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.
Feb 16

A moment of future Dodger owner exasperation

This’ll just make you shake your head and sigh. From Ross Newhan at Newhan on Baseball:

… sources also revealed that none of the investors are particularly happy with the Dodgers’ eight-year, $160 million, backloaded signing of Matt Kemp, and the two-year, $19 million contract to Clayton Kershaw.

“Who with the Dodgers is giving out those kinds of contracts at this point?” said one of the sources. “I mean, two years to Kershaw when you are not buying out free agency or arbitration? That’s almost as much as (two-time Cy Young Award winner) Tim Lincecum got from the Giants.”

“None” are happy? I can’t quite believe this, though it’s coming from the pen of Newhan, one of the most experienced baseball writers around.

If the premise is correct, then how are we to react? Putting aside the astonishment someone is having over the concept that Clayton Kershaw would deserve “almost as much” as Tim Lincecum, you’re still left with the whining over the best two players on the franchise (a franchise for which you’re bidding well over a billion dollars) getting competitive salaries. Sheesh.

Yes, ideally the Kershaw deal would be longer, but you get the sense that the source would still be complaining if it were. In any case, it’s not as if you can’t make a Kershaw extension your first order of business.

Dear owners: In case you’re not aware what’s going to happen after the Dodger sale is completed, here’s a news flash. You’re going to have to pay your players. And the good ones deserve a lot of money. You’re buying a baseball team, not a McDonald’s franchise.

It’s not as if Frank McCourt were going to prepay all the players through the end of the next TV contract. If you’re bidding on the Dodgers and chagrined by the Kemp and Kershaw contracts, you need to really rethink what you’re doing.

Going forward, I have to believe this narrow-mindedness doesn’t reflect the views of the next Dodger owner.

Feb 16

Farewell, Gary Carter

Gary Carter, the Hall of Fame catcher who spent 1991 with the Dodgers, passed away from brain cancer at the too-young age of 57.

Carter was the subject of one of my earliest posts at Dodger Thoughts: January 7, 2003.

I’ll get back to the 2003 Dodgers soon, but I am cutting in to comment on the two players elected to the Hall of Fame today – both ex-Dodgers – Eddie Murray and Gary Carter.

Both are completely deserving, although Carter had to wait until his fifth year of eligibility. Carter is at a level just below Mike Piazza as a hitter, and since Piazza will retire as the greatest hitting catcher of all time, that’s saying something. And Carter was much better defensively. Murray played at a high level of excellence for close to 20 years. The Dodgers acquired Murray toward the end of his career, not too differently from their newest first baseman, Fred McGriff. McGriff is a Hall of Fame candidate but is a level below Murray.

I covered about two dozen major league baseball games as a reporter, and only three at Dodger Stadium. But one of my most memorable experiences involved Murray and Carter. To put it in context, Murray retired with a terrible reputation with the media; Carter retired on quite different terms.

I had patiently waited 30 minutes in the Dodger locker room before a game to interview Carter and had just begun to interview him when Murray directed me to leave the locker room. There is a rule that reporters have to leave the locker room x minutes before the game starts. I had never seen this rule enforced until Murray tried to. Carter, realizing how long I had waited and knowing I wasn’t asking a lot, let me finish the interview.

The rule is there for a reason, and I don’t begrudge its existence. I will easily give Murray the benefit of the doubt that he was probably doing what he thought was right for the team. At the same time, I was doing my job in a professional manner and it would have been nice if he had tried to work something out with me instead of trying to kick me out, no questions asked.

I am confident that no doubt some unfair and/or inappropriate things were written about Murray during his career. However, I also tend to believe that he was similarly flawed in his dealings with reporters, and that whatever was written about him in Baltimore or anywhere else, he deserves some responsibility for his reputation as a curmudgeon with the media.

The postscript to this is that today Ken Daley, the Dodgers’ main beat reporter for the Daily News, wrote an article very critical of Carter, based on incidents that occurred the same year:

Daley implies that he didn’t vote for Carter for the Hall of Fame for these reasons. I think the moral of the story is that unless you have a situation like Pete Rose or Joe Jackson, it’s best to judge HoF candidates on their on-the-field merits as much as possible.

All my best wishes to Carter’s friends and family.

Feb 16

The Andre Ethier conundrum

There’s been much discussion, initiated by this post by Steve Dilbeck at Dodgers Now, about whether the Dodgers should offer Andre Ethier a contract extension before the season starts.

Dilbeck frames things properly: “If the Dodgers believe in Andre Ethier, if they are confident he will rebound and have a successful 2012 season, they need to sign him to a long-term contract. Like soon.”

In other words, if you think he’s your guy, there’s no better time to extend Ethier than coming off a relatively poor season.

One problem, though, is that even if the Dodgers believe in Ethier, the two parties might disagree considerably about his value and simply be unable to come to terms in March. At Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, Mike Petriello illustrates in detail the difficulty of pegging Ethier’s future value.

The other problem, as Chad Moriyama writes, is maybe you shouldn’t believe in Ethier.

