Jan 20

Exclusive: Interview with my kids

Longtime Dodger Thoughts readers might remember the visit of Young Miss Weisman to the comments section a couple of years ago. Tonight, I am privileged to offer this exclusive interview not only with 8-year-old Young Miss Weisman but also her oldest brother, 6-year-old Young Master Weisman.

They will be typing their own responses.  Unless they start to misbehave terribly. (Do I make myself clear?)

Because this is a Dodger website, we’ll start off with a Dodger question or two before we move on to other topics of the day.

Me: How much do you like the Dodgers?

Young Master Weisman: A lot, I love them.

Young Miss Weisman: A- wait, are you ready? You might need some earplugs. Okay, here goes: A LOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Me: Oh, that pleases me.  But sometimes at the games it doesn’t seem like you love being there. What’s your favorite part about going to a Dodger game?

Young Master Weisman: Er-wait, are you ready? Cover your ears.  THEY WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Young Miss Weisman: I like looking at the score board and learning what all the things mean. And I like the food. I’m done. P.S. Young Master Weisman is a copycat.

Young Master Weisman: I hate when Young Miss Weisman calls me a copycat. Stop Young Miss Weisman.

Young Miss Weisman: Fine.

Me: Ah, I wish all our disputes were settled so amicably. Now, what is your favorite sport to watch and your favorite sport to play?

Young Master Weisman: I love to watch baseball and swim.

Young Miss Weisman: I like to watch baseball and basketball and I like to swim and ice skate.

Me: You both are playing basketball this winter.  How do you feel when you’re out on the court?  Is it fun? Strange? Exciting? Confusing?

Young Master Weisman: It is fun.  It is exciting.  It is very confusing.

Young Miss Weisman: I feel BIG on defense and small on offense.

Me: What would you do if you were sitting at Dodger Stadium eating a hot dog or cheeseburger and a foul ball came toward you?

Young Master Weisman: I would reach and try to catch. That would be AWESOME.

Young Miss Weisman: I would put down my cheeseburger (that’s right, I don’t like hot dogs), reach out, and catch the ball.

Me: And to think I thought you’d say, “Duck!!!!!”  OK, it’s your brother’s bedtime, so we’d better wrap this up for now. What would you like to say to the readers of Dodger Thoughts before you go get in your pajamas?

Young Master Weisman: Have a good time reading, I hope you like it.

Young Miss Weisman: Just keep doing what you’re doing and you will be (and are) great Dodger Thoughts readers!

Jan 19

Ken Levine, Ron Fairly to be part of Seattle’s post-Niehaus radio crew

As we all know, replacing a legendary broadcaster isn’t easy — and certainly won’t be for the Dodgers on that sad, hopefully far-off day after Vin Scully has called his last game for the team.

Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk subscribes to the theory that maybe a rotating set of broadcasters is better in the immediate aftermath of a legend’s departure, rather than asking one person to bear the burden of walking in his microphonesteps.  So do the Seattle Mariners, who will rotate five men through their radio booth at various times in 2011, their first year without the late Dave Niehaus.

One of those men will be KABC AM 790 Dodger Talk co-host Ken Levine, who returns to Seattle, where he did play-by-play in the 1990s. Levine says that it’s not clear whether his new part of the rotation means he is bidding a complete farewell to the Dodgers, so we’ll see what happens there. But congrats nonetheless.

Former Dodger Ron Fairly is also among the radio crew. And on the TV side, former Dodger Mike Blowers returns as a color commentator.

* * *

  • Former Dodger coaches Roy Hartsfield and Carroll Barringer have passed away in recent days, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Matt Klaassen of Fangraphs has a dim view of any sort of platoon between Jay Gibbons and Marcus Thames, mainly because of Gibbons.
  • Though it’s primarily a story involving the Padres, Geoff Young’s piece at the Hardball Times about how collusion in the 1986-87 offseason affected Tim Raines includes the tidbit that the Dodgers didn’t sign a 27-year-old Raines to a three-year deal worth a total of $4.5 million because they were “satisfied with Ken Landreaux.” Landreaux then got 37 more hits in his major-league career.
  • File this site for future reference: MLB Trade Trees.  (link via Beyond the Box Score).
  • At 9 a.m. Sunday, CBS Sports Spectacular is scheduled to air a tape-delayed broadcast of Saturday’s supercross event at Dodger Stadium.
Jan 19

What do you have to be unhappy about?

