Feb 20

President’s Night links


Because the night belongs to links …
Because the night belongs to us …

  • ESPNLosAngeles.com’s new Dodger blog, Dodger Report, has launched with the great Tony Jackson at the helm. Here’s his introductory post.
  • Here’s video of Vin Scully at Spring Training 1988, supplied by Kevin Kaduk of Big League Stew.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: a nice salute to photographer Herb Scharfman.
  • Recently in Jon SooHoo: Darren Dreifort 1998 pretends to be Mike Scioscia 1988.
  • Yep, Manny Ramirez and the A’s have agreed to that minor-league deal, for whom he’ll be eligible to play after serving out a 50-game suspension. Here’s reaction and analysis from David Schoenfield of ESPN.com and Eno Sarris of Fangraphs.
  • Ned Colletti would like to sign Andre Ethier to a long-term contract, he told Fox in this video interview embedded by Steve Dilbeck of Dodgers Now.
  • Steve Yeager has taken the role of special-assignment catching instructor, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Kansas City reliever Jonathan Broxton (yep, that looks funny) seems confident enough about the 2012 season, in this Associated Press story.
  • As expected, Blake DeWitt has remained in the Cub organization, notes MLB Trade Rumors.
  • DodgerFan.net has a roundup of stories on several other new ex-Dodgers, such as Rafael Furcal.
  • Dodger minor leaguer Blake Smith was interviewed by Dustin Nosler of Feelin’ Kinda Blue.
  • Former Dodger manager Jim Tracy has received, unexpectedly in my mind, an “indefinite” contract extension from Colorado.
  • The LFP found a great picture of Frank Howard, Gil Hodges and Gil Hodges Jr. from 1961.
  • Keith Olbermann explores a mystery about 1964 Mickey Mantle baseball cards at Baseball Nerd.
  • Robert Lipsyte penned a first-person remembrance for the New York Times on the Mets’ first Spring Training, 50 years ago.
  • Such sad news: Fox sportscaster Chris Myers’ 19-year-old son died in a car crash last week (via FishbowlLA). Please keep their family and friends in your thoughts.
Nov 30

Hey, what’s going on?


Some midweek news and notes …

  • Best friend of Dodger Thoughts and ESPN reporter Molly Knight and her friend and fellow ESPN contributing writer Anna Katherine Clemmons have had the story of their cross-country road trip (which began as fodder for a magazine article) optioned for a movie. My Variety colleague Jeff Sneider has the details.
  • Larry King is reportedly joining the Dennis Gilbert-headed group bidding to by the Dodgers, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Hank Aaron inquired whether Medallion Financial Corp., on which he serves on the board of directors, might make a bid to by the Dodgers, according to Bill Shaikin of the Times. The answer: No.
  • A bow-hunting trip (no, not the kind where you hunt Ken Rosenthal’s ties) with Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur and manager Ned Yost helped lure Jonathan Broxton to Kansas City, writes Kevin Kernan of the New York Post (via Hardball Talk).
  • Jim Breen of Fangraphs takes a closer look at Kenley Jansen’s dominant fastball, an interesting piece given what we’ve heard of Jansen’s eventual desire to emulate Mariano Rivera. “The 24-year-old not only threw approximately 87% fastballs in 2011, but he also filled up the strike zone,” writes Breen. “Only relievers Matt Belisle, Octavio Dotel, and Matt Capps threw more pitches inside the zone than Jansen. So opposing hitters knew which pitch he was going to throw and knew that it would more than likely be within the strike zone, but opposing hitters still struck out 44% of the time.”
  • Here are some childhood photos of Clayton Kershaw with longtime buddy Matthew Stafford, the Detroit Lions quarterback.
  • And, here’s a great prep school picture of birthday boy Vin Scully via Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News.
  • Some nifty portraits accompany this interview by Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven with artist Tommervik.
  • Evan Bladh looks back at the 2003 Dodgers at Opinion of Kingman’s Performance.
  • Ken Arneson discusses the two systems of thought with regards to statistics, and how they relate to kids learning to read.
  • In a guest post for The Platoon Advantage, Dan Hennessy explains why “the less I hear my team’s name associated with free agency, the happier I am.”
  • Very, very cool skiing and outdoors footage in “Winter,” which will screen at the Village in Westwood on Sunday.
  • Finally, if you haven’t seen “Beginners” with Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Melanie Laurent and Goran Visnjic, I really recommend it.
Nov 29

Remembering 2011: Jonathan Broxton


Jake Roth/US PresswireJonathan Broxton (43)

The setup: The polarizing pitcher whose mostly dominant career was marred by two notorious postseason setbacks entered his free-agent year hoping to recover from his biggest struggles yet – having allowed 62 baserunners and 26 runs in 29 2/3 innings dating back to his infamous 48-pitch outing against the Yankees on June 27, 2010.

