Oct 31

Kershaw, Kuroda, Loney, Kemp and Ethier are Gold Glove award finalists

If the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards have publicized the three finalists for each position before, I don’t remember it. But thanks to this announcement of ESPN2′s first-ever broadcast of the “Rawlings Gold Glove Awards Show” on November 1, I can now tell you the following:

  • Of the three finalists for the National League pitcher Gold Glove, two are Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw (who all season has seemed like a strong candidate to win) and Hiroki Kuroda.
  • The Dodgers have three other finalists, but only one won’t completely surprise you and another might shock you. There’s James Loney at first base, Matt Kemp in center field and Andre Ethier in right field.

The Gold Glove Awards didn’t used to specify outfield positions, which meant in a given year three center fielders in each league could win the honor. But that has changed, opening the door for Kemp (advanced defensive stats be damned) and Ethier (who actually performs surprisingly well in the stats, according to Fangraphs). In any case, scanning the full list of nominations, I don’t think they have this thing quite down to a science.

Ultimately, I’d be surprised if any Dodger besides Kershaw and Loney won.

Oct 29

Remembering 2011: Matt Guerrier


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireMatt Guerrier (33)

The setup: We set the stage pretty clearly when Guerrier signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Dodgers in December …

… Guerrier, who came up with the Minnesota Twins in 2004, has had a pretty fine career as a reliever, with a career ERA of 3.38. He has averaged 75.5 appearances the past four years. But the 32-year-old righty’s strikeout rate has dropped below six per nine innings over the past two seasons, and as Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. points out, his fielding independent ERA was over 4.00 last season, indicating he’s benefited from some luck. Add to that a batting average on balls in play over the past two seasons of .224, which is exceedingly lucky — and a warning sign considering that, as David Pinto of Baseball Musings writes, he’ll have a poorer defense behind him in Los Angeles.

So you know, there’s some stuff that’s good with Guerrier, and there’s some stuff that’s less good. With the exception of 2008, when his ERA soared above 5.00, the results have been there. The main concern might be asking him to continue being this productive from ages 32-35.

Since the Dodgers’ last won a World Series, according to Baseball-Reference.com, the following pitchers have had an ERA below 4.00 with a K/9 rate below 7.00 for three consecutive seasons after turning 32, pitching a minimum of 50 innings: David Weathers, Steve Reed, Paul Quantrill, Terry Leach, Chris Hammond, Ryan Franklin and Jeff Reardon. I realize that ERA isn’t a very good way to measure the quality of relief pitching, but I’m just exploring the possibility of someone being good, not making any definitive statement.

So you have that. He might be good, maybe for a long time.

Against that, though, I would still offer that relievers are simply, unavoidably, notoriously inconsistent. We’ve detailed this frequently in the past, but to sum up, it’s exceedingly rare that relievers don’t go through bad spells, and when you try to jump on the bandwagon of one that’s been successful for a while, the odds grow against you.

There have been 66 pitchers for the Dodgers in the Ned Colletti era, from Jonathan Broxton to Mark Loretta. The highlights in the bullpen have been the low-risk investments, coming up through the farm system or coming in as cheap free agents, who have paid dividends. Perhaps, based on the failures of the 2010 bullpen, Colletti has decided he can’t play that game anymore, though you’d think George Sherrill might dissuade him from placing such a big bet on Guerrier. …

The closeup: At the start of the year, with the rest of the Dodger bullpen largely crumbling around him, Guerrier was mostly superlative. He had a terrible outing April 23 in Chicago, the game in which the Dodgers rallied from a 5-1 deficit to take an 8-5 lead, only for Guerrier to allow five runs in his second inning of work to take a 10-8 loss. They were the first runs Guerrier had allowed after 11 2/3 scoreless innings to start the season. One week later, Guerrier allowed three runs (two earned) in the bottom of the eighth inning against San Diego, turning a 2-2 tie into a 5-2 defeat. Nonetheless, through June 4 Guerrier had recovered to the point that he had a 3.04 ERA and had stranded 10 of 13 inherited runners. He allowed no runs or inherited runs in 22 of 29 appearances, and if it weren’t for those Chicago and San Diego games, Guerrier’s ERA through June 4 would have been 1.00 in 27 innings.

