Apr 23

Dodgers out-rallied in 10-8 loss to Cubs


Nam Y. Huh/APMatt Kemp was ivy bait in the early going, before the seeds were planted for a Dodger comeback.

This looked like one of those balance-the-scales games – everything that went right for the Dodgers on Friday would go wrong today.

Then it looked like a testament to the Dodgers’ resiliency over a tumultuous week.

In the end, it turned out to be one of those “Who knows, anything goes” contests we’ve seen time and again from the blue boys. The Dodgers stormed back from a 5-1 deficit to an 8-5 lead today in Chicago, before previously unscored-upon reliever Matt Guerrier allowed five smackers in the bottom of the eighth for a 10-8 Dodger loss.

Despite starting pitcher Ted Lilly allowing 11 hits to 23 batters, despite Jerry Sands losing a fly ball in the sun, despite two outfield misplays by Matt Kemp, despite the Dodgers picking off two runners in the fourth inning and throwing out neither, Los Angeles looked like it would roll to a four-game winning streak after rallying for seven unanswered runs from the fifth inning to the seventh.

Homers by Casey Blake (2 for 3, two walks, .962 OPS this season) and Kemp off Chicago’s Ryan Dempster accounted for three runs in the top of the fifth inning, cutting the Cubs’ lead to one. Then came a noteworthy decision by Cubs manager Mike Quade.

Lilly exited after allowing a one-out single in the bottom of the fifth, and Mike MacDougal walked two of the next three batters to load the bases. That brought up Dempster, who was coming off his rough top of the fifth and was already in the neighborhood of 90 pitches. Quade let Dempster bat, and though he nearly got away with it when MacDougal’s wildness sent the count to 2-0 and 3-2, Dempster struck out swinging.

Dempster’s next batter, Rod Barajas, homered to tie the game to start the sixth.

Perhaps the most dramatic moment came later in the inning. After Tony Gwynn Jr.’s pinch-triple and Casey Blake’s two-out walk, Quade finally pulled Dempster in favor of lefty reliever Sean Marshall. Marshall faced Andre Ethier, who was 5 for 23 against left-handers this season. With his 19-game hitting streak was on the line. On a 1-2 pitch, Ethier lined a double to right field, scoring both runners and giving the Dodgers the lead.

Sands later helped manufacture the Dodgers’ eighth run when he singled, stole second, went to third on a throwing error and scored on a Barajas groundout even though the infield was in.

Jemaine Clement
-lookalike Vicente Padilla protected the lead in his season debut, retiring all three batters he faced in the sixth, and Guerrier sailed through the bottom of the seventh. But the Cubs pummeled Guerrier in the eighth.

Starlin Castro, the 21-year-old who went 4 for 5 to raise his season OPS to .947, drove in two, and then an RBI forceout by Darwin Barney tied the game. A bloop single by Aramis Ramirez extended the inning and knocked Guerrier out. Blake Hawkworth relieved, and gave up a two-run double to Baker to complete the eighth-inning disaster.

James Loney tried to tie the game in the ninth with a fly ball after Sands walked, but like his 2011 season, it fell far short. Carlos Marmol struck out Barajas, and the game was over.

Loney went 0 for 5, his on-base percentage falling to .191 and his slugging percentage to .212.

The Cubs continued their unprecedented run of early season .500 baseball. They have been 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9 and now 10-10 this year. The Dodgers, meanwhile, fell to 11-11.

* * *

In case you weren’t sure, Hector Gimenez’s knee injury is legit. Gimenez, who was placed on the disabled list April 10 to (conveniently, it seemed) make room for the callup of John Ely, will have arthroscopic surgery next week. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details in a story that also heralds a minor-league rehab assignment for Hong-Chih Kuo and tells us about leg-soreness for Juan Uribe.

* * *

Here’s Jackson’s update from Don Mattingly on the controversial A.J. Ellis steal attempt from Friday:

… Mattingly, in his first year as Dodgers manager, confirmed it was a mix-up but defended a running play in that situation.

“Long story short, we missed the sign,” Mattingly said. “We weren’t trying to run there. Definitely weren’t going to run A.J. We weren’t doing it but it is Wrigley and the other day we did give up eight runs in the ninth. We’re trying to win a game, but we weren’t running there.” …

With what happened today, I suggested Quade issue a retroactive approval of the steal attempt.

Apr 16

Hong-Chih Kuo heads to the disabled list

A lower-back strain has knocked Hong-Chih Kuo off the abled list. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details, including the “oh, of course” news that Kuo has been “bothered by back discomfort all season.”

Ramon Troncoso has been recalled to join the Dodgers’ now all-righty bullpen.

