Mar 25

Top target for 2014: Robinson Cano?

Years after those Matt Kemp-for-Robinson Cano rumors were all the rage, could they end up being teammates?

Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors today listed the Yankee second baseman as the top free agent possibility of the 2013-14 offseason. Cano, who had a .929 OPS for New York last year, will be 31 1/2 when the 2014 season begins. Assuming all goes well for him this year, he’ll no doubt be the latest ballplayer to set some kind of salary record for position or age or what have you — but as you might have heard, the Dodgers are players in that game these days. On top of that, Los Angeles will have a vacancy at Cano’s position.

Of course, the Yankees figure to be players in that game as well — especially if they falter on the field in 2013, as so many expect, and will find themselves desperate not to lose such a key player.

* * *

Another interesting tidbit from MLB Trade Rumors today: Former Dodger Jamey Carroll explains why a 27-year-old minor-leaguer who has no negotiating power could still use an agent.

“They were into finding out who I was in the [Montreal Expos] organization,” Carroll said, “what the organization felt about me, and where I fit and what my chances were to keep getting opportunities.  I think that’s one of the most important things, where you sit within the organization.  How they view you and what goals they have for you, I think those are tough questions to ask and they were able to do that for me.  I was at a time where I had quite a few years in the minor leagues and wasn’t sure what my future held.  To me that was more important than worrying about contracts and shoe deals and stuff like that.”

Nov 11

Farewell and thanks, Jamey Carroll

Jamey Carroll is apparently going to bid farewell to the Dodgers for a two-year deal with Minnesota that will make him the Twins’ starting shortstop, completing his journey from “we signed who for what?” to what became one of the nicest free-agent pickups in recent Dodger history.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing that Carroll is leaving the Dodgers now.  Though he exceeded expectations in the past two years, at times remarkably so, Carroll will be 38 in February. He will be paid according to how he produced in 2010-11 when he had arguably the two best seasons of his career, as opposed to how he produced before that. In other words, a return engagement with the Dodgers might easily have turned out to be disappointing.

What is clear is that a guy like the 2010-11 version of Jamey Carroll is someone the 2012 Dodgers could very much use.

Previously on Dodger Thoughts:

Remembering 2011: Jamey Carroll
Here’s a word for Jamey Carroll: talented

Oct 15

Remembering 2011: Jamey Carroll


Kelvin Kuo/US PresswireJamey Carroll (19)

The setup: Carroll was the sung hero of the 2010 Dodgers, exceeding expectations at the start of his two-year contract with a .379 on-base percentage in 133 games, 69 of them played at shortstop in support of an oft-injured Rafael Furcal. For 2011, he was once again slated for a bench role, but this time with everyone prepared for him to play often, given the frail state of the Dodger infield.

The closeup: Yep, you could say Carroll found regular time again – at age 37, he came to the plate 510 times, ranking fourth on the Dodgers this season. He started on Opening Day and in 111 games overall (57 at second base, 54 at shortstop). He played in 58 of the Dodgers’ first 60 games and sat out only 16 of 161. The fact is, he could have even played more. Come July, when there was only one opening for a so-called reserve in the starting infield, Aaron Miles was taking away playing time even though Carroll had the Dodgers’ third-highest on-base percentage in 2011. And then, of course, Dee Gordon entered the picture.

As it happens, Carroll did go through a summertime slump, with his on-base percentage falling to .329 and his OPS to .636 over July and August. He rebounded a bit in September and finished the season with a .359 on-base percentage (down .020 from 2010) and .347 slugging percentage. That includes three four-hit games between May 20 and June 11; he also walked in two of those games. Two statistical oddities from Carroll:

Overall, among infielders with at least 800 plate appearances, Carroll has the highest on-base percentage of any in Los Angeles Dodger history, according to Baseball-Reference.com.


Rk Player OBP PA From To Age
1 Jamey Carroll .368 924 2010 2011 36-37
2 Jeff Kent .367 2146 2005 2008 37-40
3 Mike Sharperson .363 1271 1987 1993 25-31
4 Eddie Murray .359 1983 1989 1997 33-41
5 Ron Cey .359 6108 1971 1982 23-34
6 Jim Gilliam .358 4893 1958 1966 29-37
7 Billy Grabarkewitz .357 966 1969 1972 23-26
8 Eric Young .355 1366 1992 1999 25-32
9 Todd Zeile .352 842 1997 1998 31-32
10 Rafael Furcal .351 2802 2006 2011 28-33

Coming attractions: Having more than justified the two-year, $3.85 million (plus incentives) contract he signed in December 2009, Carroll is a free agent, and there will be a lot of sentiment toward resigning him. Keep in mind that Carroll shouldn’t be expected to produce as much in the future as he has in the past, though we said the same thing two years ago and look what happened. At a minimum, it’s reasonable to think that Carroll 2012 would be at least as effective as Miles 2011 (salaries aside). Some team will want Carroll, that’s for sure.

Jul 08

And a good night was had by all …

Jamey Carroll called a players’ only meeting before Thursday’s dominant 6-0 victory by Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details. Meetings like this can’t save a season, but it sounds like it was a positive event.

ESPNLosAngeles.com also has a piece that you might call “The State of Vin Scully,” featuring an interview with the man himself.

The biggest local baseball news is the Angels’ promotion of 19-year-old super-prospect Mike Trout to replace an injured Peter Bourjos. Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more.  The timing is funny because this was happening right around the time that Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts, at Thursday’s fun Fangraphs panel (thanks to everyone there for hosting), was extolling the virtues of Trout, saying that he would sign the player to a 10-year-contract right now.

Jul 06

Remember Jamey Carroll?

Aaron Miles’ bruised right elbow, which could sideline him for a brief time, gives Jamey Carroll a chance to get back into a Dodger lineup that had suddenly become hard for him to crack.

Carroll, who has consistently been one of the Dodgers’ top players this season, has only two starts and 11 plate appearances (2 for 10 with a walk) in the Dodgers’ past eight games. Carroll had played 74 of the Dodgers’ first 79 games this season, starting 63 of them.

