Aug 17

While on Matt Kemp Suspension Watch …

However justified his anger might have been, Matt Kemp sowed the seeds of his own suspension by making physical contact with umpires, writes Chad Moriyama at his blog. So as we wait for that unpleasant news to wend its way, here are some other happenings around town:

  • Don Newcombe, who is being honored at the annual Civil Rights Game on Saturday (between the Dodgers and Braves), is the subject of a nice piece by Spencer Fordin of MLB.com.
  • Good gravy — Brett Tomko is still out there plying his trade. Arizona signed the 39-year-old to a minor-league deal, reports Matt Eddy of Baseball America.
  • Will Rubby De La Rosa be in the same innings quandry next year as Stephen Strasburg is this year? Evan Bladh of Opinion of Kingman’s Performance is curious.
  • Former Dodger prospect Ethan Martin was interviewed at length by Jay Floyd of Phillies Nation.
  • “Major League Baseball owners have agreed to test two different advanced replay systems live during games starting next week, and if they prove accurate they could precede an overhaul of the system for the 2013 season,” reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.
  • Sandy Koufax biographer Jane Leavy has a piece at Grantland on neuropathologist Ann McKee, who is doing extensive research on head trauma that could have an impact on the NFL.
  • Some fun history of Los Angeles roadways prior to the Arroyo Seco Parkway comes via Kevin Roderick of L.A. Observed.
Jul 31

Preparing for a Shane Victorino trade

To paraphrase Sally Field, you might not like Shane Victorino. You might really, really not like him. Perhaps because of the 2008 playoffs. (If you can’t get the clip above to work, click here.) Perhaps for another reason.

But other than providing Victorino no honeymoon if the Dodgers complete a trade for him, none of that is going to matter. If and when he does well for the Dodgers, you’re going to be happy. If and when he doesn’t, you weren’t going to be happy anyway.

As I commented yesterday at Dodger Thoughts, if Sal Maglie, Juan Marichal and Jeff Kent can become Dodgers, it’s hard to say a more insignificant rival like Victorino can’t.

Victorino, who was drafted by the Dodgers in 1999 before leaving the organization twice in rule 5 drafts – the second time to the Phillies in 2004 – is having his poorest season in five years, with a .324 on-base percentage and .401 slugging percentage for Philadelphia. The situation is parallel to the Dodgers’ acquisition of Hanley Ramirez – even if Victorino continues at that sub-par level, his total package still is a step up from what the Dodgers have been getting out of their current left fielders, unless you’re a big fan of the outfield defense of Jerry Hairston Jr., Elian Herrera and Bobby Abreu.

With his speed (24 steals in 28 attempts) and defense, consider Victorino as Tony Gwynn Jr. with a better bat. The upside for a player like Victorino, who OPSed .847 in 2011 and was at times considered a Most Valuable Player candidate, is gravy.

The problem is that Victorino, despite being a switch-hitter, has a huge platoon disadvantage against right-handed pitching, as Jack Moore notes at Fangraphs. His OPS vs. righties this year is .649, and he has never broken .800 while batting left-handed.  Again, the Dodgers have seen worse, but given how much more often there’s a right-handed pitcher on the mound, Victorino likely gives the Dodgers a new offensive weapon in fewer than half their remaining games. He’s more a replacement for Juan Rivera (and Gwynn) than for James Loney.

Victorino is earning $9.5 million this season and can become a free agent this fall.

The reported cost will be Dodger reliever Josh Lindblom and a prospect. Lindblom, though slumping lately, has been one of the Dodgers’ top relievers this year, and he’s someone I like coming out of the bullpen, though that’s an area that’s easier to solve than the outfield. In general, the Dodgers are moving to solve their tremendous organizational imbalance of pitching vs. position players, and so this move would have that going for it.

How much of a difference Victorino might make as a Dodger, I don’t know. I can certainly think of players I’d rather have. But like him or not, if the Dodgers get him, it’ll be time to root for him.

Update: Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reports that the deal is done, with Victorino coming to Los Angeles in exchange for Lindblom and Ethan Martin, the 2008 first-round draft pick who misses bats but has long had control issues. Martin has allowed 89 hits and 61 walks in 118 innings for Double-A Chattanooga this year, but with 112 strikeouts.

Update 2: Dave Cameron of Fangraphs likes the trade a bit for the Dodgers.

Update 3: The Giants have countered. Hunter Pence, who has a .784 OPS for the Phillies this year, is headed to San Francisco.

Update 4: The trade is official, with the Dodgers also sending Philadelphia a player to be named later or cash. (Or Ralston Cash.)

Update 5: More on the trade from Jonah Keri of Grantland, Cliff Corcoran of SI.com and Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs.

Update 6: The Dodgers have designated LHP Michael Antonini for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

Update 7: The Baseball Prospectus take on the trade.

