Feb 23

McCourt digs in heels on parking lots

Bad, bad news. From Bill Shaikin of the Times:

Rick Caruso and former Dodgers manager Joe Torre have withdrawn a joint bid to buy the Dodgers, three people familiar with the sale process said Thursday.

Caruso cited owner Frank McCourt’s refusal to include the Dodger Stadium parking lots in the sale, according to the people, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the sale process.

Caruso could reenter the bidding if McCourt were to agree to sell the parking lots, the people said. McCourt has told people he has at least one bid in which the buyer would let him retain ownership of the parking lots. …

It’s extremely disappointing, though perhaps to be expected, that someone is willing to make a deal with the figurative devil in this case. This is the strongest indication yet that Dodger fans will not be free of McCourt.

“The history of the L.A. Dodgers began with people who didn’t want to move out of the parking lots. And it continues,” comments Bob Timmermann.

Feb 08

Scully wants to keep working


Above: Vin Scully talks in 2008 about meeting John Wooden.

Vin Scully has an interview in the March issue of Golf Digest (for now, I believe, it’s available only in print). Kevin Roderick of L.A. Observed links and excerpts:

Some people die twice: once when they retire, and again when they actually pass away. Fear of the first one is a big incentive for me to keep working. Players, writers, people who work at the ballpark and front office, when I quit I know I’ll never see them again. I’ve never been the type to come to the ballpark and hang out; I’ve gone to one game in the last 60 years that I wasn’t working. I keep working because I don’t want to lose my friends.

It’s an interesting passage, particularly for “when I quit I know I’ll never see them again,” since this would be up to Scully to a large extent. One could easily envision the kind of pilgrimages that John Wooden was the centerpiece of.

Roderick also notes this Scully quip about having bad teeth through the years: “if I were to write my autobiography — which I will never do, by the way — I would title it, ‘My Life in Dentistry.’”

Scully’s first Spring Training broadcast appearance will be March 17. Eric Stephen of breaks down the Dodger exhibition broadcast schedule at True Blue L.A.

Elsewhere …

  • TMZ has posted audio of a 911 call reporting James Loney’s freeway crash in November. No matter the legal disposition of the case, if you were there, it sounds like it must have been utterly frightening.
  • The Dodgers signed 37-year-old Jamey Wright to a minor-league deal. Wright hasn’t been a starting pticher since 2007, but his past season-and-a-half out of the Seattle bullpen was passable in a Mike MacDougal sense. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com tweeted that Wright can opt out of his contract in late March.
  • Former Dodger shortstop Bill Russell can be seen with former Yankee counterpart Bucky Dent in this commercial (posted by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy), airing at 1981 World Series time, for Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo. Dent sounds a little like a grown-up Linus from A Charlie Brown Christmas.
  • Baly had a pleasant surprise when he went to the Dodger caravan Tuesday — he was there to see Clayton Kershaw as Kershaw’s new contract with the Dodgers was being announced.
  • Daily News writer Tom Hoffarth is auctioning an autographed copy of Kershaw’s book, “Arise,” at eBay, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to support Friends of St. Lawrence – Watts Youth Center, which empowers the children and families of Watts through educational, advocacy, and enrichment programs.
  • David Schoenfield of ESPN’s Sweet Spot looks at historical comparables for Kershaw. It starts on a downbeat note but gets more whammo after that. Schoenfield also invites you to an over-under game on Kershaw’s 2012 ERA here.
  • Evan Bladh passes along the story of Brooklyn Dodger batboy Charlie DiGiovanna at Opinion of Kingman’s Performance.
  • “What happened to the spitball?” Jonah Keri asks (and answers) at Grantland.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: Mike Scioscia and Gary Carter together at Spring Training, February 1991.
  • Aaron Miles, who waited until this time last year to sign with the Dodgers, is waiting even longer for a 2012 contract this time around.
  • Not every baseball parking story has Frank McCourt’s name attached. “Fans of the New York Yankees may soon have to pay as much as $55 to park at Yankee Stadium thanks to the poor planning by New York City, the Yankees and a private firm that is running low on cash,” writes Rob Iracane at Big League Stew.
Jan 19

