Aug 09

Uribe is home free

Jerry Sands’ latest stay in Los Angeles has turned out to be ever-so-brief, as the Dodgers have sent him back to Albuquerque — where he will meet up with Tony Gwynn Jr., who cleared waivers and accepted a minor-league assignment — to make room on the Dodger roster for Adam Kennedy coming off the disabled list.

The moves mean that with 23 days to go until MLB active rosters can expand to 40, Juan Uribe is probably going to defy Damocles’ dagger and remain a Dodger though the end of next season and, presumably, on into 2013. This is the case even though Uribe has only three plate appearances in the past 17 days.

One position-player move that remains for the Dodgers to make is the potential activation of Dee Gordon from the disabled list if he’s ready before September 1, but at this point, I expect the Dodgers would send Gordon or Luis Cruz to the minors for a brief time and then recall the player when rosters widen (or just keep Gordon on the DL until then).  As far as I can tell, the breaking point with Uribe for 2012 has come and gone.

Cruz, by the way, is in a 3-for-22 slump with one walk, lowering his 2012 on-base percentage to .286 (nearly identical to Gordon’s .280) and his slugging percentage to .385. According to Baseball Prospectus’ True Average statistic, which factors in baserunning, Cruz is at .245 compared to Gordon’s .224. Cruz, four years older, might be a better player than Gordon right now, but I still am interested in seeing how Gordon can develop, even if the next opportunity doesn’t come until next year.

* * *

  • Bobby Abreu has also cleared waivers, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. He can accept a minor-league assignment like Gwynn, or become a free agent.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. got a great shoutout from T.J. Simers of the Times.

    … MATTINGLY LIKES to joke that truebluela.com’s Eric Stephen knows more about the Dodgers than anyone else in the media.

    “Go ahead, Eric,” I tell him after Mattingly speaks highly of Stephen again, “ask him about some minor leaguer.”

    “All right, I’ll ask about Juan Rivera,” says Stephen …

  • In his review of the Dodgers’ second 54 games of the 2012 season, Stephen highlights how severe the team’s offensive dropoff was, player by player.
  • James Loney should really, seriously, consider converting to pitching, argues Evan Bladh of Opinion of Kingman’s Performance.
  • Bluetopia, the 2009 movie about the Dodgers and their fans in which I had a brief appearance, will be screened August 16 at the Craft and Folk Art Museum, which has an ongoing baseball exhibition this summer. A Q&A with director Tim Marx follows.
  • One of my favorite baseball articles of the season comes from Russell A. Carleton of Baseball Prospectus, for which he dramatizes how much more difficult the job of baseball manager is than we typically comprehend.
Aug 06

Dodgers shed Gwynn, recall Sands

The Dodgers have parted ways with Tony Gwynn Jr., designating him for assignment while calling up Jerry Sands to add some power off the bench.

Gwynn, whose defensive skills were marginalized after Shane Victorino was acquired, had a .570 OPS this season and had a .209 on-base percentage in his past 110 plate appearances. In addition to his $850,000 salary this year, Gwynn is guaranteed $1.15 million in 2013.

Sands, in his past 23 games with Albuquerque, has a .438 on-base percentage and .733 slugging percentage.

Interestingly, this was not the only Sands news I received in the past 10 minutes. The following press release also arrived:

What do famous celebrities such as: Charlie Sheen, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Robert Downey Jr, Shaun White, Britney Spears, Ryan O’Neal and foreign royalty have in common with the rest of us? The obvious answer is not much, but the truth is that everyone has equal access to one of the most successful cosmetic dentist in the nation; Beverly Hills cosmetic dentist of choice, Dr. Kevin Sands. …

Update: There’s more, from the Times — “Justice Department investigates Las Vegas Sands Corp.”

Jul 29

Sands’ slams top a great day on the farm

The Dodgers’ happy Sunday extended down to the minor leagues, where Jerry Sands hit two grand slams in the first four innings for Albuquerque in the second game of a doubleheader.

In addition, Ted Lilly and Rubby De La Rosa each had successful rehabilitation outings, taking steps toward rejoining the active roster sometime in August. The pair combined for five shutout innings with four strikeouts.

May 14

Dodgers undefeated without Kemp

It’s happened: Matt Kemp is on the disabled list. Moments after his 399-game consecutive playing streak ended with the final out of the Dodgers’ 3-1 victory over Arizona tonight, Kemp was officially sidelined for two more weeks. Jerry Sands will replace him on the active roster, giving the Dodgers an outfield of Andre Ethier, Tony Gwynn Jr., Bobby Abreu, Scott Van Slyke and Sands.