The closeup: Both Broxton and general manager Ned Colletti asserted that health was not an issue with Broxton’s struggles, with Colletti saying a physical backed up their claim. But was something missed? Entering the year with 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings since his 2005 debut, Broxton fanned only one batter in his first five outings (4 1/3 innings) while allowing two home runs. Then, when his strikeouts increased, his runs allowed did as well. After he allowed two runs on three hits in an inning against St. Louis on April 18, we found ourselves here:

… I really think it’s important to be clear about this. For the longest time, the concern that Broxton’s detractors had was not that he couldn’t get anyone out, but just that he wouldn’t get the job done in October. The explanation offered the most was that he didn’t have the backbone, guts or other relevant body part to succeed under pressure.

I never bought into that argument, because I saw Broxton succeed too many times under pressure – including in the playoffs – to see a pattern, and that given another opportunity, there were more reasons to believe he would succeed than there were that he’d fail. Many more reasons. Baseball history is filled with onetime October failures who found redemption. …

… The problems of Jonathan Broxton today are different problems entirely.

Broxton is having trouble getting people out, period. He has retired the side in order once in eight outings. He has allowed 13 baserunners in 7 1/3 innings while striking out five. He’s being touched not just in save situations but in non-save situations. He’s allowing runs not in playoff games in October, but midweek games in April. …

Two scoreless outings brought some temporary relief for the reliever, but on April 25, Broxton was charged with a blown save thanks to two unearned runs at Florida, an outing that led to questions about whether he was still the Dodger closer or not. He allowed three hits and a run while picking up a save April 29.

Then came May 3:

Jonathan Broxton has given Dodger fans a lot of heartache this year, but tonight he looked as sickly as he ever has in my memory.

Broxton entered tonight’s game in the ninth inning of a 1-1 tie. After retiring Aramis Ramirez on two fouls and a popout, Broxton walked the next two batters on eight pitches, and few of them were close to the strike zone. According to MLB Gameday, the pitches were all fastballs, one reaching 93 miles per hour and the average at 91. That’s just not the Broxton of 12 months ago, and I’m not convinced it’s even the Broxton of 12 weeks ago.

People have been strangely fascinated with Broxton’s facial expressions and posture, but here’s a suggestion: Someone needs to look at his arm. Even if they’ve looked at it before, look at it again.

After the first walk, Blake Hawksworth began warming up in the bullpen, and after the second, Don Mattingly came to the mound. He talked to Broxton and the other assembled Dodgers, clearly stalling for time as Hawksworth raced to get ready, before finally telling home-plate umpire CB Bucknor to call for a rare mid-inning hook of the Dodger reliever.

Though I’ve always suspected Broxton’s been off physically since his serious struggles began in late June, this was possibly the first time I watched him and said to myself, “There’s a guy that’s headed straight for the disabled list.” Of course, what I observe from my seat far from the pitcher’s mound has no real relevance, but I just offer it as an impression. …

On the next day, Broxton was shut down to have an MRI, and he never pitched again for the Dodgers in 2011. Even after he went to the disabled list, the diagnosis (or at least the seriousness) of his condition seemed to keep shifting, punctuated by a rehab process that ended up being scrapped at the end of June. Not until September, more than four months after his last major-league game and 15 months after the series against the Yankees that seemed the source for all his problems, was Broxton finally scheduled for surgery.

His final numbers for 2011: 12 2/3 innings, eight earned runs, 24 baserunners, 10 strikeouts, 5.68 ERA, four inherited runners (all stranded).

Coming attractions: Broxton’s Dodger career ended with the news today that he had signed with Kansas City, pending a physical. Reports are that he will earn a $4 million base salary plus incentives.

Broxton leaves Los Angeles as its all-time leader in strikeouts per nine innings with 11.6 (minimum 300 innings), fifth in adjusted ERA at 132 and seventh in saves with 84.

Much virtual ink has been spilled on Broxton’s pros and cons, and it’s been months since I’ve felt the need to add anything new to the debate, a debate I am happy to put behind me. So with that in mind, I will close with something I wrote back in April:

There is one thing I will insist on, however. For nearly five seasons – an eternity for most relievers, longer than, for example, the elite tenures of Eric Gagne or Takashi Saito as Dodgers – Jonathan Broxton was a great, great relief pitcher. The NLCS losses were crushing – indeed, for many they were poisonous – but he’s hardly the first great hurler who has pitches he’d like to get back. He has truly been one of the best relief pitchers in Los Angeles Dodger history, whether his best days are over or not.

Sep 20

Lee’s surge complicates road to Cy Young for Kershaw


Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireClayton Kershaw is set to finish his season with starts tonight and then Sunday in San Diego.

How heated is the National League Cy Young competition? The top four candidates — Roy Halladay, Ian Kennedy, Clayton Kershaw and Cliff Lee (in alphabetical order) — have a combined September ERA of 1.46.

Kennedy continued his late bid for recognition by pitching eight innings of one-hit ball with 12 strikeouts in a 1-0 victory for Arizona, which built its lead to 5 1/2 games in the NL West, while Halladay gave up a sliver of ground by allowing four runs in a 4-3 Phillies loss to St. Louis.

