Feb 16

Clayton Kershaw to start Opening Day

As it should be

Left-hander Clayton Kershaw will get the ball for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ season opener on March 31 against the San Francisco Giants, manager Don Mattingly announced on Wednesday morning.

Mattingly said he made the decision as far back as last fall.

“Probably the day after I found out I was going to manage,” Mattingly said. “This kid loves the challenge, and I would line him up against anybody.”

In this case, Mattingly likely will be lining up Kershaw against right-hander Tim Lincecum, the Giants’ ace right-hander and two-time reigning National League Cy Young Award winner. Mattingly cited Kershaw’s two victories last season over Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez, the N.L. starter in the All-Star Game, as evidence of his ability to rise to the occasion. …

Feb 10

Arbitration clock eight days and counting for James Loney

James Loney and the Dodgers will head to an arbitration hearing Feb. 18 if they can’t settle their salary disagreement beforehand, reports ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Tony Jackson, who also has a feature on Don Mattingly today.

Elsewhere …

  • Jayson Stark of ESPN.com mostly approves of the Dodger offseason, at least relative to the rest of the National League West.
  • The Dodgers have packed for Camelback Ranch, and Roberto Baly — the Carmen Sandiego of Dodgerdom — is on the scene. Check out his pics and video, including shots of 75-year-old James Hall, who has been driving the truck for 29 years.
  • Check out the photo archive of Sports Illustrated vet Hy Peskin, thanks to the link passed along by Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Loved this video of Landry Fields working at a New York sporting goods store and trying in vain to sell his own jersey.
  • Nice story on ex-Chatsworth High ballplayer Matt Cassel by Eric Sondheimer of the Times.
  • Tweet of the day:”@jeffthiessen: Went to my local batting cage today and JAY GIBBONS of the #dodgers was hitting in my cage.. He said I have a nice swing!!”
Jan 16

Stopping by the Internet on a Snowy Evening

And miles to link before I sleep …

  • The state of Don Mattingly is profiled by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Evan Bladh Sr. of Opinion of Kingman’s Performance continues to knock ‘em out of the park – here’s a great story about the Dodgers and Mister Marty.
  • The frustrating thing with Russell Martin is that he keeps telling us in April that he’s training like he’s never trained before, and then the following winter he inevitably tells us, “No, not really.” Anyway, Martin tells the Canadian Press that he had some personal “distractions” and “frustrations” during his last two years with the Dodgers, but this year, he’ll be back.
  • Dodger pitching prospects Javy Guerra and Chris Withrow were continuing their rehab from injuries at the team’s recent minicamp in Los Angeles, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Delino DeShields Jr., the 18-year-old reigning first-round draft pick of the Houston Astros, was charged with a DUI, according to Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle.
  • Danny’s Farm, the Altadena animal farm tailored for special-needs children that was founded by former Dodger pitcher Jim Gott and his wife Cathy, has been closed because of zoning restrictions, reports Corina Knoll of the Times.
  • Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend by Larry Tye gets praise from Rob McMillin at 6-4-2.
  • Steve Dilbeck of the Times has a praiseworthy recap of Dennis Gilbert’s annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation dinner Saturday.

Update:

Nov 19

Ex-Dodgers Delwyn Young, Andy La Roche are castaways


Matt Slocum/APAndy LaRoche congratluates Delwyn Young after Young’s solo home run May 17 in Philadelphia.

Two seasons ago, the Dodgers gave away Delwyn Young, then sent Andy LaRoche away to get Manny Ramirez a few months later. Now, the Dodgers can have them back for nothing. Pittsburgh designated Young and LaRoche for assignment today.

Both players occasionally flashed ability but mostly have washed out. That’s not as big a surprise for Young, who was never expected to be much more than a bench player, but the bigger disappointment was LaRoche, whose fine minor-league career seemed to have him poised for a starting role. Indeed, yours truly insisted in 2008 that the Dodgers didn’t give LaRoche a fair chance to win the third-base job before deciding to trade Carlos Santana and Jon Meloan for Casey Blake, days before the Ramirez trade.

When LaRoche was sent away (along with minor-league pitcher Bryan Morris), I consoled myself with the fact that at least the Dodgers were getting a major talent back. And more than ever, there’s no doubt the trade was a major win for the Dodgers, especially with injuries and stagnating development making LaRoche a discard.

Either player might be worth a flyer on a minor-league contract, especially considering the Dodgers’ depth issues, but based on Ned Colletti’s past actions, if there’s any ex-Pirate he’d be taking a chance on for next season’s major-league roster, it would be today’s third DFA, Zach Duke. Duke is five years removed from the 1.81 ERA he posted in his rookie debut and hasn’t averaged more than 5.5 strikeouts per nine innings since, but he did have a 4.06 ERA in 2009 and will still only be 28 in April. For a general manager who saw potential in every R. Ortiz under the sun, Duke certainly seems like someone whose tires would get kicked.