From that point on, however, Guerrier became less reliable, not only with a 4.91 ERA for the remainder of the season but by allowing 57 percent (16 of 28) of inherited runners to score – far too high a figure for any major-league reliever. Guerrier finished 2011 with a 4.07 ERA and 46 percent (19 of 41) inherited runners scoring. The average National League reliever allowed a 4.16 ERA and 30 percent of inherited runners to score.

If a rookie like Javy Guerra or Josh Lindblom had pitched the way Guerrier did, you would shrug and say “that’s about what you expect” or “you get what you pay for.” But for a multiyear contract man, it was disappointing – and yet, not completely surprising. I admit that I had lost track of how Guerrier was more effective in the first two months of the season – at a time when much of the team was injured or underperforming – but the total year was unfortunately inconsistent.

Coming attractions: Guerrier has two more years left on his unevenly structured contract: He was paid $1.5 million in 2011 but is owed $4.75 million in each of 2012 and 2013, with $1 million deferred until 2014. He will likely be the Dodgers’ highest-paid reliever in 2012. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness offers more on Guerrier and his contract.

Oct 29

Remembering 2011: Marcus Thames


Chris Humphreys/US PresswireMarcus Thames (32)

The setup: Seeking to build a left fielder in Mr. Potato Head fashion, the Dodgers signed Thames in January to be the right hand of the tuber, based on the fact that he had a .350 on-base percentage and .491 slugging percentage against lefties in 2010. He was going to be 34 and had a terrible defensive reputation, but for $1 million, there was hope he could be useful at least as a bench player.

The closeup: In April, Thames hit two pinch-hit home runs. That’s about it for positives. As a left fielder, Thames went 8 for 42 with four walks, no home runs and a .523 OPS in a season that was crippled in May by a right quad strain that knocked him out for five weeks. Overall, Thames had a .243 on-base percentage and .333 slugging percentage when the Dodgers cut him loose to make room for Juan Rivera, who provided everything the Dodgers wanted from Thames and more.

After clearing waivers, Thames signed a minor-league contract with the Yankees. He was assigned to the Yankees’ minor-league complex and was supposed to eventually report to Triple-A Scranton, but he did not play in a professional game the remainder of the year. The only news I could find about him was this recent Winston-County Journal piece describing his appearance as a guest speaker at the local Boys & Girls Club – something, based on his background, that is not surprising at all.

Coming attractions: Only one season removed from being a productive part-timer, Thames could easily reappear in a major-league uniform next season if he is healthy and hasn’t in fact quietly retired, but you can bet if he does make another go of it, it will be in the American League.

Oct 29

Remembering 2011: Dana Eveland


Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesDana Eveland (31)

The setup: Eveland, 28, drew a non-roster invite from the Dodgers over the winter to Spring Training. After pitching 168 innings for Oakland in 2008 with a 4.34 ERA, Eveland staggered through the next two seasons with a combined 6.96 ERA in 98 1/3 innings for the A’s, Toronto and Pittsburgh, allowing 204 baserunners while striking out 46. Eveland than had the honors of incurring the Dodgers’ first Spring Training injury of 2011, a bum hamstring that eliminated whatever chance he had of making the Opening Day roster.

The closeup: Eveland ended up being Albuquerque’s top pitcher in 2011 with a 4.38 ERA in 154 innings, averaging more than six innings per start in the tough hitting environment to become a Pacific Coast League All-Star. Still, it wasn’t until September came and the Dodgers were winding down the season of youngster Nathan Eovaldi that Eveland returned to the bigs. He dominated his first start, holding the Pirates to one run over eight innings and 99 pitches, an achievement by a first-time Dodger matched by only four others in the past four decades. In start No. 2, he shut out San Francisco over seven innings to lift the Dodgers to a .500 record in 2011 for the first time in ages.

