Having won the 2006 World Series, I’m not sure St. Louis can be haunted by postseason defeat the same way the Dodger fans have been in recent times, but losing two Game 2 one-run leads in the ninth inning in the past three years – one against the Dodgers in 2009, one against the Rangers on Thursday – has to smart.
Matt Kemp — subject of much scuttlebutt today that he’ll be named winner of the 2011 National League Hank Aaron Award — made an appearance on today’s edition of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” In this clip, be happy that Kemp avoided the walk …
Walter O’ Malley can be seen receiving a signed baseball from Don Larsen after the Yankee pitcher’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, in this unpublished Life Magazine photo. I found it after looking through this unpublished photo gallery of candids from the 1961 Yankees, that I visited thanks to a link from Baseball Musings.
- Former Dodger Tracy Woodson, who can be seen bear-hugging Kirk Gibson after his 1988 World Series home run, is now the baseball coach at Valparaiso. Phil Stanton of College Baseball Insider has an interview with him. If you want more, here’s a 2008 conversation with Woodson.
- A left oblique strain ended Alex Castellanos’ Arizona Fall League season, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Gurnick now writes that the Dodgers have considered moving Castellanos to first base, which seems more feasible but less sensible all at once. Not sure what to make of that.
- Former Dodger executive Kim Ng will interview for the Angels’ general manager job. Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com makes the case that she would be a great hire for the Angels.
- Bronx Banter founder Alex Belth published a guest piece from his brother Ben on playing ball with his son in the suburbs.
Norm Hall/Getty ImagesHiroki Kuroda (24)
The setup: Amid much speculation that he might sign elsewhere, namely Japan, Kuroda returned to the Dodgers on a one-year contract he signed in November for $12 million, one-third of which was deferred. He was coming off his best of three seasons as a Dodgers: a 3.39 ERA with 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings.
The closeup: Despite turning 36 in February, Kuroda topped himself yet again, turning in his best ERA as a Dodger (3.07, ninth in the National League) in a career-high 32 starts and 202 innings with 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings. At the start of July, it was Kuroda, not Clayton Kershaw, who was leading the Dodgers in ERA.
Kuroda was also one of many symbols of the Dodgers’ woebegone first four months: At the end of July, even as he was cruising with a 3.11 ERA, Kuroda had a 6-13 won-lost record and was threatening to become the unluckiest starting pitcher in Los Angeles Dodger history. But after choosing to stay with the Dodgers rather than be traded to a contender, he finished the year winning seven of his final 10 decisions (with a 3.00 ERA).
Kuroda’s 16 losses were still the most by a Dodger since Orel Hershiser in 1987, but only Kevin Brown has ever had a better adjusted ERA for a season in Los Angeles at the age of at least 36. In exactly 25 percent of his starts, Kuroda pitched shutout ball for at least six innings, and his 22 quality starts were tied for 11th in the NL. And he was just a lot of fun to have on the team.
Coming attractions: No one’s expecting Kuroda to sign anywhere on this continent except Los Angeles for 2012, but no one’s saying which continent he’ll choose. Ned Colletti told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com that the Dodgers might not have an answer until after free agency begins. If Kuroda returns, it might be asking too much to hope he would duplicate his 2010 or 2011 performances, but expecting that he would be a useful (not to mention joyful to watch) member of the starting rotation doesn’t seem unreasonable.
Twenty-three years since the World Series last began with the Dodgers …
- Don Mattingly gave an interview to 710 ESPN’s Mason and Ireland in which he said the Dodgers’ biggest need was “offense, no question” but added that he wasn’t confident the team would sign a big-time slugger.
- Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy posted a 2012 Dodger schedule with preliminary game times that put the start of Opening Day at 3:35 p.m. in San Diego. Clayton Kershaw pitching in Petco Park with shadows starting to spread across the field? Intriguing …
- The Left Field Pavilion Blog posted a fantastic picture of Carl Furillo’s great catch in Game 6 of the 1952 World Series for the Dodgers.
- It’s the 30th anniversary of Rick Monday’s Canadian clout – the pennant-winning home run in Montreal, notes Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times.
- Also from Jaffe: a piece on the 10 weirdest career-ending performances of all time.
- David Ogden reviewed the ballpark at Dodger minor-league affiliate Ogden for Stadium Journey.
- Satchel Price of Beyond the Boxscore picked a 2011 all-National League West team, with Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and … Jamey Carroll earning spots.
