Feb 17

Today’s Dodger Facebook status updates

Kyle Terada/US PresswireChad Billingsley is digging fielding practice today at Camelback Ranch.

Friend this …

Feb 16

Regarding the Lakers’ loss to the Cavaliers …

… which Andy Kamenetzky writes about at Land O’Lakers

Wow. I mean … Wow.

Forget this being the worst loss of the season. That’s not even debatable. …

I’ve been preaching patience. Perspective. Recognition of how it’s a marathon, not a sprint. …

But frankly, this is alarming, even for me. …

This is the Lakers equivalent of rock bottom. There will be talk of potential and greatness slipping away, and time running out to prevent a disastrous outcome.

Ultimately, it’s up to the Lakers to decide whether they want to save themselves.

Yep. Every team has their rock bottom. It’s not hitting it that matters. It’s what you do after.

Feb 16

Dodger Thoughts on Twitter

With Spring Training now underway and a new baseball season dawning, this seems like a good time to remind, inform or warn you that you can follow me on Twitter — and thereby receive ongoing updates about what’s happening in the Dodger, baseball (and, like it or not) entertainment worlds. Click here:


Act now, and you might be my lucky 5,000th follower and win … my thanks.

Feb 16

Scott Podsednik’s offseason odyssey ends in Toronto

When the Dodgers picked up their half of Scott Podsednik’s option, that seemed like a shaky choice … but not half as shaky as when the 34-year-old said thanks but no thanks to the guaranteed $2 million and chose free agency. Months went by, and it was not until today that Podsednik signed a 2011 contract.

It’s a minor-league deal, for which we haven’t seen the terms — it’s entirely possible that Podsednik will make the major-league roster and end up with the kind of money he had envisioned, but I can’t imagine this offseason went the way he imagined.

Here’s some comment on Podsednik’s Blue Jays future from Josh Alper at Fanhouse:

… Podsednik will have a pretty good shot at winning a spot on the roster. The Jays could use a leadoff man and Podsednik fits the offensive criteria a bit better than Rajai Davis. They also could be looking at a time share at the designated hitter position where Podsednik could split duties with Travis Snider and Juan Rivera as the Jays look to avoid too much of a defensive disaster in left field. There’s also the possibility that the Jays will be forced to use Jose Bautista at third base, although that seems like a last resort.

So there’s room for Podsednik to earn a job. Assuming he can repeat last year’s production, he could even play quite a bit, although one imagines they’d rather see Rivera and Snider win regular roles with Podsednik and Davis splitting time and providing doses of speed to a lineup that’s short on it.

The Dodgers traded Elisaul Pimentel and Lucas May for Podsednik on July 28.

Feb 16

Belisario in jeopardy of missing season

The weird thing with Ronald Belsiario, whom Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles says is in jeopardy of missing the 2011 season, was that he ever became an important pitcher for the Dodgers in the first place.

His credentials at Spring Training 2009 were less than zero, making his late arrival there irrelevant, and less than a week before Opening Day that year, he remained practically a non-entity. Then he came, was seen and conquered. On July 1, he had a 1.89 ERA with 46 strikeouts against 55 baserunners in 47 2/3 innings.

He soon was forced to miss a month of the season with some personal and physical problems, but still finished the year strong. Only a run he allowed on the final day of the season pushed his ERA over 2.00.

But then came the chaos of 2010 — an even later arrival, followed by almost none of the consistent excellence the previous year had offered. His rate of baserunners allowed went up; his strikeout rate went down. The lowest his ERA sat at any point last year was 3.79 on July 5, after a three-inning shutout performance that was immediately followed by another sabbatical of more than a month. On August 12, he was a conspirator in one of the Dodgers’ devastating losses, allowing four of the eight runs the team gave up in the final two innings of a 10-9 defeat at Philadelphia.

As divided as fans can be on pitchers like Jonathan Broxton, they were united this offseason on Belisario. I doubt there was anyone who didn’t cast a dubious eye on his presence on the 2011 roster, wondering if he could be relied upon in any sense.

There are certain players who, no matter how talented they were at one point, will always be remembered for the air of mystery or confusion that so often surrounded them. Belisario may well make it back to the big leagues someday, with the Dodgers or some other team, but something tells me his name will always evoke a sigh.

I hope Belisario finds his way through his problems.  Boy, never a dull moment with this Dodger team …

* * *

Using my Spring Training Primer for reference, Belisario’s absence strengthens the hold that Kenley Jansen and Blake Hawksworth have on bullpen spots (behind Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Matt Guerrier and Vincente Padilla), and takes a hurdle away from Ron Mahay, Scott Elbert and Ramon Troncoso, who figure to be the leaders (in that order) in the battle for a theoretical seventh relief spot.

Feb 16

Clayton Kershaw to start Opening Day

As it should be

Left-hander Clayton Kershaw will get the ball for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ season opener on March 31 against the San Francisco Giants, manager Don Mattingly announced on Wednesday morning.

Mattingly said he made the decision as far back as last fall.

“Probably the day after I found out I was going to manage,” Mattingly said. “This kid loves the challenge, and I would line him up against anybody.”

In this case, Mattingly likely will be lining up Kershaw against right-hander Tim Lincecum, the Giants’ ace right-hander and two-time reigning National League Cy Young Award winner. Mattingly cited Kershaw’s two victories last season over Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez, the N.L. starter in the All-Star Game, as evidence of his ability to rise to the occasion. …

Feb 16

Dodgers invite Lance Cormier to camp

The Dodgers signed Lance Cormier to a minor-league deal with an invite to big-league camp, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, who has details.