His next two outings went not nearly as well (nine innings, nine runs combined), but he finished on an upbeat note with 5 2/3 shutout frames at Arizona, ending his season with a 3.03 ERA. He allowed 36 baserunners in 29 2/3 innings but struck out only 16.

Coming attractions: Eveland is in that position of renting a spot in the Dodger rotation in November but being a long way from owning it in April. As an inconsistent pitcher who doesn’t strike many out, Eveland would still have to prove he’s more than a spot starter.

Oct 28

Sue Falsone to take larger training role with Dodgers

Sue Falsone became the first Major League Baseball female physical therapist in 2007 with the Dodgers, then shifted to a consultant role in February. Now, Stephania Bell of ESPN.com reports, the Dodgers have hired Falsone as their new head physical therapist/athletic trainer and will announce it next week. The move, Bell writes, will make Falsone “the first woman to serve as head athletic trainer or head physical therapist of a team in any of the four major professional sports leagues.”

Stan Conte, who has been the Dodgers’ director of medical services and head trainer for five seasons, is expected to remain with the Dodgers, though it’s not entirely clear what the delegation of responsibilities between him and Falsone will be. Assistant trainer Todd Tomczyk recently left the Dodgers for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Update: Bell sent me the following in an e-mail … “As far as her role with the Dodgers, I confirmed that she has always been a consultant since 2007, although between 2008-10 she did have an increased role and traveled with the team, which she did not do this year. But she has always been a consultant to them … until now where she will be formally hired.”

* * *

  • Kirk Gibson in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series had the Fall Classic’s best-ever single-game WPA (win probability added, a stat that measures how much a player’s performance contributes to a team’s victory, taking into account the situations in which a player bats)  – until Thursday, when David Freese topped him, according to Baseball-Reference Blog.
  • Hong-Chih Kuo’s “tale of perseverance” is recapped by Eno Sarris of Fangraphs.
  • Jim Mills writes at MLB.com about an exchange of letters in 1956 between Don Newcombe and Mills’ father, who defended Newcombe against racist name-callers in the stands in Philadelphia.
  • This might be the blog post of the year, from Sam Miller of the Orange County Register for The Score. Confession: My family ate Taco Bell last night.
Oct 28

Remembering 2011: Jamie Hoffmann


Charlie Riedel/APJamie Hoffmann (30)

The setup: After playing in 14 games for the Dodgers in 2009, Hoffmann went to the Yankees via the Rule 5 route, ended up returning to the Dodger organization and spent all of 2010 with Albuquerque, leading the team in hits with 169 while OPSing .800. A strong defender, Hoffmann has seemed worthy of a backup spot on a major-league roster to me, though professional opinions tend to differ.

The closeup: Hoffmann turned out to be the second position player called up by the Dodgers this year, coming up April 11 essentially to replace the latest Dodger injury victim, Hector Gimenez. Hoffmann pinch-hit that night and grounded out, then started three nights later and went 0 for 3 with a strikeout. The following day, Hoffmann was sent back to Albuquerque in another domino-effect series of moves, and did not make it back to Los Angeles the remainder of the year despite having his best year with the Isotopes: .356 on-base percentage, .497 slugging percentage and 22 home runs. He set a Pacific Coast League record for consecutive errorless games by an outfielder that is still going strong at 188, and was ultimately named the Isotopes’ 2011 Most Valuable Player.

Coming attractions: Hoffmann remains on a Dodger 40-man roster that, once free agency begins, will have only five outfielders on it. The chances of him holding that same spot next April seem slim.

Oct 27

The lame blame game

At the bottom of this morning’s Ramona Shelburne news story for ESPNLosAngeles.com about the Bryan Stow situation, she quotes Jerome Jackson, a lawyer representing Frank McCourt, as follows:

… “What happened to Bryan Stow was a tragedy,” he said. “The Dodgers have held fundraisers. The Dodgers have helped police in solving this case. That doesn’t mean we’re legally responsible for what happens here.