And believe it or not, there’s a fourth ex-Pirate in the Dodger news today, though don’t expect to see him in Los Angeles. The Dodgers purchased the contracts of two players and added them to their 40-man roster – one was 28-year-old catcher Hector Gimenez, who had a .916 OPS for the Pirates’ Double-A team in Altoona – the first time in eight professional seasons he had broken the .800 mark.

The other was Luis Vasquez (25 in April), who had a nifty 2.68 ERA and with 39 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings, but all the way down in Single-A. Vasquez allowed only 24 hits but walked 26.

No, this doesn’t mean the Dodgers have solved their catching and bullpen issues. Nor, certainly, have they provided us an answer who will start in left field in 2011, though Colletti gave Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio (news via MLB Trade Rumors) this conversation piece: Jay Gibbons, Xavier Paul and Jamie Hoffmann are all considered candidates to be the outfield’s Opening Day third wheel.

* * *

Don Mattingly completed his managerial stint in the Arizona Fall League, and Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com touched base with him.

Nov 11

Third base: The cold corner


John McDonough/Icon SMIRaul Mondesi

Last time the Dodgers won a Gold Glove at the following positions:

C – Russell Martin, 2007
1B – Steve Garvey, 1977
2B – Orlando Hudson, 2009
SS – Cesar Izturis, 2004
3B – None
OF – Matt Kemp, 2009
OF – Steve Finley, 2004
OF – Raul Mondesi, 1997
P – Greg Maddux, 2008

The timing wasn’t right for Ron Cey or Adrian Beltre to win Gold Gloves for the Dodgers …

* * *

  • The history of Bill Russell as Dodger manager gets a long look back at the Hardball Times from Steven Booth, who is searching for parallels (and coming up with mixed results) with Don Mattingly’s nascent tenure in the hot seat.
  • Sam Miller of the Orange County Register questions a system that makes relievers 35 percent of Type A free agents.

* * *

All my best wishes and thanks to the nation’s veterans on this day …

Oct 29

Explaining the Don Mattingly non-incident

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has caught some undeserved grief in the past 24 hours or so because his Phoenix Desert Dogs team in the Arizona Fall League ran out of pitchers and couldn’t finish the nine-inning game, as Scott Merkin of MLB.com reported.

As someone who wishes the next Dodger manager had more experience, I nevertheless found this to be completely unremarkable. Some people have been using it to launch more snark at Mattingly, but that snark betrays a lack of understanding of what the AFL is – a series of games designed to provide a limited number of players with practice in a (pseudo-)competitive setting.

The math is simple: Mattingly was given five pitchers to work with Thursday (two others were injured), and was expected to get them all in the game while adhering to strict pitch-count limits. Over the first six innings he used three hurlers, none of whom pitched all that well, leaving him with two for the final three.

The real trouble began with Dodger prospect Steven Ames, a 17th-round pick in 2009, couldn’t retire any of the seven batters he faced in the seventh inning. The next pitcher, Marlins prospect Steve Cishek, fared little better, retiring only two of the next seven batters, using 36 pitches in the process.

That forced Mattingly to use a sixth pitcher, Braves prospect Cory Gearrin, who was supposed to pitch today, in order to complete the seventh inning Thursday.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles spoke to Mattingly today and sent along these quotes:

“You only have so many guys, and we have two starters down (with injuries),” Mattingly told Jackson. “Each organization dictates how much you can use their guys and how much they can pitch. Ames just got here, and he was only supposed to go one inning or 30 pitches. And then Cishek, he could only go 40 pitches or two innings. And then I had to bring in Gearrin, and he only had 14 pitches left.’

“This had nothing to do with managing a game. I would do it every day exactly the way we did it, because I’m not going to send somebody out there and get them hurt, either somebody from our organization or from another organization. And you’re not about to send another (position) player out there (to pitch) and risk getting them hurt just to get through one inning. … We saw this coming for three or four days. We’d send a guy out there and cross our fingers and just hope he could give us an inning or get a double play or whatever, just to get us through. But it finally caught up with us.”

It’s happened before, and it’s happened again. Save the grievances about Mattingly for when they actually matter …

Oct 12

Arizona Fall League: Opening Day

The Arizona Fall League throws out its first pitch of 2010 today, and Dodger fans might pay it a little more mind than usual. Not only is this Don Mattingly’s first official gig at the helm of a baseball team, the Phoenix Desert Dogs, but there are a couple of key players to watch:

1) The Dodgers’ minor-league hitter of the year, Jerry Sands, will be tested out at third base.

2) The Dodgers’ minor-league mystery of the year, Scott Elbert, will be tested out on the mound.

