Jul 22

Selig eviscerated McCourt-Fox proposal in June 20 letter

Over at Variety, I posted about the overflow of reasons that MLB commissioner Bud Selig laid out for rejecting a proposed 17-year television rights extension between Fox and Frank McCourt. The 11-page June 20 letter Selig sent to McCourt was posted by the Times today.

“While any one of the factors identified below would alone give me serious pause,” Selig wrote, “collectively … they demonstrate overwhelmingly that the proposed transaction is neither in the long-term interests of the franchise nor consistent with the best interests of the game of baseball.”

Here’s more:

… Selig noted that McCourt was rushing into the Fox deal because of his “desperate need for immediate cash” to address his and the Dodgers’ financial problems, without waiting for the period starting on November 30, 2012 when he could solicit other, potentially more lucrative offers through competitive bidding. Selig notes the mega-deal that the Los Angeles Lakers struck for their TV rights through such a process.

“In fact, as your chief financial offcer told representatives of my office on April 5, 2011,” Selig said, “you would not even be considering a media rights transaction at ths time were it not for the club’s ‘financial duress.’ “

Selig also stated that the $385 million up-front payment that McCourt would receive upon signing the deal “far exceeds any up-front payment previously received by any other club,” adding that “no other owner has sacrificed so much of his team’s future for an immediate payoff.”

“I am concerned that at some point,” Selig wrote, “(the Dodgers) will be unable to adapt to unexpected circumstances because you have accelerated such a substantial amount of its media revenues.”

Selig’s letter also quotes 2009 testimony from McCourt’s divorce proceeding against Jamie McCourt, when current Dodgers vice chairman Jeff Ingram said that McCourt “noted that Fox has very tough negotiators, they’re very smart and he’s not convinced we would get a very good deal from Fox at this time to do a capital raise, and that we’d hamstring the business in the future by getting them to do something now.”

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.

And, Selig took pains to note that the McCourt’s proposed divorce settlement with Jamie McCourt had the potential of a court-supervised sale of the team beginning in August — yet the next owner would be stuck with the Fox deal without a dime of the $385 million. …

It’s a fairly eviscerating letter yet soundly argued. Whatever claim McCourt has to unfair treatment by Selig is undermined by how catastrophic the Dodgers’ situation is, combined with McCourt’s half-baked, short-sighted solutions.

“Your (June 18 letter) asserts, without explanation or support, that I should not take into account the Dodgers’ current financial condition and operational state,” Selig wrote. “Apparently you believe that I should make these decisions in a vacuum, without the context of the relevant facts and circumstances related to the Dodgers. To me, that makes no sense. It is not the manner in which I have approached decisions concerning matters involving other clubs, each of which has turned on the unique circumstances of the particular club.”

McCourt took the Dodgers into bankruptcy one week after Selig’s letter was sent, hoping to take his fate out of Selig’s hands.

Jul 21

New arrests in Stow case, supplanting original suspect

From ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Two men suspected of beating San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow into a coma on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium have been arrested by Los Angeles police, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the LAPD no longer considers Giovanni Ramirez, who was initially tagged as the prime suspect, as responsible for the attack.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing, said that if the district attorney’s office files a case against the men, Ramirez would be exonerated.

The arrest marks a dramatic turn in the case. Since Ramirez was arrested May 22, police have consistently restated they believed they had their man.

The Los Angeles Times was first to report the arrest of the two new suspects.

The LAPD officer in charge of media relations wouldn’t confirm nor deny the Times report.

“The Stow investigation continues,” LAPD spokesman Andrew Neiman told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne. “We’re making good progress. As information becomes available we’ll make that public.”

He said that Ramirez, a convicted felon, remains in custody on an unrelated parole violation after police found a gun in the house where he was staying when he was arrested. Ramirez’s lawyers contend that he was not at Dodger Stadium at the time of the attack. …

Jul 21

Pod person: Talking shop with Jonah Keri

Happily coinciding with the ninth anniversary of Dodger Thoughts, I am a guest on The Jonah Keri Podcast, hosted not as coincidentally by the Canadian Crusher himself, Jonah Keri (author of “The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First” and the upcoming “The Definitive History of the Montreal Expos”). Here’s the rundown:

