Feb 23

McCourt digs in heels on parking lots

Bad, bad news. From Bill Shaikin of the Times:

Rick Caruso and former Dodgers manager Joe Torre have withdrawn a joint bid to buy the Dodgers, three people familiar with the sale process said Thursday.

Caruso cited owner Frank McCourt’s refusal to include the Dodger Stadium parking lots in the sale, according to the people, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the sale process.

Caruso could reenter the bidding if McCourt were to agree to sell the parking lots, the people said. McCourt has told people he has at least one bid in which the buyer would let him retain ownership of the parking lots. …

It’s extremely disappointing, though perhaps to be expected, that someone is willing to make a deal with the figurative devil in this case. This is the strongest indication yet that Dodger fans will not be free of McCourt.

“The history of the L.A. Dodgers began with people who didn’t want to move out of the parking lots. And it continues,” comments Bob Timmermann.

Feb 22

Kershaw’s back jacked

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw proved last year he’s not one to back away from a challenge from Giants ace Tim Linecum. Perhaps that’s why Kershaw saw Lincecum’s stiff back from Tuesday  and countered with a stiff back of his own.

Neither condition is considered serious. Both pitchers skipped their scheduled bullpen sessions as a precaution.

* * *

  • Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports writes about Matt Kemp’s quest for a 50-50 season.
  • Jon Garland’s minor-league deal with Cleveland fell apart over his physical. Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk has a bit more.
  • Evan Bladh tells a story at Opinion of Kingman’s Performance about his childhood friendship, including playing Strat-o-Matic, with Clippers announcer Michael Smith.
  • I actually have had the desire at times to bring more sabermetrics into my entertainment reporting, as Noel Murray of the Onion’s A.V. Club suggests.
  • Steven Spielberg’s career as a high-school sportswriter gets a lively treatment from Bryan Curtis at Grantland.
  • My Match Game contest-offering sister Robyn uses one of her latest to blog about popular 1970s California potato chips at Bird Is the Word.
Feb 22

C is for California

My kids have a new book, C is for California, from WestWinds Press. Twenty-six pages, starting with “A is for Alcatraz,” “B is for Beach” and “C is for Cinco de Mayo.” How many of the remaining pages can you name?

Warning: “V is for Central Valley.”

Feb 22

Early morning linking song


Good morning, starshiners …

  • Rubby De La Rosa, as we learned from our talk with De Jon Watson earlier this month, is feeling good. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more.
  • Video of a five-inning perfect game Clayton Kershaw threw in high school — with 15 strikeouts, while also hitting a home run — has been passed along by Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven.
  • The only coverage that you need to read of Ronald Belisario’s admission that he used cocaine is at Hardball Talk, namely the exchange between Craig Calcaterra and Aaron Gleeman.
  • Left-handed reliever Brent Leach, 29, has returned to the Dodger organization, tweets Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus. Leach, who pitched 20 1/3 innings for the 2009 Dodgers, had a 5.95 ERA with a 1.729 WHIP and 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings in eight starts for Yokohama in the Japan Central League last year.
  • Goldstein adds that the Dodgers also signed 25-year-old righty Jared Lansford, a 2005 second-round draft choice by the A’s whose father is former major-leaguer Carney Lansford. Jared had a 4.54 ERA with 5.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 48 Double-A relief appearances last year.
  • Statement from the team today: “”The Los Angeles Dodgers are pleased that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court has approved its revised Disclosure Statement, which keeps the Dodgers on track to emerge from Bankruptcy  as planned on April 30. Bidders have shown tremendous interest in the opportunity to purchase the Dodgers and related assets, and the Dodgers look forward to a very successful conclusion to their bankruptcy case.”
  • Finally, “The Don Zimmer ‘Zim Bear’ Will Haunt Your Kids’ Dreams” (via Hardball Talk)

Feb 21

Top o’ the lineup to ya

While I might do unconventional things with batting orders to try to maximize offense, I’m not someone who gets worked up a whole lot about them. With some batting order discussion taking place on the first day of Spring Training for the Dodgers, I’ll offer my two cents, and then probably leave the subject alone.