With the hot-hitting Miles’ increased playing time, one can understand how Carroll’s workload lessened, but at the same time, it seems that a struggling team might want to take advantage of an effective player while it still can. Carroll’s .365 on-base percentage remains third on the Dodgers, behind Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.

Besides Miles, it’s mainly Juan Uribe who has kept Carroll out of the Dodger lineup. Uribe strengthens the Dodger defense when he plays third base, but at the plate, he’s been giving a lot of that back. With Uribe signed to a three-year deal, the Dodgers have little choice but to hope that he regains what offensive form he had, but it’s been hard to see one of the team’s better bats in Carroll sidelined in the process.

Jun 22

How ‘The Bad News Bears’ almost won

Josh Wilker (yes, I do mean Wilker this time) has been doing a lot of retrospection on “The Bad News Bears” in support of his new book (which I read last weekend and quite enjoyed). Today, he writes insightfully about the Toby Whitewood character, and in the process links to a conversation with actor David Stambaugh from last year at The Hollywood Interview. It’s all really interesting stuff for fans of the original movie, but here’s the big reveal, from my perspective:

“For a long time,” Stambaugh says, “we didn’t know how the movie would end, because they actually filmed the last play of the big game both ways. The one they used has Kelly (Jackie Earl Haley) getting tagged out, but they also shot footage of an extra man on base, Kelly making his home run, and the Bears winning the game. Michael Ritchie took some of us out to dinner a few days before the premiere, and that’s when he told us what had been decided. I think we were all pretty happy about it. It seemed like the more authentic ending.”

* * *

  • Jamey Carroll gave a lengthy interview to Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors.
  • Dodger minor leaguer Scott Van Slyke was named most valuable player of the Southern League All-Star Game. He drove in the game’s first run with a single before stealing second and scoring, and later doubled and scored a second run. This season, Van Slyke has 22 doubles in 225 at-bats, a .408 on-base percentage and .516 slugging percentage.
  • Update: Bryan Stow’s condition has been upgraded from critical to serious, reports The Associated Press. “Doctors there said Wednesday that Stow is now breathing without a ventilator and has been able to intermittently follow some basic commands.”
Jun 12

Day-after observations: Defense! Defense!


Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesJamey Carroll had four hits at the plate Saturday - here was his fifth. He upended Troy Tulowitzki in the fifth inning to break up a potential double play and cause a throwing error.

1) I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if Tony Gwynn Jr. hadn’t been in left field at the end of Saturday’s 11-7 Dodger victory. For a look at the catch, head to Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.

2) Speaking of defense, now I understand what the scouts were saying about Dee Gordon’s. His ability to make spectacular plays is enough to convince you that he is the real deal at shortstop. And from what I’ve seen, he has been solid on the routine plays in his first week as well. Even more than the speed, Roadrunner’s defense has gotten me believing in him.

3) There’s still the matter of Gordon’s bat. In 23 at-bats, Gordon has seven hits and seven strikeouts, zero walks and zero extra-base hits. His batting line makes Aaron Miles, who got his sixth double and third walk of the season Saturday like Adam Dunn.

Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesAaron Miles throws out Eric Young Jr. in the third inning Saturday.

4) Speaking of Miles, I totally get Tony Jackson’s musings at ESPNLosAngeles.com about whether Miles and Jamey Carroll have earned more playing time. My quibble would be grouping Miles and Carroll together. Carroll (.378 on-base percentage, .381 slugging percentage) has absolutely earned a spot ahead of Juan Uribe – let Uribe try to prove himself as a hero off the bench. Miles (.319 on-base percentage, .350 slugging percentage), owner of the emptiest .300 batting average in Dodger history, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A., isn’t an upgrade over Casey Blake when Blake is healthy. Blake sat out Saturday’s game with a stiff neck.

5) Still, if the Dodgers started a lineup of Miles at third, Gordon at short, Carroll at second and platooned Blake and James Loney at first, how much would you object?

6) Scott Elbert and Colorado are not friends. Elbert in Denver the past two seasons: 12 batters faced, nine baserunners (.750 OBP). Elbert everywhere else the past two seasons: 30 plate appearances, seven baserunners (.233 OBP).

7) Carroll moved into eight place in the National League batting race, joining Matt Kemp (third) and Andre Ethier (fourth). The last time the Dodgers finished a year with three of the top 10 in batting average was 1955, with Roy Campanella, Carl Furillo and Duke Snider. The last time the Dodgers had three .300 hitters was 2006 with Rafael Furcal, Kenny Lofton and Nomar Garciaparra. (Here’s a full list of Dodger .300 hitters.)

8) Don’t miss this morning’s note about the Dodger Thoughts comments.

* * *

  • Don Newcombe was interviewed by Scott Bair of the North County Times.
  • We started talking about this in the Dodger Thoughts comments Saturday: MLB is mulling a realignment that would send an NL team (say, Houston or Florida) to the AL and possibly eliminate divisions altogether, with five playoff teams per league, reports Buster Olney of ESPN.com. Keith Olbermann takes down the idea at his baseball blog.
  • Kenley Jansen and Hong-Chih Kuo are doing well on their minor-league rehab assignements, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • The Hector Gimenez dream has been put in storage. Gimenez, who had been on the disabled list, cleared waivers and has been assigned to Double-A Chattanooga. Juan Castro has accepted his assignment to Triple-A Albuquerque.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness argues that it’s time to give A.J. Ellis a chance. Of course, that was true before the Dodgers signed Dioner Navarro to a $1 million contract in the offseason.
  • Randy Keisler, who won a contract with the Dodgers via their open tryout this spring, pitched seven innings of one-run ball to win his second straight game for Albuquerque on Saturday. Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner has the story.
Jun 11

A tale of two signings: Jamey Carroll and Juan Uribe

How does this happen? Is the lesson to bet on on-base percentage once players hit their 30s? Or is this just an anomaly?

