May 14

Yankees thrive while Dodgers dive

Yankees thrive while Dodgers diveThe New York Times has a fancy live graphic showing how much money the Dodgers are bleeding on the disabled list, through which you’ll find that only one team has more players on the DL: the New York Yankees.

So why are the Yankees (24-14) in first place in their division while the Dodgers (15-22) are in last?

You can find stats that differentiate the two teams, though you might be surprised how similar they are in some respects.

The Dodger offense has an adjusted OPS of 99, according to Baseball-Reference.com, while the Yankees’ is 98.

Los Angeles ranks 29th in OPS with runners in scoring position, but New York only ranks 27th. The Dodgers actually have a higher batting average in those situations.

The Dodgers have 20 quality starts in 37 games; the Yankees 22 in 38.

Opponents have a .711 OPS against Dodger starting pitching, better than the .724 allowed by the Yankees.

All that being said, you can also find spots where the Yankees have outshone the Dodgers, such as relief pitching. In general, the Yankees are sixth in the majors in ERA, while the Dodgers are 20th.

But I’m not sure you can actually explain why there is such a gap between the two teams, or be sure that it would continue.

• 2013 Dodger runs scored vs. runs allowed: -0.92
• 2013 Yankee runs scored vs. runs allowed: +0.66

You glance at the Dodgers, and they just awful. Awful. Since sweeping Pittsburgh in the first week of the season, Los Angeles is 3-13 against teams that currently have winning records.

Could it possibly be Joe Girardi, pushing all the right levers in such a way that the Yankees win despite their uneven statistical profile underneath the runs? Could it be that the Yankees have just been luckier? Is the best theory that of Michael Schur, passed along by Joe Posnanski: that the Yankees are “a magical species, not unlike house elves?”

Is the entire season going to resemble the first quarter? The answer to that, I believe, is no.

* * *

Nationals at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Kershaw CLVIII: Kershawo, Pioneers

Apr 23

The standings

San Diego Padres vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: 4-2

San Diego Padres vs. every other team: 1-12

The Padres scored 22 runs in their most recent three-game series against the Dodgers. They have scored three runs in four games since.

Of the 64 runs San Diego has scored this season, 36 (56.3 percent) have come in their six games against the Dodgers. The Padres are averaging 6.0 runs per game against Los Angeles and 2.1 runs per game against the rest of baseball.

Pitching? The Padres allowed 17 runs in six games with the Dodgers (2.8 per game). Against everyone else: 75 runs in 13 games (5.7 per game).

And yet, the Pittsburgh Pirates are 0-3 against the Dodgers and 10-6 against everyone else.

Unfortunately, the showdown for the ages – Padres vs. Pirates – won’t come until August 19.

Apr 11

April 11 game chat: Giants riding high, but …

More magic from the Giants today, who for the second time in under 48 hours rallied from a deficit of at least four runs. The defending champions are now 7-3.

I do have some doubts about San Francisco long-term, however, and they center on a somewhat surprising place — their starting rotation. Tim Lincecum hasn’t convinced anyone he’s going rally to be an effective starter this year, putting more pressure on Barry Zito’s renaissance to prove real.

Should Lincecum falter, it could be up to someone like Chris Heston, who turned 25 Wednesday, to step up and save the Giants’ staff. Heston had a 2.24 ERA with a 1.103 WHIP and 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings for Double-A Richmond last year, but he is not one of the team’s top-10 prospects, according to Baseball America. San Francisco’s best starting pitching prospects are in the lower minors.

Look, the Giants will probably find a way to solve any rotation issues, but it just feels a little more precarious than usual.

Dodgers at Padres, 7:10 p.m.

Carl Crawford, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Andre Ethier, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Luis Cruz, 3B
Justin Sellers, SS
Zack Greinke, P

Mar 31

The Giants’ 2012 title: Dealmaking trumps chemistry

San Francisco had the highest Opening Day payroll in the National League West in 2012, then won the World Series with a starting eight that was 50 percent new guys. Two of the players had to integrate themselves into the team with the season two-third complete, after the Giants showed the willingness to take on additional salary.