Three Opening Day starters (Kemp, Juan Rivera and Juan Uribe) and top reserve Jerry Hairston Jr. are on the Dodger disabled list now. Obviously, the big one is Kemp. The Dodgers are a major-league best 24-11 right now, with a bigger lead over the second-place Giants than the National League Central and East leaders have over the last-place teams in their divisions, but I think most Dodger fans would be thrilled if Los Angeles can play even .500 ball for the next 14 games, or however long Kemp is out.

If they can do that, or better, it will probably be through large doses of defense, pitching and Andre Ethier.

* * *

In December 2010, shortly after Gwynn signed with the Dodgers, I suggested that they might be better off moving Kemp to a corner outfield slot and starting Gwynn in center field to maximize his principal defining skill – his defense. That didn’t happen, but with Kemp hobbled, we’ve really seen what Gwynn can offer. A day after making a flung-out catch in center, Gwynn made a tremendous throw – against his body – to nail A.J. Pollock at home in the third inning.

The Dodgers are putting on defensive shows almost on a game-by-game basis. Just in the final three innings tonight, there were four outstanding plays. James Loney backhanded a sharp grounder by Pollock in the seventh. Mark Ellis ranged to the shortstop side of second base to flag a Willie Bloomquist grounder in the eighth.

And in the ninth, on consecutive batters, Loney leaned over the railing to backhand a pop fly by Paul Goldschmidt (who almost popped out for the cycle tonight), and then Justin Sellers tumbled into the stands after making a full-bore catch of a foul by Miguel Montero. (Watch the great reactions by Gwynn and Ethier to Sellers’ catch on the replay.) Kenley Jansen then drew a third pop fly from Ryan Roberts to close out the game.

It so happens that Loney has been on a bit of a hitting upswing, with a 1.092 OPS in his past six games, but even when he isn’t hitting, his defense is so strong that I find it easier to rationalize his place in the lineup.

* * *

Ridiculous statement of the night: Clayton Kershaw was not at his sharpest as he threw seven innings of shutout ball. I should be struck by lightning for saying anything of the sort, but it’s really an example of how good Kershaw could be that I notice, for example, when he’s 78 pitches in to the game and he’s thrown only 44 strikes.

Putting aside his retaliatory brushback pitch against Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy, Kershaw didn’t seem to have complete command for much of the game, but aside from the Gwynn play, he didn’t allow a runner to reach third base until two out in the seventh. Kershaw then struck out Cody Ransom, the man who sent Kershaw to his shocking final loss of 2011, and left with a 3-0 lead, having allowed four singles and three walks in 108 pitches while striking out six.

His ERA is 2.22. Man, just wait until Kershaw gets his act together …

* * *

So, is this Andre Ethier’s team now? With Kemp out, Ethier is the lone remaining established threat in the Dodger lineup.

One year ago today, against Arizona, Ethier reached base for the 37th consecutive game. His streak ended the following day. Could it be that on this anniversary, he is poised for an even more significant achievement – keeping the Dodgers above water while Kemp is out?

Tonight, Ethier was up to the challenge. He came just short of a three-run home run in the third inning, then gave the Dodgers some breathing room, doubling their one-run lead, with a no-doubter solo blast that nearly one-hopped its way out of the bleachers in the sixth.

In the shadow of Kemp, Ethier has quietly put together a .368 on-base percentage, .592 slugging percentage and .960 OPS in 2012. Long gone are the days when it was believed Ethier needed Manny Ramirez behind him to succeed.

* * *

The game was sparsely attended, but it was a lovely night at the ballpark.

Apr 24

Castellanos/Van Slyke/Sands postscript

Christopher Jackson, who covers the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque for the Albuquerque Baseball Examiner, stopped by the Dodger Thoughts comments Monday and offered the following reaction to my post about Scott Van Slyke, Jerry Sands and Alex Castellanos.

Castellanos is not ready for the big leagues. He can chew up and spit out the lousy pitching in the PCL, but he is very prone to chasing stuff on the outside part of the plate. Big-league pitchers will eat him alive, a la Sands last year with the inside pitches. The good news is Castellanos knows he’s not ready. I asked him if he’d heard the rumors people were tossing about when Uribe was hurting, and he told me everyone’s getting ahead of themselves. He knows for his development that a full season (or at least close to a full season) at Triple-A is a must. And no, folks, he’s not going to solve the 3B dilemma. The Dodgers are focused on him playing 2B, period.

