Aug 04

Rafael Furcal’s MRI is negative (in the good way)

Rafael Furcal’s MRI exam showed nothing of note, and he’s expected back in the lineup next week, Joe Torre told reporters today. We shall see …

Fellow MRIer Russell Martin was “in the machine now” as Torre was speaking, so no update on his condition yet. Knowing that Martin would be out for at least a few days, the Dodgers recalled A.J. Ellis and optioned Xavier Paul. Torre also noted that Reed Johnson’s minor-league rehabilitation assignment is just about complete and that the Dodgers will activate the reserve outfielder in the next day or so, either placing Martin on the disabled list or making another move. (I know what you’re thinking …)

* * *

From the Dodger press notes: “Tonight, Dodger fan Jorge Bahaia will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Bahaia and his wife, Elsie have traveled from their home in El Salvador to watch one Dodger homestand every year since 1945 and have also never missed a Los Angeles Dodger World Series game at home or on the road. 50 of the Bahaia’s family members and friends will be on hand to watch Jorge toss out the first pitch. ”

* * *

The Dodgers’ starting lineup, five years ago tonight:

Cesar Izturis, SS
Oscar Robles, 3B
Milton Bradley, CF
Jeff Kent, 1B
Ricky Ledee, RF
Antonio Perez, 2B
Jose Valentin, LF
Dioner Navarro, C
Brad Penny, P

* * *

Gene Maddaus of L.A. Weekly pens a lengthy look at Frank McCourt’s pre-Dodgers real-estate dealings in Boston and how that bled into his Dodger ownership and relationship with Jamie McCourt. Plenty of interesting excerpts; here’s one:

… In April 2008, Jeff Ingram, a Boston real estate banker who had worked for the McCourts since 1999, wrote an e-mail to both McCourts titled “Getting on the Same Page.”

“The most important thing that has to be accomplished is for the two of you to get on the same page on both the family finances and aspirations and the strategic direction of the companies,” Ingram wrote, sounding more like a therapist than a banker. “If there are common goals, I believe the journey will be more fulfilling and enjoyable for you and for everybody else.”

For her own sense of comfort, Jamie wanted to have $250 million in the bank. Given that the McCourts owned mostly large, illiquid and leveraged assets, the only way to achieve Jamie’s goal, Ingram wrote, would be to sell a minority stake in the Dodgers.

That was directly counter to McCourt’s ambitions, which involved not only holding on to full ownership of the team but also building a football stadium and ultimately turning his company into a global sports enterprise.

“If you aren’t on the same page,” Ingram wrote, “I sincerely hope you can have the conversation in the spirit of ‘Look what we accomplished’ and ‘How do we want to spend our time going forward.’ Please appreciate the moment and work together to determine what is best for you and your family. … From a personal perspective, I really hope you can find a common ground.” …

Aug 03

Lilly really lifts chilly Dodgers, 2-1


Danny Moloshok/APTed Lilly gave up a solo homer to Miguel Tejada in the first inning, a single to Adrian Gonzalez, and nothing else.

New Dodger starting pitcher Ted Lilly retired the final 20 of the 23 batters he faced in his debut with Los Angeles tonight, and Russell Martin’s two-run, second-inning double made the outstanding performance count for a 2-1 victory over San Diego, ending the team’s third six-game losing streak in six weeks.

The only mystery with Lilly’s performance was why he was removed from the game after throwing 87 pitches over seven innings, 65 for strikes. But Hong-Chih Kuo and Jonathan Broxton closed things out, Broxton inducing a game-ending double-play grounder from new Padres outfielder Ryan Ludwick after first giving up a soft single to Jerry Hairston Jr. and, one out later, an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez.

Lilly’s two-hit performance in his first Dodgers start came on the sixth anniversary of Brad Penny’s two-hit performance in his first Dodger start (a game that ended with Eric Gagne nearly blowing a three-run lead in the ninth). Let’s hope things go considerably better for Lilly than they did for Penny the next time out.

Aug 03

Slumping Jeff Weaver heads to DL; Rafael Furcal next?

Jeff Weaver, who has allowed 14 runs in 13 2/3 innings since July 1, decided that it might be a good idea to admit that he was pitching with a knee problem. The Dodgers placed Weaver on the disabled list today with left knee tendinitis, and called up Ramon Troncoso from Albuquerque.