• Gregor Blanco, acquired November 2011
• Angel Pagan, acquired December 2011
• Hunter Pence, acquired July 2012
• Marco Scutaro, acquired July 2012

It’s true that much of San Francisco’s pitching staff, particularly its starting rotation, had been in place for more than a year. Still, isn’t it a little strange that the Giants are considered a triumph of chemistry over payroll?  Wouldn’t the more sensible storyline be about a team being bold enough to make the right moves?

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.

Jun 20

R.A. Dickey and Colorado: Climbing the mountain, falling off a cliff


All this and Mt. Kilimanjaro too? Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is everything Dodger fans wanted Charlie Haeger to be and more.

You might have thought climbing the big mountain or publishing a book might be Dickey’s biggest accomplishments of the year, but perhaps not.

Dickey, as David Schoenfield of ESPN.com notes, has not only thrown consecutive one-hitters, but in his past six starts, “Dickey is 6-0 with a 0.18 ERA (one earned run in 48 2/3 innings), 63 strikeouts, five walks and a .131 average allowed.”

Venerable New Yorker writer Roger Angell offered this:

… Dickey, whose full beard and peaceable appearance suggest a retired up-country hunting dog, is thirty-seven years old, with ten years and three prior big-league teams behind him, and hard work has brought him to this Shangri-La, perhaps only briefly. He’ll hope for another visit on Sunday, against the Yankees. Watching him, if you’ve ever played ball, you may find yourself remembering the exact moment in your early teens when you were first able to see a fraction of movement in a ball you’d flung, and sensed a magical kinship with the ball and what you’d just done together. This is where Dickey is right now, and for him the horrendous din of the game and its perpetual, distracting flow of replay and statistics and expertise and P.R. and money and expectation and fatigue have perhaps dimmed, leaving him still in touch with the elegant and, for now, perfectly recallable and repeatable movements of his body and shoulders and the feel of the thing on his fingertips.

* * *

Pitching is easy to predict – and hard too!

“Colorado’s rotation has undergone the most turnover and is the hardest to peg in the division, though you could say it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence,” I wrote in March for ESPNLosAngeles.com. “A look at Colorado makes one appreciate the apparent stability of the Dodgers’ starting rotation.”

Basically, while there were several grim preseason forecasts about how the Dodgers would do this season, the one thing I was most sure of was that they wouldn’t finish behind the Rockies, whose pitching seemed to be in disarray.

Vindication of that position has come throughout 2012, with the Rockies’ starting pitchers combining for an ERA of more than 6.00. That has brought one Jim Tracy to the brink of … something: a four-man starting rotation with pitch-count limits of 75 per game.

Here’s Rob Neyer’s take at Baseball Nation:

… Tracy’s just guessing, of course. And there’s another, perhaps larger issue. If Tracy sticks to that 75-pitch limit, he’ll routinely be turning to his bullpen in the fifth and sixth innings. Now, if managers are crying for relief help with starting pitchers on 100-pitch limits — as they do, routinely — what’s going to happen with 75-pitch limits?

Theoretically, it could work. Tracy’s starters have been terrible, so he’s been going to his bullpen early in most games, anyway. The hope, I suppose, is that Tracy keeps going to his bullpen early, but with his starting pitchers allowing fewer runs than they have been. It’s a lot better to call the bullpen when you’re ahead 4-3 than when you’re losing 6-4.

So this should be interesting. For a week or two. Which, if history’s any guide, is how long this experiment will last.

Said Jorge Arangure Jr. of ESPN the Magazine:

… Tracy seemed almost stunned when talking to reporters about the plan. Obviously, this is not what he expected prior to the season when the Rockies were a trendy pick to win the NL West. Instead, just minutes before taking the field for batting practice Tuesday, Tracy gathered his pitching staff and told the players the surprising news.