Moyer better blues

This post is dedicated to a real ’49er …

  • Jamie Moyer, who turns 50 on November 18, signed a minor-league deal with the Rockies with an invitation to Spring Training. Not that my expectations would be sky high, but I would have been curious to see Moyer, recovered from Tommy John surgery, in a Dodger uniform in March.
  • Here, The Platoon Advantage needs only four degrees of separation to connect Moyer to Babe Ruth and makes the case for six degrees between Moyer and Cap Anson.
  • Want to know what potential Dodger bidder Mark Cuban is up to this week? Just trying to change the business model of TV distribution.
  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com spoke to Cuban this week about why he’s interested in the Dodgers. “It’s an iconic team,” Cuban said. “There’s only a few franchises like that. And it’s always better to buy a team like that when they’re down.”
  • Bill Shaikin of the Times does the most thorough look of anyone yet at the threat of Frank McCourt keeping possession of the parking-lot-infused land surrounding Dodger Stadium. Because McCourt’s agreement with MLB doesn’t require him to sell that land, he can use it as a bargaining chip to extract more purchase money, hang on to it and draw millions in lease revenue from it, or do the very thing we imagined he’d do when he first bought the Dodgers eight years ago, develop it.

    As I’ve said in the past, though there’s a risk that some group will buy the Dodgers without the land, no one with the sense of a bullfrog should be willing to take the risk of remaining beholden to McCourt after the sale. Pay the man up front and get him out of Dodge.
  • The Miami Marlins appear to be the choice to succeed the San Francisco Giants as the featured team on Showtime’s baseball documentary series, “The Franchise,” Jon Weisman of Variety reports.
  • Still more from the TV front: John Ourand of Sports Business Journal explores how long MLB Advanced Media will keep its digital operations separate from TV rights sales. Stakes are high.
  • Renowned baseball historian Robert Creamer gave a lengthy interview with Graham Womack of Baseball Past and Present. His biography of Babe Ruth was one of the first serious baseball books I ever read. Here’s a small Dodger-related tidbit from the interview:

    … I first became intensely aware of big league baseball in the summer of 1931, when I was nine. My big brother, who was six years older than I, took me to my first major league game, or games — it was a doubleheader between the old New York Giants and the old Brooklyn Dodgers in the old Polo Grounds on the banks of the Harlem River in New York, below the steep hillside known as Coogan’s Bluff. John McGraw was still managing the Giants and Wilbert Robinson the Dodgers, who were generally known as the Robins. Headlines would sometimes refer to the Robins as “the Flock, as in flock of birds. I’m not sure if team nicknames were technically formal at that time. If not they soon were. Both McGraw and Robinson ended their managerial careers in 1932, and the Robins nickname soon disappeared as “Dodgers” returned. The new manager was Max Carey, whose real name was, I believe, “Canarius.” One sportswriter, Tom Meany, bowing to Max, suggested the team’s new nickname be the Canaries, but it didn’t take. …

  • “Moneyball” won approval across the pond, nabbing nominations for Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and the screenplay by Steven Zallian and Aaron Sorkin from the British Academy.
  • Our good friend Bob Timmermann wrote a terrific piece at L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence about “L.A.’s Hall of Fame basketball coach who faded from memory,” Alex Hannum.
  • Timmermann also passes along this note: “RIP Patsy Tombaugh, wife of Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto. … She was also the great-aunt of one Clayton Kershaw.” Tombaugh was 99.
  • Dioner Navarro, who got a guaranteed $1 million from the Dodgers after finishing 2010 with a .528 OPS and an awkward departure from Tampa Bay, will go to Spring Training this year on a minor-league contract with the Reds after finishing 2011 with a .600 OPS and an awkward departure from Los Angeles. (Remembering 2011: Dioner Navarro.)
  • Vagabond former Dodger draft pick Preston Mattingly has hooked a minor-league contract with his dad’s former team, the Yankees. Mattingly, 24, reached base 50 times in Single-A last year.
  • Vicente Padilla signed a minor-league contract with Boston. He will compete for a spot in the starting rotation but could end up in the bullpen – health permitting, of course. (Remembering 2011: Vicente Padilla.)
  • Diamond Leung, former Dodger beat reporter for the Press-Enterprise, has been blogging on college basketball for ESPN.com but now will cover Michigan State hoops for MLive.com.
Dec 23

Extremely loud and incredibly McCourt

Often when you read TV or film criticism, you see the word “manipulative.”  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what this word means in the two weeks since I saw a screening of “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” which officially opens Christmas Day, because if any film is manipulative, this one is.

What I concluded is that a manipulative film is one crafted to make you feel a certain way in a given moment, with little regard to the film’s own internal logic and sometimes any logic at all. A plotline, a character or a scene doesn’t have to make sense, because if it generates a strong enough feeling, the audience won’t stop and ask questions.

