Nov 11

This one goes to 11-11-11


Getty ImagesManny Mota Mota Mota …

There has still been no contact from the kidnappers of Washington catcher Wilson Ramos, more than a day since he was abducted. But Venezuelan authorities have said they are confident they will find him.

I can’t tell that this story is getting the coverage it deserves, although it is mostly just a painful waiting game. I’m thinking my best thoughts.

* * *

Catching up on some Dodger ownership news and notes:

  • Orel Hershiser tells the skeptics his group will have the dough, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Shelburne writes that the new owners, whoever they are, need to look toward the future to be successful, not the past.
  • Patrick Soon-Shiong, who bought Magic Johnson’s minority stake in the Lakers last year and reportedly the richest man in Los Angeles, has been approached by at least one Dodger ownership group, reports Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • One ownership candidate who has the money is former Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano, write Craig Karmin and Matthew Futterman of the Wall Street Journal. However, the Journal says “he has never attended a game at Dodger Stadium and is a lifelong New York Yankees fan.” That’ll go over well.
  • Jill Painter of the Daily News has a solid interview with Peter O’Malley. “First, I’m blessed with good health,” O’Malley said. “Second, the challenge. Thirdly, I do believe I can do it better than anybody else. Maybe that doesn’t sound right, but I don’t know how else to say it.
  • Dodger sale news combined with a reduction in prices has boosted Dodger season-ticket sales 30% compared to this time last year, writes Bill Shaikin of the Times. Season-ticket sales dropped from 27,000 four years ago to 17,000 this past season.

* * *

Elsewhere …

  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness writes about the early signs that 2012 free-agent contracts will be insane.
  • Related … Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports writes that the Phillies’ four-year, $44 million offer to reliever Ryan Madson might be so high that it has Major League Baseball concerned and might be slowing locking down the next collective bargaining agreement.
  • Might Rod Barajas’ ability to frame pitches be a reason he deserved a $4 million deal from the Pirates? Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk thinks it’s possible.
  • Former Dodger executive Derrick Hall of the Diamondbacks had successful surgery to remove his prostate in response to cancer.
  • Former Dodger outfielder Mike Marshall has been named manager of the independent San Rafael Pacifics, notes Dave Allen of the Marin Independent Journal, and his wife Mary will be assistant general manager. The Marshalls had the same roles with Chico.
  • Jim Breen of Fangraphs says that hard salary slotting for MLB draft picks would be bad for the game, and uses the Dodgers’ Zach Lee as a reason why.
  • Shawn Green, Brad Ausmus and Gabe Kapler have joined forces to try to guide Israel into qualification for the 2013 World Baseball Classic. “While it remains unclear if the recently retired players will take the field themselves, their involvement provides an immediate boost to Israeli baseball, which remains a niche sport in a country where soccer and basketball reign supreme,” writes The Associated Press.
  • Clayton Kershaw and Roy Halladay tied for the SB Nation National League Cy Young vote. Kershaw got 14 first-place votes to Halladay’s 13, but Kershaw also received a fifth-place vote from Padres blog Gaslamp Ball, which provides an unimpressive explanation to say the least.
  • No Dodger connection here, just wanted to pass this along – Norwegian film “King Curling” is “a hilarious take on the mock-heroic sporting-underdog genre,” writes Leslie Felperin of Variety.
Nov 10

O’Malley, Nomo, Park, Seidler to help run old Dodgertown in Florida

Doug Benc/Getty ImagesA view from the final Dodger Spring Training game at Holman Stadium, March 17, 2008.

Former Dodger owners Peter O’Malley and sister Terry Seidler and former pitchers Chan Ho Park and Hideo Nomo have joined forces with Minor League Baseball to operate the old Dodgertown complex now known as the Vero Beach Sports Village.

O’Malley, a candidate to buy the Dodgers themselves from Frank McCourt, will be chairman and CEO of the new enterprise, and MiLB president Pat O’Conner will be president and COO, while Craig Callan will remain in control of operations of the facility, where he has worked for 33 years.

O’Conner said the goal of the group is to use the facility “for local, domestic and international sports programs” that will attract a variety of visitors.

