No matter how rough things might get this year for the Dodgers, no matter how many disappointing twists and turns there might be this season, expected or unexpected, I don’t think I’ll be as unhappy as I was today when, after battling ants at the kitchen sink, on the kitchen counter, near the kitchen table, near the doors to the yard, in the kids’ bathroom and in the guest bathroom for every free minute I had, I sat down exhausted on the living room couch, a place of sanctuary, and found, on either side of me, more ants.
Scott Wachter/Icon SMIRonald Belisario: 2.04 ERA in 2009, 5.32 ERA in 2010.
It wasn’t even a headline. It was just a little item in Tony Jackson’s Dodger notebook from the earliest days of Spring Training, appearing below the day’s top news: “Blake shaves signature beard.”
Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario will be late to spring training for the second season in a row because of visa problems in his native Venezuela …
There was no indication of how late Belisario would be, or much reason to think it would affect his 2010 season. And it was but one pitcher in a deep Dodger bullpen, one of the best in baseball the previous year.
The Dodgers had other things to worry about. Who would be their fifth starter? What condition would Manny Ramirez be in? Would Russell Martin and Chad Billingsley come back from disappointment? How would the ownership strife affect the team? So Belisario’s going to be a little late. So what?
But as it turned out, Belisario’s visa problem, which was never completely explained, was a pinprick in the Dodger life-raft. The other concerns didn’t completely go away, but strangely, it was with Belisario’s absence that the air slowly began leaking out of the 2010 Dodger season.
Without Belisario, the Dodgers weren’t as prepared for George Sherrill to misplace his mechanics or for Hong-Chih Kuo to begin the season with soreness in his left elbow. It put an extra strain on second-year reliever Ramon Troncoso, and compelled the Dodgers to keep both Russ and Ramon Ortiz on their Opening Day roster. Four times in the team’s first eight games, Dodger relievers ended up with an L next to their names in the box score. In a year that begin with promise but also uncertainty, the Dodger bullpen was supposed to be the anchor of the two-time defending National League West champions. Instead, it was the first sign of the unraveling.
And as it turned out, there was plenty to unravel. Among the many other fraying threads of a year gone awry were these:
Garret Anderson: Remember when Brian Giles and Doug Mientkiewicz were competing for the role of top left-handed pinch-hitter? Each came with health concerns, so come March, the Dodgers decided to take a look at Anderson, perhaps the most costly look since Lot’s wife checked her rear-view mirror. Anderson had the lowest adjusted OPS (29) of any Dodger with at least 150 plate appearances since Maury Wills in 1972 and second-lowest of any grown man in a Dodger uniform in 99 years.
The Dodgers got about six productive weeks out of Vicente Padilla in 2010.
Sour start: Inviting speculation that he was implicitly criticizing the state of the team’s pitching, Joe Torre passed over Hiroki Kuroda to give the first pitch of the season to Vicente Padilla. The Dodgers subsequently began the season on a grim note, with Pittsburgh’s Garret Jones homering in his first two at-bats against Padilla en-route to an 11-5 pounding of the Dodgers. Pittsburgh began the season 2-0 over Los Angeles; the Pirates are 45-92 since.
Bullpen bottoms out early: Torre used Jonathan Broxton in the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ third and fourth games of the season, with leads of eight and six runs. In the fifth game of the season, Troncoso and Sherrill were asked to protect a two-run lead in the ninth, and failed. This, as it turned out, was not an aberration.
Death to flying things: Seemingly quelling fears about the back of the Dodger starting rotation, Charlie Haeger struck out 12 in six innings during his first start of the season. But one out before Haeger’s outing was over, Matt Kemp bobbled and dropped a fly ball, leading to an unearned run that cut the Dodgers’ lead to 5-4 and setting in motion a season Kemp is already trying to forget. Jeff Weaver gave up two more runs in the seventh inning, and the Dodgers came home from their first road trip of the season 2-4.
Manny needing medical: With a .500 on-base percentage and .619 slugging percentage, Ramirez heads to the disabled list for the first of three times in 2010 with a right calf strain. In the 13 games he had played to that point, the Dodgers had scored 93 runs.
Many needing medical: A day later, the struggling Padilla went on the DL. A week later, it was Rafael Furcal. Haeger, in something of a mercy killing, landed on injured reserve following his eight-strike, five-run start against Colorado. And then just after Ramirez returned, a broken pinky sidelined Andre Ethier and halted his MVP-caliber start to the season.