Mar 03

Looking back on a quake-free year in San Francisco

With Giants righty Matt Cain having to rest an inflamed elbow, Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles uses the occasion to marvel at San Francisco’s 2010:

It’s tough to explain now. The Giants won it all. It’s hard to go back and rediscover that sense of urgency. What were we all worried about? The trick is to start the season with a garbage offense, and then a) hope that a journeyman minor league free agent turns into vintage Carlos Beltran, b) count on a rookie catcher to come up and propel the offense for a month, and c) scour the waiver wire in case there are teams in Florida giving away productive outfielders. It turns out we were just being paranoid.

But when you hear this

“(Cain) has not thrown a baseball since he came down with elbow inflammation on Sunday, making it seem unlikely he will miss only one turn in the rotation. At the same time, he seems totally unconcerned about what he confessed is the first elbow issue of his career.”

… you remember why there was urgency in the first place. The Giants were built around young pitching. Young pitching is beautiful, like, oh, a shiny idol made of solid gold. But while you stand there, mouth agape, marveling at the golden treasure, you hear the boulder. The boulder isn’t evil. It’s just obeying the laws of physics. And it’s going to crush you. It’s going to crush you real dead-like. …

And when I hear that Matt Cain’s elbow is barking, it makes me appreciate just how danged fortunate the Giants and their fans all were. The Giants made it through an entire season with four young starting pitchers, and there weren’t any injury concerns. They didn’t have to recall Todd Wellemeyer. They didn’t have to shoehorn in Henry Sosa for a start or two. The young pitchers were good, and they were healthy. …

It was special. Never take it for granted.

* * *

Alex Belth of Bronx Banter passes along Duke Snider stories from oldtime scribes Roger Angell and Dick Young.

* * *

There will be a $1 Dodger Dog day at Dodger Stadium on May 30 when the Rockies play.

* * *

This morning, the Dodgers played a ‘B’ game in which Ted Lilly made his first spring appearance, as Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com notes. And as Ken Gurnick of MLB.com notes, Lilly’s relief crew included three former No. 1 picks – Zach Lee, Ethan Martin and Aaron Miller – whose signing bonuses alone totaled nearly $8 million. Lee was the only one of the trio to allow a run.

Later on, the Dodgers have their first night game of Spring Training …

Dodgers at Reds, 6:05 p.m.

May 28

Sale on goose eggs in Philly

Believe it or not, the Dodgers’ two shutout losses over the past three games was not the worst offensive performance by a 2009 National League Championship Series participant. Philadelphia has been shut out for three straight games (by the Mets) and in four of their past five. Check out the linescores at Beerleaguer: In 46 of their past 47 innings, Philadelphia has come up empty.

  • Brian Akin of Dear (Tommy) John Letters has officially retired from baseball and taken a job as an IT analyst.
  • If I’m being perfectly honest, with every day that passed since my release, two things became more and more clear to me:

    1. The likelihood of a team taking a chance on me started low and diminished with time.
    2. I wasn’t missing the game as much as I had anticipated.

    I definitely miss my teammates and I miss the camaraderie. But I think the best part about playing baseball was having that clearly defined goal in your sights and pursuing it relentlessly. The good news is, I started to realize that I can find that elsewhere. Any disappointment I’m feeling is not because I no longer get to play baseball, it’s because I didn’t achieve my goal of pitching in the Major Leagues. And since I have no regrets about the way I chased that goal, this disappointment has been a surprisingly easy pill to swallow.

  • Ethan Martin threw a three-hit shutout with two walks and eight strikeouts for Inland Empire against Bakersfield on Thursday. After an early May slump, Martin has allowed one run over his past 15 innings. Matt Wallach had three of the 66ers’ seven hits.
  • Seth Etherton, who replaced Josh Towers in the Albuquerque rotation, pitched three-hit shutout ball over seven innings while striking out 11. John Lindsey homered, and Jay Gibbons had three hits.
  • Will Savage, trying to make a go of it in the low minors at age 25, remains hot for Great Lakes. He allowed two runs over eight innings, and his ERA actually rose to 2.25.
  • A book about Old Hoss Radbourn is reviewed by @oldhossradbourn at Big League Stew.
  • Movie City Indie has “(500) Days of Summer” re-cut as a thriller (via L.A. Observed, which also notes the retirement of 43-year KABC vet Bob Banfield, who started there six months before I was born.).
  • “Carson’s Cellar,” the 1951-52 series hosted by Johnny Carson, is featured in a clip at Franklin Avenue.
Apr 11

Relief disbelief: Same old song with a few new lines


Keith Srakocic/AP
George Sherrill’s bad outing against Pittsburgh on Opening Day was mere prelude to Saturday’s Florida fright night.

George Sherrill should be able to get three outs before he gives up three runs. And inevitably, there was going to be a do-or-die situation this season when he would need to do that. Just as Vicente Padilla shouldn’t give up four runs on nine baserunners in 4 1/3 innings, Sherrill needs to do better if the Dodgers are going avoid trouble.

But Padilla and Sherrill’s failings are basically heat-of-the-battle failings, whereas Joe Torre’s use of Jonathan Broxton this week is the equivalent of filling the bubbles in your SAT exam with Crayola burnt orange. (Assuming they still use bubbles.)