- Kershaw won the Warren Spahn Award for best left-handed pitcher in baseball in 2011.
- For Variety, I wrote two pieces looking at the World Series from a TV ratings angle: a main story and a blog post that, among other things, note that much more important to Fox than the teams in the World Series is the length. Game 7s in the past 20 years improve the audience that watched a Game 6 by approximately 50% on average.
- Bob Timmermann defends the all-Midwest World Series at L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence.
- Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News has a piece on why Fox doesn’t believe in a live strike-zone pitch-tracker.
- With a new book coming out on the 60th anniversary of the Shot Heard ‘Round the World, Ralph Branca gave an interesting interview to the Platoon Advantage.
- Josh Fisher, Esq. of Dodger Divorce answered some questions about the McCourt divorce settlement at ESPNLosAngeles.
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesIvan De Jesus Jr. (23)
The setup: De Jesus spent 2010 trying to come back from the broken leg that ruined his 2009. The results were uninspiring: a .740 OPS with Triple-A Albuquerque. It was the wrong direction for a player who in 2008 put together a .419 on-base percentage in the Southern League at age 21. That left his prognosis for 2011 decidedly mixed, though there was definitely the possibility of him winning a spot somewhere on the major-league roster.
The closeup: Thanks to Dodger injuries, De Jesus started two of the team’s first three games, going 0 for 7 with a walk and five strikeouts. He made a round trip on the Albuquerque-Los Angeles shuttle, coming back April 12 when Rafael Furcal punched his buy-12, get-one-free card for the disabled list. De Jesus got his first major-league hit in his ninth at-bat of the season, then hardly played for the next week. At the time, one might have spotted pockets of a “Free De Jesus” movement building hither and yon.
De Jesus got five starts in late April and early May and went 5 for 17 with a walk, but the infrequency of his playing time illustrated that the Dodgers just weren’t ready to commit to him — especially with Aaron Miles around. On May 13, De Jesus was replaced on the active roster by none other than Juan Castro and managed only one at-bat in the majors the remainder of the season.
His final totals: a .235 on-base percentage and .188 slugging in 35 plate appearances — not much, though still more productive than Eugenio Velez. In the minors, De Jesus did show improvement, with a .389 OBP and .432 slugging. But for the second year in a row, he watched others from Albuquerque get a September callup, while he put his glove and bat away.
Coming attractions: The fact that Justin Sellers has surpassed De Jesus on the Dodger depth chart says a lot about the latter’s standing with the franchise. As was the case in 2011, De Jesus will begin Spring Training in the running for a major-league spot, and it’s certainly not too late for the 24-year-old to make a positive impression. But the likelihood is for him to begin the season in Albuquerque with the hopes of working his way out.
Kirby Lee/US PresswireJosh Lindblom (22)
The setup: The second-round draft pick from 2008 has had Dodger minor-league watchers excited about his potential for some time, especially with a 2.54 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 39 innings for Albuquerque in 2009, but his star dimmed in a rough 2010 (6.54 ERA with the Isotopes). As with Scott Elbert, the Dodgers’ indecision about whether to make him a starting pitcher or not didn’t seem to help, but as with Elbert, the team committed to making him a reliever in 2011.
The closeup: Lindblom began the year in Double-A Chattanooga and thrived in three stints down there, totaling a 2.13 ERA, 54 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings with 48 baserunners allowed. He came up to the big club on May 29 when Kenley Jansen went on the disabled list for what figured to be a temporary stay, but he made a decent first impression with a 1.69 ERA in 10 2/3 innings, though he struck out only five and allowed three of four inherited runners to score. Lindblom went back to Double-A after Jansen returned to active duty, allowed two runs on 11 baserunners in 17 innings while striking out 18, then came back when Jansen had his cardiac arrhythmia at the end of July.
From that point on, except for a one-week roster-crunch detour to the minors in late August, Lindblom was pretty much a Dodger to stay. Though his season ERA with the Dodgers rose to 2.73, he was actually more convincing the second time around, stranding nine of 11 inherited runners and striking out 23 in 19 innings while allowing only 20 baserunners. His highlight: September 14, when he was suddenly pushed into a game against National League West champion Arizona after Clayton Kershaw was ejected and struck out the side in the sixth inning and two more in the seventh.
Coming attractions: One of the Dodgers’ bright young firebrand firemen, the 24-year-old righty should join Jansen, Elbert and Javy Guerra as one of at least four 26-and-under pitchers in the 2012 bullpen.