Projected Dodger
Opening Day
batting order

L Dee Gordon, SS
R Mark Ellis, 2B
R Matt Kemp, CF
L Andre Ethier, RF
R Juan Rivera, LF
L James Loney, 1B
R Juan Uribe, 3B
R A.J. Ellis, C
L Clayton Kershaw, P

Alternative Dodger
Opening Day
batting order

L Dee Gordon, SS
R A.J. Ellis, C
L Andre Ethier, RF
R Matt Kemp, CF
L James Loney, 1B
R Juan Rivera, LF
R Juan Uribe, 3B
L Clayton Kershaw, P
R Mark Ellis, 2B

We start off with Tuesday’s news that Dodger manager Don Mattingly said Dee Gordon would be his leadoff hitter and Matt Kemp would bat third, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.

“Mattingly said (Andre) Ethier would likely hit cleanup against right-handed pitchers and that Juan Rivera could hit cleanup against lefties,” Stephen adds. “Mattingly said Mark Ellis will get the first shot at batting second, though Mattingly wouldn’t mind James Loney or even (Jerry) Sands hitting in the second spot in the lineup.”

Gordon is a dubious choice to lead off because of his on-base deficiencies, but I’m going to ignore that for the time being because he’s still too enticing to think about as a sparkplug – cliched or not – and the Dodgers aren’t exactly chock full of OBP-skilled alternatives.

More interesting to me is the choice for the No. 2 slot. I can see the arguments for Mark Ellis, Loney or Sands, but I’m not sure they’re any better than the arguments for A.J. Ellis.

The Dodger starting catcher’s on-base percentages for his past two seasons in the majors are .363 and .392. Sure, that might not hold up over extended playing time, but I’d at least be interested in testing it out. A No. 2 hitter who walks about as much as he strikes out seems right to me for this team (assuming the Dodgers aren’t willing to recall the age of Paul Lo Duca and bat their catcher leadoff).

You’d have to get over A.J.’s lack of speed coming right in front of Kemp, but it’s not as if anyone but Gordon should really be trying to steal with Kemp at the plate anyway.

Loney has always seemed made like a good No. 2 hitter to me, but the problem is that using him there would stack two of the Dodgers’ three left-handed regulars together, which is not what I want to see, especially late in a game.

I’m gathering that A.J. Ellis won’t see a first-inning at-bat much this year, but certainly, batting him eighth, behind a guy like Juan Uribe, seems like a mistake. But, wherever they’re hitting, these guys are going to have to produce.

Other notes before night turns into later that night …

  • The efforts of Kemp and Tony Gwynn Jr. to help lure Prince Fielder to the Dodgers are detailed by Dylan Hernandez of the Times and Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. From Hernandez:

    … Kemp said he actively recruited Prince Fielder over the winter and was convinced he would be in the same lineup as the former home-run champion in the upcoming season.

    “I was getting real confident in our chances of getting him,” Kemp said.

    Kemp said he spoke to Fielder several times.

    “I knew we were getting pretty close,” he said. “I didn’t know Detroit was in.” …

  • Comeback Player of the Year ballot candidate Ronald Belisario reported to Spring Training on time for the first time as a Dodger, notes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Zach Lee is the Dodgers’ top-ranked prospect by Baseball America at No. 62, followed by Allen Webster at No. 95 and Nathan Eovaldi at 96.
  • Ted Lilly became a father to his second child, Nora Grace, and was therefore excused from reporting to Camelback Ranch today, according to Hernandez. Congrats to the Lillys.
  • You’ve probably already seen this, but really did enjoy this Deadspin piece by Erik Malinowski on the making of The Simpsons‘ “Homer at the Bat.”
  • Potential Dodger owner Magic Johnson has another big enterprise on his mind – the founding of a new cable network, Aspire. Details from Jill Goldsmith at Variety.
  • Mike Axisa of Fangraphs made an argument that catching scarcity meant the Yankees should offer Russell Martin a three-year, $30 million contract. Others will disagree.
  • There are some minor rules changes in Major League Baseball this year, including what may become known as the Sam Fuld Rule, reports The Associated Press. (via Baseball Musings).
  • Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos talked to AP today about the aftermath of his kidnapping. “I feel like I’m living again,” Ramos said.
  • If you’re interested, I posted a bunch of TV thoughts today at Variety On the Air.
  • According to Jackson, Kemp’s reaction to the possibility that the Dodgers will sell for upwards of $2 billion: “Who’s got that kind of money? I thought I was rich.”
Feb 21

Even without ownership, O’Malley should remain a part of Dodgers’ rebirth

Peter and Walter O'Malley (courtesy www.walteromalley.com)

Peter O’Malley’s bid for the Dodgers appears to have ended, based on this report by Bill Shaikin of the Times. Although I didn’t believe he would end up with the team, if for no other reason than Frank McCourt had the final say in the bidding process, I’m a bit saddened. I really believe an O’Malley-led group would have been good for the franchise.