Jamey Carroll

Signing date: December 18, 2009
Contract terms: Two years, $3.85 million ($1 million signing bonus, $1.05 million in 2010, $1.8 million in 2011), plus incentives for plate appearances
Age when signed: 35 years, eight months
Performance over previous two years: 206 games, 656 plate appearances, .355 on-base percentage, .343 slugging percentage, adjusted OPS of 89 (100 being average)
Performance as a Dodger: 195 games, 656 plate appearances, .374 on-base percentage, .348 slugging percentage, adjusted OPS of 103

Juan Uribe

Signing date: November 30, 2010
Contract terms: Three years, $21 million ($5 million in 2011, $8 million in 2012, $7 million in 2013, plus $1 million in 2014)
Age when signed: 31 years, four months
Performance over previous two years: 270 games, 1,007 plate appearances, .318 on-base percentage, .464 slugging percentage, adjusted OPS of 106
Performance as a Dodger: 46 games, 177 plate appearances, .282 on-base percentage, .319 slugging percentage, adjusted OPS of 70

Contract information source: Cot’s Baseball Contracts

May 23

Ethier, Barajas out of lineup but not on DL

Andre Ethier and Rod Barajas are being held off the disabled list, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

In addition, Aaron Miles has returned to the playing field. He’ll give Jamey Carroll, who has played in 46 of 48 games this season, a theoretical day off — although it seems very likely we could see Carroll off the bench.

Dodger batting leaders for May appear in the chart below. James Loney, who is batting third in the Dodgers’ latest makeshift lineup, does in fact have the third-best May OPS among tonight’s starting nine:

Update: More from Jackson:

Ethier said he woke up without soreness one day after injuring his left big toe, left elbow and lower back when he banged into the right field wall chasing a ball.

“I’m going to go out and see how I feel [during batting practice] and go from there,” he said. “I don’t know if it was a good sign or a bad sign, but I really wasn’t all that sore when I woke up this morning.”

Mattingly said he wouldn’t hesitate to use the left-handed-hitting Ethier as a pinch hitter, but with the Dodgers scheduled to face Astros lefty J.A. Happ on Tuesday night, Mattingly said that might be a good excuse to rest Ethier for one more day.

Barajas, who suffered a sprained right wrist on a play at the plate, was sent for an MRI exam on Monday morning. Just as the X-rays he underwent on Sunday, the MRI showed no fracture and nothing seriously wrong.

“It’s still sore, but it hasn’t gotten any worse,” Barajas said. “I think I could [play], but I love to play. I feel like I could tough it out even if I’m not 100 percent.” …

“At this point, we have a couple of guys we can put back there [to catch],” Mattingly said, adding that infielder Russell Mitchell is his primary emergency catcher for now. “But obviously, you don’t anticipate Navarro getting hurt.”

Meanwhile, third baseman Casey Blake (left elbow) and reliever Blake Hawksworth (right groin) were set to begin their minor league rehabilitation assignments on Monday night at Triple-A Albuquerque and advanced Class A Rancho Cucamonga, respectively. Outfielder Marcus Thames (right quad) is tentatively slated to report to Albuquerque on Friday, and Mattingly said he likely will need a longer rehab than Blake, whom team officials hope to activate in about a week.

May 12

Here’s a word for Jamey Carroll: talented


Ric Tapia/Icon SMIAt age 37, Jamey Carroll has the highest on-base percentage of any infielder in Los Angeles Dodger history (minimum 500 plate appearances).

For the past year, people have used the words “gritty” and “gamer” to describe Jamey Carroll so often that it’s become a reflex. They mean it in the best possible way, and I don’t think there’s any doubt that — although other players don’t get enough credit for these qualities — Carroll qualifies.

In any case, I can’t help thinking that the words undersell what Carroll has brought to the Dodgers. “Gritty” risks implying that Carroll’s game is all about the effort and not about the results.

Since coming to the Dodgers in 2010, Carroll has racked up a season’s worth of plate appearances, 562 in all. And over that period, he has had an on-base percentage of .377. That places Carroll 12th all-time in Los Angeles Dodger history for players with at least that many times at the plate. Among those who have played at least 100 games in the infield, he is No. 1.

And this is coming in his late 30s, when more likely than not, he should be declining. That’s just flat-out good.

The point is, I’m not sure that Carroll’s grit is all that unusual. There are hundreds of players in the majors and minors who work every bit as hard as Carroll does — and get varying results, from superstar to never seeing the majors. What’s more unique about Carroll is his talent, a combination of his effort and his ability.

When I think of Carroll and what he has meant to Los Angeles, particularly with the frequent injuries to Rafael Furcal, I’m happy for his effort, but I’m plain thankful for his talent, which has made the Dodgers a better team than they’d otherwise have been. If it weren’t for the talent, people would be all too eager to shake hands with Carroll and show him and his grit the door.

May 04

Broxton, Ethier both have elbow concerns

What has seemed so inevitable for some time now has finally come to pass: Jonathan Broxton is hurt.

At the same time comes just about the last thing anyone wanted to think possible: Andre Ethier is also ailing.

Ethier, whose hot start in 2010 ended abruptly almost exactly one year ago with a pinky injury, has been nursing left elbow inflammation for two weeks, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. He was pulled from today’s starting lineup about an hour before gametime.

… Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said an hour or so before removing Ethier from the lineup that Ethier believes the issue might have started during a series more than two weeks ago against the St. Louis Cardinals.

“We’re keeping an eye on it,” Mattingly said. …

Mattingly said before the game that even with the hitting streak on the line, he would have no hesitation to use Ethier as a pinch hitter in a key situation on a day when he wasn’t in the starting lineup.

“No, because we’re trying to win a ballgame,” Mattingly said.

Broxton has been shut down with right elbow pain and will have an MRI exam, reports Jackson:

… Mattingly said no determination will be made on whether to place Broxton on the 15-day disabled list until the results of that exam are known.

