Sep 05

With Jonathan Broxton struggling, just how radical will the Dodgers’ 2011 reconstruction be?

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

Giants at Dodgers, 5:10 p.m.

Sep 04

September 4 game chat

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.

Sep 03

Rafael Furcal returns

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.

* * *

  • 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.”
Sep 02

Potential appeal could keep Dodgers in McCourt hands for years

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.

And also:

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

Other links:

  • 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.
Sep 02

Unthinkable or thinkable: A Joe Torre-Derek Jeter reunion in Los Angeles?

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.

Sep 02

The 2010 Dodgers and the reinvention of lying

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.

Sep 01

So noted …

Clayton Kershaw yes, Dodger offense and bullpen no. Instead of talking more about this laborious game, I’m going to use this time to catch up on some linking-gone-a-lackin’:

  • Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone got a well-deserved moment in the spotlight on Dodger Talk.
  • Chin-lung Hu has finally returned from the Albuquerque disabled list, just in time for the end of the season, according to Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner. Hu entered tonight’s Isotopes game in the sixth inning, replacing Rafael Furcal, who is on his rehab assignment, and singled in his first at-bat.
  • Furcal tripled and doubled in his first two at-bats tonight.
  • Jackson also notes that the Royals called up catcher Lucas May, whom the Dodgers included in the Scott Podsednik deal.
  • Xavier Paul’s neck injury will keep him out for the rest of 2010, writes Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • The ex-Dodger doing really well for the White Sox is Edwin Jackson, notes Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk.
  • Erick Threets, whom you might remember was a Cinderella contender for the Dodger bullpen in spring training 2009, ended up pitching well for the Sox this year — 12 1/3 innings with a 0.00 ERA — but his season (and next season as well, it appears) sadly has come to a surgical end, reports Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com.
  • Chatsworth High grad Mike Moustakas had an 11-RBI game the other night for Kansas City’s Triple-A farm team.
  • “She gave me a pen.” Bob Timmermann will say anything to keep on keepin’ score, as he writes at L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence.

Feels good to get back in the swing of things a little bit. Still trailing on game coverage and other planned posts — Dodgers Cogs & Dogs will be on hiatus Thursday, returning Sept. 13 — but it’s a start. And maybe people are happy that I haven’t gotten to the divorce trial coverage yet …

Aug 31

August 31 game chat

My issues continue, and then some. Say a farewell to my cellphone, which spent a good 30 minutes in the pocket of my swimsuit today while I was juggling the kids in the pool today. At least the kids survived.

It’s getting near the point where I just need to call this a vacation, but I’m going to continue to try to post when I can.

For your pregame enjoyment, here’s Ramona Shelburne’s great feature on Albuquerque’s John Lindsey for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Aug 30

Kuroda no-hit miss still a feel-good experience


Kirby Lee/US PresswireHiroki Kuroda

You know, it might have been enough of a silver lining just to be celebrate Hiroki Kuroda’s first hit of the season, coming in his 46th at-bat.

But we were five outs away from something even more transcendent – the cathartic thrill of celebrating a Kuroda no-hitter – before Shane Victorino’s one-out single to right field in the top of the eighth inning of the Dodgers’ game against the Phillies tonight.

Part of the thrill would have been feeling that the no-hitter could hardly have happened to a nicer Dodger.

Kuroda walked two, hit a batter, struck out six and raised his season batting average to .022 before the first H went up against him. He struck out a seventh batter, and then Hong-Chih Kuo relieved him with two out in the eighth, inducing a first-pitch force-out from Mike Sweeney. Kuo then pitched a perfect ninth to wrap up the combined one-hitter, a 3-0 Dodger victory.

“The funny thing is, decisions will be made, games will be won or lost, we’ll all think we know more than we did – and then we’ll still be blindsided by something new, as Dodger fans always have been,” I wrote two days ago. Kuroda almost singlehandedly proved that. And although he fell short, to quote from the movie “Diner,” it’s a smile.

Aug 30

This is Clayton Kershaw’s team now

I’ve had a lot of thoughts about events of the past couple of days, and I’m having trouble juggling them amid the time constraints I’m facing this week. With tonight’s game about to start, let me get the quickest and most meaningless of them out of the way.

This is Clayton Kershaw’s team now. It’s his team in the way that the San Francisco Giants became Tim Lincecum’s team, partly through lack of other options and partly because of how precociously good he is (although with Lincecum’s recent struggles, that might no longer apply). Kershaw is the Dodgers’ pinnacle, in the present and the future, in a way that Matt Kemp and Russell Martin in their own ways haven’t been able to sustain, and that Rafael Furcal hasn’t been able to stay healthy for. And only people on the other side of the Mississippi would think this was Joe Torre’s team.

Maybe this might have been Andre Ethier’s team, especially with all the walkoff wonders, but it just hasn’t felt that way. He seems, for all his skills, like a guy lurking in the background. This is no criticism of the skills he has, but he is not the guy that I think opponents fear the most, that represents the best of what the Dodgers have to offer.

Clayton Kershaw, 22 years old, is that guy. It might not matter, but it’s pretty amazing that it’s come to him so quickly. How far will he go in that role?

Aug 29

Waking up from Manny

Ignominious.

Reduced to being a bit player on a team once again fading, perhaps Manny Ramirez made some say “good riddance” with his one-pitch ejection in his Dodger farewell.

For me, the engorged lockdown of Ramirez during the brief and final window the Dodgers had left with him (and perhaps in the playoff race) couldn’t have been more disappointing. 

No final redemption. Thirteen months ago, Ramirez emerged from salty circumstances to hit a pinch-hit grand slam. Today, no remnants of glory to be found.

A memorable chapter closed with Ramirez’s sendoff to the Chicago White Sox, but the ending didn’t exactly make for great television. Next time, let’s have Ramirez wake up next to Suzanne Pleshette or something.

Monday brings a stomach-churner of a divorce trial to determine team ownership.

Ignominious.

I don’t know when, but we will see better days.

Aug 29

Let him play! Let him play!

Manny Ramirez is on the active roster, and he should be playing. The Dodgers have failed to provide a good reason why he isn’t. They say it has nothing to do with his uncertain future; I don’t really care if that’s true or not. He’s a Dodger starting outfielder on the active roster, and that’s what he should be doing until he’s no longer a Dodger.

Posting is still going to be a bit sporadic for a few days, as it’s extended family week for the Weismans. But I’ll do my best …