Interestingly, Cormier is two years younger than Matt Guerrier, who signed a big three-year deal with the Dodgers in the offseason,

Cormier, 30, has been effective at times over the past three years pitching for the Orioles and Rays, with a 3.71 ERA, though he has still allowed 316 baserunners in 211 innings with only 112 strikeouts. As a righty, he has long odds for making the Opening Day roster but could be in the midseason mix if he stays in the minors.

Feb 15

Welcome to Spring Training

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Wednesday: Major-league pitchers and catchers reporting date
Thursday: First workout
Monday: Major-league position players report
Feb. 22: First full-squad workout
Feb. 23: Minor-league early camp opens
Feb. 26: Cactus League Opening Day – split-squad games in Tempe vs. Angels and Scottsdale vs. Giants
Feb. 27: Camelback Ranch Opening Day vs. Angels (on Prime Ticket)
March 3: Minor-league pitchers and catchers report
March 9: Minor-league position players report
March 11: First full minor-league workout
March 27: Final 2011 Camelback Ranch Spring Training game vs. Indians
March 28: Dodgers vs. Angels at Dodger Stadium
March 29: Dodgers vs. Angels at Anaheim
March 30: Dodgers vs. Mariners at Dodger Stadium
March 31: Opening Day vs. Giants at Dodger Stadium

Feb 15

The Dodger Thoughts 2011 Spring Training Primer

Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireRonald Belisario, International Man of Mystery

Here we go – our journey to the 2011 season begins with this single step. Here’s how the Dodger roster shakes out at the start of Spring Training. (Names below are either on the 40-man roster or have a non-roster invitation to major-league camp.)

Locks (20)
Definition of a lock: Only the disabled list or a trade can stop these guys from making the Opening Day roster. (We’ll discuss them more in an upcoming post.)

Starting pitchers (5): Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly, Jon Garland

Relief pitchers (4): Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Vicente Padilla, Matt Guerrier

Catchers (1): Rod Barajas

Infielders (5): James Loney, Juan Uribe, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Jamey Carroll

Outfielders (5): Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Jay Gibbons, Tony Gwynn Jr., Marcus Thames

Jason O. Watson/US Presswire
Kenley Jansen

Most Likely to Succeed (5)
Kenley Jansen, RHP: I fully expect Jansen to be on the Opening Day roster after he allowed two runs in 27 innings while striking out 41 for the Dodgers in his surprising debut last season, but the bullpen does face a roster crunch of relievers who are out of options, while Jansen has ’em to spare. If for some reason he blows up in Spring Training, he would be a candidate for more seasoning.

Blake Hawksworth, RHP: Here’s the opposite scenario of Jansen – he’s coming off a shaky 2010 (4.98 ERA, 61 strikeouts in 90 innings), but he came in the Ryan Theriot deal with no minor-league options remaining. That should be enough for a spot, but there is a scenario where others could force him off the team.

Ronald Belisario, RHP: It’s not an original thought to say that just arriving at Camelback on time will be half the battle, but it’s probably true. Coming off his inconsistent 2010, Belisario has something to prove, but any sign of his 2009 form and a half-decent approach off the field should be enough.

Dioner Navarro, C: Of all of Ned Colletti’s offseason moves, offering a million bucks to the guy he once traded away and had 24 hits last season might have been the most head-scratching. If Navarro looks terrible in March, the Dodgers could cut him loose without paying his full salary. But the expectation here is he does enough with his second chance to send A.J. Ellis to Albuquerque with a rock in his Halloween bag.

Aaron Miles, IF: The 25th spot on the roster is a true spin of the wheel. Logically, it should go to an infielder, but there you have candidates including Miles, Juan Castro, Ivan De Jesus Jr. and Justin Sellers. Or the Dodgers could decide to go with five infielders in order to buy more time with one of their outfielders, be it Xavier Paul, Jamie Hoffmann or Trent Oeltjen. Or they want to keep an extra lefty in the bullpen without sacrificing Jansen, Hawksworth or Belisario.  Without much conviction, I’m giving a small edge to Miles. My guess is they feel the need for a sixth infielder, and Castro is so far over the hill I think Mattingly might notice. Sellers and De Jesus can go to the minors. So can the 34-year-old Miles, but he has the major-league imprimatur (.281 batting average/.627 OPS for St. Louis in 2010), plus he’s expendable if they decide they want to cut him.

Next in Line (5)
Ron Mahay, LHP: Mahay will probably wear a Dodger uniform this season – it’s only a matter of when. It could be March 31, if just one of the seven relievers ahead of him is traded, has to start the season on the disabled list or is generally deemed unworthy. But even at age 39, his relative skill at throwing from the left (.520 OPS allowed against lefty batters) just seems too right.

A.J. Ellis, C: The Dodgers probably like Ellis as a person – they just have a roundabout way of showing it. To be fair, you have to respect the Navarro signing in how it shows the Dodgers didn’t buy into Ellis’ red-hot final month (15 for 36 with eight walks) as the sign of something permanent. On the other hand, Ellis was better than Navarro last year, so you have to feel a little for the longtime minor-leaguer having to wait things out again.

Justin Sellers, IF: Sellers was my original first choice for Miles’ spot, based on his solid showing for Albuquerque in 2010 (.867 OPS, 14 home runs), but then I figured the Dodgers would lean toward the veteran for the bench. He’s not considered a serious prospect, but he’s no old-timer – he turned 25 this month. Look for him to make his major-league debut this year.