Broxton, who apparently already had left Dodger Stadium to undergo the exam, wasn’t available for comment.

“He came in today complaining about some stuff,” said Mattingly, who wasn’t sure how long Broxton had been experiencing discomfort. “I told him it was honorable that he wanted to pitch through that, but that in the end, it doesn’t do him any good. It’s not fair to him, and it’s really not fair to anybody else either.”

Broxton won’t pitch until after the MRI, and Vicente Padilla will be the team’s first-choice closer for now. …

“[Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt] and I were looking at tape,” Mattingly said. “The way the ball was coming out, we felt like something was wrong. We were going to bring him in this morning, but [trainer] Stan [Conte] came in and said Brox came in talking about pain. Brox actually came in with him and told us what was going on.” …

Mattingly said that if Broxton goes on the DL, the team likely will recall reliever Kenley Jansen, who was optioned to Double-A Chattanooga on Sunday.

For all the talk about Broxton’s mental makeup, his biggest brain cramp will have been if he has been keeping his soreness a secret.

Since June 27, Broxton has pitched 42 1/3 innings and allowed 53 hits and 32 walks (6.5 walks per nine innings) while striking out 35 (7.4 per nine innings), for a 7.02 ERA.

From the start of the 2006 season through June 26, 2010, Broxton pitched 336 innings, allowing 254 hits and 119 walks (3.2 walks per nine innings) while striking out 446 (11.9 per nine innings), for a 2.60 ERA.

Ken Gurnick of MLB.com added the following:

Mattingly said one of the immediate issues was to find an MRI tube large enough for Broxton to get his 300-pound frame into.

“I’m serious,” said Mattingly.

Jay Gibbons’ 10-pitch at-bat Tuesday was enough to convince Mattingly he was ready for a start in today’s day game. He was originally slated for left field, then moved to right after Ethier was scratched, with Tony Gwynn, Jr. taking left.

Russ Mitchell also gets his first start, as Jamey Carroll, who has played in 30 of 31 games this season and hasn’t missed an inning since April 18, gets a rest and Juan Uribe moves to shortstop.

That leaves Matt Kemp as the lineup’s main anchor. It’s no 29-game hitting streak, but Kemp has hit in 27 of 31 games this season. His walks have declined, however, to only two in his past 10 games.

Apr 11

Dodgers 6, Giants 1: Matt Kemp is the center of the universe



Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesMatt Kemp and his helmet exult after stealing second base despite a pickoff.

Matt Kemp steals second base despite picking picked off first.

Matt Kemp scores from second on a James Loney line drive off the glove of the second baseman.

Matt Kemp walks for a second time after being down in the count 0-2.

Matt Kemp lines an RBI single that turns left fielder Pat Burrell into a jumping bean, with the ball skipping past him.

Matt Kemp is thrown out at third.

That last one was just to remind us that as long as you’re pushing for Kemp to be aggressive, you’re going to pay the price now and then. Nonetheless, 2011 has returned that Matt Kemp that everyone loves, and his role in the Dodgers’ 6-1 victory Monday over San Francisco was the latest example.

You’ve heard of the eye in the middle of the hurricane? Matt Kemp is the hurricane that surrounds the eye.

Kemp, who went 1 for 2 with two walks, is boasting a .537 on-base percentage and .647 slugging percentage, not to mention a 1.000 stealing percentage on seven tries.

The stolen base was remarkable because the Giants did so much right and so little wrong. San Francisco pitcher Madison Bumgarner threw to first base as Kemp broke for second. First baseman Brandon Belt immediately turned and threw down to short. Miguel Tejada got the ball and put down the tag. And Kemp was just plain ol’ safe.

So Kemp is back to outrunning his occasional mistake rather than eliminating them entirely, but I think we’ll take that trade, especially with the way he looks at the plate. His seventh-inning strikeout was only his fourth in 41 plate appearances this season.

Kemp and Clayton Kershaw fought for the spotlight on Opening Day: Kershaw shone brightest then, and he just as easily could have tonight. He wasn’t untouchable, allowing six hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings, but he always had the right pitch when he needed it. Only one San Francisco baserunner made it past second base – Aubrey Huff with two out in the bottom of the fourth inning – at which point Kershaw annihilated Belt with three fastballs for strikes, the last two swinging.

Kershaw, whose seven strikeouts gave him 24 in 19 2/3 innings this season, faced 11 batters with runners on base tonight. Three of them hit the ball out of the infield: two singles, one flyout. He lowered his 2011 ERA to 1.37 and has now pitched 23 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings against the Giants. (His 117 pitches tonight were one shy of his career high.)

A third hero tonight was second baseman Jamey Carroll, who figures to play more shortstop soon with Rafael Furcal injuring his thumb while stealing third base in the Dodgers’ four-run fifth inning and leaving the game an inning later. Carroll went 3 for 5, raising his on-base percentage for the season to .452. Andre Ethier’s two hits put him at .442, while Rod Barajas hit what at the start of the fifth inning seemed a huge home run, giving the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.

And the slumping Uribe even contributed, going 1 for 4 but also making two nice defensive plays to support Dodger reliever Matt Guerrier in the eighth inning. Mike MacDougal gave up a homer to Burrell in the ninth – Burrell’s third blast in five games against the Dodgers this year.

Colorado rallied for a 7-6 victory against the Mets, so the Dodgers remain in second place, 1 1/2 games back.

* * *

One might say it’s a bit nervy, but then again, what hasn’t been nervy in the McCourt divorce saga? The law firm that drafted the disputed agreement at the center of the court battle between Frank and Jamie McCourt is suing Frank, “asking a Massachusetts court to declare that the firm met its obligations and caused him no loss when it drafted a marital property agreement with his ex-wife.”

As Josh Fisher of Dodger Divorce and Bill Shaikin of the Times note, there’s more to it than that. Shaikin:

… Bingham McCutchen, the Boston-based firm responsible for the since-invalidated agreement that would have granted McCourt sole ownership of the Dodgers, essentially asked a Massachusetts court to deprive McCourt of the chance to sue the firm for malpractice should he lose control of the team.

