Jan 22

Analyzing the Dodgers-Time Warner Cable deal

Here’s my Variety analysis of the imminent deal between the Dodgers and Time Warner Cable that will create a new network dedicated to the Big Blue Wrecking Crew.

By partnering to launch a new regional cable network in an overflowing market rather than making a straightforward rights deal, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Time Warner Cable have doubled down on their belief that skyrocketing revenues in the sports TV world are anything but a bubble.

The Dodgers could have simply sold their post-2013 cable rights to Time Warner Cable Sports Net’s English and Spanish components — joining a pair of networks that only launched less than four months ago — or to current host Fox Sports Net. Either way, the Dodgers could have counted on getting $6 billion or more over the next 20-25 years (triple the price that Guggenheim Partners paid for the entire team in March), with no need to worry about the future health of sports TV revenue.

For its part, Time Warner Cable could have said that two new networks were enough and held fast against launching any more into a market that some believe has plenty, thank you.

Instead, according to sources commenting on a deal that has yet to be officially announced, the Dodgers will draw a still healthy commitment from Time Warner Cable that comes with the heightened risk/reward scenario of an ownership stake. …

Read the rest of the story here

Dec 24

Joe Block becomes Joe Milwaukee

They still have to fill Prince Fielder’s shoes at first base, but the Milwaukee Brewers nevertheless just made a nice pickup in Joe Block, hiring the erstwhile DodgerTalk host to do play-by-play, working with no less an entity than Bob Uecker.

“Joe and I spent some time together, and I think he’ll be a great addition,” Uecker told Evan Dreilich of MLB.com. “Joe sounds good on the air, he’s a Midwest guy and he wants to be in Milwaukee as a part of the Brewers. Bottom line, all of those are important qualities that will make him successful here.”

Congrats to Joe, who said farewell to Dodger fans here: “To the kind folks in L.A., the Dodgers and KABC, thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk baseball with you last season. I felt a genuine camaraderie with Dodgers fans I can only hope to replicate in Wisconsin.”

Dec 01

Suchon, Block shown the DodgerTalk door

Josh Suchon and Joe Block will not stay with the Dodgers’ postgame radio show when the team’s broadcasts move to KLAC 570 AM next year. Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News first reported the change, later confirmed to me via e-mail by Suchon.

I think the pair will be greatly missed, both for their conviviality and their ability to effectively deal with Dodger fans of all stripes and the, shall we say, wide variety of questions that comes with the territory. They were knowledgeable without being arrogant. That’s an enviable combo.

Suchon said he was prepared to depart and is excited about new opportunities in 2012. Given that the sports media business seems to offer new opportunities every day, I have hopes that he and Block will land on their feet.

Aug 28

A warm welcome back for Jaime Jarrin

Jaime Jarrin joined Vin Scully in signing up for 2012 today:

… “It was very kind of them to ask me to return,” Jarrin said. “My desire was to stay with the team and do what I love to do and be around you guys (the media). I am especially grateful to have the chance to be the link between the Dodgers and the Hispanic community. It is great to have the chance to do something I love and to do it with the community in mind.” …

… For now, though, Jarrin said he wants to continue to call every game, although he did take an in-season vacation for the first time this year and said he likely will do so again next year.

Jarrin said that after more than a half-century of calling Dodgers games on Spanish-language radio, he still has a passion for the job.

“I love it,” he said. “Even if the team isn’t doing well, I try to see things that compensate (for that). In baseball, everything is so different from one game to the next. Really, it is fun to do it. I still love it. Otherwise, I would quit right now, because financially, I am well set.” …

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This time last year, John Lindsey was the Dodgers’ feel-good story.  Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner catches up with him.

* * *

Tony Jackson’s latest view of the Andre Ethier situation is up at ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… As it stands, Ethier won’t be eligible for free agency until after 2012. But is he trying to force his way out of town a year early? That’s my theory. I don’t have enough insight to know for a fact that it’s true, or that it isn’t. That’s why they call it a theory. But I have to say, when you take the statements Ethier made in March, and to Simers this weekend, and put them together, it sure smells that way.

Could it be that Ethier is trying to become such a distraction that the Dodgers, rather than going through the expensive process of arbitration this winter — he already is making $9.25 million this season and would get a significant raise — will simply non-tender him, making him a free agent a year early?

One thing is clear: if it’s a distraction Ethier is trying to become, he is at least succeeding there. Mattingly made that fairly obvious before Sunday’s game, when he said he was “blindsided” by Ethier’s remarks. He made it clear again during the game when, with the bases loaded, nobody out, the pitcher’s spot due up and the Dodgers trailing 7-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning, he sent Eugenio Velez — that would be the 0-for-28 Eugenio Velez — to pinch hit and kept Ethier on the bench.