Other organization members on the Desert Dogs of Phoenix (or is it the Dogs of Phoenix Desert) are Javy Guerra, Jon Link, Justin Miller the Younger, Matt Wallach, Ivan DeJesus, Jr. and Trayvon Robinson. A few of these guys will be competing for major-league jobs in 2011.

Phoenix has its first game against Mesa at 12:35 p.m.

* * *

  • Logan White will interview for the Mets’ vacant general manager slot, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Jackson adds the following about surprising rumors in recent days that the Dodgers were pushing White out the door.

    … As recently as 10 days ago, rumors surfaced that White, whose current contract is set to expire at the end of this month, was on the verge of being fired by the Dodgers. White told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Oct. 1 that he was aware of those rumors but hadn’t been told anything official and that he planned to continue working as usual until he was told not to.

    “I’m still working,” White said at the time. “I haven’t been told anything [different]. There is a lot of innuendo and rumor out there, and I hate to even address some of those because they are so ridiculous.”

    Those rumors appear to have been the result of confusing White with another Southern California amateur-scouting chief. The Los Angeles Angels had fired their scouting director, Eddie Bane, along with three of his scouts, on Sept. 29. Multiple sources said Monday the Dodgers have every intention of re-signing White and keeping him around in his present role if he isn’t hired as a GM by another club. …

  • Vin Scully Is My Homeboy passes along these interviews by reporter Maria Serrao with Scully himself.
  • Friend of the Dodger Thoughts family Daniel Paul has passed along this link to some Dodger caps his son Harry designed. Click the link and rate the cap.
Sep 17

Dodgers take leap of faith with Don Mattingly


Dustin Bradford/Icon SMIDon Mattingly will be the Dodgers’ seventh manager since 1996.

The Tim Wallach bandwagon seemed to be gaining steam in recent weeks, but in the end it was as everyone foretold: The Dodgers have officially announced that Don Mattingly will manage the team in 2011, succeeding Joe Torre.

With any first-time manager, you don’t really know how it’s going to go until it goes (that’s my poor imitation of Joni Mitchell). Wallach was something of a sweetheart candidate, partly with his echoes of Mike Scioscia (even though Wallach mainly spent his career in Montreal), but more because he just seemed to have earned the job more than Mattingly had. Player reports were glowing. But unless you’ve been hanging with the Isotopes, you didn’t really see how he managed a team, and even if you were in Albuquerque, you don’t know how his strategy might change with winning a priority over player development.

Of course, Mattingly is an even bigger mystery. The Dodgers are betting that his understanding of the game and Torre’s tutelage trumps any need for having done this before, and that managing in the Arizona Fall League will seal the deal.  I wasn’t convinced all year that this was a good bet, and I’m not convinced now. I poured my thoughts out on this in June, and my take on this remains what it was:

… I don’t know of anyone, even his stanuchest supporters, who touts Torre as a brilliant tactical manager. He has had moments of strategic inspiration, but they seem more than undermined by his justifiably maligned use of his pitching staff and other odd lineup and bench moves. Some of the criticism of Torre is overblown, but there’s a layer of truth to it that dates back to his Yankee days.  …

Obviously, Mattingly’s baseball knowledge is not limited to his time by Torre’s side, but surely his tactics are going to be heavily influenced by Torre. And that, while not being the worst thing in the world, is not anything to be excited about.

Then you have to ask yourself, is Mattingly the type of person who can nurture a clubhouse, who can make a team better when the game isn’t going on?

I don’t know Mattingly at all, so I’m not qualified to answer that question. But my concern is that Mattingly is being handed this job not because of any actual qualifications, but because he’s perceived (hoped) to be Torre II. He’ll continue Torre’s winning ways just by having soaked up his innate Torreness.

If it were that simple, I don’t think Lakers fans would be concerned about Phil Jackson leaving.

As a counter-example, Tim Wallach has both coached on the major league level and managed on the minor league level for the Dodgers. He was named Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year in 2009. This season, he has been doing a barefoot walk across the coals, because the Dodgers’ pitching problems have absolutely burned their top affiliate in Albuquerque. In this season alone, Wallach has had to use 17 starting pitchers this season in 74 games. He has very little in the way of top-rated Triple-A prospects right now. He has had to work without the safety net of a Joe Torre and then some.

This resume doesn’t prove that Wallach will be a successful major league manager. But I can’t see how it isn’t a better resume than Mattingly’s, whose entire managerial C.V. consists of, “He’s Don Mattingly, Yankees legend and student of Joe Torre.”

As the Dodgers prepare to bid farewell to Torre, this year, next year or whenever, they have some responsibilities, some explicit, some implicit. For one thing, Major League Baseball requires the Dodgers to interview at least one minority candidate for the position. Whether you believe in this rule or not, I’d argue that the Dodgers should not make this interview a token activity, but rather at least one of a number of serious interviews, a wider exploration into whether anyone is better than Mattingly for the job. Clearly, Mattingly has impressed people in the organization, but has he done so in ways that really matter? If they pause and step back, are there not potential managers out there who would be more compelling?