“Any injury, loss or expense he has sustained or will sustain were caused not by Bingham’s conduct, but by his own widely publicized financial problems, huge withdrawals of cash from the Dodgers, and strained relations with Major League Baseball,” the suit alleges. “None of this is attributable to Bingham’s work.”

The suit also claims McCourt owes Bingham “hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid legal fees.” …

… In a statement, McCourt spokesman Steve Sugerman blamed Bingham for preparing an agreement that did not stand up in court.

“Mr. McCourt is disappointed that the Bingham firm is unwilling to accept responsibility for its actions and is instead now trying to defend conduct that is indefensible,” the statement read. …

Apr 11

Dodgers, Giants come together on field in exceptional ceremony


Eric Risberg/APJeremy Affeldt and Jamey Carroll conclude the on-field ceremony with a handshake.

Monday night’s pregame ceremony by the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers against fan violence, part of a concerted response to the horrible beating of Giants fan Bryan Stow on March 31,  was unprecedented but wonderfully rendered.

Coming after a warm presentation that saw former Giant and current Dodger Juan Uribe receive his World Series ring amid applause and smiles from both teams, the event illustrated how simple it is to embrace a rivalry without being overwhelmed by it.

Dodger and Giants players gathered on the field and paused for a moment of silence on behalf of Stow. Then, Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt took to the microphone and thanked fans of both teams for their support of Stow.

“I don’t think I need to tell you guys about the Dodger-Giants rivalry,” Affeldt said. “It’s one of the most storied rivalries in the history of the game. But in honoring that rivalry, and honoring the Stow family, we ask that you respect the rivalry, and you respect each other as fans. You guys have rights as fans. You guys have the right to cheer. You have rights to wear the black and orange. You have rights to wear Dodger blue. You have rights to be frustrated when one team loses and excited when one team wins.

“We’re fierce competitors, but when the last out is made, that rivalry ends upon the field. So please respect that, and in your excitement or in your frustration, don’t take it out on another fan if you don’t agree with who they cheer for.”

Affeldt then introduced Dodgers infielder Jamey Carroll, whom he called a friend, an ex-teammate, a good husband, a good father and a good human being. Carroll reiterated Affeldt’s gratitude for the support of Stow and his family, as well as the call for perspective.

“There’s nothing better than rivalry in sports,” Carroll said. “And as Jeremy said, this is one of the best that’s out there. And as we do respect each other on the field, we do want you guys to have the same respect.”

Carroll said “competitive banter and passion” were praiseworthy, “but there’s no room in this game for hatred and violence.”

“It is about respect,” Carroll concluded. “It is about civility. This is America’s national pastime, and let’s keep it that way.”

They shook hands.

Feb 07

The Dodgers according to Ned Colletti


Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesNed Colletti is beginning his sixth season as Dodgers general manager. The team has averaged 86 regular-season victories during his tenure.

Ten days.

The Dodgers rose from the basement of the National League West in May to the best record in the league in June, then sat only two games out of first place in the division at the All-Star Break.

Yet as far as Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti was concerned, it was almost a mirage. During an interview at his Dodger Stadium office last week, Colletti fully acknowledged that the Dodgers’ second-half fade, as much as he and everyone else tried to reverse it, came as disturbingly little surprise to him.

Ten days. In Colletti’s view, that’s how long the Dodgers played championship-quality baseball in 2010.

“I think the second half, in a lot of ways, was the result of the first half and the spring,” Colletti said. “I can’t say I had more than a 10-day period where I thought we were truly playing as well as we could play. In ’09, we had a pretty good defense, and we executed, played well in clutch situations, found a way to win games. We really hadn’t done that very much in the first half of the season. And I think it caught up with us in the second half.

“And what I did last year wasn’t acceptable. How I prepared for last year didn’t meet the results that I have for myself.”

The Dodgers will arrive to spring training later this month, in many ways, a different team than a year ago, starting with a greater emphasis on starting pitching that represents Colletti’s most visceral response to his roster concerns from 2010. At the same time, Colletti said the experience the returning core gained from last year’s disappointment has the potential to play a significant, positive role in 2011.

“They’re professional, and this is their livelihood,” he said. “And you believe there’s enough pride and adjustment and education from this past year. A lot of guys haven’t gone through what they’ve gone through in the past year. That will put them in the right place coming in to know it’s got to be better and it’s got to be more focused.

“Because they’ve (succeeded) before, I’m confident. But then, last year was what it was. I’m cautious by nature. I take nothing for granted, at any point in my life at any stage. So I don’t take it for granted that it’s just gonna happen. I think it has to be prepared in order to happen.

Translated, Colletti believes the talent is there but the effort, focus and confidence need to return. He said the offseason preparation “is done to some point, and when you get to camp now it’s going to be up to Don [Mattingly] and his staff to have certain procedures in place and certain accountability set forth. And I obviously have to support that, and they have to buy into it.”

Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire
Matt Kemp had homered once in 31 games prior to hitting one out in each of his final five games of 2010.

Comeback kids?
Despite leading Dodgers regulars on offense, Andre Ethier never fully seemed to recover from the pinky injury he suffered in May and fed doubts about his long-term ability to hit left-handed pitchers (.625 OPS against them in 2010, .681 for his career). James Loney went from decent before the All-Star Break (.803) to disastrous after (.616). Jonathan Broxton’s second-half collapse is as well-documented as anyone’s, and Matt Kemp … well, let’s just say his season could have been the inspiration for what made Linda Blair’s head spin in “The Exorcist.”

The question, Colletti agreed, is which of the players will hit a hurdle in their development in 2010, and which have hit a wall. And it’s a question that’s due for an answer. Mulligans that were handed out last year won’t be found so easily or at all in 2011.

“In the past, I’ve been more patient than open-minded,” Colletti said. “I think that one of the toughest characteristics you have to have in these jobs is patience because everybody expects everything to turn overnight. … It doesn’t work that way. Everybody’s human; these guys are all human. They take maturation, physical maturation, all kinds of processes.

