Feb 26

Tinker tailor pitcher spy

I had hoped to do a big pre-Spring Training piece on Chad Billingsley, but that got lost in the ongoing shuffle of my life. But Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has a good lidlifter on Billingsley, whose mechanics continue to be a work in progress.

… After throwing his second bullpen session of spring training last week, Billingsley spent several minutes talking with Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, who at one point could be observed manually adjusting Billingsley’s front foot in midair while Billingsley stood frozen at the apex of his delivery.

This is what spring training is for, obviously, to iron out little things. But this is a fairly big change for Billingsley, who is trying to stop kicking his front leg out during his delivery — which often results in his body getting ahead of his arm and sometimes allows gravity and momentum to affect his motion — and start keeping that leg underneath his body.

“I don’t know if it’s major,” Billingsley said. “I’m just working hard at smoothing out my leg kick. When my foot gets out away from my body like that, my timing has to be just right. If it’s not, then I start drifting toward the third-base side and stepping across my body when I deliver the pitch.”

And that results in the pitch being off line, maybe no more than an inch or so — but in the big leagues, that can be the difference in a game. Billingsley is hoping this adjustment will allow him to stay on line more often, giving him a little more margin for error with the rest of his delivery because his timing will be right and his momentum won’t cause him to fall off to one side of the mound.

“You can’t be perfect all the time, even though that is what you strive for,” Billingsley said. “There are going to be times when I’m still going to be too quick (with his body). But this should allow me to be more consistent.”  …

  • One of the more positive assessments of the 2012 Dodgers you’ll see comes from Ben Reiter of SI.com.
  • Steve Soboroff regrets getting on Team McCourt last year, he tells T.J. Simers of the Times, and advises McCourt to sell the Dodger Stadium parking lots with the team.
  • Not surprisingly, the Dodger Sims lineup simulator and Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness find it best – for the Dodgers to bat A.J. Ellis leadoff and Dee Gordon eighth – but not so much better that we need to stew over it. (My post about the Dodger batting order came last week.)
  • The Dodgers’ annual open tryout at Camelback Ranch is March 1. Potential prospects can call (323) 224-1512 for details and instructions.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. ran down a typical day at Spring Training the other day.
  • Stephen also passes along Don Mattingly’s initial thoughts from Camelback about Dee Gordon: “It’s a time issue with Dee. I don’t think we can say, ‘We want you to walk.’ I think we want to let him hit, let him be himself, and let him progress into the role.”
  • Jacob Peterson of Beyond the Box Score has an interesting post about extremes involving the ages of baseball Hall of Famers.
  • The departure of Tony LaRussa as Cardinals manager is the only thing that paved the way for Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith to rekindle his relationship with the team, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • Sportsthodoxy offers “Your Handy Ryan Braun Conspiracy Theory Guide” (via Rob McMillin at 6-4-2).
  • If you know in advance that you’re going to limit an ace pitcher to 160 innings in a season, as the Nationals plan to with Stephen Strasburg, how would you do it? David Pinto of Baseball Musings and Tom Tango (in a blog post and the comments below) contemplate the question.
  • An excellent story of how sabermetrics – not to mention FireJoeMorgan.com turned around the career of A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy is told by Eddie Matz of ESPN the Magazine.
Feb 25

Curious times for Uribe and Ethier

Matt Kemp, photographed by BHSportsGuy today

Juan Uribe’s 2012 Spring Training is starting off on one good foot … and one wayward foot.

Uribe pronounced himself completely healed from his 2011 injuries, but he will miss a few days of Spring Training nonetheless because of the trial of a lawsuit filed by his 2010 San Francisco landlord. We’ll let Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com explain.

… He has to fly up to San Francisco on Monday, which is the tentative trial date for a lawsuit that has been filed against him by his former landlord stemming from alleged damage to the apartment he rented during the 2010 season while a member of the Giants. The Dodgers are scheduled for their first full-squad workout on Tuesday, meaning there is a strong likelihood Uribe will miss the first workout and possibly a few others while getting this matter resolved.

All of which begs the question of why this matter isn’t already resolved. The plaintiff is suing Uribe in the amount of $145,000. Uribe is in the second season of a three-year, $21 million contract and will receive an $8 million salary this year. That means $145,000 is less than 2 percent of his salary for this year, and an out-of-court settlement of this suit presumably would be in an amount less than the amount Uribe is being sued for. …

In a separate post, Jackson reminds us that Jerry Sands is not a candidate for third base. “He tried it,” Dodger manager Don Mattingly told Jackson. “Honestly, it looked rough to me. He is a lot better on the first-base side for me. He looked a lot better there, more comfortable, at first base and both corners of the outfield. Third is not one of those positions where you can just throw a guy over there and teach him to play third.”