That works except for the audience members who find the whole thing preposterous, as I did with “Extremely Loud.” (And I don’t appear to be alone.) The way the characters behave in this movie, the way the story unfolds, is so obviously phony that I was gritting my teeth through almost the entire enterprise.

For example — trying to avoid spoilers here — there’s a major plot element in the movie that defies belief. And then, in an effort to explain that element, the film introduces an even more insane element. All of this happens so that you can undergo this theoretically cathartic experience, but the minute you question it, the entire film falls apart.

Another word you’ll see in TV and film criticism is “forgivable,” when a viewer is willing to let some things go because the ride is worth it.  Some will feel differently, but for me, what happened in “Extremely Close” was unforgivable. Extremely and incredibly so.

I would say it was calculated, except I don’t doubt the filmmakers’ sincerity. I don’t doubt that it all made sense to director Stephen Daldry and screenwriter Eric Roth, who adapted the novel of the same title. But I think they were suckered by their own emotions. It felt right, so they didn’t really examine whether it made sense. They meant well. Not that I don’t doubt they want their film to succeed financially, but I’m willing to believe they saw their path to financial success depended chiefly on making the best possible film.

I find myself asking whether the same could be said about Frank McCourt. Did he have the best intentions but severe blind spots, as he now would have you believe? Or was he extremely proud but incredibly lame.

I’m not willing to say that McCourt didn’t care at all whether the Dodgers won or lost. His ultimate goal was personal wealth, but that doesn’t make him unique — far from it. However, McCourt’s priorities did conflict in a harmful, cynical way. He didn’t operate as if the Dodgers’ success was a path to his own success. The Dodgers were something to exploit. And he’s always tried to tell us otherwise.

How phony and manipulative can you get?

If you looked at their past eight seasons as a movie, the McCourt Dodgers are actually worlds better than “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” But as the man behind the camera, the man who has put the franchise at such a disadvantage, Frank McCourt deserves the figurative tomatoes that are thrown his way.

Dec 17

Saturday, out of the park

Catching up today on some news new and old. Many of these items were tweeted by me over the past several days – don’t hesitate to follow.

  • Bill Shaikin of the Times explains why Frank McCourt won’t renege on selling the Dodgers.
  • Here’s a great piece by Chad Moriyama on the lazy comparisons baseball folk have been making between potential big-leaguer Yu Darvish and other pitchers from Asia.
  • Roughly 40 percent of the 2012 Dodger roster will be at least 33 years old next year, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Vance Lovelace and Rick Ragazzo will have greater influence in the Dodger front office, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

    … Lovelace, previously a special assistant to the GM and director of player scouting, is now director of professional personnel. Ragazzo, previously a special assistant to the GM, is now director of pro scouting. …

    … Logan White remains assistant GM in charge for amateur (Draft) and international scouting and DeJon Watson remains assistant GM for player development (Minor Leagues). Tony Howell and Ken Bracey remain as special assistants to Colletti. …

  • More than five years ago, I wrote about the legal action over payment of former Dodger Paul Shuey’s 2004 salary. Amazingly, as Shaikin notes at the Times, the battle is still going on.
  • Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills, Don Drysdale, Orel Hershiser, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Ron Cey, Mike Scioscia, Tommy Lasorda, Walter Alston and Fernando Valenzuela will all be featured in one way or another among the Dodgers’ 2012 bobbleheads.
  • Rubby De La Rosa’s injury was costly to the Dodgers in more ways than one, notes Mike Newman of Fangraphs.
  • Edwin Jackson is a better sign than C.J. Wilson, writes Joe Sheehan at SI.com.
  • Dodger hitting guru Dave Hansen is holding a baseball camp for kids ages 7-15 beginning December 19, according to Roberto Baly at Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • From Steve Dilbeck at the Times’ Dodgers Blog: “INK BLUE.”
  • Change in the National League West: San Diego traded Mat Latos to Cincinnati for Edinson Volquez, Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger, while Colorado signed Michael Cuddyer for three years and $30 million. John Sickels has more on the Padres’ pickups at Minor League Ball, and there’s more reaction compiled at MLB Trade Rumors.
  • The Arizona Diamondbacks are going to recoup millions through a buyback of stadium construction bonds, reports Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal.
  • Kirk Gibson: The NL’s most untraditional manager? Maybe so, says Jacob Peterson of Beyond the Boxscore.
  • USC grad Jason Lane, 35 this month, is returning to his pitching roots to try to keep his baseball career alive.
  • Dwight Evans was one of my favorite non-Dodgers of my younger years. Here’s a nice piece on him by David Laurila at Fangraphs.
  • Harrison Ford has been cast as Branch Rickey and newcomer Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in the film “42,” reports Justin Kroll of Variety.
  • “Moneyball” received four Golden Globe nominations from the decidedly unsporty Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the latest sign of appreciation for the film from a non-baseball audience.
  • A post at Variety’s On the Air blog by me extolls the virtues of “Bosom Buddies.”
Nov 18

