Feb 22

Manny Ramirez begins his farewell tour

Manny Ramirez confirmed — as much as he is capable of — what every interested party on Earth and neighboring celestial bodies already surmised: 2010 will be his last season as a Dodger. From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… He said he hasn’t been told by club officials that the Dodgers aren’t interested in re-signing him, but he added that it probably isn’t realistic to expect them to do so.

“I’m just speculating but I’m not 23 anymore,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said he would wait until after the season to determine if he wants to play in the major leagues for what would be a 19th year. His options might be limited to the American League, which uses the designated hitter, because of his defensive limitations in left field.

“The game is still fun, but I think I have to wait until the season ends and see where my family is at before I make a choice,” Ramirez said. “I will just wait and see how my body reacts.”

After working out for most of the winter near his South Florida home, Ramirez said his legs feel fine entering spring training.

“From the waist down, I feel 15,” he said. “From the neck up, I feel 43. I feel good.” …

This is creating a lot of headlines from Los Angeles to Boston, but it doesn’t really change anything. There’s still exactly the same doubt about his physical condition there already was. Mentally, there’s certainly a chance he might mail in the season, or try to orchestrate a midseason trade to an American League team with an opening at designated hitter — a move the Dodgers might be quite happy to accommodate, depending on the circumstances. But the fact that Ramirez voiced aloud what everyone was suspecting is hardly a turning point.

The main thing is that we’re still looking at a 38-year-old slugger with idiosyncrasies but also something left to prove. It was going to be an interesting ride before today, and it figures to stay that way.

Ramirez’s OPS by month in his final season in Boston: April 1.029, May .714, June .930, July 1.060.

Other notes:

  • Dylan Hernandez of the Times wrote that Ramirez “refused to talk in detail about problems at the plate last season, but he acknowledged that (the Dodgers) made him change his off-season training regimen.”
  • Joe Torre said that he plans to give Ramirez two or three days off every two weeks. If you translate that as a game off per week, on average (factoring in off days), Ramirez would be on tap to play about 140 games if he doesn’t go on the disabled list.

Previously on Dodger Thoughts: “Tracing the Citizen Rebellion in Mannywood.”

Feb 21

So, you were wondering about the Dodgers’ 2018 payroll?

Bill Shaikin of the Times has another batch of revelations from last week’s Jamie McCourt legal filings indicating that, while player payroll has remained steady through last year, the Dodgers planned on keeping it below 2009 levels for most of the next decade despite projected increases in revenue.

For my part, I don’t happen to think the Dodgers are capable of predicting what their team payroll will be eight years from now, as the documents suggest. As Vin Scully might say, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your 2018 budget.”

Furthermore, as Shaikin writes, the projected payroll (relative to projected revenue) in these documents is so low that even MLB commissioner Bud Selig (or, in all probability, his successor) would object.

… The Dodgers spent 46% of revenue on player compensation in 2007 and 42% in 2008, according to the documents. The projections call for that percentage to fall to 25% by 2013 and remain at about 25% through 2018.

Commissioner Bud Selig encourages teams to spend about one-half their revenue on player compensation, according to two high-ranking major league executives contacted by The Times.

“That’s Bud’s rule of thumb,” one of the sources said. …

In other words, while this seems juicy, I wouldn’t overreact. The documents, Shaikin writes, were “prepared by the McCourt management team in May to solicit Chinese investors for a partnership that could have included the Dodgers, a soccer club in Beijing and another in the English Premier League.”  They’re designed to make the Dodgers’ profiteering, if you will, look as glowing as possible. It doesn’t seem to me that the scenario they describe is any more realistic than one that suggests the Dodgers have cheap ticket prices and top-of-the-line payroll. The truth is somewhere in between.

There’s something about having this article come out while I was watching the latest episode of the chaos that is the fourth season of HBO’s “Big Love” that somehow seems all too appropriate. These families have all these ambitions, but the domestic conflicts threaten to destroy them all.

Feb 21

Scott Elbert recovering from tendinitis

No. 5 starter candidate Scott Elbert had a recent bout of shoulder tendinitis, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, but after being shut down for 10 days had a pain-free bullpen session Thursday. He is scheduled to throw again Monday.

In a separate blog post, Gurnick noted that reliever Travis Schlichting had a pretty significant health scare over the winter, dealing with Gilbert’s syndrome, “which results in increased bilirubin levels and, in Schlichting’s case, is believed to have caused fatigue and nausea that led to (a 30-pound) weight loss.”

Hiroki Kuroda and Hong-Chih Kuo, among others, are having no issues so far.

  • Vicente Padilla was throwing (stories about) bullets. Tony Jackson of ESPN.com/LA has details. If Padilla were a duck, Casey Blake might still have a beard.
  • The way Joe Torre talked about Jeff Weaver, according to Gurnick, a swingman role in the bullpen is his to lose.
  • For those interested in injured pitchers from 2009 that the Dodgers might have signed but ended up with Oakland instead, this Associated Press update tells us that Justin Duchsherer is having back troubles, but Ben Sheets is pounding the strike zone.
Feb 20

It’s the first day of the rest of your Spring Training

On your mark, get set … go!

  • Eric Gagne is slimmer, regretful and realistic on the first day of Spring Training, according to Tony Jackson of ESPN.com/LA. Gagne told T.J. Simers of the Times that he used human growth hormone during “part” of his dominant stretch with the Dodgers.
  • Jackson also has continued discussion of Joe Torre’s plan to return as Dodger manager in 2011, although from what I can tell there were no new news developments on an official level. We did learn that Don Mattingly will manage the Dodgers who stay in Arizona when part of the team goes to Taiwan. Sorry, Tommy.
  • Gagne has borrowed his old No. 38 back from Ramon Troncoso, at least for the exhibition run. “He made that number for the Dodgers,” Troncoso told Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports. Sorry, Lance Rautzhan.
  • Ronald Belisario had a season so nice after arriving late to Spring Training because of visa problems, he’s trying it twice.
  • Why did Casey Blake shave his beard? The same reason all men do – because of a bad duck hunt.
  • The Dodgers are marketing the June 25-27 series against the Yankees as “The Rivalry Renewed,” and Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy, who saw 10 billboards in one Sunset Blvd. mile, doesn’t approve.
  • Jordan Hershiser, the 6-foot-8! USC sophomore pitcher who was born during Dad’s record consecutive shutout innings streak, is the subject of another VSIMH post.
  • Matt Kemp’s 1,072.4% salary raise from 2009 to 2010 was second only to Tim Lincecum, notes The Associated Press.
  • On first glance, I thought this McCourt organizational flow chart at Dodger Divorce was a parody, but apparently it’s the real deal, at least in the eyes of Jamie McCourt’s legal team.
  • Russell Martin is definitely trying a bulk solution to his hitting problems, adding 25 pounds to his own backstop, writes Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
  • Arte Moreno believes that the Angels’ name migration from Anaheim to Los Angeles has fulfilled his hopes for increased revenue, writes Mike DiGiovanna of The Times.
Feb 19

Logan White gave thumbs up to Eric Gagne signing

Dodger scouting guru Logan White told general manager Ned Colletti that he thought Eric Gagne would be “competitive” after watching Gagne throw this month, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Colletti added other thoughts about Gagne’s unlikely candidacy to make the Dodgers.