Although Ethier was on deck to hit for Rod Barajas when the game ended, Mattingly made it clear again immediately after the game, when asked by a reporter whether Ethier will be back in the lineup Monday night against the San Diego Padres.

“We’re kind of in a little bit of a box, really,” Mattingly said. “If he says his knee hurts and we put him out there and he blows a hammy or hurts something else, now we’re kind of in a box as far as having trouble using him. So we’re going to talk and go from there.”

It was a cryptic comment from an exasperated manager, but it hinted that Ethier’s playing time could be sporadic the rest of the way, especially with the Dodgers (62-70), who are in fourth place in the National League West and 12 games behind the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks, far out of contention.

If Ethier is trying to outsmart the system, well, the one he is outsmarting might be himself. Let’s say he does force the Dodgers’ hand, and they do cut him loose, and he does become a free agent. In that case, how much of a market will there be for a guy who is coming off a down year? A guy who probably is going to be coming off arthroscopic knee surgery? A guy who so often lets his emotions get the better of his game? A guy who certainly isn’t helping his reputation with all these public outbursts, especially at a time when, according to various sources, scouts from other teams are starting to pick up on his moodiness and the fact he can be high maintenance?

Better yet, what if the Dodgers simply trade him? In that case, there is just as much chance he ends up in Kansas City or Pittsburgh as the promised land of New York or Boston, which his close friend and former Arizona State University teammate Dustin Pedroia reportedly has told him is a great place to play big league baseball. …

Aug 12

Ross Porter hired by iBN Sports

Former Dodgers announcer Ross Porter has taken a position with Interactive Broadcast Network Sports (iBN) as a studio host and play-by-play announcer covering high school and college football and basketball.

Porter, whose 28-year tenure with the Dodgers ended after the 2004 season, has been running Real Sports Heroes since 2007. He starts his new job August 26, the day that IBN launches its 2011 prep football coverage. The network also covers sports including mixed martial arts and minor-league baseball.

Mar 26

Joey from the Block

Here’s an introduction to Joe Block, the Dodgers’ new KABC 790 AM co-host. The one-time play-by-play man for the Dodgers’ Double-A team in Jacksonville kindly agreed to this interview:

Dodgers 2011 talkshow host. Excuse the generic question, but how does it feel?
DodgerTalk is one of those staple shows that transcends its hosts and eras. I revere it. And I’m humbled to join some legendary and talented people who have fostered baseball conversation on countless summer nights across L.A. In English, it’s very cool.

What’s it been like getting reacquainted with the players from Jacksonville who are still on the club? Do you see a big change?
These guys are all the same. Jonathan Broxton is still quiet. Chad Billingsley and I talked like it’s been weeks, not years. James Loney said hello to me by name coming off one the backfields the other day, before I could even re-introduce myself. There is a special bond you forge riding the buses in the minors. All the bad movies, breakdowns and flatulence. … Once you’re in, you’re in.

You’ve lived the life of an up-and-coming sportscaster, it appears – different jobs, different cities, different sports. What’s been the best and worst parts of that journey?
The worst part – anyone will tell you – is being apart from family and, now, my fiancee. She’ll move here after the season, thank goodness.

The best parts are the people you meet and the experiences on and away from the field. I’ve met some wonderfully kind people and unique characters all the same. I’ve been piloted in a tiny plane over Montana mountains, marched in smalltown parades, dressed up as the team mascot, watched nervous kids become big-time stars … but nothing beats the self-discovery that takes place when you encounter so many different walks of life. The journey is as good, if not even better than the destination.

What’s your craziest game you ever covered?
I figured out that I’ve called something like 900 baseball games, so, odds are there have been a few crazy ones. The one that sticks out the most: It was the front end of a day doubleheader in Jacksonville. Nineteenth inning, A.J. Ellis is on the mound. He allows a run that breaks a 1-1 tie. Who can blame him? He’s a catcher. So he comes up in the bottom of the 19th and laces a game-tying single to run his day to 6-for-6. Now he’s the hero (or still the goat, for those who remembered that we’re going to the 20th inning with another seven-inning affair to follow). Ellis ends up getting the win after the Suns hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the 20th. So, Ellis was in line for the loss, got the win and had a game-tying hit and a perfect day at the plate, after catching the first 18 innings. John Shoemaker gave him the second game off.