Ramon Troncoso, RHP: Will Troncoso complete his final journey to Cory Wade-Land?  An indispensable member of the pen less than a year ago – by May 1, he had pitched in a rather stunning 16 of the Dodgers’ first 24 games with a .601 OPS allowed – Troncoso was rocky the rest of the way, ultimately splitting time between the majors and the minors. His strikeout rate declined from 9.0 per nine innings in 2008 to 5.7 last year, but if his arm rallies in 2011, he could convince the Dodgers to, say, part ways with Belisario. And certainly, he could be the first righty reliever resolutely recalled.

Ron Vesely/Getty Images
Xavier Paul

Xavier Paul, OF: The leading candidate for the Delwyn Young Pat on the Butt – Here’s Your Ticket to a Central Division Team Award for Out-of-Option Players, Paul missed his best chance to establish himself as a Dodger when he OPSed .591 as part of the Committee to Replace Manny Ramirez. In theory, there’s no reason why Paul couldn’t emerge triumphant in the Hit and Play Defense in the Same Game Outfielder Challenge, but after all his health and hitting struggles, it would help if he could avoid his annual escapades with the Murphy’s Law Musketeers.

See You by September? (17)
Scott Elbert, LHP: His personal problems are, until we hear otherwise, last year’s story – as is confusion about his role. The Dodgers view him purely as a reliever and are asking him just to get three outs, maybe six, and call it a night. If he can find a clear head and figure out his control, a multiyear career with the Dodgers may yet be his. But in the short term, Mahay’s presence will force Elbert to dazzle to make the initial 25.

Juan Castro, IF: You can’t count Castro out of the Opening Day discussion, but his shaky offensive resume has dissolved completely. If he’s willing to go to the minors at age 38, there could certainly be a moment that would find the Dodgers dialing his number.

Ivan DeJesus Jr., IF: Ned Colletti specifically said that DeJesus is a candidate to be the backup infielder, which probably reflects both his ascension to the top of the farm system and a lack of concern about him getting everyday playing time. But is there a Catch 22 at play here? The better he plays in Spring Training, the harder it will be to see him ride the bench. The logic bet is that DeJesus is in the minors, earning a callup if and when a starting infielder goes on the disabled list. The longshot is DeJesus winning the second-base job outright, pushing Uribe to third base and Blake into a utility role.

Mike MacDougal, RHP: Last year was brutal at the major-league level for the 2003 All-Star, but the year before wasn’t. That speaks to the inconsistency of his career (not to mention his profession). He’s got the kind of name value that would allow him another chance.

Travis Schlichting, RHP: The 26-year-old’s 2010 major-league campaign began with that heroic four-inning relief effort in the 1-0, 14-inning victory over Arizona. Schlichting kept his ERA in healthy form the rest of his time in Los Angeles, though he could be careless with inherited runners. In addition, lingering health concerns remain. Buried behind the right-handed relief corps, Schlichting nevertheless should be a midseason candidate.

John Ely, RHP: Elymania II? Ely could be the first starting pitcher called up from the minors in 2011, after Padilla is pressed into service from the bullpen (if not before). Ely will want to show that he’s learned something from his second-half struggles in 2010 — he had an 8.00 ERA in 54 innings after June 1.

Jamie Hoffmann, OF: Lost in the Rule 5 draft a year ago and then found, Hoffmann led Albuquerque with 169 hits and also comes with a better defensive reputation than any third-outfielder candidate besides Gwynn. But the signing of Thames all but killed Hoffmann’s chances of making the premiere roster without fate intervening.

Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire
Carlos Monasterios

Carlos Monasterios, RHP: Monasterios is free from the Rule 5 shackles, which has everyone assuming he’ll spend the bulk of the year in New Mexico. Turning 25 in March, he actually brings back better relief numbers from 2010 than several of the guys ahead of him (2.06 ERA, .620 OPS allowed), so maybe he’ll surprise, but he has a lot of men to leapfrog.

Jon Link, RHP: Let’s see, Link is the … 18th pitcher we’ve listed so far. How long will it take the Dodgers to get to pitcher No. 18?  Should we place the over-under in June?

Trayvon Robinson, OF: We talked last month about Robinson’s accelerating development and the chance he could go from Double-A in 2010 to the majors by the end of 2011. The Dodgers would rather postpone that last step until ’12, but I’m finding it hard to believe that things will go so well for the veterans or so poorly for Robinson that he won’t get his first taste of the bigs in the months ahead.

Jerry Sands, OF-1B: The inaugural entry in the “How close is he?” series, Sands will be right on Robinson’s tail. He could become another left field alternative by midseason, or challenge Loney at first base if the incumbent continues to falter. We’ll be keeping an eye out for any midseason position switches.

Trent Oeltjen, OF: At some point, the Dodgers might well face a choice between calling up a Robinson/Sands prospect, or short-terming it with Oeltjen, who played in 14 games with the big club in September after OPSing .979 in 226 plate appearances with Albuquerque. I’ve listed Oeltjen below Robinson and Sands, but he should very possibly be above them.

Eugenio Velez, OF: With a lifetime .300 on-base percentage and .388 slugging percentage as his 29th birthday approaches, there’s not much reason to think the ex-Giant would make a dent at the major-league level, but far stranger things have happened.

Hector Gimenez, C: Ever since the Dodgers signed Gimenez in November, I’ve mentally dismissed him as irrelevant, but when you look at his ledger (peaking with 16 homers, .384 on-base percentage, .533 slugging percentage in 392 plate appearances at Double-A), there’s no reason to think the 28-year-old couldn’t surpass Ellis as the No. 3 catcher – or, if Navarro flames out, No. 2. Baseball America once rated Gimenez the best defensive catcher in the Houston Astros’ farm system, though that was six years ago. As of this writing, 180 people like Gimenez’s Facebook page.