The asterisk in the plan is that nothing is definite. Tracy conceded that anything could be modified should one of his starters excel during a particular start. The 75-pitch limit could be ignored. Heck, if Guthrie pitches well in relief, it’s not inconceivable to think that he would be placed back in the rotation.

For the past several weeks, Colorado reportedly has been looking to trade Guthrie — who is making $8.2 million this season, the highest salary on the pitching staff, excluding the injured Jorge De La Rosa. A demotion to the bullpen won’t help his trade market. But the only way for Guthrie to reclaim any trade value is to pitch well, and maybe pitching out of the bullpen is the solution.

“We don’t know what’s going to come out of this,” Tracy said.

Hey, credit Tracy — at least it wasn’t bland and boring.

And finally, this from Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post:

… The defining moment, with the beaker fizzing, will arrive when a starter actually performs well. But Tracy insisted that even if a starter is working a shutout, he will be removed at roughly 75 pitches.

“He has got to come out, because he has to pitch four days later,” Tracy said. “But if he goes five innings, he has pitched you to the point where you can go to a bullpen with some very significant people.”

But as easy as Colorado’s woes might have been to predict, you might not be able to say the same about Atlanta’s – at least, that’s what Michael Barr of Fangraphs argues.

And Tim Lincecum’s struggles are another thing unto themselves, becoming fodder for a discussion of luck and pitching by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.

… Saying that Tim Lincecum has been unlucky is probably not true. He’s struggling with his command, falling behind in counts more often, and throwing pitches that are rightfully getting crushed based on movement and location. If Wells had fouled off that fastball on Saturday, that would have been luck, so maybe you could argue that Lincecum is suffering from a lack of good luck (in that it’s quite possible that hitters aren’t missing his mistakes as often as they used to), but that’s not the same thing as suffering from bad luck.

And that’s why we should probably try to reduce our usage of the word luck to begin with. Yes, there are bloopers that fall in, broken bat squibs that find holes, or times when a defender just falls down and the pitcher gets blamed for his defensive miscue. There are definitely instances of luck in baseball, and they do effect the results that a pitcher is credited with. I’m not arguing against DIPS theory – I’m just saying that perhaps we should try to do a better job of talking about it when a guys results aren’t lining up with his process because he’s throwing bad pitches that hitters aren’t missing.

What Voros McCracken and the others who followed his research really showed us wasn’t that pitchers have no control over batted ball outcomes, but that the things that cause those gaps don’t hold up over time. Lincecum can be doing things that are causing him to give up a lot of runs now but history suggests that he won’t keep doing those things in the future. He’s either going to figure out how to fix his command or he’s going to change his approach to pitching, and he’s not going to keep locating 91 MPH fastballs middle-in at the belt with regularity. Maybe hitters will start missing his mistakes more often. Maybe he’ll start making fewer mistakes. Whatever the cause is, the effect is likely to be that Lincecum is going to get better results in the future than he has in the first two months of the season.

But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t earned his poor results to date. The word luck absolves him of blame for the outcome, which shouldn’t be what we’re trying to do. Blame Tim Lincecum for throwing terrible pitches – just realize that it doesn’t mean that he’s going to keep throwing terrible pitches in the future.

* * *

Elsewhere around the small white stitched globe …

May 18

Kerry Wood’s farewell

Cardinals at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Bobby Abreu, LF
Andre Ethier, RF
Adam Kennedy, 3B
James Loney, 1B
A.J. Ellis, C
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Ted Lilly, P

I can’t recall a mid-May career curtain call like this one for Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood, who made the decision to retire from baseball at close of business today, and then pitched to one more batter, striking him out. The hug with his son brought a few tears to my eyes.

Wood retires at 34, 14 years after, by the measure of Bill James’ game scores, he delivered the greatest pitching performance in history.

