Jan 23

Bidness time


Initial bids for the Dodgers officially have been made. Tony Jackson covered it for ESPNLosAngeles.com, while Bill Shaikin was on it for the Times. Not much in the way of surprises in a process that still has some time to develop. From Jackson:

… Although the passing of the deadline represents a significant step in the sale process, it isn’t necessarily a major one. For one thing, additional bids are still welcome even with the deadline having passed, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. For another, even the groups that placed initial bids aren’t set in stone, as there could be merging of groups, individual movement between groups and individual additions or subtractions within a specific group.

Two bidders said talks about possible group mergers were ongoing. They both spoke on condition of anonymity because Blackstone Group made them sign nondisclosure agreements.

“It would be a shock if they don’t start talking merger,” said Marc Ganis, president of the Chicago-based consulting firm Sportscorp, which is not involved. “I think we’ll get a half-dozen parties that are actually in the bid, plus or minus one.”

What the passing of the deadline does mean is that the weeding-out process can now officially begin. This initial phase will involve eliminating candidates whose bids simply aren’t competitive. Once that process is complete, Blackstone will submit its list of remaining candidates to Major League Baseball for a vetting process that already is underway in a preliminary sense — MLB already is looking at all candidates who were given bid books — but at that point will intensify.

There is no deadline for the submitting of those candidates to MLB, although the April 30 deadline for completing the sale — and the April 1 deadline for selecting the owner and ownership group that ultimately will get the team — necessarily means the process will move comparatively quickly.

One source in the Dodgers camp said McCourt views the April 30 deadline as rigid, but baseball commissioner Bud Selig said two weeks ago at MLB’s quarterly owners meetings that he feels confident the sale will be completed on time and that “I think we’re on track,” both characterizations that seemed to allow for some wiggle room. …

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  • Mike Piazza said it’s “no question” he would like to go into the Hall of Fame as a Met (Mets Blog via Baseball Think Factory).
  • Mike Silva’s NY Baseball Digest has this story of close a 20-year-old Tom Seaver came to being a Dodger.

    … “He was born to be a Dodger,” Travers said. “Born and raised in California, went to USC, had season tickets to Dodger games because his uncle has season tickets in Los Angeles, and he would use them every fourth and fifth day to see Koufax and Drysdale.”

    As luck would have it, Seaver was drafted by the Dodgers in the 10th round of the 1965 draft. Seaver wanted $50,000 to sign; the Dodgers offered $2,000 along with advice from a scout by the name of Tommy Lasorda. “Good luck with your dental career,” Lasorda said. This was in reference to the fact that Seaver was a pre-dental student at USC.

    Seaver would sign a contract with Atlanta the following year, only to see it voided by the commissioner’s office because his college team played some exhibition games. He couldn’t return to school since he was now considered a “pro.” The league responded by setting up a lottery with interested teams. The Dodgers tried to get involved once again, but ultimately failed to follow through, which led to the Mets winning Seaver’s rights in the lottery over Cleveland and Philadelphia. …

  • James Loney is now the dean of the Dodgers in service time, writes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. No. 2, if you go by signing date, is Ramon Troncoso, followed by Matt Kemp.
  • The gang’s all there: Eric Stults, Delwyn Young and Hector Gimenez signed minor-league deals with White Sox, according to MLB Trade Rumors.
  • John Sickels of Minor League Ball put the Dodger farm system in the bottom 10 of the majors, while the Padres’ kids were first in the National League.
  • Jon SooHoo passes along this vintage photo of Dodger beat writers from the 1990s.
  • New Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is considering a change in the nickname and uniforms of the erstwhile Colt ’45s, reports The Associated Press. I trust the next Dodger owner isn’t thinking similarly.
Dec 01