“What baffles me is that the level of public outrage at the Dodgers seems to be higher than the level of outrage at the people who inflicted the blows.” …

Here’s what I’d say to that:

1) Let’s be clear — whatever outrage exists isn’t against the Dodgers, it’s against McCourt. (Update: As Dodger Thoughts commenter Zissou_Steve points out, there was more outrage against Dodger fans than there was against McCourt when this incident occurred.)

2) Despite the anger against McCourt, I wouldn’t say that when it comes specifically to the Stow beating, people are angrier at McCourt than they are at the assailants. People understand who the true villains are.

3) However, if you’re trying to address public anger with McCourt, it sure doesn’t help when you make statements such as these:

“I’ve been doing these cases for 23 years and I have never seen one yet in which it didn’t take at least two people to tango,” (Jackson) said, referring to the notion that jurors could decide Stow bears some liability in the attack. “So stay tuned and stand by.”

Whatever the facts of the case are, when it comes to the question of “public outrage,” that’s an issue of public relations. Does this look like an example of good public relations?

* * *

  • Matt Kemp was the only unanimous selection to The Sporting News National League All-Star Team that also includes Clayton Kershaw.
  • Robinson Cano, whom I still link to Kemp because of all the trade rumors involving the pair a couple years back, is looking (via agent Scott Boras) to redo his contract with the Yankees that includes club options of $14 million for 2012 and $15 million for 2013, according to Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com.

    … Boras, has been peddling his sales pitch through the media recently, cautioning the Yankees that allowing Cano to become a free agent after the 2013 season would be extremely risky, not to mention expensive, the implication being that he would take Cano out onto the open market, where he would no doubt draw a lot of interest.

    An insider told Matthews that the chances of Cano’s contract being re-done were “highly, highly unlikely.”

  • Albert Pujols defended his hit-and-run playcalling, as well as the fact that he didn’t swing when he called the first hit-and-run in Game 5 Monday. (Joe Strauss, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Oct 26

Dodger TV rights hearing postponed, but to what end?

The rumors were flying today that the one-month postponement of the winner-take-all bankruptcy court hearing on Frank McCourt’s ability to prematurely sell the Dodgers’ post-2013 TV rights (what a mouthful that was) was actually a sign that a deal was being forged that would facilitate McCourt selling the franchise. (See ESPNLosAngeles.com and Bill Shaikin of the Times for more.)

What’s clear is that talks have been taking place, what’s unclear is whether there was any real momentum behind the talks. And so, there’s no way of knowing whether the next month might see the happy revelation of closure, or whether it will just be 30 more days tacked onto our painful waiting game.

Elsewhere …

  • Hong-Chih Kuo is going to have arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body (no, this isn’t a Halloween joke) in his left elbow. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com talked to Dodger training chief Stan Conte about the situation. Kuo is planning to try to pitch in 2012, but while he is certain to be made a free agent by the Dodgers, they’re still as good a bet as anyone to try to re-sign him to a discounted contract.
  • Maury Wills is the subject of a story in the Times that illustrates what a longshot he was to make the majors with this anecdote: In 1959, Topps chose not to pay Wills the grand total of $5 for the rights to have him on a baseball card.
  • How overdue are the Dodgers for a World Series compared to other teams? Check the list at Cy Morong’s Cybermetrics.
Oct 26

On bended knee for Adrian Beltre

Eric Nusbaum of Pitchers & Poets has paid loving tribute to former Dodger Adrian Beltre at Deadspin. I would excerpt a portion, but I couldn’t find one I was satisfied with – I kept wanting to take more. You really need to read the whole thing.