Feb 18

Why Lance Cormier is a darkhorse roster candidate

Kim Klement/US PresswireIn the past three seasons, Lance Cormier has allowed a sub-.700 OPS against left-handed batters, including 26 extra-base hits in 486 plate appearances.

Outside of the left-field conundrum, the Dodgers’ biggest question mark for Spring Training might be how they will address the task of getting left-handed batters out with their almost completely right-handed bullpen. No one wants to see Hong-Chih Kuo relegated to facing only lefties, and the only other left-handed thrower on the 40-man roster is the uncertain Scott Elbert.

Three non-roster invitees to major-league camp are left-handed: 39-year-old Ron Mahay, achy-hamstringed Dana Eveland (whose career 5.74 ERA will apparently be sidelined for weeks after Thursday’s injury) and Wilkin De La Rosa, who has never pitched about Double-A. After that, you start dipping down into the minors for developing players like James Adkins.

With Ronald Belisario’s absence seemingly opening up a roster spot, Mahay would seem to be the default candidate. He had a .520 OPS allowed against lefties last season. But the previous two seasons, his OPS allowed against lefties was above .700 — which isn’t terrible, but isn’t exactly the kind of authoritative performance you’re looking for when you really want someone to come in and get that guy out.

I got to wondering if there were any righties among the Dodger relievers who were reliable against lefties. Here’s a chart of the bullpen candidates’ OPS allowed against lefties over the past three seasons in the majors:

2010 PA/ 2010 OPS   2009 PA/ 2009 OPS   2008 PA/ 2008 OPS
Belisario 86 .793   122 .720      
Broxton 123 .626   148 .414   126 .800
Colon 5 .650   94 .713      
Cormier 162 .718   180 .671   144 .667
Elbert 4 2.000   40 .699   14 1.000
Eveland 59 .802   60 .999   170 .646
Guerrier 102 .649   120 .525   126 .801
Hawksworth 185 .886   76 .724      
Jansen 51 .586            
Kuo 69 .271   40 .524   98 .557
Link 16 .962            
MacDougal 39 1.353   124 .760   24 .858
Mahay 68 .520   111 .743   110 .721
Monasterios 188 .709            
Padilla 166 .590   352 .837   385 .944
Redding       282 .860   402 .808
Schlichting 39 .465   9 .905      
Troncoso 99 .823   157 .751   84 .707
Villarreal             68 .862

Some observations:

  • The Dodgers have a few righties who seem consistently effective against their opposite numbers: Jonathan Broxton, Matt Guerrier and, based on a small sample size, Kenley Jansen.
  • Oh, and another guy who probably isn’t on your radar … late signee Lance Cormier.
  • Based on only his one season, Carlos Monasterios offers an intriguing first impression — though looking at the chart, you can see how much these numbers can fluctuate. Look at what happened to Ramon Troncoso, for example, or moving in the other direction, Vicente Padilla.
  • For extreme small-sample candidates, there’s Roman Colon and Travis Schlichting. Consider at your own risk.

If the Dodgers decide that Kuo, Broxton, Guerrier, Jansen and Padilla are all effective against lefties, they could decide to go without a second left-handed pitcher — especially if they also think Cormier is worth a roster slot. It might still be Mahay’s spot to lose or Scott Elbert’s spot to win, but Cormier might be this year’s guy you least expected.

Feb 17

Today’s Dodger Facebook status updates

Kyle Terada/US PresswireChad Billingsley is digging fielding practice today at Camelback Ranch.

Friend this …

Feb 02

Dodgers avoid salary arbitration with Hong-Chih Kuo


Kelvin Kuo/US PresswireHong-Chih Kuo has averaged 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings in his major-league career. Believe it or not, Kuo turns 30 this summer.

The Dodgers have signed Hong-Chih Kuo to a one-year contract that pays $2.725 million plus incentives. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

James Loney is the lone remaining potential 2011 salary arbitration case for Los Angeles.

Jan 18

Dodgers invite Gabe Kapler to Spring Training, exchange salary arbitration figures with Kuo and Loney

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com updates the arbitration situation with Hong-Chih Kuo and James Loney:

… In each case, the gap seemed small enough that the sides would appear likely to reach an agreement well in advance of going to an arbitration hearing in February.

Kuo, who made $975,000 last season, is seeking $3.075 million through the arbitration process, while the club filed at $2.55 million. Loney, who made $3.1 million last year, is asking for $5.25 million while the club filed at $4.7 million.

If either player goes to a hearing, after hearing each side state its case, a three-person arbitration panel would be forced to choose one of those two figures, with no wiggle room in between. Until such a hearing, though, the two sides are free to reach an agreement at any figure, and the sides often settle at the midpoint.

The mathematical midpoint for Kuo is $2,812,500. For Loney, it is $4,975,000.