I spent the fall quarter of my junior year of college in Tours, France, which was every bit as wonderful a privilege as I would think it sounds to most of you. Living in the wine country, traveling around Europe for a month before school and nearly every weekend during … it’s a time I’ve never forgotten.

There was a close-knit group of us that ended up hanging out together, all terrific people, although there was one who was prone to fits of crankiness or depression. And I can remember wondering to myself about her, “What do you have to be unhappy about? Just look around you.”

Of course, this was immature of me, assuming that there couldn’t be emotional challenges amid the glory of one’s surroundings.

Since then, I’ve had several of bouts of depression and anger with myself — some of them debilitating. Even today, in a time that I figure might well be the best years of my life — the generation before me and after me in my family all hale and hearty — I’m struggling to appreciate what I have and not get bogged down in the challenges I face, the frustrations I feel. I have lived an extremely fortunate life, but I am not a man completely at peace.

The thing with one’s emotional state is that so often there’s no sense of proportion. Perspective is a bronco you’re trying to wrestle down. And just when you think you might have it, that bronco jumps up and flips you over. And it hurts.

We — me, Milton Bradley, whoever — all responsible for our actions, responsible for their consequences. But people, by and large, do not choose to do bad things, do not choose to be miserable, do not choose to be angry for the sake of being so. There are all kinds of things going on. We should all do what we can to be better people. Some might not get there, and maybe they didn’t try hard enough. But others, maybe they did try and they just couldn’t make it.

Villains are villains, and let the hammer fall on them where it should, but there’s a reason that the most interesting villains are the complex ones. Because that’s reality.

Jan 18

Dodgers invite Gabe Kapler to Spring Training, exchange salary arbitration figures with Kuo and Loney

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com updates the arbitration situation with Hong-Chih Kuo and James Loney:

… In each case, the gap seemed small enough that the sides would appear likely to reach an agreement well in advance of going to an arbitration hearing in February.

Kuo, who made $975,000 last season, is seeking $3.075 million through the arbitration process, while the club filed at $2.55 million. Loney, who made $3.1 million last year, is asking for $5.25 million while the club filed at $4.7 million.

If either player goes to a hearing, after hearing each side state its case, a three-person arbitration panel would be forced to choose one of those two figures, with no wiggle room in between. Until such a hearing, though, the two sides are free to reach an agreement at any figure, and the sides often settle at the midpoint.

The mathematical midpoint for Kuo is $2,812,500. For Loney, it is $4,975,000.

Only two players — pitchers Eric Gagne in 2004 and Joe Beimel in 2007 — have taken the Dodgers all the way to an arbitration hearing in the 10 years that assistant general manager Kim Ng has been handling cases for the club. Both of those players lost their cases. …

* * *

Gabe Kapler, who returned in 2008 from a year-long retirement to a major-league playing career, has signed a minor-league contract with the Dodgers.

Last season, the 35-year-old outfielder had a .288 on-base percentage and .290 slugging percentage in 140 plate appearances with Tampa Bay.

After retiring following the 2006 season, Kapler managed the Greenville Drive of the Single-A South Atlantic League to a 58-81 record. He then returned to the playing field in 2008 with the Milwaukee Brewers, for whom he had one of his best seasons: an .838 OPS in 245 plate appearances.

The Dodgers have already made several signings this winter to try to fill out their outfield alongside Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, agreeing to terms with Marcus Thames, Jay Gibbons and Tony Gwynn Jr. In-house options Xavier Paul and Jamie Hoffmann, among others, also return.

Detroit selected Kapler, a graduate of Taft HS in Woodland Hills, in the 57th round of the 1995 amateur draft out of Moorpark College.