Van Slyke, besides being one of the funniest guys on the team (his stories about life in baseball as a kid are outstanding), is a solid hitter and someone I could see going up to the big leagues in the second half. He can hit to all fields, he will take pitches at the plate and defensively he seems fine in the outfield (first base, well, there’s a reason the Dodgers moved him off there this spring).

Sands and the Topes’ coaching staff are confident he can turn things around, but lordy, that boy seems stubborn. They tell him “lay off the first pitch” and he goes up and swings away from the start. In most games his early plate appearances are hard to watch, then he starts to settle down. I think if anything he’s trying too hard; he’s overthinking at the plate. It’s frustrating for everyone involved, and you want to root for the guy since he is a good kid. You just wonder that if he can’t turn things around in the next month or so what the Dodgers are going to do. They want him to succeed, they need him to succeed, but right now …

Oh, and best bet for first Tope to be called up: Scott Rice. The kid is legit as a lefty reliever. Might spare you all from MacDougal/Coffey sooner rather than later.

Jackson is on Twitter: @TopesWriter.

Apr 23

Castellanos hot, but Van Slyke might make better case for callup

Braves at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, LF
James Loney, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Chris Capuano, P

So, are you wondering about Alex Castellanos? If not, should you be?

The Dodgers’ hottest high-level minor-league hitter is Castellanos, who has a .483 on-base percentage and .757 slugging percentage for Albuquerque this year. His numbers have actually been better on the road, so while you have to take Pacific Coast League stats into account, it’s safe to say he’s been doing some of this on his own.

It’s hard to believe the lopsided Los Angeles lineup couldn’t use a guy like Castellanos, but the situation is a bit complicated. The 25-year-old has spent this year being converted to second base, which is not one of the Dodgers’ trouble spots right now. Mark Ellis has a .730 OPS (111 OPS+) and has been fielding well. You might make a case that Castellanos would provide an offensive boost, though I’m not so sure — but in any case, I’m not sure anyone would be ready for a double-play combo of Castellanos and Dee Gordon.

Castellanos hasn’t played a professional game at third base since 2009 — not even this year, when the Dodgers have had such uncertainty at the position. So I think you can dismiss the idea of him being called up to play there.

Left field, on the other hand, is a different story. Castellanos has spent most of his pro career in the outfield (albeit in right), while Juan Rivera is very quietly off to a start notably worse than the more publicized James Loney. Rivera has a .298 on-base percentage and .314 slugging percentage and provides none of Loney’s defensive value — indeed, Tony Gwynn Jr. comes off the bench at the earliest opportunity to replace Rivera.  In the heart of the order, whether batting between or after Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, the 33-year-old Rivera is problematic to say the least, and when he comes out, that leaves Gwynn (or, in case of a double switch, a relief pitcher) in the meat of the lineup.

That’s not to say Rivera might not kick it into gear offensively starting tonight, but essentially we saw last summer the best that he can provide, and we know it doesn’t last long. He’s broken a .750 OPS in a full season once since 2006.

Now, we wouldn’t even be having a Rivera conversation had Jerry Sands not had a miserable March, which happens to have been followed by a miserable April (.316 OBP, .318 slugging so far with the Isotopes). Sands reminds us how hit-and-miss the leap from Triple-A stardom to the majors can be.

So the question is, do you call up Castellanos for a role that would push Rivera to the bench, where the latter might be a decent No. 1 pinch-hitter against lefties (not surprisingly, he hits them better than righties)? I think that depends on how you view the Dodgers’ future at second base. If Castellanos truly can learn to hold down that position, that would ultimately make him more valuable to the franchise, which is fairly thin in middle-infield talent. But when would he get to play there? Ellis is signed through the end of 2013, but he turns 35 in June. If he wears down, the Dodgers might need to replace him this summer, but if he pulls a Jamey Carroll, the Dodgers might not need a new second baseman for two years.

Here’s what I might recommend:

Though he’s not quite at Castellanos levels this year, 25-year-old Scott Van Slyke with little fanfare has followed his outstanding 2011 by starting strong in 2012: .443 OBP, .600 slugging and more walks than strikeouts. Try Van Slyke in left field, Rivera on the bench and Adam Kennedy on an outbound train (with Justin Sellers and Jerry Hairston Jr. picking up the infield time taken by Kennedy, whose signing to a guaranteed contract this past winter never made sense). That gives Van Slyke a taste of the majors and the Dodgers hope for increased production in left field and off the bench, while buying time for Castellanos to continue to grow acquainted with second base and for Sands to figure out what’s gone wrong.