“This combined effort of Minor League Baseball, the O’Malley and Seidler families and members of our extended baseball family will undoubtedly have a positive impact on Vero Beach Sports Village,” O’Conner said in a statement. “Peter O’Malley and his family have a long and storied history in Vero Beach and baseball in general, both domestically and internationally.

“Chan Ho Park and Hideo Nomo provide insight from a player’s perspective, as well as enormous credibility in Asia and the Pacific Rim.”

Nomo has been bringing Japanese youth players to the U.S. for the past couple of years for competition and cultural exchange.

“Being a part of the group that will operate a facility that provides youths with resources they can use both on and off the field is extremely rewarding,” Nomo said. “Those who come to the facility can improve not only as athletes through tournaments and training, but can also develop skills to help them mature into young men and women.”

Added Park: “I have many fond memories of Dodgertown from my nine seasons playing for the Dodgers. I love it there and look forward to seeing many teams and individuals enjoy all of the unique features of the complex and take full advantage of the amenities it has to offer, as I did when I trained and played there.”

For O’Malley, it’s a return to his roots — he was director of Dodgertown from 1962-65. Seidler worked there in the 1950s as the secretary for the Dodgertown Summer Camp for Boys.

“I embrace this wonderful opportunity to use this iconic facility that my family has cherished for decades to promote baseball,” O’Malley said in a statement. “Vero Beach Sports Village should always be an asset and a jewel to the citizens of Vero Beach and Indian River County, and I look forward to adding further luster to its rich history.

Though MiLB began operating the old Dodgertown facility in 2009 and events have continued to take place there, it has been in jeopardy ever since Dodger Spring Training left for Camelback Ranch in Arizona, with lots of speculation that it could eventually be sold off and converted for non-sports use.

“We know the Dodgers have a long-term spring training commitment with the community of Glendale, Arizona, and our endeavor in Vero Beach in no way impacts that relationship,” O’Malley said.

In other words, even if O’Malley ends up back with the Dodgers, don’t expect Spring Training to return to Vero Beach. Still, for fans of Dodgertown, this is welcome news.

Nov 10

Rod Barajas signs with Pittsburgh

This will come as a surprise to many people, but Rod Barajas won’t be a Dodger next year. The veteran catcher has signed a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, leaving the Dodger backstopping (until Ned Colletti wakes up in a veteran-less sweat) to A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz.

Previously … Remembering 2011: Rod Barajas

Update: Via Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness comes two tidbits: Barajas is getting $4 million in 2012 according to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports, the latest indication that this is going to be a players’ free-agent market, and the Dodgers will receive a compensation draft pick, as noted by the True Blue L.A. crew.

For the curious, here’s a list of free-agent catchers, via ESPN.com’s MLB free-agent tracker.

Nov 09

Talks for long-term Kemp deal progressing

With no further ado, here’s Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

The agent for Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder and National League Most Valuable Player candidate Matt Kemp said Wednesday that talks on a long-term contract extension for his client are moving in a positive direction and that he is optimistic an agreement will be reached.

Dave Stewart, Kemp’s San Diego-based agent and himself a former Dodgers pitcher, said his discussions with Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti have been positive and productive.

“I don’t think that it’s going to be difficult, I really don’t,” Stewart said. “I think we should be able to come to something. I have talked with Ned on a few occasions. We have covered some ground, and hopefully, we will be able to put this thing to bed soon.”

Colletti also characterized the negotiations as moving forward.

“We have had some constructive conversations,” Colletti said. “Those conversations have been a little more substantive of late.”

Colletti cautioned against reading too much into that, saying no agreement was imminent. Clearly, though, signing Kemp to a long-term deal sometime this winter — and before Kemp becomes eligible for free agency after the 2012 season — is a high priority for the Dodgers.

“This is obviously going to be cordial,” Stewart said of the negotiations. “I have known Ned for 30 years, and that is the easy part of it. The tough part is trying to figure out exactly where Matt sits and how I get them to see what I see.” …

Nov 09

A Tamin-y haul for the Dodger front office

Ken Gurnick of MLB.com looks at Ned Colletti’s intriguing new front-office hire: director of contracts, research and operations Alex Tamin:

“People view me as old-school, focused on scouting,” said Colletti. “But I’ve always used statistical analysis; we’ll use more of it now. That doesn’t mean every decision we make will now be based on statistical analysis. You’re still at the mercy of the market. So this doesn’t mean everybody we bring in will have a .400 on-base percentage or an .800 [on-base plus slugging percentage]. Sometimes, it’s just about who’s out there.”