Russ Mitchell, 3B: When he’s wasn’t moonlighting for CBS News, Mitchell was putting together one of the more unusual Septembers for a Dodger rookie: 43 at-bats, four singles, two homers. He was second at Albuquerque in home runs (23) and plays a position in which the Dodgers lack depth, so that keep him alive for another cup of coffee this year – he’s the first available third baseman after Blake, Uribe and Carroll (well, except for Miles, Sellers or Castro).

Dee Gordon, SS: The Dodger organization’s most prolific Twitterer – closing in on No. 2,000 –  has been talked to and talked about this winter. Though many say his ceiling is higher than Robinson or Sands – or because of it – the Dodgers might be inclined to let him percolate the longest. With DeJesus and other transients available to fill in as middle infielders, I’m thinking September 1 is the absolute earliest that Gordon arrives, as he works on his fundamentals offensively and defensively. He turns 23 in April.

John Lindsey, 1B: Lindsey’s big hurdle this offseason was sticking on the 40-man roster amid the Dodgers’ quantity of acquisitions. He’s close to making it through the winter unscathed, though the fact remains that there’s no spot for him on the Opening Day roster. If he doesn’t head off to Japan, Eric Stults-style, he could return to Albuquerque and wait for another opportunity to wear those major-league togs again.

Check Back in a Year or Two (5)
Javy Guerra, RHP
: The one-time blogger Guerra, who struck out 27 in 27 innings for Chattanooga last year, would have been a more likely contender for a 2011 callup if a) he didn’t also walk 22 and b) he wasn’t slowed down by offseason surgery to repair a gash from a kitchen accident.

John Rieger/US Presswire
Jon Huber

Jon Huber, RHP: In May, almost exactly 10 years after he was drafted, Huber was released by the Braves organization and landed with the Dodgers. He then pitched his best ball in quite some time for Double-A Chattanooga: 2.23 ERA, 48 strikeouts and only 47 baserunners in 44 1/3 innings. However, the 29-year-old, whose reached the majors in 2006-07, has a non-roster invite to Spring Training and a long line of relievers to navigate before he would get his contract purchased.

Luis Vasquez, RHP: He was added to the 40-man roster in November, after striking out 39 in 40 1/3 innings against 54 baserunners with Single-A Great Lakes.

Rubby De La Rosa, RHP: The Dodgers’ minor-league pitcher of the year shot onto the radar with a 2.37 combined ERA at Single- and Double-A, but with only 28 professional starts in his career and never more in a season than last year’s 13, he needs to show he can do it for longer stretches.

Wilkin De La Rosa, LHP: In his first three seasons in the Yankee farm system, this De La Rosa posted ERAs of 2.62, 2.11 and 3.17 with more than a strikeout per inning. But after a 5.33 ERA at Double-A Trenton in 2010, the Yankees designated him for assignment, and the Dodgers grabbed him in December. He’s a lefty, so there’s always a possibility of something happening sometime.

Fodder (7)
Roman Colon, RHP
: Neither a Roman column nor a roamin’ colon (Note: I’ve been asked what a roamin’ colon is, and I don’t have a good answer), the 31-year-old showed some promise in his younger days but has a 5.12 ERA in 179 1/3 career innings since 2004, with 117 strikeouts against 272 baserunners.  Last year brought a detour to the Kia Tigers in Korea.

Oscar Villarreal, RHP:  Last seen in the majors with a 5.02 ERA in 37 2/3 innings for Houston in 2008, Villareal had Tommy John surgery in 2009 before beginning a comeback in 2010 with the Phillies’ Triple-A team (4.40 ERA, 42 strikeouts in 57 1/3 innings. He had an unusual debut in the majors, winning 10 games in relief before turning 22 in 2003.

Jason O. Watson/US Presswire
Gabe Kapler

Gabe Kapler, OF: The unretired manager’s .578 OPS with Tampa Bay last year doesn’t hint at much of a remaining major-league career, hometown ties or not.

Tim Redding, RHP: A year or two ago, Redding might have contended for shot as the No. 5 starter, but unless things go very wrong with the deepened Dodger pitching staff, the 33-year-old won’t see his way to Los Angeles. His last major-league action came in 2009, with a 5.10 ERA in 120 innings for the Mets. Last year, he had a 2.46 ERA in 84 innings for the Yankees’ Triple-A farm team, but his next stop wasn’t the Bronx but rather Korea.

Dana Eveland, LHP: The 28-year-old has slung a 6.96 ERA the past two seasons with 204 baserunners allowed in 98 1/3 innings against 46 strikeouts. Last year, he sucked Toronto in by allowing four earned runs in his first three starts, only to finish the year back in the high sixes. In short, like many professionals, he’s capable of a solid outing every now and then, but it’s a roulette wheel you don’t want to spin. If you ever wanted to read about Dana Eveland and Jack Taschner in the same paragraph, here you go.

JD Closser, C: Batted .319 in 124 plate appearances as a rookie in 2004, but he hit .213 in two seasons after that and hasn’t been seen in the majors since. Now 31, for two years he’s been in the Dodger organization, but OPSes of .761 and .671 in Albuquerque offer little promise.

Damaso Espino, C: Eleven seasons into his pro career, Espino hasn’t progressed past Triple-A, and a conversion from the infield to catcher hasn’t helped. Last year, he had an OPS in the low .600s for Cleveland’s Double-A and Triple-A teams – leaving it unclear, given the presence of Ellis, Gimenez and Closser where he even fits in as a minor-league backup for the Dodgers.