… Colletti said Gagne’s inclusion in the Mitchell Report was not a factor.

“He’s not the first player to sign a contract after being in the Mitchell Report and this also isn’t his first team since,” he said. …

Now, can Gagne go from Indy ball to make the cut for the Dodgers’ bullpen, one of the deepest in the league? Jonathan Broxton is the All-Star closer, former Orioles closer George Sherrill sets up, Ronald Belisario and Hong-Chih Kuo follow them with Ramon Troncoso now established in middle relief and Jeff Weaver the most likely swingman. That leaves maybe one spot up for grabs and about a dozen arms against which Gagne will compete. What are the chances?

“It’s too early to tell,” said Colletti. “But you don’t walk away from the opportunity to have somebody who has been really successful see where they’re at. It would be shortsighted if you don’t give people like that a chance. The bullpen is one of our stronger areas, but you have no idea what can happen over the next seven weeks, who gets hurt, who has lost it somewhere along the line. I’d rather have choices to make.”

* * *

Update: Russell Martin, “who focused on improving his flexibility last off-season, went back to his old strength-based training program this winter,” writes Dylan Hernandez of the Times.

Feb 19

Jamie McCourt court filing shines spotlight on Dodgers’ three-ring circus

First, the links:

“Jamie McCourt doubles request for monthly support,” by Bill Shaikin of the Times.

“In Divorce Suit, Wife Disputes Dodgers’ Owner’s Wealth,” by John R. Emshwiller of the Wall Street Journal.

“Filings Running Wild,” by Joshua Fisher of Dodger Divorce.

* * *

Jamie McCourt’s various requests for monthly support from Frank McCourt are, in many ways, a sideshow in contrast to the springtime courtroom event that will determine whether one owns the Dodgers or both do. So I’ll just point to the most interesting tent attractions: Continue reading

Feb 18

October sky

“Pitchers and catchers report” is when I ease into a new baseball season with the comfort of a towel laid out in the sunny grass. It’s my arms-behind-my-head, feel-the-first-rays, first-inning stretch.

But circumstances tonight allowed me to watch a recording of the end of the Nutter Butter Peanut Blunder game – Game 2 of the 2009 National League Division Series. And instantly, I’m catapulted from my winter slumber and past my lazy pre-spring bloom. It’s fall, and I’m revved up. I remember exactly what I’m in this for.

The roar of the horsehide, the edge of my seat. The deep inhale. The fever.

It’s time.

Feb 18

Down in ‘Jungle’-land: Eric Gagne signs minor-league deal

Eric Gagne has signed a minor-league contract with the Dodgers, according to Dylan Hernandez of The Times, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com and Tony Jackson of ESPN/LA, citing anonymous sources.

The odds remain against Gagne ever pitching in Dodger Stadium again, short of the organization bringing back the Oldtimers Game, and it’s almost certain he won’t break into the major-league bullpen by Opening Day. But apparently the Dodgers saw something in Gagne worth pursuing. I’m imagining there will be quite a roar if he takes the home mound one more time.

Gagne last pitched for the Dodgers on June 6, 2006 (coincidentally, the day Clayton Kershaw was drafted). After making his season debut four days earlier – nearly a year after his last major-league game – Gagne struck out two in a 14-pitch save against the Mets. There were reports he was ailing after the game,  but hope persisted he would return later in the year. Here’s my report from June 26 of that year.

Gagne said that he felt a little stiffness warming up in the bullpen before his last game June 6, but that it was nothing that he hadn’t felt in the past when he was healthy. But he thinks that when he entered the game, he overthrew a changeup – “rolled it over too much” – and tweaked the nerve. Subsequent treatment with anti-inflammatories did not help.

“It got better and we started some exercises, then it got sore again,” Johnston said.

The switch to neurontin seems to have brought renewed optimism, however cautious. If the progress continues, Gagne can resume exercises before moving forward, according to Johnston.

Gagne added that he isn’t sure that a rehabilitation assignment in AAA Las Vegas will be necessary, and that he could be on the Dodger Stadium mound in July.

“It’s not a bad injury,” Gagne said. “It’s just a nagging injury.”

Still, it has been a long, impatient road for Gagne, whose injury spiral began in March 2005 when he injured his knee during a Spring Training pepper drill. When asked how Gagne has handled his time on the sidelines, Johnston said sympathetically, “not very well.”

“He’s very frustrated,” Johnston said. “He’s such a competitor. He lives to be a big part of the team.”

Interviewing Gagne, it was easy to be swayed by the feeling that he knows his body, that he will be as patient during this rehabilitation as he says, that he will warm up as carefully in the future as he promises and ultimately, that he’s right to believe he will help the Dodgers this season. Walking away, it was hard not to feel paranoid that preventing further injury was beyond his control.

Can he really be on the mend? Why couldn’t he be on the mend? Fool me once and all that.

The implication was that further rest after Gagne’s pain disappeared was unneccessary, but the question I didn’t ask is whether that is a certainty.

Overall, Gagne and Johnston seemed quite humbled by the struggle.

After sitting out the remainder of 2006, Gagne pitched well in 31 games for Texas in 2007, but was traded to Boston and soon lost his remaining effectiveness, though he did end the 2008 season with 8 2/3 shutout innings with eight strikeouts. He had a rather nondescript 2009 pitching in a Canadian independent league.

Thomas Harding of MLB.com said that in his workout for the Rockies earlier this week, Gagne looked “noticeably lighter.”

