Mar 19

Spanish-language Dodger telecasts coming to airwaves

Fox Sports is going to begin producing dedicated Spanish-language broadcasts of the Dodgers this season, along with the Angels and Clippers. I have some details in a story this morning at Variety.

… Time Warner Cable will air the Fox-produced games even as it moves toward its proposed Spanish-language channel dedicated primarily to the Lakers, scheduled to launch before the 2012-13 NBA season. Time Warner and Fox are primary rivals for the post-2013 cable TV rights to the Dodgers.

FSN said it would produce more than 100 Spanish-language game broadcasts this year and more than 150 in 2013, with an eye on continued growth down the road. The productions will include Spanish-language play-by-play, graphics, player interviews. Announcers and a full game schedule remain to be announced, but the first game for the Angels will be April 6 and for the Dodgers will be April 11.

There will be a handful of Clipper games in Spanish before the regular season ends April 25.

Fox is not charging distributors any additional fees for the broadcasts, but rather only requiring that they be made available on expanded digital as opposed to a paid tier. Ad sales will be the primary source of revenue. …

* * *

Dee Gordon’s potential is praised by Buster Olney at ESPN.com.

Dee Gordon asks a lot of questions, something that Barry Larkin noticed the first time he worked with the Dodgers shortstop in the offseason. Precise questions, about how you hold the glove in making a play at the second base bag, about how you make sure you hit the ball on the ground when you want to, about your mental approach.

This curiosity is part of the reason Larkin came away from his conversations with Gordon believing that the son of former relief pitcher Tom Gordon will become a good player — a really good player. “He’s got the ability to be an All-Star — and a perennial All-Star,” Larkin said over the phone Friday, from Arizona. …

* * *

  • Sportswriting legend Furman Bisher has passed away, at age 93. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where Bisher spent 59 years, has more, while Kevin Kaduk of Big League Stew points to Bisher’s seminal piece on Shoeless Joe Jackson.
  • At the Daily Mirror, Mary Mallory has a long piece on original Dodger Stadium organist Bob Mitchell, whose career in music dated back to the 1920s.
  • Maury Brown takes a look at the Dodger ownership finalists at Baseball Prospectus.
  • Sandy Koufax had more trouble with Hank Aaron than any other hitter, according to this post by William Juliano at Bronx Banter. Willie Mays also gave Koufax fits.
Mar 18

Soon-Shiong tilts Dodger bidding process toward Cohen

Check (n)

1) a piece of paper that can represent big bucks with which to buy a baseball team
2) a position in chess indicating imminent victory

OK, so it’s not exactly Webster’s. Nevertheless, “check” seems to be the operative word now that, according to Bill Shaikin of the Times, Los Angeles multibillionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong has joined the ownership group of the richest man in the running for the Dodgers, Steven Cohen.

From Shaikin:

… Soon-Shiong would be the owner of an undetermined minority share of the Dodgers, the people said. Cohen had submitted a bid under which he would own 100% of the team.

The new bid, if successful, would put the Dodgers in the hands of primary investors worth more than $15 billion.

Soon-Shiong, 60, is a doctor, biotech investor and philanthropist. Forbes this month estimated the net worth of Cohen at $8.3 billion and Soon-Shiong at $7.2 billion.

Cohen last fall retained Populous, a prominent sports architecture firm, to recommend improvements to Dodger Stadium. Cohen is prepared to commit close to $2 billion to buy the Dodgers and renovate their stadium without financing any of that amount, according to a person familiar with the sale process.

Tim Leiweke, the president and chief executive of AEG, said he has met with Cohen to discuss the Dodgers. Leiweke is familiar with Soon-Shiong because of his investment in the Lakers.

“We both agree Steve would be a great owner,” Leiweke said. “He has the resources. He certainly has the passion to do it.

“He certainly gets the commitment it’s going to take with the team and the stadium.”