From ESPNChicago.com:

“It’s just time,” Wood said after the game. “It was time. We saw how things were going this year and just not being able to recover and bounce back and do my job, essentially. You know, do what I’m supposed to do, day in and day out. Just the grind of getting ready every day. To go through it, hours to get ready for fifteen pitches and go out there and not be successful.

“You know it was just time, time to give someone else a chance.”

Dec 09

Dodgers-Angels: The rivalry that isn’t


Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesDee Gordon was safe on this slide, and that’s all that matters.

Never in four decades of being a Dodger fan have I taken satisfaction at any Angels’ misfortune.

Never in four decades have I rooted against the Angels in a game that didn’t include or directly affect the Dodgers.

I root for the Dodgers to win the division, the league pennant and the World Series. Last I saw, however, there is no city championship.

The Angels improved themselves Thursday. That is relevant to me as a Dodger fan only for the six games the teams will play against each other in 2012 and the X percent chance that the two teams will meet in the Series.

Who rules L.A.?  Who cares?

We’re out to win a title, not a key to the city.

In the wake of the Albert Pujols signing, some people are once again acting like Dodgers-Angels is UCLA-USC. It’s not. UCLA and USC fans live and die over their battles with each other — even when one has the better team, a victory in the rivalry game by the other means huge bragging rights.

The 2002 Angels won the World Series. Do you know who won the season series between the Dodgers and Angels that year? Would it make you feel better to learn that the Angels didn’t? I didn’t think so. All that matters is that the Dodgers didn’t win the title.

I understand that the Angels got under some Dodger fans’ skin when they added Los Angeles to their Orange County-based team’s name.  I can’t relate to the anger, because I found the whole saga amusingly trivial, but I understand that some people were tweaked. I also understand that Dodger fans can be jealous and annoyed that the Angels have been able to celebrate a title this century and the Dodgers haven’t.

In any case, the Dodgers’ problem is not the Angels. The Dodgers’ problem is the Dodgers and their rumbling, tumbling, stumbling 23 years since their last World Series title.

The Dodgers don’t need to improve because the Angels did. The Dodgers need to improve because the Dodgers need to improve. Thankfully, they still have Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw and a McCourt ownership that is in its death throes as a starting point.

Today, most Angel fans are happier than Dodger fans. Good for them. It doesn’t pain me to write that any more than it would to write that Rays fans or Marlins fans or Bad News Bears fans are happier than Dodger fans on a given day.  In fact, if the Dodgers aren’t going to win a title, I’d just as soon it be another team from the area, rather than a team from St. Louis, Boston or New York.

The sign of a true champion is to be the best you can be, regardless of what anyone else does. That, as ever, remains the Dodgers’ challenge.

Dec 08

Incoming TV money explains Pujols signing

It could have been the Dodgers making the big news today.  And someday, it will be.

But for now, it’s all Angels.

On Thursday, the Dodgers continue their participation in a bankruptcy court hearing with Fox, a hearing largely focused on how to maximize the value of the baseball team. While that is going on, the Angels signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson — and just like that, the team from Anaheim seems to have written the book on how to maximize franchise value.

The commitment the Angels are making to the 31-year-old Pujols is, for those of us who live in the real world, insane. Ten years, $250 million-plus and all the fringe benefits I suspect you can name. It’s an incredible amount of money.

But the reason the Angels are able to make such a long-term splurge relates to the same reason that Dodgers fans should have hope for the franchise after all the courtroom drama is over. The TV money coming into the Southern California baseball market, whether from Fox Sports or its newly emerging rival, Time Warner Cable, is out of this world.

As Richard Sandomir recently wrote in The New York Times, the Dodgers’ current TV rights deal with Fox calls for just less than $40 million in its final year, 2013.  In the next contract, the annual payment the Dodgers receive in TV revenue is expected to be, at the bare minimum, $150 million, and quite possibly will go north of $200 million.  Sandomir even calculates that $300 million per year is a believable figure when all the bidding is done.