* * *

  • Steve Henson of Yahoo! Sports writes about the reaction of baseball scouts, who spend week after week on the road away from their families, to the murder of Christina Taylor Green, daughter of Dodger scout John Green.
  • You think Jose Offerman made a mess of the Dodger infield? Look at what Monster Jam is doing (via Vin Scully Is My Homeboy).
  • Rather than face another round of surgery, Gil Meche of the Kansas City Royals retired — leaving $12 million in 2011 salary on the table. I guess you can’t say it never happens.
  • The Detroit Tigers signed former Dodger Brad Penny — and designated near-perfect-game pitcher Armando Galarraga for assignment. That caught me off guard. Galarraga had agreed to a $2.3 million contract for 2011 a day ago. He had a 4.49 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 144 1/3 innings last season.
Jan 18

Not much room at the inn

Kirby Lee/US PresswireJay Gibbons will be among several Dodgers vying for playing time in left field.

Can’t recall when so many spots on the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster seemed locked up by Martin Luther King Day:

Starting pitchers (5): Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly, Jon Garland

Relief pitchers (7): Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Vicente Padilla, Kenley Jansen, Blake Hawksworth, Ronald Belisario, Scott Elbert*

Starting lineup (8): Rod Barajas, James Loney, Juan Uribe, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Jay Gibbons**

Bench (5): Jamey Carroll, Tony Gwynn Jr., Marcus Thames, Dioner Navarro or A.J. Ellis, Juan Castro***

* The last bullpen job is up for grabs. In fact, I wouldn’t necessarily call Hawksworth or Belisario locks, but they have the great advantage of not having any remaining options. Or instead of going to a seventh reliever, because of the deep starting rotation, they go with a sixth position player reserve like Xavier Paul.

** Gibbons is listed as a starter because someone had to be.

*** Castro or some other infielder.  Maybe the still-unsigned Eric Chavez, or maybe Justin Sellers or another nonroster player sneaks in, or a longshot like Ivan De Jesus, Jr.

But overall, I would say that barring injury or trade, 22 of the 25 spots seem taken, with the 23rd going to the backup catcher, potentially leaving as few as two spots to battle for in Spring Training.

Update: I completely forgot about Matt Guerrier. That takes Elbert’s theoretical spot, and tightens the noose on the roster even more. Thanks to Dodger Thoughts commenter BLUE4life MK27 for the reminder.

Jan 17

Report: Dodgers agree to terms with Marcus Thames

Tom Szczerbowski/US PresswireMarcus Thames

Adding to their collection of poor-defending but slugging outfielders, the Dodgers are poised to sign the guy who might be Jay Gibbons’ brother from another mother: Marcus Thames. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Thames, 34 in March and four days younger than Gibbons,  had a .350 on-base percentage and .491 slugging percentage against lefties last season, making him a potential platoon partner with Gibbons or Xavier Paul (only if the latter has a knockout Spring Training, it appears). Overall, Thames has an OPS of .802 in a career spent entirely in the American League. But Thames carries with him the baggage of being yet another left fielder that Dodger pitchers might be afraid of.

The Thames signing reduces the chances of the Dodgers resorting to games with Casey Blake or Jamey Carroll in the outfield. Whether the Tony Gwynn, Jr. plan B to realign the outfield is dead remains to be seen. Jamie Hoffmann has no chance of making the Opening Day roster now unless someone gets hurt.

Thames and Gibbons represent appealing bats off the bench — whether we want to see them each play 500 innings in the field this year is another story. But this definitely beats re-signing Scott Podsednik.

* * *

The Dodgers are taking negotiations with Chad Billingsley, Hong-Chih Kuo and James Loney down to the wire, Jackson writes in a separate story.

With major league teams and arbitration-eligible players set to officially file salary figures on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Dodgers still haven’t reached agreement with any of their affected players — pitcher Chad Billingsley, reliever Hong-Chih Kuo and first baseman James Loney — but based on recent history, it appears highly unlikely that the club will end up going to a hearing with any of those players in early February.

In the decade that assistant general manager Kim Ng has been handling all the team’s arbitration cases, only two players have taken the Dodgers to a hearing. The club won both of those cases against pitchers Eric Gagne in 2004 and Joe Beimel in 2007, the victory over Gagne coming the winter after he won the National League Cy Young Award.

For now, Ng isn’t making any predictions.

“We will have a much better idea in the next 24 hours [after numbers are filed on Tuesday],” Ng said. “It’s moving. We’re progressing, but nothing is final yet.”

