Apr 08

Stow saga resonates with Dodger blogger

Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesMichael Guerro and his son Isaiah Alvarez, 10, got early seats in preparation to support their teams at Tuesday’s Dodgers-Rockies game.

Evan Bladh Sr. has a personal story to tell about fan violence: a grave incident in San Francisco, following Barry Bonds’ 700th home run, that left Bladh’s stepson seriously injured and a friend of his dead. Read it at Opinion of Kingman’s Performance.

In Los Angeles today, there was a press conference discussing the latest measures to be taken at Dodger Stadium. In addition, the Dodgers are staging a fundraiser for beating victim Bryan Stow at Dodger Stadium from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday.

In San Francisco, ceremonies for the Giants’ home opener included a moment of silence in support of Stow. Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle live-blogged.

* * *

Apr 08

Manny Ramirez retires

Kim Klement/US PresswireManny Ramirez

Story developing:

Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Manny Ramirez is retiring.

Major League Baseball announced the move in a statement on Friday.

“Major League Baseball recently notified Manny Ramirez of an issue under Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program,” the statement said. “Rather than continue with the process under the Program, Ramirez has informed MLB that he is retiring as an active player. If Ramirez seeks reinstatement in the future, the process under the Drug Program will be completed. MLB will not have any further comment on this matter.”

Ramirez, who has 555 career home runs, had one hit in 17 plate appearances with Tampa Bay this season.

Apr 08

Lackey lacking

Charles Krupa/APThe 0-6 Red Sox scored seven runs for John Lackey today, and he needed them all to leave with the lead.

There’s always going to be complaints about players the Dodgers should have signed but didn’t, but I think we can eliminate one player from the list: John Lackey.

Having allowed six runs in five innings to the Yankees today, the 32-year-old Lackey now has a 4.83 ERA since signing with Boston before the 2010 season, and the Red Sox still owe him more than $60 million through 2014. Lackey is digging a hole for himself that I’m not sure he’s capable of digging out of. From 2007-2010, his pitching performance declined each year.

I suspected it might be bad to sign Lackey, though maybe not this bad. From Dodger Thoughts, January 21, 2010:

“The Dodgers could have gone for the best free agent pitcher out there, John Lackey. But even if the team had a higher payroll limit, the health-vulnerable Lackey is no safe bet at the $82.5 million for five years given to him by Boston. You should basically assume he’s going to be injured a good chunk of one of those years — meaning he’s basically a $20 million-a-year pitcher in the others. Given what happened with Kevin Brown and (Jason) Schmidt, the Dodgers can’t be faulted for looking the other way.”

Apr 07

Momentum builds for greater Dodger Stadium security presence

Welcome back to Turning Point Central. A week after the beating of Bryan Stow in the Dodger Stadium parking lot and a day after the Dodgers hired William Bratton, the charge against stadium violence has gone full speed ahead.

A security presence once deemed unfeasible is now considered indispensable:

… Calling the incident an “absolute abomination,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Thursday: “We are investigating this matter around the clock and take this horrific crime very, very seriously.”

The mayor and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck held a news conference Thursday and vowed a bigger police presence at Dodgers games, starting with the next home game in a week against the Cardinals.

“You are going to see a sea of blue. And it’s not going to be Dodger blue. It’s gonna be LAPD blue,” Beck said.

Beck asked the team to pay for the deployment of uniformed officers and was negotiating the amount with team officials.

Beck declined to estimate how much the extra personnel would cost or how many officers would be deployed but said he would spare no expense to ensure public safety at Dodger Stadium.

“Well, up until this incident, we try to let venues take care of their own security, you know, if they’re unable to do that then I do it,” Beck said. “And so, I will make decision about how many Los Angeles police officers are deployed in and around, and I emphasize around, Dodger Stadium, based on public safety needs.”

Dodgers spokesman Josh Rawitch said the club will cover the overtime costs.

“People will be awed by the response of the Los Angeles Police Department to this because we will not suffer this as a city again,” Beck said. “People have a right to enjoy the American pastime and we are going to assure that right.” …

Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com takes an extensive look at the Giants’ security approach for AT&T Park.

Apr 07

Dodgers release former first-round pick Adkins

The Dodgers have released former first-round draft choice James Adkins, a left-handed pitcher.

Selected 39th overall in the 2007 MLB amateur draft out of Tennessee, Adkins had a 2.42 ERA in his first season of Class A ball with Great Lakes, but struggled with his control thereafter. A conversion from starting to relief did not seem to help. In 2010, the 25-year-old had a 4.76 ERA with Double-A Chattanooga, striking out 50 but walking 23.

