Aug 07

The anti-’Moneyball’: ‘Trouble With the Curve’

“Trouble with the Curve,” starring Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake, comes to theaters September 21. “Trouble with the Curve” looks like “Revenge on ‘Moneyball,’” though both have father-daughter stuff going on.

Rockies at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Shane Victorino, LF
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
James Loney, 1B
Luis Cruz, 2B
A.J. Ellis, C
Aaron Harang, P
Aug 07

O’Malley era in San Diego a step from reality

The group that includes former Dodger owner Peter O’Malley can become official owners of the San Diego Padres as soon as August 16, when Major League Baseball owners meet in Denver, according to Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

O’Malley’s sons, Kevin and Brian, and his nephews, Peter and Tom Seidler, “are expected to become ‘hands-on’ owners while assuming many of the club’s business, operational and community leadership roles,” Center confirms. San Diego businessman Ron Fowler and golfer Phil Mickelson provides the local accent for the ownership group, notes Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com.

The new owners are paying $800 million for the Padres and a 21 percent stake in Fox Sports San Diego, Bloom says.

Aug 06

Dodgers hire stadium planning executive

Old friend alert: On Sunday, John Lindsey reached base eight times in one game, going 5 for 7 with two singles, a double, three walks and home runs in the third and 19th innings for Triple-A Toledo.

Rockies at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Shane Victorino, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Juan Rivera, 1B
Jerry Sands, RF
Luis Cruz, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Chris Capuano, P

The Dodgers have dedicated a newly hired executive, Janet Marie Smith, to lead the franchise’s Dodger Stadium upgrades.

Smith, who has been named senior vice president of planning and development, had most recently been the Baltimore Orioles vice president of planning and development.

“Dodger Stadium is one of the most iconic venues in sports and Janet Marie is one of the few people I would trust with its future,” Dodger president Stan Kasten said in a statement. “She respects baseball’s tradition and knows how to retain a ballpark’s distinctive charms while providing fans with the amenities and comfort they’ve come to expect. Any fan that has walked through the gates at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the renovated Fenway Park or Atlanta’s Turner Field has been a beneficiary of her understanding of what a ballpark means to its community.”

Added Smith: “Dodger Stadium is a treasured piece of the Los Angeles community and a special place where I watched more than a dozen games per season when I lived in L.A. during the early 1980s. It’s important to all of us that we restore and enhance the park in a way that honors its heritage and highlights its distinctive appeals, while still capturing what fans want and franchises need in a modern venue.”

More from the press release:

… Prior to rejoining the Orioles in 2009, Smith had spent seven years with the Boston Red Sox as Senior Vice President of Planning and Development, overseeing preservation of and improvements to historic Fenway Park and its surrounding neighborhood. In Atlanta, she held the positions of President of Turner Sports and Entertainment Development, a division of Turner Broadcasting System, and Vice President of Planning and Development for the Atlanta Braves, where she helped transform the 1996 Olympic Stadium into Turner Field for the Braves, and oversaw the development of the Philips Arena, home of the NBA Atlanta Hawks and NHL Atlanta Thrashers.

From 1989-1994, Smith worked with the Orioles as Vice President of Planning and Development overseeing the design and construction of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which opened in 1992. Camden Yards is considered the archetype for new ballparks and ushered in a wave of downtown ballfields that capture the warmth and appeal of classic older parks while offering comfortable, state-of-the-art facilities. …

 

Aug 06

Dodgers shed Gwynn, recall Sands

The Dodgers have parted ways with Tony Gwynn Jr., designating him for assignment while calling up Jerry Sands to add some power off the bench.

Gwynn, whose defensive skills were marginalized after Shane Victorino was acquired, had a .570 OPS this season and had a .209 on-base percentage in his past 110 plate appearances. In addition to his $850,000 salary this year, Gwynn is guaranteed $1.15 million in 2013.

Sands, in his past 23 games with Albuquerque, has a .438 on-base percentage and .733 slugging percentage.

