Apr 27

Eovaldi ho!

Scene from Wednesday. © Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

Haven’t done a links post in a while … so let’s catch up.

  • Nathan Eovaldi is headed to Los Angeles, but we don’t know yet whom he is replacing on the roster, writes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.
  • The move is interesting in part because Todd Coffey and Ronald Belisario have begun their minor-league rehab outings, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Coffey can be activated Sunday, Belisario a week from today.
  • As Magic Johnson prepares to officially become a Dodger co-owner, Michael Jordan’s 7-59 Charlotte Bobcats wrapped up the worst winning percentage for a team in NBA history, .106.
  • J.P Hoonstra of the Daily News got a first-hand look at Dodger pitching prospect Zach Lee at Rancho Cucamonga, where the pitching coach is none other than Matt Herges.
  • Guest-posting at Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, Christopher Jackson offers a position-by-position update on the Albuquerque Isotopes. My favorite note: Luis Cruz’s “imitation of teammate Trent Oeltjen’s Australian accent is a sight to behold.”
  • ThinkBlueL.A. has expanded from a forum into a full-fledged blog, led by friend of Dodger Thoughts and fellow Bluetopia co-star Ron Cervenka. Evan Bladh of Opinion of Kingman’s Performance is also contributing.
  • ESPNLosAngeles.com had an interesting way of summing up Albert Pujols’ trials in a headline: “James Loney Has 1 HR.”
  • Eno Sarris’ interview at Fangraphs with Stanford baseball “dean of stats” Dean Stotz is interesting. Sample: “Fifty percent of the time, the hitters take the first pitch. Twenty-six percent of the time, they hit it foul. Twenty-four percent of the time they put it in play —- and only 33% of those balls are hits. That means —- if you throw a first-pitch strike —- 92% of the time, you’ll get an out or an 0-1 count.”
  • Jackie Robinson movie 42 is set to be released April 12, three days before the next Jackie Robinson Day, reports Dave McNary of Variety.
  • As part of his 30 baseball books in 30 days series, Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News reviews Willie Mays Aikens: Safe at Home.
  • For my TV-viewing friends, this post by Mitch Metcalf of Showbuzz Daily might be of interest: “What Does a Tenth of a Rating Point Really Mean?”
  • Chess boxing? Chess boxing???
Jan 25

Wow, where did all these links come from?

A bundle of clickable goodness today …

  • Andre Ethier had some interesting comments in an interview Tuesday with ESPN AM 710.

    … Asked about wanting to be with the Dodgers long-term, Ethier said, “It comes down to the security part, too, but it also comes down to unfinished business and I feel like, yeah, I’m facing that decision now where hopefully it doesn’t come down to me having to leave and [I can] be a part of this team when we start rebounding and getting back to where we need to be.”The ownership limbo seemingly affected the Dodgers’ ability to deal in free agency this offseason, with general manager Ned Colletti saying earlier this month the team was essentially done with its offseason acquisitions because “we’re at our payroll.” So when news broke Tuesday of the Detroit Tigers nearing a deal with marquee free agent Prince Fielder, it wasn’t lost on Ethier.

    “Why can’t the Dodgers be doing that? Look at the markets those two teams are, and the stability you see through the front office and the team being able to operate … on the level it should be,” he said, adding, “you don’t try to think of it too much as a player, but obviously if you’re not going after the big fish like other teams are, like our partners are down there to the south of us, the Angels [who acquired Albert Pujols], it’s tough to go out there and keep competing year after year if you’re not going out there and making your team better every year. “I think that’s the situation we’ve been in. Obviously it’s going to get better from here on out because of the sell and getting new people in there.”

    Ethier, who hit .292 with 11 home runs and 62 RBIs in 2011 before ending the season with a right knee injury, said he’s aiming for a “strong, solid” 2012.

    “I’ve kind of dealt with this knee thing for the past two years, put it off for one off-season and then last season it just became a thing where a lot of things started multiplying and getting worse and something where I couldn’t quite get back my swing … It was very frustrating and I learned a lot from that.”