One guy out there was Tamin. The attorney spent 14 years at the law firm Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro, where he assisted on baseball arbitration cases with Mark Rosenthal, the primary hired gun for several Major League teams until his death from cancer in 2010.

Tamin, meanwhile, had been on his own for two years when Colletti called shortly after the departure of vice president and assistant GM Kim Ng, who had managed the Dodgers’ arbitration process for a decade before leaving in April for the Commissioner’s Office. Colletti said Tamin hit his radar during the Joe Beimel arbitration case, which the Dodgers won in 2007.

“Alex was always the quiet second guy with Mark Rosenthal in the hearing. Then he gave a rebuttal and I thought, ‘Who is this guy?’” said Colletti. “It was so powerful and thorough. When Kim left, it was even more important to make sure we kept Alex on. He was thinking about working for a club. As the year went on we stayed in touch, and near the end of the season we struck a deal.” …

… “I don’t belong to SABR — I’m not a statistician,” Tamin said of the Society for American Baseball Research. “I’ve read Bill James and I come at it with a larger perspective. As a kid, I tried to play as far as my talent allowed. I was a devotee of the Strat-O-Matic game, an early follower of STATS Inc. The Baseball-Reference.com website was like finding the Holy Grail, and I watched it blossom. It’s pretty phenomenal.” …

Nov 09

Remembering 2011: Blake Hawksworth


Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireBlake Hawksworth (35)

The setup: After signing Juan Uribe a year ago, the Dodgers were looking to unload aribtration-eligible infielder Ryan Theriot, their midseason acquisition from Chicago who had OPSed .606 for them but stood to earn more than $3 million in 2011. Theriot was traded on November 30 for Hawksworth, who in 2009 had a 2.03 ERA in 40 innings (all in relief) despite striking out only 4.5 per nine innings, then faltered as a swingman in 2010 with a 4.98 ERA (5.83 in eight starts).

The closeup: As a reliever in 2010, Hawksworth had a 4.25 ERA with a .822 opponents’ OPS while allowing 45 percent of inherited runners to score. As a reliever in 2011, Hawksworth had a 4.08 ERA and allowed 50 percent of inherited runners to score – but with a .651 opponents’ OPS and a career-best 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Go figure.

Hawksworth had hot and cold runs like that ERA would suggest. Coming back from nearly a month on the sidelines with a groin strain, Hawksworth had a 1.69 ERA in 10 2/3 innings in June with eight strikeouts against seven baserunners and six of eight inherited runners stranded, twice striking out the side in an inning. But from July 27 through September 4, he was only good for an 8.40 ERA in 15 innings with 12 strikeouts against 25 baserunners.

Coming attractions: Hawksworth, 29 in March, won’t be eligible for arbitration for one more year, so he should be back in the Dodger bullpen at a modest salary (no more than $500,000).

Nov 08

A long wait rewarded: The 1981 Dodgers


Jon Weisman/ESPNLosAngeles.comRon Cey signs an autograph near a replica of the 1981 World Series trophy Saturday.

The 1980s might be considered the last glory days for the Los Angeles Dodgers. But for Dodger fans at the start of that decade, those were desperate times.

It had been 15 seasons since the Dodgers had won World Series title, their longest drought since Next Year first came in 1955. They had suffered through three near-misses, each arguably more agonizing than the last, in their 1974, 1977 and 1978 Fall Classic falls.

The 1980 Dodgers had arguably the most dramatic season yet of that era, winning three games on the final three days of the regular season before falling in a 163rd game against Houston still painful for those who remember it.

Even their hot start in ’81, when the Dodgers won 29 of their first 40 games, was clouded by — yes, this resonates today — off-field issues. A labor crisis was brewing, the sport’s biggest yet. Would the Dodgers, potentially the best team in baseball, even be able to finish their season?