O’Malley is the one person bidding on the Dodgers whom I think I could call a friend, a relationship that began shortly before he agreed to write the forward for 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. We have had lunch periodically over the past four years, and he is every bit as warm and genuine as you might imagine. He and Vin Scully are birds of a feather.

Because of this relationship, I held off making much public comment one way or another about his bid, because I didn’t want to seem biased toward him – or more accurately, biased against anyone else. I do think he would have been a great owner.

  • He absolutely would have prioritized the health of the franchise, on the field and off.
  • He understood that his duty included finding a proper long-term steward to run the team.

Those comments will draw derisive laughter from some who still hold O’Malley accountable for part of the Dodgers’ post-1988 drought and for selling the team to Fox in 1998, paving the way for even rougher years. Hindsight tells us that the sale to Fox was unfortunate, but if you take the context of the moment into account, I do think it’s excusable. The bidding process then was nothing like the bidding process today, where suitors are coming from everywhere. Plus, O’Malley had been led astray by the different forces that were trying to at once build Staples Center and bring the NFL to Los Angeles.  From 100 Things:

… Though the O’Malleys could have talked themselves into continuing as owners, the changing face of baseball began sapping them of incentive. By 1997, the O’Malleys were the one of a few remaining family owners of a major-league baseball team. With salaries rising, they had to compete with corporations for whom baseball was only a part of the whole – teams could be used as loss leaders. Further, baseball’s contract with the players’ union, following the 1994-95 labor dispute that had shut down the game, called for more extensive revenue sharing, which meant the Dodgers would be further subsidizing other teams. Under commissioner Bud Selig, the then-Milwaukee Brewers owner who became acting baseball commissioner in 1992, small-market teams were gaining more power over large-market teams like the Dodgers.

However, even the shifting economic playing field was not a sole determining factor.  It took another dose of cold water to push O’Malley into the sale. Los Angeles found itself without a National Football League franchise after the Raiders moved back to Oakland in 1995.  That August, mayor Richard Riordan asked O’Malley to lead the effort to bring the NFL back to the city, and O’Malley was happy to oblige. A football stadium built on the land surrounding Dodger Stadium emerged as a viable possibility to draw a team, diversify the family business and attract new business partners for the O’Malleys.

A year later, after vigorous investment in research, the city asked O’Malley to abandon his efforts and support the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum’s bid to be the home of the team. O’Malley assented reluctantly, but his disappointment by his own admission was palpable. (In a well-researched piece, T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times wrote that power brokers in Los Angeles had contrived a quid pro quo deal in which they exchanged support for the Coliseum and the proposed downtown basketball arena that would become Staples Center, and O’Malley had been “caught in the middle.”)

With the signs discouraging on multiple fronts, O’Malley decided it was time to sell.

There were no illusions about the suitor O’Malley settled on: Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. would use the Dodgers as a means to an end, as a flagship team whose games would be televised by a sports network intended to rival ESPN and boost the Murdoch media empire. Sallie Hofmeister of the Times noted that the $311 million outlay “says more about Hollywood than about baseball. … The purchase price, about double the going rate in major league baseball, is so far out of the ballpark that it’s highly unlikely the team will make money.” That did not suggest a brighter immediate future for the talent on the field at Dodger Stadium. …

Of course, when the sale was announced, attention focused not on who was coming in, but who was going out.

“There’s a very empty feeling in my house tonight,” Vin Scully told Mike DiGiovanna of the Times, “and there will be for a long time to come. There’s a feeling of a definite loss, almost like a death in the family.”

The O’Malley family wanted to sell the Dodgers, was entitled to sell the Dodgers and made the best deal it could make for the Dodgers. If there were a lesson to be learned, I trust him more than anyone else to have learned it.

There might be a better candidate for Dodger ownership out there, but I dare say there are worse ones – and certainly whoever does earn the rights to the team would do well to embrace O’Malley as an adviser. People say that sometimes it’s better to go with the devil you know; it’s better still to go with the angel you know.

Feb 21

The Dodger Thoughts 2012 Spring Training Primer

Pitchers and catchers are reporting today, which means that it’s time for the Dodger Thoughts 2012 Spring Training Primer, running in full at ESPNLosAngeles.com.

The fate of the 2012 Los Angeles Dodgers might be a mystery, but the fate of their opening day roster … not so much.