Only two players — pitchers Eric Gagne in 2004 and Joe Beimel in 2007 — have taken the Dodgers all the way to an arbitration hearing in the 10 years that assistant general manager Kim Ng has been handling cases for the club. Both of those players lost their cases. …

* * *

Gabe Kapler, who returned in 2008 from a year-long retirement to a major-league playing career, has signed a minor-league contract with the Dodgers.

Last season, the 35-year-old outfielder had a .288 on-base percentage and .290 slugging percentage in 140 plate appearances with Tampa Bay.

After retiring following the 2006 season, Kapler managed the Greenville Drive of the Single-A South Atlantic League to a 58-81 record. He then returned to the playing field in 2008 with the Milwaukee Brewers, for whom he had one of his best seasons: an .838 OPS in 245 plate appearances.

The Dodgers have already made several signings this winter to try to fill out their outfield alongside Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, agreeing to terms with Marcus Thames, Jay Gibbons and Tony Gwynn Jr. In-house options Xavier Paul and Jamie Hoffmann, among others, also return.

Detroit selected Kapler, a graduate of Taft HS in Woodland Hills, in the 57th round of the 1995 amateur draft out of Moorpark College.

* * *

  • Steve Henson of Yahoo! Sports writes about the reaction of baseball scouts, who spend week after week on the road away from their families, to the murder of Christina Taylor Green, daughter of Dodger scout John Green.
  • You think Jose Offerman made a mess of the Dodger infield? Look at what Monster Jam is doing (via Vin Scully Is My Homeboy).
  • Rather than face another round of surgery, Gil Meche of the Kansas City Royals retired — leaving $12 million in 2011 salary on the table. I guess you can’t say it never happens.
  • The Detroit Tigers signed former Dodger Brad Penny — and designated near-perfect-game pitcher Armando Galarraga for assignment. That caught me off guard. Galarraga had agreed to a $2.3 million contract for 2011 a day ago. He had a 4.49 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 144 1/3 innings last season.
Jan 17

Report: Dodgers agree to terms with Marcus Thames

Tom Szczerbowski/US PresswireMarcus Thames

Adding to their collection of poor-defending but slugging outfielders, the Dodgers are poised to sign the guy who might be Jay Gibbons’ brother from another mother: Marcus Thames. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Thames, 34 in March and four days younger than Gibbons,  had a .350 on-base percentage and .491 slugging percentage against lefties last season, making him a potential platoon partner with Gibbons or Xavier Paul (only if the latter has a knockout Spring Training, it appears). Overall, Thames has an OPS of .802 in a career spent entirely in the American League. But Thames carries with him the baggage of being yet another left fielder that Dodger pitchers might be afraid of.

The Thames signing reduces the chances of the Dodgers resorting to games with Casey Blake or Jamey Carroll in the outfield. Whether the Tony Gwynn, Jr. plan B to realign the outfield is dead remains to be seen. Jamie Hoffmann has no chance of making the Opening Day roster now unless someone gets hurt.

Thames and Gibbons represent appealing bats off the bench — whether we want to see them each play 500 innings in the field this year is another story. But this definitely beats re-signing Scott Podsednik.

* * *

The Dodgers are taking negotiations with Chad Billingsley, Hong-Chih Kuo and James Loney down to the wire, Jackson writes in a separate story.

With major league teams and arbitration-eligible players set to officially file salary figures on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Dodgers still haven’t reached agreement with any of their affected players — pitcher Chad Billingsley, reliever Hong-Chih Kuo and first baseman James Loney — but based on recent history, it appears highly unlikely that the club will end up going to a hearing with any of those players in early February.

In the decade that assistant general manager Kim Ng has been handling all the team’s arbitration cases, only two players have taken the Dodgers to a hearing. The club won both of those cases against pitchers Eric Gagne in 2004 and Joe Beimel in 2007, the victory over Gagne coming the winter after he won the National League Cy Young Award.

For now, Ng isn’t making any predictions.

“We will have a much better idea in the next 24 hours [after numbers are filed on Tuesday],” Ng said. “It’s moving. We’re progressing, but nothing is final yet.”

Ng did confirm that the club isn’t discussing a multiyear contract with either Billingsley, Kuo or Loney. All three are “four-plus” players, meaning they have between four and five years of major league service time, are arbitration-eligible for the second time and — barring a multiyear deal — will be arbitration-eligible again next winter. …

* * *

Trayvon Robinson is the subject of a really nice feature by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

As far back as any of his baseball coaches can remember, people noticed Trayvon Robinson. He had the skills, but not the polish; the raw tools, but not the savvy.

Anyone with a little vision could see what kind of player he could become. The question was whether that potential would develop and bloom one day.