We’ve said it before and we hate to say it again – so this is going to be brief. If you can’t afford to allow a run – as was the case when the Dodgers played extra innings in Pittsburgh on Wednesday – you use the pitcher least likely to allow a run. Only after that pitcher has been used do you turn to others. And certainly, you don’t worry about saving your best pitcher for a situation in which you can allow a run and still win.

On one level, it was coincidental that Torre’s use of Broxton this week led to us talking about his absence from Saturday’s game. It required a specific flow of events from Opening Day on. On the other hand, we do see this from Dodger managers, including Torre’s recent predecessors, all too often. If Sherrill had been used Saturday after a proper use of Broxton in previous days, people would have been talking about Sherrill overnight a lot more than Torre.

Do not save your best reliever for a save situation in an extra-inning game on the road.

  • One other oddity regarding Saturday and the bullpen: Torre told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that Ramon Troncoso, who was pitched a perfect eighth inning but was pulled after giving up a leadoff single in the ninth, “is basically a one-inning guy.” I realize that bullpen roles have changed with Hong-Chih Kuo and Ronald Belisario out, but especially when he hadn’t pitched the day before and with Broxton out, since when is Troncoso a one-inning guy? The guy made his reputation with his ability to go multiple frames. Troncoso needed only seven pitches to get out of the eighth inning, then had thrown six pitches in the ninth when he came out of the game.
  • The botched squeeze in the second inning Saturday (that resulted in a bases-loaded, one-out situation imploding) was even crazier than it appeared. As many surmised, Vicente Padilla missed the suicide squeeze sign that resulted in Casey Blake getting tagged out between third and home. But from what Torre told reporters this morning, it appears that Torre himself wanted to take the squeeze off after having initially called for it – but that he gave the second sign too late for third-base coach Larry Bowa to see. So Bowa and Blake incorrectly, though understandably, thought the squeeze was still on – while Padilla, apparently, was oblivious to all of this. Torre indicated that he puts signs on and takes them off all the time.
  • Manny Ramirez had his 2,500th career hit Saturday, while Rafael Furcal had his 1,500th. Furcal has a .480 on-base percentage this season and is tied for the major-league lead in doubles.
  • Ian Kennedy is the scheduled starter for Arizona against Clayton Kershaw in Tuesday’s home opener, followed by Rodrigo Lopez against Chad Billingsley on Wednesday and Dan Haren against Hiroki Kuroda on Thursday.
  • LeeAnn Rimes will sing the national anthem Tuesday.
  • Josh Lindblom was hit hard in his first 2010 start for Albuquerque – needing 77 pitches to get through three innings that saw him give up eight hits, two walks and three runs while striking out one.
  • John Lindsey, the 33-year-old minor-league lifer still looking for his first major-league action, is 7 for 13 with three doubles in his first three games for the Isotopes. Lindsey would need a few injuries to right-handed hitting Dodgers before he’d have a shot at a cup of coffee.
  • James Adkins, a 2007 first-round pick, allowed five runs in three innings of relief in his first 2010 outing for AA Chattanooga.
  • Ethan Martin’s Inland Empire season debut was a different story: five innings, no runs, three singles, no walks, one hit batter, nine strikeouts.
  • Allen Webster allowed one run over five innings (six baserunners, four strikeouts) in his ’10 Great Lakes debut.
  • Dixie Walker, the Brooklyn Dodger long remembered for starting a petition against Jackie Robinson joining the team, is revisited today by Harvey Araton of the New York Times (via Inside the Dodgers). The article’s main point seems to be that Walker was remorseful and not the racist he’s been accused of being:

    … Though (Maury) Allen and Susan Walker suggest in the book that her father did not initiate the anti-Robinson petition, Roger Kahn, in his 2002 book, “The Era,” wrote that Walker told him in 1976 that he had.

    Kahn quoted Walker saying: “I organized that petition in 1947, not because I had anything against Robinson personally or against Negroes generally. I had a wholesale business in Birmingham and people told me I’d lose my business if I played ball with a black man.”

    In a telephone interview, Kahn said his conversation with Walker took place when Walker was the hitting coach for the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

    “He invited me out for a glass of wine — somewhat shocking in that Budweiser world,” Kahn said. “We talked for a while, and then he got to the point: the petition and his letter to Rickey. He called it the stupidest thing he’d ever done and if I ever had a chance to please write that he was very sorry.”

    Calling the Walker he met “a lovely, courtly man,” Kahn said that the assumption should not be made that all early opposition to Robinson was based on core discrimination and not confusion or fear.

    “Ballplayers depended on off-season work back then,” he said. “When I was covering the Dodgers, Gil Hodges sold Buicks on Flatbush Avenue. Now, if you’re Derek Jeter and you have a wholesale hardware business, you can say, ‘So what?’ ”

    Rachel Robinson’s response in the same article: “If you’re asking about forgiveness based on the context of the time, I can’t say I worry about the view of them at this time. Maybe they learned better or changed, but at the time, they had a chance to move forward from segregation and chose the opposite. They had an impact.”