Kershaw and Lee — both red-hot of late, both scheduled to start tonight — have the opportunity to affirm themselves as the two top finalists for the award. In particular, if Kershaw bests Tim Lincecum for a fourth time in 2011 tonight, that’s going to be memorable.

For the first time, I’m starting to think that Halladay and Lee being teammates could hurt the award chances of both. Up until very recently, I’ve felt that the award was Halladay’s to lose, given that he pitches for the best team in the NL and that he’s pitched so well — his numbers are virtually equal to Kershaw’s (see chart below), with a slightly lower strikeout rate but better control, and higher wins above replacement.

However, Lee’s amazing stretch run —a 0.56 ERA in 64 2/3 innings since August 1 — has helped him catch up to the leaders and throw more confusion into the race. If you’re a voter who wants to honor the Phillies in some way with this award (given that the MVP race doesn’t really offer that opportunity), whom do you pick?

Now, if you watched “Modern Family” win bunches of Emmys on Sunday despite multiple nominations in those categories, you learned that teammates don’t always bring each other down. Still, as much as Lee presents another rival to Kershaw, he could also aid the Dodger by stealing votes from Halladay.

Voters who treasure wins may lean toward Kennedy, who certainly has been no slouch. But if Kershaw ends up with 20 wins himself, I think you can remove that category as a path to Kennedy leapfrogging the Dodger lefty.

In fact, much has been made lately of Kershaw possibly winning the pitcher’s triple crown: wins, ERA and strikeouts. My guess is that if he does, he will collect the Cy Young (though for me, the win totals are essentially irrelevant).

But let’s put it this way: If Kershaw doesn’t finish first in the balloting, there will be no crime. Halladay and Lee have been every bit as fierce as Kershaw. It’s been a superb year for all of them.

Top National League Cy Young Award candidates
(bold text signifies leader among contenders)

IP W-L ERA Sept. ERA ERA+ WAR (B-R.com) WAR (Fangraphs) WHIP K/9 K/BB
Roy Halladay 227 2/3 18-6 2.41 2.03 160 7.1 8.0 1.045 8.58 6.38
Cole Hamels 206 14-9 2.80 4.18 138 5.1 5.0 0.981 8.13 4.54
Ian Kennedy 216 20-4 2.88 1.88 137 5.3 4.9 1.083 8.08 3.66
Clayton Kershaw 218 2/3 19-5 2.30 0.90 161 6.4 6.8 0.983 9.71 4.63
Cliff Lee 219 2/3 16-7 2.38 0.72 162 6.7 6.5 1.015 9.14 5.31

* * *

  • By the way, this caught me by surprise, but Kershaw is no longer leading the NL in strikeouts per nine innings. Zack Greinke of Milwaukee is on top.
  • Chad Moriyama has a mammoth analysis of James Loney that you need to read, in which Moriyama analyzes both Loney’s stats and his swing. Conclusions:

    … What fans want to hear is that Loney has simply flipped a switch and will now pull 35% of balls and put up an OPS near .900 going forward. While I wish my analysis could guarantee that, it’s simply not a feasible conclusion to reach.

    What is clear though is that Loney has changed his approach and swing over the last two months in a way that has drastically affected his hit distribution and production. As such, the possibility does exist that his numbers could improve significantly in 2012 if the changes he has made carry over on a consistent basis.

    That said, all of my findings are subject to the usual sample size critiques, which is precisely why nothing about this is a sure thing. However, I have shown that Loney’s change under Hansen has absolutely happened, and looking at the free agent list at first base for 2012, unless the Dodgers can get Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, or Lance Berkman, I’d rather give Loney another shot if he comes at a reasonable salary (4-6 million?) even though I had previously preferred signing Carlos Pena (probably more expensive).

    When talking about baseball players, hope is part of what makes the game so fun to follow, but it can also be a dangerous thing, especially when that hope is invested in a 27-year-old first baseman with a .749 OPS/103 OPS+ over four full seasons. Still though, as of now, I’m more willing to take a chance on Loney than ever before.

  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com has a really nice feature centering on A.J. Ellis that will only make you root for him more.
  • Dylan Hernandez of the Times looks at the increasingly favorable comparisons of Kershaw with Sandy Koufax.
  • Jonathan Broxton had his elbow surgery Monday, with “a bone spur and associated loose bodies” being removed.
  • Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com has an update on ailing catcher Gary Garter.
  • Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors compiles the $100 million free agent contracts in baseball history.
  • David Pinto of Baseball Musings reminds us that batting order is less about stats and more about egos.
  • Patrick Dubuque at Notgraphs has a fun essay on the impulse for a fielder to throw his glove at a ball.
Sep 16

October looms large for Dodgers after all

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

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

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

From The Associated Press:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

Sep 15

Ohlendorfed

It’s only been six years, Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. found, since the Dodgers gave up at least four home runs in one season to opposing pitchers, which reduces some of the astonishment over Ross Ohlendorf hitting a three-run blast tonight to catapult the Pirates to a 6-2 victory over Los Angeles that eliminated the Dodgers from the 2011 National League West race.