Spending here but not there

Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles hits on the conundrum of why it’s okay for the Dodgers to spend big on Matt Kemp but not Prince Fielder and has a theory: that Frank McCourt is using Matt Kemp’s lucrative eight-year contract as cover to keep the Dodger payroll low while selling the team.

It all relates to that question we keep coming back to: Does committing big bucks to a major free agent enhance or reduce the value of a franchise?

… Where this really gets interesting is when you listen closely to Kemp, Colletti and Stewart.

Stewart said Friday that Kemp told him he wanted to get this deal done as soon as possible so the team could make a run at the top free agents on the market, most notably Kemp’s friend, Prince Fielder. Baseball’s winter meetings are Dec. 3-5 in Dallas.

He also explained the Kemp agreed to take less in the first year of the deal to give the team more flexibility this winter.

“The ballclub needed flexiblity, Ned was clear in explaining that,” Stewart said. “What was important really was the overall package for Matt.

“He’s an unselfish kid. It’s been his thought all along that he’d like to get somebody else there that they can put in the lineup that can help him, help the team win.”

That all sounds wonderful until you listen again to Colletti, who said Friday that he “didn’t know if it was going to be possible” to re-sign pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, and noted earlier in the week that the team wasn’t likely to pursue free agents of Fielder’s class and price range.

“Unless something changes, I think it looks less realistic,” Colletti said. “I think we have to figure out other ways to produce runs.”

There’s no way Stewart and Kemp could have missed Colletti’s previous comments or been unaware of the Dodgers financial issues as they go through this sale process. Remember, Colletti and Kemp are close now. They’ve repaired their relationship and talk often. Colletti and Stewart go back 30 years.

So you have to wonder whether something else is going on here.

Could Kemp and Stewart be ratcheting up the pressure on McCourt to give Colletti the chance to make a realistic run at Fielder? Or at least not be hamstrung with a budget smaller than last season’s? …

Read the whole piece here.

Nov 08

Nitty-gritty details about Dodger sale process emerge

Bad news, good news: Frank McCourt will have “close to the final say” on who buys the Dodgers, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, but only from a group of candidates approved by Major League Baseball.

McCourt’s choice would then have to be approved by the other MLB owners, but since that choice would have been pre-approved by MLB already … you get the idea. Writes Jackson:

… It also isn’t immediately clear whether there is a minimum number of applicants that MLB must approve and submit to McCourt and Blackstone, but one source said it would be a “reasonable” number, meaning MLB couldn’t simply handpick the next owner by approving only one applicant. Although several individuals and groups already have gone public with their interest in buying the club, that list of applicants figures to dwindle to no more than a handful — perhaps five, one source estimated — who actually file applications because of the tremendous amount of money that must be secured in order to submit a worthy bid. …

Jackson has more detailing the intricacies of gaining MLB approval in this November 5 background story. Meanwhile, Ramona Shelburne addresses my issue of Dodger-based groups competing against each other in her latest piece, calling for them to work together as much as possible.

And then there’s this from Bill Shaikin of the Times, who writes that McCourt will still seek to profit from the Dodgers’ post-2013 TV rights, noting this Matthew Futterman report in the Wall Street Journal:

… In the auction, Mr. McCourt and his advisers at Blackstone Group, which is managing the Dodgers sale, will solicit separate bids for the team and its media rights, and then will try to arrange a partnership between the highest bidders for each before a final deal is struck. Ultimately, only the winning bidder for the team would have the right to execute a new media-rights deal.

If they prefer, bidders also will be allowed to submit a combined offer for both the team and its media rights. …

The Journal also said that McCourt could “maintain a stake in the parking lots at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles that are leased to the team for use on game days.”

I’m still of the hope that a clean break from McCourt will be a condition of any offer that MLB approves.