In 10 years of my previewing the Dodgers heading into spring training, never has there been fewer spots up for grabs for the first game of the season. Defining a roster lock as someone who will be in a Dodgers uniform for Game 1 unless he is injured, disabled or suddenly and shockingly incompetent, 22 of the 25 spots on the roster appear set.

However, that doesn’t mean we won’t see the usual rotation of has-beens and might-bes parading through Arizona in March. So here’s where we’ll introduce them. …

Update: Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. reports on Twitter that Blake Hawksworth “had an infection from surgery that required a second procedure to clean up” and won’t be ready for Opening Day. That increases the chances of Josh Lindblom or Jamey Wright (among other right-handed relievers) making the team to start the season.

Continue reading

Feb 20

President’s Night links


Because the night belongs to links …
Because the night belongs to us …

  • ESPNLosAngeles.com’s new Dodger blog, Dodger Report, has launched with the great Tony Jackson at the helm. Here’s his introductory post.
  • Here’s video of Vin Scully at Spring Training 1988, supplied by Kevin Kaduk of Big League Stew.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: a nice salute to photographer Herb Scharfman.
  • Recently in Jon SooHoo: Darren Dreifort 1998 pretends to be Mike Scioscia 1988.
  • Yep, Manny Ramirez and the A’s have agreed to that minor-league deal, for whom he’ll be eligible to play after serving out a 50-game suspension. Here’s reaction and analysis from David Schoenfield of ESPN.com and Eno Sarris of Fangraphs.
  • Ned Colletti would like to sign Andre Ethier to a long-term contract, he told Fox in this video interview embedded by Steve Dilbeck of Dodgers Now.
  • Steve Yeager has taken the role of special-assignment catching instructor, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Kansas City reliever Jonathan Broxton (yep, that looks funny) seems confident enough about the 2012 season, in this Associated Press story.
  • As expected, Blake DeWitt has remained in the Cub organization, notes MLB Trade Rumors.
  • DodgerFan.net has a roundup of stories on several other new ex-Dodgers, such as Rafael Furcal.
  • Dodger minor leaguer Blake Smith was interviewed by Dustin Nosler of Feelin’ Kinda Blue.
  • Former Dodger manager Jim Tracy has received, unexpectedly in my mind, an “indefinite” contract extension from Colorado.
  • The LFP found a great picture of Frank Howard, Gil Hodges and Gil Hodges Jr. from 1961.
  • Keith Olbermann explores a mystery about 1964 Mickey Mantle baseball cards at Baseball Nerd.
  • Robert Lipsyte penned a first-person remembrance for the New York Times on the Mets’ first Spring Training, 50 years ago.
  • Such sad news: Fox sportscaster Chris Myers’ 19-year-old son died in a car crash last week (via FishbowlLA). Please keep their family and friends in your thoughts.
Feb 20

My Phil Dunphy problem

Here’s one of those posts I shouldn’t publish but can’t help myself publishing.

These days, I keep thinking about Phil Dunphy. Phil is the character played by Ty Burrell in the ABC sitcom “Modern Family,” a congenital optimist who combines a clever mind, an inventive spirit, an infallible faith in his sense of humor and a gleeful zest for life. He is not blind to mistakes or trouble, hardly incapable of misgivings or hurt feelings, but every crisis is but a hurdle to be overcome.

He is, I understand, fictional, but he is very real for me. The me I wish I were.

On Wednesday, my wife and I were watching the beginning of the latest episode of “Modern Family” (seen above) when we got to the bit where Clare mildly scolds Phil about not moving an old chair onto the sidewalk for disposal, and my wife remarked to me that if she had said that to me, I probably would have gotten defensive. I said that was probably true. I’m not Phil Dunphy.

Sure enough, that was borne out Friday morning. As I was making toast for the kids, there was a box from Noah’s Bagels on the counter in front of the toaster. We never get bagels from Noah’s – there isn’t one particularly close to us – and in the 7 a.m. fog of my daily business, I had assumed that my wife had bought these for some sort of school event later that day. But when she came into the kitchen, it occurred to me to ask her what was in the box, and she laughed a little and said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, “Bagels, for breakfast.”

Believe it or not, I took offense. It wasn’t the most obvious thing in the world to me, otherwise I wouldn’t have asked. And we had a small, silly spat in which I told her I don’t like being laughed at, and she said she wasn’t really laughing at me but at the situation. Which I believed … sort of … eventually.