… “They kind of pried it out of me,” Weaver said. “Obviously, I wasn’t able to command my pitches like I need to. It’s my landing leg, obviously, so there has been some inconsistency with it. Now is not the time to go out there not at your best. It’s frustrating, but it’s not something that is going to get worse or anything. It just needs a little time to work itself out. Hopefully, this will give me a chance to get it stronger.”

Weaver said he didn’t sense club officials were upset with him for concealing his injury, which he says came on gradually.

“They didn’t really say anything about it,” he said. “I think more than anything, they were happy I came forth with it instead of continuing to go out there with it.” …

* * *

Rafael Furcal is out of the starting lineup tonight, with Joe Torre telling reporters today that the All-Star shortstop is having an MRI on his back. Torre said Furcal felt something in his lower back on a throw, and that he is hoping it is not related to the back trouble that sidelined him for weeks and months in the recent past.

Also, Manny Ramirez has suffered yet another setback, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

* * *

The Dodgers’ magic number to avoid last place is 42. Any combination of Dodger victories and Arizona defeats adding up to 42 will keep Los Angeles out of the cellar.

Aug 02

My thoughts turn to Vin


US PresswireVin Scully, during last year’s offseason.

I have no insight into whether Vin Scully will retire after this season. My hunch is that he won’t walk away easily. He still sounds filled with so much spirit – more than any of us have, I’m guessing – that I think with whatever schedule adjustments continue to be necessary, he will press on.

But there is always the possibility that these are the final two months of our time with him on the air. And however the Dodgers are playing, I have to find a way to appreciate that time. Even if they are not his final two months, I so want to savor them.

Thirty-six regular-season games remain at home and on the road against National League West opponents.

* * *

“Leave it to the Dodgers, going back all the way to the borough of Brooklyn, to get three hits in the inning and not score a run,” Scully said at the end of the first inning tonight.

Scully doesn’t get upset when the Dodgers play badly, and fans don’t mind. In fact, they appreciate it.

There are things that bother Scully – from people who fail to acknowledge the heroes of D-Day, to the way the post-O’Malley organization discarded Mike Scioscia – but even then, he measures his words carefully and civilly.

The result on the field never bothers him. And fans don’t mind.

I do get upset when the Dodgers play badly, but sometimes I’m told I’m not upset enough, not angry enough. I’ve certainly been told that I’m not angry enough about the ownership situation, even though I’ve expressed my displeasure with it more often than I can count.

No one ever complains that Scully isn’t angry enough. I mean, it sounds silly that someone ever would, right? Maybe it’s because he doesn’t identify himself as a fan. Maybe because I get excited when the Dodgers do well, it’s considered my duty to get angrier when the Dodgers lose.

But Scully was and is an enormous influence on me. He sees every game as part of something bigger. He sees the team as part of a larger team, going all the way back to the borough of Brooklyn. He sees the grand timeline of the Los Angeles Dodgers and baseball, and knows that one bad inning, one bad game, one bad month, one bad season and more, are just part of the journey. He’s able to see all that even as he nears the end of his own journey, however far away that hopefully remains.

* * *

Matt Kemp went 5 for 5 with a double and home run in the Dodgers’ 10-5 loss to San Diego tonight, but his night was marred when he failed to score on that first-inning play Scully described above. James Loney was thrown out trying to reach third base on Casey Blake’s single, the tag coming before Kemp crossed home plate.

When Kemp came up in the eighth inning, Scully discussed the play, not shying away from dealing with it objectively, but also without venom.

Scully certainly wouldn’t say that fans aren’t entitled to be upset about the fortunes of the Dodgers this year, but I do wonder why more fans don’t follow the tone he sets. They worship him, but they don’t emulate him. I don’t judge those fans for it; I just find it interesting.

If the Dodgers don’t salvage the 2010 season, you’re going to see me continue to channel my inner Vinny, as best as I can. I hope to be insightful; I hope to be entertaining. I hope to comment without anger, to find joy amid the sorrow, to see the forest for the trees (and avoid cliches when I can). It’s something I don’t do enough of in my non-Dodger life, but here, in the one place I seem to be able to pull it off most of the time, I mean to sustain it.