  • 0:30-2:16: This episode is brought to you by the comedy stylings of Wyndotte Street (on Twitter @WyndotteStreet)
  • 2:17-7:44: The Moneyball movie
  • 7:45-11:26: Friday Night Lights
  • 11:27-18:42: This year’s Emmy nominations
  • 18:43-25:43: Baseball blogging O.G. Dodger Thoughts, celebrating its 9th anniversary today!
  • 25:44-26:59: Having a dual baseball-entertainment persona
  • 27:00-33:09: Frank McCourt
  • 33:10-36:15: The Dodgers’ salvation: Clayton Kershaw
  • 36:16-41:08: Food Pick of the Week

    Jon’s pick
    My pick

  • 41:09-end: Funny how Clark Kent and Superman are never in the same room: The time that Jon interacted with Michael Schur and his secret identity Ken Tremendous without realizing they are the same person

Player embedded below. To download, right click here.

Or, subscribe on iTunes.

Thanks again to everyone for joining me on this ride with the Dodgers for any part of the past nine years. Today, as always, it really has meant a lot.

Jul 21

Dodger Cogs and Dogs 2011: Edition 7

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireUnsung shining light: Kenley Jansen

This is a good time to wonder if the Dodgers will reach the magic number of 50 players in a season. It’s only happened twice in Los Angeles Dodger history: 53 players in 1998, and 50 players in 2006. Last year’s team fell one player short, finishing at 49.

Juan Rivera became the Dodgers’ 44th player this season. Trayvon Robinson is sure to get a promotion before season’s end. Can they get five more? Others who might be candidates, as rewards for fine minor-league seasons, include pitchers Dana Eveland and Nathan Eovaldi and first baseman-outfielder Scott Van Slyke. (Each would require a 40-man roster move, but that’s doable.)

But to get to 50, the Dodgers will probably have to be involved the trade market. For example, if Hiroki Kuroda were sent somewhere, they might get a prospect who would get a look in the majors, or create an opening for Eveland. If Jamey Carroll were traded, that could open the door for Justin Sellers before season’s end.

In short, 50 is reachable, but the Dodgers are gonna have to want it. Do they want it? Do they feel lucky? Well, do they, punk?

* * *

Reminder: The Dodger Cogs and Dogs rankings are a mixture of subjectivity and objectivity and encompass season-to-date major-league performance, not what they’ve done lately. And it’s still really hard to do these days.