Feb 14

Lakers’ mega-TV deal could have impact on Dodgers

US PresswireThe Lakers’ local TV future is set until my 65th birthday. The Dodgers’ TV future … not so much.

Over at Variety, I have a story on Time Warner Cable’s landmark 20-year deal to create English- and Spanish-language Lakers TV networks. (And since this is the first question everyone has asked me today – no, this doesn’t mean only TWC subscribers will get to see the Lakers. It does mean that your satellite or cable provider, if it’s not TWC, will have to pay for the rights to air the networks.)

It’s too soon to know what this means for the Dodgers’ future TV plans, though not too soon to speculate.

First, an excerpt from the story:

In a major shift on the Los Angeles televised sports landscape, Time Warner Cable has acquired rights to distribute local broadcasts of Los Angeles Lakers games in a 20-year deal beginning with the 2012-13 NBA season.

Time Warner Cable will launch English- and Spanish-language sports networks showcasing the franchise, taking away the rights to live game broadcasts from current broadcasters KCAL Channel 9 and Fox Sports Net.

TWC is not keeping the channels exclusive to its own subscribers. Rather, it will make them available to all satellite, cable and telco distributors in the Lakers’ territory, which includes all of Southern California, Nevada and Hawaii.

National broadcast contracts on ABC/ESPN and TNT are unaffected, but 2011-12 will be the last season of local over-the-air broadcasts of the Lakers in Los Angeles.

“We are aiming for full and complete distribution with all distributors,” Time Warner Cable exec veep and chief programming officer Melinda Witmer told Variety. …

Dave McMenamin of ESPNLos Angeles.com is also covering the news, as are the Times’ Joe Flint and Bill Shaikin. Flint has details on what the cost could be per subscriber, while Shaikin’s piece most directly addresses the impact on the Dodgers, whose TV deal with Fox expires in 2013:

… Beyond then, according to court documents, Frank McCourt had intended to launch cable channels dubbed “DTV: Dodger Television” in English and Spanish, enabling the team to more than triple its annual television revenue if projections held true. …

Dodgers spokesman Josh Rawitch declined to comment on how the Lakers’ announcement might impact the Dodgers’ television plans. However, two sports industry consultants said what the Dodgers might have lost in financial upside could be somewhat mitigated with the newfound leverage of more sports channels in town.“It opens up a heck of a lot more what-ifs,” said Andy Dolich, a former top executive with the Oakland Athletics, San Francisco 49ers and Memphis Grizzlies.

McCourt still could pursue DTV, although local cable and satellite operators might balk at adding a Dodgers-themed channel, since subscribers might balk at paying for DTV, the Lakers channels, Fox Sports West and Fox’s Prime Ticket.

The Lakers, however, just provided McCourt with additional leverage. Until Monday, the Dodgers could say to Fox, “If you don’t offer us enough money to renew our deal, we’ll start our own channel.” Now the Dodgers can say to Fox, “If you don’t offer us enough, we can start our own channel or move our games to the Lakers channel.” …

However, since the loss of the Lakers and Dodgers would deprive Fox of arguably its two most valuable sports properties, Ganis said Fox might make the Dodgers an enormously lucrative contract offer. …

Fox said the following in a statement in response to the upcoming end to nearly three decades of Laker home broadcasts on Fox Sports Net: “”Fox made an offer to the Lakers that would have paid them one of the highest local TV rights fees in professional sports. We did not believe that going higher was in the best interest of our business or pay TV customers in Los Angeles, who will bear the cost of this deal for years to come.”

* * *

  • Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy has not one but two photo-filled posts on Day 1 of the Dodgers Caravan, which featured a team-infused cleanup effort along the L.A. River.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness offers Dodger fans “Six Reasons for Optimism in 2011.”
  • The 1932 Detroit Tigers spent part of their Spring Training at Stanford’s brand-new Sunken Diamond, and Scott Allen of Rule of Tree has a post about it.
Feb 14

The pleasure and peril of multiyear contracts for the kids

To extend, or not to extend – that is the question.

One part of my recent interview with Ned Colletti that I couldn’t work into the main story was his thoughts about offering multiyear contracts to younger players before they become free agents. Here’s what he had to say:

Ric Tapia/Icon SMIAndre Ethier was arguably the only arbitration-eligible Dodger who didn’t decline in 2010 after receiving a multiyear contract.

“You have to have some predictability to performance,” Colletti said. “Usually, clubs gain a benefit from going multiyear, and it’s got to be seen as that from the club’s perspective, because you’re not guaranteeing performance. All you’re guaranteeing is the financial end of the equation.

“If the right situation presents itself, where the guy’s in the right place in his career, his life and his priorities, and there’s a savings a club can realize, then it’s worth doing. But if only the first part’s there, that we’re gonna pay on the guy maximizing (his performance), there’s really no reason to do it – let him go out and do it every year. Some guys who are flawed in an area or who don’t possess everything they need, the agent will ask you to pay as if that is occurring, in the event that it does.”

In short, Colletti needs confidence that the player is going to stay on track performance-wise, and he needs there to be some savings for making the guaranteed payment. The Dodgers need to get some rebate in exchange for the security that they’re offering.

That being said, Colletti said that Clayton Kershaw is the kind of player for whom a multiyear deal might make sense, but that the process wouldn’t begin until next winter, when he first becomes eligible for arbitration.

“It’d be something we may think about as this year unfolds and we get into the offseason,” Colletti said. “Not this spring. He’s got four more years here.”