By writing this piece, I risk giving this decision more importance than it deserves. The talent on the field is still more important than the talent in the dugout, and a hire of Mattingly isn’t going to ruin the Dodgers. Mattingly is not Torre, and given what happened Sunday, some might say that’s a good thing. But the Dodgers should ask themselves whether a Mattingly hire would bring continuity in all the wrong places.

I really do think the Dodgers or MLB need to answer why the minority interview requirement for the Dodgers is being bypassed for the second time in a row.

In the end, Mattingly may turn out to be the real deal as a manager, just as he was as a player. Just like Torre, in fact. Keep in mind, though, that Torre (who took over the Mets as a novice manager while still on the active playing roster) didn’t have a winning season until his seventh season.

So maybe the way to look at this is you’re giving a young prospect with great potential a quick route to the big leagues, just like, say, Clayton Kershaw. Or Matt Kemp.  Or Joel Guzman. You know, one of those.

Jul 22

Mattingly miscue didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know

The reason to be concerned about Don Mattingly becoming Dodger manager next year is not that he doesn’t know some arcane baseball rule. It’s that he isn’t experienced or authoritative enough to effectively handle much more common aspects of helming the team.

Is he good with strategy? Can he manage a bullpen? (What of him having Hong-Chih Kuo warming up Wednesday, a night after the fragile lefty threw two innings?) Is he an effective motivator of players? Does he sound too much like Toby Flenderson in an interview? These are all questions that existed long before Tuesday’s chaos.

Mattingly might turn out to be a good manager, but the point is – and has always been – that there might be better candidates.

In any case, our friend Bob Timmermann has everything you could want to know about Rule 8.06 in a post at L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence.

* * *

  • The national media seems way more concerned than people locally about whether Joe Torre will manage another season in Los Angeles. I think many people here will react to Torre’s decision with a shrug.
  • Kenley Jansen is too good to ignore for the Dodger bullpen, contends Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone.
  • One of the best features I’ve seen all year is this piece on former Cardinals and Padres shortstop Garry Templeton, by Dan O’Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • At StoryCorps, Harvey Sherman tells his tale of attending the final Dodgers game at Ebbets Field.
  • For those who are still talking about Chad Billingsley and the 2008 National League Championship Series, I have this advice for you:
Jul 20

Macho men fall down: Dodgers collapse, 7-5


Gus Ruelas/APUmpire Adrian Johnson walks alongside Matt Kemp after the Dodger outfielder was hit by a Tim Lincecum pitch in the fifth inning.

Where to begin?

Tim Lincecum getting hammered, allowing three runs in the first inning and two more in the third? Giving up a homer to Andre Ethier and 11 baserunners in 4 1/3 innings while striking out two?

Xavier Paul getting two runs, two doubles, a single and an RBI – and still nearly costing the Dodgers the game with a dropped fly ball?

Clayton Kershaw cruising, retiring 11 in a row at one point, in his first career matchup with Lincecum?

No, we can’t start there.

In the most memorable game of a season the Dodgers are desperately hoping won’t be forgettable, Lincecum-Kershaw I devolved into a B-grade beanball war and D-grade display of intelligence, one that showed the Dodgers’ fighting spirit but also highlighted their shortsightedness – and even stupidity.

If you thought the collapse against the Yankees was a nightmare, if Sunday’s meltdown at St. Louis brought you to your knees, those games have nothing on tonight’s 7-5 loss.

The unraveling took root in the fifth inning, with the Dodgers leading 5-1, when Lincecum, who had hit one batter with a pitch this year, threw consecutive knockdown pitches at Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, the second one hitting him. Kemp was angry, but there was no incident. Nevertheless, home plate umpire Adrian Johnson issued a warning to both benches that no other beanball shenanigans would be tolerated. This infuriated Dodger coach Bob Schaefer (the Dodger coach that Kemp reportedly clashed with last month), who had lots of words with Johnson.

Lincecum left the game one batter later. In top of the sixth, Kershaw gave up three hits and three runs, two of them unearned because Paul dropped a long fly ball by San Francisco’s Pat Burrell (one, admittedly, that looked at first like it might leave the park). In the bottom of the inning, Giants reliever Denny Bautista knocked Russell Martin down with a pitch, and Schaefer went ballistic, drawing an ejection from Johnson.

Gus Ruelas/AP
Joe Torre and Adrian Johnson go through the motions and emotions after Clayton Kershaw’s ejection.