Some Dodger fans today – especially the younger ones – don’t think of the 1981 World Series title much, or at least they take it for granted. The 1988 title is the one on everyone’s frontal lobe: Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and friends giving the franchise its last taste of October glory. It’s the team that the desperate fans of today call back to.

The 1981 team, though, is the team that for which the desperate fans of the last generation give thanks.

Saturday in City of Industry, more than 20 members of the 1981 World Series team, along with manager Tommy Lasorda gathered, for a memorabilia signing event that certainly was a money-making function at its core, but also a time for appreciation. Hundreds of fans had lined up, some just as dawn was breaking, for the chance to spend a few minutes here, a few minutes there with a team that will never be forgotten but too often gets overshadowed.

Jon Weisman/ESPNLosAngeles.comDusty Baker smiles for the cameras at the ’81 team reunion.

As much fun as it was to have a personal encounter with the heroes of ’81, I would say I found the most pleasure in seeing them reunite with each other. During my longest interview, a warm, 15-minute chat with Dusty Baker, the highlight was nothing between me and him as much as when Bill Russell arrived and Baker got up to hug him, the pair having not seen each other in years. Baker was still smiling when he sat back down.

“You look at some of the guys that are in the Hall of Fame that never got to the World Series,” said catcher Steve Yeager, co-1981 World Series MVP with Ron Cey and Pedro Guerrero. “Ernie Banks comes to mind – that was such a great player who never had the experience of getting to the World Series let alone win one, so it means a lot to each and every one of us.”

Baker said in his interview that he didn’t feel extra pressure to win a World Series in 1981, but others indicated otherwise.

“That was always in the back of our minds,” said outfielder Ken Landreaux, “that it’s been a while since we won a World Series.”

Added then-outfielder and now-broadcaster Rick Monday: “We had a chance to get rid of the great bitter taste that lingered for a number of years. When we went to Spring Training in 1981, you could look around the locker room and see this was a club that was probably not going to be together as a whole next year or the following year, because we had a lot of younger players that were coming up.

“One of the things a lot of people forget about, and I tried to find a copy of it. … (In) the winter of ’81, Tommy Lasorda sent us all a letter, all the players. And basically in that letter, he challenged us and encouraged us, and he said, ‘Look, you’ve gotta be ready to go.’ ”

That resonated even more for the older players. A new generation of Dodgers was transitioning in – Guerrero, Fernando Valenzuela, Steve Sax, Mike Scioscia, Greg Brock, Mike Marshall – some having arrived, others on the cusp. The window for the 1970s crew was shutting.

“I know we were desperate because a lot of us, (we) were not necessarily at the end of our careers, but we were approaching that area, and there was an influx of younger talent,” Monday said. “There was an immediacy of wanting to get things done and get things done in a hurry.

“We got off to a terrific start obviously, and then the strike came into being, and that changed everyone’s viewpoint of what was happening.”

Though the aftermath of the strike, which shut down baseball between June 12 and August 9, turned out to have the effect of guaranteeing the Dodgers a playoff berth, thanks to the one-time institution of the split-season format, it also created a disheartening possibility that the magic would be lost.

It’s obviously quite different from the ownership crisis that has dogged the Dodgers the past two seasons, but the effect was similar in one respect – unpleasant off-field issues taking a bite out of the Dodgers’ World Series hopes.

“(The strike) was always on your mind,” Baker said. “You never thought it was gonna happen, and then once it happened we were all in shock. I remember we were all in St. Louis – we had to get our own way home.

“After that I kept working out, the team kept working out, then guys started dropping out (because) it didn’t look like were going to go back to work. But I couldn’t imagine baseball not finishing the season, similar to basketball right now … because there’s a lot being lost by both sides.”

After baseball resumed, the Dodgers meandered through their second half, going 27-26. Though the games didn’t count for them, they raised doubts about whether they were postseason-ready.

And then, of course, each postseason series involved the slaying of those doubts. Down 2-0 in the first National League Division Series against the Astros, with one run in their first 20 innings, the Dodgers came back and won. Down 2-0 in the NL Championship Series against Montreal, the same thing, capped by Monday’s ninth-inning Game 5 blast.