That might appropriate to some, too casual to others. Let’s take a closer look.

Colletti signed three key arbitration-eligible players to multiyear deals before the 2010 season – Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Jonathan Broxton – and based on 2010 performance, Colletti might well regret two of those contracts. He’s also probably quite pleased that he didn’t go multiyear with Russell Martin, and not really worried that he hasn’t done so with James Loney, who signed his latest one-year deal Friday. Perhaps he should have bought low on Chad Billingsley last winter. (I would have, but I would have also wanted to do so on a lot of the other guys.) In general, recent experience has probably made Colletti even more wary in discussing them with other players.

Here’s a snapshot of the salaries for the players we’re talking about over a four-year period (multiyear deals in bold, Martin’s Yankees salary in parentheses):

Player/Year 2008 2009 2010 2011
Billingsley $415,000 $475,000 $3,850,000 $6,275,000
Broxton $454,000 $1,825,000 $4,000,000 $7,000,000
Ethier $424,500 $3,100,000 $6,000,000 $9,250,000
Kemp $406,000 $467,000 $4,000,000 $7,050,000
Kershaw $404,000 $440,000 $500,000
Loney $411,000 $465,000 $3,100,000 $4,875,000
Martin $500,000 $3,900,000 $5,050,000 ($4,000,000)

Note that Billingsley got a 63 percent raise for 2011 following a well-regarded season, and Loney got a 57 percent raise for a season considered a disappointment. That gives you some guideposts for the following speculation:

  • Not signing Billingsley to a multiyear deal in 2010 might have cost the Dodgers a few hundred thousand bucks this year. But not signing a multiyear deal in 2009 might have saved the team money in 2010.
  • The two-year deal in 2010 for Broxton probably cost the Dodgers more than $600,000 for 2011. With a three-year deal in 2009, perhaps they would have broke even, though that involved more risk.
  • Ethier’s two-year deal has probably saved the Dodgers a little bit of money; a three-year deal in 2009 might have saved them a bit more.
  • With Kemp, I’m honestly not sure that going year-to-year would have made much of a difference. His 2011 salary appears higher than it otherwise would have been, but that might have been a case of backloading the contract, because the 2010 salary looks a little low. Kemp’s 2009 performance was stronger than Billingsley’s, and that’s not reflected in the $150,000 difference between their 2010 paychecks.
  • Going year-to-year with Loney probably saved the Dodgers money, but less than $1 million.
  • Martin, of course, is where the big savings comes – if he had signed a multiyear deal in 2009, he might have been paid an extra, say, $2 million last year. And if it had been a three-year deal, the Dodgers might be paying Martin $8 million this season. Only if Martin has a whopping comeback will the Dodgers regret this.

Given that Colletti didn’t have a crystal ball, it’s hard to complain much about how he’s handled things. The decision to show restraint on Martin has arguably saved the Dodgers $6 million, which more than covers any fringe costs with Broxton, Billingsley, Ethier or Kemp. The only way this would be reversed is if one of those four or Loney has an MVP or Cy Young season, and you’re then fretting that the Dodgers haven’t bought out some of their free-agent years, the way Colorado has with Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonazlez. We should be so unfortunate.

Brad Mangin/Getty ImagesClayton Kershaw, nearly four years younger than Tim Lincecum, had a lower ERA than the Giants ace in 2010.

That brings us back to Kershaw, who becomes eligible for salary arbitration after this season and eligible for free agency after 2014. (Gosh, that seems so nice and far away right now.) How urgent is it for Colletti to lock Kershaw up for multiple years? It would sure feel nice, but you can’t say there isn’t risk.

Let’s turn to the contract status of arguably the reigning young aces of each league (at least until Kershaw decides to do something about it).

One year ago Saturday, Tim Lincecum signed a two-year, $23 million contract (plus incentives in the thousands). The deal came after Lincecum and the Giants were $5 million apart – $8 million vs. $13 million – in their 2010 arbitration filing. It didn’t come close to addressing his free-agent years; it just was a hedge against what Lincecum might have earned going year-to-year.  Hypothetically, if Lincecum had settled for a 10.5 million salary in 2010, he might have been looking at something like $17 million this year, making for a total in the neighborhood of $28 million. (Though Lincecum slipped a bit in the 2010 regular season, his postseason performance would have helped rectify matters.)

Put one way, the Giants a year ago risked committing $13 million in 2011 salary in order to save about $5 million. That’s some high-stakes Mahjong.

Over in the American League, Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners played things differently. After earning $3.8 million in 2009 and facing a $4.3 million gap in salary arbitration filings ($7.2 million vs. $11.5 million), Hernandez signed a five-year, $78 million pact that locked away his first three years of free agency (2012-14). The contract averages $15.6 million per year for five years, $19.3 million for the three free-agent years. Again, there’s no mistaking the double-edged sword: You can assume that $58 million for three years wouldn’t have cut it for Hernandez after this season, but the risk is catastrophic if something goes wrong.

I think it’s pretty clear where my sentiments lie with Kershaw – I’d sign him to a multiyear contract tonight – but you can understand why Colletti might hesitate or procrastinate. For another example, look how quickly opinions turned on Eric Gagne before his multiyear deal vs. after he got hurt. It’s harder to stomach paying big bucks for an injured player than it is to pay bigger bucks for a healthy superstar.

On the other hand, better Clayton Kershaw than Jason Schmidt.

In my head, I can understand the patience, as much as I believe it should be done.