Andre Green had coached baseball at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles long enough to recognize a talent such as Robinson’s early on. He’d also been around long enough to know all the things that could keep Robinson from developing into what he’s since become: one of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ top prospects.

Like many of Crenshaw’s top athletes in recent years, Robinson also played football before high school.

“He wanted to play football, and I just told him ‘No,’” Green said. “I said, ‘You’re a baseball man and you’re going to put Crenshaw on the map.’” …

Dec 02

Russell Martin is on the open market


Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireRussell Martin

He was something special. And then he wasn’t.

It happens to the best of ‘em, but I can’t believe it happened this fast.

It is most certainly a non-tender night. The Dodgers have parted ways with 27-year-old Russell Martin, at least for now, by not offering him a 2011 contract. Again, the reason: They would have had to guarantee the slumping and injured catcher at least 80% of his 2010 salary, and risk paying him even more – easily over $6 million – if they lost an arbitration hearing.

If it were simply a case of Martin’s offensive struggles, I think Dodger general manager Ned Colletti would have guaranteed his contract, as they have done today with James Loney. But the uncertainty over his recovery from his hip injury made Los Angeles that much more guarded about spending all those millions. Wrote Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… the Dodgers’ first choice was to bring Martin back if an agreement could be reached on a contract that would have paid him a lower base salary than what he received in 2010. Colletti said that in the final minutes before the 9 p.m. PST deadline, Colleran lowered Martin’s asking price to a simple $5 million guarantee, but the Dodgers weren’t willing to go that high.

“We were willing to get to the same point with performance bonuses, but not with a guaranteed $5 million,” Colletti said.

This isn’t necessarily the end of Martin’s Dodger career – he is free to negotiate with the Dodgers, as with all 29 other teams, for any contract, and Colletti told reporters that they would still talk. (Among other things, Jackson wrote that the Dodgers were interested in Martin in a utility role.)

But given that the parties couldn’t come to terms by this point, it seems unlikely to me that they would at any other. And that was made even more the case when, as Jackson reported, the Dodgers moved closer to signing Rod Barajas to a one-year contract.

“I think we are on the cusp of getting something done in a different direction,” Colletti said. “I wasn’t going to go to sleep tonight without a big league catcher here besides [backup] A.J. [Ellis]. We’re pretty far down the road with something, and it should come to fruition in a short period of time. This is somebody who, if the season were to start today, would take the lion’s share of [playing time], with A.J. in a backup role.”

The rest of the Dodgers’ decisions today went according to form. George Sherrill, like Martin, was non-tendered (as was September call-up Trent Oeltjen), while Loney, Hong-Chih Kuo and Chad Billingsley all were guaranteed 2011 contracts.

Nov 29

Farewell, Gil McDougald

Farewell, Gil McDougald, one of the earliest historical names I can recall learning as a baseball fan, something that came about when reading about his line drive off Herb Score in an issue of Baseball Digest. McDougald was also the player doubled off first base following Sandy Amoros’ amazing grab-and-throw in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series.

McDougald, who himself had been struck by a line drive in the ear, spent his entire 10-year career with the Yankees, retiring at age 32. He coached at Vin Scully’s alma mater, Fordham, from 1970-77.

* * *

A potential settlement in the McCourt divorce case could get some funding from law firm Bingham McCutchen as a way to fend off a legal malpractice suit, Bill Shaikin and Carla Hall of the Times reported last week.

… That (mediator and Superior Court Judge Peter) Lichtman approached Bingham does not necessarily mean that (Judge Scott) Gordon is likely to throw out the agreement, said Lynn Soodik, a Santa Monica family law attorney.

However, she said Lichtman could have identified Bingham funds as a source to narrow the nine-figure gap between what Frank has offered to settle the case and what Jamie has requested, with the probability that Bingham could stand to lose far more money in a malpractice suit.

J. Michael Kelly, a Santa Monica family law attorney, said Bingham could face liability from whichever of the McCourts loses.

“There is no way out,” Kelly said.

* * *

Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant has come up with a week-long “Steve Garvey Menu” in support of the Dodger first baseman’s Hall of Fame candidacy (via the Expansion Era committee).

Mon, Nov. 29: Steve Garvey’s Dodger Dog – to recognize his place in baseball’s most enduring infield with the LA Dodgers

Tues, Nov. 30: Steve Garvey’s MVP-izza – in honor of his 1974 National League MVP Award

Weds, Dec. 1: Steve Garvey’s All Star Platter – in honor of his ten All Star Games, including being the first write-in selection

Thurs, Dec. 2: Steve Garvey’s (San Diego) Chicken Parmigiana – in honor of his 1984 NLCS MVP with the SD Padres

Fri, Dec. 3: Steve’s Shepherd’s Pie – in honor of his 1981 World Series championship with the Dodgers

Sat, Dec. 4: Steve Garvey Burger with Golden French Fries – in honor of his four Gold Gloves at 1B

Sun, Dec. 5: Steve Garvey’s $6 Mimosas – Champagne and California orange juice to celebrate #6 (and his possible induction into Cooperstown)

Results of this Hall vote will be announced Dec. 6.

