Feb 21

Top o’ the lineup to ya

While I might do unconventional things with batting orders to try to maximize offense, I’m not someone who gets worked up a whole lot about them. With some batting order discussion taking place on the first day of Spring Training for the Dodgers, I’ll offer my two cents, and then probably leave the subject alone.

Projected Dodger
Opening Day
batting order

L Dee Gordon, SS
R Mark Ellis, 2B
R Matt Kemp, CF
L Andre Ethier, RF
R Juan Rivera, LF
L James Loney, 1B
R Juan Uribe, 3B
R A.J. Ellis, C
L Clayton Kershaw, P

Alternative Dodger
Opening Day
batting order

L Dee Gordon, SS
R A.J. Ellis, C
L Andre Ethier, RF
R Matt Kemp, CF
L James Loney, 1B
R Juan Rivera, LF
R Juan Uribe, 3B
L Clayton Kershaw, P
R Mark Ellis, 2B

We start off with Tuesday’s news that Dodger manager Don Mattingly said Dee Gordon would be his leadoff hitter and Matt Kemp would bat third, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.

“Mattingly said (Andre) Ethier would likely hit cleanup against right-handed pitchers and that Juan Rivera could hit cleanup against lefties,” Stephen adds. “Mattingly said Mark Ellis will get the first shot at batting second, though Mattingly wouldn’t mind James Loney or even (Jerry) Sands hitting in the second spot in the lineup.”

Gordon is a dubious choice to lead off because of his on-base deficiencies, but I’m going to ignore that for the time being because he’s still too enticing to think about as a sparkplug – cliched or not – and the Dodgers aren’t exactly chock full of OBP-skilled alternatives.

More interesting to me is the choice for the No. 2 slot. I can see the arguments for Mark Ellis, Loney or Sands, but I’m not sure they’re any better than the arguments for A.J. Ellis.

The Dodger starting catcher’s on-base percentages for his past two seasons in the majors are .363 and .392. Sure, that might not hold up over extended playing time, but I’d at least be interested in testing it out. A No. 2 hitter who walks about as much as he strikes out seems right to me for this team (assuming the Dodgers aren’t willing to recall the age of Paul Lo Duca and bat their catcher leadoff).

You’d have to get over A.J.’s lack of speed coming right in front of Kemp, but it’s not as if anyone but Gordon should really be trying to steal with Kemp at the plate anyway.

Loney has always seemed made like a good No. 2 hitter to me, but the problem is that using him there would stack two of the Dodgers’ three left-handed regulars together, which is not what I want to see, especially late in a game.

I’m gathering that A.J. Ellis won’t see a first-inning at-bat much this year, but certainly, batting him eighth, behind a guy like Juan Uribe, seems like a mistake. But, wherever they’re hitting, these guys are going to have to produce.

Other notes before night turns into later that night …

  • The efforts of Kemp and Tony Gwynn Jr. to help lure Prince Fielder to the Dodgers are detailed by Dylan Hernandez of the Times and Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. From Hernandez:

    … Kemp said he actively recruited Prince Fielder over the winter and was convinced he would be in the same lineup as the former home-run champion in the upcoming season.

    “I was getting real confident in our chances of getting him,” Kemp said.

    Kemp said he spoke to Fielder several times.

    “I knew we were getting pretty close,” he said. “I didn’t know Detroit was in.” …

  • Comeback Player of the Year ballot candidate Ronald Belisario reported to Spring Training on time for the first time as a Dodger, notes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Zach Lee is the Dodgers’ top-ranked prospect by Baseball America at No. 62, followed by Allen Webster at No. 95 and Nathan Eovaldi at 96.
  • Ted Lilly became a father to his second child, Nora Grace, and was therefore excused from reporting to Camelback Ranch today, according to Hernandez. Congrats to the Lillys.
  • You’ve probably already seen this, but really did enjoy this Deadspin piece by Erik Malinowski on the making of The Simpsons‘ “Homer at the Bat.”
  • Potential Dodger owner Magic Johnson has another big enterprise on his mind – the founding of a new cable network, Aspire. Details from Jill Goldsmith at Variety.
  • Mike Axisa of Fangraphs made an argument that catching scarcity meant the Yankees should offer Russell Martin a three-year, $30 million contract. Others will disagree.
  • There are some minor rules changes in Major League Baseball this year, including what may become known as the Sam Fuld Rule, reports The Associated Press. (via Baseball Musings).
  • Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos talked to AP today about the aftermath of his kidnapping. “I feel like I’m living again,” Ramos said.
  • If you’re interested, I posted a bunch of TV thoughts today at Variety On the Air.
  • According to Jackson, Kemp’s reaction to the possibility that the Dodgers will sell for upwards of $2 billion: “Who’s got that kind of money? I thought I was rich.”
Jan 26

Reports: Dodgers were finalists for Fielder

By offering big bucks up front and an opt-out clause after four years of a seven-year deal, the Dodgers were finalists in the bidding for Prince Fielder after all — and perhaps would have signed him if Detroit, reeling from the ACL injury to Victor Martinez, hadn’t swooped in.