* * *

  • The Kansas City Royals are reportedly going to sell the naming rights to Kauffman Stadium. Will the new Dodger owners risk the wrath of public opinion and do the same?
  • Talk of David Wright coming to the Dodgers should be ignored, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy found a rare picture of Sandy Koufax in Palm Springs in 1964 with Donna Douglas, Andy Williams, Pat Boone and, would you believe, Don Adams?
  • Dodger players spent over 400 more days on the disabled list in 2011 than Diamondbacks players, according to Baseball Prospectus.
  • Learn more about “the jock tax,” courtesy of Eric Seidman of Fangraphs.
  • This Fangraphs chart shows the highs and lows of the 2011 Dodgers relative to the other 29 teams. Read more about it here.
  • The defensive flaws of Jose Reyes and Aramis Ramirez are explored by Katie Sharp and Mark Simon of ESPN.com.
  • The late, inimitable, Jim Healy got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Monday. Here’s a tribute page to Healy. (News via L.A. Observed.)
  • Farewell, Joe Frazier.
  • Update – The Hiroshima Carp have made an offer to Hiroki Kuroda.
Nov 04

Friday tidings

As we enjoy more recovery progress from Bryan Stow

  • Juan Rivera’s new Dodger contract is official, and it guarantees him at least $4.5 million including a $500,000 buyout if the Dodgers don’t pick up a $4 million 2013 option. (That’s right — same base salary both years, because apparently the Dodgers were worried they might not be able to overpay Rivera two years in a row.) There are also $500,000 in potential incentives each year. The contract is getting pilloried on the Internet, with Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk bringing a particularly hard pillory.
  • There’s $131 million changing hands in the binding divorce settlement between Frank and Jamie McCourt, according to The Associated Press, but the more interesting detail might be that Jamie ended up with three Southern California homes and Frank none. He might not just be getting out of the Dodgers — he might be getting out of Dodge.
  • I did a radio interview with A Martinez of ESPN AM 710 on Thursday that made the same point as Ken Rosenthal makes in this column for Fox Sports: I get intellectually why it might be too complicated during this transition period to sign a player like Prince Fielder, but it’s still not clear to me how it would lower the value of the Dodgers when you think of the appeal he would have for so many. If it’s a good contract after ownership changes hands, it’s a good contract before.
  • My brother’s childhood glove was a Matty Alou glove, so we exchanged sad e-mails over his passing Thursday.
  • Another passing to lament: Cardinals pitcher Bob Forsch.
Nov 02

An early history of McCourt concerns

Several people remarked online Tuesday that they were worried about the possibility that the next Dodger owner could be awful as well. There’s no guarantee that won’t be true. But as I wrote Tuesday, that widespread wariness at the outset of the process, from the commissioner’s office on down, should make a disaster much less likely.

Back when Fox was first selling the Dodgers, wariness was a relatively lonely place to be … though it did spread. From the Dodger Thoughts archives:
Continue reading

Nov 01

Setting sale: McCourt surrenders, will auction Dodgers


Paul Spinelli/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesHome, where my thoughts escape, at home, where my music’s playin’
Home, where my love lies waitin’ silently for me

We have worried, we have raged, we have sulked, we have sworn, we have screamed, we have sighed, we have yearned, we have cried. Outside we have tried to fight, and inside, more than a little, we have died.

But now, deliverance. Deliverance to what, we don’t know. But deliverance nonetheless.

Here is the joint statement from Major League Baseball and the Dodgers, released Tuesday night:

“The Los Angeles Dodgers and Major League Baseball announced that they have agreed today to a court supervised process to sell the team and its attendant media rights in a manner designed to realize maximum value for the Dodgers and their owner, Frank McCourt.  The Blackstone Group LP will manage the sale process.”

Tony Jackson of ESPNLA.com has more:

Owner Frank McCourt reached an agreement with Major League Baseball on Tuesday night to sell the Los Angeles Dodgers, along with Dodger Stadium and the surrounding real estate, a decision that brings to end not only a six-month legal battle with Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig but also a 7½-year ownership that was simply never embraced by the team’s fan base.

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times first broke the news:

Frank McCourt agreed Tuesday to sell the Dodgers, abruptly surrendering the team after fighting to retain it over two years and in two courts.

McCourt and Major League Baseball have agreed to seek approval from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for an auction of the Dodgers. The sale is expected to include the team, Dodger Stadium and the surrounding parking lots, a package bought by McCourt for $421 million in 2004 and likely to sell for two to three times as much now.