Deadline to offer Russell Martin contract under 48 hours away

Been pretty busy lately, no? And it only might get busier …

  • Reminder: 9 p.m. Thursday is the deadline for the Dodgers to offer a 2011 contract to pre-free agents like Russell Martin. Doug Miller of MLB.com has more. In case you don’t understand why Martin might be non-tendered, Miller explains:  “According to the Basic Agreement, when teams tender contracts, they can’t cut any more than 20 percent of what a player earned in salary and performance bonuses the previous season, or 30 percent of those figures during the past two seasons. Non-tendered players, however, can be re-signed by their teams at larger cuts.”
  • Just how scrappy a ballplayer have the Dodgers given up in Ryan Theriot? Matt Sebek of JoeSportsFan’s Tailgate runs the analysis.  (via Hardball Talk).
  • Former Dodger pitcher Eric Stults signed a minor-league contract with Colorado. “The Dodgers sold Stults’ rights to the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in Japan at the end of Spring Training 2010, and Stults went 6-10 with a 5.07 ERA in 21 games,” writes Thomas Harding of MLB.com. “Stults, who turns 32 on Dec. 9, would be paid at a $435,000 rate if he makes the Majors, but the contract also allows him to re-sign with Hiroshima if he doesn’t make the big league roster.”
  • Making the case to scrap draft-pick compensation for free-agent signings is Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.
  • Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com writes movingly about Padres pitcher Kevin Correia coping with his brother’s death this summer.
  • Fifty years ago, Frank Finch of the Times looked at the Dodgers’ youth movement, to be led by Willie Davis, Tommy Davis, Frank Howard … and Charley (Charlie) Smith.  (via Keith Thursby of the Daily Mirror).
  • Josh Fisher’s latest Dodger Divorce take on the McCourts:

    … Frank McCourt’s primary position has been that the Dodgers must stay in the family. Naturally, he is confident that McCourt ownership is also good for the Dodgers and, by extension, the community. While he might have come to Los Angeles an outsider, I strongly believe that Frank has come to regard the Dodgers as much more important than 24 acres of Boston seafront property ever were. And I wonder if yesterday’s release is a sign that he is concerned about his chances of keeping the Dodgers in the family.

    I still think Jamie got what she wanted in the MPA. I can’t look at her initial public statements in the divorce and conclude that she had any idea that the documents had been switched–that she had any idea there existed an Exhibit A making the Dodgers anything but Frank’s separate property. And I can’t help but think that, despite her apparent unfamiliarity with marital property laws in Massachusetts and California, and despite the ugly chain of events leading up to the MPA’s execution and subsequent modification, Jamie didn’t have enough in the way of background and intelligence to at least question the document when she reviewed its terms.

    For all that, though, Jamie’s case is strong. Strong enough, perhaps, that Frank’s inability to prove his facts is more important than Frank’s facts as they actually occurred. Strong enough that most observers considered Jamie to be in the lead after the trial. Strong enough that Jamie turned down what was surely a well-reasoned, thorough settlement proposal crafted by a well-respected mediator. Strong enough, basically, that the McCourt with the most to lose is ready to roll the dice.

Mar 30

Dodgers expected to say ‘Sayonara’ to the underappreciated Eric Stults


Cary Edmondson/US Presswire
Eric Stults was banished from the Dodger starting rotation in 2008 despite a 3.18 ERA.

Whenever you think of players who were judged for what they weren’t instead of what they were, you can think of Eric Stults, whose eight years in the Dodger organization were poised to end today with an expected sale to a Japanese team. (Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more details).

Stults didn’t have overwhelming stuff, and he couldn’t put together a string of lengthy starts. In his 24-start major-league career, beginning with his first appearance in September 2006, Stults never had three consecutive appearances of at least six innings.

But in Stults’ defense, the Dodgers never gave him much time to develop any kind of consistency. Until 2009, the most major-league starts he ever made in a single month was three. The worst instance of this was in 2008, when a 28-year-old Stults came into Colorado with a 2.67 ERA over five starts, averaging six innings per start. But given an 11-0 lead, Stults couldn’t make it out of the fourth inning. In Colorado. With that one ill-fated game, Stults didn’t make another appearance in a Dodger uniform for more than two months. Does that make any sense at all?

Last year, Stults got his most consistent usage with the Dodgers, and he responded with a 3.82 ERA over seven consecutive starts, averaging 5 1/3 innings — more than adequate for the Dodger rotation at that point. But in that seventh start, he hurt his thumb diving on a fielding play. He and the Dodgers then made the mistake of having him pitch with his bad hand in Colorado, where he gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings. Another bad outing followed, and Stults was moved to the disabled list. He only made one more appearance for the Dodgers the rest of the season.

Stults is replaceable. But it’s disheartening the way the Dodgers treated his good starts as a fluke while simultaneously praying for fluke good starts in others. None of the remaining candidates for the Dodgers’ fifth rotation spot have the credentials from recent years that Stults has.