Meanwhile, Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk highlights some names that didn’t make the conventional Hall of Fame ballot in their first year of eligibility. Wilson Alvarez, Cal Eldred, Jeffrey Hammonds, Greg Myers, Jose Offerman, Paul Quantrill, Rey Sanchez, Ugueth Urbina — you are remembered.

* * *

And before I go …

Nov 28

In starting rotation, sometimes questions beat answers


Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesFor 4 1/2 seasons, the Dodgers never knew what they were going to get in Odalis Perez.

In the wake of the Jon Garland signing, Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. looked at the most commonly used starting pitchers by the Dodgers since 2000, and in the process found that the Dodgers “have had five pitchers each start 30 games in a season just twice in their 127-year franchise history (1977 and 1993), and they have only had four pitchers start 30 games eight other times.”

Good stuff, but I was interested in something else, too. Given my surprise to find our starting rotation settled on paper before the end of November, I was curious how often in recent years the Dodgers had appeared to enter the season in better shape in their starting five than they’re in right now – and how they fared in those seasons.

Looking back at the 2000s (playoff teams in bold):

  • 2010: Charlie Haeger won a beleaguered fifth starter competition. The current 2011 rotation, with Garland as the fifth starter behind Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Ted Lilly, looks better.
  • 2009: Rookies Kershaw and James McDonald looked promising on paper, but most people would probably take the 2011 quintet, with Kershaw two years older.
  • 2008: Brad Penny was coming off a 3.03 ERA in 2007, Chad Billingsley was rising and Derek Lowe in the final year of his contract, while Kuroda was untested in the U.S. and Kershaw hadn’t arrived. In fact, it was the rotating arms in the No. 5 spot (a shaky Esteban Loaiza, a green Hong-Chih Kuo) that helped hasten Kershaw’s debut.  The Dodger rotation heading into 2008 was probably better than the 2011 group – until Friday.
  • 2007: This was the year newcomers Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf (the first time around) were supposed to anchor the Dodger staff, joining Lowe, Penny and Billingsley. This was an exciting group – until Schmidt and Wolf combined for 24 starts and a 5.05 ERA.
  • 2006: Lowe, Penny … Odalis Perez (coming off a poor 2005) … Brett Tomko and Jae Seo.  A little bit of wishful thinking, here.
  • 2005: New free agent Lowe, Perez (coming off a strong 2004) and Jeff Weaver for the front three. The Dodgers knew they’d be dealing with filler at the No. 5 spot, and with Penny coming back late from his 2004 injury, they were duct-taping No. 4 as well, ultimately starting April with the likes of Elmer Dessens and Scott Erickson.
  • 2004: The Dodgers’ first playoff trip of the century began with Hideo Nomo, Perez, Weaver and Kaz Ishii – not a bad front four if you thought the 25-year-old Perez would regain his 2002 form. The other three had ERAs below 4.00 the year before. The fifth starter left in TBD status until the job was seized by Jose Lima, who had a memorable year through and into the playoffs (after having thrown 503 2/3 innings with a 6.18 ERA since 2000), while Ishii ended up struggling and Nomo fell apart.
  • 2003: Kevin Brown was coming off an injury-plagued 2002, but there was still hope for him (rightfully so) to lead a staff that also included a resurgent Nomo, Ishii and Perez (3.00 ERA in 2002). Darren Dreifort, attempting a comeback after going more than 20 months between games, got the first chance at the No. 5 start, but the Dodgers also had Andy Ashby (3.91 ERA in ’02) as a No. 6 starter. So there was depth, but also an understanding that the depth could be needed immediately.
  • 2002: Lots of new blood to join Brown and Ashby: Nomo (returning as a free agent from Boston), Perez (acquired with Brian Jordan in January’s Gary Sheffield trade) and Ishii (signing his first U.S. contract on February 28) – not to mention Omar Daal, another returning former Dodger who came in an offseason trade from Philadelphia but began the year in the bullpen. By the time Spring Training started, the staff was deep – one of the reasons second-year manager Jim Tracy experimented with converting a guy who had made 24 starts in 2001 into a reliever: Eric Gagne.
  • 2001: In his last year before becoming a free agent, Chan Ho Park was the Opening Day starter for the Dodgers, followed by Gagne, Dreifort, Ashby and – in place of Brown, who was limited by injuries – Luke Prokopec. Either Gagne or Prokopec were to be the No. 5 starters on paper, after making some waves in 2000. You might laugh now, but there was reason to think this could be a pretty decent starting rotation.
  • 2000: You had Brown, Park and Dreifort, all coming off solid 2000 seasons. Then you had Carlos Perez, who had a 7.43 ERA in 1999. And rounding out the fivesome, you had the last gasp of Orel Hershiser, who had a 4.58 ERA with the Mets at age 40 the year before. It did not go well for this rotation.