  • Ethier participated in a prank on Dustin Pedroia for a Boston radio station. Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy has more.
  • Matt Kemp’s new contract looks even more valuable in the wake of the Prince Fielder signing, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports offers up a wintertime preview of their 19th-ranked MLB team, the 2012 Dodgers.
  • Former Dodger co-owner and managing partner Bob Daly had even more to say Tuesday (in an interview with T.J. Simers of the Times) than Ethier. Daly is highly critical of Frank McCourt, critical of the Dodgers’ offseason signings and critical of himself for not trading prospects for a bat in the middle of the 2002 season — though I would say that was a period in which the Dodgers didn’t have a whole lot of trade value in the system.
  • Steve Dilbeck of the Times wonders if the potential interest of St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke in buying the Dodgers could be the first domino that leads to Frank McCourt becoming an NFL minority owner.
  • In a separate post, Dilbeck also offers why the Dodgers might win the National League West, despite all their uncertainty.
  • Just when I think I can’t read any more Hall of Fame voting insight, here comes Lewie Pollis of Behind the Boxscore with a new take, about what he calls “a mistaken assumption about the balloting process: that writers’ own observations of players were expected to be primary factors in their votes.”
  • Daryle Ward, who infamously batted .183 and slugged .193 at age 28 for the 2003 Dodgers, received a 50-game suspension from MLB for testing positive for a banned amphetamine. Ward, who has a .768 lifetime OPS, hasn’t played in the majors since 2008.
  • Former Dodger infielder Wilson Valdez, who ended up the winning pitcher for the Phillies over the Reds in a 19-inning game last May, was traded to the Reds today.
  • There’s speculation about whether Patrick Soon-Shiong, who owns 4.5 percent of the Lakers, will get involved with a Dodger ownership bid, such as Magic Johnson’s. Bill Shaikin of the Times addresses it today. Soon-Shiong bought Johnson’s share of the Lakers in 2010. Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com interviewed Soon-Shiong in November.
  • The Left Field Pavilion blog has invited all prospective Dodger owners to come out to the Dodger blogs softball tournament February 11 and “meet the bloggers and fans of the team you are trying to purchase.”
  • Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, 26, is about to become a free agent that MLB teams can bid on. More on Cespedes at Baseball America. The Dodgers are not rumored to be pursuing him. “Projections based off his Cuban numbers show a good but not great hitter with 25-homer power and poor strike-zone control,” writes Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk.
  • Sam Miller of the Orange County Register is quickly emerging as a baseball writer of the highest order. He has two new freelance pieces: an account of Scott Boras’ beginnings as an agent for Baseball Prospectus, and a pitch-by-pitch account of how the Angels signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson for ESPN the Magazine.
  • Kevin Kaduk at Yahoo! Sports blogs about a law in Florida “that any ballpark or stadium that receives taxpayer money shall serve as a homeless shelter on the dates that it is not in use.”
Dec 08

Incoming TV money explains Pujols signing

It could have been the Dodgers making the big news today.  And someday, it will be.

But for now, it’s all Angels.

On Thursday, the Dodgers continue their participation in a bankruptcy court hearing with Fox, a hearing largely focused on how to maximize the value of the baseball team. While that is going on, the Angels signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson — and just like that, the team from Anaheim seems to have written the book on how to maximize franchise value.

The commitment the Angels are making to the 31-year-old Pujols is, for those of us who live in the real world, insane. Ten years, $250 million-plus and all the fringe benefits I suspect you can name. It’s an incredible amount of money.

But the reason the Angels are able to make such a long-term splurge relates to the same reason that Dodgers fans should have hope for the franchise after all the courtroom drama is over. The TV money coming into the Southern California baseball market, whether from Fox Sports or its newly emerging rival, Time Warner Cable, is out of this world.

As Richard Sandomir recently wrote in The New York Times, the Dodgers’ current TV rights deal with Fox calls for just less than $40 million in its final year, 2013.  In the next contract, the annual payment the Dodgers receive in TV revenue is expected to be, at the bare minimum, $150 million, and quite possibly will go north of $200 million.  Sandomir even calculates that $300 million per year is a believable figure when all the bidding is done.

I’m not one to use the word “game-changer” frequently, but that’s a game-changer.

There are two principal reasons for the soaring dollars. Live sports has become invaluable programming for broadcasters in a DVR age that has brought declining ratings to conventional TV programming. And as I wrote for Variety this week, with TWC taking the Lakers from Fox to start new cable channels dedicated to the NBA team, the Dodgers are more valuable because of the need to fill the cable programming schedules in the summer months.

What’s relevant to Thursday’s signings is that the Angels are hardly being left out of the TV party. The Los Angeles Times reported in October that the Angels were close to negotiating an extension of their current TV deal with Fox, one that already stood to pay them more than the $80 million per year that Fox agreed to pay the Texas Rangers last year. Although you wouldn’t have assumed the Angels would get quite what the Dodgers could count on, the marquee value of Pujols — the equivalent of signing a saner, younger Manny Ramirez — certainly will help. You can make a direct argument that the appeal of Pujols and his effect in boosting the Angels’ win total will only help the team draw more TV money as negotiations are finalized.

When you consider the probability that the Angels will be getting more than $1 billion from Fox over the life of Pujols’ contract, then absorbing those final $25 million-a-year seasons or whatever they are, even after he’s over-the-hill, doesn’t seem so vexing. Pujols is sponge-worthy, and the Angels are going to have a lot of sponges.