I get it.  It should have just been a laugh. But I am not Phil Dunphy. And I know why I’m not.

If you looked back at my life to this point, you would see an ongoing series of events where I have lost faith, faith in myself and faith that life will reward me for who I am. For 20 years, from about age 11 to age 31, that mostly centered on dating. And then, almost as if it were on a pendulum, after I got married and my personal and professional existence were both in nearly perfect alignment, my life tilted the other way, and I have spent the past decade-plus in a near constant state of anxiety about my career, in which so many optimistic signs have turned out to be mirages – unlike Phil Dunphy, a successful real-estate broker who is happily married and has raised three children who are crazy wonderful in their own ways.

The latest came when ESPNLosAngeles.com cut me loose at the end of last month. After I wrote my farewell post, a few readers sent some “good riddance” comments my way. That, actually, didn’t bother me. One of them listed four reasons why he had become dissatisfied with Dodger Thoughts; the first three were based upon false information, but the fourth is worth quoting here:

… Jon has no idea how many people would love to be in the position he is in — writing a blog about a hometown iconic sports team and working at Variety as Features Editor. Rather than seeing the glass more than half full he sees it as more than half empty and continues to question himself rather than bathe in the happiness life has presented him.

This is pretty accurate. Distress and I are well-acquainted, though not because I’m not aware of what’s good in my life. I do like what I do, and I do love my family. However, I am the sole wage-earner in a family of five (at least until my youngest enters Kindergarten 18 months from now and my wife potentially resumes her career), working primarily in a dying industry, and with that, as you either know first-hand or can imagine, comes considerable pressure.

I spent most of last year, for example, worried about the fact that despite my day job at Variety, my freelance salary from ESPNLosAngeles, a third chunk of freelance money from writing two episodes of Cartoon Network’s Young Justice and, on top of all that, what you might call a stimulus package from my parents, I barely made ends meet last year. Heading into 2012, I knew that Young Justice would be finished for me and that the financial help would diminish. Dodger Thoughts and Variety weren’t enough. I knew I somehow needed to take my career to another level.

Not only did I fail in that quest, I found out in mid-December that ESPNLosAngeles would evaporate, meaning that my shortfall in 2012 looked overwhelming. And no, after years of living like this, I have basically run out of savings outside of retirement plans and my kids’ college funds. After all these years, after working my way through salary cuts and the recession, I expected finally to be on the upswing, not reeling from yet another financial punch.

For two months – and I’m not saying this is a long time – I have explored solutions, mainly solutions that involve continuing to get paid for what is my passion, while also being open to the possibility of dropping Dodger Thoughts if something more lucrative materialized. For two months I have done this, and I’m not done. But this past weekend, I fell into a deep, dark discouragement in the face of the nearly complete lack of interest shown by the world in being paid to write about the Dodgers or baseball.

It’s true that there are a few small freelance opportunities still extant, and there’s actually one currently viable option for hosting Dodger Thoughts, so I probably shouldn’t be writing about my lack of current marketability at all right now. But though the interest is sincere, I haven’t been led to believe that the money on the table would solve anything for me. So while I might be shooting myself in the foot by waxing anxious about the dearth of options, I sort of can’t help myself.

I’m aware that I’m better off than many. That doesn’t change my observation that things aren’t good enough.

I look around, and see almost all my friends seemingly exactly where they’re supposed to be with their careers. I have a few, my age or only a bit older, who could retire now if they wanted to.

I see the major bloggers I came up with, so to speak, finding their station. Aaron Gleeman is full-time at NBC Sports’ Hardball Talk. Erstwhile Yankees blogger Cliff Corcoran has become a major cog at SI.com. Jay Jaffe, once upon a time the Futility Infielder, is everywhere. Eric Stephen, who didn’t even start blogging until 2009, is covering the Dodgers’ full-time beginning in Spring Training for True Blue L.A.

I’ve written about baseball for SI.com, the Los Angeles Times and ESPN. And now …

No, I haven’t lost sight of the fact that I already have my own full-time job, and a good one for the industry I’m in. But I am unable to look away from the reality of my overall situation, nor the fear that I have spectacularly mismanaged my career.

As I said, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way. The arc I’m experiencing right now is disturbingly similar to one from a decade ago. After a few years of writing film and TV scripts on spec, I started to get paid, then got an agent, then became a regular freelancer for the Disney Channel. But I was unable to make the leap to primetime, and then unable to stay consistently employed at the level I was at, and then unable to keep my agent or land a new one. As fast as my screenwriting career seemed to be building, it all dried up.