The league hopes a new Dodgers owner can be in place by opening day. …

Opening Day? Won’t tomorrow feel a little like Opening Day?

The cloud that’s been over the Dodgers was no ordinary cloud. Southern California or not, Dodgers fans are used to walking through some rain. But this cloud was toxic. It wasn’t that Dodgers fans couldn’t stay dry — it was that they had trouble breathing.

But now, we can breathe again. Now, we can have normal problems. Problems like everyone else. Will you have ever been so happy just to worry about what happens next with the team?

We know all too well from the end of the Fox era that a sale of the team doesn’t guarantee anything. But this is the kind of second chance that galvanizes you. Everyone, I’m confident, will be smarter this time around. Not perfect. Just smarter. Can you ask for more?

The news seems to call out for something longer, something epic. But it’s not really all that complicated, is it?

My friends, it’s time to have some fun.

An informal rally has been scheduled by Save the Dodgers at 6 p.m. at Dodger Stadium to celebrate.

Nov 01

Progress toward a sale or posturing?

Not getting too excited about this, but let’s just say I’m hoping it’s one more roll of the boulder downhill …

  • Frank McCourt might be closer than he’s ever been to selling the Dodgers, according to Bill Shaikin of the Times.

    … McCourt has long vowed not to surrender the Dodgers. In April, as Commissioner Bud Selig appointed a trustee to oversee the team and attendance plummeted at Dodger Stadium, McCourt insisted he would not sell.

    However, analysts suggested McCourt now might be willing to sell for a simple reason: Even if he won in court, he could lose.

    Based on figures McCourt submitted to the Bankruptcy Court, he would be hard-pressed to sell the Dodgers’ television rights, settle his divorce and be left with enough capital to renovate Dodger Stadium and restore the team to prominence.

    “I don’t know that there’s a way for him to win,” said Marc Ganis, president of the sports business consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd.

  • Shaikin also writes that if Fox Sports loses local rights to the Dodgers when the current contract expires following the 2013 season, it could lead to the consolidation of the two Fox Sports cable channels into one.
  • How will Prince Fielder age? One day at a time — and here’s one analysis of how those days will go, from Ryan Campbell of Fangraphs.
  • Hardball Talk has begun its review of the 111 free agents on the market this winter. Here’s something about two 34-year-old players that might amuse you:

    Marcus Thames, 2010: .350 on-base percentage, .491 slugging
    Andruw Jones, 2011: .356 on-base percentage, .495 slugging

  • Dodger prospect Allen Webster gets an evaluation, with video, from Mike Newman of Fangraphs.
  • Matt Kemp is scheduled to be a guest on “Last Call with Carson Daly” in Thursday late-night programming, which really means Friday morning.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. went the extra mile in looking at the Dodgers’ Gold Glove finalists.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness presented his 15-point plan to make the Dodgers the best they can be in 2012.
  • Bob Timmermann shared some great old baseball photos on Twitter on Saturday, including Vin Scully getting stats from Allan Roth, Dick Enberg in a Valley State (now Cal State Northridge) uniform and Willie Davis’ bad day.
  • Former Dodger Tom Goodwin was named first-base coach for the Mets.
  • Best headlines of 2011 has to include this from Alex Belth of Bronx Banter on CC Sabathia: “The Stay Put Marshmellow Man.”
  • In case you’re curious, Sabathia’s new deal pays out in the following manner: $23 million each of the next four seasons (as had already been in place), $25 million in 2016, $25 million vesting option in 2017 or $5 million buyout. More from ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Across town, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said he doesn’t expect to trade third baseman David Wright.
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 26

Dodger TV rights hearing postponed, but to what end?

The rumors were flying today that the one-month postponement of the winner-take-all bankruptcy court hearing on Frank McCourt’s ability to prematurely sell the Dodgers’ post-2013 TV rights (what a mouthful that was) was actually a sign that a deal was being forged that would facilitate McCourt selling the franchise. (See ESPNLosAngeles.com and Bill Shaikin of the Times for more.)

What’s clear is that talks have been taking place, what’s unclear is whether there was any real momentum behind the talks. And so, there’s no way of knowing whether the next month might see the happy revelation of closure, or whether it will just be 30 more days tacked onto our painful waiting game.