I’m not one to use the word “game-changer” frequently, but that’s a game-changer.

There are two principal reasons for the soaring dollars. Live sports has become invaluable programming for broadcasters in a DVR age that has brought declining ratings to conventional TV programming. And as I wrote for Variety this week, with TWC taking the Lakers from Fox to start new cable channels dedicated to the NBA team, the Dodgers are more valuable because of the need to fill the cable programming schedules in the summer months.

What’s relevant to Thursday’s signings is that the Angels are hardly being left out of the TV party. The Los Angeles Times reported in October that the Angels were close to negotiating an extension of their current TV deal with Fox, one that already stood to pay them more than the $80 million per year that Fox agreed to pay the Texas Rangers last year. Although you wouldn’t have assumed the Angels would get quite what the Dodgers could count on, the marquee value of Pujols — the equivalent of signing a saner, younger Manny Ramirez — certainly will help. You can make a direct argument that the appeal of Pujols and his effect in boosting the Angels’ win total will only help the team draw more TV money as negotiations are finalized.

When you consider the probability that the Angels will be getting more than $1 billion from Fox over the life of Pujols’ contract, then absorbing those final $25 million-a-year seasons or whatever they are, even after he’s over-the-hill, doesn’t seem so vexing. Pujols is sponge-worthy, and the Angels are going to have a lot of sponges.

That the Dodgers know they have the same revenue potential, if not more, reminds us how easily the team could have been a major player in this winter’s free-agent market. Heck, even under a normal budget, we already knew the Dodgers could have figured out a way to afford Prince Fielder (probably a better fit for the team than Pujols because he’s younger and not demanding a 10-year deal).

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. reiterated the point this week. If you combine the salaries of Aaron Harang, Juan Rivera, Chris Capuano, Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston Jr. and James Loney, you would basically have the money to sign Fielder and a starting pitcher. Then you play bargain ball at second base, and you still probably have a better team than what the Dodgers will put out in 2012.

Factor in the Dodgers’ post-2013 TV money and a new owner with deeper pockets, which will come regardless of how the current bankruptcy hearing plays out, and it’s really no sweat. A contract the size of the one Pujols is getting makes me uncomfortable — except when I remind myself just how different the financial landscape will be for the Dodgers in the coming years.

Nothing the Angels did Thursday guarantees them a World Series title — and more often than not during the next 10 years, the team that does win the Series will not be Pujols’ team. My point is not that the Pujols signing is a great one, but that it’s a feasible one. Over the life of the contract, taking into account both his peaks and his valleys, Pujols should make the Angels a better contender for titles and TV viewers.  Even at Pujols’ astronomical salary, the Angels’ risk-reward ratio is a solid one. Adding Wilson to the party only underscores this point.

And it serves as a reminder that anyone looking to acquire the Dodgers or their TV rights would be more confident in doing so knowing that Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and a player of Pujols’ or Fielder’s caliber is in place. (And hey, Fielder is still out there …)

So take heart, Dodgers fans. Frank McCourt is still selling, and the TV dough is still coming. This time next year, the Dodgers should be in the money, and we’ll have to worry (sigh) only about whether they’re spending it wisely.

Dec 04

Manny happy returns?