Buster Olney of ESPN.com makes note of this, and we can glean more from a report by Jon Heyman and Danny Knobler of CBSSports.comContinue reading

Jan 24

Prince Fielder close to deal with the Tigers

Prince Fielder and the Detroit Tigers are close to a contract — a nine-year, $214 million contract. That’s a bigger deal than I expected Fielder to get, and I’m not surprised or particularly crushed that the Dodgers didn’t top it.

My main concern was that the Dodgers might miss out on a great deal on Fielder under the misguided notion that they couldn’t even consider him. With their new TV contract staring them in the face, the Dodgers still could have afforded Fielder even at this mammoth contract size, but I won’t lose sleep over the fact that they’re stuck without him. Life and baseball move on, and we’ll dream of what might happen for the Dodgers after the new owner is in place.

Forbes (via Maury Brown), by the way, says that based on initial offers, Frank McCourt can expect a minimum of $1.5 billion as a sale price. Man.

Jan 22

Fielder-to-Dodgers momentum building?

I wrote in October that the Dodgers could and should sign Prince Fielder. More and more people appear to be coming around to the idea, as this post at Hardball Talk indicates. T.J. Simers of the Times also picked up the banner.

Here’s an excerpt from my piece, written almost exactly three months ago and before the Angels even signed Albert Pujols.

So guess what. The Dodgers should sign Prince Fielder.

Betcha didn’t see that coming.

Here are the reasons:

  • Fielder, who is only 4 1/2 months older than Kemp, might not play until he’s 40, but no one’s going to give him a 12-year contract. The big first baseman should be good for the next several years easily. For all the concerns about his physical condition, he has averaged 160 games per season since 2006.
  • He is truly awesome, not only supplying mammoth power (that admittedly would decline some playing regularly in Dodger Stadium) but also the mammoth on-base percentage that made Manny Ramirez so valuable during his Los Angeles heyday. Fielder’s lifetime OBP is .390, including .381 in road games (.386 in 70 plate appearances at AT&T Park, if that sort of thing interests you). That ability isn’t going to go away anytime soon. …
  • The Dodgers – even the bankrupt Dodgers – can afford him.

That last point is the one I’ve sort of put out of sight, out of mind, out of a belief that it wasn’t even worth thinking about. But then, I started to think about it. The Dodgers could always backload a Fielder contract so that the hefty portion (pun acknowledged but not admired) comes after the post-2013 local TV contract money can be accessed. However, the Dodgers should be able to afford Fielder even if they pay him the proper amount starting next year. …

Wasting money on a bad signing is one thing, but the idea that signing Fielder to a market-value contract would lower the value of the Dodgers in a sale has always been fiction. Having this bird in the hand gives the new owners a tremendous head start toward rejuvenating the franchise and generating value. If signing good players weren’t a value proposition, good teams wouldn’t do it.

Payroll is payroll, whether Fielder is on the team or not. It’s not as if the post-McCourt Dodgers are going to save money if Fielder isn’t on the roster – they’re just going to spend it on different players. Getting in the Fielder game now just means the Dodgers would know they’re getting a superb player instead of a gaggle of Juan Riveras. You can add Fielder to the team and save the money elsewhere, instead of being penny-wise but pound-foolish.

We went through this Vladimir Guerrero eight years ago. Is there anyone who thinks the Dodgers would have had less value with Guerrero in the fold?

Think about it – you’re a prospective Dodger owner. You’re bidding more than a billion bucks for the team even with the possibility that the Dodger Stadium parking lot land will cost extra. Are you really going to let the presence of Prince Fielder – on a contract that is spread out years into the future – be what prevents you from buying the franchise? It makes absolutely no sense.