Some of the astonishment, but not all. Ohlendorf was 7 for 100 in his career with no extra-base hits when he hit his blast off Dana Eveland in the second inning to break a 1-1 tie.

It was a come-back-to-Earth game for Eveland, although he pitched shutout ball in four of his five innings. But even though the Dodgers scored a run off Ohlendorf in the first inning after only two batters (Dee Gordon single and steal, Justin Sellers double), the home team was no match for the pitcher who entered the game with 22 earned runs allowed in 24 2/3 innings this season.

After falling behind by four, the Dodgers did get the tying run to the plate in the ninth after a single by Jerry Sands and walks by Russ Mitchell (who hit his second home run of the year and fourth out of 12 career hits) and Tim Federowicz (who got his first major-league hit earlier in the game and reached base three times). But pinch-hitter Aaron Miles flied out to end it.

The Dodgers are 1-4 since reaching the .500 mark Saturday. Ohlendorf won his first game since July 2010, noted Kenny Shulsen of Lasorda’s Lair. He was 1-13 with a 4.80 ERA over the 2010-11 seasons entering tonight’s game.

* * *

  • Jonathan Broxton’s agent, BB Abbott, to Dylan Hernandez of the Times, “The days of Jonathan Broxton throwing 99 and 100 (mph) might be over. But I think he can reinvent himself. He’s still going to be 93-97. … He’s relied on one thing and that’s power. … He’s going to have to be a chameleon. It might be a power slider or a power cutter. He’s going to have to transition.”
  • An MRI on Hiroki Kuroda’s neck was negative, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, and the righty will start Friday’s game.
  • Congrats to Shawn Tolleson and Scott Van Slyke, who were named the Dodgers’ minor-league pitcher and player of the year.
Sep 12

Dodgers lose game and valued executive

The Arizona Diamondbacks took a big one from the Dodgers tonight, and I’m not talking about their 7-2 victory on the field.

Dodger communications vice president Josh Rawitch is leaving the Dodgers after this season to become senior VP of communications for the Diamondbacks, whose organization and fans are sure to benefit from his presence.

It may seem strange to praise someone entrusted with helping craft public relations for Dodger fans’ Public Enemy No. 1 (with apologies to Clayton Kershaw’s curveball). But despite working at the behest of Frank McCourt (whose merits would often be touted to my skeptical eyes), Rawitch was a major asset for the franchise. He worked tirelessly not only to put the Dodgers’ best foot forward but to make the fans’ experience the best he possibly could, often going well beyond the call of duty.

Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall certainly knows this well – he was a Dodger predecessor of Rawitch as head of communications.

There is no shortage of bias toward Rawitch on my end, but it was well-earned. To this site, Rawitch was an early friend, one of the first in all of professional sports to accept that a place outside the mainstream media might still be worthy of being treated with respect. Professionally and personally, he treated me as well as anyone ever has.

I’m going to miss him, but despite how he might spin it in his final days on the job, I couldn’t be happier for him to get a fresh start – with the 2011 National League West champions, no less.

* * *

  • Matt Kemp (2 for 4) hit his 33rd homer in the first inning tonight and Ted Lilly took a no-hitter into the fifth, but things fell apart for the Dodgers in the sixth with Arizona tallying five runs. Lilly failed to complete six innings for the 14th time in 30 starts this season.
  • Unfortunately for Kemp’s pursuit of the NL Triple Crown, Albert Pujols hit his league-leading 35th homer tonight.
  • Jerry Sands went 3 for 4 with an RBI in his best major-league performance since going 4 for 4 on May 22.
  • Nathan Eovaldi, making his first career relief appearance, retired the side in order in the ninth inning.
  • Kirk Gibson used three relievers in the ninth inning to protect Arizona’s five-run lead from the Dodgers, who loaded the bases but didn’t score. Dee Gordon, in a 1-for-18 slump, made the final out.
  • San Francisco beat San Diego, meaning that the Giants are 4 1/2 games ahead of the 72-74 Dodgers.
  • Manny Ramirez “was arrested and charged with battery Monday after a domestic dispute at his South Florida home, police said.”
  • Jonathan Broxton has officially been ruled out from returning this season, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, meaning that he has most likely pitched his last game for the Dodgers.  Nothing but best wishes, Jonathan.
Jul 29

Broxton and Navarro and what a difference six years does (and doesn’t) make


Jeff Lewis/US PresswireJonathan Broxton and Dioner Navarro in 2005.

Six years ago tonight, on a Friday, the Dodgers began a weekend series against the St. Louis Cardinals with a 46-56 record, then as they are now 10 games under .500. That day, the team made two transactions.

Purchased the contract of RHP Jonathan Broxton from Double-A Jacksonville and designated RHP Scott Erickson for assignment; Recalled C Dioner Navarro from Triple-A Las Vegas and optioned C Mike Rose to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Jonathan Broxton and Dioner Navarro. Today, those two names bring up mixed emotions, to say the least.