Calling up Van Slyke has a pretty good chance of making the Dodgers better in the short term and the long term. What’s not to like?

(Footnote: Castellanos came to the Dodgers in exchange for Rafael Furcal, who is for the time being hale and hearty. Furcal leads the National League with eight doubles and has a .423 OBP and .523 slugging in 72 healthy-for-now plate appearances in 2012.)

Mar 13

Bandersnatch!

‘Twas brillig for our suddenly slithy toves the Dodgers, who had only made three errors all spring but got three errors from their shortstops alone today, accounting for two unearned runs in a 5-2 loss to Colorado.

Jerry Hairston Jr. did gyre and gimble in the wabe, making two of the errors while going 0 for 2. The poor day raised questions among the Jabberwock about whether Hairston could rise to the occasion should something decidedly unmimsy happen to Dee Gordon (who also made an error today). To which I offer these uffish thoughts:

1) One game is one game.
2) The plan to confine superior defensive shortstop Juan Uribe to third base isn’t all that likely to hold throughout the season.
3) Justin Sellers is likely to be the true backup shortstop at this point, whether he’s in the majors or the minors, so why so slithy?

Taking the vorpal blade of that last point, there’s surprise being expressed that Jerry Sands might not make the Opening Day roster and will instead be sent to rest by the Tumtum tree. Nonsense. Sands needed something of a perfect storm to come whiffling through the tulgey wood April 5: a solid spring at the plate combined with legitimate fears that Andre Ethier, James Loney or Juan Rivera wouldn’t be everyday players. But we knew all along that all three of those veterans were being handed those jobs to lose, and that Sands might easily be marginalized come the frabjous day.

* * *

  • Sandy Koufax could testify at the Bernie Madoff-related New York Mets trial, reports The Associated Press.
  • Larry Granillo explores a scary on-field 1969 incident involving Jesus Alou at Baseball Prospectus.
  • Monday in Jon SooHoo: Matt Kemp and young fan.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: Orel Hershiser and a pre-6-foot-8 Jordan Hershiser.
Feb 23

Braun news threatens to overshadow Sands’ Carlos Perez story

Ryan Braun won the appeal of his drug suspension. I’ll let the reaction of Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra stand in for mine.

In almost all cases, the people who say that someone “got off on a technicality” or took advantage of a “loophole” really mean “I think the SOB was guilty and because of that I don’t care if the proper safeguards and protocols were followed!”  It’s a ridiculous stance.

Ridiculous because procedures such as chain of custody and the proper handling of samples — which were not followed in Braun’s case — exist for a reason. That reason is not, contrary to popular grunting, to make it harder for decent prosecutors or authorities to do their jobs. It’s to ensure the integrity of the system. And, in this case, the integrity of the sample. Every detail that is not adhered to presents another opportunity for a sample to be tainted, lost or otherwise compromised. When that happens the test itself is, by definition, unreliable and any reference to what it may or may not have shown is utterly beside the point. …

There’s more in Calcaterra’s post, one I urge you to read in its entirety. Between this chain-of-custody failure and the missing staple that was key to the McCourt divorce case, baseball appears to be ripping off Law and Order plot devices.

I’d like to think this will end the talk that there should be a re-vote of the National League Most Valuable Player award, but perhaps that’s still too optimistic.

* * *

Jerry Sands provided a lot of good copy for Dodger beat writers today, as these stories from Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A and Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com show.

The bulk of it consisted of fun anecdotes about Sands working as a substitute teacher over the winter, but my favorite part was this, from Stephen:

… Sands got married on November 19, then spent a month in the Dominican Republic, hitting .250/.325/.375 in 20 games with the Tigres de Licey in winter league ball, where he was teammates with 40-year old former Dodgers pitcher and water cooler destroyer Carlos Perez.

Sands said Perez was in something like his 20th year in the Dominican Winter League, and joked that management said of the pitcher, “We keep telling him not to come back, but every year he keeps showing up in the clubhouse.” …

* * *

The Dodgers had a few roster moves today.

They claimed 26-year-old outfielder Matt Angle off waivers from Baltimore. Angle had a .599 OPS in 95 plate appearances for the Orioles in 2011 and a .692 OPS in Triple-A, his skills mainly being incredible basestealing ability (38 for 42 at the two levels combined) and defense. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness has more on Angle, who is on the 40-man roster but will begin the season in the minors.