Dec 21

Chan Ho Park pitches for the kids

As I still wonder whether Vanessa Bryant will join a Dodger ownership group …

  • The Dodgers have announced their invitees to their annual January developmental minicamp, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com: pitchers Steven Ames, Michael Antonini, Rubby De La Rosa, Stephen Fife, Shawn Tolleson, Josh Wall, Allen Webster and Chris Withrow, and position players Alex Castellanos, Griff Erickson, Tim Federowicz, Tyler Henson, Alfredo Silverio, Scott Van Slyke and Matt Wallach.

    The developmental camp is as much a tutorial about off-field preparation for becoming major-leaguers as anything to do with on-field performance.

  • Prince Fielder is just there for the taking, writes Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports.
  • Jonah Keri writes at Grantland about the Yankees’ new austerity (relatively speaking).
  • Also at Grantland, Rany Jazayerli writes about how teams trading established players for prospects might be getting the short end of the stick more often than you realize.
  • How about a Grantland hat trick: Jane Leavy writes about Julia Ruth Stevens, Babe Ruth’s last surviving child.
  • Andy LaRoche has signed a minor-league deal with Cleveland.
  • Chan Ho Park has signed to pitch in his native South Korea for the first time (news via Brett Bull).

    … The Hanwha Eagles said the right-hander had signed a one-year deal worth 24 million won ($20,600).

    The Eagles had planned to pay Park 400 million won per season with a club option for another 200 million won. But the money will instead be donated to a fund for amateur baseball at Park’s request.

    The 38-year-old said he would also donate his salary for the development of youth baseball.

    “I will spend that money on something meaningful for children,” he said. …

Dec 08

Incoming TV money explains Pujols signing

It could have been the Dodgers making the big news today.  And someday, it will be.

But for now, it’s all Angels.

On Thursday, the Dodgers continue their participation in a bankruptcy court hearing with Fox, a hearing largely focused on how to maximize the value of the baseball team. While that is going on, the Angels signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson — and just like that, the team from Anaheim seems to have written the book on how to maximize franchise value.

The commitment the Angels are making to the 31-year-old Pujols is, for those of us who live in the real world, insane. Ten years, $250 million-plus and all the fringe benefits I suspect you can name. It’s an incredible amount of money.

But the reason the Angels are able to make such a long-term splurge relates to the same reason that Dodgers fans should have hope for the franchise after all the courtroom drama is over. The TV money coming into the Southern California baseball market, whether from Fox Sports or its newly emerging rival, Time Warner Cable, is out of this world.

As Richard Sandomir recently wrote in The New York Times, the Dodgers’ current TV rights deal with Fox calls for just less than $40 million in its final year, 2013.  In the next contract, the annual payment the Dodgers receive in TV revenue is expected to be, at the bare minimum, $150 million, and quite possibly will go north of $200 million.  Sandomir even calculates that $300 million per year is a believable figure when all the bidding is done.

I’m not one to use the word “game-changer” frequently, but that’s a game-changer.

There are two principal reasons for the soaring dollars. Live sports has become invaluable programming for broadcasters in a DVR age that has brought declining ratings to conventional TV programming. And as I wrote for Variety this week, with TWC taking the Lakers from Fox to start new cable channels dedicated to the NBA team, the Dodgers are more valuable because of the need to fill the cable programming schedules in the summer months.

What’s relevant to Thursday’s signings is that the Angels are hardly being left out of the TV party. The Los Angeles Times reported in October that the Angels were close to negotiating an extension of their current TV deal with Fox, one that already stood to pay them more than the $80 million per year that Fox agreed to pay the Texas Rangers last year. Although you wouldn’t have assumed the Angels would get quite what the Dodgers could count on, the marquee value of Pujols — the equivalent of signing a saner, younger Manny Ramirez — certainly will help. You can make a direct argument that the appeal of Pujols and his effect in boosting the Angels’ win total will only help the team draw more TV money as negotiations are finalized.

When you consider the probability that the Angels will be getting more than $1 billion from Fox over the life of Pujols’ contract, then absorbing those final $25 million-a-year seasons or whatever they are, even after he’s over-the-hill, doesn’t seem so vexing. Pujols is sponge-worthy, and the Angels are going to have a lot of sponges.

That the Dodgers know they have the same revenue potential, if not more, reminds us how easily the team could have been a major player in this winter’s free-agent market. Heck, even under a normal budget, we already knew the Dodgers could have figured out a way to afford Prince Fielder (probably a better fit for the team than Pujols because he’s younger and not demanding a 10-year deal).

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. reiterated the point this week. If you combine the salaries of Aaron Harang, Juan Rivera, Chris Capuano, Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston Jr. and James Loney, you would basically have the money to sign Fielder and a starting pitcher. Then you play bargain ball at second base, and you still probably have a better team than what the Dodgers will put out in 2012.