Do you now see studio host as your path, or is play-by-play with some team your main goal?
You know, it’s funny. Your goals change as the years go on. I recently got engaged and now the No. 1 goal is to establish stability, make a home and, in time, start a family. So I want to be in position to do that. That’s why I came to KABC. I wanted to be back covering the Dodgers, and this is a great area to start putting down some roots.

What came naturally for you as a broadcaster, and what skills did you have to develop?
The love of baseball and the inability to shut my yap came naturally. My parents were so encouraging, telling me to pursue this career. They also discouraged me from calling play-by-play of everyone eating at the dinner table. But, I still got to “entertain” their friends when they had company and goofy stuff like that, though.

I’ve had to develop numerous skills, and I still believe one can always improve. I think I’ve gotten decent at transitioning from element to element within a live show, like DodgerTalk. There is an art to it. I’ve learned from good talk hosts and from repetition, primarily.

You had experience broadcasting for the organization in Jacksonville, but that was close to five years ago. From a career-building standpoint, how did you keep yourself in the Dodgers’ mind to pave the way for getting this job?
I always see myself, I suppose, as one who is genuinely interested in people. I’ve met so many great folks within the Dodger family that it was just natural to stay in touch. I’m grateful they thought of me to join Josh Suchon on DodgerTalk.

Who were your broadcasting role models?
Which broadcaster doesn’t look up to Vin Scully? You find me one, and I’ll be astounded. But as a kid growing up in Detroit, before the days of the Internet and worldwide access, I admired Ernie Harwell. His kindness toward me – and countless others – really encouraged me to dig in and learn the craft of broadcasting and the intricacies of baseball while still being a good person and helpful to others.

Lastly, and I ask you this in preparation for your new job answering fan phone calls: Is there such a thing as a stupid question?
Not at all. Folks calling in spend their time working a job, raising kids – dealing with their lives full-time. I get access to players and coaches and spend my day watching baseball and learning from them, so, as a result, I should have a thicker knowledge base than a typical caller.

I see myself as a liaison between the busy fan and the team. I want to share my perspective in hopes it’ll give them a tidbit or idea to tell the guys at the water cooler. I often ask callers’ questions to players and coaches on their behalf. Now, sometimes, I’ll get a funny look in response, but there’s never a stupid question. I’ve often heard insight from callers that stoked a new idea for me.

* * *

The Dodgers try to bounce back from John Ely’s rough outing Friday:

Dodgers at Padres, 1:05 p.m.

Jan 28

Dodgers invite Mike MacDougal to Spring Training

Seven seasons removed from All-Star status, right-handed reliever Mike MacDougal has signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers and received an invitation to major league spring training.

MacDougal, who turns 34 in March, reached the 2003 All-Star Game with Kansas City (though he did not play) and as recently as 2009 had a 3.60 ERA in 50 innings with Washington.

Last season, however, MacDougal allowed 15 runs and 36 baserunners in 18 2/3 innings with St. Louis, and compiled a 4.45 ERA with three minor league teams.

Since 2007, MacDougal has allowed more than 16 baserunners per nine innings in the majors. In trying to make the major league bullpen for the Dodgers, MacDougal will have competition from such righties as Jonathan Broxton, Kenley Jansen, Vicente Padilla, Matt Guerrier, Ronald Belisario, Blake Hawksworth and Ramon Troncoso.

Also …

  • “Rachel Robinson has been given Ohio Wesleyan University’s Branch Rickey Award for her contribution and commitment to equality,” reports The Associated Press.
  • Former Dodgers as ESPN baseball commentators not only include Orel Hershsiser and Bobby Valentine on Sundays, but Rick Sutcliffe on Mondays and Nomar Garciaparra on Wednesdays.
  • The Dodgers might need to secure their airspace Opening Day, notes Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk.
  • The Mets look more excited about Chin-Lung Hu than the Dodgers had been in years, writes Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.
Jan 19

Ken Levine, Ron Fairly to be part of Seattle’s post-Niehaus radio crew

As we all know, replacing a legendary broadcaster isn’t easy — and certainly won’t be for the Dodgers on that sad, hopefully far-off day after Vin Scully has called his last game for the team.

Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk subscribes to the theory that maybe a rotating set of broadcasters is better in the immediate aftermath of a legend’s departure, rather than asking one person to bear the burden of walking in his microphonesteps.  So do the Seattle Mariners, who will rotate five men through their radio booth at various times in 2011, their first year without the late Dave Niehaus.

One of those men will be KABC AM 790 Dodger Talk co-host Ken Levine, who returns to Seattle, where he did play-by-play in the 1990s. Levine says that it’s not clear whether his new part of the rotation means he is bidding a complete farewell to the Dodgers, so we’ll see what happens there. But congrats nonetheless.