That the Dodgers know they have the same revenue potential, if not more, reminds us how easily the team could have been a major player in this winter’s free-agent market. Heck, even under a normal budget, we already knew the Dodgers could have figured out a way to afford Prince Fielder (probably a better fit for the team than Pujols because he’s younger and not demanding a 10-year deal).

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. reiterated the point this week. If you combine the salaries of Aaron Harang, Juan Rivera, Chris Capuano, Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston Jr. and James Loney, you would basically have the money to sign Fielder and a starting pitcher. Then you play bargain ball at second base, and you still probably have a better team than what the Dodgers will put out in 2012.

Factor in the Dodgers’ post-2013 TV money and a new owner with deeper pockets, which will come regardless of how the current bankruptcy hearing plays out, and it’s really no sweat. A contract the size of the one Pujols is getting makes me uncomfortable — except when I remind myself just how different the financial landscape will be for the Dodgers in the coming years.

Nothing the Angels did Thursday guarantees them a World Series title — and more often than not during the next 10 years, the team that does win the Series will not be Pujols’ team. My point is not that the Pujols signing is a great one, but that it’s a feasible one. Over the life of the contract, taking into account both his peaks and his valleys, Pujols should make the Angels a better contender for titles and TV viewers.  Even at Pujols’ astronomical salary, the Angels’ risk-reward ratio is a solid one. Adding Wilson to the party only underscores this point.

And it serves as a reminder that anyone looking to acquire the Dodgers or their TV rights would be more confident in doing so knowing that Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and a player of Pujols’ or Fielder’s caliber is in place. (And hey, Fielder is still out there …)

So take heart, Dodgers fans. Frank McCourt is still selling, and the TV dough is still coming. This time next year, the Dodgers should be in the money, and we’ll have to worry (sigh) only about whether they’re spending it wisely.

Oct 27

The lame blame game

At the bottom of this morning’s Ramona Shelburne news story for ESPNLosAngeles.com about the Bryan Stow situation, she quotes Jerome Jackson, a lawyer representing Frank McCourt, as follows:

… “What happened to Bryan Stow was a tragedy,” he said. “The Dodgers have held fundraisers. The Dodgers have helped police in solving this case. That doesn’t mean we’re legally responsible for what happens here.

“What baffles me is that the level of public outrage at the Dodgers seems to be higher than the level of outrage at the people who inflicted the blows.” …

Here’s what I’d say to that:

1) Let’s be clear — whatever outrage exists isn’t against the Dodgers, it’s against McCourt. (Update: As Dodger Thoughts commenter Zissou_Steve points out, there was more outrage against Dodger fans than there was against McCourt when this incident occurred.)

2) Despite the anger against McCourt, I wouldn’t say that when it comes specifically to the Stow beating, people are angrier at McCourt than they are at the assailants. People understand who the true villains are.

3) However, if you’re trying to address public anger with McCourt, it sure doesn’t help when you make statements such as these:

“I’ve been doing these cases for 23 years and I have never seen one yet in which it didn’t take at least two people to tango,” (Jackson) said, referring to the notion that jurors could decide Stow bears some liability in the attack. “So stay tuned and stand by.”

Whatever the facts of the case are, when it comes to the question of “public outrage,” that’s an issue of public relations. Does this look like an example of good public relations?

* * *

  • Matt Kemp was the only unanimous selection to The Sporting News National League All-Star Team that also includes Clayton Kershaw.
  • Robinson Cano, whom I still link to Kemp because of all the trade rumors involving the pair a couple years back, is looking (via agent Scott Boras) to redo his contract with the Yankees that includes club options of $14 million for 2012 and $15 million for 2013, according to Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com.

    … Boras, has been peddling his sales pitch through the media recently, cautioning the Yankees that allowing Cano to become a free agent after the 2013 season would be extremely risky, not to mention expensive, the implication being that he would take Cano out onto the open market, where he would no doubt draw a lot of interest.

    An insider told Matthews that the chances of Cano’s contract being re-done were “highly, highly unlikely.”

  • Albert Pujols defended his hit-and-run playcalling, as well as the fact that he didn’t swing when he called the first hit-and-run in Game 5 Monday. (Joe Strauss, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Oct 24

A Fielder of dreams


Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesFuture teammates? (In Los Angeles, we mean.)

If the Dodgers lived in a world of riches and roses, they would sign Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, get as much value in exchange for James Loney as they could, and greet the 2012 season with high hopes.

Now let’s talk about the world they actually live in.

It’s a world that I’ve believed does not include any realistic possibility of Pujols or Fielder coming to Los Angeles except in the visitor dugout. Even if the imminent hearing on Frank McCourt’s ability to auction off the team’s TV rights results in the final blow to his ownership, I’ve felt there would be too much chaos this winter to allow the Dodgers to commit, if I’m low-balling it, what would be a minimum of $150 million for a Fielder signing.