When they lost the first two games against the Yankees, Dodger fans should have been used to it by now. But speaking for myself, then not quite 14 years old, you could run from despair but you couldn’t hide.

Monday, however, said the Dodgers themselves weren’t phased.

“It was a club that was just goofy enough or shortsighted enough,” he said, “we didn’t think, ‘Oh geez, now we don’t have a chance.’ We were just crazy enough because we had to do the same thing in Montreal and Houston.”

Focus on Sport/Getty ImagesKen Landreaux celebrates after catching the last ball of the 1981 World Series.

Four games later, the final out of the 1981 World Series landed in the center-field glove of Landreaux.

“I still have it,” he said. “I almost threw it in the stands when I was running in to jump in the dogpile, but I held onto it.”

Were it not for the extraordinary moments in 1988, that would have been the last World Series-clinching out in Dodger history.

Those who gathered Saturday are eager to see those 1980s teams become more forgotten, in a manner of speaking – to see them replaced by a new set of champions. With new ownership poised to arrive in Los Angeles, there’s new hope.

“I think we did as a group a really doing good job of carrying the flag and living up to the tradition and history of the Dodgers, and I look forward to the day our organization can return to that spotlight,” Cey said. “It’s a treasured franchise in Major League Baseball, and we need to get back on top.”

Cey said the new owners need to be prepared to do “whatever it takes” to restore the Dodgers. Baker added that it was that kind of mentality at the top of the organization that reduced the pressure he felt going into 1981.

“Every year that we left for Spring Training, we knew that we’d be close to the top some place,” Baker said. “That’s a great feeling of a good organization and a team. When the season starts, you may not win or win it all, but you know you’re in the hunt and have a chance to do it. That’s all you can ask for.”

Thirty years later, you might even have a little kid who never saw you play live, line up to pay homage.

“I really wanted to come here,” said 11-year-old Erik Mawk of Atascadero, “because there was so much history being champions and how they defeated the Yankees while being the underdog.

“It was a great, inspiring story.”

Nov 08

Nitty-gritty details about Dodger sale process emerge

Bad news, good news: Frank McCourt will have “close to the final say” on who buys the Dodgers, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, but only from a group of candidates approved by Major League Baseball.

McCourt’s choice would then have to be approved by the other MLB owners, but since that choice would have been pre-approved by MLB already … you get the idea. Writes Jackson:

… It also isn’t immediately clear whether there is a minimum number of applicants that MLB must approve and submit to McCourt and Blackstone, but one source said it would be a “reasonable” number, meaning MLB couldn’t simply handpick the next owner by approving only one applicant. Although several individuals and groups already have gone public with their interest in buying the club, that list of applicants figures to dwindle to no more than a handful — perhaps five, one source estimated — who actually file applications because of the tremendous amount of money that must be secured in order to submit a worthy bid. …

Jackson has more detailing the intricacies of gaining MLB approval in this November 5 background story. Meanwhile, Ramona Shelburne addresses my issue of Dodger-based groups competing against each other in her latest piece, calling for them to work together as much as possible.

And then there’s this from Bill Shaikin of the Times, who writes that McCourt will still seek to profit from the Dodgers’ post-2013 TV rights, noting this Matthew Futterman report in the Wall Street Journal:

… In the auction, Mr. McCourt and his advisers at Blackstone Group, which is managing the Dodgers sale, will solicit separate bids for the team and its media rights, and then will try to arrange a partnership between the highest bidders for each before a final deal is struck. Ultimately, only the winning bidder for the team would have the right to execute a new media-rights deal.

If they prefer, bidders also will be allowed to submit a combined offer for both the team and its media rights. …

The Journal also said that McCourt could “maintain a stake in the parking lots at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles that are leased to the team for use on game days.”

I’m still of the hope that a clean break from McCourt will be a condition of any offer that MLB approves.