Mark J. Terrill/APTim Federowicz (21)
The setup: A 24-year-old catcher who had a .745 OPS with Boston’s Double-A affiliate Portland in the Eastern League, Federowicz came to the Dodger organization on July 31 with Juan Rodriguez and Stephen Fife in the three-team deal that sent Trayvon Robinson to Seattle. Despite praise for his defensive skills, almost every fan who cared was annoyed – a tidbit Federowicz quickly became aware of. Federowicz adapted to Triple-A Albuquerque easily enough, with a .431 on-base percentage and .627 slugging percentage in 102 plate appearances before getting a September promotion to Los Angeles.
The closeup: After making his debut in the eighth inning of a September 11 game against the Giants and striking out in the ninth, Federowicz reached base three times in his first career start September 15, on a hit-by-pitch, a single to center and a walk. He singled and walked in his next start two days later, then went 0 for 7 for the remainder of the season to finish 2 for 13 with a .313 on-base percentage and no extra-base hits. He threw out two of five runners attempting to steal.
Coming attractions: Federowicz has a big ally in Dodger general manager Ned Colletti, who moved Trayvon and earth to acquire him. The signing of a veteran catcher would probably mean that Federowicz starts the next season with more seasoning in the minors, because A.J. Ellis is finally out of options. Either way, Right Said Fed figures to be sexy enough to play in 50 to 100 games for Los Angeles in 2012.
Julie Jacobson/APRubby De La Rosa (20)
The setup: De La Rosa was the Dodgers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2010, but more than half of that season was spent with Single-A Great Lakes. At Double-A Chattanooga, he had a 1.41 ERA in eight starts covering 51 innings, but with a modest strikeout ratio of 6.9 per nine innings. He became the team’s most exciting pitching prospect almost overnight, but there were questions about his lack of experience. At the end of Spring Training, De La Rosa made his Dodger Stadium debut with 5 2/3 innings of two-hit, no-walk shutout ball and six strikeouts (including Ichiro twice). Appetites whetted.
The closeup: De La Rosa looked strong back in the Chatt room, with a 2.92 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 40 innings (51 baserunners allowed). In May, the Dodgers showed their willingness to start promoting key prospects from within by calling up Jerry Sands. De La Rosa came next, with the Dodgers giving up on Lance Cormier. De La Rosa began his major-league career in relief by striking out two in a perfect inning that helped preserve a 5-4 Dodger victory in Houston (in which Sands hit a grand slam and Javy Guerra got his first save). After two more bullpen outings, Jon Garland went on the disabled list, and De La Rosa was pushed into the starting rotation, making his first start at 22 years and three months. In that game, De La Rosa walked five in the first two innings, yet managed to last five innings in all, allowing one run and earning the 6-2 victory.
De La Rosa battled his control throughout his run as a starting pitcher, walking 30 in 55 2/3 innings, but he also showed dazzling stuff at times (striking out 55). In a three-start stretch, he allowed one run in seven innings at Minnesota, took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Mets on Independence Day and pitched one-hit, eight-strikeout ball at San Diego on July 9. All in all, it was pretty joyous.
In a Dodger season filled with injuries, none was more depressing than what happened to De La Rosa – a partial ligament tear in his right elbow that sidelined him after a laborious four innings against Arizona and put him under the knife for Tommy John surgery in August. He finished his rookie year with a 3.71 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings. In his entire professional career, including the minors, De La Rosa has still thrown only 280 2/3 innings.
Coming attractions: For those who think the comparison is worthwhile, Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, who also had Tommy John surgery to repair a UCL tear, went 12 1/2 months between major-league starts. That would seem to open the door for an August return for De La Rosa, though I just have trouble believing that De La Rosa would match Strasburg’s timetable. So maybe September, at a point when the Dodgers would either be playing out the string or getting a timely Rubby injection for a postseason run. Or maybe not at all in 2012. In any case, by 2013, De La Rosa might be part of a Dodger rotation that also includes Zach Lee. We can hardly wait.
Kelvin Kuo/US PresswireJamey Carroll (19)
The setup: Carroll was the sung hero of the 2010 Dodgers, exceeding expectations at the start of his two-year contract with a .379 on-base percentage in 133 games, 69 of them played at shortstop in support of an oft-injured Rafael Furcal. For 2011, he was once again slated for a bench role, but this time with everyone prepared for him to play often, given the frail state of the Dodger infield.