Partly to rebuild the small shoulder muscles and partly to avoid some of the back pain that affected him in recent years, Gagne took up Ja Shin Do, a mixed-martial-arts-based workout in an extremely hot room, taught by Scottsdale grandmaster Andy Bauman. Former Rockies pitchers Shawn Estes (now with the Nationals) and Jeff Fassero and Dodgers catcher Russell Martin undergo similar workouts.

The result, Gagne said, is he is in better condition and his arm is “the best it’s felt in three or four years, easy.”

Well, if Estes, Fassero and Martin are doing it …

Despite my skepticism, I’m rooting for Gagne to make it back.

Feb 17

Ned Colletti believes Randy Wolf ‘would have taken’ arbitration

Dodger general manager Ned Colletti was interviewed on Sirius XM radio’s “Power Alley” by Seth Everett and Jim Duquette (link via Vin Scully Is My Homeboy), and he gave this explanation of why the Dodgers didn’t offer Randy Wolf salary arbitration. I had heard this from sources off the record, but this was the first time I believe I’ve heard it on the record.

“The reason (we didn’t offer arbitration) was we thought he would take it,” Colletti said. “At $12-13 million a year, we weren’t prepared to do that. And you know what, the people I’ve talked to since, that are very close to him, say that ‘You know what, he would have taken it.’ And I wasn’t prepared to pay him $12-13 million for one year, nor was I prepared to pay him $8 or $9 million for three years.”

The last part of the comment refers to a scenario where Wolf would have leveraged the potential eight-figure annual salary into a multiyear contract that would have been cheaper annually but ultimately guaranteed him much more money.

I still believe that the Dodgers should have offered Wolf arbitration. I do feel that Wolf, who had 2 1/2 sub-par seasons in a row before turning things around in mid-2008, is poised to decline entering his age-34 season in 2010 – so despite how good he was for the Dodgers in 2009, if you’re convinced he was going to accept arbitration, there is a case that you can find better ways to spend money. Whether the Dodgers have done that or not is another matter.

Feb 17

Why Lindsey Jacobellis rocks

L’important dans la vie ce n’est point le triomphe, mais le combat, l’essentiel ce n’est pas d’avoir vaincu mais de s’être bien battu.

“The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

– Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics
(credit for mentioning this quote goes to Bob Timmermann)

* * *

When Andruw Jones smiled after striking out for the gazillionth time with the Dodgers, it angered fans. The smile was pretty clearly a coping mechanism — no one would think that Jones was happy about striking out — but it roiled fans because it was pretty clear Jones hadn’t done nearly his best in preparing for the 2008 season after signing a huge contract with the Dodgers. With his smile, Jones helped reinforce the feeling fans had that he just didn’t care, that he was just in it for the money.

When Lindsey Jacobellis did the snowboarder’s equivalent of a smile Tuesday, it was something else entirely.

In Vancouver, after four more years of intense preparation since a mistake she made cost her an Olympic gold medal in Italy, Jacobellis went for the gold again. And it didn’t go well for her. After some jockeying for position in the women’s snowboard cross semifinals, she lost balance and made contact with a gate, disqualifying her.

“She made a helpless gesture and put her hands on her race helmet, having to make the long trip down the course,” wrote Lisa Dillman of the Times.

None of us are in position to evaluate her disappointment, but it’s safe to say that she felt it more personally and intimately than anyone else.

At that point, Jacobellis had a choice, conscious or unconscious. The battle was lost. Should she bury her head, rend her garments? Or should she celebrate all the work she had put in and her sheer enjoyment of her sport? She chose the latter — at which point Bill Plaschke of the Times chastised Jacobellis for not being sufficiently ashamed.

… Remember how four years ago in Turin, Italy, Jacobellis blew a gold medal when she attempted a trick on her final jump, eating snow and finishing second? Remember how she was criticized for putting snowboard style ahead of gold-medal substance?

Well, on Tuesday, she finished with another trick, clutching her board during the final jump of her disqualified run, finishing her eventually fifth-place Olympic performance with something called a “truck-driver grab.”

Eighteen wheels of defiance.

“Since everyone was waiting for me to come down, they’d be watching, I figured I would have some fun, show them I still have a deep passion for the sport,” she said later. “If you haven’t snowboarded before, maybe you should, because it’s pretty fun.”

Fun? The world’s most decorated female snowboard cross racer fails to win a gold medal twice in two Olympics and still insists on showing everyone she’s having fun?

In case it’s not clear, Plaschke wasn’t being sarcastic. If you read the rest of the column, as I did incredulously, Plaschke is questioning the gall of an athlete who wants to be happy — even in the face of profound disappointment.

Jacobellis wasn’t smiling with a big gut and a .158 batting average. She was smiling after putting out her absolute best effort and then not having the breaks go her way. If Sandy Koufax strikes you out in the 1965 World Series, you get angry over the strikeout — just like Jacobellis did. But if you did all you could, how much more upset are you supposed to be?

Do you think Jacobellis comes anywhere near the Olympics if winning didn’t matter at all to her? No one was punished more by Jacobellis’ failure to win a gold medal Tuesday than Jacobellis herself. Plaschke moves on to a new sport today, but for Jacobellis, this is her life. He is not qualified to tell her how she should feel.

On top of that, Plaschke is thunderstruck that Jacobellis did not want to hold interviews with the press who, in Plaschke’s own words, “ripped her four years ago, folks who she believes will never understand the culture of her game.” This one doesn’t exactly belong in “Unsolved Mysteries.”

Plaschke went on Twitter this morning with a series of generalizations that confirm his not-so-occasional myopia. A sample: “Male figure skaters are, like, great athletes who squabble like teenage girls…Women figure skaters are divas who fight like men.” Sheesh.

He acknowledges in one breath, “Sports columnists here are strangest creatures of all…We analyze people we don’t know playing sports we don’t understand.” In the next, he writes about how its his task to judge them.  He doesn’t seem to connect that if he’s not capable of judging them, then maybe he just shouldn’t.

Lindsey Jacobellis is my new role model. She threw herself into competition at a level few of us could possibly emulate, sacrificed so that she might be the best, and when that failed to yield the ultimate prize, instead of curling up in the fetal position, she had the self-esteem and presence of mind to appreciate the greatness of the effort and the joy of what she was part of, win or lose. I want my kids to be like her.