Adkins had been selected as a compensation pick for the free-agent departure of Julio Lugo. Here’s a link to guest posts by Canuck Dodger and Nate Purcell on Dodger Thoughts regarding the 2007 draft.

The Dodgers also released former major leaguer Juan Rincon, who spent 10 years with Minnesota, Cleveland, Detroit and Colorado, along with pitcher Antonio Castillo, catcher Orlando Mercado and infielders Steven Caseres and Michael Richard.

The news was first reported by Matt Eddy of Baseball America.

Apr 07

Dodger Cogs and Dogs 2011: Edition 1

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireThe Dodgers’ second-best hitter of the young season, Andre Ethier has reached base 11 times but scored zero runs.

Welcome to the first edition of Dodger Cogs and Dogs, 2011.

As before, Cogs and Dogs is my ranking of the most valuable Dodgers of the year, top to bottom, mixing subjectivity and objectivity and focused on what’s already happened, not what’s likely to happen.

The final Cogs and Dogs of 2010 left us with only five players that you didn’t have much or any reason to complain about. This year’s debut installment isn’t much different.

Today 2010 Player Comment
1 1 Clayton Kershaw Came up huge on Opening Day, solid enough in second start
2 6 Matt Kemp Has Dodgers’ only stolen base in six games.
3 4 Andre Ethier .440 OBP but no extra-base hits
4 2 Hiroki Kuroda Efficient first start nearly ended in no-decision.
5 9 Jamey Carroll He’s back: .412 on-base percentage, playing in every game.
6 19 Rod Barajas .824 OPS third among regulars.
7 7 Rafael Furcal Gonzalez’ catch cost him glory and higher cog rating.
8 Matt Guerrier Two perfect innings with two strikeouts in Colorado.
9 13 Jonathan Broxton People question his guts, but no player faced greater pressure so far.
10 8 Casey Blake Hottest hitter on the team.
11 33 Xavier Paul Batting .400, might outlast Gimenez after all.
12 Tony Gwynn Jr. Showed off defense Tuesday, but no steal attempts yet.
13 Mike MacDougal Five batters, four outs.
14 11 Ted Lilly Strong first start just got away from him.
15 22 A.J. Ellis Carried red-hot September into current 1-for-1 season.
16 5 Hong-Chih Kuo 22 pitches in each of his first two games.
17 10 James Loney 24 plate appearances, four hits, no walks.
18 3 Chad Billingsley Career ERA at Coors Field now 7.24.
19 Marcus Thames His triple on Sunday might have been a gift, but at least he got it out there.
20 Aaron Miles Six air-outs in 11 at-bats for a player who hasn’t homered since ’08.
21 Hector Gimenez One hit better than De Jesus.
22 Blake Hawksworth Fourth-inning homer allowed Wednesday costly.
23 Lance Cormier Needs nine more innings to have longer Dodger career than Lance Carter.
24 16 Kenley Jansen Nice to see him bounce back with two shutout innings Wednesday.
25 Juan Uribe Four games, two singles, one somersault.
26 Ivan De Jesus Jr. .125 OPS, 71% strikeout rate
Apr 07

Happy 101st birthday, Grandma Sue

Not to make light of it, but this has been Grandma Sue’s roughest century.

She was all but self-sufficient until the age of 95, and still very much herself in her sharpness and personality through last year, when she hit the milestone of her 100th birthday. But it hasn’t been the same for most of the past 12 months, with her memory and ability to recognize people slipping.

The instructions are for no emergency life-saving procedures to be taken on Grandma’s behalf. Last summer, I got a call early on a Sunday that she had collapsed. I’m about seventh or eighth on the protocol – it was as if the Secretary of the Interior had been told he was in charge. I stood there on the phone, faced, as far as I could gather, with the decision of letting her go. I wasn’t prepared.

After a minute of being just frozen, I told her nurse to call 911. I just couldn’t be the one.

I drove to her apartment in the assisted living facility near UCLA, arriving after the paramedics. She lay there on the floor, unconscious. But breathing. A couple of hours later, in a hospital bed, she began to come out of it.

I didn’t really know what to think. We were taking it day to day after that, but that was about 10 months ago or so. She’s still going. For a couple of those months, she was doing pretty well, but then a slide began. At my uncle’s 80th birthday party in February, she couldn’t really place my kids. This week, I got a message to call her, and when I reached her, she kept calling me Jack and seemed to have me confused with someone else. It was like talking to a distant spirit.