I was faced at the time with the choice of persevering in the face of rejection or taking a guaranteed salary back in journalism. In a move that I would describe as panic, and without the kid-induced financial pressure I face today, I chose the guaranteed salary, a decision that I have extraordinary regret over.

I’m not sure what I’m facing today even qualifies as a choice, except to the extent that everything is somehow a choice. The marketplace no longer seems to want to pay for Dodger Thoughts, yet I’m truly not sure I can stop, or that even if I could, whether I should. In my view, quitting screenwriting full-time was a mistake. Quitting Dodger Thoughts would seem to be the same mistake. But what if what I do is never meant to be appreciated by more than a small group? How can I look my family in the eye and with the confidence that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing for them?

That’s why I’m not Phil Dunphy. Phil Dunphy operates from a fundamental position of faith and confidence in the goodness of things. The things I’m confident in are not good. I know that bills will pile up, that life will be filled with challenges, that people will die. Those are inevitable. What I don’t know is whether, or how, I’m going to give my family what they need. Based on the trajectory of what has become a massive sample size of my career, I’m not sure exactly why I should have faith.

There’s another TV show that’s been a touchstone for me this week, though it doesn’t officially premiere until March 1. The show is NBC’s Awake, from Lone Star creator Kyle Killen – who can also speak to highs and lows, given that his last show was canceled after two airings – and it tells the story of a man who, following a traumatic event, lives in two parallel universes, unsure what is real and what is a dream. I’ve seen the first three episodes (no one said my day job doesn’t have its perks), and while “Awake” has its flaws, it is in my opinion the best new broadcast network show of the 2012-13 season, and has the dual effect of being something I wish I had created and resonating with how I’m feeling today.

I’m not sure what world I’m supposed to be living in. I’m not sure what’s real. Is it the world where things will be okay if I just keep at it, or the world where believing I’m special will just take me and my family over the waterfall? I know I’m not supposed to know the answer, but I feel I should at least know what to believe. But I don’t.

Phil Dunphy would tell me not to give up. For that matter, I think Ty Burrell, whose career had its own ups and downs and financial uncertainties before Modern Family, would tell me the same thing. But I am not them.

What do I gain from not believing in myself? I gain the possibility of avoiding that waterfall. (Just the possibility, since I feel like not giving up on myself as a screenwriter still helped send me over the edge.) I feel like I’m already halfway down as it is, my family in the barrel with me. The thought of us dropping any further, sinking any lower, pains me in a way I can’t describe.

The alienated Dodger Thoughts commenter I mentioned earlier also made other points, which, as I said, were wrong. Here is one of them:

Jon used this blog to get “love” from his acolytes talking about his anxieties around parenting issues, spouse issues and issues at being a good son. Rather than invest money in psychotherapy or family therapy this site became a place for Jon to get external validation. He then chose who to thank by name.

This is not true. I’m not looking for “love” for this post. I’m not looking for comfort. I’m not even sure I want comfort if it were offered, because of the two realities I’m caught in between, comfort would feed the one that I fear is false.

(To be clear, I’m also not writing this to solicit a Dodger Thoughts relief fund.)

I’m writing it because I’m in pain, and when I’m in pain, I write. And then, if I finish something, I take the calculated risk that by publishing, the satisfaction I feel in having articulated how I feel – and the immature ego-boost I receive from the idea that some people, however few of them, would care – outweighs the humiliation in showing what a mess I am.

There is a part of me, and not even a small part, that believes that all my problems could be solved tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, the next day, and if not the next day, then the next week, or the next month, or if I can hold out long enough, someday. Someday.

It’s the holding out part that confounds me.

And so, while I haven’t forgotten how to laugh, or even how to laugh at myself, when it comes to my self-worth and self-confidence, my sense of humor goes out the window, and I can’t find the Phil Dunphy in me.

Feb 16

A moment of future Dodger owner exasperation

This’ll just make you shake your head and sigh. From Ross Newhan at Newhan on Baseball:

… sources also revealed that none of the investors are particularly happy with the Dodgers’ eight-year, $160 million, backloaded signing of Matt Kemp, and the two-year, $19 million contract to Clayton Kershaw.

“Who with the Dodgers is giving out those kinds of contracts at this point?” said one of the sources. “I mean, two years to Kershaw when you are not buying out free agency or arbitration? That’s almost as much as (two-time Cy Young Award winner) Tim Lincecum got from the Giants.”