Today 6/30 6/16 5/26 5/5 4/28 4/7 Player Comment
1 1 1 1 1 1 2 Matt Kemp Had a 20-game, .694 OPS “slump” in April-May. Current slump is worse, but nothing to panic over.
2 2 2 2 4 4 1 Clayton Kershaw This is probably closest Kershaw has been to top Cog in some time.
3 3 3 3 3 3 4 Hiroki Kuroda For Dodgers with above-average ERA, Kuroda has lowest winning percentage since Tom Candiotti (7-14) in 1995.
4 4 5 4 2 2 3 Andre Ethier Surprisingly, has become NL leader among RF UZR/150.
5 5 4 5 9 6 5 Jamey Carroll MLB leader in pinch-hitting BA since 2002 (39-for-110, .355)
6 6 7 13 20 21 20 Aaron Miles Hit .185 for ’09 Cubs, hitting .303 in 157 games (411 PA) since.
7 7 16 6 6 7 18 Chad Billingsley No shortage of good moments this year, but right now it’s his worst season ever (88 ERA+, 4.07 ERA)
8 9 8 22 Rubby De La Rosa His 3.87 pitches per batter: on par with other Dodger starters, not as bad as I would have thought.
9 11 22 17 18 20 24 Kenley Jansen Opponents are 3 for 38 with seven walks, 17 strikeouts since he returned from DL.
10 10 15 15 10 15 22 Blake Hawksworth With scrap-heaper Miles milesdly outperforming Ryan Theriot, Dodgers win the Hawksworth trade.
11 12 10 19 Javy Guerra His easy save of Kershaw’s Wednesday start was much appreciated.
12 18 29 28 14 17 12 Tony Gwynn Jr. .393 OBP in 118 PA since June 1.
13 23 19 8 11 11 13 Mike MacDougal Turnaround: Has stranded 10 of 12 runners since June 12 with 0.73 ERA, two walks in 12 IP.
14 13 9 Dee Gordon Has .368 OBP, .463 slugging since returning to minors.
15 8 14 23 32 23 17 James Loney Perhaps not since Willie Davis has there been a Dodger who fiddled more with his batting approach.
16 14 11 Josh Lindblom Fine year continues with eight baserunners, 13 strikeouts in 12 innings in July.
17 15 12 16 7 5 10 Casey Blake Had 571 PA last year, probably won’t break 200 this year.
18 24 18 11 5 8 Jon Garland Was the youngest player in the American League in 2000.
19 16 30 Trent Oeltjen I almost forgot he was on team when he came up to pinch-hit Wednesday: 0 for 2 with two SH since July 5.
20 17 6 10 17 18 14 Ted Lilly Hasn’t gone seven innings or 100 pitches in past eight starts (5.82 ERA).
22 22 17 7 16 14 Jerry Sands Struggling in July with .633 OPS for Albuquerque, including 3-for-33 slump.
21 19 13 9 13 9 6 Rod Barajas Seven HR, .736 OPS by May 13/one HR, .451 OPS since.
23 20 20 12 8 10 25 Juan Uribe 0 for 4 Wednesday, knocking slugging percentage below .300.
24 21 23 21 Scott Elbert Still finding his way, but seven strikeouts, only one walk in seven innings since June 12.
25 26 21 14 12 12 8 Matt Guerrier Since June 7: 6.39 ERA, six of 10 inherited runners scored.
26 32 35 27 27 29 Dioner Navarro Thanks to his Wednesday homer, his 2011 OPS almost matches Ellis.
27 25 28 20 21 22 15 A.J. Ellis No extra-base hits in 45 MLB at-bats this year.
28 27 25 18 30 Jay Gibbons With Gwynn and Rivera on board, he’d now have a safe role as PH.
29 Juan Rivera Marichal, Castro, Encarnacion, Pierre, Uribe, Rivera.
30 35 32 31 Juan Castro Passed over for hitting coach position.
31 29 26 24 15 19 Vicente Padilla Still a safe bet to finish third on team in saves.
32 30 27 25 19 16 9 Jonathan Broxton Has not resumed throwing, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
33 28 34 26 22 13 19 Marcus Thames Ended up doing better against righties than lefties as a Dodger.
34 37 36 29 25 27 11 Xavier Paul Not doing anything special … except playing for a pennant contender.
35 36 33 30 29 Russ Mitchell Followed 5-for-5 game Monday by going 2 for 2 with two walks Tuesday.
36 31 24 33 35 33 Ramon Troncoso Remains inconsistent in Triple-A.
37 38 37 32 26 26 John Ely Will compete with Dana Eveland for promotion if Dodgers trade Kuroda?
38 40 39 34 28 30 21 Hector Gimenez Has 114 chances at 1B, 114 chances at C for Chattanooga.
39 41 40 35 31 31 Jamie Hoffmann Tied for 26th in MLB history for career hits by players born on August 20. Blake DeWitt is eighth.
40 Eugenio Velez Pointless.
41 34 41 38 24 25 16 Hong-Chih Kuo As rough as his season has been, would a contender take a flyer on him?
42 39 38 37 33 27 26 Ivan De Jesus Jr. Having his best month, reducing doubts that he’d remain on 40-man roster next season.
43 42 42 39 34 32 23 Lance Cormier Had 3.02 ERA over final two months of 2010.
44 33 31 36 23 24 7 Rafael Furcal I’m guessing he has one last finishing kick of greatness in a Dodger uniform before he goes.
Jul 20

Forget it, Jake: It’s Kershawtown

Kyle Terada/US PresswireClayton Kershaw retired 25 of 29 batters, striking out 12, in eight shutout innings, outdueling Tim Lincecum, who allowed a seventh-inning home run into McCovey Cove by Dioner Navarro. Javy Guerra pitched a perfect ninth to save the Dodgers’ 1-0 victory. Navarro (who had two throwing errors today) has 11 RBI all season, but this was the third time in 2011 that he had the only RBI in a 1-0 Dodger win. If not for three Dodger errors, the Giants would not have gotten any runners past second base today.
Jul 20

Dodgers fire hitting coach Pentland

The Dodgers have fired batting coach Jeff Pentland and replaced him on an interim basis with Dave Hansen.

This was Pentland’s fourth year in the organization and first as major-league batting coach (replacing, of course, Don Mattingly). He has had hitting coach jobs with the Royals, Cubs and Mariners dating back to 1997.