Former Dodger Ron Fairly is also among the radio crew. And on the TV side, former Dodger Mike Blowers returns as a color commentator.

* * *

  • Former Dodger coaches Roy Hartsfield and Carroll Barringer have passed away in recent days, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Matt Klaassen of Fangraphs has a dim view of any sort of platoon between Jay Gibbons and Marcus Thames, mainly because of Gibbons.
  • Though it’s primarily a story involving the Padres, Geoff Young’s piece at the Hardball Times about how collusion in the 1986-87 offseason affected Tim Raines includes the tidbit that the Dodgers didn’t sign a 27-year-old Raines to a three-year deal worth a total of $4.5 million because they were “satisfied with Ken Landreaux.” Landreaux then got 37 more hits in his major-league career.
  • File this site for future reference: MLB Trade Trees.  (link via Beyond the Box Score).
  • At 9 a.m. Sunday, CBS Sports Spectacular is scheduled to air a tape-delayed broadcast of Saturday’s supercross event at Dodger Stadium.
Jun 24

Vin Scully and the throne

Tyler Kepner of the New York Times’ Bats blog has a 1,700-word interview with Vin Scully that’s actually a prelude to a more formal Scully column running Friday. It’s a fun read, with some stories you’ve probably heard before and others, maybe not. Here’s the penultimate paragraph:

… I’ve been thinking recently, the Prince of Wales gave up the British throne to marry an American woman, which immediately disqualified him, and I thought, My God, if he can give up the British throne for his wife, maybe I can give up baseball. It’ll be hard. When I’m going to do it completely, I don’t know. If I had my way, I might be able to dabble and do home games, and maybe come down here. I don’t know, and I don’t know what the boss is going to say. He might say, ‘Well, you know, we really need a guy full time,’ and I’d say, ‘Well, then, you’ve made my settlement a lot easier.’ So we’ll just have to see. I really don’t know.” …

* * *

Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News went to Cooperstown and has a blog post highlighting a bunch of Dodger memorabilia at the Hall of Fame.

Mar 27

A bitter end

Coming shortly after the struggle was chronicled on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, here’s a very detailed article on Mike Penner/Christine Daniels by Christopher Goffard of the Times.

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At Baseball Analysts, Stan Opdyke (Dodger Thoughts commenter Stan from Tacoma) tells the story of Pat Rispole, who preserved a multitude of old radio baseball broadcasts. Opdyke also provides highlights from some of those games.

Mar 22

Vin Scully and the Fordham drawl

There is so much about Vin Scully that is artistry: his approach to calling a game, the stories he tells, his tireless preparation, his ability to appreciate and articulate the true emotional sensation of a moment, big or small. So much about him that is the work of a master, a genius.

But integral to the way Scully connects with us is something that is simply a physical part of who he is, and that’s his voice.

It’s at once authoritative and soothing. It is friendly without being overly folksy or saccharine. Ever have that teacher in school who you grew up to become good friends with – mentor and peer, all in one?  That is all in Scully’s voice.

And it stands in such contrast with the voices of most broadcasters today that seem to have come from an assembly line. Those poor factory products – they simply don’t have it. You can hear them, but often it feels like we can hear them all too well.

In my mind, the way I describe Scully’s voice is to call it a “Fordham drawl.” It’s an entirely invented term, one that’s meant to be taken anything but literally. It’s just meant to capture the trace hint of his New York upbringing and the relaxed, elongated speech pattern he has evolved into. The Fordham drawl is the voice of a Northerner who took up residence cowboying in the West, who embraced the relaxed way-of-life but found the happiest of mediums in his accent.

Scully is hardly Jack Palance, the Pennsylvania-born actor who won an Academy Award playing Curly Washburn in “City Slickers.” Hardly that rough and tough. But you can certainly imagine Scully holding up one finger and convincing you that he knows the secret to life. Because it’s all in that voice.

Scully was not even 10 when he began dreaming of becoming a broadcaster. Not only wasn’t he old enough to be aware of his gift, he hadn’t even acquired the gift yet from the puberty gods (although what we wouldn’t give to have a recording of an 8-year-old Scully doing play-by-play of some stickball game in his neighborhood.) But somehow, the perfect voice found the perfect man for it.

It’s really sort of a miracle – a blessing for Dodger fans.

Mar 16

Remembering Willie Davis


Rogers Photo Archive/Getty Images
Willie Davis in Chicago in 1969, the year of his 31-game hitting streak. Walter Alston can be seen in the background.

Ben Platt of MLB.com covered today’s memorial for Willie Davis at Dodger Stadium. The Associated Press also has a report.

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Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has a wonderful feature on Jamie Jarrin.