Elsewhere …

  • Hong-Chih Kuo is going to have arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body (no, this isn’t a Halloween joke) in his left elbow. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com talked to Dodger training chief Stan Conte about the situation. Kuo is planning to try to pitch in 2012, but while he is certain to be made a free agent by the Dodgers, they’re still as good a bet as anyone to try to re-sign him to a discounted contract.
  • Maury Wills is the subject of a story in the Times that illustrates what a longshot he was to make the majors with this anecdote: In 1959, Topps chose not to pay Wills the grand total of $5 for the rights to have him on a baseball card.
  • How overdue are the Dodgers for a World Series compared to other teams? Check the list at Cy Morong’s Cybermetrics.
Oct 25

How dare you accuse me of doing the thing I already planned to do!

Major League Baseball has put a number and a name to what Frank McCourt has done with the Dodgers: “$189.16 million” and “looting.” ESPNLosAngeles.com and Bill Shaikin of the Times have more.

I want to call out the last two paragraphs of Shaikin’s story:

… The Dodgers also charge Selig with bad faith in declaring he would reject any television contract proposed by McCourt. The league claims any deal would necessarily require McCourt to divert some team revenue for personal use, including a $130-million divorce settlement.

That claim, the Dodgers said, is “simply make believe.”

We have been down this road before …

Dodger Thoughts, April 27:

… In a nod to the concerns over how much Dodger revenue he and his now-estranged wife had allocated for personal spending, McCourt said today that the proposed Fox deal would include an immediate payment of $300 million going directly into the Dodgers.

“None of those dollars (would be) used in any personal way,” McCourt said.

Dodger Thoughts, July 22:

Selig then delved into McCourt’s plan to put the 35% equity interest in Fox Sports Net West 2 that the Dodgers would receive into a holding company separate from the franchise, as well as his plan to take at least 45% from the $385 million up-front payment to settle personal debts.

Look, we all know that McCourt, if he somehow wins in the TV rights hearing, will be on track to have so much money coming in that he’ll be able to paper over all his sins — paper ‘em with green. But come on — no matter how many machinations he drums up, the idea that TV money would not play some role, explicit or implicit, in resolving his enormous debts is about as far from the Neighborhood of Make Believe as one can travel.

* * *

  • Jerry Sands’ midseason swing adjustments have been carefully analyzed by Chad Moriyama. “To say I’m impressed by the changes that have taken place is an understatement,” Moriyama writes.
  • Clayton Kershaw is going back to Africa for the second consecutive offseason. Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy passed along an MLB.com clip with a Kershaw interview from the World Series. By committing $100 in Kershaw’s Challenge to Arise Africa for every strikeout he had this year to build an orphanage, Kershaw donated $24,800. The challenge has about $20,000 remaining to reach its goal of $70,000. Donate here.
  • It’s come to this: Andrew T. Fisher of Rockies blog Purple Row is optimistic about center fielder Dexter Fowler improving in 2012 because he will be working out this offseason with Matt Kemp.
  • A round of the aghastly reaction to Tony LaRussa’s managing of Game 5 Monday has been pulled together by Jeff Gordon of STLtoday.com. Sample:  “As La Russa played subterfuge artist, offering a story dotted with holes unbecoming of a man with a law degree, it was obvious that he was trying to protect someone, and he would go to such lengths only to save himself,” wrote Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.
  • Mark Townsend of Yahoo! Sports summarizes the five outs the Cardinals gave away Monday.
  • Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors has an update on 25-year-old Japanese ace Yu Darvish, who might be coming to the U.S.

    … Last week, I polled five agents and one team executive about Darvish’s potential posting fee and contract. Guesses on the posting fee ranged from $30-55MM, with the team executive making the highest prediction. The average of the six guesses was $45MM. As for the contract, most people predicted a five or six-year deal in the $72-75MM range. One agent wondered if the winning team will “try to force some options down his throat,” especially if it’s the Blue Jays.

    The bottom line: everyone I talked to expects a minimum of a $100MM commitment to acquire Darvish if he’s posted this year. …

  • A “treasure trove” of records of the Philadelphia A’s has been found, notes Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk, and are “now in the hands of a historian who is making a big documentary about Connie Mack.”
Sep 16

October looms large for Dodgers after all

The Dodgers beat the Pirates tonight, 7-2, to keep their playoff hopes alive for at least another night. But no matter what happens on the field between now and the end of the regular season September 28, there’s a big postseason showdown on tap for the Dodgers in October.