Mattingly, obviously, was a contemporary of Pedro Guerrero.

Mattingly also said to Dylan Hernandez of the Times and Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that his goal was to have Uribe play exclusively at third base, rather than move around the diamond, in the hopes of preserving his health.

That didn’t stop Mattingly from reminiscing about the time he strayed from first base to become what remains the last left-handed thrower to start at third base. Jackson and Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. have more.

And in other news, weather and sports …

Feb 25

The shaky bet on Chris Capuano


It’s nice to add a weapon to your decision-making, but there’s always the question of how you use it.

The signing of Chris Capuano (shown above pitching a two-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts against the Braves last August) has been framed as evidence of the Dodgers placing more faith in sabermetrics, according to this article by Ken Gurnick at MLB.com.

… The Dodgers signed Capuano to a two-year, $10 million free agent deal after newly hired front-office number-cruncher Alex Tamin determined that the lefty fly-ball pitcher was a double fit in the club’s tight payroll and spacious ballpark. …

… Doubters will say his effectiveness tailed off after the second time through the lineup and only 14 of his 31 outings were quality starts. The Dodgers will counter that improvement in his strikeout stats mirror the improvement that led to his finest season of 2005.

His career stats in NL ballparks isn’t pretty: 4-9 with a 12.93 ERA and 11 homers in 86 1/3 innings. Last year it improved to 1-2, 2.89 and one homer in 18 2/3 innings. (Note: I think something went wrong with the stats in this paragraph.)

“My feeling is that the last couple years, you can notice the metrics are a lot like ’05 and ’06 when I had my best years,” Capuano said. “What that told me confirmed what I was feeling, I feel as strong or better as when I was 25. …

The problem I see with this analysis is that you need look no further than Ted Lilly to see its limitations. Lilly, also a lefty fly-ball pitcher, has continued to give up prodigious numbers of home runs in a Dodger uniform – 41 in 269 1/3 innings, even if he did allow none in his final six starts in 2011.

Lilly’s adjusted ERA with Chicago was 122 in 3 1/2 seasons and 115 before he was traded to the Dodgers in mid-2010. With the Dodgers, it has been 98, including 94 last year. Lilly is 36 now, and unlike with Hiroki Kuroda, you can basically say the aging process is showing and that Dodger Stadium isn’t capable of stopping it.

Capuano is 33, which, coincidentally, is the age Lilly was when he unexpectedly had by far the best season of his career in adjusted ERA, 144. But unless you believe that 33 is a magic age, this may not work out well.

Yes, Capuano has been recovering from surgery and struck out 168 in 186 innings for the Mets last year – that does seem significant. But his adjusted ERA was 82, and in his entire career it has never been higher than 113. When he’s not striking out guys, he’s getting hit – hard. And it was only getting worse in 2011: In the second half of the season, he struck out 81 in 83 1/3 innings … with 14 homers allowed and a 5.08 ERA.

And what’s supposed to happen on the road, where Capuano pitches half his games, where he had a 5.42 ERA and allowed 17 homers in 84 2/3 innings? That’s a homer inside of every five innings.

At $10 million guaranteed over two years, do the stats really show that the Dodgers have gotten a good deal?

Sure, Capuano should pitch better in Dodger Stadium than elsewhere – but he needs to pitch better, because – guess what – the guy in the other uniform is going to pitch better, too. And that’s against a Dodger offense that, shall we say, could be challenged.

That’s what I’m afraid the Dodgers haven’t taken into account. Dodger fans will certainly hope for the best, and as a No. 5 starter expectations should be kept in check anyway, but if he’s still deserving of a spot in the starting rotation by July, that might be a surprise.

Feb 24

Striking thoughts about Kyle Russell and Billy Ashley

Because of his strikeout reputation, I got curious to see how Dodger prospect Kyle Russell compared to the swingingest Dodger prospect of a previous generation, Billy Ashley. They’re significantly different players in other ways, but I figured on an idle Friday I might just take a look.

Last year, at age 25, Russell had a .343 on-base percentage, .488 slugging percentage, 23 homers, 53 walks and 144 strikeouts in 493 plate appearances, spent mostly at Double-A.