  • Marking the 25th anniversary of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Mark Simon of ESPN.com presented 10 tidbits on Bill Buckner, many of them Dodger related.
  • The shining of the World Series spotlight on Mike Napoli has put Mike Scioscia in its path. In an interview with ESPN 710 AM, chronicled by Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles, Scioscia said health and durability questions were the reason for the trade.
Oct 26

Remembering 2011: Hong-Chih Kuo


Kirby Lee/US PresswireHong-Chih Kuo (29)

The setup: Coming off his spectacular 2010 (1.20 ERA, .211 opposing on-base percentage, 73 strikeouts in 60 innings and a career-high 56 games) and three years removed from his most recent surgery, Kuo was expected to be an integral, if not the most integral, component to the Dodger bullpen.

The closeup: It was a bruising season for Kuo.

He lasted fewer than three weeks before he landed on the disabled list April 16 with a lower back strain, related to problems we would learn had been with him since the season began. That, at the time, seemed to explain why Kuo had walked four in 2 2/3 innings of a shaky start to 2011. Kuo returned to active duty May 1, only to be charged with four runs on a walk, a hit batter and two singles in one-third of an inning that night, though three of those runners scored with Mike MacDougal on the mound. Kuo’s ERA soared to 15.00; it would never drop below 8.00 at any point in the remainder of the year.

Only 10 days later, on May 11, Kuo went back to the disabled list, but not for physical reasons. Officially sidelined by “anxiety disorder,” Kuo was the subject of a piece by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports in late June:

… Kuo, who turns 30 next month, is one of the game’s top left-handed relievers when healthy. But he has undergone four elbow operations and battled the “yips” — an inability to throw the ball with accuracy — in 2009. In early May, during a series in Pittsburgh, he told Conte he no longer could pitch due to his anxiety.

Conte, after receiving permission from Kuo, spoke at length about the pitcher’s condition.

“The analogy I use is if you’re scared of small places, you’re claustrophobic and you’re scared of snakes. But you’re really good at catching those snakes, and they ask you every day to walk into a small, closed window-less room to grab them,” Conte said.

“They bite you. It hurts. But you’re the best in the world at doing it and they pay you a lot of money to do it. And every day it becomes worse and worse. It makes you believe you can’t do it, not for glory, not for fame, not for money.

“That’s how he was in Pittsburgh. He was like a guy in water who couldn’t float and begging to get out of the water. It was very emotional, the way he was begging us not to put him out there.” …

When Kuo came back on June 21, it still wasn’t with any sort of consistency, allowing at least one run or one inherited run in 14 of 31 appearances through the end of the season. He could still strike batters out at an incredible rate – 36 in 27 innings – but he couldn’t be relied upon to do so without putting a bunch on base.

In September, Kuo did have two games in which he pitched two shutout innings. The first, on September 2, earned him his only victory of the season. The second, on September 24, lowered his season ERA to exactly 9.00. Kuo, who had allowed 48 baserunners in 60 innings the year before, finished with 49 in 27 innings this time.

Coming attractions: Entering the offseason, Kuo figured to become a free agent based on the assumption that the Dodgers will not tender him a contract that would commit them to paying well over $2 million in 2012. Though Kuo himself speculated to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that he might retire, he was planning to pitch in a series of exhibition games against major-leaguers in his native Taiwan – only to come down with left-elbow discomfort, as Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports.

If and when he’s ready to resume his major-league career, Kuo (like Hiroki Kuroda) might decide he’s only comfortable doing so with the Dodgers, who could re-sign him for a lower base salary after non-tendering him. It is a very uncertain future for Kuo in baseball to say the least, but I’ll always be struck by how Dodger fans, who can be a bitterly impatient lot when it comes to struggling players, always seemed to stand by Kuo no matter how bad it got. Signed by the organization in 1999 and a battler almost every day since, sidelined by the first of two Tommy John surgeries after his very first game in the minors in 2000, Kuo has earned tons of respect from this community.