Factor in the Dodgers’ post-2013 TV money and a new owner with deeper pockets, which will come regardless of how the current bankruptcy hearing plays out, and it’s really no sweat. A contract the size of the one Pujols is getting makes me uncomfortable — except when I remind myself just how different the financial landscape will be for the Dodgers in the coming years.

Nothing the Angels did Thursday guarantees them a World Series title — and more often than not during the next 10 years, the team that does win the Series will not be Pujols’ team. My point is not that the Pujols signing is a great one, but that it’s a feasible one. Over the life of the contract, taking into account both his peaks and his valleys, Pujols should make the Angels a better contender for titles and TV viewers.  Even at Pujols’ astronomical salary, the Angels’ risk-reward ratio is a solid one. Adding Wilson to the party only underscores this point.

And it serves as a reminder that anyone looking to acquire the Dodgers or their TV rights would be more confident in doing so knowing that Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and a player of Pujols’ or Fielder’s caliber is in place. (And hey, Fielder is still out there …)

So take heart, Dodgers fans. Frank McCourt is still selling, and the TV dough is still coming. This time next year, the Dodgers should be in the money, and we’ll have to worry (sigh) only about whether they’re spending it wisely.

Nov 18

Spending here but not there

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the whole piece here.

Nov 16

Kemp will be king, but there will be no Prince

Ned Colletti said Tuesday that it’s “unrealistic” that the Dodgers will sign Prince Fielder. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more.

Amid reports such as this from Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com that Matt Kemp’s soon-to-be-official eight-year contract will pay him just over $10 million next season, it would appear that the Dodgers are in for one more spring of budget tightening as the ownership transition takes place. The contract for new second baseman Mark Ellis pays $2.5 million in 2012 and $5.25 million in 2013, plus incentives, Jackson reports.

The Dodgers’ main mystery right now is starting pitching, considering that the back end of their rotation is made up of Nathan Eovaldi and Dana Eveland and there’s no guarantee yet that Hiroki Kuroda will return.

  • Though as a Dodger fan you might find it moot, David Schoenfeld of ESPN.com explores how much the Kemp deal will affect Fielder’s next contract.
  • New stats-oriented director of contracts, research and operations Alex Tamin influenced the Ellis signing, general manager Ned Colletti told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • The Ellis signing gets a mixed review from Chad Moriyama.

    … For the money, Ellis should be a passable option considering the alternatives were not exactly appealing, nor were there strong internal candidates. However, while Ellis should be better going forward than he was in 2011, he still figures to be below the league average threshold, making him a fringy or mediocre starter. Additionally, there’s the real risk that he goes through a collapse in skill before the contract is up. So while the finances might pan out okay, this has to rate as an average deal at best.

  • Here’s a January 2008 ode to Ellis from my former Baseball Toaster compadre Ken Arneson.
  • New Dodger trainer Sue Falsone, interviewed by the Huffington Post, says the song that reminds her most of Los Angeles is “Don’t Stop Believin’,” but we’ll hold out hope for her success here anyway (link via Vin Scully Is My Homeboy).
  • Former Dodger outfielder Xavier Paul unknowingly got caught up in an Australian Baseball League scam, reports Alexis Brudnicki of Baseball America and Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com.
  • MLB.com also offered up its choices for top Dodger minor leaguers in 2011 by position. Compare them to the Dodger Thoughts Grain of Salt Midseason Minor-League All-Stars.
  • River Ave. Blues passes along a piece that shows that the value of the batting average statistic was being questioned 96 years ago.
  • In Tuesday’s mail, I received to my surprise (as a Los Angeles-based Hall of Fame non-voter) a 12-page full-color campaign brochure for Juan “Igor” Gonzalez’s Cooperstown candidacy. Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk rebuts the effort.
  • I was a fan of the Baltimore Orioles’ move in the 1990s to an ornithologically correct bird on its caps, in part because of the repeated use by sportswriters of the word “ornithologically.” I also thought it looked cool, so I’m a little disappointed to see them go back to the cartoon bird.
  • For your amusement/slash/horror: Life (the magazine, not the cereal) has chosen its 20 worst ever covers.
Nov 01