Leiweke said AEG has rejected overtures to join a Dodgers bidding group but would be willing to cooperate on stadium rehabilitation. …

With under two weeks to go until we’re supposed to hear a decision, it seems more and more likely that we’ll need to get to knowin’ Mr. Cohen.

Mar 18

The LaRussa factor

Don Newcombe at Camelback Ranch (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Angels at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m. (weather permitting)

It’s natural to speculate about which free-agent players the Dodgers might go after under new ownership, but one subject that hasn’t gotten as much talk is that of whom the next general manager might be.

Ned Colletti might need the Dodgers to at least win their division to survive the natural tendency for a new owner to hire a new lieutenant. If Colletti is replaced, logical successors include past or present Dodger executives like Kim Ng, De Jon Watson or Logan White.

However, the fact is that a revitalized Dodger franchise might be considered a prime target for some of the best active general manager candidates in baseball, if their contract status allows it.

To that end, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com writes that if Steven Cohen ends up with the franchise, there’s talk that Tony La Russa will take an executive role, above the general manager’s office, such as team president. If so, that could discourage several possible general manger candidates, who might question whether they’d have as much decision-making authority as they’d otherwise expect.

“All of this is speculation; the bidding is not nearly complete,” Rosenthal writes. “But, as rival execs see it, a GM such as the Tampa Bay Rays’ Andrew Friedman or Arizona Diamondbacks’ Kevin Towers likely would not leave their current situations for limited autonomy in L.A.”

  • J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News reported it was hailing at Camelback Ranch less than two hours before gametime today.
  • Ivan De Jesus Jr., who made a nice defensive play Saturday against the Giants and had been having a solid spring, has been sidelined indefinitely with an oblique strain. Kem Gurnick of MLB.com has details.
  • Non-roster invitee Alberto Castillo, who pitched for Arizona last year, was released by the Dodgers, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A., who adds that Will Savage, Matt Chico and Ryan Tucker were sent to minor-league camp.
  • This memorable ESPN the Magazine cover of Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw was passed along by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy. Seems to me the roles should have been reversed, but Kershaw is nothing if not a good sport.

Mar 16

Honeymoon for Broxton in Kansas City

If you want to know the surreal feeling of reading a feature on Jonathan Broxton that isn’t shrouded in mystery, disappointment and skepticism, then saddle up for Dick Kaegel’s piece on the Royals’ new reliever at MLB.com.

Think, for example, how differently this paragraph would read if written by the Los Angeles press:

… Broxton got to some wonderful places with the Dodgers. He reached the postseason three times and it was his perfect ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs in 2008 that put LA in the National League Championship Series for the first time in 20 years. Twice he was named to the All-Star team and his save clinched the NL’s 3-1 win in 2010 in Anaheim. …

Of course, ignoring Broxton’s postseason disappointments is just as flawed as ignoring his successes always was, but my main point is just how different it feels to read a Broxton story that isn’t cloaked in depression, disgust or defensiveness. I, for one, could use the reboot.

And no matter your feelings on Broxton, the story’s ending should put a smile on your face.

… When Broxton finished his “B” game outing on Sunday, he did some running and then stopped to gather up his son Brooks in his arms. Broxton and wife Elizabeth just had a second boy, Blaine, on Feb. 1 so Brooks is the only ballplayer at the moment.

“My son’s probably going to fall right in my footsteps,” Broxton said. “He’s 2 and I can pitch to him right now and he can hit. It’s pretty awesome to watch, especially knowing it’s your kid out there and the ball’s not just sitting on a tee. You can actually move the ball around and he’ll hit it. It’s just pretty amazing to watch.”

Jonathan Broxton with son Brooks in 2009. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Mar 16

Loney starts his march to 2012 home run title

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me pass along an item with the headline, James Loney: 2012 HR Champ?