Wrapping up the last week and starting a new one chock full of bullet points …

  • Manny Ramirez is moving forward with plans to get himself back in the majors for 2012, but would probably to need to still serve 50 games as a suspended player, writes Buster Olney of ESPN the Magazine. Ramirez, who turns 40 on May 30, went 1 for 17 with the Rays in 2011 before his season abruptly ended. He could show what shape he’s in with a nonroster invite to some team’s Spring Training.
  • The Dodgers are taking applicants to fill the position of vice president of public relations (link via AZ Snakepit). The Dodgers aren’t holding off until the ownership switch to make the hire: Public relations wait for no one.
  • Clayton Kershaw was interviewed by Molly Knight for ESPN the Magazine.
  • Baseball America’s annual Dodger prospects top 10 has Zach Lee on top, followed by Allen Webster, Nathan Eovaldi and then the first position player, outfielder Alfredo Silverio. Looking at the article, you know what cracks me up? The fifth-highest amateur signing bonus in Dodger history still belongs to 2000 draftee Ben Diggins.
  • I think it’s worth a reminder that Lee could be in the majors before the 2012 season is over, though it probably wouldn’t be until 2013 that he begins making any kind of impact. He’s about a half-season behind the development of Kershaw, whose debut came in May 2008, 23 months after the Dodgers signed him. Lee, who had a 3.47 ERA with 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings and a 1.22 WHIP in 2011 for Single-A Great Lakes, should hit Double-A in 2012 at age 20, the same age Kershaw was (though he’s not at the same performance level as Kershaw, who had 12.4 K/9 with Great Lakes).
  • When the Red Sox hired Bobby Valentine to manage, I joked on Twitter that his ESPN broadcast partners Orel Hershiser and Dan Shulman could join him on the coaching staff. Well, in the case of Hershiser, the Red Sox are in fact interested in him as a pitching coach, writes Sean McAdam of Red Sox Talk – assuming Hershiser’s pursuit of Doger ownership doesn’t get in the way.
  • Some vintage Tommy Lasorda cursing is available in this video passed along by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Ross Newhan calls the theory a “longshot,” but he explains the substance behind why some think Frank McCourt could renege on his commitment to sell the Dodgers.
  • More Newhan, on Magic Johnson’s entrance into the Dodger ownership race:

    … In announcing his intention to bid for the Dodgers with usual flair and enthusiasm, Johnson said he would try to build the Dodgers in the Showtime mold of his star-driven Laker teams, recruiting prominent players and paying the price for free agents.

    This is an area that Kasten and others may want to advise Johnson that it would be better to low key. Many of the 29 other owners who will eventually vote on the McCourt successor may not be happy to hear that Magic intends to pay any cost to restore Dodger prominence, driving up salaries in the process. …

  • Two views of the Dodgers’ Chris Capuano signing: Eric Seidman of Fangraphs doesn’t hate it, while Christina Kahrl of ESPN.com thinks it pretty grim.
  • DodgerTalk alum Ken Levine said he will do more Seattle Mariners radio broadcasts next year.
  • Russell Martin is expected to return to the Yankees in 2012, writes Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Ken Arneson has an interesting piece on why the opening of a Giants Dugout Store in Walnut Creek is meaningful to the rest of the baseball world.
Nov 26

The bitter kiss of a near-miss

Tonight, the football regular season ended for my biggest rooting interest, non-Dodger division: Stanford. Like the last time I pulled thus hard for a legitimate national title contender, the 2009 Dodgers, it began as a superb experience that ultimately turned frustrating, with a dose of thanks-for-the-memories perspective required to make sure I didn’t lose the forest for the Trees.

The first half of the season was incredible. Stanford would make mistakes here and there that would leave you briefly questioning its adequacy, and then you’d look up and the Cardinal would be up by 40. You’d remember that you don’t need to be perfect every play to be, essentially, perfect.

Then some injuries came, and some weaknesses were exposed, and Stanford spent the past month looking beatable, losing one critical game out of 12 when it could afford to lose none. Andrew Luck, the pole position 2011 Heisman Trophy candidate when the race began, suffered from having mediocre wide receivers but also was good for at least one really headscratchingly disastrous throw a game. Brent Musberger, who called several Cardinal games this season, would quickly minimize the interceptions to resume raising the roof of praise on Luck to Derek Jeter- like levels that — taking nothing away from Luck’s present and future greatness — made me a little uncomfortable.