Progress toward a sale or posturing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Dodger prospect Allen Webster gets an evaluation, with video, from Mike Newman of Fangraphs.
  • Matt Kemp is scheduled to be a guest on “Last Call with Carson Daly” in Thursday late-night programming, which really means Friday morning.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. went the extra mile in looking at the Dodgers’ Gold Glove finalists.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness presented his 15-point plan to make the Dodgers the best they can be in 2012.
  • Bob Timmermann shared some great old baseball photos on Twitter on Saturday, including Vin Scully getting stats from Allan Roth, Dick Enberg in a Valley State (now Cal State Northridge) uniform and Willie Davis’ bad day.
  • Former Dodger Tom Goodwin was named first-base coach for the Mets.
  • Best headlines of 2011 has to include this from Alex Belth of Bronx Banter on CC Sabathia: “The Stay Put Marshmellow Man.”
  • In case you’re curious, Sabathia’s new deal pays out in the following manner: $23 million each of the next four seasons (as had already been in place), $25 million in 2016, $25 million vesting option in 2017 or $5 million buyout. More from ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Across town, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said he doesn’t expect to trade third baseman David Wright.
Oct 24

A Fielder of dreams


Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesFuture teammates? (In Los Angeles, we mean.)

If the Dodgers lived in a world of riches and roses, they would sign Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, get as much value in exchange for James Loney as they could, and greet the 2012 season with high hopes.

Now let’s talk about the world they actually live in.

It’s a world that I’ve believed does not include any realistic possibility of Pujols or Fielder coming to Los Angeles except in the visitor dugout. Even if the imminent hearing on Frank McCourt’s ability to auction off the team’s TV rights results in the final blow to his ownership, I’ve felt there would be too much chaos this winter to allow the Dodgers to commit, if I’m low-balling it, what would be a minimum of $150 million for a Fielder signing.

Plus, there’s an argument that even if all was normal with the Dodgers – and by normal, I’m referring to the Dodgers as they’ve been at their best, as opposed to the Dodgers spending like the Yankees – the team shouldn’t be pursuing Fielder or Pujols, much less aging, gimpier players like Carlos Beltran (35 in April) or Aramis Ramirez (34 in June).

The Dodgers will have no more important long-term signings to pursue than Matt Kemp before the end of the 2012 season and Clayton Kershaw before the end of 2014. Each of those players will require contracts that, at some point, are paying them more than $20 million annually. In the middle of this decade, the Dodgers could be spending more than $40 million a year on those two players alone. And I hope they do, because both Kemp and Kershaw are great bets to make good on the deals, and because the Dodgers are long overdue for some great, homegrown players to spend a solid decade or more with the team.

So, is it really sensible to turn that into $60-plus million per season on three players? It’s hard not to notice, for example, that neither of the two teams playing in the World Series have devoted that much of their payroll to so few players.

  • St. Louis paid Matt Holliday $17 million this season and Pujols (in the last year of an eight-year contract signed before he could become a free agent) $16 million. Chris Carpenter made $15 million, but no other hitter who started the season with the Cardinals made more than Lance Berkman’s $8 million.
  • Texas paid Michael Young $16 million and Adrian Beltre $14 million in 2011. Josh Hamilton, like Kemp a potential free agent after the 2012 season, made only $7.25 million.

You can look at those bullet points two ways, actually. On the one hand, you don’t need a $20 million player to make the World Series. On the other hand, spending even $30 million on two guys doesn’t guarantee you’ll have enough to fund the rest of a championship team – Texas and St. Louis were anything but locks to play in the season’s final week.

Pujols will be 32 when he starts his next contract and near 40 when it ends. Fielder is younger than Pujols, but would be closer to 300 pounds than perhaps any Dodger ever. (Beats Frank Howard, right?) Even if the Dodgers were in the best financial shape of their lives, doesn’t part of you imagine that if Pujols or Fielder signed with Los Angeles, somehow, some way, something would go wrong? Horribly wrong?

So guess what. The Dodgers should sign Prince Fielder.

Betcha didn’t see that coming.

Here are the reasons:

  • Fielder, who is only 4 1/2 months older than Kemp, might not play until he’s 40, but no one’s going to give him a 12-year contract. The big first baseman should be good for the next several years easily. For all the concerns about his physical condition, he has averaged 160 games per season since 2006.
  • He is truly awesome, not only supplying mammoth power (that admittedly would decline some playing regularly in Dodger Stadium) but also the mammoth on-base percentage that made Manny Ramirez so valuable during his Los Angeles heyday. Fielder’s lifetime OBP is .390, including .381 in road games (.386 in 70 plate appearances at AT&T Park, if that sort of thing interests you). That ability isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
  • He would be a bird in the hand. He would be insurance in case Kemp, who might command more as a free agent, proves too difficult to come to terms. His presence could also help entice Kemp to stick around, given how he would feel about having Fielder in the cleanup slot (although at the end of the day, the best contract offer will carry the biggest weight for Kemp, plain and simple).
  • The Dodgers – even the bankrupt Dodgers – can afford him.