Feb 16

Clayton Kershaw: Two opposing views of the future

“Is It Unreasonable to Expect Great Things From Clayton Kershaw?” by Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness

… despite our high expectations for a player so young, it’s not as though Kershaw is blazing a completely new trail, here. Young players can succeed, if they have the talent and opportunity, and I think it’s clear that Kershaw has both.

“Is Clayton Kershaw Already Declining?” by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs (via ESPN Insider)

… Unlike hitters, who tend to gain power as they age, pitchers lose it. In the past 30 years, 11 pitchers have rang up at least 180 strikeouts in a single season when they were 22 or younger. The list is not full of guys on their way to Cooperstown. Instead, it stands as a sobering reminder of just how great starts to a career can go very, very wrong. …

Feb 16

2010 Dodger Opening Day Roster Locks


Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire
Clayton Kershaw pitches in the first inning of the NL West clincher against Colorado.

Before we go any further, Josh Wilker’s Cardboard Gods piece on Burt Hooton is better than anything you’ll see in this post.

And with that introduction …

* * *

Now that we’ve spent some time chewing on the gristle, let’s take a look at the meat. Here are the 19 folks who, short of an injury or a trade, will be on the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster.

I’m finding the more I look at the starting rotation, the higher I am on Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, and the lower I am on Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla. I’m also feeling pretty sanguine about the seven locked-in spots of the lineup, despite the aging players at shortstop, third base and left field. (Well, they’re aging at every position, but you know what I mean.)

Starting Pitchers (4)

Clayton Kershaw, LHP: The injury to Kershaw’s non-throwing shoulder last summer might have been a blessing, reducing the wear on his arm in his first full season in the majors. Turning a wizened 22 on March 19, Kershaw will try to build upon what was quietly a remarkable year, one in which he led National League starting pitchers in fewest hits allowed per nine innings. The quiet part had to do with his poor run support; he faced 289 batters after the All-Star Break and allowed only two home runs, recorded a 2.27 ERA, yet was credited with one win. In his final six quality starts of the season, Kershaw was winless. The four times he struck out 10 or more in a game, Kershaw was winless.  Much will be expected of Kershaw in 2010, especially if he can reduce his wildness, but Torre will have to be careful not to fall so deeply in love with Kershaw that he overworks him.

Chad Billingsley, RHP: Goodness, I’ve written volumes on Billingsley the past year. Just a sampling: His overall credentials. How Joe Torre has used him. Comparing him with Justin VerlanderComparing him to Brandon Webb and Dan Haren. The fact that he actually had a good August. The fact that he has performed well the overwhelming majority of the time, including pressure situations. It all adds up to the same total: a very good pitcher who had some struggles, none of which should permanently halt the 25-year-old’s upward trajectory. I can’t wait to see him back on the mound again.

Hiroki Kuroda, RHP: Kuroda made only start before June 1, then came back with two fine efforts against Arizona and Philadelphia – the latter featuring six innings of shutout ball that lowered his ERA to 1.62. But it got pretty rocky after that, as only one of his next eight starts was above par. Abruptly, Kuroda turned it around and was in the process of making his fifth consecutive quality start when Rusty Ryal’s line drive got him, cranium-style. The quality of the opponent doesn’t really seem to matter much – Kuroda has been inconsistent in both his Dodger seasons. By the end of the year, the numbers have added up to above-average performance, but he turned 35 last Wednesday and is still an injury concern, so it’s fair to wonder how long that equation will last.

Vicente Padilla, RHP: I’m trying to find reasons why Padilla’s super performance with the Dodgers wasn’t a fluke, and I’m coming up kind of empty. For his career, including the NL portion from 1999-2005, he has struck out 6.2 batters per nine innings. With the Dodgers, it’s 8.2. I’ll grant that Padilla might be adequate this year, but I’m struggling to buy into a full Renaissance. I mean, Carlos Perez had a nice September once upon a time.

Bullpen (5)

Jonathan Broxton, RHP: One of 14 relievers to blow a save or take a loss in the 2009 postseason (along with Joba Chamberlain, Ryan Franklin, Brian Fuentes, Brad Lidge, Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon and Huston Street, among others), Broxton is, in my view, the best closer in the NL. The 2008 and 2009 losses to Philadelphia were painful, but if you’re using them against him in evaluating Broxton, I hope you’re doing the equivalent for all the others.

George Sherrill, LHP: For all the grief that Broxton got at the end of the playoffs, Sherrill had the rockier postseason, allowing four runs on seven baserunners in 4 1/3 innings. Before that, Sherrill’s numbers were ridiculously good with the Dodgers, allowing two runs in two months in the regular season (plus three inherited runners). His overall 2009 ERA was more than three runs lower than his 2008 ERA.

Ronald Belisario, RHP: A year ago, Belisario was a 26-year-old water-treader who was a Spring Training afterthought – or nonthought. Now, he’s the Dodgers’ top righty set-up man after striking out nearly a batter an inning with a 2.04 ERA in 69 games. You have to look real hard to see a dropoff in Belisario’s numbers after his midsummer stint on the disabled list: 2.42 ERA, 8.6 K/9, .575 OPS allowed before; 1.21 ERA, 7.3 K/9, .589 OPS allowed after.

Ramon Troncoso, RHP: Much of my musing time on Troncoso is spent wondering if he’ll repeat Cory Wade’s 2009 downfall. The reason might not be justified; it’s tied to the decline in Troncoso’s strikeout rate to 6.0 per nine innings. On the bright side, Troncoso’s groundball rate is still much better than Wade’s ever was. Troncoso has allowed five home runs in 120 1/3 career innings, and his career slugging percentage allowed is .348. That helped Troncoso strand 27 of 32 inherited baserunners in 2009.

Hong-Chih Kuo, LHP: Kuo pitched 30 innings in 2007, 80 innings in 2008, 30 innings in 2009. So of course I envision big things for 2010. … In his last 110 innings, Kuo has 128 strikeouts against 120 baserunners, a 2.37 ERA and a .575 OPS allowed, and he has stranded 26 of 30 baserunners. He’s 28 years old; fate needs to give this guy a little more time in the sun.