Lima’s time: It had no bearing on the Dodgers’ playoff hopes, but the passing of Jose Lima can’t go unremarked upon when talking about things gone wrong.
Elbert’s Elba: Scott Elbert, the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect at the start of the year, gets called up, walks three in two-thirds of an inning, and isn’t heard from again.
Broxton’s season turns: With the Dodgers continuing to ache for reliable setup men, the All-Star closer’s season 180s with a 48-pitch nightmare against the Yankees.
Another Belisario mystery: Just when he had righted himself on the field, Belisario disappears to the restricted list for a month.
The end of Elymania: The shot in the arm provided by rookie John Ely ricochets on the Dodgers when he posts a 7.49 ERA in his final seven starts before being sent back to Albuquerque.
Fruitless acquisitions: The Dodgers trade Blake DeWitt, James McDonald, Lucas May, Elisaul Pimentel, Brett Wallach, Kyle Smit and Andrew Lambo for Ted Lilly, Octavio Dotel, Ryan Theriot and Scott Podsednik – and then go 14-15 in August and 1-6 to start September.
The Dodgers are more than a hair out of the playoff chase.
Absent offense: The team’s second-half OPS is .647. No Dodger with more than 50 plate appearances has an OPS over .750 since the All-Star break.
More injuries: Furcal and Martin succumb again in August, Martin for the season.
To shield themselves from these falling rocks, the Dodgers had the sustained excellence of Clayton Kershaw, Kuroda and Kuo, the comeback of Billingsley, the valuable off-the-bench contributions by Jamey Carroll, and occasional hot streaks by various other players from time to time, from Ramirez, Ethier, Furcal and even Kemp (in April) to Carlos Monasterios, Kenley Jansen, Ely, Padilla and Lilly. There was the nine-game winning streak in May. There was even a walkoff balk.
It wasn’t enough, not nearly. The Dodgers didn’t have the kind of protection they needed against so much pummeling. Too many expectations went unmet. In the starting lineup, you can’t find a single player who didn’t take a step back in performance and/or health.
Despite the McCourts, the Dodgers had a contender on paper. But that paper got shredded, much like Ronald Belisario’s visa application.
That John Lindsey entered his first major-league game Wednesday but was removed for pinch-hitter Andre Ethier before he actually got to see his first major-league pitch generated the kind of national uproar on Twitter that I’m not sure has happened with the Dodgers since the Jonathan Broxton Yankee game. (Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness has examples.) ESPN’s broadcast of the game contributed to that, but still, it indicates how galvanized people have become by his story.
Lindsey handled his close-but-only-a-cigar moment – he ended up with the suitable-for-framing first lineup card bearing his name, writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com – with a big smile, as if to say that the moment was anything but ironic. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has more:
“It was exciting,” said Lindsey, who finally made a regular-season box score by being announced as a pinch-hitter in Wednesday night’s 4-0 Dodgers loss to the Padres, only to be immediately lifted when the Padres made a pitching change. “I was waiting for this all my life and I was a lot cooler and calmer than I thought.”
Lindsey, called up Monday after 16 years in the Minor Leagues, was sent up to bat for Scott Podsednik and face left-hander Joe Thatcher with one out in the top of the eighth inning and runners on first and second. But as soon as Lindsey was announced, Padres manager Bud Black replaced Thatcher with right-hander Luke Gregerson.
Dodgers manager Joe Torre countered by sending up Andre Ethier to bat for Lindsey, and Ethier bounced Gregerson’s first pitch into an inning-ending double play.
“It was something I had to do,” Torre said. “It didn’t work.” …
As Bob Timmermann noted right as it happened, Lindsey became the first player to be announced as a pinch-hitter without actually batting in his major-league debut since Cody McKay of St. Louis in 2002. Billy Ashley was the last Dodger to have it happen, in 1992.
Whether it was really something Torre had to do in a contest that would determine whether the Dodgers would be nine or 11 games back in the National League West (answer: 11), in a game that Russ Mitchell started and Trent Oeltjen pinch-hit, was debatable. It certainly was a perfect moment to bring up Ethier (the Dodgers’ fifth consecutive pinch-hitter of the inning) from a strategy standpoint, if you put aside Ethier’s inconsistent bat of late. And maybe it was even perversely poetic. Perversely.