“None” are happy? I can’t quite believe this, though it’s coming from the pen of Newhan, one of the most experienced baseball writers around.

If the premise is correct, then how are we to react? Putting aside the astonishment someone is having over the concept that Clayton Kershaw would deserve “almost as much” as Tim Lincecum, you’re still left with the whining over the best two players on the franchise (a franchise for which you’re bidding well over a billion dollars) getting competitive salaries. Sheesh.

Yes, ideally the Kershaw deal would be longer, but you get the sense that the source would still be complaining if it were. In any case, it’s not as if you can’t make a Kershaw extension your first order of business.

Dear owners: In case you’re not aware what’s going to happen after the Dodger sale is completed, here’s a news flash. You’re going to have to pay your players. And the good ones deserve a lot of money. You’re buying a baseball team, not a McDonald’s franchise.

It’s not as if Frank McCourt were going to prepay all the players through the end of the next TV contract. If you’re bidding on the Dodgers and chagrined by the Kemp and Kershaw contracts, you need to really rethink what you’re doing.

Going forward, I have to believe this narrow-mindedness doesn’t reflect the views of the next Dodger owner.

Feb 16

Farewell, Gary Carter

Gary Carter, the Hall of Fame catcher who spent 1991 with the Dodgers, passed away from brain cancer at the too-young age of 57.

Carter was the subject of one of my earliest posts at Dodger Thoughts: January 7, 2003.

I’ll get back to the 2003 Dodgers soon, but I am cutting in to comment on the two players elected to the Hall of Fame today – both ex-Dodgers – Eddie Murray and Gary Carter.

Both are completely deserving, although Carter had to wait until his fifth year of eligibility. Carter is at a level just below Mike Piazza as a hitter, and since Piazza will retire as the greatest hitting catcher of all time, that’s saying something. And Carter was much better defensively. Murray played at a high level of excellence for close to 20 years. The Dodgers acquired Murray toward the end of his career, not too differently from their newest first baseman, Fred McGriff. McGriff is a Hall of Fame candidate but is a level below Murray.

I covered about two dozen major league baseball games as a reporter, and only three at Dodger Stadium. But one of my most memorable experiences involved Murray and Carter. To put it in context, Murray retired with a terrible reputation with the media; Carter retired on quite different terms.

I had patiently waited 30 minutes in the Dodger locker room before a game to interview Carter and had just begun to interview him when Murray directed me to leave the locker room. There is a rule that reporters have to leave the locker room x minutes before the game starts. I had never seen this rule enforced until Murray tried to. Carter, realizing how long I had waited and knowing I wasn’t asking a lot, let me finish the interview.

The rule is there for a reason, and I don’t begrudge its existence. I will easily give Murray the benefit of the doubt that he was probably doing what he thought was right for the team. At the same time, I was doing my job in a professional manner and it would have been nice if he had tried to work something out with me instead of trying to kick me out, no questions asked.

I am confident that no doubt some unfair and/or inappropriate things were written about Murray during his career. However, I also tend to believe that he was similarly flawed in his dealings with reporters, and that whatever was written about him in Baltimore or anywhere else, he deserves some responsibility for his reputation as a curmudgeon with the media.

The postscript to this is that today Ken Daley, the Dodgers’ main beat reporter for the Daily News, wrote an article very critical of Carter, based on incidents that occurred the same year:

Daley implies that he didn’t vote for Carter for the Hall of Fame for these reasons. I think the moral of the story is that unless you have a situation like Pete Rose or Joe Jackson, it’s best to judge HoF candidates on their on-the-field merits as much as possible.

All my best wishes to Carter’s friends and family.

Feb 16

The Andre Ethier conundrum

There’s been much discussion, initiated by this post by Steve Dilbeck at Dodgers Now, about whether the Dodgers should offer Andre Ethier a contract extension before the season starts.

Dilbeck frames things properly: “If the Dodgers believe in Andre Ethier, if they are confident he will rebound and have a successful 2012 season, they need to sign him to a long-term contract. Like soon.”

In other words, if you think he’s your guy, there’s no better time to extend Ethier than coming off a relatively poor season.

One problem, though, is that even if the Dodgers believe in Ethier, the two parties might disagree considerably about his value and simply be unable to come to terms in March. At Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, Mike Petriello illustrates in detail the difficulty of pegging Ethier’s future value.

The other problem, as Chad Moriyama writes, is maybe you shouldn’t believe in Ethier.