Oct 25

Remembering 2011: Rod Barajas


Ric Tapia/Icon SMIRod Barajas (28)

The setup: Barajas bashed the ball for the Dodgers last year (.939 OPS, five home runs in 72 plate appearances) in a short stint after the Mets designated him for assignment in August 2010. In a 24-hour whirlwind that December, the Dodgers cut ties with incumbent-but-injured Russell Martin and signed Barajas to a one-year, $3.25 million deal for 2011, in contrast to the $500,000 plus incentives the Mets had guaranteed Barajas 9 1/2 months earlier. At his peak, Barajas had never been guaranteed more than $3.2 million for a year, and neither Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. nor myself thought Barajas could get more than $2 million. Though there was a cost savings in switching Martin’s uncertain future for Barajas, and though Barajas was a Southern Californian happy to be with the Dodgers, the contract had small-scale blunder written all over it, the same way that the second years in Los Angeles for Marlon Anderson and Ronnie Belliard went so unhappily.

The closeup: Not unlike Martin, whose surge-and-retreat year for the Yankees ended with a .723 OPS (92 OPS+), Barajas had a streaky 2011. His OPS was .635 at the end of July, before he connected for a .403 on-base percentage, .750 slugging percentage and six home runs in 62 plate appearances in August. His 10 total bases (two home runs and a double) against St. Louis on August 23 were unsurpassed by any Dodger this year. Thanks to that, he was able to finish the year with a .717 OPS that was slightly lower than Martin’s but a 97 OPS+ that was slightly higher. Barajas finished second on the Dodgers in home runs with 16, a mere 23 behind the team leader, despite missing a month at midseason with a sprained ankle and playing in only 98 games, seventh on the team. Fangraphs pegged Barajas’ value for 2011 at $5.8 million, Martin $13.8 million.

As late as August 23, Barajas had the same number of home runs and walks (14 of each), but he avoided becoming the rare Dodger to finish with more round-trippers than free-trippers, ending the year with 16 of one and 22 of the other. He threw out 20 of 80 runners attempting to steal.

Coming attractions: Barajas, who turned 36 in September, is a free agent who will sign somewhere for next year, but his Dodger future depends on his willingness to reduce that 2011 salary. His Los Angeles return would allow the Dodgers to slow-cook Tim Federowicz, who has played only 115 games above Single-A in his career, in the minors a bit longer next spring. But no outsider seems sure about whether Barajas will wear Dodger white and blue in 2012, and I don’t know that any insiders are sure either.

Oct 25

How dare you accuse me of doing the thing I already planned to do!

Major League Baseball has put a number and a name to what Frank McCourt has done with the Dodgers: “$189.16 million” and “looting.” ESPNLosAngeles.com and Bill Shaikin of the Times have more.

I want to call out the last two paragraphs of Shaikin’s story:

… The Dodgers also charge Selig with bad faith in declaring he would reject any television contract proposed by McCourt. The league claims any deal would necessarily require McCourt to divert some team revenue for personal use, including a $130-million divorce settlement.

That claim, the Dodgers said, is “simply make believe.”

We have been down this road before …

Dodger Thoughts, April 27:

… In a nod to the concerns over how much Dodger revenue he and his now-estranged wife had allocated for personal spending, McCourt said today that the proposed Fox deal would include an immediate payment of $300 million going directly into the Dodgers.

“None of those dollars (would be) used in any personal way,” McCourt said.

Dodger Thoughts, July 22:

Selig then delved into McCourt’s plan to put the 35% equity interest in Fox Sports Net West 2 that the Dodgers would receive into a holding company separate from the franchise, as well as his plan to take at least 45% from the $385 million up-front payment to settle personal debts.

Look, we all know that McCourt, if he somehow wins in the TV rights hearing, will be on track to have so much money coming in that he’ll be able to paper over all his sins — paper ‘em with green. But come on — no matter how many machinations he drums up, the idea that TV money would not play some role, explicit or implicit, in resolving his enormous debts is about as far from the Neighborhood of Make Believe as one can travel.

