Mar 18

The LaRussa factor

Don Newcombe at Camelback Ranch (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Angels at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m. (weather permitting)

It’s natural to speculate about which free-agent players the Dodgers might go after under new ownership, but one subject that hasn’t gotten as much talk is that of whom the next general manager might be.

Ned Colletti might need the Dodgers to at least win their division to survive the natural tendency for a new owner to hire a new lieutenant. If Colletti is replaced, logical successors include past or present Dodger executives like Kim Ng, De Jon Watson or Logan White.

However, the fact is that a revitalized Dodger franchise might be considered a prime target for some of the best active general manager candidates in baseball, if their contract status allows it.

To that end, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com writes that if Steven Cohen ends up with the franchise, there’s talk that Tony La Russa will take an executive role, above the general manager’s office, such as team president. If so, that could discourage several possible general manger candidates, who might question whether they’d have as much decision-making authority as they’d otherwise expect.

“All of this is speculation; the bidding is not nearly complete,” Rosenthal writes. “But, as rival execs see it, a GM such as the Tampa Bay Rays’ Andrew Friedman or Arizona Diamondbacks’ Kevin Towers likely would not leave their current situations for limited autonomy in L.A.”

  • J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News reported it was hailing at Camelback Ranch less than two hours before gametime today.
  • Ivan De Jesus Jr., who made a nice defensive play Saturday against the Giants and had been having a solid spring, has been sidelined indefinitely with an oblique strain. Kem Gurnick of MLB.com has details.
  • Non-roster invitee Alberto Castillo, who pitched for Arizona last year, was released by the Dodgers, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A., who adds that Will Savage, Matt Chico and Ryan Tucker were sent to minor-league camp.
  • This memorable ESPN the Magazine cover of Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw was passed along by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy. Seems to me the roles should have been reversed, but Kershaw is nothing if not a good sport.

Feb 26

Tinker tailor pitcher spy

I had hoped to do a big pre-Spring Training piece on Chad Billingsley, but that got lost in the ongoing shuffle of my life. But Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has a good lidlifter on Billingsley, whose mechanics continue to be a work in progress.

… After throwing his second bullpen session of spring training last week, Billingsley spent several minutes talking with Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, who at one point could be observed manually adjusting Billingsley’s front foot in midair while Billingsley stood frozen at the apex of his delivery.

This is what spring training is for, obviously, to iron out little things. But this is a fairly big change for Billingsley, who is trying to stop kicking his front leg out during his delivery — which often results in his body getting ahead of his arm and sometimes allows gravity and momentum to affect his motion — and start keeping that leg underneath his body.

“I don’t know if it’s major,” Billingsley said. “I’m just working hard at smoothing out my leg kick. When my foot gets out away from my body like that, my timing has to be just right. If it’s not, then I start drifting toward the third-base side and stepping across my body when I deliver the pitch.”

And that results in the pitch being off line, maybe no more than an inch or so — but in the big leagues, that can be the difference in a game. Billingsley is hoping this adjustment will allow him to stay on line more often, giving him a little more margin for error with the rest of his delivery because his timing will be right and his momentum won’t cause him to fall off to one side of the mound.

“You can’t be perfect all the time, even though that is what you strive for,” Billingsley said. “There are going to be times when I’m still going to be too quick (with his body). But this should allow me to be more consistent.”  …

  • One of the more positive assessments of the 2012 Dodgers you’ll see comes from Ben Reiter of SI.com.
  • Steve Soboroff regrets getting on Team McCourt last year, he tells T.J. Simers of the Times, and advises McCourt to sell the Dodger Stadium parking lots with the team.
  • Not surprisingly, the Dodger Sims lineup simulator and Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness find it best – for the Dodgers to bat A.J. Ellis leadoff and Dee Gordon eighth – but not so much better that we need to stew over it. (My post about the Dodger batting order came last week.)
  • The Dodgers’ annual open tryout at Camelback Ranch is March 1. Potential prospects can call (323) 224-1512 for details and instructions.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. ran down a typical day at Spring Training the other day.
  • Stephen also passes along Don Mattingly’s initial thoughts from Camelback about Dee Gordon: “It’s a time issue with Dee. I don’t think we can say, ‘We want you to walk.’ I think we want to let him hit, let him be himself, and let him progress into the role.”
  • Jacob Peterson of Beyond the Box Score has an interesting post about extremes involving the ages of baseball Hall of Famers.
  • The departure of Tony LaRussa as Cardinals manager is the only thing that paved the way for Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith to rekindle his relationship with the team, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • Sportsthodoxy offers “Your Handy Ryan Braun Conspiracy Theory Guide” (via Rob McMillin at 6-4-2).
  • If you know in advance that you’re going to limit an ace pitcher to 160 innings in a season, as the Nationals plan to with Stephen Strasburg, how would you do it? David Pinto of Baseball Musings and Tom Tango (in a blog post and the comments below) contemplate the question.
  • An excellent story of how sabermetrics – not to mention FireJoeMorgan.com turned around the career of A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy is told by Eddie Matz of ESPN the Magazine.
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.”