But six years ago, making their Dodger debuts, they heralded a new era of promise for a downtrodden team: Broxton, the first of a heralded group of Dodger minor leaguers to reach the bigs; Navarro, a 21-year-old catching prodigy acquired in trade.

From Dodger Thoughts, July 29, 2005:

… The 5-foot-10, 189-pound Navarro, still only 21, has battled some physical issues this season – according to Nick Christensen of the Las Vegas Sun, Navarro was 2 for 18 since being activated from the disabled list July 18 – but has played 75 games overall for AAA Las Vegas, with an on-base percentage of .366 and a slugging percentage of .390. Offensively, he is lacking power for now – but down the road, some may catch up with him. Though his professional high in home runs is only eight, he did hit 31 doubles in 2003 at age 19, split between A and AA ball. Navarro’s biggest strength is his strike zone command – 38 walks against 24 strikeouts. Defensively, he is obviously more promising than Jason Phillips, but we’ll see if the Dodger pitchers still need to hold runners on better.

Broxton, four months younger than Navarro but six inches taller and around 50-100 pounds heavier, has been a stud ever since he became a second-round pick for the Dodgers in 2002. Averaging more than a strikeout per inning with a career ERA of 3.14 entering this season – primarly as a starter – Broxton has recently been used out of the bullpen for AA Jacksonville in anticipation of the Dodgers needing his help. In 28 games (15 in relief), Broxton has a 3.36 ERA and in 91 innings, has allowed 77 hits (just four home runs) and 29 walks while striking out 99. As a reliever, he has struck out 28 in 19 innings and has been clocked at 100 miles per hour, according to Baseball America, which also published a quote from an American League scout praising both Broxton’s fastball and “power curve.”

Broxton becomes the third home-grown player on the Dodgers 25-man roster, joining Jason Repko and Steve Schmoll (assuming neither is sent down). …

Yes, you could say the youth movement was just getting underway.

In the game, Navarro started for the Dodgers, batting for the first time an inning after left fielder Ricky Ledee hit a three-run home run, and reached first on an infield single. He later struck out, grounded out and walked.

Broxton, also 21, replaced Brad Penny in the top of the sixth inning with the Dodgers leading, 5-4, and had mixed results. He gave up singles to David Eckstein and Abraham Nunez, then reared back and struck out Albert Pujols, who had homered the inning before. Broxton wild-pitched the runners to second and third base, prompting an intentional walk to Jim Edmonds. With the bases loaded and one out, John Rodriguez hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game, before Broxton struck out Mark Grudzielanek to end the inning.

Because the tying run scored, Broxton was charged with a blown save in a game that gave him no chance of actually recording a save. It was these kinds of no-upside blown saves that would skew his save percentage for years and help others make the case that he was unfit to close. Despite this, Broxton did become one of the top relief pitchers in the National League – just as one of many pieces of evidence, only six relievers in the majors had a lower OPS allowed than Broxton from 2006-09, and two of those are going to the Hall of Fame – but we’re well past that debate now, with him unlikely to pitch much more than a few more innings as a Dodger, and others like Javy Guerra and Kenley Jansen stepping forward.

Navarro would be supplanted much sooner, replaced in May 2006 by Russell Martin after a combination of sluggish defense and injury. Navarro came back to Los Angeles this season after a long absence, fraught with professional and personal struggles, but it’s now a celebration when his batting average breaks .200.

Somehow, both players are surprisingly close over the hill at age 27, even perilously close to the end of their careers if they don’t reverse fortune. It fits right in with a Dodger team that has tumbled off a cliff in 2011. We’ve come full circle and gotten dizzy in the process.

The next generation of Dodgers beckons – the generation that will try to revive this team. But it’s impossible to fathom how it will play out. Broxton, Navarro, Martin, James Loney, Andre Ethier, Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, Andy LaRoche, on and on and on – so many ups and downs.  I can’t tell if I feel that six years is long or short.

And then there’s this: That same morning, in the July 29, 2005 issue of Variety, Dave McNary published the following story about the Dodgers, in their second year of ownership under Frank and Jamie McCourt:

… Frank McCourt, the Boston-born Dodgers owner … strolls around the stadium as though he was the mayor of a small New England town. He’s not the landlord, he’s a host, eager to welcome people to his party.

Under the O’Malleys, many Angelenos felt the Dodgers represented “downtown.” McCourt has broader ambitions. … He wants Westsiders as much as Echo Park locals, and he believes the best way to get both of them is to make sure Hollywood feels welcome.

A year after buying the team in early 2004, McCourt added 300 seats to the Dugout Club and expanded the restaurant. McCourt and his wife, Jaime, attend most home games, where they escort club guests to a martini bar, as well as stands that offer prime rib, fajitas, salads and, of course hot dogs, all free of charge to box holders and other guests.