On October 12, Frank McCourt’s attorneys will formally ask the federal bankruptcy court that is overseeing the Dodgers to permit negotiations and possibly an auction for the franchise’s local television rights for 2014 and beyond. Should the court grant the request, it will pave the way for McCourt to retain ownership of the Dodgers – at least until Frank-Jamie II takes place in the courts sometime in the spring or summer of 2012.

Interested parties – Major League Baseball in particular – can and probably will file objections to the Dodgers’ request until September 30. The bankruptcy court’s first duty is to the creditors whom the Dodgers owe; what’s up in the air is whether MLB can make the case that there’s a better way to do this than by giving McCourt the chance to save his ownership – while further mortgaging the franchise’s future – through the future rights sale.

From The Associated Press:

… In a 37-page motion filed Friday with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross, the Dodgers say “market conditions are optimal for licensing the telecast rights because the market for sports media rights in Los Angeles is vibrant at this time.”

The Dodgers say “there can be no assurance that these ideal market conditions will last” and they should be allowed to sell rights now “to avoid any risk of deterioration in value.” …

One argument against McCourt is that MLB commissioner Bud Selig is supposed to be able to approve any TV rights deal, and that McCourt shouldn’t be rewarded for steering the Dodgers into bankruptcy by being allowed to circumvent the sport’s chieftain. Whether that argument will hold any sway with Judge Gross, I don’t know.

Bill Shaikin has more in the Times, where he also passes along the news that the Dodgers are seeking to retain an expensive New York-based public relations firm.

… The two primary spokespersons (from the firm) charge $750 and $400 per hour, according to the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

“Much of the media reporting on off-field issues has been inaccurate or misleading, and LAD requires a seasoned communications firm such as Kekst to better ensure that media coverage of LAD is more evenhanded and accurate going forward,” according to the filing, using the “LAD” abbreviation for the Dodgers.

The filing does not include any examples of inaccurate or misleading coverage. …

As far as I’m concerned, you can take this as another example of how deluded or desperate McCourt is – and no, the new PR firm won’t change my negative thinking on this. As Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine tweeted:

What makes McCourt’s media blaming so laughable is the best stuff we got was straight from his mouth in public court filings. Amnesia maybe?

You can’t file mountains of court documents crying poverty to get out of paying spousal support and not expect fans to think you are broke.

* * *

In other inspiring news, Jonathan Broxton will have surgery Monday, 4 1/2 months after he last pitched for the Dodgers, to remove a bone spur and some chips, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… Although Broxton’s bone bruise had improved dramatically, Dodgers medical director Stan Conte said the spur and loose bodies were the cause of repeated setbacks Broxton suffered in his effort to return, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly saying earlier this week that club officials no longer expected Broxton to pitch this season.

Broxton underwent what Conte said were “three or four” MRIs on the elbow during the season, but Conte said the chips were revealed only after Broxton underwent a CT scan, which was ordered when he experienced mild discomfort earlier this week during his first bullpen session in several weeks.

“CT scans normally aren’t done on elbows,” Conte said. “But we just wanted to make sure the bone bruise wasn’t turning into microfractures.”

The surgery will be performed by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache, after which Broxton is expected to need four to eight weeks to recover before he can begin throwing again. However, with free agency pending, it is possible Broxton has pitched his final game for the Dodgers, who already have replaced him in the closer’s role with rookie Javy Guerra and might balk at re-signing Broxton this winter to a major league contract. …

The surgery will take place nearly 15 months after Broxton began to lose effectiveness.

Jackson adds that Tony Gwynn Jr. will miss at least the remainder of this weekend’s series with the Pirates because of a jammed shoulder, which first happened last week in Washington and was aggravated Wednesday against Arizona.

* * *

Back on the field, the Dodgers came back strong tonight after Hiroki Kuroda allowed an unearned second-inning run, scoring once in the bottom of the second, twice in the third and four times in the sixth, capped by James Loney’s first career pinch-hit home run, a three-run blast that enabled him to reach 10 on the season.

Dee Gordon made his ninth error in his 45th game of the season, but had two hits and stole his 20th and 21st bases. Kuroda gave up a sixth-inning home run to Alex Presley (whom Vin Scully’s wife thinks looks like Tom Cruise, Scully told us), but was otherwise unscored upon. He allowed five hits, walked two and struck out seven.

Scully also passed along a story that warmed my heart: Rod Barajas chose uniform No. 28 with the Dodgers because of how much his mother loved Pedro Guerrero in the 1980s.