Interestingly, this was not the only Sands news I received in the past 10 minutes. The following press release also arrived:

What do famous celebrities such as: Charlie Sheen, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Robert Downey Jr, Shaun White, Britney Spears, Ryan O’Neal and foreign royalty have in common with the rest of us? The obvious answer is not much, but the truth is that everyone has equal access to one of the most successful cosmetic dentist in the nation; Beverly Hills cosmetic dentist of choice, Dr. Kevin Sands. …

Update: There’s more, from the Times — “Justice Department investigates Las Vegas Sands Corp.”

Aug 04

August 4 game chat

Cubs at Dodgers, 6:10 p.m.
Kershaw CXXXIX: Kershawtime at the Apollo
Shane Victorino, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
James Loney, 1B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

There’s a real possibility that A.J. Ellis (10 so far) will finish the year with more home runs than Andre Ethier (11 so far). In his past 50 games, Ethier has a .332 on-base percentage and .364 slugging percentage with two homers.

Aug 03

Tweet Yo Self: Scully beguiled by Ellis’ big night

Even after ESPN the Magazine writer Molly Knight explained Twitter to Vin Scully earlier this year, the beloved Dodger broadcaster still hadn’t quite mastered it as of earlier this week, when he was charmingly saying such things as “The twit read …” Tonight, however, after Scully received a Twitter refresher course, the social media outlet became the spine of his broadcast tonight.

A.J. Ellis was a major part of tonight’s Twitter talk by Scully, and darned if Ellis didn’t have the most productive game of his career, hitting two solo home runs and singling for a third RBI in the Dodgers’ 6-1 victory over the Cubs.

“They are trending, twittering, tweeting, you name it, about ‘A.J. Ellis’ all over the United States,” Scully said mid-game, before signing deeply, almost exhaustedly, adding, “Ahhhh – he’s a nice boy.”

The way Scully got Twitter talking about Ellis was reminiscent of the way he would get the transistor radio crowd at Dodger Stadium in the 1960s to follow his lead.

Ellis and Hanley Ramirez, who had two hits and two RBI, weren’t the only Dodgers to give fans something to flap their fingers over.  Chad Billingsley went seven breezy innings, allowing six baserunners on 105 pitches while striking out seven. In three starts since coming off the disabled list, Billingsley has pitched 20 1/3 innings and allowed only 15 hits and three walks while striking out 13. His ERA in that time is 0.89, and he continues to maintain his season-long progress in attacking the strike zone.

Aug 03

Mark Walter: Not an absentee owner

Cubs at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Shane Victorino, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
James Loney, 1B
Luis Cruz, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Chad Billingsley, P

The Dodgers have put a waiver claim in on Cliff Lee, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com, though it’s still unlikely that they’ll end up with the Phillies lefty.

That makes this piece by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com on Dodger ownership leader Mark Walter that much more timely.

… After missing out on Ryan Dempster at the deadline, the Dodgers’ brass was insistent it wasn’t done dealing. In fact, when I caught up with him on the field Tuesday afternoon, new controlling owner Mark Walter was openly hinting at that idea.

“Do you really ever want to say we did enough?” Walter said. “That’s not an attitude I really want a lot of around here. I guess if the entire All-Star team is on your team, you could feel like you had enough. But I don’t want to think that way. That’s now how you want to look at it. …

… Walter actually has been at the stadium quite a bit, and when he’s there, he’s often down on the field or in the clubhouse before games. He’s not shy, either.

When I joked with him about how much money he had spent in the last few weeks, he laughed and said, “Yeah, I guess I have.”

He described the trade deadline as something of a roller-coaster ride, said he was hanging on every phone call from Kasten or GM Ned Colletti and wasn’t doing much to conceal some disappointment he felt at not being able to do even more.

In other words, Walter’s invested — and not just financially. …

Ted Lilly, meanwhile, has suffered a setback in his rehabilitation, tweets Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.

Aug 03

Dodgers acquire Phillies pitcher … Joe Blanton

Joe Blanton, the 31-year-old Phillies righthander, has been acquired by the Dodgers for a player to be named later.

Averaging 6 2/3 innings per start in 2012, Blanton has a 4.59 ERA (88 ERA+) with 7.8 strikeouts and a National League-best 1.2 walks per nine innings. He has allowed 9.5 hits per nine innings and a career-worst 1.5 home runs per nine innings. He was limited to 41 1/3 innings in 2011.

