Mar 30

Marching toward April

Feeling Opening Day excitement and the writing bug late on a Saturday …

• I’m reasonably excited about this year’s Dodger team, but part of that is a perverse excitement about just how bad on offense that left side of the infield might be, at least while Hanley Ramirez is out. That makes the decision to go with Justin Sellers fun for kicks, however dubious. Still, I have always liked the idea of emphasizing defense where offense isn’t an option.

• It only just now occurred to me that I was in the stands last year at the game in which Sellers was hurt and the one in which Dee Gordon was hurt.

• Do you realize this will no doubt be the fourth consecutive year that Kenley Jansen isn’t the Opening Day closer but eventually moves into that role?

• One thing I don’t miss about baseball season is the whining whenever a save gets blown, as if it should never happen. Heaven knows, though, it will happen.

• Carl Crawford has me excited. Truly didn’t think he’d be ready this fast, but this is the one case where I’m allowing myself to be swept away by past success and heady Spring Training numbers.

• I think lingering effects of his labrum injury will keep Matt Kemp below 25 home runs this year, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be productive.

• At first, I thought that with no true right-handed outfielder in reserve, the Dodgers would need to keep Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier spaced out in their lineup, or lefty relievers will just crush the team. But Gonzalez has had success against left-handers, so that helps. It’s still not necessarily a bad idea to insert a right-hander between them, though – as long as it’s a decent one.

• My initial plan for any free writing time that emerged this spring was that I would spend it offline on a long-term project. I did begin work on that project early this month, but with baseball season starting, I’m wavering. What might happen is a mix, where I post on Dodger Thoughts not infrequently, but not comprehensively. The risk is feeling like I’m doing both things halfway.

• Another intervening factor in my life is that Youngest Master Weisman, now 5, is six days away from his first T-ball season, and he is raring to go. (His team: the Tigers.) After playing with a pretend ball inside the house several times, we made it out to the park for the first time, and he was knocking balls through the infield and reaching the grass. Also in the past day, I’ve begun trying to teach him how to scoop balls on defense. It’s crazy.

• Older brother Young Master Weisman, now 8 1/2, took a few swings, but piano is his game. He’s composing his own material for his May recital performance. Young Miss Weisman, a whopping 10 1/2, is also wonderful on the keys.

Feb 11

Pitchers and catchers and writers report

These are melancholy times for an old blogger …

I don’t feel capable of doing Dodger Thoughts right now, and honestly, I’m not sure how much I’d want to get back in the grind of it right now. But with pitchers and catchers reporting, I sure do miss the idea of it.

The site meant something to me, and as much as I’ve used the vacated time to focus on my paying job, spend some extra time with my family or occasionally relax (but unfortunately, not to exercise or reduce stress), I haven’t been able to really replace what it meant. Not for lack of trying.

Baseball is a mystery, and I’m definitely curious about The Hardy Boys and the Case of the Expensively Brittle Baseball Team. But most of the day-to-day stuff is amply covered elsewhere, even the stuff I have specific viewpoints on. If there’s anyone that needs to be told at this point that Lovable Luis Cruz’s lack of walks are a warning sign, or that money doesn’t necessarily buy baseball happiness (though it’s better than not having money), or that both Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsley are medical red flags, well, just know that I appreciate your loyalty, because the other Dodger blogs have touched on these points. There were times, not all that long ago, when I might have been the only one. Not any more.

I still think I have something to contribute to the conversation on the Dodgers, but have wondered if it was worth the effort. For example, by now, I’d be working on the annual Dodger Thoughts Spring Training Primer, which I was always proud of, but the time commitment just seems disproportionately large.

Meanwhile, my position as Awards Editor at Variety has been interesting and fulfilling, but I’m the Jonny-come-lately on that beat, and it’s taken all my professional energy just to carve out my own insights. And I’m still missing things. I’ve done good work, but that doesn’t make me special.

With Dodger Thoughts, I felt special, once upon a time, though those days were fewer and farther between in 2012.

I’ve been poking around some new writing ideas that I think would be exciting to pursue, though I’ve had real issues of confidence over whether I could deliver them. And all the misgivings linger over whether I can afford to write something that would likely have no financial return. Still, I am getting closer to the point of throwing aside caution and just writing one for the sake of writing. That seems healthy, if perhaps wasteful. They are good ideas, if nothing else.

Mostly, I’m still not the person I want to be. Not even close. My main goal is to get there, and in September, I came to think Dodger Thoughts was becoming a hindrance to that. I’m less sure of that now, but I’m not sure of several things. I’m not sure what part of the equation writing is. If it ever seems like Dodger Thoughts is the answer, I’ll be back. It sure was fun while it lasted.