Overall, I have seen her and talked to her very little in recent months. I haven’t been a good grandson, in the slightest. There’s no making up for it. But we’ll see her tonight, and in a quiet way, celebrate her incredible life.

Apr 06

Dodgers hire former L.A. police chief Bratton for security

Former L.A. police chief William J. Bratton has been hired by the Dodgers to assess and consult on security needs for Dodger Stadium and its parking lots. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the details:

… Bratton presently serves as chairman of Kroll, a company described by its website as “the world’s leading risk consulting company.” According to a release issued by the Dodgers, Bratton will be assisted in his work for the Dodgers by a team from Kroll.

“Bill Bratton is widely credited with spearheading modern community policing in America,” Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said in the release. “There is no one better to lead a top-to-bottom review of our current practices and make recommendations to be implemented now and into the future. … We are committed to ensuring that Dodger Stadium remains a family-friendly environment for all baseball fans.”

Bratton, 63, was chief of the LAPD from 2002 until his resignation in 2009. He previously served as commissioner of both the New York and Boston police departments. …

This marks a step that could provide some optimism about a problem that isn’t going to be solved overnight. You need tangible, creative, real actions, and you need to be able to sell them to a wary public. The hiring of Bratton doesn’t guarantee anything, but it increases the chances on both fronts.

Apr 06

Dodgers’ third loss in four games points out frailties

Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesRockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez robs Rafael Furcal of a potential game-tying double in the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ 7-5 loss to Colorado.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, though I don’t by any means rule out the Dodgers making a run for a division title, my feelings about this year’s team are about as pessimistic as I’ve ever had since I began Dodger Thoughts. The reason: Not only does the pitching have to meet high expectations for the team to succeed, but the offense and defense both have to exceed expectations. Los Angeles just looks too slight a horse to bet the big money on.

Today’s 7-5 loss to Colorado was but one game, one that will be forgotten as soon as the next one begins (two long nights from now), but it does illustrate my point. The great pitching faltered, as will happen, and the offense, despite home runs by James Loney and Rod Barajas and a triple by Casey Blake in his season debut, couldn’t make up the difference. Bad timing? Sure, and for that matter, the Dodgers nearly pulled the game out in the ninth inning. But over the course of 2011, I don’t foresee the Dodger offense exceeding expectations more often than the Dodger pitching falls short of them.

We heard a lot of talk about execution and aggressiveness in Spring Training, which is all well and good — being anti-execution is like being anti-breathing. But I tend to think that any team that is relying on execution to save its season is a team that doesn’t have enough talent to succeed.

The Dodgers next head to San Diego’s spacious Petco Park, where the pitching should flourish, to play a team that most of us feel will finish beneath the Dodgers in the standings. After that is a trip to San Francisco, to play a team that just lost three of four games to Los Angeles. So for all I know, the Dodgers will be back in first place in a week’s time, showing renewed signs of contendability. But this remains a prove-it-to-me Dodger team, one that perhaps will be looking for players like Rubby De La Rosa or Jerry Sands to save it.

Apr 06

Vigil tonight for Bryan Stow and against fan violence

Many of us are hoping that somehow, what happened to Bryan Stow becomes a turning point in the problem of fan violence. Here’s an example of some Southern Californians showing some initiative:

A community vigil in support of Bryan Stow, the victim of a beating in the Dodger Stadium parking lot after last week’s opening game, is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. PT at the Los Angeles County Medical Center.

The vigil’s grass-roots sponsors, which include the Garfield High School Healthy Start Collaborative, East Los Angeles Prevention Project and the Latino Equality Alliance, are supporting Stow’s recovery while also taking a stand against the violence of his attack. Stow has been in a medically induced coma for the past several days.

He suffered a severe skull fracture and bad bruising to his brain’s frontal lobes, Dr. Gabriel Zada, a neurosurgeon, said Tuesday.

At one point, doctors had to remove the entire left side of his skull to ease pressure on his brain. The pressure is now normal but Stow remains in a coma from his injuries and from sedation to reduce his brain activity, Zada said.

“There is evidence of brain injury and dysfunction,” Zada said.

It was reported Tuesday that Stow, a San Francisco Giants fan, sent a text message while inside the stadium to family indicating that he was scared of what might happen to him.