Rubby De La Rosa was placed on the 60-day disabled list to make room for Angle.

Also, righty reliever Jose Ascanio failed his physical and won’t participate in Spring Training for the Dodgers. has left Dodger camp after failing his physical on Tuesday. From the Dodger Thoughts 2012 Spring Training Primer:

The 26-year-old allowed five runs on 12 baserunners in 6 1/3 innings for Pittsburgh last year and has a career 5.28 ERA in 46 MLB innings. However, he did strike out 50 in 44 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis in his first significant action since recovering from late-2009 shoulder surgery. So he sounds qualified for an Albuquerque stint.

* * *

  • Arizona offered Hiroki Kuroda $13 million for 2012, $3 million more than the contract he signed with the Yankees, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
  • Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven posted a bevy of vintage Dodger photos available at Legendary Auctions.
  • EAS Sports Nutrition has a contest that will provide the winner and a friend airfare to Phoenix, hotel, rental car and tickets for two Spring Training games over the March 16-18 weekend.
Feb 08

Interview: De Jon Watson looks at Dodger prospects

Though the Dodger farm system certainly has its less fallow spots, it also certainly has its fertile areas, which were enough for ESPN.com’s Keith Law to rank it 12th in the majors, higher than I’ve seen elsewhere.

For a closer look at some of the Dodger developing prospects, I interviewed Dodger assistant general manager in charge of player development De Jon Watson recently for a piece that is running in full at ESPNLosAngeles.com. Here’s how it begins …

The patchwork roster surrounding established Los Angeles Dodgers stars like Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw this year would hint at a dearth of minor league chips to play with, but De Jon Watson would encourage you to ante up.

The Dodgers’ assistant general manager in charge of player development has more than a poker hand’s worth of serious starting pitcher candidates rising through the system, and would even argue for a few wild cards among the position players.

“It’s been good stuff, man,” Watson said of the franchise’s depth at starting pitcher. “Our kids are coming. It’s great to have that type of competition. … If you have a hiccup or someone goes down for a little bit, you have a legitimate option waiting in the wings. The key is being as sharp as they can possibly be when that opportunity arises so you really don’t miss a beat.”

That doesn’t change the Dodgers’ pattern of leaning toward veterans at the start of the season. With Hiroki Kuroda leaving as a free agent and the team’s 2010 minor league pitcher of the year, Rubby De La Rosa, recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers signed Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano rather than hand a starting rotation slot to Nathan Eovaldi, who had a 3.09 ERA in six starts at age 21 late last summer.

Shortstop Dee Gordon is the only 2011 Dodgers rookie who has the inside track on a starting spot with the team this season. Gordon, who had 24 stolen bases in 56 games and a .325 on-base percentage (.398 in September), will look to capitalize on his hot finish.

“The biggest thing to look for from him is going to be his on-base percentage,” Watson said, “because his speed is going to change how they pitch to the guy that’s behind him. He’s going to apply pressure both from an offensive standpoint and a defensive standpoint for the opponent. So he has to get on base. For us, his key is understanding what type of hitter he is, understanding the strike zone.” …

In addition to Eovaldi, De La Rosa and Gordon, Watson also provides a status report on Jerry Sands, Zach Lee, Garret Gould, Allen Webster, Chris Withrow, Shawn Tolleson, Steven Ames, Scott Van Slyke, Alex Castellanos, Chris Reed and Pedro Baez.

Hope you enjoy reading the full story

Continue reading

Dec 02

Remembering 2011: Jerry Sands


Kelvin Kuo/US PresswireJerry Sands (44)

The setup: The Dodgers’ top minor-league hitter in 2010 (with a .395 on-base percentage, .586 slugging percentage and 35 homers in 590 plate appearances combined at Single-A Great Lakes and Double-A Chattanooga), Sands was in position to make his big-league debut in 2011. His timetable depended on his continued development in Triple-A and the effectiveness of the Jay Gibbons-Marcus Thames-Tony Gwynn Jr. left-field combo.

The closeup: Much sooner than expected, on April 18, Sands was called up as Xavier Paul was designated for assignment. That night, Sands had an RBI double in his first major-league at-bat, one of 10 doubles he had in his first 87 plate appearances. He had a three-hit game April 25, a four-hit game May 22 and a grand slam May 24, his second home run in four games. Following the slam, however, Sands slumped, going 3 for 33 with two walks and no extra-base hits. With Gibbons, Thames and Gwynn making a rare simultaneous appearance on the active roster, the decision was made June 9 to send Sands back to Albuquerque, where he could not only play every day but work on some long-term adjustments with his swing.