“I won’t be able to be just completely patient with it [this year]. We’re not an old team, but we’re not a team overwhelmed with rookies, either. We have experience, and a lot of our players have been to the postseason at least twice and sometimes three times in the last five years. So it’s there, it’s really kind of going back to that point and being focused about it and passionate about it and tough-minded about it.”

It might surprise people to learn that Colletti seems particularly bullish about Kemp, the target of a radio critique by Colletti in April.

“I think probably from middle of August on, things became a little bit more focused for him,” Colletti said. “He and I had a conversation, probably in August, that was really a man-to-man, heart-to-heart, one-on-one conversation. And I was trying to take some of the weight off. I think he understands it; I think he understands what transpired last year. I think from my conversations this winter, from the last month of the season and this winter, I think he understands more than he did a year ago about himself and about the game, about preparation. So I think he’s got a chance to really have a great year.”

It’s possible Colletti might have said the same thing about Russell Martin, except Martin is no longer around. The circumstances of the Dodgers’ decision to let Martin go rather than offer him salary arbitration weren’t discussed, but Martin’s recent offseason comments about “distractions” that affected him led to a broader comment from Colletti about the difficulty of playing in Los Angeles.

“Sometimes, it’s commitment, prioritization and commitment,” Colletti said. “I read what Russell said, but I don’t know what the true context was or what his underlying thoughts were as to why he said it. … There are a lot of distractions in this city. There’s a lot of different things to be doing, a lot of places your mind can wander off to, but if you’re a professional baseball player, if you’re a Dodger, you’ve got to figure out life. … And it’s not easy to do it.”

Without going into many specifics, Colletti indicated that the ability to play in Los Angeles is a factor in some trades of young players he has made. He called Carlos Santana the prospect he regrets parting with “probably more than anybody” before he added that there were a couple of other guys he would have to wait and see on.

“Again, Los Angeles isn’t for everybody,” Colletti said. “Sometimes we make a move on a player because we know in this environment here, they’re not going to be very good in it.”

Chris Williams/Icon SMI
Jonathan Broxton issued 25 of his 28 walks last season after June 23.

Pitching paradoxes
As for Broxton, count Colletti among those who see his second-half crumble as an issue of confidence, rather than health problems that might have been caused by his 48-pitch tar-and-feathering against the Yankees last June.

“He never complained,” Colletti said. “And at the end, he wasn’t thrilled with it, but I said, ‘Jonathan, I need you to take a complete physical — your arm, your shoulder, your elbow.’ A week to go in the season. And he said, ‘I feel great. I don’t need to do it.’ And I said, ‘I need you to do it.’ So he said, ‘I’ll do it,’ and everything came back clean.”

Colletti is aware of the volatility of relief pitchers, comparing them to great goaltenders who can go through “a month or two where they can’t stop anything.” But this awareness cuts both ways. It leads Colletti to give relievers who have performed in the past long leashes, and it compels him to have as many alternatives on hand as he can, as seen through the acquisitions of set-up men Matt Guerrier and Blake Hawksworth and oblique references to No. 6 starter Vicente Padilla’s potential to close games.

Again, however, Colletti believes that at rock bottom you can often find a trampoline. Look no further than Chad Billingsley, banished from the Dodgers’ starting rotation by the end of 2009 before rising anew last season.

“Most of our young players did not experience a lot of failure as young players, minor leagues [or] early in the big leagues,” Colletti said. “They really didn’t struggle. And when it finally hits you, and you do struggle for whatever reason and you’re doing it in front of 45,000 people in Los Angeles all the time, on television every day, that’s a tough time to struggle for the first time, for the really first time, and be able to come out of it.”

Interestingly, Colletti’s faith in failure recovery played a partial role in what many believe is the Dodgers’ greatest weakness heading into this season: the lack of a bona fide left fielder.

Angst in the outfield
This winter, the Dodgers didn’t bid on the two marquee outfield free agents, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth, and you can safely conclude that was a reflection of their overall contract demands and the Dodgers’ budget. But when it came to alternatives, Colletti was wary of blocking two Dodgers outfield prospects who could each be major league ready a year from now, Trayvon Robinson and Jerry Sands, especially after the experience Robinson had in Jacksonville last summer.

“Robinson last year started off slow in Double-A, and we stayed with him and he figured it out,” Colletti said. “That to me was huge. Because he’s gonna have to figure that out. Because everybody struggles up here.”

There is the caveat that it’s not as if the current Dodgers never struggled in the majors or minors before 2010 – one could easily make the case that they did, but that their subsequent triumphs blotted out the memory. In any event, if he had found a signable veteran outfielder worthy of a multiyear deal, Colletti no doubt would have pulled the trigger. But he does feel optimistic over the long term about what he has.

“If I would have signed a left fielder for three years, who was again not one of those robust guys — I’m not sure there was a guy out there — then I’m really kind of blocking one of those two kids, and I’ve got faith in both of them,” he said. “Hopefully, not this year. Hopefully, it’s a year from now, but I have faith in both that they’ll be able to play and contribute. And actually I told them both that, too, in the fall — I told Trayvon way back in the summertime, ‘It’s important for me to know who you are and how you play. Because you know what, Manny’s not gonna be back next year. And I’ve got to make a decision whether I’m gonna go and tie up his spot for three or four years, or be patient and mix and match for a year and wait for you.’”

Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesCasey Blake had an .895 OPS against lefties last year, .663 against righties.

In the interim, Colletti is under no illusion that he has gold in the third outfield slot, so the Dodgers will essentially play it by ear in the outfield, with Mattingly looking at matchup opportunities for Tony Gwynn Jr., Marcus Thames, Jay Gibbons and Xavier Paul (if he makes the squad), and on an infrequent basis, Casey Blake or Jamey Carroll.