Russell Martin

Catchers (2)

Russell Martin, C: It really is a stunning drop: Martin’s slugging percentage in 2009 was 30 percent lower than his 2007 mark (.329 vs. .469). Having turned 27 Monday, Martin should be entering the prime of his career, but instead the questions are whether he will ever recover from his slide. Your (all-)star has certainly fallen when people begin suggesting you should be replaced by career minor-leaguer A.J. Ellis. That solution doesn’t really make sense: Ellis’ only offensive skill is the one Martin has retained: on-base percentage. In any case, no one’s really interested any more in Spring Training stories about Martin’s off-field habits, good or bad. It’s all about what happens on the field and whether the ball will jump off his bat ever again.

Brad Ausmus, C: You’d think that Martin’s disappointing 2009 would have shot down all the “Brad Ausmus is a great mentor” talk, but apparently not. Fun fact: Ausmus reached base twice in each of the four games he played in July. The Dodgers went 4-0 in those games. Then they lost in his first five August appearances.

Infielders (4):

James Loney, 1B: Others have noted that in 2008 and 2009 Loney had the same number of plate appearances (651), home runs (13), RBI (90) and stolen bases (seven). But as Mike Petriello wrote in the Maple Street Press 2010 Dodgers Annual, there’s reason to believe Loney hasn’t stagnated, noting among other things his improved strike zone discipline. We’re still trying to understand how Loney could OPS .640 at home in 2009 and .862 on the road.

Rafael Furcal, SS: If you look at Fangraphs’ Wins Above Replacement rankings for shortstops in 2009, Furcal was fourth in the NL and eighth in the majors. Not bad for a season that was mostly a bummer. Credit his high ranking to being tops in the NL defensively, if you buy into their system. Furcal’s OPS by month in 2009: .663, .566, .658, .895, .563, .891.

Casey Blake, 3B: You could make the case that 2009 was the best or second-best year of Blake’s career, at age 36. And while so many were busy crowning Juan Pierre team MVP because of his performance during Manny Ramirez’s suspension, Blake quietly had a .901 OPS, slugging .530 and reaching base in all but five of the games he started during that time. If he’s going to have a dropoff in 2010, at least Dodger fans can console themselves that he’s dropping from a higher plateau.

Jamey Carroll, 2B-3B: The most on-base happy part-timers for the Dodgers in the 2000s include Willy Aybar (2005) .445, Chad Kreuter (2000) .416, Dave Hansen (2000) .415, Jose Cruz, Jr. (2005) .391, Alex Cora (2002) .371, Jose Hernandez (2002) .370, Jeff Reboulet (2001) .367, Andy LaRoche (2007) .365, Olmedo Saenz (2006) .363 and Antonio Perez (2005) .360. With Cleveland each of the past two seasons, Carroll has been at .355, and will be hoping a return to the NL gives him a boost after he turns 36 Friday.

Outfielders (4):

Manny Ramirez, LF: Not much more to say about Ramirez this week after this. But not to leave you completely dry: Ramirez’s OPS+ of 155 in 2009 was the 25th best in MLB history among players 37 and older (minimum 400 plate appearances) and the best in Dodger history.

Matt Kemp, CF: Kemp was on track for an even more spectacular season than the one he had in 2009, but he OPSed .586 after September 1 (despite a 13-game hitting streak mid-month). He went 4 for 31 with one walk and no extra-base hits or stolen bases in the final nine games of the season. He put all that behind him to hit a huge home run in his first playoff at-bat. Kemp is still going to have downs with his ups, but the notion that he can’t counter-adjust to big league pitching seems to be out the window.

Andre Ethier, RF: Los Angeles Dodgers who have had consecutive seasons with an adjusted OPS of more than 130: Tommy Davis (1962-63), Willie Crawford (1973-74), Steve Garvey (1974-76, 78-79), Jimmy Wynn (1974-75), Ron Cey (1975-76, 78-79), Reggie Smith (1977-78), Dusty Baker (1980-82), Pedro Guerrero (1981-85), Mike Piazza (1993-97), Gary Sheffield (2000-01), Shawn Green (2001-02), Andre Ethier (2008-09). Davis, Crawford, Garvey, Guerrero and Piazza were the only ones to do it before turning 28 (Ethier’s age in April).

Reed Johnson, OF: Johnson historically has hit lefties well, so you might see him spot-start for Ethier against southpaws (if only on the road?). Against righties, Johnson ain’t so hot (.707 career OPS, .628 in 2009) – so on the days Ramirez gets a breather against a right-handed pitcher, the Dodger lineup will take a beating unless (or even if) Blake DeWitt, Xavier Paul or Brian Giles makes the team.

Feb 15

Hiroki Kuroda (hopefully) recovering

Tucked away near the bottom of this Spring Training preview from Ken Gurnick of MLB.com is a report that the disk injury that sidelined Hiroki Kuroda during the National League Division Series was still an issue at least part of this offseason.

There really isn’t a major injury rehab to follow, now that Jason Schmidt can’t be kicked around anymore. But there is Hiroki Kuroda, in the last year of his contract and coming off a season in which he won eight games and nearly lost his career when he was drilled on the head by a comebacker.

Kuroda could be a key to the rotation and the club was concerned when word came from Japan that he still had neck pain associated with a bulging disk, presumably a side effect of the liner off his head. But Kuroda said aggressive acupuncture treatment provided relief and he’s been throwing for more than a month.

* * *

  • Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports has a lengthy look at the McCourt divorce situation. Josh Fisher analyzes the piece at Dodger Divorce.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes that the Dodgers had above-average pinch-hitting in 2009 despite having more of a platoon disadvantage (righty vs. righty or lefty vs. lefty) than any other NL team.
  • Dodger Thoughts has always hoped for the end of “Suck!” chants at Dodger Stadium, so I heartily agree with this post by Steve Dilbeck of Dodgers Blog.
  • John Wooden had a baseball kaffeeklatsch last month with Vin Scully, Joe Torre, Mike Scioscia and others, writes Jay Paris of the North County Times.
  • Ernie Harwell recalls “the voice of the turtle” and other stories from Spring Training in the 1940s-60s (via Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk).
Feb 13

The Dodger Thoughts 2010 Spring Training Primer

Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US Presswire
Ronald Belisario

This post really is what the title says: a preview of March baseball for the Dodgers, because many of the names below won’t see the light of the Chavez Ravine day in 2010. Last year, I shone a spotlight on such fellas as Travis Chick, Brian Mazone and Jacobo Meque. Anyone remember when Erick Threets was knockin’ on the door? Stephen Randolph?