A seat in the club runs an all-inclusive $400 (booze is extra), but one of McCourt’s biggest reasons for undertaking $20 million in upgrades was to attract people who may never pay at all.

McCourt wants to see the same sort of wall-to-wall celeb lineup who attends Lakers games. He’s well on the way. On a recent evening, when the Dodgers suffered a blowout loss to the San Francisco Giants, club attendees included celebs Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Lovitz, Robert Wuhl and Alyssa Milano; sports agents Scott Boras and Dennis Gilbert; former players Dave Winfield and Bill Buckner; and Dodgers icon Tommy Lasorda.

Other regulars include Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Tom Hanks, Pat Sajak, Penny Marshall, Mary Hart, Wayne Gretzky and Peter Chernin.

The McCourts’ four sons also are conspicuous, with most of the credit for bringing Hollywood into the Dodgers’ fold going to Drew McCourt, the low-key marketing director who decided to work for his dad after getting an astrophysics degree from Columbia U. The 23-year-old has been charged with glad-handing Hollywood studios, agencies, top-tier producers and music industry execs, luring them into premium seats by promising that most elusive commodity, exclusivity.

Still, in wooing Hollywood, the McCourts have a tough job. As one of the few sports facilities built in the 1960s that has aged with some grace, even minor changes to Dodger Stadium provoke anxiety among devoted fans — many of whom would never consider paying $400 for a seat.

“We’ve got an asset that’s very unique within the baseball world,” says Drew McCourt, who grew up going to Red Sox games at Fenway Park. “But we don’t take it for granted that Hollywood’s going to show up. We have to make this area attractive enough so the team’s performance doesn’t really matter whether people show up.”

Six years. Six positively head-spinning years.

Jun 28

Broxton might be out for season

Is Jonathan Broxton’s Dodger career over? Maybe not, but it’s increasingly possible that the Dodger reliever, who will be a free agent at season’s end, won’t appear in a game for the team again with today’s news that he is being shut down from throwing for at least three more weeks. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more:

… Club officials won’t say at this point that they are counting on getting Broxton back the rest of the season.

“We don’t have a timetable now,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “We did this once before, where he was shut down for three weeks and did all the stuff to return, and then we got back here. It’s just hard to say now that we’re going to get him back in six weeks or seven weeks or eight weeks. To me, at this point, if we get him back, great, all the better. But we have to kind of move forward.”

Broxton underwent an MRI on Monday in Los Angeles and then consulted with team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who determined that the MRI showed a worsening of the bone bruise in Broxton’s elbow and that the best course of action was to shut him down again. …


Though his troubles this year will lower his value on the free agent market, it’s likely that some other team than the Dodgers will pay more to take a chance on the reliever, who only turned 27 this month. For pitchers with at least 300 innings as a Dodger, Broxton is the franchise’s all-time leader in strikeouts per nine innings.

He might make it back this season, but if not, like Russell Martin last fall, he’ll probably be looking at a fresh start.

* * *

The initial news on the bankruptcy court front appeared to drag things out another month, but then again, maybe not.

MLB will “probably” file a motion to seize the Dodgers from Frank McCourt, The Associated Press is reporting. That comes in the wake of the franchise’s initial bankruptcy court hearing today, which ended with McCourt being granted financing on a temporary basis, pending a July 20 hearing, with the TV rights saga still a major hurdle. In short, there was news, but no resolution.

Jun 22

Praise to Harley

  • Jonathan Broxton will eventually get the chance to be a closer again, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, but will not take on that role initially. I still say the longer the Dodgers can avoid assigning any one person to that role, the better. Broxton threw in the 94-97 mph range in his first rehab outing Tuesday.
  • Jerry Crasnick pays more than lip service to the notion of expanding rosters to 26 players – he provides all-points opus with pro and con arguments on the subject at ESPN.com.
  • I enjoyed this piece on former Dodger pitcher Guillermo Mota by Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles.
  • He’s just there, not being especially terrible. That doesn’t have a ton of value — it’s called replacement level because the idea is that you can find an equally capable pitcher by trolling the waiver wire — but after 81 games as a Giant, I realized that I’ve never thanked Mota for not being Wayne Franklin, Waldis Joaquin, Merkin Valdez, or Osiris Matos. He’s not Vinnie Chulk, Erick Threets, or Randy Messenger. He’s not Billy Sadler, nor Brandon Medders. He’s not even Al Levine.

    He’s just Guillermo Mota. Which is to say, just a reliever. He comes in a yellow box with “RELIEVER” written in black lettering on the front. He’s not bad. He’s not good. He just is. By definition, that doesn’t have a lot of value — but he could be a punchline, an anecdote, a pitcher you tell your kids about so they’ll go to sleep quicker. I’m glad he’s not.

  • Kenny Shulsen of Lasorda’s Lair posted video of Dodger prospect James Baldwin III.
Jun 16

Dodger Cogs and Dogs 2011: Edition 5


Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesJosh Lindblom has allowed one run and nine baserunners in his first nine MLB innings.