Ng did confirm that the club isn’t discussing a multiyear contract with either Billingsley, Kuo or Loney. All three are “four-plus” players, meaning they have between four and five years of major league service time, are arbitration-eligible for the second time and — barring a multiyear deal — will be arbitration-eligible again next winter. …

* * *

Trayvon Robinson is the subject of a really nice feature by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

As far back as any of his baseball coaches can remember, people noticed Trayvon Robinson. He had the skills, but not the polish; the raw tools, but not the savvy.

Anyone with a little vision could see what kind of player he could become. The question was whether that potential would develop and bloom one day.

Andre Green had coached baseball at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles long enough to recognize a talent such as Robinson’s early on. He’d also been around long enough to know all the things that could keep Robinson from developing into what he’s since become: one of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ top prospects.

Like many of Crenshaw’s top athletes in recent years, Robinson also played football before high school.

“He wanted to play football, and I just told him ‘No,’” Green said. “I said, ‘You’re a baseball man and you’re going to put Crenshaw on the map.’” …

Jan 16

Stopping by the Internet on a Snowy Evening

And miles to link before I sleep …

  • The state of Don Mattingly is profiled by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Evan Bladh Sr. of Opinion of Kingman’s Performance continues to knock ‘em out of the park – here’s a great story about the Dodgers and Mister Marty.
  • The frustrating thing with Russell Martin is that he keeps telling us in April that he’s training like he’s never trained before, and then the following winter he inevitably tells us, “No, not really.” Anyway, Martin tells the Canadian Press that he had some personal “distractions” and “frustrations” during his last two years with the Dodgers, but this year, he’ll be back.
  • Dodger pitching prospects Javy Guerra and Chris Withrow were continuing their rehab from injuries at the team’s recent minicamp in Los Angeles, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Delino DeShields Jr., the 18-year-old reigning first-round draft pick of the Houston Astros, was charged with a DUI, according to Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle.
  • Danny’s Farm, the Altadena animal farm tailored for special-needs children that was founded by former Dodger pitcher Jim Gott and his wife Cathy, has been closed because of zoning restrictions, reports Corina Knoll of the Times.
  • Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend by Larry Tye gets praise from Rob McMillin at 6-4-2.
  • Steve Dilbeck of the Times has a praiseworthy recap of Dennis Gilbert’s annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation dinner Saturday.

Update:

Jan 15

Rubby De La Rosa: How close is he?

The fourth in a series of at least four, on how close selected Dodger prospects are to the majors …

Rubby De La Rosa
Vitals:
RHP, 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, turns 22 on March 4.

Summary: We’re talking about him because he leapfrogged other Dodger prospects to become the organization’s 2010 minor-league pitcher of the year. De La Rosa impressed in a short rookie-ball stint in 2008 (47 1/3 innings, 51 strikeouts, 1.71 ERA) before a lost 2009 in which he managed only 16 1/3 innings and allowed 11 runs (while still striking out 22).

*Correction: The Dodgers informed me that there was an error in their media guide, and that De La Rosa was never suspended for violating the minor league drug prevention and treatment program. This post has been amended to reflect that.

But the Rubby-bandwagon got rolling again last season. De La Rosa came back strong at the start of 2010 with a 3.19 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings, then shot himself into the stratosphere of Dodger pitching prospects when he moved up to Double-A Chattanooga and had a 1.41 ERA in eight starts covering 51 innings (though his strikeout ratio fell to 6.9 per nine innings). At the two levels combined in 2010, De La Rosa walked 3.1 batters per nine innings. (Note: According to Fangraphs, his Fielding-Independent ERA was virtually the same at both levels: 3.12 vs. 3.22.)

For comparison’s sake: The Dodgers have had no shortage of starting pitchers make a quick impression in Double-A in recent years. Scott Elbert reached it in his age-21 season, but didn’t get a taste of the majors until a brief shot in 2008 and is still looking to lock in even as a reliever. Clayton Kershaw got to Double-A in the middle of his age-19 year, began his age-20 year at the same level before getting promoted to the majors, and hasn’t been back in the minors since he hit drinking age. Age is not be a barrier to a midseason promotion for a Double-A pitcher, but sustained excellence must continue, and that’s easier said than done.