In the second game of his career, Stults threw six innings of one-run ball at Shea Stadium in a key September game. He shut down the Rockies on two runs over seven innings while striking out nine in 2007. He shut out the White Sox in 2008 and the Giants in 2009. Whatever his shortcomings, that’s the guy I’ll remember.

Mar 21

Eric Stults gives doubters an opening, Eric Gagne gives them closure

Eric Stults has pitched in nine innings this month (including Taiwan), if I’m not mistaken. Eight of those innings have been good; one of them has been bad. For his first three innings today, Stults was near-perfect.

Perhaps Stults isn’t meant to be the Dodgers’ No. 5 starter in April, and perhaps that’s justified. But if that’s the decision, I hope it’s not because of a single bad fourth inning on March 21. I hope the Dodgers have better reasons than that. Because it ain’t as if the next guy is gonna be perfect …

  • Game Over is truly over: Eric Gagne’s request for his unconditional release by the Dodgers has been granted. Adios, monsieur.
  • Joe Torre called off contract extension talks between himself and the Dodgers, citing a few reasons, including the idea that they were a “distraction,” according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. I can certainly understand his hesitancy to commit to work beyond the expiration of his contract at the end of this year, but I don’t see how the uncertainty concerning the Dodgers’ post-2010 managerial situation will be any less distracting, Don Mattingly or not.
  • The amazing UCLA baseball team is now 16-0. Eric Sondheimer of the Times notes that the Bruins outscored Oral Roberts 41-7 in a three-game sweep.
  • Sorry, folks, but Dodger Stadium simply won’t be ready for the 1961 season. “You gather that Florida is sufficiently far enough away from the scene of delayed action to keep (Walter) O’Malley from blowing his top,” wrote Times sports editor Paul Zimmerman, “but just barely.”
  • My advice regarding Russell Martin: When Martin and the Dodgers agree that he is absolutely, positively recovered enough from his injury to play in a game … tack on an extra week off right then.
Mar 06

Eric Gagne’s Dodger return: Welcome to the Enchanted Tiki Room

There were lots of tidbits from today’s Spring Training game, even though the Dodgers lost. But the one that might stick with people the most is Eric Gagne’s return in a Dodger uniform.

After all the reports I heard that Gagne looked starkly thinner – I was half-expecting Sally Struthers to make an appeal on his behalf – my view of him on TV was that the difference wasn’t so noticeable. Of course, when you’re dealing with baggy uniforms, who knows?

But although Gagne didn’t get hit hard, he did get hit. He didn’t have any strikeouts, and he allowed himself to get dinked and donked for two runs on three hits. None of this matters as far as what he’ll have in 2010 to offer the team or not. My only interest really was in recollecting the Gagne experience, and this certainly wasn’t it (not that I was expecting much).

And still, I was happy to see him, and happy for the reminders that floated through my head of his previous Dodger career.

Gagne told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com that he was a “little off mechanically” but “felt really good physically.”

* * *

James McDonald and Jeff Weaver had frustrating spring debuts for the Dodgers, but Eric Stults and Russ Ortiz cruised in their two innings. Manny Ramirez had a single, double and walk to give him an .833 on-base percentage after two days. Blake DeWitt is 2 for 3 with two walks after a perfect two plate appearances today.

“Stults was good,” Dodger manager Joe Torre said. “I thought he mixed his pitches well. I thought he did a nice job, as did Russ Ortiz.

“(James McDonald) just wasn’t throwing strikes. Wasn’t throwing strikes with his offspeed pitch, and just didn’t look like he was locating. Even when he was throwing strikes, it didn’t look like he was throwing them in the place he wanted to throw them. He’s been fine. He’s been throwing the ball good; he’s been working on some stuff. As they say, we’ll see.”

The Dodgers are still looking for their first Spring Training triple or home run. And with rain in the forecast for Sunday’s game against the Cubs in Mesa, they might still be looking.

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Who would have a copy handy of the 1966 Kansas City A’s media guide? Baseball Nerd Keith Olbermann would, and he uses it to render tall Rick Monday’s tale that he was given uniform No. 104 at Spring Training that year.

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I wanted to point you to a feature I did for Variety on one of my favorite blogs – Earl Pomerantz: Just Thinking … if you haven’t been there yet, it’s definitely worth a visit.