Blanton’s becomes a free agent at the end of this season — his 2012 salary is $8.5 million.

At least until Ted Lilly returns from the disabled list, Blanton will replace Stephen Fife, whose 2.16 ERA belies his 1.500 WHIP and 3.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

Update: Ben Duorino of Fangraphs (via Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness) on Blanton’s weird 2012 season.

Aug 03

Are the Dodgers looking for Lee-way?

The thought of Cliff Lee becoming a Dodger came alive Thursday when Philadelphia placed the lefthander on revocable waivers.

The Dodgers theoretically have the capacity to take on a contract that would pay Lee, who turns 34 this month, at least $94 million through 2016, if no National League team with a poorer record claims him. The Phillies then could work out a deal with the Dodgers (or simply hand Lee over), or Philadelphia could just “Thanks, but just teasing.”

One question I have is why Lee would have value to the Dodgers but not the Phillies, who don’t figure to be rebuilding for long. If we think Lee still has talent, than Philadelphia should keep him. If we think that talent is fading fast, the Dodgers shouldn’t want him.

As for whether they should go for Lee — well, if money is no object for the Dodgers, then money is no object. But if there is a limit, however high, I can understand why they might balk at the price. Not wanting to pay a mid-30s pitcher about $25 million a year isn’t a case of being cheap.

Still, it’s something to think about. Here’s an excerpt from Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.

… Based on the contracts currently on the books, the Dodgers have $135 million already allocated to players under team control for 2013, while A.J. Ellis is their only significant arbitration eligible player. So, if their payroll target was $175 million (which, keep in mind, is a number I pulled out of thin air, and may not actually represent their budget), that would leave them about $35 million to spend to fill out the roster, meaning they could take Cliff Lee’s contract and still have enough left to buy a new first baseman. While Lee’s contract would be a budget buster for most organizations, it might not prevent the Dodgers from making further upgrades in other areas as well.

And, to be honest, there’s probably not a better use of that money available in free agency this winter. Before the season started, the assumption was that the Dodgers would make a huge push for either Cole Hamels or Joey Votto — or both — but they have since re-signed with their clubs, eliminating them from possible consideration. That leaves the big name targets this winter as Josh Hamilton, Melky Cabrera, B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Nick Swisher, Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson, and potentially Zack Greinke, if he doesn’t re-sign with the Angels first. There’s certainly some nice players in there, but besides Greinke and Hamilton, no one in that group has the potential impact that Lee would have, and both of those guys come with their own set of risks as well.

And, of course, there’s also the fact that signing a free agent this winter does nothing to help you win in 2012. Yes, if you think you could get Greinke for something close to that same $110 million you’d be committing to Lee, then you might prefer the younger pitcher, but present value has to be a factor as well, and the contending Dodgers are in the sweet spot where every marginal upgrade represents a significant return.

The upgrade would over Stephen Fife — who has racked up a whopping seven strikeouts in three starts since being recalled from Triple-A — would likely add about +1.5 wins to the Dodgers regular season total, and Lee would represent a substantial upgrade to their potential playoff rotation as well. Going from second place finisher to NL West champions could return as much as $30 to $40 million in additional revenues if the Dodgers made a World Series run. Even a first round playoff victory probably nets the team an additional $5 to $10 million in revenue from future ticket sales and the attendance boost that goes with generating excitement in the fan base. …

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. and Dylan Hernandez of the Times have more, as does Buster Olney of ESPN.com: “Before the deadline, the Phillies made it clear to any team interested in Lee that not only would they not pick up any of the $97 million owed to the left-hander, they also would want top prospects in return. So it’d be a shocker if the Phillies moved Lee in a waiver deal.”