Kershaw was the next batter, which was a bit surprising considering his rough top of the sixth and the fact that he had thrown 103 pitches. What was really bizarre, however, was that the fragile Hong-Chih Kuo was warming up in the bullpen while Kershaw was batting.

Soon, we found out why.

Kershaw came out in the top of the seventh and with his first pitch, drilled Aaron Rowand of the Giants. Johnson immediately ejected Kershaw, who might also draw a suspension. And while some might have thought it improbable that the Dodgers would intentionally put the tying run on base in a game they so wanted to win, it seems clear that they did.

Further explaining what happened, a Twitter user pointed out that pinch-hitter Garret Anderson was the on-deck hitter when Martin was knocked down. After Schaefer was ejected, Anderson sat down, and Kershaw remained in the game to do his dirty work.

Kershaw scored points with everyone who thinks that pride depends on revenge, who thinks that all of the Dodgers’ problems stem from Chad Billingsley not knocking down a Phillie two years ago, but in the meantime, the action risked putting the Dodgers in the very humbling position of losing a game that was very much worth winning. Rowand made it all the way to third base with two outs, before Kuo got Freddie Sanchez on a broken-bat liner to end the inning.

So the extra baserunner didn’t cost the Dodgers the game. But ultimately, we were still reminded that pride doesn’t mean victories.

Jonathan Broxton, forced into the game after Kuo threw two innings, allowed a 60-foot infield single to start the ninth, then issued an ill-advised walk to Edgar Renteria. Rowand sacrificed, and the Dodgers decided to have Broxton walk Aubrey Huff intentionally to load the bases with one out.

And then – and this is saying something – the most bizarre thing happened.

Joe Torre’s heir apparent, Don Mattingly, helming the Dodgers because Torre was automatically ejected once his pitcher hit a batter after the benches were warned, visited the mound to have a conference with Broxton and the infield. He finished, walked off the mound, and then James Loney called out a question to him. Mattingly turned and took three steps back toward Loney – a step that put both Mattingly’s feet onto the mound. Giants manager Bruce Bochy immediately came out to contend that this constituted two trips to the mound, and successfully got Broxton removed from the game.

And thus, we had trying to save the game, with almost no warmup, one George Friderich Sherrill.

Irony was not in supply. Sherrill did not defy expectations. His second pitch was hit for a two-run double, giving San Francisco its first lead of the game. Travis Schlichting came in, and one out later, allowed a single for another run.

Forced to rally for the first time tonight, the Dodgers came out in the bottom of the ninth against Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt, who no doubt entered the game with one eye on Ethier in the dugout, due up fourth in the inning. Jamey Carroll was thrown out by a hair at first base. The ever-lovin’ Rafael Furcal then lined one to left field, sliding into second base with a close double. Ronnie Belliard, pinch-hitting for Paul against the lefty, struck out feebly.

And for the second night in a row with the game on the line, Affeldt got Ethier, this time ending the contest with a strikeout.

And so yes, the Dodgers can pat themselves on the back, knowing that they were man enough to fight back against the Giants. But when they’re done with that, their next move will be to scratch their heads, wondering why that manliness feels so hollow.

It’s because it’s not about who’s mas macho. It’s about who has scored the most runs at the end of the day. Anyone who planned to point to this tough-guy act and say this was the key to the Dodgers’ season was just dreaming.

Update: Some postgame quotes from Torre …

“(Mattingly) didn’t really know where he was. He thought he was still on the mound when James called him back.

“They didn’t look upon (the brushback of Martin) as on purpose. It’s a very gray area that seems to have some flaws in it, and I don’t know how you fix it.

“I think it’s more just (Broxton) is out of sync right now, more so than anything physical to worry about. He’s pretty honest with Honeycutt as far as when he feels good.

“We’ve had some strange things happen. This is a test, and you have to bounce back and reestablish what kind of club you are.”

Update 2: Quotes from Mattingly …

“I turned to walk away, and James said something and I just kind of turned around. He asked me the depth that I wanted him, didn’t even realize that I was off the dirt, and obviously I was.

“I kind of had a little bit of a feeling, because Adrian (Johnson) was yelling, ‘No no no, you can’t go back!’ as I turned to talk to James, so I had a little bit of a feeling at that point.

“I’m aware of the rule, but again felt I had just kind of turned and turned back around, but obviously I guess I didn’t.

“That’s what I asked (crew chief) Tim McClelland. I said, ‘Can he warm up?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I won’t do that to him. I’m not gonna take a chance on letting a guy get hurt. So at that point (I’m) talking to (pitching coach Rick Honeycutt), not realizing how many throws he’s getting.

“I’m not quite sure of (why they cut Sherrill off at eight warmup tosses). Again, Honey and I talked, and pretty much turned around and George is ready to go, so I figure he’s ready to go. At that point I didn’t realize they cut him off at eight.”