In a life replete with doubt and disappointment, go with Vin.

Aug 02

Manny, Andruw and the Juan


US Presswire, AP PhotosMurderers r’oh!

I’m hoping I’m the first one to point this out, but in any case, if the Dodgers’ tailspin continues and they unload their current high-paid outfielder to the White Sox, as has been rumored, we’d have the potential of seeing Manny Ramirez, Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones in the same Chicago starting lineup. (I won’t dare dream they’d actually play in the outfield together).

In the meantime, if he avoids any immediate setbacks, it appears Ramirez will start his latest minor-league rehab assignment this week.

* * *

The Dodger coaching staff is great at pointing fingers, except at themselves, writes Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone.

… The coaches will yell and scream about wanting to win, and so will Ned Colletti, but when it comes time to committing to winning, they refuse to do it. From Garret Anderson to George Sherrill to Ronnie Belliard, the Dodgers front office and coaching staff have always refused to shed dead weight because it would hurt the feelings of veteran players.

Instead of doing anything to win like they tell their players to do, the powers that be simply talk a good game and nothing more. They talk about how they want to win at all costs, about how the players should want to do the same, and they talk about a sense of urgency. However, when it comes time to actually take the very actions that will help the Dodgers win, it’s all bark and no bite. …

* * *

  • The Irony Committee approves this Ned Colletti quote on 710 AM ESPN (via True Blue L.A.) “You watch Ryan Theriot play, it’s going to remind you of Blake DeWitt and how hard he plays.”
  • From Dodger Thoughts commenter Nsxtasy1, in response to my  “A Team of Garret Andersons” post: During the same period, Garret Anderson has a .222 BA and .300 OBP. That’s right, the team is doing so poorly since the break that Garret Anderson is outhitting the rest of the team. Yes, Garret Anderson.”
  • The Dodgers are going with a less showy Matt Kemp poster at Friday’s giveaway, writes Roberto Baly at Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
Aug 02

A team of Garret Andersons

The Dodgers have had 602 plate appearances since the All-Star Break, close to the equivalent of a single individual season. Their offense in that time: .199 batting average, .268 on-base percentage and .297 slugging percentage.  By comparison, Garret Anderson’s numbers for the season are not much different – or aren’t different enough, anyway: .184/208/.276.

Before the break, the Dodgers were at .269/.338/.406. Now that’s different.

Averaging 4.8 runs per game before the break, the Dodgers have averaged 2.1 since.

Aug 02

No denial from Matt Kemp

Those who have been waiting for Matt Kemp to man up, as it were, might find some satisfaction in T.J. Simers’ column in the Times today, in which he talked to Kemp and Dodger coach Larry Bowa. (I say “might,” because the flip side is that those same people will probably be wondering what took so long.)

“There’s more there,” Kemp said. “I agree. It’s something I need to sit here and think about and then change.” …

Why doesn’t Kemp go all out? Why doesn’t he break from the batter’s box with all he has?

“That’s a good question,” Kemp said.

Ordinarily Kemp is quick to brush aside any talk about potential not realized. But this time he sat there, listened to everything Bowa had to say, and there was no argument.

“I need to help this team out and I’m not doing it,” he said. “I’ve wasted a lot of at-bats this year. Pitchers have gotten me 70% of the time, but it’s not them getting me out, it’s me.”

So why doesn’t he lay off that outside pitch as he did in April, when he might have been the best hitter in the game — seven home runs to start the season?

“I feel it, trust me,” he said. “Everything being said, I’ve said to myself. I have no excuses. I’ve never hit below .290 in my life.” …

Aug 01

Kershaw LXXIII: Kershawl of Me

Andre Ethier might be back in the lineup Monday, Joe Torre told reporters today. In the meantime, in an example of anything to try to get the offense going, Rafael Furcal slides down to the No. 3 spot in the order.