Hansen, who holds Dodger records for pinch-hits and pinch-homers in a season and pinch-hits in a career (ahead of Manny Mota), came back to Los Angeles last winter after four years in the Diamondbacks organization.

James Loney and Juan Uribe are the most noteworthy Dodgers who have performed below expectations this year, though an ongoing issue with the team is that you couldn’t expect much from the offense at other positions, such as catcher and left field. Essentially, Pentland is getting blame for the poor performances while not getting credit for players like Matt Kemp. That assessment might be deserved — I honestly have no idea.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more, including quotes from Ned Colletti:

… “It was a very tough decision,” Colletti said. “This is a good man. Pent has always been a good man and a very good hitting guy. … (But) this is a reflection on how we’re hitting.”

The Dodgers entered Wednesday’s game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park hitting just .250 as a team, and they were next to last in the National League in runs scored. They have been particularly bad at hitting with runners in scoring position.

Pentland was told of his firing in a meeting with Colletti and Mattingly immediately after Tuesday night’s 5-3 loss to the Giants. Mattingly broke the news to the team a couple of hours before Wednesday’s game.

Pentland wasn’t made available for comment.

“Donnie and I had talked about it for a couple of weeks,” Colletti said. “My hope was that after the (All-Star) break, we would come out refreshed a little bit and become more productive. But the focus hasn’t been there, and the at-bats haven’t been there. The production with runners in scoring position is near the bottom of baseball.”

* * *

“Major League Baseball has not reached out to AEG about building a downtown stadium for the Los Angeles Dodgers, despite Internet reports,” AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke told Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Jul 19

Comeback kids? Dodgers rally once but fall

When the Dodgers fell behind 2-0 in the second inning tonight to the Giants, and you thought the game was over, you were wrong, but your pessimism would be understandable.

The Dodgers hadn’t taken the lead after trailing by at least two runs in a game since way back on June 12 in Colorado. In fact, in 29 games between then and tonight, Los Angeles had only scored more than two runs in an entire game 14 times.

Tonight, the Dodgers came back right in the top of the third, with an RBI double by Tony Gwynn Jr. and a two-run single by Rafael Furcal, his first hit since July 8. They had a 3-2 lead. Just like that.

And then, after Juan Rivera overran first base on his single and was thrown out, 16 Dodgers in a row went down against San Francisco 21-year-old Madison Bumgarner. Rubby De La Rosa showed his stuff but couldn’t hold the lead, and then Hong-Chih Kuo couldn’t hold the tie, and the Dodgers fell behind in the bottom of the seventh, 5-3.

That meant the Dodgers would have to do twice in one game what they hadn’t done once in the previous six weeks: rally from down two runs to go ahead.

Brian Wilson came in to pitch the ninth inning for San Francisco and retired the first two batters, before Matt Kemp singled to end a 10-pitch at-bat, his first career hit against Wilson.

Andre Ethier, out of the starting lineup to rest his knee, came up to pinch-hit as the tying run. But he flied out, sealing the Dodgers’ 5-3 loss. The Dodgers trail San Francisco by 14 1/2 games, their biggest deficit since the end of the 2003 season.

The Giants pitched seven perfect innings out of nine. But the Dodgers had that one comeback.  No one can take that away. Not that anyone would bother to try.

Jul 19

Bankruptcy hearing on tap

At ESPNLosAngeles.com, Josh Fisher previews Wednesday’s bankruptcy hearing for the Dodgers:

… On Wednesday, Judge Kevin Gross will decide whether McCourt can shepherd the Dodgers through their bankruptcy using McCourt-arranged financing. In McCourt’s favor is the strong deference bankruptcy courts usually show debtors who secure their own financing. Working against him is Major League Baseball’s proposal to fund the team’s operations at a much lower cost. Coupled with allegations of McCourt mismanagement, baseball could increase its influence on the Dodgers by convincing the court to deny McCourt his own financing.

Gross’ ruling on the issue has two layers of importance. First, from a technical standpoint, forcing McCourt to accept MLB financing paves the way for Selig to exert control over the Dodgers should McCourt fail to follow baseball’s terms. Second, because of the great deference typically shown debtors to exercise their own business judgment in these scenarios, a ruling against McCourt would be a strong message that Gross lacks faith in McCourt’s ownership. A pro-MLB decision Wednesday would not end the McCourt era, but it would be a damaging blow. …

Bill Shaikin of the Times has more.