That last point is the one I’ve sort of put out of sight, out of mind, out of a belief that it wasn’t even worth thinking about. But then, I started to think about it.  The Dodgers could always backload a Fielder contract so that the hefty portion (pun acknowledged but not admired) comes after the post-2013 local TV contract money can be accessed. However, the Dodgers should be able to afford Fielder even if they pay him the proper amount starting next year.

The Dodgers have a somewhat shocking amount of 2012 payroll commitments: over $100 million. But then you notice that roughly $20 million of that total is allocated for Loney and Andre Ethier: two players coming off mixed seasons, two players who themselves will be eligible for free agency a year from now and unlikely to be resigned. If you replaced those two players with Fielder and an up-and-coming minor-leaguer, the Dodgers might be better off, if not next year, than as the decade goes on.

Let me reiterate that a Kemp-Fielder combo doesn’t get the Dodgers automatically credentialed into the 2012 World Series, any more than a Ryan Braun-Fielder combo did for Milwaukee in 2011. With or without Fielder, the Dodgers are an ownership-challenged team with holes at second base, on the bench and, pending what happens with Hiroki Kuroda, in the starting rotation.

Essentially, those problems will exist even without Fielder. Signing Fielder might even help solve one of them, by allowing them to trade Ethier. At any rate, I’m confident a Fielder signing wouldn’t mark a repeat of Andruw Jones.

If it’s a choice between Kemp, Kershaw and Fielder, then Fielder is the lowest priority for me on that list. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a choice.

It won’t be heartbreaking if the Dodgers don’t sign Fielder as a free agent, and it certainly won’t be surprising. It could, however, be very, very cool.

Sep 20

Best wishes to Derrick Hall

Tough news out of Arizona: Diamodbacks CEO and former Dodger executive Derrick Hall has prostate cancer. More from the Diamondbacks’ official site:

… A date for surgery to remove the tumors has not yet been scheduled. Hall underwent a series of tests recently and had a prostate biopsy performed on Sept. 14.

“I was informed by my doctor while in San Diego with the team Saturday,” Hall said. “I am fortunate the disease was caught in the early stages and expect a full recovery. I will use this news as an opportunity to educate and drive awareness, while hopefully saving more lives in the future. I am in great hands, and my family and I are confident we will get through this successfully. I notified all of my staff immediately and am eternally grateful for the overwhelming support, love and prayers.”

Hall underwent a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test, which resulted in elevated numbers and then underwent the prostate biopsy. That test was diagnosed as positive and revealed cancerous tumors.

D-backs managing general partner Ken Kendrick is a prostate cancer survivor. …

* * *

    Congrats to Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illnesshe’s engaged! To his girlfriend! She finally bagged her a Homer.
  • Matt Kemp won the Dodgers’ Roy Campanella Award, “given to the Dodger player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership of the late Hall of Fame catcher.” Rafael Furcal, Russell Martin, James Loney, Juan Pierre and Jamey Carroll are previous winners of the six-year-old trophy.
  • Frank McCourt winning his hearing on TV rights, Tony Gwynn Jr.’s close friendship and James Loney’s willingness to move to left field — all reasons to speculate about Prince Fielder coming to Los Angeles, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Manny Ramirez plans to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic this year, reports The Associated Press.
  • Tommy Lasorda will be in uniform as an honorary coach for the Dodgers’ home finale September 22, which happens to be the birthday of Lasorda, my daughter and Molly Knight.
  • From the Dodger press notes: Dee Gordon “is tied the for NL lead along with Florida’s Emilio Bonifacio with 28 September hits and ranks fifth on the circuit with a .373 batting average this month (28-for-75). The 23-year-old also leads the Majors with nine stolen bases in 17 September games and overall ranks second among NL rookies with 21 steals in 27 attempts (77.8%). Gordon went 3-for-4 on Sunday to extend his career-long hitting streak to six games and is batting .423 (11-for-26) since the run began on Sept. 13. He is batting .337 (35-for-104) in the season’s second half, which ranks sixth among NL qualifiers.”
  • Tonight’s matchup between Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum reunites two pitchers who, as of now, are in the top 20 in major-league history in adjusted ERA for starting pitchers (minimum 700 innings), according to Baseball-Reference.com.