Sands did take a step back as he redeveloped himself, with his Isotopes OPS falling to .670 during July, but after August 1 he had a .900 OPS with 11 homers in 33 games in Triple-A. Then, when he came back to the Dodgers in September, Sands kind of caught fire, batting .342 (25 for 73) with a .415 on-base percentage, .493 slugging, .908 OPS, eight walks, five more doubles and two home runs.

He finished his rookie Dodger season on his 24th birthday, with a .338 on-base percentage, .389 slugging percentage and 15 doubles in 227 plate appearances.

Coming attractions: With only four home runs in the majors, Sands still has something to prove in the power department, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t right now the franchise’s third-best outfielder behind Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Rivera, who received millions from the Dodgers this offseason, had an OPS in Los Angeles of .740 last year compared to Sands’ .727 – you tell me how you think those will trend next year.

Nevertheless, pending the official signing of a 2012 contract by James Loney, there’s no place in the regular 2012 Dodger lineup for Sands. At best, he could platoon against left-handed pitchers with Ethier or Loney, if the Dodgers had the cutthroat approach to play things that way with two of their longtime starters. Sands went 22 for 60 with seven walks, seven doubles and three homers for a 1.066 OPS against lefties for the Dodgers.

Otherwise, it seems quite possible that Sands will begin 2012 as he began 2011 – in the minors, waiting for an opening – but with more confidence that he can handle the promotion once it arrives.

Oct 25

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

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

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

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

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

We have been down this road before …

Dodger Thoughts, April 27:

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

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

Dodger Thoughts, July 22:

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

  • A “treasure trove” of records of the Philadelphia A’s has been found, notes Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk, and are “now in the hands of a historian who is making a big documentary about Connie Mack.”
Oct 07

Ned Colletti talks about 2012

Dodger general manager Ned Colletti gave a long interview to Jim Bowden for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Some highlights:

…Matt Kemp is a priority, and I plan on getting with his agent, Dave Stewart, and will work diligently in trying to work out a long-term deal with Matt. There is some urgency because he’ll be a free agent at the end of the 2012 season if they don’t sign him long term now. Clayton Kershaw’s situation is not as urgent because he’s only first-time arbitration eligible and won’t be a free agent until after the 2014 season. That doesn’t mean we won’t have conversations and listen, and if we can make a deal that makes sense, we will be open to it — but not with the same urgency as Kemp.

… We will entertain signing (Andre Ethier) as well, but he’s coming off an injury and a subpar season. … I am not inclined to trade any player that is a key player to our major league club right now, and he fits that category.

… We really need a middle-of-the-lineup impact bat, which would be a very key component to us winning next year. We need to figure out second base. Carroll and Miles are free agents. Right now we have the two young players in Sellers and Ivan DeJesus that we might let compete for that job next year. We need to figure out left field as well, but we’re leaning towards Jerry Sands, especially after the way he finished this season with us. Behind the plate, we’ll probably let Tim Federowicz and A.J. Ellis handle the duties. They are both good catch-and-throw receivers. If Federowicz can hit .240 with some power, he can be an everyday catcher.

… And finally, although we’re pleased with our deep young bullpen, we’d still be open to signing another veteran reliever, but that would be a low priority based on our other team needs.

… We have a need in the middle of our lineup, and if we could do the right deal with a player in terms of duration and money, we would be willing to do it. We have flexibility if we keep catcher, second base, shortstop and left field as non-arbitration eligible players like we have now, then it is definitely possible that we could afford to spend the money on a significant middle-of-the-order bat.

… Kuroda has bought a house in Los Angeles and both of his daughters go to school here. He is an extremely loyal person to both the Dodgers and the city of Los Angeles and really doesn’t want to play anywhere else. We hope he decides to stay here because he’s a very important part of our rotation and clubhouse.

… Our best prospects in our system right now are mostly pitching prospects, led by Zach Lee, who pitched at the Midwest league this past season but has a chance to be special. Allen Webster and Shawn Tolleson are two other top pitching prospects. Tolleson was our minor league pitcher of the year and a close friend of Clayton Kershaw. Steve Ames is another bullpen arm that we could see as early as next season. Chris Lee, our first round pick from Stanford, of course, is also special, and we’re going to try to develop him as a starter.