The winner of the Most Unlikely to Succeed Award in 2009 was Ronald Belisario, who I placed at the very bottom of my “Check Back in a Year or Two” category. On that note, Tony Jackson on Friday wrote up a long list of Dodger non-roster and minor-league surprises from the past decade, led by Takashi Saito. The thing about several of the names on that list is that they didn’t necessarily win playing time with great exhibition seasons – which in a way is comforting, because exhibition performance is just such a dicey measuring stick to begin with.

Anyway, let’s see what we’re looking at …

Locks (19)

Only the disabled list or a trade can stop these guys from making the Opening Day roster. (We’ll discuss them more in an upcoming post.)

Starting Pitchers (4): Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Clayton Kershaw, Vicente Padilla

Bullpen (5): Jonathan Broxton, George Sherrill, Ronald Belisario, Ramon Troncoso, Hong-Chih Kuo

Catchers (2): Russell Martin, Brad Ausmus

Infielders (4): James Loney, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Jamey Carroll

Outfielders (4): Matt Kemp, Manny Ramirez, Andre Ethier, Reed Johnson

Most Likely to Succeed (6)

Ronnie Belliard, IF: Belliard is the incumbent at second base – if he isn’t victimized by what I’m calling his Andruw Jones Clauwse: 209 or bust. Belliard had 19 hits and seven walks in 51 games before the All-Star Break last season with Washington; he matched those totals in his first 20 games with the Dodgers in September. Get ready for the Dodger second-base position to look like the No. 5 starter slot – there could be five or six different people starting there this year.

Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
James McDonald

James McDonald, P: Last year’s original No. 5 starter, the 25-year-old McDonald might not make it into the rotation in April – or at all in 2010 – but he’s quite likely to find a spot on the pitching staff somewhere. In his regular-season career as a reliever, the Dodgers’ two-time minor-league pitcher of the year has a 2.43 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings against 74 baserunners.

Eric Stults, P: I ran down my logic earlier this month for Stults being the season’s initial No. 5 starter. Basically, because he’s out of minor-league options, it’s use-him-or-lose-him time. However, his shutout against the Giants was his only quality start in 10 tries for Joe Torre in 2009, and he allowed 14 baserunners per nine innings. He has to pitch with some authority in Spring Training, however, or it’ll just be lose-him time.

Brian Giles, OF: Giles had a 137 OPS+ as recently as 2008; last year was the first time in his 15-year career he wasn’t above average at the plate. If he can recover enough from his knee problems to put 2009’s 55 OPS+ (.548 OPS) behind him, he could be the lefty bat off the bench – dare I say, Matt Stairs-like – Dodger fans are looking for.

Nick Green, IF: It’s a tossup among Chin-Lung Hu and various non-roster candidates, including Green, for the backup shortstop/pinch-hitter of second-to-last resort slot. There’s no reason Hu can’t do the job – and with his chances of becoming a starter fading, not much reason not to get him started in the next phase of his career. But I’m going to hazard that if he has recovered from offseason back surgery to remedy a herniated disk, his American League pedigree and his .783 OPS last April-May, he’ll get first crack at the job. That said, he is a 31-year-old who fell into a Red Sox roster spot last April after injuries to Julio Lugo and Jed Lowrie, so he’s hardly a heavy favorite.

Carlos Monasterios, P: Last year, we were all caught off guard by Ronald Belisario making the big-league squad and excelling despite having virtually no resume to speak of. There’s nothing to Monasterios’ stat line that suggests he can be a big-leaguer in 2010 – he wasn’t even that great in winter ball – but I’m suspecting that the Dodgers didn’t acquire him (and Armando Zerpa) on Rule 5 day without a good reason. As with Stults, the Dodgers can’t send Monasterios to the minors. So I can see them stashing him in the back of the bullpen and testing him out before discarding him.

Next in Line (7)

Blake DeWitt, 2B: As I wrote in January, if DeWitt is the starting second baseman, then the Dodger bench would be 80 percent right-handed bats with a right-handed starter typically facing them. And there’s almost no chance DeWitt will be kept as a reserve, even if it meant him at least pinch-hitting almost every game. So short of Belliard munching one Almond Roca too many, DeWitt is headed to Albuquerque by Opening Day. I’m sure the Dodgers wouldn’t mind him showing some real dominance in AAA this time around before they give him a starting job. Keep in mind that while DeWitt’s career got ahead of itself with his rushed promotion in 2008, it’s no longer too soon for the 24-year-old with six professional seasons to be major-league ready.

Scott Elbert, P: Elbert’s career major-league ERA is 6.66, but with more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings for his career in the majors and minors, the 24-year-old lefty (one week older than DeWitt) is not to be dismissed. We’ll see early in Spring Training if he’s going to get stretched out as a starter, but in any case, he’ll not only be pushing Stults, McDonald and Monasterios, he’s arguably the stealth man to beat altogether.

Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US Presswire
Charlie Haeger

Charlie Haeger, P: Haeger was on a quicker hook than Stults, which is saying something. The guy went seven innings in his Dodger debut against St. Louis and seven more against the Cubs five days later, allowing no runs in the second start. But one rugged outing in Cincinnati, and he was done as a starter. Before his next turn came, Jon Garland was in a Dodger uniform. (One wonders, if Haeger had managed to hold a 4-0 lead against the Reds, whether Tony Abreu might still be in a Dodger uniform.) The knuckleballer with a 5.26 career ERA might not be taken seriously as a rotation candidate when Spring Training begins, but he remains an intriguing possibility. He’d have to clear waivers if the Dodgers try to send him back to the minors, however.

Doug Mientkiewicz, IF: Due to the Dodgers’ dearth of deft lefties at the dish, Mientkiewicz really has just a couple of men to beat to make the roster. One, Xavier Paul, has minor-league options remaining. The other, Giles, is  3 1/2 years older than the 35-year-old Mientkiewicz, who missed most of last year because of an ill-advised slide in April. Mientkiewicz never had Giles’ peak as a hitter, but it’s conceivable he matches the gimpy ex-Padre at the plate now, plus he brings superior defensive value to the team.

Chin-Lung Hu, IF: Signed nearly seven years ago by the Dodgers, Hu’s prospect status has risen and fallen, relating in some part it seems to vision problems that he has had. At 26, he’s still young enough to step it up and become a fixture on a major-league roster, even if only as a backup. But he only had a .725 OPS with Albuquerque last season, so the Dodgers aren’t going to simply hand him the job.