Jun 29

Trade Don Drysdale!


AP
Don Drysdale, March 1959

Fifty years ago, this was the hot trade rumor of the day, according to Keith Thursby of the Daily Mirror: Don Drysdale, Gil Hodges and Duke Snider to the Yankees for Tony Kubek, Elston Howard, Ryne Duren and Johnny James. Buzzie Bavasi shot it down. (The link  also takes you to a feature on baseball stats godfather Allan Roth.)

Hodges and Snider were near the end of their careers, but Drysdale was only 23. He was coming off a 3.46 ERA in the 1959 title season, but he ran into a slump, posting a 7.11 ERA in 31 2/3 innings over seven appearances (six starts), only one of them a quality start.

Don Drysdale a Yankee. Gosh, it must’ve seemed like such a good idea to dump the kid at the time. All I need to find is one article calling him a head case or mental midget and my year will be complete.

  • Matt Kemp will return to the Dodger starting lineup tonight, Joe Torre told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Testimonials for Don Mattingly come in this article by Gideon Rubin for the Daily News from former teammate Dave Righetti and current Dodger Jeff Weaver. “There’s one thing that he’s about, and that’s hard work,” Weaver said. “He communicates well, and the guys respect him.”
  • Ten managerial candidates to consider have been conveniently offered by John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus. Mattingly is on the list, along with Alex Cora’s brother Joey, former Dodger Ron Roenicke  and one-time Dodger candidate (before Paul DePodesta was fired) Torey Luvullo.
  • Lucas May singled, doubled and homered twice for Albuquerque on Monday.
  • Carlos Monasterios has taken a walk on the rehab trail. He allowed five runs (four earned) on nine baserunners while striking out four in 3 2/3 innings. Three of the runs came on a first-inning homer. “I thought Monasterios threw the ball pretty well,” Isotopes manager Tim Wallach told Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner. “The home run he gave up in the first was probably a bit of an Albuquerque home run.”
  • James McDonald will return to the Albuquerque active roster Thursday, Jackson reports.
  • I make the case for Hong-Chih Kuo’s inclusion on the National League All-Star Team at Rob Neyer’s Sweet Spot blog at ESPN.com.
  • How do you solve a problem like George Sherrill? Ask Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Joe Posnanski is looking for your nominations for top sports books.

Update: Adrian Beltre tells Alex Speier of WEEI the story of how he became an underage signee of the Dodgers, and the fallout that ensued. (via MLB Trade Rumors)

Jun 28

Joe Torre and the future of Dodger managing


Jeff Chiu/AP
Don Mattingly and Joe Torre

Joe Torre’s primary skill set is at most one thing: He nurtures the clubhouse.

I don’t know of anyone, even his stanuchest supporters, who touts Torre as a brilliant tactical manager. He has had moments of strategic inspiration, but they seem more than undermined by his justifiably maligned use of his pitching staff and other odd lineup and bench moves. Some of the criticism of Torre is overblown, but there’s a layer of truth to it that dates back to his Yankee days.

When Torre finally lost his temper on Wednesday after the Dodgers’ ninth-inning baserunner follies and criticized some of the players for their decision-making, I understood, but I also felt it was the pot calling out the kettle. So much of Torre’s job is decision-making, and so often it goes wrong. Sometimes he makes a good choice that goes bad, but other times his choices are simply indefensible. How many times has Torre not seemed mentally prepared for the game at hand? Does a collapse like Sunday’s not lay in large part at Torre’s feet, most notably in his overuse of Jonathan Broxton? It’s not as simple as “his players didn’t do their jobs.”

And I say all this with no particular axe to grind. This is not a “Fire Joe Torre” post. I generally like Torre as a person. I don’t happen to think that Torre is much worse at game strategy than your garden-variety manager. But let’s face it: With Torre, you’re betting that the force of his even-keeled personality outweighs his flaws. He ‘s a bright man, but you’re not thinking he’s going to take you to the top because he’s a grandmaster chess player.

Torre’s contract ends after this season. This past weekend, he told reporters that he would decide in September whether he wants to come back for more with the Dodgers, although even then, there’s a question of how much the McCourt ownership will want to pay him for the privilege — or whether anyone up top will even be able to focus on the question. The McCourt divorce trial is currently scheduled to begin August 30. What kind of negotiations are there going to be with Torre during that time? If the Dodgers are in fourth place, will there be any negotiations at all? Or is it all in general manager Ned Colletti’s hands?

It’s possible that the Dodgers will take decide that, with all their other concerns heading into 2011, they’d like stability in the managerial chair and will quickly give Torre what he wants to stay. If the Dodgers bounce back to the top of the division, I’d almost be willing to bet on it.