In terms of Dodger starting rotations that had proven talent in all five slots since 2000, you’d have to look at 2007 and 2002 as the leading lights, with honorable mention to 2003. Neither of these teams, of course, reached the playoffs (though the ’02 team won 92 games), while the Dodgers’ past four playoff teams all had question marks in at least one spot in the starting rotation entering the season.

Oct 03

Farewell, 2010


Courtesy Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles DodgersBrad Ausmus

Farewells and me do not agree. They bring a lingering pain. I begin taking a long look back before I’ve even left.

I’ve been looking to the end of these grueling final weeks of the Dodger season as something of a relief, but this weekend reminded me of all the things I love about the game (minus the postseason triumph, of course). Today, when the Dodgers had the opportunity to send me off with a “Good riddance” affair, they pulled me back in, just as we were saying goodbye.

There was yet another fine pitching performance, this time from Ted Lilly. There was yet another blast from Matt Kemp, off a Rodrigo Lopez meatball, giving Kemp home runs in his final five games of the year and birthing the possibility of his redemption. There was a Dodger victory the way we hoped more of them would come. There was beautiful weather, a beautiful ballpark and beautiful family all around me.

There was Joe Torre’s farewell from uniform, perhaps forever, after the heartiest of careers. There was John Lindsey’s farewell from uniform, perhaps forever, after the briefest of careers.

Most of all the events on the field, what reached me was Brad Ausmus. I had been the sourpuss who disapproved of signing Ausmus each of the past two seasons, figuring that what he would be able to contribute wasn’t worth what he would pay. But today, watching his final moments on the field steeped the emotions already brewing within me. I felt privileged to be able to cheer him on, right up to his 1,579th career hit in his final at-bat.

And so when Hong-Chih Kuo got the season’s final out, and it was all over, I felt I had to just short of literally tear myself away from my favorite seat in all of the world.

These emotions will be hard for many to understand, coming at the end of a misbegotten season. They even surprised me some.  But there they were. We’ll all move forward, myself included, but I left something behind this year. I can’t explain it any better than that.

Though the commenting declined at Dodger Thoughts this season (and the main reasons for that aren’t lost on me), I still do appreciate any and all of you stopping by to say hi and share your thoughts. Of course, there will be plenty going on here in the offseason, but in any case, here’s to all the best for all of you going forward.

* * *

The Watch List

3) Kemp finished the year with a career-high 28 home runs to lead the team by five.

4) Kemp passed Loney at the finish, lapping up his 88th and 89th RBI to Loney’s 88.

6) Rafael Furcal used up his one free at-bat, finishing the year with a batting average at .3002.

7) There was one drive off Ted Lilly that looked like it might have some distance, but in the end he gave up no home runs while walking two, and finishes his Dodger season with 13 walks and 12 homers allowed.

8) Jamey Carroll got four plate appearances, but he kept his 2010 homer ledger clean.

Two more notes: Kuo finished with the lowest ERA in Dodger history for a pitcher with at least 50 innings in a season. His 1.200 mark just barely bested Eric Gagne’s 1.202 from 2003. Also, Kenley Jansen’s 0.67 ERA is the fourth-lowest in major-league history for a rookie with at least 25 innings.

Sep 24

Kershaw LXXXIII: Kershawteau Marmont


Loomis Dean/Getty ImagesBing Crosby with Pirates Manager Billy Meyer during Spring Training, 1948.

Film of the classic 1960 World Series Game 7 was found in the wine cellar of Bing Crosby and will be shown on the MLB Network in December (first reported by the New York Times).

* * *

Hong-Chih Kuo will stay on a regular throwing program in the offseason, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, because long offseason rest has seemed to have done him more harm than good.

Sep 16

The Big Blue Wrecked Crew: 2010-11 Dodger offseason primer


Kirby Lee/US PresswireRussell Martin: Just one of the many questions the Dodgers face this winter.

The Dodger roster heading into the 2010-11 offseason, and I don’t say this lightly, is a mess.

It’s not a hopeless mess. But it is a mess, and it’s going to take some skill from the crew in charge to clean up. It’s a goop of oil and water, an unsightly combination of having to fill holes while also figuring out which rising salaries to jettison and which to risk holding onto.

Oh, and when the 2010 season ends, the No. 5 starter on the 40-man roster, at least by major-league experience, will be someone who hasn’t pitched in a professional game in four months: Scott Elbert.