… We’re a lot closer to winning than people realize. If we had gotten just the typical offensive contributions this year from James Loney, Andre Ethier and Juan Uribe, who knows how many games we could have won. But injuries and subpar seasons are just part of the game. If we can make a few key moves this offseason and solve some of the question marks on this team that we’ve just been talking about, I really believe this club can finish in first in 2012.

There’s more, so be sure to read the whole interview, as well as Tony Jackson’s five key offseason questions and Ramona Shelburne’s own interview with Colletti.

Also, don’t miss the Kamenetzky Brothers’ podcast with “Breaking Bad” star and longtime Dodger fan Bryan Cranston.

Aug 26

Minutia, Minushka

Catching up on some news …

  • Kenley Jansen has been activated from the disabled list. Josh Lindblom was sent to Double-A Chattanooga, where he will bide his time until he can return, in 10 days when rosters expand or sooner if there’s another Dodger injury.
  • Dee Gordon was scheduled to begin a minor-league rehabilitation assignment, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, but Gordon did not play Thursday. It does not appear that the Dodgers will wait until when rosters expand September 1 to activate Gordon, which would mean that Eugenio Velez might not remain on the 25-man roster for long (though would no doubt clear waivers).
  • Ted Lilly is responding well to acupuncture treatment, he told Gurnick.
  • Don Drysdale’s daughter Drew is scheduled to sing National Anthem and God Bless America at Dodger Stadium on Monday.
  • While much talk about the Cubs’ general manager vacancy has centered on Ned Colletti, it’s former Dodger general manager Dan Evans who might be a more likely choice, according to Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Dodger prospect Jerry Sands is breaking some eggs – that is, making some significant adjustments with the hopes of deriving long-term benefit. From Christopher Jackson at Albuquerque Baseball Examiner:

    … “It’s been real tough, cause I came back down and I knew I needed to change some things, but it’s tough to totally overhaul in the middle of the season and be productive,” Sands said. “I want to get back up there, but I want to look like I learned something.

    “It was tough having to change things I’d done for years and then change them right over. The hot and the cold stretches have been a part of me learning, just a process of what I have to do to be more consistent.” …

  • Clayton Kershaw “stands to become just the fourth Dodger in the 128-year history of the franchise to post three straight seasons with an ERA+ of 130 or higher,” writes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. Jeff Pfeffer, Sandy Koufax and Orel Hershiser are the others.
  • Stephen also passes along the news that outfielder Kyle Russell has gotten a late-season promotion from Chattanooga to Albuquerque.
  • Sons of Steve Garvey caps its visit to St. Louis with a long, thoughtful piece about sportswriting.
  • The man himself, Bob Eubanks, talked to Dodger historian Mark Langill about the Beatles, setting up this weekend’s commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the Beatles playing Dodger Stadium (via Blue Heaven).
  • The friendly folks at Bronx Banter passed along “10 Things John Sterling would say in a hurricane” from IT IS HIGH! IT IS FAR! IT IS… caught.
  • On target as always, Joe Posnanski about “the myth of pressure.”

    … This line — that it’s easier to put up numbers without pennant pressure — is a lot like that. Nobody can possibly believe this. First of all, there’s the obvious flaw: If it were easier to put up numbers in non-pressure situations, then players would consistently and obviously have better years on lousy teams than they do on good ones. Does this ring even the slightest bell of truth? Does anyone believe that Derek Jeter would have put up better numbers had he played for Kansas City? Does anyone believe that Albert Pujols would be so much better if he had spent his career playing in the carefree world of the Pittsburgh Pirates? Roy Halladay was great for mediocre Blue Jays teams and is great for outstanding Phillies teams. Hank Aaron was the same great player with the same great numbers when Milwaukee won, when Milwaukee almost won, and when Milwaukee wasn’t very good at all. …

    If you’ve read this blog at all you know: I’ve covered a lot of bad teams in my life. I’ve been around some good ones, too. And as far as “pressure” goes, well, from my observation, it’s not even close. There is infinitely more pressure on players on lousy teams than on good ones. Obviously, this depends on how you define pressure, but if the textbook definition of pressure is “the feeling of stressful urgency cause by the necessity of achieving something,” well, absolutely, there’s way more pressure on the lousy teams.

    … Think about it: What pressure is there on players in pennant races? The pressure to win? Sure. But players come to the ballpark energized. Everyone on the team is into it. The crowd is alive and hopeful. The afternoon crackles. Anticipation. Excitement. There’s nothing in sports quite like the energy in a baseball clubhouse during a pennant race. Players arrive early to prepare. Teammates help each other. Everyone’s in a good mood. There’s a feeling swirling around: This is exactly the childhood dream. The added importance of the moment could, in theory I suppose, create extra stress. But the reality I’ve seen is precisely the opposite. The importance sharpens the senses, feeds the enthusiasm, makes the day brighter. Baseball is a long season. Anything to give a day a little gravity, to separate it from yesterday, to make it all more interesting — anything like that, I think, is much more likely to make it EASIER to play closer to one’s peak.