Ashley spent his age-25 year in the majors as a part-time player, with a .320 on-base percentage, .372 slugging, eight homers, 25 walks and 88 strikeouts in 244 plate appearances. The following year, Ashley had nine homers and an .813 OPS in only 113 plate appearances.

The 6-foot-7 Ashley graduated from Double-A by age 22 after (or despite) having more homers than walks for San Antonio in 1992. He went .317/.534, 24 homers, 16 walks and 111 strikeouts in 404 plate appearances. Those are some extreme numbers, but it’s safe to assume that he’d have been a whole lot better in Double-A at age 25.

Ashley finished his career with 28 homers and 236 strikeouts in the majors and 172 homers and 1,005 strikeouts in the minors. Then, later, he became one of the Househusbands of Hollywood. And now you know the rest of the story …

Feb 24

Focus on Stan Conte

Dodger senior director of medical services Stan Conte is obviously a key cog in the franchise machine. Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine has the most insightful piece you’ll probably ever see on his approach, his limitations and his perhaps quixotic goals. (And yes, Jason Schmidt is addressed, though not explained …)

* * *

Howard Cole of the Register’s Dodgers Blog doesn’t want Matt Kemp or his fans to get too wrapped up in all this 50-50 talk.

Feb 23

Braun news threatens to overshadow Sands’ Carlos Perez story

Ryan Braun won the appeal of his drug suspension. I’ll let the reaction of Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra stand in for mine.

In almost all cases, the people who say that someone “got off on a technicality” or took advantage of a “loophole” really mean “I think the SOB was guilty and because of that I don’t care if the proper safeguards and protocols were followed!”  It’s a ridiculous stance.

Ridiculous because procedures such as chain of custody and the proper handling of samples — which were not followed in Braun’s case — exist for a reason. That reason is not, contrary to popular grunting, to make it harder for decent prosecutors or authorities to do their jobs. It’s to ensure the integrity of the system. And, in this case, the integrity of the sample. Every detail that is not adhered to presents another opportunity for a sample to be tainted, lost or otherwise compromised. When that happens the test itself is, by definition, unreliable and any reference to what it may or may not have shown is utterly beside the point. …

There’s more in Calcaterra’s post, one I urge you to read in its entirety. Between this chain-of-custody failure and the missing staple that was key to the McCourt divorce case, baseball appears to be ripping off Law and Order plot devices.

I’d like to think this will end the talk that there should be a re-vote of the National League Most Valuable Player award, but perhaps that’s still too optimistic.

* * *

Jerry Sands provided a lot of good copy for Dodger beat writers today, as these stories from Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A and Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com show.

The bulk of it consisted of fun anecdotes about Sands working as a substitute teacher over the winter, but my favorite part was this, from Stephen:

… Sands got married on November 19, then spent a month in the Dominican Republic, hitting .250/.325/.375 in 20 games with the Tigres de Licey in winter league ball, where he was teammates with 40-year old former Dodgers pitcher and water cooler destroyer Carlos Perez.

Sands said Perez was in something like his 20th year in the Dominican Winter League, and joked that management said of the pitcher, “We keep telling him not to come back, but every year he keeps showing up in the clubhouse.” …

* * *

The Dodgers had a few roster moves today.

They claimed 26-year-old outfielder Matt Angle off waivers from Baltimore. Angle had a .599 OPS in 95 plate appearances for the Orioles in 2011 and a .692 OPS in Triple-A, his skills mainly being incredible basestealing ability (38 for 42 at the two levels combined) and defense. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness has more on Angle, who is on the 40-man roster but will begin the season in the minors.

Rubby De La Rosa was placed on the 60-day disabled list to make room for Angle.

Also, righty reliever Jose Ascanio failed his physical and won’t participate in Spring Training for the Dodgers. has left Dodger camp after failing his physical on Tuesday. From the Dodger Thoughts 2012 Spring Training Primer:

The 26-year-old allowed five runs on 12 baserunners in 6 1/3 innings for Pittsburgh last year and has a career 5.28 ERA in 46 MLB innings. However, he did strike out 50 in 44 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis in his first significant action since recovering from late-2009 shoulder surgery. So he sounds qualified for an Albuquerque stint.

* * *

  • Arizona offered Hiroki Kuroda $13 million for 2012, $3 million more than the contract he signed with the Yankees, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
  • Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven posted a bevy of vintage Dodger photos available at Legendary Auctions.
  • EAS Sports Nutrition has a contest that will provide the winner and a friend airfare to Phoenix, hotel, rental car and tickets for two Spring Training games over the March 16-18 weekend.
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

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.