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Dodger starting pitcher Chad Billingsley looked extremely sharp at the outset Thursday, but his defense didn’t. Billingsley cruised through an 11-pitch first-inning despite a Rafael Furcal error and didn’t allow a hit until Luis Durango’s infield single in the third inning. Durango immediately stole second base – one of 30 consecutive stolen bases the Dodgers have allowed (not counting Clayton Kershaw pickoffs) since Russell Martin’s season-ending injury – and scored the game’s first run following an Adrian Gonzalez intentional walk on a Miguel Tejada single.
In the sixth inning, San Diego loaded the bases on two more infield singles and a sacrifice bunt/failed fielder’s choice. A single to left, an error and a sacrifice fly later, the Dodgers were down by the 4-0 margin that would become the game’s final score. Los Angeles finished the game with two singles, two walks and a double. Billingsley ended up with five walks.
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- The family of our good friend and Baseball Analysts founder Rich Lederer gets a nice feature story from Bob Keisser of the Press-Telegram. Rich’s father, George, who covered the Dodgers for years, is being inducted into the Long Beach Baseball and Softball Hall of Fame.
- Josh Fisher writes a semi-personal piece about being at the McCourt trial for Dodger Divorce.
- At Baseball Prospectus, Ken Funck writes about Ted Lilly and his future.
In case you’re wondering why Russ Mitchell is getting to make his major-league debut ahead of John Lindsey, this Dodgers.com video of Ned Colletti congratulating Lindsey on his call-up and telling him he would fly his Mississippi-based family to the Dodgers’ upcoming four-gamer in Houston offers a clue.
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Former Dodger owner Peter O’Malley figures prominently in this Sports Illustrated feature by Lee Jenkins on the chaos in team ownership.
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Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. looks at just how poor the Dodger outfield has become. Interesting tidbit: Andre Ethier has been striking out more than Matt Kemp, which is saying something.
Denis Poroy/APClayton Kershaw reacts after falling behind, 2-0, on an RBI double by Adrian Gonzalez.
Even if no one else is, the Padres are still taking the Dodgers seriously. Two batters after ace starting pitcher Mat Latos struck out 10 in seven innings, San Diego brought in closer Heath Bell to get five outs against the National League West’s fourth-place team. Bell did the job, striking out four himself, sealing the Padres’ 2-1 victory Tuesday.
Andre Ethier all but epitomized the Dodgers’ night with a second-inning at-bat in which he swung at all seven pitches he saw, fouling six and whiffing on the seventh.
Clayton Kershaw (seven innings, six baserunners, six strikeouts) gave up single runs in the second and third innings, and the Dodgers couldn’t come back despite placing the tying run in scoring position in the sixth and eighth innings. Latos, three months older than Kershaw and taken in the 11th round of the same 2006 draft (10 picks after the Dodgers took Justin Fuller), lowered his league-leading ERA to 2.21.
The Dodgers fell below .500 for the first time since May 11. Since holding the best record in the NL with a 36-24 record on June 9, the Dodgers are 33-46, 26th in the majors.
In 83 regular-season plate appearances for the Dodgers in 2009, Ronnie Belliard had five homers and a 1.034 OPS. In 183 plate appearances in 2010, Belliard had two homers and a .622 OPS, sinking to levels below what got him cast off by the Washington Nationals last summer.
Belliard’s chapter in Dodger history ended today with the team designated for assignment in order to purchase the contract of 27-year-old Australian outfielder Trent Oeltjen, who had a .979 OPS for Albuquerque. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles has details.
Belliard and Marlon Anderson — how their Dodger stories paralleled.
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The one-time Dodger phenom, now 25, hit 33 homers for the Orioles’ Double-A farm team in Bowie. That’s right — Double-A, the same level Guzman was at as a 20-year-old when he was considered arguably the Dodgers’ top position prospect.
Guzman had a career-high in walks with 45 this season, against 121 strikeouts — still not enough to assuage questions about his eye at the plate.
John Lindsey (.353) won the minor-league batting title in absentia, to go with the slugging percentage title.
If the happiest baseball player on the planet right now is John Lindsey, the happiest reporter might be Ramona Shelburne.