* * *

  • The Kansas City Royals are reportedly going to sell the naming rights to Kauffman Stadium. Will the new Dodger owners risk the wrath of public opinion and do the same?
  • Talk of David Wright coming to the Dodgers should be ignored, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy found a rare picture of Sandy Koufax in Palm Springs in 1964 with Donna Douglas, Andy Williams, Pat Boone and, would you believe, Don Adams?
  • Dodger players spent over 400 more days on the disabled list in 2011 than Diamondbacks players, according to Baseball Prospectus.
  • Learn more about “the jock tax,” courtesy of Eric Seidman of Fangraphs.
  • This Fangraphs chart shows the highs and lows of the 2011 Dodgers relative to the other 29 teams. Read more about it here.
  • The defensive flaws of Jose Reyes and Aramis Ramirez are explored by Katie Sharp and Mark Simon of ESPN.com.
  • The late, inimitable, Jim Healy got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Monday. Here’s a tribute page to Healy. (News via L.A. Observed.)
  • Farewell, Joe Frazier.
  • Update – The Hiroshima Carp have made an offer to Hiroki Kuroda.
Nov 07

Magic

I was disbelieving and disheartened, just like everyone else.

I was in the newsroom at the Los Angeles Daily News when the word about Magic Johnson came pouring through like lava 20 years ago. As the paper’s sports media columnist at the time, I was sent home to listen to the radio coverage on various stations of his announcement and the aftermath, and can testify to the shock and sadness (not to mention the popping undercurrent of recriminations) directed his way.

As shocking as it was that he would be retiring, the thing we couldn’t get past was that inexorably, we’d soon be getting news of his passing. We wanted to think that wasn’t possible, but we had no right to. Johnson would be our Lou Gehrig.

Magic’s survival and thrival all these years could be called the ultimate “you never know.” So many tragedies in this life … it is worth celebrating when one of them takes a U-turn into a happier ending.

Nov 06

Who’s up for softball?

Attention, attention: There is going to be a softball tournament on February 11 at Big League Dreams in West Covina for Dodger bloggers and their readers, organized by The Left Field Pavilion. Details can be found here. I am not sure yet I’ll be able to go, because we haven’t figured out what my kids’ weekends in February will be like yet, but I do hope to make it. In any case, Dodger Thoughters are encouraged to sign up – it should be a lot of fun.

Elsewhere …

  • While interviewing with new executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, potential Chicago Cubs managers are being asked to manage simulated games – you know, like you and me playing a game of Strat-o-Matic – to get a sense of their abilities, reports Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (via Baseball Musings). I would love to watch.
  • Chad Moriyama took an interesting and revealing look at which Dodger pitchers and hitters were the most and least valuable relative to their salaries at True Blue L.A.
  • John Lindsey, Corey Smith, Jon Link and Randy Keisler are among the many Dodger minor leaguers who have become free agents, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America.
Nov 04

Friday tidings

As we enjoy more recovery progress from Bryan Stow

  • Juan Rivera’s new Dodger contract is official, and it guarantees him at least $4.5 million including a $500,000 buyout if the Dodgers don’t pick up a $4 million 2013 option. (That’s right — same base salary both years, because apparently the Dodgers were worried they might not be able to overpay Rivera two years in a row.) There are also $500,000 in potential incentives each year. The contract is getting pilloried on the Internet, with Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk bringing a particularly hard pillory.
  • There’s $131 million changing hands in the binding divorce settlement between Frank and Jamie McCourt, according to The Associated Press, but the more interesting detail might be that Jamie ended up with three Southern California homes and Frank none. He might not just be getting out of the Dodgers — he might be getting out of Dodge.
  • I did a radio interview with A Martinez of ESPN AM 710 on Thursday that made the same point as Ken Rosenthal makes in this column for Fox Sports: I get intellectually why it might be too complicated during this transition period to sign a player like Prince Fielder, but it’s still not clear to me how it would lower the value of the Dodgers when you think of the appeal he would have for so many. If it’s a good contract after ownership changes hands, it’s a good contract before.
  • My brother’s childhood glove was a Matty Alou glove, so we exchanged sad e-mails over his passing Thursday.
  • Another passing to lament: Cardinals pitcher Bob Forsch.
Nov 03

Book it: New owners will long-term Clayton Kershaw

Nothing’s guaranteed, so knock on wood, but this is as close as you’ll get with something this important.

Thanks to the timing of the Dodgers’ ownership transition, count on Clayton Kershaw remaining a Dodger for years and years and years — until at least the end of the decade or close to it.