Sep 18

On waivers

My oldest son witnesses my outfield heroics at Dodger Stadium – winter 2008-09

It’s a complete coincidence that this post comes on the 10th anniversary of the last post before my one and only Dodger Thoughts sabbatical. That began four days before my daughter was born, and wasn’t by design as much as it was just a byproduct of feeling overwhelmed by a dramatic life change and wanting to make sure I had my priorities straight. I had only put three months into the site at that point, drawing but a handful of readers, and it wasn’t clear that I was actually giving up anything meaningful.

Tonight, I’m more clear on what I’m putting aside – including a dream of doing Dodger Thoughts for 50 years or more. To this day, I still have enough arrogance about myself to be surprised that no one has ever wanted to pay me a living wage to do this full-time. But the marketplace spoke, and unless it changes its mind someday, I don’t have the luxury of ignoring it. And I’m tired of doing mediocre work on something that meant so much to me.

Anyone reading this site knows how hard it has been for me to maintain a pretense that the site is still useful in 2012. There have been some decent moments, but mostly, it’s been painful. And it’s not getting any easier. My family and my day job demand bigger and bigger shares of my energy and my sanity. So let’s cut to the chase: I’m designating myself for assignment.

That doesn’t mean I’m never going to post here again – in fact, I can almost promise that I will at some point – but it does mean I’m releasing myself from the daily task of writing about the Dodgers, as well as creating chat threads for every game. Dodger Thoughts has become a burden – the opposite of what it was intended to be – and there are too many other sites that now do what I set out to do more productively. The fact that I’m cutting and running with only two weeks left in the regular season (and a Dodger playoff appearance still very much a possibility) indicates just how much of a burden it has been. For all their problems, I believe in the Dodgers much more right now than I believe in my capacity to write about them.  That about says it all.

For those who remain interested in my writing independent of the Dodgers, I encourage you to visit my Variety blog, The Vote.  I know the subject matter differs like apples and asparagus, but by focusing my blogging energy there, I hope to invest it with more of the life that Dodger Thoughts once had – and maybe draw in some non-hardcore fans in the process. (The comment section there is begging for a community.) Also, please follow me on Twitter, which will be the best way to keep up on what I’m keeping up on and the quickest way to find out if and when I post on Dodger Thoughts again.

Anyone who ever was a reader or a part of the Dodger Thoughts community, and especially those who provided critical support along the way, I can’t thank you enough. I really can’t. This has been the most memorable writing experience of my life.

But this message has already gone on too long.  Here’s hoping the Dodgers come back and make me feel stupid for folding at this moment. (And here’s wishing, as Bob Timmermann suggested in an e-mail, that I had just thought to explain all this as a figment of Tommy Westphall’s autistic imagination.)

* * *

Oh – one thing I already forgot to mention. A revised version of 100 Things Dodger Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die is scheduled for publication next spring. Orlando Hudson’s cycle and other treats from the past three years will be included in the second edition.

Sep 18

A forever toast to the Toaster

Baseball Toaster chief Ken Arneson has returned to regular blogging. He explains his mission here. There’s probably no better blog to check out at this time.

At the same time, it’s hard not to love all the different tastes that Alex Belth has been bringing to Bronx Banter, or be thrilled that Bob Timmermann has been posting at the Portable Griddle, or savor every post by Josh Wilker at Cardboard Gods.

I feel we did everything we could to keep Baseball Toaster alive. I don’t regret our efforts, just that they didn’t succeed.

Dec 19

Lullaby


The quietest period in Dodger Thoughts history was after the birth of my daughter in September 2002. I had only started the site three months earlier, had fewer than 10 readers daily and was experiencing a life change like no other. I didn’t post for the remainder of the year.

I can’t remember what it was like. That is, I can remember my infant daughter, but I can’t remember what I thought about the absence of blogging. I can’t remember if I intended to restart, or if my mind had just gone blank. I can’t remember if I even thought about it during those black-of-night winter moments with my girl.

I remember those bleary nights now so fondly. I was so tired, a tired I haven’t shed in the years since, but I’m not sure my mind has been so clear, so uncorrupted, as it was during those three months.

She was a good baby, too. She kept us up, but she was a good baby. There were times as a baby she would wake up in the morning at 7 and just sing to herself in her crib. A lullaby for her sleepy parents.