The Dodgers have one absolute jewel on the team: Clayton Kershaw. The team’s top player won’t be arbitration eligible for one more year and only figures to earn approximately $500,000 in 2011.

Then, there are a few players whose higher salaries the Dodgers won’t mind paying. Chad Billingsley, who will command somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million, knocked down many of the questions others had about him with a resurgent 2010 season. Hong-Chih Kuo will draw low seven figures, and after the way he has persevered and performed, no one should begrudge him. Kenley Jansen will make people swoon, and only receive the major-league minimum pay and meal money in return.

So much for the good news. Now, the concerns:

  • Rafael Furcal surely remains talented, but the Dodgers have $12 million going to a player who has averaged fewer than 100 games per year since 2008.
  • Slumping reliever Jonathan Broxton’s final season before free agency is tagged with a $7 million salary.
  • Coming off an injury that ended his second straight disappointing year, arbitration-eligible Russell Martin would also get as much as $7 million if the Dodgers don’t non-tender him.
  • Andre Ethier looked like an MVP at the start of the year; by the end, his $9.25 million 2011 salary for an outfielder who struggles against lefties didn’t seem like quite as much of a bargain.
  • Lightning Rod Award-winning outfielder Matt Kemp has $6.95 million coming next year.
  • Casey Blake, game but aging, gets $5.25 million in the final chapter of his three-year deal.
  • By now, James Loney should have developed enough that the $4.5 million he is projected to earn next year should have seemed closer to a bargain than a burden, but his second-half disappearance hasn’t helped matters.
  • Incumbent second baseman Ryan Theriot and his sub-.700 OPS will bring home about $3.5 million if the Dodgers hang onto him.

In sum, that’s about $55 million committed to a series of question marks, some small, some large. In addition, Los Angeles owes approximately $17 million of its 2011 budget to (swallow hard) Manny Ramirez, Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt — the price for turning past mistakes into the playoff teams of the previous two years.

Overall, the Dodgers on paper have close to $100 million – a figure that might well be at or above their budget limit – committed before they make a single offseason move.

Now, all is not lost. The Dodgers can and probably will gain roughly $12 million in breathing room if and when they bid farewell to George Sherrill, Octavio Dotel, Scott Podsednik and Brad Ausmus (who has said he will retire). Meanwhile, free agents Jay Gibbons and Rod Barajas should start to help shore up the bench for under $2 million combined. And it should be noted that not all of the above question marks will have negative answers.

Nevertheless, that still leaves the Dodgers at about $90 million in payroll, with John Ely as their No. 3 starter and serious questions about most of their offense. As shaky as their lineup now looks, and however aggressive the Dodgers might want to be with the latest crop of prospects, the Dodgers absolutely have to add at least two more starters, whether through free agency or trade, whether Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda or outsiders.

It’s for this reason that unless the team salary budget goes up, the Dodgers almost certainly will trade or non-tender a 2011 contract to at least one from the group of Broxton, Kemp, Ethier, Loney and Martin. Loney, because he has the lowest salary, might be most likely to stay – he’s finishing the year as a disappointment at first base, but he’s not finishing the year alone as a disappointment. In any case, all of them have something to offer other teams that might be, as hard as it is for some to digest, more willing to spend than the Dodgers are.

An Ethier trade would be a shock, for example, much more than a Kemp trade, but who can say it’s out of the question now?

However this plays out, the Dodgers may well bring back many of the same players next year who boosted them to National League Championship Series appearances in 2008-09 and sunk them in 2010. In one respect, nothing will have changed: You’re always hoping players move forward, like Kershaw and Billingsley, and not backward, like Kemp and Loney and Broxton and Martin and so on. Good does sometimes follow bad, after all. But still, it’s going to be a nervous offseason for a lot of us.

Sure, BP had it tougher. But as cleanup goes, this is as thick a goop as Chavez Ravine has seen in quite some time.

Sep 02

Potential appeal could keep Dodgers in McCourt hands for years

There’s an angle of the McCourt divorce trial that I think has been underplayed. From The Days and Tweets of Molly Knight:

To sum up (if Frank is losing): either Frank pays Jamie off and keeps team–which would be the sane thing–or Jamie wins and Frank spends 2 years appealing.

And also:

Whoever loses on MPA is likely to appeal. With the logjam in CA courts now, that could take up to 36 months, I’m told. Worst case, obvs.

It could be a while just to get a decision on this trial from Judge Scott Gordon, if there is no settlement.

Judge will have 90 days AFTER trial ends in late September to make his decision on MPA. So we night not know until Christmas. 

After this week, the trial takes a break, not scheduled to resume until Sept. 20.

