Jan 10

Dodgers to honor Fox contract, ending legal battles

We are headed to the finish line.

The Dodgers have settled their legal differences with Fox, agreeing to honor the network’s cable rights deal with the team that runs through the end of 2013. Fox, in turn, has withdrawn its opposition to the settlement between Major League Baseball and Frank McCourt. Here’s a chunk from my piece just posted at Variety.

Fox Sports and the Los Angeles Dodgers have settled their legal differences, enabling Fox to retain exclusive cable rights to the Dodgers for the remaining two seasons of their contract and removing the final impediment to the sale of the baseball franchise.

The settlement comes 2 1/2 weeks after Fox earned a favorable ruling from a U.S. District Court, overturning a federal bankruptcy court decision that would have accelerated the sale of the Dodgers’ post-2013 cable rights.

”We are pleased that these matters between our two organizations have been resolved,” Fox said in a statement. ”We were never in favor of litigation, but it was imperative that we protect our exclusive media rights. Under the terms of the settlement, Fox’s media rights remain in place and we look forward to working with new ownership on future television rights discussions.”

Fox will now have an exclusive window to negotiate for a rights extension with the Dodgers through Nov. 30, well past the sale of the team by Dodger owner Frank McCourt that has a stipulated April 30 deadline.

”This agreement is a significant step towards a successful sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers,” the bankrupt baseball team said in its statement. ”It resolves all of the parties’ differences relating to the telecast rights agreement with Fox. This consensual resolution of all disputes between the debtors and Fox will enable the sale of the Dodgers to proceed forward, free of any uncertainty relating to the various issues under dispute, with the continued objective of maximizing value for the debtors and their estates.” …

Writes Bill Shaikin, who first reported the news for the Times:

… That leaves a new owner free to launch his own Dodgers cable channel starting in 2014, or leverage that threat into a bidding war between Fox and Time Warner Cable.

Under the settlement, Fox and the Dodgers agreed to withdraw the lawsuits each had filed against the other. Fox also agreed to end its various legal challenges to the Dodgers, including its motion to dismiss the team from bankruptcy for abusing the process and its claim to damages for the team’s alleged violations of the current television contract.

Fox did not, however, release McCourt from his obligation to repay a $30 million personal loan provided by the company in April so that he could meet the first payrolls of the season.

That loan is secured by McCourt’s malpractice claim against Bingham McCutchen, the Boston-based law firm responsible for the faulty marital property agreement upon which McCourt relied to establish his sole ownership of the Dodgers. The agreement was invalidated, and ultimately McCourt agreed to settle his divorce by paying his ex-wife $131 million by April 30.

Fox retained the right to challenge any sale of the team, in part or in whole, to Time Warner Cable. The settlement also clarified that Time Warner Cable is bound by a provision of the TV contract that hampers the ability of ESPN, Comcast or Time Warner to hold a share of a Dodgers’ cable channel.

The path is now clear for McCourt’s sale of the franchise to be completed by the stipulated April 30 deadline. It’s not as if there can’t be any more hiccups, but things are falling into place.

Jan 10

Hawksworth to have surgery

Blake Hawksworth has come down with a case of bone spuritis, and will have surgery Wednesday to clean up said spur in his right elbow as well as scar tissue.

Dr. Neal ElAttrache will perform the surgery, with an estimated recovery time of four to six weeks – in other words, ready to go before the end of February.

Hawksworth – whose 2011 season-in-review can be found here – is an incumbent in the Dodger bullpen and should remain so, presuming the surgery only makes him stronger.

Jan 09

Vin Scully Bobblehead Night on August 30

In a year that is so improbable, the bobbleble has happened.