The impossible task continues.

There’s Matt Kemp at No. 1, undisputed and glorious. There are Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, Andre Ethier and Jamey Carroll having seasons that, despite some inconsistency, you don’t need to be ashamed of.  There’s an increasingly competent Ted Lilly, and a tip of the hat to Aaron Miles.

And then, the morass.

Playing time, on a cumulative basis, is one of the factors I’ve used in my Dodger Cogs and Dogs rankings, but as I tried to figure out how to fill out just the top 10, nothing made sense anymore. So I decided to blow things up a little.

I pushed the new kids, who came late to the 2011 Dodgers but who are providing most of the energy to this team and most of the reason to watch, into the upper echelon. That means Rubby De La Rosa at No. 8, despite only 15 innings (occasionally wild) this season. That means Dee “Roadrunner” Gordon and his 36 plate appearances without a walk at No. 9. That means young relievers Javy Guerra and Josh Lindblom, with their combined 21 1/3 career innings, at No. 10 and No. 11.

And then Casey Blake, Rod Barajas and James Loney, who have all played more and made contributions here and there, but had too many issues for me to feel good about having them in the top 10.

Dodger Cogs and Dogs has always been subjective, and perhaps never more so than today. But at least I wasn’t left aching as I completed the task.

* * *

Before we proceed to the rankings, one final note …

I want to call out the item on Jonathan Broxton below: “Fifth in MLB history in K/9 (11.55), minimum 300 G.”

Broxton should be back with the Dodgers in a few weeks, with what figures to be about three months left in his Dodger career. I know he’s let a lot of people down, and with the way the Dodger fortunes have unfolded since 2010, his postseason mistakes haunt us more than ever.

His career might have gone into reverse, but it’s not as if there wasn’t excellence there. Call him one-dimensional if you want, but what a dimension.

All-time MLB strikeouts per nine innings (minimum 300 games)
12.17 Rob Dibble
12.00 Brad Lidge
11.92 Billy Wagner
11.67 Carlos Marmol
11.55 Jonathan Broxton

No, this doesn’t mean everything, but like his dominance for much of his career before last summer, it means something.

When he comes back, is there any way, any way at all, that Dodger fans might not boo Broxton every time he touches the ball?

* * *

One more thing. In case you thought customer service was dead at Dodger Stadium, here’s a great story from Evan Bladh at Opinion of Kingman’s Performance.

* * *

           
Today 5/26 5/5 4/28 4/7 Player Comment
1 1 1 1 2 Matt Kemp Has reached base at least twice in 11 of last 12 starts.
2 2 4 4 1 Clayton Kershaw In 15 starts, has allowed 6 total runs in first three innings.
3 3 3 3 4 Hiroki Kuroda Has lowest ERA of his career, but is tied for MLB lead in losses.
4 5 9 6 5 Jamey Carroll Has .444 OBP on road this season.
5 4 2 2 3 Andre Ethier One HR in past 136 plate appearances.
6 10 17 18 14 Ted Lilly First hit of season raised him to 2 for 47 as Dodger.
7 13 20 21 20 Aaron Miles Hitting .353 since May 8.
8 22 Rubby De La Rosa So, he’s gonna be in Dodger rotation all season then? Need to watch his innings.
9 Dee Gordon Marquis Grissom had 124 PA as a Dodger before his first walk.
10 19 Javy Guerra Only four of his 21 baserunners allowed have scored.
11 Josh Lindblom Lowered ERA to 1.00, making case to stay on club.
12 16 7 5 10 Casey Blake On pace for 70 games this season.
13 9 13 9 6 Rod Barajas Has .264 OBP/.389 slugging. Mets released him last year with .263 OBP/.414 slugging.
14 23 32 23 17 James Loney 41 doubles in 2010, on pace for 16 this year.
15 15 10 15 22 Blake Hawksworth Has no strikeouts in seven innings (nine games) since May 3.
16 6 6 7 18 Chad Billingsley His ERA+ is now below Loney’s OPS+, for what that’s worth.
17 7 16 14 Jerry Sands 29 at-bats, three hits, one demotion since last Cogs.
18 11 5 8 Jon Garland Well, he was a better signing than Jason Schmidt.
19 8 11 11 13 Mike MacDougal Eleven of 26 inherited runners have scored.
20 12 8 10 25 Juan Uribe Had 13 doubles, 11 HR after 70 games last year, nine 2B, three HR this year.
21 14 12 12 8 Matt Guerrier Scoreless inning Wednesday was first in five games.
22 17 18 20 24 Kenley Jansen Younger than Elbert, Guerra and Lindblom. Looking forward to his return.
23 21 Scott Elbert After first rough patch of season, needs to show he can bounce back again.
24 33 35 33 Ramon Troncoso Still rising: Unscored upon in seven of past eight appearances.
25 18 30 Jay Gibbons It’s as if the Dodgers suddenly discovered he was one-dimensional.
26 24 15 19 Vicente Padilla Doesn’t look like he’ll have any HBPs this year.
27 25 19 16 9 Jonathan Broxton Fifth in MLB history in K/9 (11.55), minimum 300 G.
28 20 21 22 15 A.J. Ellis Zero HR, 26 walks for Isotopes this season (.457 OBP).
29 28 14 17 12 Tony Gwynn Jr. Has .553 OPS, below what he had with Padres in 2010.
30 Trent Oeltjen Was a batboy for Lasorda-managed U.S. in 2000 Olympic gold medal game in Sydney.
31 36 23 24 7 Rafael Furcal Wednesday marked anniversary of five-hit game.
32 31 Juan Castro Has started four games at first base in his career.
33 30 29 Russ Mitchell For Isotopes: .910 OPS at home., .633 away.
34 26 22 13 19 Marcus Thames He’s barely hitting Dee Gordon’s weight.
35 27 27 29 Dioner Navarro 2 for his last 25 (and yes, that lowered his average).
36 29 25 27 11 Xavier Paul On Wednesday, hit first HR since 5/15/09.
37 32 26 26 John Ely In past three starts for Albuquerque: 10 1/3 IP, 30 H, 15.68 ERA.
38 37 33 27 26 Ivan De Jesus Jr. Slugged .405 in minors last year, .315 this year.
39 34 28 30 21 Hector Gimenez Has .741 OPS since returning to minors.
40 35 31 31 Jamie Hoffmann On Wednesday, in his 1,000th Triple-A AB, got his 300th hit.
41 38 24 25 16 Hong-Chih Kuo Had a 25-pitch shutout inning for Isotopes on Weds.
42 39 34 32 23 Lance Cormier Now wearing the uniform of the Durham Bulls.
May 07