* * *

  • Yasiel Puig has played his first two games as a Dodger minor-leaguer, going 0 for 4 in his first but hitting a single and triple in his second. ESPN’s Keith Law tweeted after the triple that Puig “didn’t even square it up but still sent it about 400 feet to LCF track.” Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness passed along video of Puig’s debut from Jason Cole of Lone Star Dugout.
  • Whose spots on the Dodger 40-man roster might be expiring? Petriello takes a look.
  • Brandon Lennox of True Blue L.A. is examining the Dodger farm system, position by position. Here’s catcher and first base.
  • James Gentile of Beyond the Box Score writes about “Hanley Ramirez and Disappointing Primes.”
  • A Martinez is going public, with a 9 a.m. weekdays sports radio show on NPR’s KPCC 89.3 FM, reports Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News.
  • Framework has a photo showing Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour raising money for the 1952 U.S. Olympic team at a telethon.
Aug 02

So, who wins the National League West?

How about an off-day predictions thread? Friday marks the start of the two-month countdown to the end of the regular season, one in which the National League West might not deliver any wild-card representation. So who do you think will win the division title?

Aug 01

Root beer reviews: Capt’n Eli’s

Capt’n Eli’s Root Beer has a smooth entry with a swift kick, offering a pleasing, smarm-free taste. It’s top-flight if you want a medium bite.

Sampling date: July 29, 2012

Ingredients: Water, cane sugar, caramel coloring, natural and artificial flavors including wintergreen oil, anise, vanilla, spices, herbs, citric acid, sodium benzoate (preservative)

Nutritional information: 12-ounce serving, 165 calories, 0 grams fat, 40 grams sugar, 35 milligrams sodium, 0 grams protein

Headquarters: Portland, Maine

Rankings to date:
1) Route 66 Root Beer
2) Bulldog Root Beer
3) Capt’n Eli’s Root Beer
4) River City Root Beer
5) Cool Mountain Root Beer

Aug 01

Nope – it’s Abreu

Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 12:10 p.m.
Shane Victorino, LF
Andre Ethier, RF
Matt Kemp, CF
Hanley Ramirez, 3B
Juan Rivera, 1B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 2B
Luis Cruz, SS
A.J. Ellis, C
Stephen Fife, P

Well, I was wrong. The Dodgers have designated Bobby Abreu for assignment to make room on the roster for Shane Victorino.

Abreu OPSed .905 in his first 33 games as a Dodger, through June 11, but since then the outfielder has been 16 for 90 with 11 walks and two extra-base hits in 37 games for a .490 OPS.

I’m genuinely surprised. In this money-is-no-object era for the Dodgers, I still see more potential for Abreu to help in the stretch run than Juan Uribe.

* * *

  • Victorino will wear No. 8 with the Dodgers, with Don Mattingly switching to No. 12. The switch-hitting Victorino is wearing the same number as the switch-hitting Reggie Smith did as a Dodger in the 1970s. Smith took No. 8 because Steve Yeager already had the outfielder’s preferred No. 7.
  • Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus ranked the prospects traded at the deadline this week. Ethan Martin is 11th, Scott McGough 24th, Logan Bawcom 25th and Leon Landry 30th out of 43.
  • Goldstein also produced a new ranking of the top 50 prospects in baseball, with Zach Lee on the list at 47.
  • In the wake of Martin’s departure, the Dodgers promoted Andres Santiago to Double-A Chattanooga, reports Robert Emrich for MLB.com. The 22-year-old righty had a 1.76 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 41 innings for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga in July, while allowing only 21 hits and nine walks.
  • Jerry Hairston Jr. had an obscure but memorable throw, captured by Chad Moriyama.
  • Buster Olney names 10 leading August trade candidates in his column for ESPN.com.
  • This past weekend, I discussed Chad Billingsley’s season-long improvement in throwing strikes. At Fangraphs, Michael Barr delves deeper, noting that Billingsley is “going to his four seam fastball far more regularly and he’s almost abandoned his cutter.”
  • A year after it happened, the Trayvon Robinson trade gets a positive review from Scott Andes at Lasorda’s Lair.
  • Dodger Stadium cuisine was recently reviewed by Jeanne Fratello of the Jolly Tomato.
  • Former Dodger general manager Dan Evans had a post-deadline live chat today at Baseball Prospectus.
  • Houston finished July with a 3-24 record, the worst July any team has had in at least 50 years, notes David Pinto of Baseball Musings.
  • With no further introduction, a recent piece from Josh Wilker.