* * *

  • Jerry Sands’ midseason swing adjustments have been carefully analyzed by Chad Moriyama. “To say I’m impressed by the changes that have taken place is an understatement,” Moriyama writes.
  • Clayton Kershaw is going back to Africa for the second consecutive offseason. Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy passed along an MLB.com clip with a Kershaw interview from the World Series. By committing $100 in Kershaw’s Challenge to Arise Africa for every strikeout he had this year to build an orphanage, Kershaw donated $24,800. The challenge has about $20,000 remaining to reach its goal of $70,000. Donate here.
  • It’s come to this: Andrew T. Fisher of Rockies blog Purple Row is optimistic about center fielder Dexter Fowler improving in 2012 because he will be working out this offseason with Matt Kemp.
  • A round of the aghastly reaction to Tony LaRussa’s managing of Game 5 Monday has been pulled together by Jeff Gordon of STLtoday.com. Sample:  “As La Russa played subterfuge artist, offering a story dotted with holes unbecoming of a man with a law degree, it was obvious that he was trying to protect someone, and he would go to such lengths only to save himself,” wrote Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.
  • Mark Townsend of Yahoo! Sports summarizes the five outs the Cardinals gave away Monday.
  • Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors has an update on 25-year-old Japanese ace Yu Darvish, who might be coming to the U.S.

    … Last week, I polled five agents and one team executive about Darvish’s potential posting fee and contract. Guesses on the posting fee ranged from $30-55MM, with the team executive making the highest prediction. The average of the six guesses was $45MM. As for the contract, most people predicted a five or six-year deal in the $72-75MM range. One agent wondered if the winning team will “try to force some options down his throat,” especially if it’s the Blue Jays.

    The bottom line: everyone I talked to expects a minimum of a $100MM commitment to acquire Darvish if he’s posted this year. …

  • A “treasure trove” of records of the Philadelphia A’s has been found, notes Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk, and are “now in the hands of a historian who is making a big documentary about Connie Mack.”
Oct 24

‘Vin Scully and Nobody’

During Sunday’s World Series game, Joe Posnanski asked fans on Twitter “if you could have any two living people (broadcasting) tonight’s baseball game, who would you choose?” He soon noted that he received “526 responses in two minutes, the vast majority of them being some variation on ‘Vin Scully and Nobody.’ ” Posnanski elaborated in this column:

… No second person. Just Vin. Brandon McCarthy chose Vin and someone to bring him water. Several chose Vin and Teller from Penn and Teller. And so on. I could not agree more. What I think makes Vin such a wonderful listen — and has for more than a half century — is that his voice stays in the background, the statistics he uses make sense and feel true, his stories enhance what you’re watching, he’s honest about whatever he’s seeing and he has Coltrane’s sense of rhythm. It’s a remarkable combination. Baseball is a tough game to announce. The action is spread out. The pace is uneven. The strategies are often intricate and not especially interesting for casual fans (they don’t call boring politics “inside baseball” for nothing). The statistics are often wonky. But there are great opportunities, too — baseball’s a wonderful game for stories, for drama, for insight. Yes, it would be great to hear Vin Scully call a World Series again. Well, hey, at least we got him to trend on Twitter for a while.

The conversation even managed to steal the spotlight from whether Game 4 national anthem singer Zooey Deschanel is an agent of good or evil.

In any case, I have to say again, as much as I would love Scully to do the World Series, I have seen no indication that he has any real desire to do one with the Dodgers not involved.  Tony Jackson backed me up on this with a tweet: “Vinnie’s last WS was 1997 (on radio). He stopped doing them because he wanted to stop doing them.”

If Scully were to do a World Series, it would almost certainly be as part of a three-man booth with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. I can’t see Fox being willing to open the can of worms of pushing its favorite baseball announcers aside. Roaming the country for the better part of two weeks, when he has actively sought to reduce his travel schedule to spend more time with his wife, just to be one of a trio, doesn’t sound like our friend Vin.

Oct 24

Dodgers cut season-ticket prices, just as fans might be more eager to buy

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more on this morning’s news that the Dodgers were cutting season-ticket prices almost across the board. The price-cutting is an implicit acknowledgment of the flight from Dodger Stadium this year, and what’s potentially ironic is that it comes just as the owner who inspired much of that flight, Frank McCourt, continues to see his hold on the team fraying.