Broxton too cool for truth

I’ve been reading several stories about Jonathan Broxton being placed on the disabled list, most recently Dylan Hernandez’s piece in the Times this morning, and I’ve come to these conclusions:

1) We’re a long way from knowing when Broxton was hurt and when he wasn’t.
2) Broxton’s word on his condition is worth its weight in … what’s the opposite of gold?
3) Stan Conte, Dr. Neil ElAttrache, Rick Honeycutt and Don Mattingly are going to have to be very proactive in monitoring his condition going forward (as if we didn’t know that already).

Writes Hernandez: “Asked whether he would be more open with the medical staff in the future, Broxton replied, ‘No.’ ”

I don’t really care what Broxton says to the press, but he has to be truthful to his own organization. The big guy’s finding the way to lose my support …

  • Andre Ethier really seems to be handling the pressure of his 30-game hitting streak well, especially considering the Dodgers’ losing ways. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has a good story. As for him knowing as much about Zack Wheat on Thursday as he did about John Ely a year ago … chapter 58.
  • In his past eight plate appearances, Albuquerque outfielder Trayvon Robinson is 7 for 7 with a walk, a double, a triple and two home runs.
  • Slowed by a calf injury in the early going, John Lindsey is trying to get untracked at Albuquerque, writes Christopher Jackson at Albuquerque Baseball Examiner.
  • Which 2010-11 free agents have performed the best so far? Mike Akisa of MLB Trade Rumors answers the question for pitchers and hitters. Believe it or not, there’s a case for Rod Barajas being in the top 10.
  • Farewell, Seve and farewell, Sada.
May 06

Broxton goes to disabled list, Jansen to return

Following his MRI exam, Jonathan Broxton is headed for the disabled list, with Kenley Jansen making his trip to Chattanooga a mere layover on his way to New York to replace Broxton on the active roster.

There were different ways to interpret the news that an MRI revealed Jonathan Broxton had, according to the Times, a bone spur but no structural damage. On the one hand, the pain caused by the bone spur could account for Broxton’s awkward appearance Tuesday and even his rough-and-tumble 2011, but it wouldn’t seem to add much to a physical explanation of why he’s been so off his game since mid-2010 — unless it has been a recurring problem.

We’ll undoubtedly hear more on this as the day progresses.

Update: Broxton could be out for a month, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:

… Broxton said he was told he would be shut down for two to three weeks to allow dissipation of fluid in the joint, then resume throwing. He said also had a pre-existing bone spur in the back of the elbow that showed up in a 2010 MRI, but that wasn’t the cause of his latest trouble. …

He was examined by team doctor Neal ElAttache, who told him the injury was probably the result of his joint opening and closing at high velocity “and the bones slam against each other. It takes a while to get the fluid in there.”

He said he was told he could take three or four days off and continue pitching, but the best course of action would be to shut down and let the bruise completely heal. Broxton said he didn’t think this injury was related to his second-half collapse last year.

“It probably started in the spring and caught up to me now,” he said. “The ligament is fine, there are no chips or anything. It’s just bruised.” …

Update 2: More from Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

* * *

After writing that Wilson Betemit should have let himself get hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, Kansas City Star sportswriter Lee Judge decided he should step up and see what it would be like. The video is pretty great.

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.