The ESPNLosAngeles columnist has been on the Lindsey beat for only a few weeks, but in a Dodger season that has become so dreary – a 4-2 loss Monday to San Diego finally dropping the team back at .500 at 69-69 – Lindsey represents one of the few things worth writing about right now – and even more so nearly the only happy thing.
Shelburne has yet another story about Lindsey’s callup – on the surface, this might start to seem like overkill, because the Dodgers went through something similar with Mitch Jones a year ago – but then you start reading and realize that this is one story we can hardly get enough of. It’s the anti-2010-dote. (In contrast, my condolences to Tony Jackson, who gets to cover everything else.)
It might be imprecise to call Lindsey’s story an entirely happy one, as uplifting as this chapter is. In the dimly lit hours early this morning, I thought about the years I spent trying to break into primetime television. I got an early cup of coffee, getting some lines in someone else’s script while I was a writers’ assistant for this show that none of you will remember, then spent years in TV’s minor leagues, drawing interest and coming agonizingly close to success but never quite making it. The fact is that if I had gotten that one script – but only one – it’s not like there wouldn’t be some disappointment. As hard as Lindsey has worked, there’s no way he’ll be entirely satisfied by a cup of coffee or two. Life is like Lay’s potato chips.
But in the moment, the next opportunity is all you can ask for. And Lindsey, who has been asking for such a long time, will finally get his. Right now, there aren’t many reasons to watch the Dodgers more compelling than seeing that opportunity come, and hopefully the Dodgers won’t draw out the wait much longer. I eagerly await the story on Lindsey’s first major-league at-bat.
Once they get into games, John Lindsey and Russ Mitchell will give the Dodgers 48 players this season. However, climbing the final steps of the mountain to match the Los Angeles record of 53, set in 1998 – Damon Hollins, anyone? – will be an Everestian challenge. Two pitchers on the 40-man roster, Brent Leach and Javy Guerra, could make it 50, and outfielder Trayvon Robinson 51, but with the 40-man roster full, it gets dicey after that.
Will the Dodgers be the cure for the what ails the Padres? Los Angeles isn’t the cure for starting pitcher Mat Latos, who was scratched from tonight’s game and replaced by Tim Stauffer. Not often you see the losing pitcher from the previous day’s game make a start. Stauffer threw 13 pitches Sunday and was charged with two runs. Stauffer is making only the fourth start by someone outside of the Padres’ regular 2010 starting rotation this year.
Let’s start with Sunday’s best story: John Lindsey is finally a major leaguer. From Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com:
Lindsey, 33, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple-A first baseman who has played more seasons in the minors without earning a call-up to the majors than any current player, was among five players the Dodgers promoted Sunday afternoon.
Lindsey will be joined by third baseman Russ Mitchell, who is also making his major league debut, infielder Chin Lung Hu, and pitchers Jon Link and John Ely.
For Lindsey, set to join the team Monday, it was the realization of a lifelong dream. He’s spent nearly half his adult life in the minor leagues, since the Colorado Rockies took him in the 13th round of the 1995 draft.
He’s had a career season in 2010, batting .354 with 25 home runs for the Albuquerque Isotopes.
“Oh man, the second [Isotopes manager Tim Wallach] told me my whole brain kind of shut down. I was hearing what he was saying, but I couldn’t even believe it,” Lindsey said.
“He went to shake my hand and I had to hug him because my legs were so weak.”
Lindsey said Wallach had initially tried to fool him by asking him to come into his office, then slamming the door.
“I think he was trying to mess with me, but [hitting coach] Johnny Moses was in the corner, trying to keep a straight face the whole time, but he couldn’t stop smiling,” Lindsey said.
“Wally told me it was the happiest day as a manager he’s ever had. I walked out of that office and hugged all my teammates, called my wife, and I haven’t stopped smiling or pacing around the clubhouse since.
“I probably won’t sleep the next three or four days.” …
Sometimes, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s that you get to play the game.
Says Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.: Lindsey, who is 33 years, 219 days old today, will be the oldest non-Japanese Dodger to make his MLB debut since Pete Wojey (34 years, 213 days) on July 2, 1954.
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As for Sunday’s results – yes, the team looking to make a miracle comeback in the standings suffered a blow. Arizona fell to Houston, 3-2, missing a chance to close within 12 games of the fourth-place Dodgers, who lost to San Francisco, 3-0.