“While I’ve always liked Ethier, as he felt a part of the young core, the timing is all wrong for me,” Moriyama says. “Locking up a corner outfielder with a four year declining trend in wOBA, mediocre defense (despite the joke of a Gold Glove), the inability to hit lefties, and questionable athleticism just isn’t a risk I’d feel comfortable with. Sorry, but when I look at the type of player Ethier is, I can’t help but envision Brad Hawpe and his precipitous decline at age 31.”

One thing I just happened to notice in passing that I hadn’t realized before: Did you know Ethier finished 12th in the National League in on-base percentage last season? If you adjusted for park effects, he would rank even higher.

And off we go …

  • Bill Shaikin of the Times notes that the second cut of Dodger ownership contestants is looming. Shaikin also wrote recently about how Frank McCourt’s shenanigans have made things difficult for the San Diego Padres.
  • The 2012 Dodgers project iffily, concludes Eric Stephen at SB Nation Los Angeles.
  • Dustin Nosler of Feelin’ Kinda Blue wants the Dodgers to bid on 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler. (Nosler, by the way, interviewed me for his site and posted it here.)
  • You might think you know Dodger Stadium, but you don’t know it better than Kevin Waters. Who’s Kevin Waters? Let Jon SooHoo explain …
  • More from SooHoo – a fan’s attempt to catch a foul ball, a reunion of Henry Rodriguez with Raul Mondesi and Ramon Martinez from 1998 and a Father’s Day photo of the Tony Gwynns.
  • Lots to choose from at Baseball Prospectus today, but we’ll start with this appreciation by Steven Goldman for Fernando Valenzuela’s rookie season.
  • A day ago, the piece de resistance at Baseball Prospectus was this: Sam Miller’s recap of “the worst game of 2011.”
  • Ramon Ortiz, still kicking, signed a minor-league deal with the Giants.
  • Fox’s Saturday broadcasts will start at 4 p.m. Pacific for eight consecutive weeks from May to July. I have more details in this Variety piece, where you’ll see a highly veiled reference to Jonathan Broxton’s Waterloo weekend against the Yankees.
  • Lucas Giolito and Max Fried, the two Harvard-Westlake pitchers who are expected to be top picks in the 2012 MLB amateur draft – with Giloito potentially becoming the first righthanded prep pitcher to go at No. 1 – are profiled by Eric Sondheimer of the Times.
  • An idea I floated Wednesday on Twitter: New York can have Linsanity, Dodger Thoughts might be stuck with Jonsanity, but with its new starting shortstop, Los Angeles should start hoping for Deerangement.
Feb 15

Changes in MLB come too fast for long-term predictions

What does the future hold for the Dodgers? I’d almost suggest you not even try to answer.

ESPN.com is running a three-day series called “Future Power Rankings,” which attempts “to measure how well each team is set up for sustained success over the next five years.” With respect, a closer look at the ratings underscores the folly of the effort.

The Dodgers have come in at No. 19, too low for an organization that had the 13th-best record in MLB last year and is poised to put years of front-office nonsense in the past. No one needs to detail to me the Dodgers’ current weaknesses, but the fact is that the franchise arguably has the best position player and the best pitcher in the National League, a farm system full of pitching potential, few contract commitments beyond 2013 and a volcano of TV money about to pour in — money that can be used to improve not only the on-field talent but the folks wearing the suits and sport coats.

The 2012 season, though not a lost cause, isn’t one to be optimistic about as a Dodger fan. But after that, do you really think there are going to be 18 other teams better positioned than the Dodgers for success?

ESPN’s biggest misgivings are in the category of “management” — defined as “value and stability of ownership, front office and coaching staff” — in which the Dodgers were given six points, the fewest of any team except for the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles. But it’s sort of absurd to look at the Dodger management of February 2012 and extrapolate that it will tread such shallow water over the next five years. Though there are no guarantees, to say that there can be a quick turnaround in this category is an understatement.

Similarly, rankings of talent at both the major-league and minor-league level fluctuate like crazy year-to-year.  If you want any evidence, consider how highly the Dodgers would have ranked three years ago, at the midpoint between back-to-back National League Championship Series appearances.

In terms of the Dodgers’ NL rivals, ESPN ranks the Padres 20th, Giants 17th, Rockies 15th and Diamondbacks in the top 10. There’s a methodology to it, but I think that methodology is the product of a glorified guessing game.

The Future Rankings are definitely a conversation starter — they got me started this morning — but that’s about as far as I would take them.

Feb 14

Save the date?

Believe it or not, the 10th anniversary of Dodger Thoughts comes Saturday, July 21, which seems like as good an occasion as any to have a gathering of the site’s readers and friends. (Above is a photo by Rob McMillin from the first Dodger Thoughts gathering in 2006.)

The Dodgers will be on the road July 21, playing a day game in New York with a 10:10 a.m. Pacific starting time. If you have any interest in getting together, would you be more interested in assembling

a) Saturday morning and playing ball at a park with the game on the radio?
b) Saturday afternoon or evening at a park for a barbecue or some such?
c) on a different day at Dodger Stadium and catching a game together, perhaps July 28 against the Giants (6:05 p.m. start).

Just curious about your thoughts – thanks.