The first Vin Scully bobblehead giveaway, coming August 30, highlights this year’s highly historical set of sculpted collectables at Dodger Stadium. The full list:

Date Opponent Bobblehead
Saturday, April 28 Nationals Don Drysdale with Maury Wills
Tuesday, May 15 Diamondbacks Orel Hershiser
Tuesday, May 29 Brewers The Infield: Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey
Tuesday, June 12 Angels Mike Scioscia
Thursday, June 28 Mets Eric Karros
Saturday, July 14 Padres Tommy Lasorda with Walter Alston
Tuesday, July 31 Diamondbacks Kirk Gibson
Tuesday, August 7 Rockies Sandy Koufax
Tuesday, August 21 Giants Fernando Valenzuela
Thursday, August 30 Diamondbacks Vin Scully

Some ticket tips from the Dodgers:

… The best way for fans to collect the entire Dodger Stadium Greats Bobblehead Series, to purchase Opening Day tickets and to participate in all other 2012 promotions, is to purchase season tickets which start at $5 per ticket and $16 per ticket for Field Level seats. The collectible series is also included in a 10-game mini plan. Several 15-game mini plans that include Opening Day and two bobblehead games from the Dodger Stadium Greats Bobblehead Series are also available. The 25-game Pick ‘Em Mini Plan is another way to buy Opening Day tickets and to secure collectible bobbleheads. Mini plan pricing starts at $8 per seat.

Jan 09

Wrapping up Hall of Fame Day

Barry Larkin deservedly rode a relative landslide into the Hall of Fame today (overcoming a reported catastrophe). The highest-polling Dodger alum was Fred McGriff with 137 votes (23.9 percent of total ballots). Others with Dodger ties were Don Mattingly (102 votes/17.8 percent), Bill Mueller (4 votes, 0.7 percent) and Eric Young (1 vote, 0.2 percent). Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Jordan and Terry Mulholland came up empty.

Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk has a nice analysis of the ballot results and what they mean for candidates down the road, and David Schoenfield and Cliff Corcoran do similar work for ESPN.com and SI.com, while Dave Cameron of Fangraphs argues for a more inclusive vote.

* * *

Any future Hall of Famers, Dodgers, or Dodger Hall of Famers on this list? Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors looks at the potential big-name free agents a year from now. More here.

* * *

Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey is journaling his climb of Mount Kilimanjaro for the New York Times (link via Rob Neyer of Baseball Nation). It begins thusly …

I think I know now how Bilbo Baggins must have felt in Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.” My companions and I have set out on our own mountainous journey to try to attain a treasure.

The treasure in our case is not a pile of gold guarded by a dragon, but rather the gratification that comes with reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Instead of facing trolls and fighting goblins, we are battling steep climbs and the fatigue that accompanies seven- to eight-hour hikes. Furthermore, I’m not sure of the height of the Lonely Mountain, but I’m pretty sure I don’t remember reading about Bilbo’s having to worry about acclimatization and altitude sickness as he ascended the mountainside. …

* * *

Which teams should be interested in Manny Ramirez’s comeback efforts? Matt Klaassen of Fangraphs explores, and concludes as follows:

… Four teams, then, seem like they might be able to use Manny: the Rangers, the Twins, the Jays, and the Rays. Even then, each team would have to move things around to make it work, and only the Jays have been reported to express interest so far (as far as I know). This is all to say that while the chances for Manny landing a job seem slim, with a bit of work one can drum up some possibilities. Given the right circumstances, things could work out well for a team willing to take a low-risk chance on Manny.

I won’t be holding my breath.

Jan 09

De La Rosa progressing nicely in recovery

While I was parked at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, many of my online colleagues were out at Dodger Stadium for media day at the Dodgers’ Winter Development Camp. Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles was one. Some excerpts:

… Instead of making a splash now, the Dodgers will likely do what they have done the last few seasons. Try to stay competitive in the first few months of the season in order to convince ownership to expand the payroll at the trading deadline.

“I think we’re in a decent spot right now to be competitive and to make more decisions in July,” (Ned) Colletti said. “There’s rarely a postseason team that doesn’t change along the road.” …

… Elsewhere, (Don) Mattingly said that RHP Rubby De La Rosa has looked good in limited action after undergoing Tommy John surgery this summer. The Dodgers hope he can return to throwing bullpen sessions sometime in March and pitching in games by the end of July.

“I feel good. It feels strong,” De La Rosa said. “It feels like six months have passed since the operation and it’s only been three.”