The official creditors committee in the Dodgers’ bankruptcy case has formally asked Judge Kevin Gross not to approve a premature auction of the team’s TV rights, reports Bill Shaikin of the Times, labeling it a “risky proposition” and calling for a sale of the team instead. The committee did ask, however, for a 30-day period before Judge Gross rules, to increase the possibility of a sale strategy that MLB and McCourt could agree upon.

McCourt has become an underdog in the objective sense, he’s up against a huge power play at this point. That doesn’t mean he can’t score, but more than ever, he is facing a situation where in order to retain any ownership, he might have to sell a significant portion of the franchise to potential teammates. And even the viability of that scenario is fading.

In any case, the landscape might change rapidly enough that fans who reduced or eliminated their Dodger ticket purchases in 2011 might have double the reason to amp up their ticket-buying for 2012. You can find a full chart of the price-saving here.

* * *

  • Matt Kemp has been officially announced as the winner of the fan-voted National League Hank Aaron Award for top hitter. From MLB.com:

    … Kemp made one of the best Triple Crown bids in recent years, falling just short. In addition to leading the NL in homers and RBIs (126), he finished third in batting behind Jose Reyes and Ryan Braun, at .324. Kemp also led the NL in runs (115) and total bases (353). The 2011 NL All-Star also finished among league leaders in multihit games (57, tied for first), hits (195, second), slugging percentage (.586, second), extra-base hits (76, second), stolen bases (40, tied for second), on-base percentage (.399, fourth) and walks (74, tied for eighth).

    Kemp became the seventh player in Major League history to finish the season ranked in the top three in homers, batting average, RBIs and stolen bases in their respective league, joining Hall of Famers Ty Cobb (1907, ’09-11), Honus Wagner (1908), George Sisler (’20), Chuck Klein (’32), Willie Mays (’55) and Aaron (’63). In addition, the sixth-round selection in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft was the first Dodger to lead the NL in home runs and RBIs since Dolph Camilli in 1941, and the first Dodger in history to lead the NL in homers, RBIs and runs scored….

  • I meant to do some research on World Series that were tied after four games, but Cliff Corcoran of SI.com beat me to it. “Remarkably, though a tie-breaking win in the fifth game of a best-of-seven series puts the victor just one out away from a series win, just two-thirds of the teams that have won a tie-breaking Game 5 in a best-of-seven World Series (26 of 39) have gone on to win the series, and just three of the last nine teams to break a Series tie with a Game 5 win went on to win the championship,” Corcoran found.
  • I found this anecdote from Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about former Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin poignant:

    … Franklin attended Sunday’s game as a guest of general manager John Mozeliak. “He made quite a commitment to our organization,” Mozeliak said. “It was very important to him to remain part of this club. And I think that was reflected in the way we worked with each other.” Mozeliak frequently sought Franklin’s input on rival personnel during the pitcher’s 4 1/2 seasons with the club. The two have remained in contact since Franklin’s release June 30 and Mozeliak has broached the possibility of Franklin rejoining the organization in another capacity. “It’s definitely something I would think about if I decide I’m done” playing, Franklin said. As for watching the team he was a part of compete for the World Series championship, Franklin admitted, “I feel connected in a way, especially to guys like (Jason) Motte and (Mitch) Boggs. It’s fun to watch but it’s also tough to watch.” Franklin hasn’t shut the door on playing again but admits he is leaning toward retirement. “I know if it started tomorrow I’d be leaning toward staying around the house,” Franklin said. “It was pretty neat to be able to take my kids on their first day of school. My wife thought so, too.”

  • Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge will become free agents with the Phillies buying out their 2012 options, but if you’re looking for the most fun ex-Phillie pitcher to consider, consider one Jamie Moyer, who turns 49 next month. Moyer will be more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery when Spring Training starts in 2012.