Matt Kemp might get away (though hopefully not) because the next Dodger owner might not be in place in time to lock him up before Opening Day, and might not outbid other teams if Kemp becomes a free agent.

But there’s no way new ownership, who will be properly vetted by the industry, backed by the next Dodger local TV deal and fully conscious of the import of retaining the closest the Dodgers have come in 45 years to reinventing Sandy Koufax, will not sign Kershaw to a long-term deal before November 2014, when Kershaw can become a free agent. He’ll get a long-term deal, whatever it takes.

Kershaw is yours.

Update: Kershaw won the MLB Players Choice Award for outstanding National League pitcher, while Matt Kemp was voted NL outstanding player.

Nov 03

The 1980s Dodgers play an intramural ownership game

Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser were never teammates, except perhaps in Spring Training. Garvey’s last game with the Dodgers was October 3, 1982, while Hershiser’s debut came on September 1, 1983.

As a San Diego Padre, Garvey came up to the plate against Hershiser 24 times from 1983-1987 and had a single, a double, a walk and 21 outs. Garvey’s .087 batting average against Hershiser was his worst against any major-league pitcher he faced at least 20 times.

I bring this up only because I’m struck by the peculiarity of 1980s Dodgers being in competition with each other for post-McCourt ownership of the team. Garvey and Hershiser are united in their pursuit (though they never played together), yet at least for now, united against a potential ownership group that features former Dodger owner and president Peter O’Malley and still another that features former Dodger general manager Fred Claire, who worked under O’Malley for nearly 30 years. All of them played significant roles in at least one of the Dodgers’ last two World Series titles.

Just feels kind of weird. But as far as Claire is concerned, the more the merrier.

“From my standpoint, I think it’s great that Peter is involved in seeking the team — as well as Steve and Orel,” Claire said in an e-mail. “The reason for this is that my goal is the see the Dodgers end up in the best hands as possible, and I have great respect for Peter, Steve and Orel.

“I have been involved with our group headed by (biotech executive) Ben Hwang for four months because I share Ben’s views as to how the Dodgers need to regain their place in the community and in Major League Baseball. As far as competition, the only group I want to see win are the Dodger fans.”

Claire was also interviewed by Max and Marcellus on ESPN AM 710 today.

“I’m not going to mislead anybody,” Claire told them. “We have a lot of work to do as far as raising the capital. This is an enormous amount of money.

“The leader of the group, (who) is really going to be there at the owners’ table when it comes down to one representative per club, is going to be a very significant person, and we’re hopeful of identifying such a person and having the capital to be prepared to make our case.”

* * *

Former Times sportswriter Ross Newhan offers his latest take on the Dodger ownership situation at Newhan on Baseball.

Nov 03

Latest Hall of Fame chance emerges for Gil Hodges, Buzzie Bavasi

From ESPN.com:

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Ron Santo and Luis Tiant are among 10 candidates for the baseball Hall of Fame who will be on the Veterans Committee ballot next month.

Former players Ken Boyer, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Allie Reynolds as well as former Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi and former Athletics owner Charlie Finley also will be on the Golden Era ballot, which will be voted on by the 16-member committee on Dec. 5 at the winter meetings in Dallas.

This year’s committee will consider candidates from the so-called “Golden Era,” from 1947-72.

An eight-time All-Star, Hodges helped the Dodgers win seven pennants and two World Series, then managed the New York Mets to their first World Series title in 1969. His 63.4 percent vote on his final BBWAA ballot in 1983 is the highest percentage for a player who didn’t enter the Hall in a later year.

Those voting on their Hall of Fame chances include Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Ralph Kiner, Tom Lasorda, Juan Marichal, Brooks Robinson, Don Sutton and Billy Williams, executives Paul Beeston, Bill DeWitt, Roland Hemond, Gene Michael and Al Rosen (retired) and veteran reporters Dick Kaegel, Jack O’Connell and Dave Van Dyck.

Candidates must receive votes on 75 percent of the ballot to be elected. Those elected will be inducted on July 22 along with any players voted in by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Jan. 9.

The pre-integration era (1871-46) will be considered at the 2012 winter meetings and the expansion era (1973-present) in 2013, when retired managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre are likely to be on the ballot.