The Dodgers’ magic number to clinch non-last place is 12. Los Angeles has clinched the tiebreaker against Arizona by winning the season series, so even though six of the Dodgers’ final nine games are against the Diamondbacks, the odds remain in the Dodgers’ favor.
Oh, as for the other races? Can’t say the Dodgers are doing much there.
The Padres are the first team to stay in first place despite a 10-game losing streak since the 1932 Pittsburgh Pirates, and looking to be the first team to make the playoffs despite a 10-game losing streak since the 1982 Atlanta Braves, according to Stat of the Day. That was the year that the Dodgers took advantage of the Braves’ slump to regain the National League West lead, only to run into a most bitter ending. This year is looking bitter in a different way.
Greg Zakwin wraps up Sunday’s Ack-loss at Memories of Kevin Malone: “(Andre) Ethier, Jamey Carroll, and Matt Kemp struck out a combined eight times. Five baserunners. Thirteen strikeouts in total against just a single, solitary walk drawn. Just a single extra-base hit. No Dodger reached base more than once. Pitiful is a word that seems to perfectly describe the offensive side of things since the All-Star Break.”
Hiroki Kuroda made his sixth straight start of at least seven innings, with a 2.47 ERA and .179 opponents batting average in that time, according to the Dodger press notes. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com notes that it was the sixth time this year that Kuroda has been on the wrong end of a shutout. As Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes, opportunities to watch Kuroda in a Dodger uniform might be dwindling to a precious few.
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- Al Wolf of the Times (via Keith Thursby of the Daily Mirror) predicted in 1960 what the team’s 1962 Dodger Stadium opener would be like. His conclusion: “As broadcaster Vince Scully said in his dulcet tones: ‘Wotta show! Wotta show! Come on out tomorrow night, those of you who missed it. But if you can’t be with us, plunk down a dollar in your pay TV set and watch it that way. Or better yet, put in two bucks and see it all in living color.'”
- Fred Claire, who acquired Tim Wallach for the Dodgers on Christmas Eve 1992, puts his support at MLB.com for the Wallach for Manager campaign, though not with the Dodgers specifically. Claire, of course, was the Dodger general manager throughout Mike Scioscia’s post-playing Dodger career. His departure preceded Scioscia’s by about a year.
- Four of the Dodgers in Sunday’s game – Carroll, Ryan Theriot, Ethier and Reed Johnson – finished with a .289 batting average.
With the continuation Saturday of Jonathan Broxton’s nightmare second half, allowing the game-winning homer in the Dodgers’ 5-4 loss to San Francisco, we double-down on the Russell Martin question and ask whether another member of the Dodgers’ core of homegrown talent will be playing for another team next season.
Broxton’s situation is not identical to Martin’s. Broxton’s decline is more recent, and the potential to bounce back stronger. Though Broxton has always insisted otherwise, it’s still hard to imagine that something physical isn’t at least partly responsible for the onslaught of baserunners and bummers in the past two-plus months: 41 baserunners and a 7.25 ERA in 22 1/3 innings since the June 27 Yankee game, 32 baserunners and a 0.83 ERA in 32 2/3 innings before that this season. So you shouldn’t close the door on Broxton’s career as an effective reliever any more than you should have closed the door a year ago on Chad Billingsley’s career as an effective starter.
But the fact is, relievers that are effective over the longterm are exceptions to the rule. And thanks to the two-year deal Broxton signed January 19, he is set to earn $7 million in 2011, his final year before free agency. No matter where you stand on the question of Broxton’s abilities to play or the McCourt ownership’s ability to pay, you can imagine that the Dodgers might think twice before giving Broxton that kind of dough now. And Broxton still has plenty of ability to bring something in a deal.
So in addition to the uncertain Dodger futures of free agents like Hiroki Kuroda and several others, add Broxton to a separate list that includes Martin (declining performance), James Loney (disappointing power) and Matt Kemp (you know the drill). Four players that at the start of 2009 were cornerstones of the Dodgers’ future, with combined 2011 salaries in the neighborhood of $25 million. In my mind, the question is not whether the Dodgers will trade one of them, but whether they will trade all of them.
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In the near-term, this has been something of a nine-lives season for the Dodgers, but Saturday’s loss knocked off yet another. With National League West-leading San Diego losing its ninth-straight game, and backup outfielder Jay Gibbons hitting a three-run home run, the Dodgers were close to moving with seven games of the division lead, a day before beginning a three-game series with San Diego.