“In response to this tragic event and to show our support for the victim, we call upon all community leaders, Dodgers fans and Angelinos to stand in solidarity with Giants fans and the family of Bryan Stow against any form of violence,” said a statement on the vigil’s Facebook page. “We call upon our community leaders to address this growing problem with our urban youth and young adults. We need to evaluate and respond to the issue of alcohol and substance abuse association with community violence.”

Organizers said a press conference would follow the vigil.

The L.A. County Supervisors, the L.A. City Council, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Giants and Stow’s employer, American Medical Response, have led contributions to a reward now totaling $100,000 for information leading to the arrest of the individuals who inflicted the beating on Stow, a paramedic and father of two from Santa Cruz, Calif.

The Giants announced Tuesday that “The Bryan Stow Fund” had been established through the San Francisco Police Credit Union. Donations can be made and further information can be found at www.sfpcu.org.

Here’s more of the latest news on Stow, a combined report by wire services and ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Tony Jackson.

* * *

  • Jim Murray on Jim Gilliam, 50 years ago today (via the Daily Mirror):

    … You might say Jim is with the Dodgers but not of them. The distinction is important. He starts every season in the dugout. He sleeps every night with his bag packed at his feet and rumors of a trade swirling around in his dreams. He lives his life in a kind of limbo midway between the Dodgers and the rest of the National League.

    Then the season starts and some “phenom” begins to leak at the seams, the stuffing oozing out of him at every trip to the plate. The manager sets a hysterical search amid the bat bags, locker room towels and press clippings of his wunderkind — and there sits Jim Gilliam, waiting. …

    When the Dodgers came to L.A., they brought Jim along with all the enthusiasm of a man asking his mother-in-law on the honeymoon. They had a hot-shot third baseman named Dick Gray, and began to offer Gilliam around like a claiming horse until Gray began to leak like a sieve in the field and strike out on balls the catcher couldn’t get his glove on.

    Gilliam became a third baseman and the Dodgers became World Champions …

  • Here’s a really nice column on the passing of a TV insider by Variety’s Brian Lowry.

    … His most memorable line is a cautionary one I’ve quoted for years — one that addresses the way coveted Hollywood promotions are often fraught with peril: “The best job you’ll ever have,” he said, “is the one that precedes the one you always wanted.” …

Apr 05

Opening Day, 1993

Lynne Sladky/APCharlie Hough was 45 years old when he threw the first pitch for the Florida Marlins.

Eighteen years ago today, I took a day off from grad school classes to stay in my Woodley Park apartment in D.C. and watch the Dodgers’ first game of the 1993 season, a game that also happened to be the Florida Marlins’ first game ever. Charlie Hough, a Dodger when I first became a fan nearly 20 years before, pitched the Marlins to a 6-3 victory over Los Angeles and Orel Hershiser.

It feels like a lifetime ago. Living out of California for the last time, writing my first screenplay, no job, no kids, no girl (though I fancied one). Twenty-five years old and no idea what was to come.

I can still feel the sun coming into my barely furnished apartment, the living room wide enough to swing a bat in. My brain was heavy, as it has so often been, but I was traveling light.

Apr 05

Dodgers shut out for second time in five games

Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesClayton Kershaw doesn’t dig Chris Iannetta’s fifth-inning homer.

What is a quality start for the Dodgers this year?

Given the expectations for the offense in 2011, I’ve been thinking that the definition might need to be lowered to a maximum of two runs, not three, over at least six innings.

On the other hand, when playing in Colorado’s Coors Field, you’d think the Dodger offense might be able to step it up enough to let the starting pitcher allow that third run.

Three runs is what Clayton Kershaw allowed in six innings during his second start of the season, and it’s hard to be very critical. He struck out eight, walked none except for one batter intentionally. He did give up a few hard hits, not the least of which were solo home runs by Troy Tulowitzki in the fourth inning and Chris Iannetta in the fifth that ended Kershaw’s bid for a 0.00 ERA this season and put the Dodgers on the path to a 3-0 loss, their second shutout in five games this season.

Dominant? Not exactly. But quality? I’d say so.

Which brings ups back to the Dodger hitters. They had a few hard-hit balls of their own, but none that left the park, nor any that were particularly well-timed (the team went 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position and left six on base). Additionally, Colorado’s defense was stingy rather than generous like San Francisco’s fielders were most of the past weekend.