Josh Lindblom, P: The 22-year-old from Purdue wowed the Dodgers in Spring Training last year, and despite an unsensational stint in AA, had a 2.54 ERA and 36 strikeouts against 49 baserunners (three homers) in 39 innings for Albuquerque, mostly in relief. The guess here – much more than a guess if McDonald makes his way back into the rotation – is that Lindblom starts his major-league career the same way several other young Dodgers have, in the bullpen.

Armando Zerpa, P: Listed here for the same reasons Monasterios is listed above, Zerpa had a mixed bag of a 2009 in the Red Sox farm system.

See You by September? (12)

Xavier Paul, OF: Paul is quite astonishingly the only left-handed bench candidate under the age of 35 – that’s a pretty big chit to have. Turning 25 later this month, he’d make a nice defensive backup for Ramirez and Ethier. He homered as a pinch-hitter in his fifth major-league at-bat in a year he slugged .500 in AAA. Freak health problems prevented the Dodgers from getting a longer look at him last year, but that might change in 2010. Like Hu, minor-league options might send Paul back to AAA in April; but he might have more plate time by the end of the year.

Jeff Weaver, P: Weaver officially rejoined the Dodger major-league squad in late April and remained through the National League Division Series, striking out 64 in 79 innings with a 3.65 ERA. He made seven starts and didn’t average five innings, but as a swingman he was more than adequate. Weaver is still only 33.

Brian Barton, OF: A lot of people like Barton, 28 in April, as a darkhorse to make the team. He OPSed .746 with Atlanta in 2008 (179 plate appearances), though he followed that with a .715 OPS in the minors last year. He gave a fun interview to Baseball Prospectus in March.

Alfredo Amezaga, IF-OF: Coming off microfracture surgery on his knee and without much of a bat, I have trouble seeing Amezaga making a contribution to the 2010 Dodgers, even with his defensive utility.

Angel Berroa, SS: The Dodgers’ starting shortstop as recently as 2008 (that’s right, with as many shortstop starts as Furcal and Nomar Garciaparra combined), the 32-year-old former Rookie of the Year spent 2009 with both New York franchises, going a combined 7 for 49 with three walks and two extra-base hits on the major-league level. His recent major-league service and name recognition might earn him some service time, but he really should have to pay to get into Dodger Stadium just like the rest of us.

A.J. Ellis, C: It’s another painful wait for Ellis, who at least got his first major-league hit last September. Ellis has no power, but he does have a career .398 on-base percentage in the minors and .437 the past two seasons in AAA. Those figures have gotten a few people carried away in thinking he might challenge Martin for a starting job; that ain’t happening. But if Martin or Ausmus ever has to go to the disabled list, the Dodgers probably wouldn’t hesitate to give Ellis the promotion.

Justin Miller, P: You don’t hear much talk this winter about Miller since he inked his deal with the Dodgers, perhaps because of his arthroscopic surgery or his declining strikeout rate, but he had a 137 ERA+ for the Giants last season, his third straight above-average season in the majors.

Cory Wade, P: The cautionary tale for any reliever who enjoyed sudden success without the strikeouts to back it up. Or, the cautionary tale for any reliever who enjoyed sudden success and then became Torre’s pet. A 2.27 ERA in 2008 made Wade a Dodger bullpen mainstay … all the way through April 12, when he went on the disabled list. Although it might seem like Wade never made it back, he actually did and stayed with the major-league club into July. But he never put together more than three consecutive games without allowing a run or inherited run to score. It seems extreme, after an offseason of rest, to entirely dismiss Wade’s chances of making the team – the 26-year-old could easily have a remaining up to follow his down, just like a Troncoso could have a down to follow his up.

Joel Auerbach/US Presswire
Brent Leach

Brent Leach, P: In that window when the Dodgers had neither Kuo nor Sherrill at their disposal, Leach had a nice 22-game stretch in which his ERA was 1.35 and opponents OPSed only .347 against him while striking out 10 times. From May 29 through July 11, Torre used Leach in 23 of the Dodgers’ 38 games. But then the roof caved in a bit for Leach, and he was back in the minors to stay before August. Last year’s rookie is this year’s 27-year-old – he stands to get another callup in the not-so-unlikely event that Kuo returns to the disabled list.

Travis Schlichting, P: A 25-year-old former infielder, Schlichting made his major-league debut with the Dodgers last year June 7 – eight days after the Dodgers called him up. He walked five of the 15 batters he faced in two games. He spent much of the year on the minor-league disabled list, but when he wasn’t in rehab, he did deliver a 0.92 ERA in 29 1/3 minor-league innings, striking out 23.

Ivan DeJesus, Jr., IF: Profiled Friday by Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, DeJesus is coming back from a broken leg that DeJesus said “looked like a chicken bone, broken in half, all jagged” on X-ray. Primarily a shortstop in the minors, DeJesus might have been contending for a starting job at second base this spring if not for the injury. He had an outstanding 2008 with Jacksonville (.419 on-base percentage, 16 steals in 18 attempts), and if he can recover that form, he could have a significant impact on the team by summer.

Jason Repko, OF: He seems like the nicest guy in the world, but he just gets pushed further and further down. In his profile with Mitch Jones in the 2010 Maple Street Press Dodger Annual, you can really get an idea of how much his injuries derailed his career even before he reached the majors. Now 29 years old, drafted in 1999, Repko hit a career-high 16 homers for the Isotopes last year but with only a .329 on-base percentage. He still does well against lefty pitchers, so an outfield injury to anyone but Ethier would make him a logical callup.

Check Back in a Year or Two (6)

Lucas May, C: May bounced back from a disappointing 2008 with Jacksonville to OPS .858 with Chattanooga, albeit in only 68 games. People still recall his 2007 season, when he hit 25 homers in 507 at-bats for Inland Empire in the California League (much-admired catching prospect Carlos Santana hit 14 in 350 at-bats there a year later before being traded). Besides Paul LoDuca and Russell Martin, Dave Ross (343) is the only home-grown Dodger catcher to have more than 100 plate appearances with the team since 2000.

Javy Guerra, P: Guerra, 24, typically has good strikeout numbers but struggled in 28 1/3 innings at Chattanooga last season, allowing 32 hits and 16 walks. He’s got a chance to make the majors, but a lot of righty relievers in the system to pass.

Kenley Jansen, P: Converted from catcher last year, the 22-year-old struck out a whopping 19 batters in  11 2/3 innings in A ball but also allowed 25 baserunners. So his target date is 2011 at the earliest.