Feb 13

Farewell, Gino Cimoli

Getty ImagesGino Cimoli

Gino Cimoli, the first batter in Los Angeles Dodgers history, passed away Saturday at age 81, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Cimoli came up with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956 at age 26 and was the leadoff batter in the inaugural major league regular season game in California, on April 15, 1958 at Seals Stadium in San Francisco. Cimoli struck out in Los Angeles’ 8-0 to the Giants.

“Gino was a part of history not just as a member of both the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, but throughout the game of baseball because of his role in the first-ever big league game on the West Coast,” a Dodgers spokesman told ESPNLosAngeles.com when asked about the Chronicle’s report. “The rivalry between the Dodgers and Giants picked up where it left off in New York, and Gino was the fortunate one to lead off that afternoon in his hometown. He will undoubtedly be missed by all who knew him, and our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends.”

Cimoli batted .269 with 19 homers in three seasons with the Dodgers, before going on to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City A’s, California Angels and Baltimore Orioles in a career that ran through 1965. In 10 seasons, he had a .265 average with 808 hits and 44 home runs.

Cimoli’s Los Angeles highlight came on Sept. 1, 1958, when he went 4 for 7 with a walk and scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 16th inning against the Giants, in a game San Francisco rallied to win. The Dodgers traded Cimoli to St. Louis after the 1958 season for Wally Moon and Phil Paine.

Cimoli, who went 5 for 20 with two walks for the Pirates in the 1960 World Series, had a pinch-hit single to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning in Pittsburgh’s memorable Game 7 victory. As a rookie, he was on the Dodgers’ 1956 World Series team but did not bat.

More from John Shea in the Chronicle:

… Cimoli was a Brooklyn Dodger but a San Franciscan at heart. He was inserted atop the lineup by manager Walter Alston, who knew the significance of the North Beach legend and kid from Galileo High School becoming the first big-league batter following the Giants’ and Dodgers’ relocation from New York.

Cimoli died Saturday morning of kidney and heart complications. He was 81.

“Gino was just an all-around nice guy,” said friend Bob Tobener, who had helped organize functions in recent years at which Cimoli spoke. “He was a great athlete. Out of high school, people said he was a better basketball player than baseball player. . . . He was a really good hitter.” …

… His daughter, Cherryl Keast, said, “Our life totally revolved around baseball. Baseball was our life, not that that was a bad thing. We lived where he played.”

Feb 13

The Dodger Thoughts Spring Training Primers – a look back

Harry How/Getty ImagesNorihiro Nakamura went 5 for 39 with two walks as a Dodger. Trivia: In his final major-league game, the Dodgers scored 10 runs in the first inning.

This week, I’ll have my ninth Spring Training preview at Dodger Thoughts, and the time capsule effect of the previous eight is starting to mesmerize me.  As a warmup, I thought I’d present some artifacts from the past:

Wilson Alvarez, LHP:
Dan Evans seems to really want him to succeed as the Omar Daal replacement, even though Darren Dreifort should fill that role. I’m dubious, but in terms of making the roster, he’s probably got enough to get spring training hitters out and make the move viable. If the Dodgers are healthy, a 12-man staff isn’t necessary, but, you know …

Chin-Feng Chen, 1B/LF: Once their most exciting prospect after batting .316 with 31 home runs, 123 RBI and 31 steals in San Bernardino in 1999, he now seems to have some real holes in his game: declining speed, no defense, strike zone issues. Still has something to prove.

Steve Colyer, LHP: 24 years old, had a 3.45 ERA in 59 relief appearances for AA Jacksonville last year. Struck out 68 in 62 2/3 innings. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Dodgers may be hoping for a lefty Eric Gagne (6-2, 195), but Colyer also walked 40.

Shane Victorino, OF: Had a weird year as a Rule 5 draftee from the Dodgers by the Padres. Now back with Los Angeles, the Hawaiian is still only 23 – but like so many Dodger minor leagues, is a singles hitter without much walks or power. Still more promising at the plate than Romano.

James Loney, 1B: Ballyhooed, but I have this half-irrational fear his career will be like Todd Hollandsworth’s. Some power, some plate discipline, but not enough of both?

Russell Martin, 3B: We’ve come all the way down to the bottom to find a home-grown Dodger prospect who knows what ball four means. The 21-year-old Quebec native has 58 bases on balls (against 55 strikeouts) in less than 500 professional plate appearances. Say “Amen!”

Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty ImagesCody Ross had nine of his 10 career RBI as a Dodger in a three-game stretch at Pittsburgh in April 2006.

Norihiro Nakamura, 3B: He has said he’s willing to play in the minor leagues, and an April in Las Vegas might be just the thing to give Nakamura rhythm and confidence. But he’ll get a long look in March.

Cody Ross, OF: Has 80 professional home runs at age 24. Injuries marred much of his 2004, and he’s never OPSed over .900 in the minors. But he’s a Paul DePodesta acquisition and that puts him in the game.

Oscar Robles, IF: Almost 29, he had some nice Mexican League numbers in 2004. Listed at 5-foot-11, 155 pounds, he is that rare player thinner than me.

Andre Ethier, OF: A left-handed hitter, he could challenge Repko for the temporary last outfield slot, but more likely would be first in line if another outfielder stumbles after April 1.

Joel Guzman, IF-OF: The exciting prospect will also eye the major league injury report while discovering his new position, whatever that is. For our part, we’ll be watching his plate discipline.

Matt Kemp, OF: A true outfield prospect, it’s not impossible that the 21-year-old Kemp could be the first of the 2005 Vero Beach Dodgers to make the bigs.