Track record: De La Rosa’s ceiling is high enough for you to stick a flagpole. But with only 180 official innings in his minor-league career, spread out since his mid-2007 pro debut, it’s hard to say with any confidence what De La Rosa can do over an extended period of time. Chattanooga Lookouts radio broadcaster Larry Ward told Brandon Lennox of True Blue L.A. in August that De La Rosa had a fastball that could smell 100 mph, plus a secondary change and slider, while Keith Law of ESPN.com praised his stuff before the 2009 season. The watchwords, it seems to me, are consistency and endurance.

How close is he? Without the sextet of veteran starting pitchers the Dodgers have, we might have seen De La Rosa by the summer solstice. But with the team’s newfound starting-pitching depth, not to mention alternatives like John Ely and Carlos Monasterios as temporary stopgaps, De La Rosa is probably on track for a mid-2012 arrival if he maintains his current pace. As always, extreme excellence or awfulness could alter that timetable, as could a decision to shift him to the bullpen should the need again arise in Los Angeles this year.

Did you know? De La Rosa did not allow his first professional home run until 2010, his fourth professional season.

Jan 15

Non-roster invitees to Spring Training

Here’s the up-to-date list of non-roster invitees to major-league Spring Training for the Dodgers … a mix of not-yets, has-beens and never-weres. It doesn’t mean that we won’t see other minor-leaguers in exhibition games for the Dodgers, but from a procedural standpoint, these are the players not on the 40-man roster who are next in line from the get-go:

Juan Castro
JD Closser
Roman Colon
Rubby De La Rosa
Wilkin De La Rosa
Damaso Espino
Dana Eveland
Dee Gordon
Jon Huber
Trent Oeltjen
Tim Redding
Jerry Sands
Justin Sellers
Eugenio Velez
Oscar Villareal

Jan 15

Dusk Dodgers in the 21st Century

The sun is shining bright through our home office window as I begin typing this. There’s a short but powerful time period in our house when, on a cloudless morning, the sun enters like a bullet through the half-circle opening above the drapes, and I almost have to duck for cover as I write. In those moments, the sun owns the room.

It makes me uncomfortable. I’m not a sun worshiper. I like what the sun can do, how the sun can augment a scene. On a cold day that cries for warmth, I’ll turn my face to it. Magic light near the end of any day brings my soul to its knees, no matter how many times I experience it. I pulled my phone out on the Arroyo Seco Parkway last night, recklessly risking life and limb of myself and everyone around me, just to snap the shot you see above of how the sun had transformed the sky.

But I’m comfortable in the clouds. Comforted by them. The clouds understand me. Clouds are the weather of modest expectations. Of empathy. The sun will insistently try to cheer you up, whether you want to be cheered or not. At the risk of allowing you to wallow, clouds tell you that you’re not alone.

For the same reason, I prefer winter to summer, earlier sunsets to later ones. Long days carry great expectations. Short days accept you for who you are.

The new year is two weeks old, and already I’ve felt like I need all the short, cloudy days I can get. My holidays were really enjoyable and relaxing, and returning to the demands and fears and frustrations and critical self-examinations of everyday life, along with a new set of challenges – a valued colleague gave notice while I was on vacation, my wife broke her foot the night before my first day back at work – has been a jolt. It’s been the sun blasting through the window that I want to run away from but can’t. I’m not feeling the dawn of a new day, but rather the intimidation of a tired one.

My To Do list should invigorate me, but it makes me sad.  It’s no time for the sun to be out.

So here’s the funny thing …

The 2011 Dodgers … a team for a cloudy day, right? The starting rotation is competitive, and Clayton Kershaw is his own shining light. There’s talent on this team. But the holes are unmistakable, and the work that needs to be done to make things right is prodigious. If Kershaw is a star, the McCourts are their own rainstorm. It’s easy to feel that this isn’t a team meant to be exposed to long, cloudless summer days.

Nevertheless, I find myself strangely eager to see what will happen this season. I feel confident that some of the disappointments from 2010 will bounce back, and I’m tantalized by the thought of it. As many misgivings as I have about them, on some days, I feel better thinking about them than thinking about myself.

I feel the 2011 Dodgers might surprise. I’m not saying they won’t fall to our lowered expectations – I unmistakably wish they inspired more confidence – but I’m intrigued by them, darkness and all. If they can bring some magic light to the universe, maybe I can too.