Feb 14

St. Bobby

On this Valentine’s Day, Josh Wilker makes Bobby Valentine the subject of his Cardboard Gods offering, linking to a 1971 Spokane Daily Chronicle story in which Valentine declares, “I intend to be the Dodger shortstop for many years.” But Valentine, the 1970 Pacific Coast League MVP, had already suffered the injury that derailed his playing career.

But wait, there’s more …

  • In the second part of Bronx Banter’s series on Hiroki Kuroda, William Juliano runs a statistical analysis on the former Dodger righty.
  • Steve Dilbeck of Dodgers Now celebrates, for good reason, getting a phone call at home from Vin Scully.
  • Dodger Stadium will once again host a college baseball doubleheader, this time on March 13. UC Irvine will play Pepperdine at 2 p.m., followed by UCLA-USC at 6:30. Advanced tickets are $7 ($5 for students). Gates open at 1 p.m., parking is free and concessions are discounted. Details here.
  • Tony Gwynn (Sr.) is having more cancer surgery, reports The Associated Press.
  • From Chad Moriyama: “The article I didn’t want to write: Jeremy Lin and racism.”
  • Hey, it’s not as if I’m immune to the charms of Kate Upton, but thanks to Big League Stew for finding the link from Upton’s MLB 2K12 ad to George Plimpton’s Mattel Intellivision spot.
  • Update: Adding this last bit from Mike Newman at Fangraphs

    … Before scouting Dodgers Rubby De La Rosa in person, a running joke with scouting contacts was that my radar gun must be broken because it had never registered a velocity above 96 MPH in a season and a half of lugging it around. I headed to Chattanooga knowing De La Rosa threw hard enough to surpass 96 MPH, but was not prepared for just how much harder he threw. Seeing a “seven” on the gun was impressive, but when he popped the mitt at “eight” and “nine” in succession, it became obvious De La Rosa’s fastball was in a different league than any I’d seen previously. (For those who are wondering, when a pitcher throws in the 90+ MPH range, scouts will drop the nine and refer to the pitch by its second digit.) And while I generally ignore stadium guns at all cost, seeing 101 MPH flash on the scoreboard was a first, and left onlookers buzzing in the stands.

    And while De La Rosa lacked command in the upper registers, the one 98 MPH fastball he located belt high on the inner half is seared into my scouting mind as it bored down and in on a right handed hitter to devastating effect. It was the single most dominant pitch I’ve seen live …

Feb 13

The Emerald City prepares for Hong-Chih Kuo


On the heels of Alex Belth’s feature on Hiroki Kuroda came this piece by Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times (via Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.) on new Mariner lefty Hong-Chih Kuo. In the picture that runs with Baker’s article, I can’t say Kuo doesn’t look smart in that Seattle uniform, but maybe I just miss him.

… Kuo had battled a yips problem in 2009, then became arguably the game’s top reliever in 2010 with the Dodgers. In the interim, he’d worked with famed sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman to curtail his throwing issues.

But Dorfman passed away last February at age 75. By April, the yips troubles were once agan starting to overwhelm Kuo. He returned after the first DL stint, struggled again, then went back on the DL in May. I asked Kuo whether Dorfman’s death made it tougher for him to bounce back, since he could no longer phone him up for instant advice.

“Yes, it was hard,” he told me. “But you still have to fix it. It can’t come from somebody else.”

Then, he looked at me and pumped his chest with his fist.

“It has to come from inside here,” he said. “It has to come from inside me.” …

Elsewhere …

  • Ken Gurnick produced a status report on the Dodgers heading into Spring Training for MLB.com.
  • In its latest behind-the-scenes offseason video, ESPN.com checks in on Clayton Kershaw.
  • Dodger Thoughts softball teamer Matt Worland blogged at length about Saturday’s tournament. Here is part one and part two.
  • James Loney doesn’t look so bad, or as bad, now that the quality of National League first basemen has declined, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Twice-baked Dodger pitcher Jon Garland (remembered by Dodger Thoughts here) has signed a minor-league deal with Cleveland. He earned a $5 million base salary from the Dodgers in 2011.
  • Bob Timmermann posted a great historical piece on the Sports Arena at L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence. I’d call it a must-read for any local sports fan.
  • More history: Mary Mallory of the Daily Mirror looks back at Eaton’s Rancho, which one sat at the corner of Laurel Canyon and Ventura Boulevard, currently home to a McDonald’s.
  • A soundtrack for season two of Treme goes on sale April 17 (and has just been added to my wish list). Here’s a link to the season-one soundtrack.
Feb 11

A good day had by all


Though there was no stopping the bats of top-seeded LFP 2 in its 31-7 semifinal victory over Dodger Thoughts, the day was nothing but a success. I couldn’t have gotten a better bunch of teammates if I tried – just a lot of fun to spend the day with. Thanks to Mike at LFP and Big League Dreams for putting on a great event.

Feb 11

Into the semis


Greg Zakwin connects in Dodger Thoughts’ 27-2 triumph in a rematch against Vin Scully Is My Homeboy II. A semifinal game awaited in the semis against LFP 2, the one team to beat DT today.