The only other possibility on the horizon is that Don Mattingly will be the Dodger manager next season. It has been spelled out in no uncertain terms that Mattingly is the heir apparent, and if the Dodgers fall out of the race, Mattingly could be named the 2011 Dodger manager before the 2010 season ends.

This, my friends, gives me the willies.

Mattingly is Joe Torre without Joe Torre’s personality or experience. Mattingly has never managed a regular season baseball game and has never coached for anyone except Torre. Obviously, Mattingly’s baseball knowledge is not limited to his time by Torre’s side, but surely his tactics are going to be heavily influenced by Torre. And that, while not being the worst thing in the world, is not anything to be excited about.

Then you have to ask yourself, is Mattingly the type of person who can nurture a clubhouse, who can make a team better when the game isn’t going on?

I don’t know Mattingly at all, so I’m not qualified to answer that question. But my concern is that Mattingly is being handed this job not because of any actual qualifications, but because he’s perceived (hoped) to be Torre II. He’ll continue Torre’s winning ways just by having soaked up his innate Torreness.

If it were that simple, I don’t think Laker fans would be concerned about Phil Jackson leaving.

As a counter-example, Tim Wallach has both coached on the major-league level and managed on the minor-league level for the Dodgers. He was named Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year in 2009. This season, he has been doing a barefoot walk across the coals, because the Dodgers’ pitching problems have absolutely burned their top affiliate in Albuquerque. In this season alone, Wallach has had to use 17 starting pitchers this season in 74 games. He has very little in the way of top-rated AAA prospects right now. He has had to work without the safety net of a Joe Torre and then some.

This resume doesn’t prove that Wallach will be a successful major-league manager. But I can’t see how it isn’t a better resume than Mattingly’s, whose entire managerial C.V. consists of, “He’s Don Mattingly, Yankee legend and student of Joe Torre.”

As the Dodgers prepare to bid farewell to Torre, this year, next year or whenever, they have some responsibilities, some explicit, some implicit. For one thing, Major League Baseball requires the Dodgers to interview at least one minority candidate for the position. Whether you believe in this rule or not, I’d argue that the Dodgers should not make this interview a token activity, but rather at least one of a number of serious interviews, a wider exploration into whether anyone is better than Mattingly for the job. Clearly, Mattingly has impressed people in the organization, but has he done so in ways that really matter? If they pause and step back, are there not potential managers out there who would be more compelling?

By writing this piece, I risk giving this decision more importance than it deserves. The talent on the field is still more important than the talent in the dugout, and a hire of Mattingly isn’t going to ruin the Dodgers. Mattingly is not Torre, and given what happened Sunday, some might say that’s a good thing. But the Dodgers should ask themselves whether a Mattingly hire would bring continuity in all the wrong places.

Mar 11

Why Don Mattingly and not Tim Wallach?

Steve Dilbeck questions the Dodgers’ fascination with coach Don Mattingly over Albuquerque manager Tim Wallach at Dodgers Blog, and I can’t say I don’t share it — only I might frame as “Why Don Mattingly and no one else?”

The answer is that Mattingly would theoretically carry forward the success that Joe Torre has had, but should we really feel so certain that Mattingly, for better or worse, is Torre II?

Writes Dilbeck:

… Mattingly has never managed. Wallach, who led Albuquerque to the playoffs last season and was named the Pacific Coast League manager of the year, will return to the helm of the Isotopes this season.

Does any of this sound familiar? Echoes of Mike Scioscia, perhaps?

When Tommy Lasorda finally stepped down, the Dodgers named coach Bill Russell to succeed him in 1997. Scioscia was a bench coach. When Russell was ousted in the middle of the ’98 season, Glenn Hoffman was named manager. When Hoffman was fired at the end of the season, Davey Johnson took over.

Scioscia, who in 1999 managed at Albuquerque, was passed over one time too many, resigned and then went onto become one of baseball’s finest managers for the Angels. …

… Wallach also said he sees no problem with Mattingly’s inexperience as a manager.

“He’s a baseball guy,” Wallach said. “He’s been Torre’s bench coach. I mean, I can’t even imagine how much he’s learned being with Joe all these years. If that’s how it works, I got … he’s a baseball guy. I think he’ll be fantastic.

“I’m getting experience to someday hopefully manage (in the majors). I would love it to be here, but if it’s not here, I appreciate the opportunity. I love the Dodgers. I always come back to the Dodgers. But they’re giving me an opportunity and I’m very happy with the opportunity.”

* * *

Heralded Cuban import Aroldis Chapman is scheduled to pitch for the Reds against the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch on Friday.

Update: Brian Giles has retired. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Mar 10

You’re out of order! No – you’re out of order!

Don Mattingly’s first game as Spring Training manager in 2010 was part Goofus, part Gallant. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details:

… Somehow, the official lineup cards the Dodgers submitted to plate umpire Brian Runge and to the Arizona Diamondbacks for the Cactus League game had Matt Kemp hitting third and Andre Ethier fourth, the exact opposite of every other lineup posted around the facility, including those given to the press box.