You can click the link (which came via David Pinto at Baseball Musings) to see how Dave Fleming at Bill James Online explores the similarities between Loney and Ted Kluszewski, who hit 29 homers in 1952-53 combined, then 40 and 49 the next two seasons. But Fleming wasn’t actually saying that this at all likely to happen, and in fact, the suggestion seemed to be something out of the “#inmyheart” campaign launched by Stephen Colbert on Thursday — if it feels true, than it can be.

Nevertheless, it certainly was nice timing when Loney hit a three-run home run in his first at-bat today, leading the Dodgers to a 5-2 victory over Texas. Every little bit would help.

More from Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… It is Loney’s offense, though, that will be the key to his season, and possibly to the Dodgers’ season as well. So far this spring, he is batting .357 (5-for-14), which he says is the result of finally honing in on one hitting style and sticking with it after years of constant tinkering with his stance and his mechanics.

It was something he began about midway through last season, keying a second-half revival in which he hit .320 with eight homers, 34 RBIs and a .380 on-base percentage after the break.

“I think I really just had an understanding of what I was doing as far as knowing what works for me and sticking to that and not swinging back and forth between different types of approaches,” Loney said. “The confidence factor is there. That is one thing no one can take away is your confidence.”

Loney, the Dodgers’ first-round draft pick in 2002 who is entering his seventh season in the majors, was playing for the first time in five days because he had been battling soreness in one of his calves, but that has subsided. He said this is the best he has ever felt at the plate in spring training.

“There have been times when I felt good,” he said. “But now, I actually have a concept of what I want to be doing … in the box. I know what to do. I know how to go about it.”

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly says he is relieved to see Loney sticking with a consistent approach at the plate.

“That is what I like,” he said. “I told him spring training is really a time when guys are searching for that feel. James sat out a couple of days and came back, and everything was exactly the same. I think that kind of made him feel good. I think he looks good right now. He is confident. I think it’s going to be an interesting year for him.” …

Ted Lilly and Kenley Jansen arguably had a body-switching moment, with Lilly allowing one hit in four shutout innings, only for Jansen to give up two home runs in the fifth.

* * *

  • See current Dodgers (plus Aaron Miles) in old-timey style thanks to these Topps Heritage cards featured by Ernest Reyes at Blue Heaven.
  • Re-live the on-field greatness of Jackie Robinson via this post at The Platoon Advantage.
  • Enjoy Dee Gordon’s Thursday steal while the Royals napped, at the end of this clip below.

Mar 16

Can you spare a square for the Dodgers’ next Jami?

Rangers at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m.

Over at Variety, I indulged my TV-Dodger nexus with a short post on the potential that actress Jami Gertz could end up in the Dodger owners box. Here’s a quick excerpt …

With Tony Ressler a principal member of one of the final four groups currently in the running to buy the Dodgers, that leaves open the possibility that the franchise could have a new first lady from the world of television: Ressler’s wife, actress Jami Gertz.

GertzGertz has spent three decades in show business, but for me, she is famous for two particularly square roles: as one of the stars of early 1980s TV series “Square Pegs” (with Sarah Jessica Parker) and from the memorable “Seinfeld” episode, “The Stall,” as the girlfriend of Jerry’s (and phone sex operator on the sly) who couldn’t spare a square of toilet paper for Elaine. …

 