But wait, there’s more …

  • Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy has video of Tommy Lasorda during batting practice telling prospect Matt Wallach to “pull the goddamned ball.”
  • Baly adds a bunch of photos in this post.
  • Brandon Lennox of True Blue L.A. has a long list of notes from the camp.
  • Dylan Hernandez of the Times leads his notebook with a Dee Gordon update, while also noting that if and when De La Rosa pitches for the Dodgers this season, it will probably be in relief, before he returns to starting in 2013.
  • Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has a full recap. Here’s a portion:

    … Also rehabbing is infielder Justin Sellers, who suffered a serious groin pull while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Sellers said he’s still not 100 percent, but he was turning double plays with expected starting shortstop Dee Gordon on Monday.

    Working in the infield was Alex Castellanos, a natural power-hitting outfielder acquired from the Cardinals in the Rafael Furcal trade. Castellanos is still primarily an outfielder, but the Dodgers are trying him at second base, which they had to fill with the signing of free agent Mark Ellis because they weren’t willing to turn the position over to Sellers or Ivan DeJesus Jr.

    Also at the camp is catcher Tim Federowicz, who was a September callup, but Colletti said he’s likely to open the season in the Minor Leagues as the Dodgers plan to start the season with A.J. Ellis starting and Matt Treanor backing up. Federowicz was the key player acquired in the Trayvon Robinson trade.

    Colletti said he met in the Dominican with third baseman Juan Uribe. Colletti said Uribe knows he underperformed last year and understands the expectations for this year. Utilityman Jerry Hairston might share time at the position. Hairston also could see time in the outfield, especially when the Dodgers face left-handed pitching. When that happens, James Loney might be replaced at first base by left fielder Juan Rivera and Andre Ethier might give way to Jerry Sands. Mattingly said he wouldn’t call it a platoon, but one of the winter priorities was to add right-handed bats to give him more options against left-handed pitching. …

Jan 08

Nomo, Bergen among new Shrine of the Eternals nominees

David Zalubowski/APIn the rain, Hideo Nomo faces the first batter in his September 17, 1996 no-hitter at Coors Field.

Former Dodgers Hideo Nomo, Bill Bergen and Lefty O’Doul are among the 10 first-time nominees for the Shrine of the Eternals, brought to you by the Baseball Reliquary.

Any member of the Reliquary can vote on the Shrine of the Eternals. An active membership costs $25 annually. Honorees will be announced in May, with Induction Day on July 15 in Pasadena.

Here are the 50 names on this year’s ballot (with years on ballot in parentheses) – really a wonderful list – followed by the Reilquary’s biographies of the 10 new nominees:

1. Eliot Asinof (9)
2. Gary Bell (new)
3. Bill Bergen (new)
4. Steve Bilko (new)
5. Steve Blass (3)
6. Chet Brewer (13)
7. Charlie Brown (5)
8. Jefferson Burdick (3)
9. Glenn Burke (5)
10. Bert Campaneris (new)
11. Jose Canseco (new)
12. Charles M. Conlon (11)
13. Dizzy Dean (12)
14. Bucky Dent (4)
15. Hector Espino (3)
16. Charles Faust (new)
17. Donald Fehr (2)
18. Eddie Feigner (12)
19. Lisa Fernandez (12)
20. Charlie Finley (2)
21. Rube Foster (14)
22. Jim “Mudcat” Grant (8)
23. Ernie Harwell (9)
24. Dr. Frank Jobe (10)
25. Annabelle Lee (new)
26. Effa Manley (14)
27. Conrado Marrero (3)
28. Dr. Mike Marshall (7)
29. Tug McGraw (9)
30. Fred Merkle (6)
31. Manny Mota (5)
32. Hideo Nomo (new)
33. Lefty O’Doul (new)
34. Joe Pepitone (2)
35. Phil Pote (10)
36. Vic Power (4)
37. Curtis Pride (2)
38. Dan Quisenberry (6)
39. J.R. Richard (13)
40. Annie Savoy (2)
41. Rusty Staub (7)
42. Chuck Stevens (4)
43. Toni Stone (new)
44. Luis Tiant (10)
45. Fay Vincent (11)
46. Rube Waddell (14)
47. John Montgomery Ward (6)
48. David Wells (2)
49. Wilbur Wood (2)
50. Don Zimmer (8)