The early-in-the-day bankruptcy hearing will be followed by a probable bankruptcy of runs at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday when Clayton Kershaw faces Tim Lincecum.

* * *

Shawn Green will be signing copies of his book, “The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 mph” at 6:30 p.m. August 3 at downtown’s ESPN Zone.

Jul 17

Diamondbacks’ Danny H. does Dodgers in

Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesOne-man band gets a hand.

In a down season, at least the Dodgers had the best-hitting pitchers in the National League. They couldn’t take that away from them, could they?

Meet Daniel Hudson of Arizona.  Nine innings pitched, one run allowed, three runs driven in. While throwing his complete game, Hudson went 2 for 3 with a home run and a two-run, two-out, bases-loaded single to manhandle the Dodgers today, 4-1.

Dan Haren might be a distant memory for the Diamondbacks, but they’ve found his replacement and don’t even have to change the monogrammed spikes.

The hits gave Hudson a .375 on-base percentage and .513 slugging percentage this season, not to mention 12 RBI, in 47 plate appearances. That puts the 24-year-old righthander, who also lowered his ERA to 3.56, in prime contention for the pitchers’ Silver Slugger award that, along with Matt Kemp’s, figured to be one of the few consolation prizes arriving at Chavez Ravine this year.

Did I mention consolation prize? San Francisco defeated San Diego in 11 innings today, dropping the Dodgers to 12 1/2 games out of first place in the NL West. The Dodgers’ five-game winning streak ended just Saturday night, and yet Los Angeles now faces its biggest deficit of the season.

The Dodgers avoided a shutout only after Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew failed to catch James Loney’s hit-and-run line drive in the seventh inning. Instead of a double play, it put Loney on first and Matt Kemp (1 for 4) at third. Kemp then scored on a wild pitch.

That cut the Dodgers’ deficit at the time to 2-1, with Arizona scoring its runs on solo homers by Ryan Roberts in the second inning and Hudson in the sixth off (this won’t surprise you) Ted Lilly, who otherwise pitched well enough, striking out nine and walking none unintentionally.  In fact, Lilly was in better position than Hiroki Kuroda on Saturday to find a way to win when the bottom of the seventh came, but after a single and ultimately two intentional walks, Blake Hawskworth allowed Hudson’s big hit.

* * *

This is truly neither here nor there, but Juan Uribe’s batting average stubbornly refuses to drop below .200. He has ended every game since June 24 with a batting average between .210 and today’s .204.

Jul 17

Rafael Furcal, heal thyself

Brent Davis/US PresswireRafael Furcal has a .217 on-base percentage and .210 slugging in 107 plate appearances this season.

Rafael Furcal’s post-disabled list slump has reached 3 for 34 (.088) with three walks and no extra-base hits. It’s the kind of slump that can happen to the best of ’em – and as far as the 2011 Dodgers are concerned, consistently seems to.

On balls hit beyond the infield this entire season, Furcal is 16 for 40 (.400) with a .900 OPS.  Sounds pretty good, right?  Well, compare that OPS to his previous five seasons as a Dodger on balls to the outfield.

2010 1.573
2009 1.388
2008 1.817
2007 1.222
2006 1.494

It’s probably not overstating to say that Furcal is not hitting the ball with much authority this year. Is it physical? And if so, how permanent?

Jul 16

Old Dodgers return in 3-2 loss

Hiroki Kuroda had one inning to regret, allowing a single, double and three-run home run to Brandon Allen, and the Dodgers (despite Matt Kemp’s 24th home run) couldn’t rescue him and lose to Arizona, 3-2, ending their five-game winning streak.

Kuroda, who struck out seven and allowed six baserunners over six innings, combined with Scott Elbert (two innings) to retire the final 15 Diamondbacks. But following a gift run on a bases-loaded walk to Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles didn’t threaten after Andre Ethier popped out to end the top of the fifth.

Despite making his 12th quality start of the year in 19 tries, Kuroda’s record fell to 6-11.

Jul 16

Dodger Thoughts Tragic Illness chat: Act 2

Hey kids! It’s time for another chat between myself and Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness. It’s kid-tested, mother-approved!