Mar 16

Dodgers having fun despite Thursday loss

Royals 8, Dodgers 5

  • Ivan De Jesus went 3 for 3 for the Dodgers, impressing Steve Dilbeck of the Times but leaving Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com no less skeptical about his future. Jackson also chronicles the latest example of Dee Gordon’s ridiculous speed.
  • Todd Coffey had his first hit, exhibition or regular season, since 2007, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Despite a two-walk, 27-pitch first inning, Chad Billingsley had an overall positive outing in the view of Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A., with Don Mattingly agreeing.
  • Four of five batters against Mike MacDougal reached base, one on a fielder’s choice, and all four scored by the time the next reliever, John Grabow, was done.
  • In case you missed the highlights of Wednesday’s 9-1 victory over the Reds, Clayton Kershaw struck out six in four shutout innings, and A.J. Ellis and Adam Kennedy homered. Dodger relievers struck out six in five innings, allowing one unearned run.
  • Chris Withrow, Michael Antonini, Stephen Fife, Josh Wall, Scott Van Slyke, Alfredo Silverio, Alex Castellanos, Shane Lindsay and Russ Mitchell were optioned or reassigned to minor league camp today.
  • In an extensively reported story, Gene Maddaus of L.A. Weekly cemented the kibosh — or enabled the kibosh — on purported Dodger ownership candidate Joshua Macciello. (Macciello issued a press release in his own words Thursday.)
  • Wendy Thurm of Fangraphs wonders if major-league teams should be more concerned with outbreaks of Valley Fever.
  • Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors reviews the San Francisco Giants’ offseason. “Posey’s recovery from a grisly May leg injury will provide a boost to the Giants, while the additions of Cabrera and Pagan should make the offense less awful,” Dierkes writes. “Still, it’s likely Sabean will again be actively seeking run support for his top-notch pitching staff come the July trade deadline.
  • Looks like it’s coming down to Juan Pierre vs. Scott Podsednik for the final spot on the Phillies roster, writes Jonathan Nisula of Phillies Nation.
  • Photo of the week: Kansas City’s Everett Teaford and Tim Collins in Jonathan Broxton’s pants.

Mar 14

How big a gap between the Dodgers and the NL West favorites?

Dodgers at Reds, 7:05 p.m.
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Adam Kennedy, 1B
Jerry Sands, RF
Trent Oeltjen, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Matt Wallach, DH
A.J. Ellis, C
Justin Sellers, SS
(Clayton Kershaw, P)

I don’t think I’ve ever posted about Vegas odds as they relate to pennant races, but this set of numbers, e-mailed to me from Bovada, jumped out.

Odds to win the 2012 NL West
5/4 San Francisco Giants
2/1 Arizona Diamondbacks
11/2 Los Angeles Dodgers
7/1 Colorado Rockies
15/1 San Diego Padres

I wouldn’t make the Dodgers the favorites in their division, but I don’t think their chances of winning are so much worse than Arizona’s, and I think San Francisco should be even closer. Why the Giants would leap into preseason pole position, I’m not entirely clear.

* * *

Peter Guber’s a pretty familiar name around my office. During my first few years at Variety, the Hollywood producer (and Golden State Warriors minority owner) co-hosted a TV series with longtime Variety editor Peter Bart, and he also appeared as a keynoter at our Sports Entertainment Summit last July.

Guber has joined the Magic Johnson-Stan Kasten ownership group bidding on the Dodgers, reports Bill Shaikin of the Times. According to Shaikin, the field has been narrowed down to this group and only three others: the ones led by Steven Cohen, Stan Kroenke and newly partnered Michael Heisley and Tony Ressler.

As hard as it is to believe, we’re nearing the zero hour.

* * *

Headlines that say it all, or at least a lot: “Gun battle interrupts Mexican League game, sends players diving for cover.” Frightening.

Mar 14

‘High Fives’ for new Dodger books

Join the Dodger Thoughts March Madness Tournament Challenge here.


You might remember Paul Haddad, the longtime Dodger fan whose childhood audio recordings of Dodger broadcasts provided source material for the ESPN documentary Fernando Nation. Haddad has now published a book based on those recordings: High Fives, Pennant Drives and Fernandomania — A Fan’s History of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Glory Years, 1977-1981.

It’s a fun, sprightly read that I think any Dodger fan will enjoy. I was honored to be asked by Haddad to write the foreword, but you can find out much more about the book at Haddad’s website, Dodgerglory.com, including book excerpts and samples of some of Haddad’s recordings. Perhaps you might start by hearing Vin Scully call an inside-the-park home run by Davey Lopes in 1978, or Joe Ferguson’s memorable homer on the final Friday of the season to beat Houston in 1980. A treasure trove, I tells ya.