Ted Lilly’s one-hitter through six innings turned into a home run fest. The Dodgers hadn’t allowed four homers in a game all year, but Lilly (two), Octavio Dotel and Broxton accomplished the feat in 2 1/3 innings. Los Angeles did not allow a single in Saturday’s game until Cody Ross’ ninth-inning hit, right before Juan Uribe’s final blow.
Here’s a description of the fateful pitch from Broxton, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“I’m assuming [Uribe’s] looking for a fastball, he’s going to cheat a bit, get the barrel ready, try to catch the fastball out in front,” said catcher Rod Barajas. “We threw slider, it didn’t break. It just spun, stayed over the middle plate. Obviously, if he was looking for the fastball, he was able to react.”
“Well, it just hung, straight down the middle. It didn’t move like it should have,” said Broxton. “He capitalized on a mistake.”
It was the first time Broxton had ever given up a ninth-inning lead on a home run at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers then put the tying run at third base with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but couldn’t score him.
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Tim Wallach, to Kevin Baxter of the Times on the upside of being turned down for the Padres’ managerial job four years ago and eventually making his way to Albuquerque: “If I hadn’t done this, I would have been overmatched in the big leagues. … I made a lot of mistakes because I was not ahead in the game. You have to be a couple of innings ahead, six hitters ahead.
Rafael Furcal, who homered, tripled, doubled and walked in six plate appearances rehabbing with Triple-A Albuquerque, returns to the Dodger lineup tonight for his first major-league action since August 2. From Tony Jackson:
“He had a couple of backhand plays, not really tough ones but backhands nonetheless,” said Stan Conte, the Dodgers’ director of medical services. “He also ran out a double and a triple. He had no tightness [Thursday] and no tightness today.”
Furcal started two double plays Thursday, writes Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner. Jackson adds the following color:
Things got chippy in the ninth when (Josh) Lindblom hit Matt Camp with a pitch with one out. Iowa manager Ryne Sandberg and (A.J.) Ellis started yelling at each other. The benches and bullpens cleared, but no punches were thrown and order was quickly restored.
Lindblom struck out Jonathan Mota and Sam Fuld to end the game. Fuld took exception with a called strike three and had to be restrained by Sandberg from going after home plate umpire Matt Schaufert.
The Dodgers also added catcher A.J. Ellis to the expanded active roster.
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- John Lindsey finished third in the Pacific Coast League MVP race, writes Albuquerque’s Jackson.
- Jon SooHoo, the great Dodger team photographer who is being honored for 25 years of service tonight, gets an appreciation via this photo package from Austin Knoblauch at the Times. (via The Left Field Pavilion).
- Regardless of what it means for the trial, you don’t see story ledes like this every day: “Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt described himself Friday as a devoted husband who tried to comply with his wife’s exorbitant wishes but stopped when she sought $250 million for her personal use.”
There’s an angle of the McCourt divorce trial that I think has been underplayed. From The Days and Tweets of Molly Knight:
To sum up (if Frank is losing): either Frank pays Jamie off and keeps team–which would be the sane thing–or Jamie wins and Frank spends 2 years appealing.
Whoever loses on MPA is likely to appeal. With the logjam in CA courts now, that could take up to 36 months, I’m told. Worst case, obvs.
It could be a while just to get a decision on this trial from Judge Scott Gordon, if there is no settlement.
Judge will have 90 days AFTER trial ends in late September to make his decision on MPA. So we night not know until Christmas.
After this week, the trial takes a break, not scheduled to resume until Sept. 20.
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Whenever I told people that the divorce wasn’t to blame for the current state of the Dodger finances, I tried to emphasize that it was because the finances would have been what they were even if the McCourts remained happily married. Bill Shaikin’s piece in the Times underscores that point.
The divorce didn’t cause the Dodgers’ financial problems. It’s what brought those problems up to the surface.
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- Breath of fresh air: Hong-Chih Kuo played some catch with fans in the Dodger Stadium bleachers, as you can see in this post from Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
- Albuquerque had its own bullpen nightmare Wednesday, blowing a 13-6 ninth-inning lead. It was a key loss that could accelerate the end of the Isotopes’ season (and, if you’re looking for silver linings, possibly bring some callups to Los Angeles sooner). Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner has more; Jon Link gave up the final five runs in the shocking (note Jackson’s URL) 15-13 defeat.