“While I’ve always liked Ethier, as he felt a part of the young core, the timing is all wrong for me,” Moriyama says. “Locking up a corner outfielder with a four year declining trend in wOBA, mediocre defense (despite the joke of a Gold Glove), the inability to hit lefties, and questionable athleticism just isn’t a risk I’d feel comfortable with. Sorry, but when I look at the type of player Ethier is, I can’t help but envision Brad Hawpe and his precipitous decline at age 31.”

One thing I just happened to notice in passing that I hadn’t realized before: Did you know Ethier finished 12th in the National League in on-base percentage last season? If you adjusted for park effects, he would rank even higher.

And off we go …

  • Bill Shaikin of the Times notes that the second cut of Dodger ownership contestants is looming. Shaikin also wrote recently about how Frank McCourt’s shenanigans have made things difficult for the San Diego Padres.
  • The 2012 Dodgers project iffily, concludes Eric Stephen at SB Nation Los Angeles.
  • Dustin Nosler of Feelin’ Kinda Blue wants the Dodgers to bid on 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler. (Nosler, by the way, interviewed me for his site and posted it here.)
  • You might think you know Dodger Stadium, but you don’t know it better than Kevin Waters. Who’s Kevin Waters? Let Jon SooHoo explain …
  • More from SooHoo – a fan’s attempt to catch a foul ball, a reunion of Henry Rodriguez with Raul Mondesi and Ramon Martinez from 1998 and a Father’s Day photo of the Tony Gwynns.
  • Lots to choose from at Baseball Prospectus today, but we’ll start with this appreciation by Steven Goldman for Fernando Valenzuela’s rookie season.
  • A day ago, the piece de resistance at Baseball Prospectus was this: Sam Miller’s recap of “the worst game of 2011.”
  • Ramon Ortiz, still kicking, signed a minor-league deal with the Giants.
  • Fox’s Saturday broadcasts will start at 4 p.m. Pacific for eight consecutive weeks from May to July. I have more details in this Variety piece, where you’ll see a highly veiled reference to Jonathan Broxton’s Waterloo weekend against the Yankees.
  • Lucas Giolito and Max Fried, the two Harvard-Westlake pitchers who are expected to be top picks in the 2012 MLB amateur draft – with Giloito potentially becoming the first righthanded prep pitcher to go at No. 1 – are profiled by Eric Sondheimer of the Times.
  • An idea I floated Wednesday on Twitter: New York can have Linsanity, Dodger Thoughts might be stuck with Jonsanity, but with its new starting shortstop, Los Angeles should start hoping for Deerangement.
Feb 15

Changes in MLB come too fast for long-term predictions

What does the future hold for the Dodgers? I’d almost suggest you not even try to answer.

ESPN.com is running a three-day series called “Future Power Rankings,” which attempts “to measure how well each team is set up for sustained success over the next five years.” With respect, a closer look at the ratings underscores the folly of the effort.

The Dodgers have come in at No. 19, too low for an organization that had the 13th-best record in MLB last year and is poised to put years of front-office nonsense in the past. No one needs to detail to me the Dodgers’ current weaknesses, but the fact is that the franchise arguably has the best position player and the best pitcher in the National League, a farm system full of pitching potential, few contract commitments beyond 2013 and a volcano of TV money about to pour in — money that can be used to improve not only the on-field talent but the folks wearing the suits and sport coats.

The 2012 season, though not a lost cause, isn’t one to be optimistic about as a Dodger fan. But after that, do you really think there are going to be 18 other teams better positioned than the Dodgers for success?

ESPN’s biggest misgivings are in the category of “management” — defined as “value and stability of ownership, front office and coaching staff” — in which the Dodgers were given six points, the fewest of any team except for the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles. But it’s sort of absurd to look at the Dodger management of February 2012 and extrapolate that it will tread such shallow water over the next five years. Though there are no guarantees, to say that there can be a quick turnaround in this category is an understatement.

Similarly, rankings of talent at both the major-league and minor-league level fluctuate like crazy year-to-year.  If you want any evidence, consider how highly the Dodgers would have ranked three years ago, at the midpoint between back-to-back National League Championship Series appearances.

In terms of the Dodgers’ NL rivals, ESPN ranks the Padres 20th, Giants 17th, Rockies 15th and Diamondbacks in the top 10. There’s a methodology to it, but I think that methodology is the product of a glorified guessing game.

The Future Rankings are definitely a conversation starter — they got me started this morning — but that’s about as far as I would take them.