Jon Link, P: Acquired in the Juan Pierre trade, Link is another righty down below who can rack up the strikeouts but also the baserunners. Walking nearly a batter every two innings each of the past two years, Link (26 in March) will have to display better control before he sees Dodger Stadium.

Trayvon Robinson, OF: The 22-year-old Crenshaw High grad has some excitement about him: .875 OPS and 43 steals with Inland Empire last year. We’ll see how he adjusts to the Southern League this year.

Russ Mitchell, IF: Averaging 16.8 homers (and 16 errors) the past five seasons, Mitchell moved backward last year, struggling to a .703 OPS with Chattanooga. After six years in the minors, it’s still very much an uphill battle.

Fodder (8)

Josh Towers, P: When your upside is 2009 Eric Milton, I guess that puts things in perspective. Towers pitched 208 2/3 innings for Toronto in 2005 with a 3.71 ERA, but in 174 1/3 innings since, he’s 7-20 with a 6.40 ERA. His comeback attempt saw him post a 2.74 ERA in 18 starts with the Yankees’ AAA team, which no doubt piqued the Dodgers’ interest, but it was with 4.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

Luis Ayala, P: The 32-year-old righty had a career 2.82 ERA in four seasons through 2007 but has struggled since. He has never been much of a strikeout guy for a guy coming out of the pen.

Francisco Felix, P: Felix was a Dodger farmhand last year and had a 3.05 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 76 2/3 combined innings between AA and AAA. So if it were only up to those numbers, he might be in line for a midseason callup.

Prentice Redman, OF: The 30-year-old has reached .900 or more in OPS each of the past two years in AAA.

John Lindsey, IF-OF: At age 33, Lindsey will give it another go with the Dodgers. He hit 56 homers in two years as a Dodger minor-leaguer from 2007-08, then 19 last year with Florida’s AAA team in New Orleans in what for him was a down year. With Mitch Jones gone and Larry Barnes a distant memory, Lindsey will resume the role of slugger on the outside looking in. The Dodgers could do him a solid by getting him into the majors for the first time, as they did with Jones a year ago, but I’m not holding out much hope.

Scott Dohmann, P: A very inconsistent righty, Dohmann had a nice 2004 season (as a Rockies rookie) and then again three years later (with Tampa Bay). The intervening years, you don’t really want to know about. But if he’s good every third season, that times out nicely for 2010.

Michael Restovich, OF: After a promising enough career launch (.837 OPS in 78 appearances through age 24 with Minnesota), Restovich, now 31, began to slip. Out of the majors since 2007, he has 1,291 career hits in the minors and Japan.

Argenis Reyes, IF: His best OPS was .771 in Low A ball in 2005. He’s a backup’s backup’s backup. For what it’s worth, he has not made an error in 114 major-league chances at second base.

Fodder’s Fodder (6)

Ramon Ortiz, P: He hasn’t been in the majors since 2007 and hasn’t had an ERA below 5.00 since his final season with the Angels in 2004. So despite a 3.05 ERA in the minors last year, I’m not buying what Ortiz, 37 in March, is selling.

Russ Ortiz, P: He hasn’t been in the majors since 2009 and hasn’t had an ERA below 5.00 since his final season with the Braves in 2004. So despite a 4.06 ERA in the minors last year, I’m not buying what Ortiz, 36 in June, is selling.

Juan Perez, P: Perez is 31 with 10 minor-league seasons and 15 2/3 major-league innings. He had a 3.47 ERA with Atlanta’s AAA team in Gwinnett in 2009 but walked 36 in 57 innings.

J.D. Closser, C: Having followed in the Colorado-to-Los Angeles footsteps of Danny Ardoin (which led to Ardoin’s 54 plate appearances with the Dodgers in 2008), the 30-year-old Closser will try to make it back to the majors for the first time since 2006.  Closser OPSed .723 in the Dodger system last season, splitting time with Ellis, Ardoin and May, among others.

Gabriel Gutierrez, C: Gutierrez has seven homers in 975 career minor-league at-bats through age 26, never having played more than 75 games in a season.

Justin Knoedler, C: Other than having twice as many major-league hits as Ellis, there isn’t much to recommend the 29-year-old Knoedler, who last saw the show in 2006.

Feb 11

Greatness x 2: Ernie Harwell wins Vin Scully Lifetime Award

Ernie Harwell, whose departure from the Brooklyn Dodgers broadcast team paved the way for Vin Scully’s arrival, will be honored with the Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports Broadcasting.

Harwell, acquired by Dodger chief Branch Rickey in an actual trade for catcher Cliff Dapper in 1948, is 92 and suffering from inoperable cancer. He then joined the Giants in 1950 and was replaced by Scully. He gave a memorable farewell speech to his Detroit Tigers fans last September.

* * *

  • The career of former Dodger draft pick Luke Hochevar gets a lengthy stats-and-observation-based analysis from John Sickels of Minor League Ball. Sickels also has a comparison of the Dodgers’ Scott Elbert with Colorado’s Franklin Morales.
  • Steve Dilbeck of Dodgers Blog catches up with Tommy Davis, who remains disappointed that he ended up playing with 11 teams over a 10-year period.
  • Rob Neyer of ESPN.com and Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk discuss how Major League Baseball itself appears to be taking over the Giants’ position against Tim Lincecum in their salary arbitration hearing.
  • Tom Glavine has officially retired and taken a front office job of the special assistant variety with Atlanta.
  • My Variety colleagues and I wrapped up the fourth season of Friday Night Lights in an online chat at Variety’s On the Air blog. For those who don’t have DirecTV, the fourth season premieres on NBC on April 30.
  • Finally, I’m loving this: Hannah Mitchell, the 8-year-old daughter of Times staffer Houston Mitchell, is blogging the Olympics from Vancouver for the Times.

  • Hi! My name is Hannah Mitchell and I am 8 years old. My dad works for The Times, and he asked me to write a blog sometimes on the fun I am having in Vancouver for my first Olympics. If this is boring to you, blame him. And I want to say hi to all my classmates at Sonrise Christian in Mrs. Doolittle’s class. Yes, Mrs. Doolittle, I am doing my homework. And hi to Mrs. K, Mrs. Free and Mrs. Ambrose.

    On my first day in Vancouver, I already have had two really fun things happen: I was interviewed by a TV station and I saw the prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper. …