“Right now Matty’s the center fielder,” Colletti said. “Andre’s the right fielder. I want to see what Tony can do offensively. He’ll play as much as the offense allows him, I think … using the whole field, bunting more, figuring out ways to get on base, because his on-base percentage isn’t high even when he hits .270. See if he can become more disciplined at the plate, use his speed more to get on. I don’t expect power out of him. I don’t expect gap power out of him, but I would like to see him get on base a lot more, because if he does it perhaps changes the dynamics in the outfield.

“And in the meantime, I’ve got two guys that can hit, one from the left side and one from the right side — actually two from the left side with X. Paul and Gibbons, and then Thames. … And perhaps they’re five- or six-inning guys, and then you go defense later. But you’ve got two guys that might be able to hit 20 homers between them.”

Third base offers a secondary question for the Dodgers because, while Blake is sure to start against lefties and some righties, no one seems to be beating the drum for him to play 146 games like he did last season. With the Dodgers’ minor leagues fairly thin at second and third base, this time Colletti took the plunge on a multiyear stopgap in Juan Uribe.

“Our system’s produced a lot of guys,” Colletti said. “But except for really [Ivan] DeJesus, we don’t really have a second baseman that’s on the verge of being here. We have a shortstop coming probably in Dee Gordon and after him [Jake] Lemmerman, and right now third base is a bit of an open spot too — we had [Pedro] Baez in the Cal League last year. So Uribe, while the on-base percentage isn’t Moneyball-ish or whatever, the run production is still pretty good, in that he can play second, short or third, and we don’t have anybody that’s going to press him at third for a while, and really De Jesus is trying to transition to play second. I needed somebody I can run out there who’s a big league guy.”

Because of what he sees as a potential benefit to have Uribe play some at the hot corner, Colletti emphasized that De Jesus has a legitimate chance to make the Opening Day roster as a backup infielder. Obviously, someone like Carroll could also make several starts to allow Blake to rest.

In any case, Colletti is aware of how much a juggling act the Dodgers’ everyday lineup has become. Though he has in one sense traded last year’s lack of a fifth starter for this year’s lack of an everyday left fielder or third baseman, Colletti sees the two situations as apples and oranges.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Matt Guerrier, 31, has allowed 11.5 baserunners per nine innings in his career.

Never enough
“You really didn’t have in my mind many choices that were going to be able to play every day,” Colletti said. “We had to fix the pitching first, and we had to upgrade the bullpen if we could.

“You can’t finesse pitching. Maybe a day here or there, but you need to have it. And the list [of available pitchers], we were kind of picking near the top of the list, even though it isn’t sexy to say you signed Ted [Lilly] or Hiroki [Kuroda], it’s not necessarily ‘wow,’ but it’s solid. It gave us a little bit of depth. So we had to start there. The kid from Minnesota, Guerrier, is gonna be a good add for us. He’s pitched in a lot of big games; he’s always had positive results.

“It’s the most volatile group, but once [Joaquin] Benoit got three years and [$16.5 million], that’s what people expect to get … and if you really need a guy, sometimes you have to go the extra distance to go and get him.”

Add together the total commitments the Dodgers made to their free-agent signees of this past offseason, and you barely pass the total value of Adrian Beltre’s deal by itself, while falling short of the Crawford or Werth contracts. And like it or not, Colletti was not going to enter another season shy on pitching or dependent on unproven rookies such as James McDonald or Scott Elbert.

“I was apprehensive all winter long last year” Colletti said of the starting pitching. “I knew we were short going in; I knew we weren’t going to be able to rally it. In the spring, J-Mac and Scotty both struggled. We may have sent them both out early, in fact, because they couldn’t throw strikes; they were all over the board. So right from the beginning, I knew we were going to be short. I didn’t know how we were gonna mix and match, and we couldn’t afford an injury certainly.”

If there’s an ongoing concern on everyone’s minds, it’s how the Frank McCourt ownership crisis is affecting spending on the team on the field. You can argue that different owners might have allowed Colletti to sign one big-ticket free agent in addition to shoring up the pitching, but Colletti doesn’t contend that the divorce itself is having an impact on personnel.

He also makes the case, as McCourt did a year ago, that the Dodgers are aiming to spend more money to deepen their prospect population.

Farm aid
“We’ve had basically the same [major-league] payroll,” Colletti said. “Though we dipped a little bit last year, we’re coming back this year. It’s not really how much you have, it’s where you spend it. We do have to get better at international signings; we have to reinvest there. I think we’ve let Venezuela slip for a few years, and we’ve made some changes in the staffing.

“We’ve done a decent job in the D.R. [Dominican Republic] — not what we did 25 years ago, but with all due respect, 25 years ago there wasn’t 30 teams down there, either. So, it’s not like we could just cherry-pick the players we want like we probably did at the outset of the country opening up to having players signed. But we do have to get better at that to support our player development system. It’s been fruitful. Obviously, a lot of players are in the big leagues now that we drafted, but we have to keep flowing, and they have to keep getting better. I know we’ve hit a touchable lull right now and I think we’re probably a year or two away from having another group come forward.”

[+] EnlargeZach Lee

Chris Carlson/APLogan White escorts newly signed Zach Lee in his Dodger Stadium visit in August.

Colletti didn’t rule out the Dodgers’ top draft choice of 2010, Zach Lee — whose signing shocked most baseball observers — being part of the Dodgers’ graduating class of 2012. Amid the height of McCourt tensions, Lee received a $5.25 million signing bonus, a record for a Dodgers’ draft pick. The previous record-holder, Clayton Kershaw, reached the majors less than two calendar years after he was picked, and Lee could do the same.

“We really liked this kid,” Colletti said. “We really liked his makeup, his demeanor, his abilities, athleticism, his toughness. … Not only are the physical skills different than most kids you see, but the way his mind works is different … probably from playing at the highest levels at a couple of sports, including going to LSU for a summer and having that experience, which as long as he didn’t get hurt it didn’t bother me.”