“We had one more (pitcher) but I can’t use everybody,” (manager Tim) Wallach said, adding that anyone left would not have been able to pitch for very long.
“That first night kind of set us up in a bad spot for the doubleheader (Tuesday) and then tonight,” Wallach added, referring to the Isotopes’ 20-9 loss on Monday that saw them use six relievers.
- Not only have the Dodgers been muffing an opportunity over the past several days to make a surge in the National League wild-card race, they could have made a dramatic run for the NL West title, thanks to San Diego finally hitting a cold streak and losing seven straight games. Putting aside how slim their playoff hopes are, the Dodgers could technically be closer to the NL West lead than the wild card as early as Saturday if the Padres lose to the Rockies and the Phillies keep winning.
- Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness points out some things to keep an eye on in the likely event that the pennant race goes on without the Dodgers. Among them: Whether to ease up on 22-year-old Clayton Kershaw.
- As you might know, each year that James Loney’s salary increases, it becomes harder to tolerate his below average value as a first baseman — making him one of the decisions the Dodgers must confront in their busy upcoming offseason. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. takes a detailed look at Riddle Me Loney.
This is not a rumor I’m starting. There is no evidence that this is being discussed or will ever happen. Everything I’ve heard is that the Yankee will finish his career as a Yankee.
But that sort of talk has been wrong in the past. And so I submit to you that there are far more outlandish possibilities than Joe Torre returning as Dodger manager next season and successfully recommending that the team sign free agent infielder Derek Jeter.
White lies, little and giant, have always been part of baseball — even the creation of the game is rooted in myth. But I can’t remember a year since I’ve been following the Dodgers that seems as defined by misinformation as 2010.
The tone was set last fall by Frank and Jamie McCourt as they prepared to do battle for ownership of the franchise, with the he said/she said battle positions flowering during numerous public revelations this year, leaving us with the bouquet of stinkweed at the trial that began this week. I’m not saying that someone’s been trying to pull a lot of wool over someone’s eyes, but lambs across the country are shivering in 90-degree heat.
It hasn’t only been the McCourts. Matt Kemp is held out of the starting lineup for days at a time, and the explanations richochet like bumper cars. He’s tired, he needs to get his head together, he’s in a battle with a coach, he needs to go talk to Joe Torre, Joe Torre needs to talk to him.
Manny Ramirez is finally ready to play after a painfully long absence, and yet he’s not playing. It’s matchups against the pitcher, it’s the square footage of the opposing outfield, it’s Torre playing a hunch, it’s to protect Ramirez for his waiver sendoff to the American League, it’s Ramirez’s own pigheadedness.
And then there are the media columnists who will bend and even break the truth to suit the stories they are determined to write, heedless of the facts.
This all comes on top of the game’s typical lies, such as a player hiding an injury (often to the detriment of the team), that are so familiar and yet so tedious.
It has bred a cynicism so rampant in many of us that even when a Dodger executive of unimpugned integrity like Logan White said in June with complete honesty that he drafted Zach Lee with the full intention of trying to sign him, few believed him — and most of the few who did simply believed he was lying to himself.
Baseball in general, and the Dodgers in particular, don’t necessarily owe us the truth, and I understand little white lies will always be part of the game. Baseball is a business, a culture and a family, and in all three fib to protect themselves. But this year, the cumulative effect of the lying has had a punishing effect. Last week, when Ramirez missed his final four chances to start after reaching base in his final four plate appearances as a starter, I rolled my eyes so much that they bowled a 270. It would be a bit much to pull the “have you no decency” card, but surely there doesn’t need to be such contempt for the truth to operate a baseball team in Los Angeles.
The grievances of Dodger fans are many, perhaps too many and perhaps sometimes too petty. But the feeling is almost unshakable that the Dodger organization has gone too far in insulting the intelligence of the fans. If our expectations are sometimes too high, that doesn’t mean the Dodger players, coaches, manager, executives and ownership don’t need to aim higher. In the end, winning is all that matters, but integrity goes a long way toward soothing the spirit when you’re losing.
Let’s put it this way: If you as an organization choose to espouse the heart and hustle and grit and gristle of players like Scott Podsednik and Jamey Carroll, then maybe you need to apply those values to your own, you know, values. Character in a baseball team is defined by more than how fast you run down the line. You’re telling me character matters, yet you’re not acting like it.