    A losing clubhouse? Exactly the opposite. The downward pressure is enormous and overwhelming — after all, who cares? The town has moved on. A Hawaiian vacation awaits. Teammates are fighting to keep their jobs or fighting to impress someone on another team or just plain fighting. The manager might be worried about his job. The reporters are few, and they’re negative. Smaller crowds make it easier to hear the drunken critics. Support is much harder to come by, and there is constant, intense force demanding that you just stop trying so hard. After all: Why take that extra BP? You’ve got the swing down. Why study a few extra minutes of film? You’ve faced that hitter before. Why take that extra base? Why challenge him on that 3-1 pitch? Why? You’re down 9-3 anyway.

    It’s absolutely AMAZING to me when a player puts up a fantastic year even when the team around him stinks. …

Jun 09

Dodgers demote Jerry Sands, bring up Trent Oeltjen


Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesClayton Kershaw

The Dodgers are going to give Jerry Sands a breather from the major leagues, replacing him on the active roster with lefty-hitting outfielder Trent Oeltjen, who had a .429 on-base percentage and .583 slugging percentage at Albuquerque. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

In addition, the Dodgers outrighted minor-leaguer Luis Vasquez from the 40-man roster to Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.

Have no fear about Sands — despite his recent slump, his initial foray into the bigs should be viewed in a positive light, providing some great moments as well as some knowledge of how he has to improve.

As for the major-league roster, I wonder if this move sets the stage for Casey Blake to play some left field, as was discussed months ago.

* * *

It’s Clayton Kershaw Day on the Internet, with several pieces on the Dodger lefty:

  • Tim Kurkjian of ESPN.com is exceedingly complimentary, noting that no 23-year-old major-league pitcher (according to the Elias Sports Bureau) had ever had as many career victories and as low a career ERA while striking out more than a batter per inning before Kershaw.  Kershaw says he benefited from his fast start.

    “The Dodgers did me a huge favor calling me up as early as they did,” Kershaw told Kurkjian. “I took my lumps, but I’m better off for it. What I’ve learned to this point has been huge for me.”

    The biggest adjustment came this year when he added a slider in part because, “I couldn’t control my curveball.” Manager Don Mattingly agreed, but added, “No one [umpires] calls the curveball [for strikes] anymore. No one swings at it. So, you can’t throw it. But his slider and changeup have become very good. When I first saw him, he could throw a fastball for a strike on the inside part of the plate to right-handed hitters. Now he can throw the ball to both sides of the plate, against right-handed and left-handed hitters. His bullpens are now art. He throws five pitches in, five away. He moves the ball around. It’s boom, boom, boom.” …

  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs names Kershaw as a finalist for best southpaw in the National League, before going with a Phillie.
  • David Schoenfield of ESPN.com also makes the case for Kershaw as a top young lefty in MLB, before giving Tampa Bay’s David Price a slight edge.
  • According to the Dodger press notes, since making his major-league debut in May 2008, no pitcher with at least 400 innings has a lower opponents’ batting average than Kershaw (.221 batting average, 7.3 hits per nine innings).
Jun 07

Be wary, be excited, be both


Howard Smith/US PresswireRubby De La Rosa was oh-so-wild but managed to hold the Phillies to 1-for-8 hitting with runners in scoring position.

Matt Slocum/APDee Gordon forces Chase Utley out at second base.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com captures the end-of-game reaction to the debuts of Dee Gordon and Rubby De La Rosa, coming at the end of a 6-2 Dodger victory over a surprisingly inept Phillies team.

There were other surprises – the way that Gordon got hits in his first three at-bats, the way that De La Rosa recovered from a nervewracking start that seemed destined to send him or us to an asylum by retiring his final six batters.

But for those who fear change, there was the comforting sight of Matt Kemp knocking a double and then a home run, tying him for the league lead in that category.

One look at Jerry Sands, who went 0 for 4 to fall to 3 for 35 since his May 24 grand slam in Houston, reminds us that growing pains are practically inevitable, no matter how hot your start. But why do we love new, young players so much?  Because who can resist the possibility that the glimpse of greatness we see might grow?