Tony Gwynn Jr. had a pretty nice game. He had the Dodgers’ only extra-base hit, a double, and also took a double away from Todd Helton with a barehanded grab of his drive off the wall and quick return throw to second base to nail him. He also came as close as any Dodger to driving in a run, but with Jamey Carroll on third base and two out in the fifth inning, third baseman Ty Wigginton made a nice play to barely throw Gwynn out at first.

Andre Ethier singled and walked twice (once intentionally after Gwynn’s double in the third), but Matt Kemp had his roughest night at the plate this year, going 0 for 4.

Dodger relievers Mike MacDougal and Blake Hawksworth slowed the Dodgers early season relief troubles with shutout innings of relief, keeping the game close, but Colorado pitchers Jhoulys Chacin (seven innings, seven baserunners, four strikeouts), Rafael Betancourt and Huston Street combined to retire the final 12 Dodgers in order. Carroll’s leadoff single in the fifth inning was the Dodgers’ last hit of the night.

* * *

From Tony Jackson’s ESPNLosAngeles.com notebook:

  • Casey Blake is likely, but not definitely, going to be activated from the disabled list before Wednesday’s day game, likely meaning that Ivan De Jesus Jr. won’t get his first major-league hit for a while.
  • Jon Garland is scheduled for a rehab start with Rancho Cucamonga on Sunday. John Ely looks likely to take the Dodgers’ major-league start in San Diego that day.
  • Vicente Padilla had a setback, hopefully a small one. He will see a doctor Wednesday after experiencing soreness following a 60-pitch simulated game.
  • Jay Gibbons will be with Albuquerque on a rehabilitation assignment, continuing to hope his newest pair of contact lenses solves his troubles.
Apr 05

Kershaw LXXXV: Kershawberry muffin

Jon Weisman/ESPNLosAngeles.comFor those of you who saw my January post, “Baseball, moist and delicious,” this is what I’m talking about.

The Dodgers assigned first baseman John Lindsey and pitcher Jon Link to the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes after the players cleared waivers.

Lindsey, who got his first major league hit in September after 16 seasons in the minors, was designated for assignment by the Dodgers just before the team’s regular season opener Thursday. The same fate happened the day before for Link, a 27-year-old who had a 4.15 ERA in 8 2/3 innings last season for the Dodgers.

Both players spent the bulk of 2010 with Albuquerque. Lindsey led the Pacific Coast League in batting average (.353) and slugging percentage (.657). Link, who came to Los Angeles with John Ely in exchange for Juan Pierre, had a 3.71 ERA in 60 2/3 innings with 55 strikeouts.

Apr 05

Dodger bullpen may look worse before it looks better

Shelly Castellano/Icon SMIHong-Chih Kuo recovered after throwing four straight balls to start his 2011 season.

The Dodger bullpen could be a strength of the team, but it might be a while before you can tell.

Dodger relievers have a 7.15 ERA, and that’s going into a trip to Colorado. They have allowed 22 baserunners (14 hits, eight walks) in 11 1/3 innings. On the bright side, they’ve struck out 11.

Jonathan Broxton has gotten attention for allowing two home runs and a single in his first three innings/outings (no, we’re not talking about belly buttons here), but two other noteworthy relievers, Kenley Jansen and Hong-Chih Kuo, have been erratic. Kuo has walked two of the eight batters he has faced and allowed a double, while Jansen, of course, got pummeled in his only appearance: one inning, four hits, two walks, four runs.

Matt Guerrier has faced seven batters and allowed two walks and a hit, Mike MacDougal has given up a single to go with his strikeout, Lance Cormier allowed two runs in three innings of mop-up relief, and Blake Hawksworth loaded the bases before escaping his one inning of work score-free.

The common thread you’ll notice here is that a little damage can go a long way toward ruining your early season stats, a problem that the hitting environment in Colorado figures to exacerbate. The good news for the relievers is that after the two games in Denver, a sextet of games in San Diego and San Francisco follow.

In the end, the Dodgers still figure to have one of the best bullpens in the National League, according to Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus. Also good news, at least for 24 players on the team: Vicente Padilla could pitch in to help out sooner than later.

For now, Dodger relievers can knock on wood: They haven’t given up any leads yet this season.

* * *

  • Howard Cole of Baseball Savvy has gotten a nice gig blogging about the Dodgers for the Register. In this post, he questions whether the Dodgers are going to activate Jon Garland too soon.
  • Line of the day goes to Geoff Young at Baseball Prospectus, writing about Tony Gwynn Jr.: “In Gwynn, meanwhile, the Dodgers have found that which has eluded them for nearly 30 years: a suitable replacement for Cecil Espy.”