Other notes:

  • Torre asked Jonathan Broxton if he was fine physically, and Broxton said he was. Torre said that bullpen coach Kenny Howell told Torre that Broxton “warmed up completely different than when he got out on the mound. He was very tentative.” The Dodgers don’t plan to bypass Broxton; newly acquired Octavio Dotel will enter the game as matchups dictate.
  • Manny Ramirez is taking batting practice and shagging flies, but running at “60-70 percent.”
  • Reed Johnson starts a minor-league rehab assignment today with Inland Empire.
  • Ted Lilly is on the active roster and is scheduled to start for the Dodgers on Tuesday. Travis Schlichting was optioned to Albuquerque. (Ryan Theriot replaced Blake DeWitt and Dotel replaced James McDonald.)
  • DeWitt had two singles and a double in four at-bats for the Cubs in his Chicago debut.
Jul 31

Trade deadline blues


Ben Margot/APJoe Torre walks to the mound to replace Hong-Chih Kuo with Jonathan Broxton in the bottom of the eighth inning today.

Why am I unhappy about today’s deadline deals?

After all, to reiterate a point I made this afternoon, the Dodgers now have a pitching staff that you can quite reasonably hope will shut down the opposition on a daily basis. The Dodgers have five starting pitchers with ERAs below 4.00, and that’s not without significance. There’s a formula in place for winning if the team can start hitting at all — something they might do, if these guys can get their act together and Manny Ramirez has one last spurt left.

Just when you think you know what will happen, you’re caught off guard. Anyone from Clayton Kershaw to Ted Lilly can have a bad game, and pitchers can fall into ruts like the one Jonathan Broxton, who allowed a crushing, game-losing home run to the Giants today after falling behind in the count 3-0, currently finds himself in.

Today was a day Broxton gave more ammunition to his critics. Today was also a day Chad Billingsley left his naysayers mute. (I’m assuming there’s some intersection between those two groups.) Stepping up to pitch on three days’ rest, Billingsley extended his scoreless inning string to 21 2/3 innings. Heck, he even hit two batters — so there. And he would have gone even further in the game if not for a seventh-inning error by Rafael Furcal that, though it did not lead to a run, accelerated Billingsley’s exit and might have been the first domino of today’s loss.

In any case, the acquisition of Lilly helps the rotation, and the addition of Octavio Dotel, if nothing else, gives Joe Torre an arm he’ll trust at the outset, which might spare us the destruction of other, more valuable arms.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that within 48 hours, the Dodgers traded Blake DeWitt, James McDonald, Lucas May, Elisaul Pimentel, Brett Wallach, Kyle Smit and Andrew Lambo for two months of Lilly, Dotel and Scott Podsednik and potentially a couple of more years of (grumble) Ryan Theriot. Two months of one decent starting pitcher and three marginal contributors.

It is impossible for me to believe those seven players, assembled together, would not have been enough to bring Cliff Lee to Los Angeles. It is impossible for me to believe these assets could not have been better used in some fashion.

And so whether Lee would have been the difference-maker for the Dodgers, whether or not the seven players traded away were going to be of much value going forward, it is impossible for me to feel good about what has happened.

Maybe Lilly, Dotel, Podsednik and Theriot go hog-wild and carry the Dodgers to a title. I have no way of saying that won’t happen. But I’m not happy the Dodgers gambled what they gambled to make the bet that they made.

The Dodgers don’t look particularly good entering the 2010-11 offseason. Three-fifths of the current starting rotation will be free agents, as will their left fielder, and the team will face serious offensive problems at no fewer than three other positions. This week brought an opportunity to begin addressing those problems, or make a bold move toward winning in the last year before those problems manifest. Instead, the Dodgers added, and subtracted and got a little better, but not a lot.

(I do find myself curious about the inquiries other teams made about Manny Ramirez. If the Dodgers don’t rebound in the next couple of weeks, we might see Ramirez, who would have no trouble clearing waivers, unloaded — and see the rebuilding begin after all.)

Look, the Dodger are in a serious funk, and I’m not immune. If the team weren’t on this latest four-game losing streak, we’d all feel better about things. So keep that in mind when I say that this week’s trades feel more symbolic of the Dodgers’ weaknesses, in ownership, front office and clubhouse, than like solutions to them. They are trades that seem destined to keep us wandering rather than reaching Shangri-La.

Jul 31

A second trade: James McDonald and Andrew Lambo for Octavio Dotel

Octavio Dotel, 36 years old with 52 baserunners allowed in 40 innings for Pittsburgh this season against 48 strikeouts, comes to Los Angeles as the Dodgers give up on James McDonald and minor-league outfielder Andrew Lambo.