Stanford won’t win the national title, and Luck might not win the Heisman. In the case of the former, it would have been fun and preferable to the BCS to see the Cardinal in a playoff, especially with some healed players, but the team would have been an underdog by the time it reached a semifinal (unlike a year ago, when Stanford was truly playing as well as any team in the nation at season’s end). I don’t feel cheated. As for Luck, he’s great and still a worthy contender, but if he doesn’t win the Heisman, I think I’d still feel worse that Toby Gerhart didn’t win two years ago. Neither statistically nor subjectively does Luck strike me as an automatic.

Expectations are mean, and I’m better to be rid of them. Much more than the Dodgers, success has been rare for Stanford football in my lifetime (and at this level unprecedented), and the journey of this team from 1-11 five years ago, through the big victories over USC, to the nearly dominant team of today had been an exquisite joyride. 

But right now, the disappointment with Stanford’s close call this season still lingers, to the extent that it’s easier for me to think right now about those ’09 Dodgers and their season turned on an ill-fated Jonathan Broxton pitch than the ’11 Cardinal. And though I don’t think Stanford will return immediately to its losing ways, the Dodgers should smell a title before the Cardinal does again.

Without a doubt, I feel good about having had near-miss teams to root for, but it’s no substitute for feeling great. 

Nov 11

State of the Angels

This isn’t Dodger-related, but I can’t imagine too many Dodger fans wouldn’t find this interview by Jim Bowden for ESPNLosAngeles.com of new Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto interesting.

An excerpt:

Bowden: Going into Spring Training will the Angels outfield be Torii Hunter in right field, Peter Bourjos in center field and Mike Trout in left field?

Dipoto: Right now it’s Hunter in right field, Bourjos in center field and Vernon Wells in left field. Trout will need to play his way on to the team. I know one thing, he’s going to play every day, and if it’s not in the major leagues then it will be in our farm system. Wells deserves a chance to bounce back. Throughout his career he has a history of bouncing back the year after he’s had a down year. Wells needs to be protected. That being said, we’ll play the best three outfielders on opening and if Mike Trout is one of those three, we won’t hold him back. …

Bowden: Hank Conger hasn’t been given a chance to be the everyday catcher despite many baseball people feeling that he could be the long-term answer. Are you going to give him a chance?

Dipoto: Conger needs to get out on the field and play with nicks and bruises. He can hit from the left side and is a good offensive catcher. Defensively, when he gets in a rhythm, he show he can do it. He deserves a chance to play every day and get the reps to find out what he can accomplish. It’s also understandable why Mike Scioscia has rotated the catchers, especially when you get such a special defensive player like Jeff Mathis. However, I want to upgrade our offense and ability to get on-base, and this is one of multiple positions where we have to find a way to improve our OBP.

Bowden: The Angels have been a poor OBP team in general the past few years. Are you going to address this deficiency?

Dipoto: Yes. The changes have to start at the grass-roots level in player development. I do respect and admire the Angels’ aggressive style of play on the bases and in the batter’s box, but going forward, we will see a shift on the roster with players that get on base more. The question is if on-base percentage is something a player is born with or a learned trait and that can be argued, but bottom line is we need to improve in that area at all levels. …

Aug 03

What’s so funny about … you know

The day began when Young Master Weisman came out of his bedroom at 6:30 a.m. on this, his seventh birthday. I called him over to me, and he gave me, well, he gave me a hug that was the biggest, longest hug any of my children has ever given me.

I would say that roughly 75 percent of that hug was pure excitement about his birthday, but you know, I think maybe a quarter of it had something to do with me. And I’ll take that combination. It felt really, really good. Just the fact that he was that purely happy … I’ll take it.

Then I learned that Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods became a father. It was on July 30, the same birthday as baseball’s youngiest youngster, Joe Nuxhall. How absolutely great.

That brings me to Grant Brisbee’s piece for Baseball Nation today. Brisbee, some of you know, runs San Francisco Giants blog McCovey Chronicles. He happens to be one of the best, funniest and most imaginative and insightful baseball writers around, in any medium. And today, he wrote a very nice column entitled, “The Los Angeles Dodgers Are Not Having A Good Season.”