Colletti’s hope is that the Dodgers’ minor league pitchers drafted in previous years allow Lee as much time as he needs to develop. There was an epidemic of setbacks among the farm system’s arms in 2010 — so many that if Colletti wants to see who can overcome hurdles, wish granted.

“It’s concerning to me,” he said. “Probably a lot of the guys that we could both probably name should be a year farther along than they are. They’ve all struggled with command. … Some are converted players, some weren’t pitchers necessarily in high school or college. So they’re still learning that.

Curing the epidemic
And to circle back to the beginning of our piece, in some ways, older players never stop learning and developing. Witness Colletti’s additional assessment of the contagion that struck the Dodgers’ offense in 2010:

“I think hitters sometimes without results start to get impatient, so they start to chase out of the zone,” he said. “They’re trying to build more offensive numbers in a quicker period of time and so they’re not as diligent to work the count, and all that stuff starts to compound through the course of it. … When people are starting to slump, sometimes it produces more guys that go in that direction than less. And that’s what started to happen. It started to spiral where one guy struggled and then two. And then the third guy saw the other two and then he struggled, and it continued to mount.”

Alex Gallardo/APDavey Lopes will switch to a Dodgers’ uniform for the first time since Game 6 of the 1981 World Series.

When you take Colletti’s view of what went wrong with the Dodgers last year and what’s needed to make it right, it makes sense that he sees one of the most promising offseason moves as one that even some jaded Dodgers fans embraced: the hiring of Davey Lopes as a coach.

“I’ve known him a long time and I’ve admired him,” Colletti said. “You know, I was with him in Chicago when he was still a player and I’ve certainly watched him from the other side of the field when he managed and when he was coaching. And I think what he brings here is — you’re talking about first — someone who was an iconic Dodger who understands Los Angeles and understands the Dodgers and was here during one of the greatest periods in our franchise’s history. That’s important.

“What he did in Philly with baserunning and defense and fine-tuning that position, the first-base coaching position, to make it a far more valuable position to the organization, is something we noticed. And I think he’s going to have a great impact on our club. I think there are some players that could turn their game up a notch with his instruction, with his thought process. I think, while it’s a coaching position, I think it’s a huge addition for this franchise.”

Will a new manager, new coaches, new players and new spirits be enough to right the Dodgers’ ship? It’s too soon to say, but if the Dodgers are to play more than 10 days of great baseball in 2011, Colletti will expect to see strong signs of it before Opening Day arrives.

Dec 10

Should Jamey Carroll start for the ’11 Dodgers?


Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireIn 2010, Jamey Carroll had an OBP of .375 against lefties and .380 against righties.

Last season, the Dodgers had seven players with an on-base percentage of at least .330 and a minimum of 100 plate appearances. Three of those players (Manny Ramirez, Russell Martin, Blake DeWitt) are gone, a fourth is the oft-injured Rafael Furcal, and a fifth (A.J. Ellis) will be at best a part-timer trying to prove that he wasn’t a one-month wonder.

That leaves Andre Ethier and Jamey Carroll. This short post is about Carroll.

Carroll, arguably the Dodgers’ third-string second-baseman when 2010 began, ended up becoming an almost shockingly pivotal player for the team, posting a career-high .379 OBP at age 36. Career highs at age 36 scream fluke, but the late-blooming Carroll does have a career OBP of .355 and has reached that level four of the past five years.

That .355 is still better than almost anyone else on the roster can offer. There’s Ethier and, depending how much they play, Furcal and Ellis. James Loney’s career OBP is in the ballpark at .348. Casey Blake was at .363 in 2009, before falling to .320 last year. Matt Kemp hasn’t been at that level since 2007, and Juan Uribe has never come close.

Blake and Uribe, who play Carroll’s two primary positions, offer power that Carroll can’t touch, but in terms of overall offensive value, Carroll actually had the better 2010, whether you look at Baseball Prospectus’ total average (Carroll .283, Blake .267, Uribe .266) or Fangraph’s wOBA (Carroll .329, Uribe .322, Blake .317). And then there’s this idle thought: He’s probably not a worse outfielder than Jay Gibbons would be, though I tend to doubt a playoff team starts a Carroll in left.

What this means for 2011, I don’t know. Carroll turns 37 in February. Assuming no other major acquisitions for the Dodger infield, Carroll will probably start the season on the bench, serving as a pinch-hitter, defensive replacement and spot starter until someone gets hurt. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Carroll actually was deserving of a starting spot somewhere in that 2011 Dodger lineup, depending at least in part on whether Blake is in a faster decline. In particular, Carroll might be a good No. 2 hitter behind Furcal, helping him set up Ethier, Kemp, Loney, Uribe and the rest.

We’ll see how things look in March …

* * *

  • Savvy post over at True Blue L.A. this morning, in which that site’s denizens decipher clues about the Dodger roster from a picture of Juan Uribe with a whiteboard listing the Dodger roster in the background. Included in the sleuthing: 1) George Sherrill (headed for Atlanta on a $1.2 million contract) was long gone from the Dodgers minds before Russell Martin and Trent Oeltjen, 2) J.D. Closser and Jon Huber look like they’re getting non-roster invitations to Spring Training, 3) as Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness noticed, John Lindsey, sadly, might be the next player to come off the team.
  • Madison Square Garden is going to buy the Fabulous Great Western L.A. Forum, according to Billboard.biz (via L.A. Observed).
  • Bill Plaschke of the Times uses Carl Crawford signing with Boston to argue that no one wants to play baseball in Los Angeles anymore, ignoring the mountain of evidence to the contrary. At first, it appears Plaschke is talking only about $100 million players, but then he brings up names like Todd Zeile and you have to ask, did Plaschke not see (for example) Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda basically skip free agency to sign at less competitive rates with the Dodgers just in the past six weeks?
  • Charley Steiner is getting an honorary doctorate from his alma mater at Bradley, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Not to overload on Clayton Kershaw’s wedding, but Vin Scully Is My Homeboy has wedding dance video. The kid’s got some moves!