Dotel has had a brief resurgence since mid-June, so the Dodgers will try to ride that wave and hope this isn’t another Edwin Jackson for Danys Baez.

In a way, the Dodgers are copying the Padres’ formula — trying to smother the opposition with pitching options, and hope the offense scores just enough to make it worthwhile. It’s a plan that could work, especially if Manny Ramirez comes back and Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier step things up. I’m just not in love with the guys they acquired this week to try to make it happen.

* * *

In other news, Andre Ethier is away from the team for the birth of his second child.

Jul 31

Dodgers make deadline deal for Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot

The Dodgers traded Blake DeWitt and decent prospects Brett Wallach and Kyle Smit today for Ted Lilly, an inconsistent, 34-year-old pitcher in decline, and Ryan Theriot, a 30-year-old infielder who is more expensive and worse than DeWitt.

Undoubtedly, Lilly will provide some short-term gain in the rotation, but the Dodgers have actually made themselves worse in the lineup, and are paying for the privilege.

So we beat on, boats against the current …

Jul 30

A glimmer, and nothing more: Giants 6, Dodgers 5

Daring escape their midnight dreary, the Dodgers scored as many runs in the ninth inning tonight than they had scored in any of their past eight games. Rafael Furcal broke out of his recent slump with a single, double, solo homer and two walks.

But still, the Dodgers lost, in maddening fashion. A three-run rally in the ninth inning fell one run short, and Los Angeles fell 4 1/2 games back in the National League wild-card race with a 6-5 defeat.

Merely this, and nothing more.

After being held to two runs yet again over the first eight innings tonight, the Dodgers’ comeback felt as much like their luck turning as anything else. Jamey Carroll’s force-out grounder avoided being a double play by a hair. Scott Podsednik’s long fly ball was run down by center fielder Andres Torres but clipped off his glove for a triple.

But on the other hand, Furcal had a legit perfect night at the plate (though not so perfect on the basepaths, as he was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple earlier in the night). And after James Loney was hit by a pitch (Giants pitchers hit three more Dodger batters tonight), Matt Kemp worked his way from a 1-2 count to go with a 3-2 slider, like the grownup everyone wants him to be, and single to center field, driving in Furcal and putting Loney on third as the tying run with two out, tapping at our chamber door.

Just as your eyes started to widen with hope, Casey Blake grounded into a force play at short.

Darkness here, and nothing more.

Giants ace Tim Lincecum once again looked surprisingly beatable, allowing eight baserunners in the first three innings, but the Dodgers let him off the hook in the top of the third, failing to score after Furcal’s leadoff homer despite a single, a double and a hit batter. (Andre Ethier was easily thrown out at home on a fielder’s choice.) Carlos Monasterios mostly kept San Francisco at bay tonight, leaving in the sixth inning with the Dodgers trailing, 3-2, but you picked a fine time to leave me, Jeff Weaver. For the second Friday in a row, Weaver came in with the Dodgers down a run and let things get out of hand, allowing an inherited run and two others to score.

The deficit turned out to be not quite as insurmountable as we thought, but it was insurmountable enough. The Dodgers fell to 5-10 since the All-Star Break.

These things pass, they do pass, but then again, so do kidney stones. It’s a painful, painful process. One of the last things the Dodgers have been able to cling to, their dominance of the National League West, has been chipped away with three consecutive defeats. Essentially, they have to start over.

Maybe the ninth-inning rally took some of the sting out by at least giving the impression the Dodgers hadn’t surrendered, maybe the five runs will prove helpful in reminding the offense it’s capable of producing runs, but these are not pleasant times. And the 1 p.m. Saturday trade deadline brings little encouragement. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness had the line of the night: “Most fans of ‘buyers’ are excited to see who their team picks up at the deadline. We’re just terrified. Its like anti-Christmas.”

Someday we’ll say, “Nevermore.”

Jul 30

Offense hopes to get well soon

Eight consecutive games without scoring more than two runs in nine innings, and now Tim Lincecum. Well, the Dodgers hit him last time out … before the roof caved in.

Jul 30

Ted Lilly or Zach Lee

Hypothetical: Would you rather the Dodgers spend $4 million on the remaining 2010 salary of Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly after acquiring him in a trade, or the team’s top 2010 draft choice, pitcher Zach Lee?