As a Giants fan growing up in the ’80s, I went to baseball games in a concrete abomination known as Candlestick Park. The Dodgers had a quaint and airy ballpark. I stuffed tauntaun blubber down my jacket to stay warm during the day games. Dodgers fans wore short-sleeve shirts to the ballpark at night. I watched a team lose year after year. The Dodgers won every year. When the Giants did win something, it would be immediately followed by a sharp, piercing playoff exit. When the Dodgers made the playoffs, they’d skip through and win the World Series.

So the dislike is true and pure, forged in the fires of youthful resentment and envy. Not a fan of the Dodgers. And I figured if they ever became the 1899 Cleveland Spiders — earning every bit of a 20-134 record — it would be delightful. When the McCourt madness started happening, it was somewhat amusing. When Selig took financial control of the Dodgers, it was hilarious. And then there were allllll those losses. The German word for taking pleasure in the suffering of others is schadenfreude, and this season has been the freudiest.

At this point, though: enough. We get it.

The tipping point was Rubby De La Rosa needing Tommy John surgery. Fans of under-.500 teams are people too. They have certain rights — things you can’t take away. And the most important, inalienable right of the fan of a bad team is the right to watch a top prospect’s rookie season. The Royals, for example, have stunned the world by not contending, but every Royals fan in the world can turn on a TV and watch Eric Hosmer and Danny Duffy and Mike Moustakas play. The performances are up and down, but that’s not the point. The point is that they can watch a bad team and project how the prospects will be responsible for the eventual turnaround.

De La Rosa came up and featured a right-handed repertoire that the Dodgers hadn’t seen from one of their young pitchers since the days of Eric Gagne. And then as quickly as he was up, he was gone in a puff of smoke.

That’s not right. I know I’m supposed to be a partisan fan of a team in a historic rivalry … but, come on … really, when Rubby went down … that’s too much.

The reaction some would say I should have to this is horror. A Giants fan taking pity on us — can things sink any lower?

But that’s not me. I’m glad when someone understands, when someone extends me a hand instead of kicking me when I’m down. That’s the way the world should be.

Giants fans want to win. Dodger fans want to win.  Those are two missions forever in conflict.  But there are moments, such as when Giants and Dodger fans joined forces to condemn the Bryan Stow violence, when our shared humanity — not to mention some “There but for the grace” knowledge — transcends our differences. And I don’t care how trite that sounds — I’m a flat-out sucker for it.

Happy birthday, my boy.

May 15

Gap between Martin and Barajas is narrowing

On April 23, Russell Martin homered twice and walked, raising his 2011 on-base percentage to .410 and his slugging to .723.

Since then, Martin has gone 8 for 52 with nine walks, a .279 OBP and a .250 slugging.

Martin is still having a better season than the man who replaced him on the Dodgers, Rod Barajas, but the difference between the two is shrinking. The power is there with Barajas, whose main problem continues to be his walks – only five (against 33 strikeouts) in 126 plate appearances.

* * *

I couldn’t resist finding the irony in the fact that amid the maelstrom of poor-performing, massively paid Jorge Posada being dropped last in the Yankees’ lineup and then pulling himself out of the game entirely, the player selected to replace him Saturday was Andruw Jones, who knows a thing about maelstroms of poor-performing, massively paid players.

The other thing I noticed is that Posada’s adjusted OPS of 71 is still considerably higher than James Loney’s 50, even though Loney is on his hottest streak of the season.

Here’s what ESPN Stats and Information had to say about Posada: “Part of Jorge Posada’s poor start can be explained by a .164 batting average on balls in play, by far the lowest among 194 qualified players. However, it can’t all be blamed on bad luck, as Posada’s batted ball profile isn’t helping. His line drive rate is just 11.4, which is the sixth lowest among qualified players and would be by far his lowest since data is available in 2002.”