed a minor-league deal with Texas. Brazoban had 10 strikeouts per nine innings in the Mexican League last season.
- Former Dodger prospect Joel Guzman is headed to Japan (link via Dodgerbobble).
- The 2011 Albuquerque roster gets a preview from Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
- The NBC pregame for Game 1 of the 1988 World Series is revisited by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy. (Sons of Steve Garvey offers a great salute to Baly here.)
- How did the wackiest player of the 1980s end up with the wackiest baseball card of the 1980s. Bruce Markusen writes about Mickey Hatcher at the Hardball Times.
- Farewell, Steve Landesberg.
- Mad Men
- Breaking Bad
- Friday Night Lights
- Boardwalk Empire
Honorable mention (in alphabetical order): Chuck, In Treatment, Men of a Certain Age
- The Daily Show
- Modern Family
- Party Down
- Parks and Recreation
- Bored to Death
- The Big Bang Theory
- Better Off Ted
- The Office
Honorable mention (in alphabetical order): 30 Rock, The Colbert Report, Curb Your Enthusiasm
The estimated 2011 Dodger payroll is approaching $110 million.
This includes deferred payments. Why does this include deferred payments? Because if you don’t include deferred payments, then you’re never accounting for those payments being made. The fact that some of those payments are going to players no longer on the team doesn’t mean they’re not part of the player payroll.
The Dodgers are paying Manny Ramirez this year, even though he is no longer part of the team. But it’s not like those payments shouldn’t count. Not only were they an investment in the 2009-10 pennant pursuits, they have an impact on what’s going on today.
We can debate endlessly about the wisdom of all Dodger contracts, but don’t let anyone try to tell you that the Dodger payroll is in the $90 million neighborhood right now. It’s simply not true.
Footnote: The Dodger 40-man roster needs to lose a player, or perhaps more accurately, the Dodgers need to tell us who they’ve dropped. There are currently 41 players listed.
|*||$25,500,000||Starting pitchers (5)|
|*||$13,780,000||Relief pitchers (7)|
|Other pitchers on 40-man roster (9)|
|*||$46,620,000||Starting lineup (8)|
|$675,000||Tony Gwynn, Jr.|
|Other players on 40-man roster (7)|
|Ivan De Jesus|