In early January the next year, shortly after my girl had slept through the night for the first time on a holiday vacation to Carmel, I remember sitting in my cubicle at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and thinking that I might be ready to start Dodger Thoughts again. And I did. And I haven’t stopped since, for nine years and two more kids. Not for nine years has there been a day that I haven’t thought about this site. I can’t say that about anything else except my wife and children.

Jun 09

How do you read Dodger Thoughts?

Just curious how you read Dodger Thoughts …

  • Do you go to the DT home page and scroll to make sure you see all new posts?
  • Do you just read the top post?
  • Do you hang in the comments and wait for the “New Post Up Top (NPUT)” alert?
  • Do you read the posts via RSS reader?
  • Do you come via the ESPNLosAngeles.com home page or any other website?
  • Do you check new posts via Twitter?
  • None of the above? Some of the above?

One of my main questions is whether, if there has been more than one post since your last visit to the site, do you see them all?

Jun 04

Torre and Mattingly want Dodger batters to slow down to get better

The Dodgers are slumping at the plate mainly because of impatient at-bats, Joe Torre and Don Mattingly told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

“I hope guys aren’t trying to hit home runs, because we’re not that kind of team,” Mattingly said after (Thursday’s) game. “But in a 0-0 game that goes into extra innings, guys always like to be the hero. That is what we talked about, that hitting home runs is all good, but you have to keep fighting for those hits. I just told them we need to get back to making sure we’re doing what we do, because we’re not a sit-back-and-wait-for-the-home-run kind of team.”

In reality, the collective struggle goes back more than a week, to the start of the last road trip. It began as the Dodgers were being shut out in two of three games in Chicago, with Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster sailing through eight innings on 104 pitches in the opener. Then, on Saturday night at Colorado, Aaron Cook pitched into the seventh inning on fewer than 100 pitches in the only game the Rockies would win in that series.

All three Diamondbacks starters went at least eight innings, and while all three threw at least 115 pitches, the fact the Dodgers didn’t make them sweat much in terms of pitching out of jams was significant.

And then, finally, it all came to a head when Atlanta’s Kris Medlen needed fewer than 100 to pitch four batters deep into the eighth inning.

“We aren’t necessarily having real good at-bats,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. “The opposing pitchers’ pitch counts haven’t been real high. I think we aren’t having the quality at-bats we had maybe a week or so ago. We’re just going to have to keep fighting our way out of it. I think it comes down to trying to do too much. Especially with the extra-inning games the last couple of days, guys might have been trying to hit home runs.”

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. just posted a comparison between the first thirds of the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Among others, Russell Martin is doing even worse now than he was after 54 games in 2009.

* * *

Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone has a thoughtful take on the future of web journalism, both generally and as it relates to Dodger coverage. I agree with just about all of it – even the parts where I’m not quoted. (This is where I’d insert a smiley face if I did that sort of thing in my posts.)

Moriyama passes along the pessimistic view that even if an All-Star team of Dodger bloggers were assembled, most readers still wouldn’t be willing to pay for it, which exemplifies why journalism as a business is in such dire condition. The Irony Committee approves of the fact that I agree even though much of my current career depends on me being wrong about this.

* * *

  • How my mind works: My first reaction upon hearing that Juan Samuel had been named interim manager of the Baltimore Orioles was that I would have thought the way he stunk things up in the second half of the 1991 season for the Dodgers would have disqualified him. Obviously, though, that’s not the case. Congratuations, Juan, and good luck.
  • Xavier Paul returned to the Albuquerque Isotopes just like he left: with a three-hit game.
  • Blue Heaven links to a handwritten journal of Wee Willie Keeler’s up for auction.
Mar 23

Bad news: Dodgers cut their best blogger

For months now, Dodger minor leaguer Brian Akin has been delighting us with his Dear (Tommy) John Letters blog. Sadly, Akin now passes along word that the Dodgers have released him.

… Considering all of the factors, I can’t say that I am all that surprised by the decision. Unfortunately it doesn’t make it any easier. The most difficult part of the situation is the fact that my arm feels great. I only threw twice this spring, but I pitched well in both outings. For the first time since 2007, I felt like I was in control of the game. You know when you’re playing Monopoly and everyone decides to quit right when you get that hotel on Boardwalk? That’s kind of what this feels like.

There is one very big positive that comes with my new found unemployment. I get to be home with my wife. If my playing days are indeed over, I’ll really miss baseball – but I’m excited about missing baseball from home rather than missing my wife from the road.

Though I know it’s disappointing, I can add one other positive. Based on his writing, I’d say that Akin has a bright future in whatever he does. Brian, somehow I’m thinking your cup is half-full.