Mattingly said that after Ethier flied out to center to end the first and Kemp did the same to start the second, Runge informed Mattingly that they had batted out of turn and that the Dodgers had “established a new order.” Mattingly took that to mean they would continue to bat in that order the rest of the game. But after Kemp flied to left and Ethier grounded out to end the third, Runge came back to the dugout.

“He said, ‘I think we have a misunderstanding,”‘ Mattingly said later. “The way I understood it, we had re-established the order. But [bench coach Bob Schaefer] said he thought that was wrong, and it turned out that it was.”

So, in an effort to resolve the situation, Runge made a decision that seemed to make no sense and would wreak havoc with the postgame box score. He decreed that Ethier, who had been the next-to-last batter in the third, would lead off the fourth so that he would follow Kemp in the order.

So Ethier did lead off the fourth. And drove an opposite-field homer to left-center off Bob Howry, tying the score at 1-1.

“It was right on our lineup card, but obviously, we got it wrong [on the official card],” Mattingly said after the game. “I should have checked it, which we usually do. Schaef puts it on the [official] card, but it’s my job to check it, and I didn’t do that.”

Mattingly, who had been in a relaxed mood all day, then smiled.

“But wasn’t it great to get that out of the way in spring training?” he said. “In that sense, you have to look at it as a positive.” …

That was the sausage – here are the links:

  • According to a Venezuelan newspaper – as interpreted by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy – missing Dodger reliever Ronald Belisario “has missed three dates with the U.S. embassy for paperwork, which is the reason he has yet to report to Camelback Ranch.”
  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com is en route to Taiwan and has begun a travelogue.
  • With so many Dodgers in a Taiwan-bound airplane, several players from minor-league camp got into today’s game, including Kyle Russell, Brandon Watson, Andrew Lambo, Pedro Baez and Christian Lara. Russell had an RBI single.
  • Ramon Ortiz has started the spring with six strikeouts in five shutout innings.
  • Tony Abreu batted leadoff for Arizona and took it to his former team with a single, triple and homer.
  • The Dodger Thoughts March Madness group is forming. When the NCAA men’s basketball bracket is announced, fill out yours here. “Kershaw” is the password.
Mar 10

Nomar Garicaparra – Mr. +1 – retires


Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Nomar Garciaparra follows through in the 10th inning, Sept. 18, 2006.

Nomar Garciaparra, whose place in Dodger lore was cemented with his game-winning home run in the 4+1 game, announced his retirement today. He is moving on to work for ESPN as a “Baseball Tonight” and game analyst.

Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 12:05 p.m.
Today’s Lineup
Rafael Furcal, SS
Blake DeWitt, 2B
Andre Ethier, RF
Matt Kemp, CF
Brian Giles, DH
Reed Johnson, LF
Doug Mientkiewicz, 1B
Nick Green, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
(Vicente Padilla, P)

Continuing the theme of the day, Garciaparra had nine walkoff hits in his career and five in his three Dodger seasons — four of them in 2006. Garciaparra had another game-winning home run six days after the 4+1 game.

Rob Neyer of ESPN.com is among those with more on Garciaparra.

* * *

  • Memories of Willie Davis have dotted the Internet. Here are a selected few, provided by Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, Phil Gurnee of True Blue L.A., Buster Olney of ESPN.com, Neil Paine of Stat of the Day and Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle.  Also, Steve Dilbeck of Dodgers Blog interviewed former Dodger owner Peter O’Malley about Davis. In addition, here’s a link to one of my favorite pieces, the 2007 SI.com column I wrote about Vin Scully in which Davis’ 31-game hitting streak played a prominent role.
  • The Dodgers’ Taiwan sojourn left behind very few infielders in Arizona, Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes.
  • Ivan DeJesus, Jr. is the subject of the latest prospect profile at Memories of Kevin Malone.
  • Vin Scully Is My Homeboy documents his trip to Camelback Ranch. Love the picture with George Foster.
  • Forty years ago today, Ross Newhan of the Times celebrated the potential of the Dodgers’ young infield of “Billy Buckner, 20, Bill Grabarkewitz, 24, Bobby Valentine, 21 and Bill Russell, 21.” (via the Daily Mirror)
  • Don Mattingly had this to say to reporters about his Dodger future:
    “Everything will come off of what Joe does. I talked to the Dodgers after my first interview with Cleveland. They expressed that they wanted me to be a part of their future. Yes, the word ‘manager’ was brought up.”I like it here. I like California. Nothing definitive was said or done. … I’m not worried about money or things like that right now. I’m worried about our ballclub and soaking up as much as I can. I know where I want to go, but I have to keep my priorities straight.”