The closeup: Yep, you could say Carroll found regular time again – at age 37, he came to the plate 510 times, ranking fourth on the Dodgers this season. He started on Opening Day and in 111 games overall (57 at second base, 54 at shortstop). He played in 58 of the Dodgers’ first 60 games and sat out only 16 of 161. The fact is, he could have even played more. Come July, when there was only one opening for a so-called reserve in the starting infield, Aaron Miles was taking away playing time even though Carroll had the Dodgers’ third-highest on-base percentage in 2011. And then, of course, Dee Gordon entered the picture.
As it happens, Carroll did go through a summertime slump, with his on-base percentage falling to .329 and his OPS to .636 over July and August. He rebounded a bit in September and finished the season with a .359 on-base percentage (down .020 from 2010) and .347 slugging percentage. That includes three four-hit games between May 20 and June 11; he also walked in two of those games. Two statistical oddities from Carroll:
- He stole the most bases in Los Angeles Dodger history without being caught (10).
- As pointed out by Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.: His 17 RBI were tied for the lowest of any major-leaguer with 500 plate appearances in 40 years and were tied for the fifth fewest from anyone with 500 plate appearances since 1901.
Overall, among infielders with at least 800 plate appearances, Carroll has the highest on-base percentage of any in Los Angeles Dodger history, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Rk Player OBP PA From To Age
1 Jamey Carroll .368 924 2010 2011 36-37
2 Jeff Kent .367 2146 2005 2008 37-40
3 Mike Sharperson .363 1271 1987 1993 25-31
4 Eddie Murray .359 1983 1989 1997 33-41
5 Ron Cey .359 6108 1971 1982 23-34
6 Jim Gilliam .358 4893 1958 1966 29-37
7 Billy Grabarkewitz .357 966 1969 1972 23-26
8 Eric Young .355 1366 1992 1999 25-32
9 Todd Zeile .352 842 1997 1998 31-32
10 Rafael Furcal .351 2802 2006 2011 28-33
Coming attractions: Having more than justified the two-year, $3.85 million (plus incentives) contract he signed in December 2009, Carroll is a free agent, and there will be a lot of sentiment toward resigning him. Keep in mind that Carroll shouldn’t be expected to produce as much in the future as he has in the past, though we said the same thing two years ago and look what happened. At a minimum, it’s reasonable to think that Carroll 2012 would be at least as effective as Miles 2011 (salaries aside). Some team will want Carroll, that’s for sure.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireRamon Troncoso (18)
The setup: Superb for the Dodgers in 2009, Troncoso hadn’t really been the same since, coincidentally or not, a stretch of 2010 in which he pitched in 16 of the Dodgers’ first 24 games, never with more than one day of rest (not counting how many times he warmed up but didn’t enter a game). Troncoso had a 6.08 ERA from May 1 through Independence Day that year, at which point he found himself back in a place he probably thought he had left behind for good, Albuquerque. He shuttled back and forth for the remainder of the 2010 season. Though a better final two weeks in Los Angeles (9 1/3 innings, 12 baserunners, 1.93 ERA, six strikeouts) offered a bit of encouragement that the rocky road of relief might run the right way once more, Troncoso still wasn’t a sure thing. Given that he still could be optioned to the minors in 2011, he had to prove himself again in Spring Training.
The closeup: After turning 28 in February, Troncoso turned back to Albuquerque in March, failing to make the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster. The team’s reliever roulette brought Troncoso back in mid-April (thanks to a Hong-Chih Kuo trip to the disabled list), but in two games, he allowed six runs on 12 hits in 2 2/3 innings. And so back to the Isotopes he went.
Given that memory, and the 6.75 ERA he ended the 2011 season with, you might have the impression that Troncoso never contributed, but that’s not really the case. In two later stints with the Dodgers (May-June and September), Troncoso had an ERA of 2.75 with 14 strikeouts against 25 baserunners in 19 2/3 innings, stranding five of eight inherited runners. That’s not outstanding, but it was occasionally useful. On June 10 in Colorado, for example, Troncoso stranded two inherited runners while throwing 2 1/3 shutout innings in a game that the Dodgers nearly came back from a six-run deficit to win.
OK, now I’m going to tell you I cheated a bit in that last paragraph. On Closing Day, Troncoso gave up all five runs in the ninth inning of what nearly became the Dodgers’ second mega-collapse in as many days, so that May-September performance wasn’t quite so lofty. Still, to get a grasp of Troncoso’s season, factor in that he allowed no earned runs in 13 of 18 appearances. He allowed two earned runs in a game once, three earned runs twice, four earned runs once and five earned runs once.