Plus, there’s an argument that even if all was normal with the Dodgers – and by normal, I’m referring to the Dodgers as they’ve been at their best, as opposed to the Dodgers spending like the Yankees – the team shouldn’t be pursuing Fielder or Pujols, much less aging, gimpier players like Carlos Beltran (35 in April) or Aramis Ramirez (34 in June).

The Dodgers will have no more important long-term signings to pursue than Matt Kemp before the end of the 2012 season and Clayton Kershaw before the end of 2014. Each of those players will require contracts that, at some point, are paying them more than $20 million annually. In the middle of this decade, the Dodgers could be spending more than $40 million a year on those two players alone. And I hope they do, because both Kemp and Kershaw are great bets to make good on the deals, and because the Dodgers are long overdue for some great, homegrown players to spend a solid decade or more with the team.

So, is it really sensible to turn that into $60-plus million per season on three players? It’s hard not to notice, for example, that neither of the two teams playing in the World Series have devoted that much of their payroll to so few players.

  • St. Louis paid Matt Holliday $17 million this season and Pujols (in the last year of an eight-year contract signed before he could become a free agent) $16 million. Chris Carpenter made $15 million, but no other hitter who started the season with the Cardinals made more than Lance Berkman’s $8 million.
  • Texas paid Michael Young $16 million and Adrian Beltre $14 million in 2011. Josh Hamilton, like Kemp a potential free agent after the 2012 season, made only $7.25 million.

You can look at those bullet points two ways, actually. On the one hand, you don’t need a $20 million player to make the World Series. On the other hand, spending even $30 million on two guys doesn’t guarantee you’ll have enough to fund the rest of a championship team – Texas and St. Louis were anything but locks to play in the season’s final week.

Pujols will be 32 when he starts his next contract and near 40 when it ends. Fielder is younger than Pujols, but would be closer to 300 pounds than perhaps any Dodger ever. (Beats Frank Howard, right?) Even if the Dodgers were in the best financial shape of their lives, doesn’t part of you imagine that if Pujols or Fielder signed with Los Angeles, somehow, some way, something would go wrong? Horribly wrong?

So guess what. The Dodgers should sign Prince Fielder.

Betcha didn’t see that coming.

Here are the reasons:

  • Fielder, who is only 4 1/2 months older than Kemp, might not play until he’s 40, but no one’s going to give him a 12-year contract. The big first baseman should be good for the next several years easily. For all the concerns about his physical condition, he has averaged 160 games per season since 2006.
  • He is truly awesome, not only supplying mammoth power (that admittedly would decline some playing regularly in Dodger Stadium) but also the mammoth on-base percentage that made Manny Ramirez so valuable during his Los Angeles heyday. Fielder’s lifetime OBP is .390, including .381 in road games (.386 in 70 plate appearances at AT&T Park, if that sort of thing interests you). That ability isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
  • He would be a bird in the hand. He would be insurance in case Kemp, who might command more as a free agent, proves too difficult to come to terms. His presence could also help entice Kemp to stick around, given how he would feel about having Fielder in the cleanup slot (although at the end of the day, the best contract offer will carry the biggest weight for Kemp, plain and simple).
  • The Dodgers – even the bankrupt Dodgers – can afford him.

That last point is the one I’ve sort of put out of sight, out of mind, out of a belief that it wasn’t even worth thinking about. But then, I started to think about it.  The Dodgers could always backload a Fielder contract so that the hefty portion (pun acknowledged but not admired) comes after the post-2013 local TV contract money can be accessed. However, the Dodgers should be able to afford Fielder even if they pay him the proper amount starting next year.

The Dodgers have a somewhat shocking amount of 2012 payroll commitments: over $100 million. But then you notice that roughly $20 million of that total is allocated for Loney and Andre Ethier: two players coming off mixed seasons, two players who themselves will be eligible for free agency a year from now and unlikely to be resigned. If you replaced those two players with Fielder and an up-and-coming minor-leaguer, the Dodgers might be better off, if not next year, than as the decade goes on.

Let me reiterate that a Kemp-Fielder combo doesn’t get the Dodgers automatically credentialed into the 2012 World Series, any more than a Ryan Braun-Fielder combo did for Milwaukee in 2011. With or without Fielder, the Dodgers are an ownership-challenged team with holes at second base, on the bench and, pending what happens with Hiroki Kuroda, in the starting rotation.

Essentially, those problems will exist even without Fielder. Signing Fielder might even help solve one of them, by allowing them to trade Ethier. At any rate, I’m confident a Fielder signing wouldn’t mark a repeat of Andruw Jones.

If it’s a choice between Kemp, Kershaw and Fielder, then Fielder is the lowest priority for me on that list. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a choice.

It won’t be heartbreaking if the Dodgers don’t sign Fielder as a free agent, and it certainly won’t be surprising. It could, however, be very, very cool.