Takashi Saito, P: This year’s Norihiro Nakamura, pitching side. A 36-year-old (on Valentine’s Day) pitcher with a 3.82 ERA in Japan last season doesn’t excite.

Andy LaRoche, 3B: With Betemit perhaps begging for a platoon partner, the promising LaRoche has an outstanding shot at making his major league debut ASAP. I’m not impressed that people say LaRoche has fully recovered from his labrum surgery – we’ve been led astray before – but he can still be considered a strong candidate to make the team.

Jonathan Meloan, P: A fifth-round draft pick in 2005, Meloan is rocketing upward. In his 91-inning minor-league career, he is averaging 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings against exactly nine baserunners. Though he has only 10 2/3 innings of experience above A ball, fans in the know are salivating at the prospect of having two Big Bad Jons in the bullpen.

Scott Elbert, P: Sandwiched between Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw in the “Let’s get excited” line of starting pitchers, Elbert has struck out 346 in 310 2/3 minor-league innings. Sure to start the season in the minors, Elbert very possibly will finish it there to keep his service clock at zero. That’s not to say he couldn’t outpitch some guys that will make the team, but at the same time, with five walks per nine innings in the minors, it’s not as if he has nothing to work on. He turns 22 in August.

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesRamon Troncoso

Clayton Kershaw, LHP:
Never heard of him. Must be a scrub. But what the heck, if the Dodgers feel like he deserves a chance, who am I to stop them?

Ramon Troncoso, RHP: Troncoso, 24, went from Inland Empire to Jacksonvile in 2007 and pitched well in both places. In fact, the reliever blew the Cal League away, allowing only three earned runs in 30 innings, before settling in nicely with a 3.12 ERA for the Suns. The 2007s of Meloan and Hull show how hard it can be to get a callup, but keep an eye on Troncoso nevertheless.

Greg Miller, LHP: There could hardly be a better story this spring than Miller making the team. A Clayton Kershaw before there was a Clayton Kershaw, Miller reached AA at age 18 in 2003, striking out 40 and walking seven in 27 innings. But first his health and then his control betrayed him, and four years later, he was struggling. He walked 89 in 76 2/3 innings in 2007. But he also struck out 97, and the Dodgers still like him. If he can show any control in March, he immediately puts himself back on the fast track.

Shawn Estes, LHP:
When I think of Estes, I think of a game show in which the category is “Pitchers I’ve been eager for the Dodgers to face in the 21st century.” Estes, who turns 36 this month, hasn’t had a better-than-average ERA since 2000, and while he hasn’t been awful, you have to wonder what the point is — especially considering he’s notched only 49 2/3 major-league innings and 23 strikeouts in the last two years. But hey, it wouldn’t be Spring Training without an aging pitcher determined to prove us wrong.

Ronald Belisario, RHP: According to the blog Bucs Dugout, Belisario is “the pitcher formerly known as ‘No, nobody knows why he’s on the Pirates’ 40-man.’ ” The 26-year-old averaged four walks and 5.5 strikeouts per nine innings in AA ball last year.

Juan Castro, IF: Always a defensive specialist, the 36-year-old Castro has completely stopped hitting. His on-base percentage over the last two seasons is .235, his slugging percentage .256. What’s to love? By reputation, at least, he is a much better fielder than DeWitt, Loretta or Blake, and the Dodgers could see value in that as he competes for a roster spot with a host of shallow-hitting glovers.

Carlos Monasterios, P:
Last year, we were all caught off guard by Ronald Belisario making the big-league squad and excelling despite having virtually no resume to speak of. There’s nothing to Monasterios’ stat line that suggests he can be a big-leaguer in 2010 – he wasn’t even that great in winter ball – but I’m suspecting that the Dodgers didn’t acquire him (and Armando Zerpa) on Rule 5 day without a good reason. As with Stults, the Dodgers can’t send Monasterios to the minors. So I can see them stashing him in the back of the bullpen and testing him out before discarding him.

Kenley Jansen, P: Converted from catcher last year, the 22-year-old struck out a whopping 19 batters in 11 2/3 innings in A ball but also allowed 25 baserunners. So his target date is 2011 at the earliest.

US Presswire/Getty ImagessOrtiz x 2

Ramon Ortiz, P: He hasn’t been in the majors since 2007 and hasn’t had an ERA below 5.00 since his final season with the Angels in 2004. So despite a 3.05 ERA in the minors last year, I’m not buying what Ortiz, 37 in March, is selling.

Russ Ortiz, P: He hasn’t been in the majors since 2009 and hasn’t had an ERA below 5.00 since his final season with the Braves in 2004. So despite a 4.06 ERA in the minors last year, I’m not buying what Ortiz, 36 in June, is selling.

Feb 12

Babe Ruth and Egypt

When Egypt and Israel signed their peace treaty in 1979, my Dad explained the significance of it to me by saying that it was “like Babe Ruth dying.”

I was 11 years old.  I guess that’s how you communicated with me back then.

I’ll need a different touchstone for my kids to explain the importance of what happened this week. I’m thinking maybe, Harry Potter … (but doing something a bit less grave.  Dad could be a serious fellow sometimes.)

Feb 11

Dodgers, Loney agree to terms for 2011

Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireJames Loney, here hitting a game-winning 13th-inning home run in July against the Mets, is looking for his first month with a .500 slugging percentage since June 2008.

The Dodgers cleared their arbitration docket by signing James Loney to a one-year contract for 2011 worth $4.875 million, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

The team also added reliever Juan Rincon to its Spring Training crew via a minor-league contract, though without an invitation to major-league camp. Rincon, 32, has not pitched effectively in the majors since 2006.