Coming attractions: Next spring, Troncoso will find himself in much the same position he was before — trying to prove he has the reliability and durability to hold down a major-league job. Despite the ascension of pitchers like Javy Guerra, Kenley Jansen, Scott Elbert and Josh Lindblom, there’s still room for someone capable of providing occasional long relief like Troncoso — if he’s able. Perhaps Cory Wade can be his inspiration.
Jennifer Stewart/US PresswireMatt Kemp (17)
A year ago today, on the occasion of John Wooden’s 100th birthday, I published a long piece about Matt Kemp, the Pyramid of Success and the deceptive complexity of “effort.”
… If Kemp were to say to himself – and I personally don’t think for a moment he is saying this to himself – “I have money, I have love, I have a good job and I have my health, and I have this all just by being who I already am, and even though I’m no longer the best, that’s all I need,” no one would think for a moment that this was a legitimate perspective, even though outside the world of competitive sports, it most certainly is. In sports, there’s no greater sin than unrealized potential. And yet in life, in real life, letting some of your potential go at a certain point can actually be a gift to yourself and your loved ones. …
… In the coming year, we’ll see what Kemp is made of at age 26. We’ll see how much he steps up his mental game. It’s silly to assume that he won’t develop at all, but if he doesn’t develop as much as people like me hope, there are all kinds of reasons why. They’re not excuses. They’re reasons.
None of us know how Kemp will respond to the challenge. I’m not sure Kemp even knows. Plus, his performance in 2011 won’t necessarily be an accurate reflection of his work ethic. He could coast, and improve based on just natural development. He could bust his butt, and slide farther back. People will cheer if he does well, boo if he does poorly, draw conclusions based on whatever they see fit. …
Kemp had a 2011 season that would seem to have, to use an appropriate metaphor, covered all the bases. If the man behind the curtain were to pull it aside and reveal that the Bison did not attack 2011 with a singularity and clarity of purpose and determination, simultaneous to the continued blossoming of his natural gifts, it would be a remarkable surprise.
Paging through just a portion of his season highlights … you think you have perspective on his season, and you realize just how many distinct, superlative moments it comprised.
From Opening Day, when he reached base four times, to the end of the season, when he hit his 39th home run, drove in his 126th run, scored his 115th run, recorded his 195th hit, finished his season with a .399 on-base percentage and .586 slugging percentage and completed his case for the National League Most Valuable Player Award (as well as Baseball America’s Major League Player of the Year Award, officially) … do I need to even need to finish this sentence? Kemp was a bullet train, a cross-country express that never slowed, that only wavered under the vibrations of his own self-generated force.
Clarity of purpose.
A year ago today, I injected myself arrogantly into the discussion of Matt Kemp, the Pyramid of Success and the deceptive complexity of “effort,” with the implication that, for all our tangible differences, Kemp and I might in some way be kindred spirits. The similarities seem much more esoteric now. Kemp broke through the barriers like Chuck Yeager flying Glamorous Glennis through the speed of sound – the date was October 14, John Wooden’s 37th birthday and the last he celebrated before coming west to UCLA – while I find myself as I was a year ago, as I have been so many years, unsure of both what direction and what velocity I should choose, yearning to feel satisfied and yet nagged that I can’t be.
Matt Kemp pierced through all that. He mastered the art and science of baseball and life this year, to my great delight, and I’m still feeling the sonic boom.
As I wrestle with the question, are the St. Louis Cardinals really going to take two barely qualified teams to the World Series in six seasons?
- An enticing idea has been floated, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com: converting outfield prospect Alex Castellanos to second base. Is this real, or more like the false hope of Jerry Sands being tried out at third base?
- Lance Berkman, who signed an $8 million contract with St. Louis for 2011 on December 4, won the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award.
- Ones That Got Away, Part II: Rangers postseason hero Nelson Cruz was designated for assignment by the franchise in 2008, but no other team claimed him. In the Dodger Thoughts comments from March 16, 2006, future True Blue L.A. writer Phil Gurnee mentions Cruz’s potential.
- Headline of the Day: “Someone should ask Mike Scioscia for his opinion of Mike Napoli’s performance.”
- Evan Bladh of Opinion of Kingman’s Performance writes about a memorable encounter with Al Davis, as well as Davis’ feelings about Walter O’Malley.
- Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk passed along the interesting history of Major League Baseball’s new security chief, one-time USC pitcher Bill Bordley.
- The Baseball-Reference.com blog explores just how historic Matt Kemp’s 10.0 Wins Above Replacement was.
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesHector Gimenez (16)
The setup: Though his major-league career at the time comprised of going 0 for 2 with the 2006 Houston Astros, Gimenez’s .916 OPS in 2010 with Double-A Altoona and ability to play catcher attracted the Dodgers, who made Gimenez a footnote acquisition in November. He entered Spring Training with an outside chance to move ahead of Dioner Navarro and A.J. Ellis for the backup catcher role if those two faltered.
The closeup: Remember that feel-good spring? A .565 slugging percentage in 46 at-bats did succeed in propelling Gimenez onto the Opening Day roster, though not so much as a catcher (the Dodgers also kept Ellis) as a semi-utility player with Navarro, Casey Blake and Jay Gibbons on the disabled list. Gimenez reached base on an error as a pinch-hitter in his Dodger debut in Game 2 — a key play in a three-run Dodger rally that gave them a 4-3 victory over the Giants — then got his first major league hit in his only start of the year the following day. After two subsequent pinch-hitting at-bats that lowered him to 1 for 7 on the year, Gimenez went to the disabled list with a knee injury that certain cynics thought was fortuitously timed for the Dodgers to make a needed callup of John Ely. But Gimenez did in fact have surgery at the end of April.
Once healthy, Gimenez was outrighted in June to Double-A Chattanooga, where he had an .866 OPS in 266 plate appearances. Despite having some issues with offense off the bench, the Dodgers showed no inclination to bring him back to Los Angeles.
Coming attractions: Gimenez is a free agent and will look toward getting another shot at the majors elsewhere.
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesJuan Rivera (15)
The setup: Rivera was sent to Toronto by the Angels on January 21 in their infamous Vernon Wells deal, after OPSing .721 in 2010 with 15 homers in 124 games. As a Blue Jay, Rivera turned in a career-low .666 OPS (79 OPS+) in 70 games. On July 4, a day after he turned 33, Toronto designated Rivera for assignment. Eight days later, the Dodgers acquired Rivera in exchange for future considerations, cutting bait on Marcus Thames in the process. In one of my less prescient analyses of the year, I was almost completely dismissive of the pickup.
The closeup: In 2006, Marlon Anderson. In 2009, Ronnie Belliard. In 2010, Rod Barajas. In 2011, Rivera. Once again, Ned Colletti found one of his greatest successes of the year in giving up next to nothing to acquire a potent bat for the final two-plus months of the season – although Rivera wasn’t so much potent as he was a solid improvement over what preceded him. In 62 games with the Dodgers (45 starts in the outfield, 13 at first base), he had a .333 on-base percentage and .406 slugging percentage with five home runs in 246 plate appearances. Sometimes, as Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness points out, it helps just to stop playing terrible players.
What happened with Rivera is that, after OPSing .863 with four homers in his first 34 games as a Dodger, through August 24, he fell to .604 with one homer in his final 28 games and .527 in his final 15, including a 3-for-27 finish. You could say he was gassed, or regressed to the mean, but it took some of the rust coat off his Los Angeles detail.
Coming attractions: Rivera is a free agent, having played out the three-year, $12.75 million contract that he signed with the Angels before the 2009 season. He earned $5.25 million this year, but any chance that he could match that figure for 2012 evaporated with his late-season slump (assuming the powers that be noticed it). Furthermore, his chances of returning to the Dodgers diminished with James Loney’s late-season hot streak, which could push the first baseman back into the Dodgers’ future, Jerry Sands to left field and Rivera out of town.
However, if Rivera gives ground on salary, or if it’s decided that Loney is too expensive to tender a contract, Colletti would probably jump at the chance of having him back, just as he did (in mostly ill-fated fashion) with Anderson, Belliard and Barajas. The presence of Rivera would take some of the pressure off Sands to perform immediately, and one could certainly argue that Loney (who will get at least $6 million if the Dodgers don’t farewell him) isn’t worth millions more than Rivera for 2012. Colletti is high on Sands, but it’s hard to believe he’d be more comfortable with Sands batting behind Matt Kemp in April than Rivera. Moreover, the Dodger bench definitely has room for him at the right price.
Assuming that a signing of a super-slugging free agent by the Dodgers is mythical, Rivera might well be a Dodger next year, but the more he’s looking for in salary, the longer he might be kept on hold.