* * *

That’s not all from the bookshelf today. My past newspaper colleagues and longtime friends, Dodger team historian Mark Langill and publications director Jorge Martin, have put together a book, Dodgers: From Coast to Coast – The Official Visual History of the Dodgers, with 256 pages of first-person essays by past Dodgers, classic magazine articles and wonderful photos. Vin Scully wrote the foreword.

It will be released the day of the Dodgers’ home opener, April 10, and you can also order it online. Looks like another keeper.

Mar 13

Bandersnatch!

‘Twas brillig for our suddenly slithy toves the Dodgers, who had only made three errors all spring but got three errors from their shortstops alone today, accounting for two unearned runs in a 5-2 loss to Colorado.

Jerry Hairston Jr. did gyre and gimble in the wabe, making two of the errors while going 0 for 2. The poor day raised questions among the Jabberwock about whether Hairston could rise to the occasion should something decidedly unmimsy happen to Dee Gordon (who also made an error today). To which I offer these uffish thoughts:

1) One game is one game.
2) The plan to confine superior defensive shortstop Juan Uribe to third base isn’t all that likely to hold throughout the season.
3) Justin Sellers is likely to be the true backup shortstop at this point, whether he’s in the majors or the minors, so why so slithy?

Taking the vorpal blade of that last point, there’s surprise being expressed that Jerry Sands might not make the Opening Day roster and will instead be sent to rest by the Tumtum tree. Nonsense. Sands needed something of a perfect storm to come whiffling through the tulgey wood April 5: a solid spring at the plate combined with legitimate fears that Andre Ethier, James Loney or Juan Rivera wouldn’t be everyday players. But we knew all along that all three of those veterans were being handed those jobs to lose, and that Sands might easily be marginalized come the frabjous day.

* * *

  • Sandy Koufax could testify at the Bernie Madoff-related New York Mets trial, reports The Associated Press.
  • Larry Granillo explores a scary on-field 1969 incident involving Jesus Alou at Baseball Prospectus.
  • Monday in Jon SooHoo: Matt Kemp and young fan.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: Orel Hershiser and a pre-6-foot-8 Jordan Hershiser.
Mar 12

Principal owners

Rockies at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, DH
Jerry Sands, 1B
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Matt Treanor, C
(Chris Capuano, P)

The principal at my kids’ elementary school seems to me quite different than the principals I had in elementary school growing up.

No. 1, she seems fun and caring and truly looking out for the kids. The principals I had might have been looking out for the kids, but behind their stern demeanor, I couldn’t really tell. My first childhood principal had switches mounted on the wall behind his desk, and I don’t mean light switches.

This relates to my feelings about impending new Dodger ownership and whom we, as fans, might have running our schoolyard.

* * *

Forbes: “The bidding groups for baseball’s bankrupt Los Angeles Dodgers appear to have been whittled down to five from seven tonight.”

Mar 12

Dodgers’ offensive roll continues

The results of Spring Training games might not mean anything, but I’ll take good over bad in any form that it comes.  The Dodgers are 6-1-2 in March following today’s 9-1 victory over the Angels while doubling up their opponents in runs, averaging 6.44 per game while allowing 3.22.

Juan Rivera doubled and homered to drive in four runs, while Justin Sellers had a pinch-hit three-run homer in the sixth, leading the Dodgers’ attack. Center fielders Matt Kemp and Trent Oeltjen combined to reach base four times and score three runs.

Aaron Harang allowed a run on three hits in three innings and, in a landmark for Dodger starting pitchers, struck out two. Chris Withrow threw 2 2/3 shutout innings in relief, allowing four baserunners. Four other Dodger relievers threw scoreless ball.

Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver faced 12 batters, and half reached base.