* * *

Whenever I told people that the divorce wasn’t to blame for the current state of the Dodger finances, I tried to emphasize that it was because the finances would have been what they were even if the McCourts remained happily married. Bill Shaikin’s piece in the Times underscores that point.

The divorce didn’t cause the Dodgers’ financial problems. It’s what brought those problems up to the surface.

* * *

Other links:

  • Breath of fresh air: Hong-Chih Kuo played some catch with fans in the Dodger Stadium bleachers, as you can see in this post from Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Albuquerque had its own bullpen nightmare Wednesday, blowing a 13-6 ninth-inning lead. It was a key loss that could accelerate the end of the Isotopes’ season (and, if you’re looking for silver linings, possibly bring some callups to Los Angeles sooner). Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner has more; Jon Link gave up the final five runs in the shocking (note Jackson’s URL) 15-13 defeat.

    “We had one more (pitcher) but I can’t use everybody,” (manager Tim) Wallach said, adding that anyone left would not have been able to pitch for very long.

“That first night kind of set us up in a bad spot for the doubleheader (Tuesday) and then tonight,” Wallach added, referring to the Isotopes’ 20-9 loss on Monday that saw them use six relievers.

  • Not only have the Dodgers been muffing an opportunity over the past several days to make a surge in the National League wild-card race, they could have made a dramatic run for the NL West title, thanks to San Diego finally hitting a cold streak and losing seven straight games. Putting aside how slim their playoff hopes are, the Dodgers could technically be closer to the NL West lead than the wild card as early as Saturday if the Padres lose to the Rockies and the Phillies keep winning.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness points out some things to keep an eye on in the likely event that the pennant race goes on without the Dodgers. Among them: Whether to ease up on 22-year-old Clayton Kershaw.
  • As you might know, each year that James Loney’s salary increases, it becomes harder to tolerate his below average value as a first baseman — making him one of the decisions the Dodgers must confront in their busy upcoming offseason. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. takes a detailed look at Riddle Me Loney.
Aug 24

42 years young, 82 years young

The thing I’ve realized, and this relates to Vin Scully, is that getting older doesn’t necessarily make you feel old. It just makes you have less time left to feel young as young as you always have.

And yes, in some ways I feel old, as I’m sure Scully does. But you know, in some ways I felt old when I was 5. And meanwhile, I continue to marvel at how many ways I feel like a pup.

Vin Scully is a grownup with a lot of kid in him. That 8-year-old that fell in love with sportscasting while camped out underneath his family’s big radio in the 1930s is still with us, and for that I’m thankful.

* * *

Dusty Baker might be holding off on signing his contract extension as manager of the Reds in order to keep himself alive as a candidate to replace Joe Torre with the Dodgers, write The Associated Press and Vincent Bonsignore of the Daily News.

The possibility surprises me because of the acrimonious way Baker left the Dodgers nearly three decades ago, but I guess, after all, that was three decades ago. In fact, Baker told Bonsignore he was interested in the job before Torre got hired, although of course the transition from Grady Little to Torre was practically a simultaneous move.

Baker, who has a reputation for riding his pitchers hard, being in charge of Clayton Kershaw or Zach Lee would inspire some interesting amounts of panic.

* * *

Did you know about Hong-Chih Kuo’s workout regimen? From Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:

His daily therapy regimen is legendary among any who’ve witnessed it, starting at 12:30 p.m. for a 7:10 night game.

“I wish you guys could see what he puts himself through,” said (Dodgers trainer Stan) Conte. “He’s in constant motion until 11 at night — ice, heat, ultrasound, message, stretch, flex, leg work, working all the time just to pitch an inning.”

* * *

Courtesy of Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers
Andre Ethier stretches during the Bark in the Park promotion prior to Saturday’s Dodger game.
  • SI.com has a new photo montage of Scully up.
  • Talk of Andre Ethier winning the National League Triple Crown has long since faded, but Joey Votto and Albert Pujols still have very good chances, writes Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts. It’s been 73 years since Joe Medwick won the last NL Triple Crown.
  • Bob Timmermann discusses “The L.A. Times vs. Matt Kemp” at L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence.
  • Two interesting posts on the final games of Hall of Fame managers, here and here, come from The Platoon Advantage (via Hardball Talk).
  • Big ol’ David Ortiz tripled for the 11th consecutive season Sunday, writes Drew Silva of Hardball Talk. Ortiz is one of three players in the AL to do this, according to Brian McPherson of the Providence Journal.
  • Former Dodger Wilson Betemit has revived his career with Kansas City, to the tune of a .984 OPS, though his future remains uncertain, writes Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.
  • Maligned All-Star Omar Infante has also been getting the last laugh with a hot streak, writes Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk.
  • Canines cavorting at Dodger Stadium seems to have gone well, according to Chris Erskine of the Times. Hard to deny after seeing the photo above.