GARY BELL (b. 1936)—Immortalized in the pages of Jim Bouton’s Ball Four as a charter member of the beer-pounding, beaver-shooting Seattle Pilots, the good-natured, wise-cracking Bell (inevitably nicknamed “Ding Dong”) came up with Cleveland in 1958 as a “can’t-miss” pitching prospect, part of a strong staff that eventually included Mudcat Grant, Sam McDowell, and Luis Tiant. Bell posted solid if unspectacular numbers with the Indians for a decade until a trade to the Red Sox in 1967 placed him in the midst of their “Impossible Dream” pennant-winning season. The cheerful Texan is the answer to the perennially-asked trivia question: “Who was the winning pitcher in the Pilots’ first home game?”

BILL BERGEN (1878-1943)—Whoever first offered the canard, “I don’t care what my catcher hits; he’s in there for defense,” must have been thinking of Bill Bergen, a defensively superb dead-ball era catcher who would have been forgotten entirely if not for the fact that he holds the most dubious record in baseball history: lowest batting average ever—.170—for a player with 2500 or more at-bats; a record that makes latter-day lightweights like Ray Oyler and Mario Mendoza look like Ty Cobb.

STEVE BILKO (1928-1978)—Moon-faced first baseman who wrapped a so-so major league career around a legendary stint in the Pacific Coast League, where he paced the circuit in home runs for three consecutive seasons (1955 to 1957), and won the PCL’s Triple Crown in 1956 with a phenomenal display of slugging for the Los Angeles Angels. Astutely drafted by the expansion Angels of the American League in 1961, the extraordinarily popular Bilko made further inroads into pop culture immortality as the source for the name of the Phil Silvers’ character, Sgt. Bilko, on the actor’s television program.

BERT CAMPANERIS (b. 1942)—Speedy, durable shortstop for the Kansas City-Oakland franchise of the 1960s and ’70s whose flash and flair embodied the spirit of the Swingin’ A’s. A six-time All Star who once played all nine positions in a single game, “Campy” in his prime was arguably the best shortstop between the Luis Aparicio and Dave Concepcion eras.

JOSE CANSECO (b. 1964)—Wayward Cuban-born slugger of prodigious gifts and blasé demeanor who, with fellow “Bash Brother” Mark McGwire, led the Oakland A’s back to respectability in the late 1980s. His open admission of steroid use throughout his career, documented in several tell-all books, made him a pariah in MLB circles after his retirement.

CHARLES “VICTORY” FAUST (1880-1915)—Few baseball tales are as odd—or ultimately, sad—as the story of Charlie “Victory” Faust, a gawky stringbean of a man who in 1911 managed to convince New York Giants manager John McGraw that he, Faust, was destined to pitch the team to a World Series championship, and furthermore had the talent to jinx opposing teams (“put the whommy on ‘em,” as Casey Stengel might have said). With Faust adopted by McGraw as team mascot/good luck charm, the Giants did indeed win the 1911 series, and Faust did indeed pitch in two meaningless games. Faust faded into oblivion after the 1912 season, dying in a Washington sanitarium in 1915, until his story was resurrected a half-century later by historian Larry Ritter. (More on Faust here.)

ANNABELLE LEE (1922-2008)—The poetically named southpaw pitched with four different teams in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) from 1944 through 1950 and is credited with hurling the first perfect game in league history in 1944, adding a no-hitter to her credentials the following season. A Los Angeles native whose father played in the Pacific Coast League and whose nephew Bill Lee was a Red Sox legend, Annabelle Lee is part of the AAGPBL permanent display at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

HIDEO NOMO (b. 1968)—Credited with opening the door to Major League Baseball for native Japanese players, right-handed pitcher Hideo Nomo established himself as a star early in his career with the Kinetsu Buffaloes (1990-1994) before taking advantage of a contractual loophole to sign with the L.A. Dodgers. Using an exaggerated, jerky windmill motion (the genesis of his nickname “The Tornado”), Nomo became an overnight sensation in the U.S., ushering in the era of “Nomomania” while winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 1995. He became an itinerant pitcher after a few seasons with the Dodgers, and never really captured the nation’s enthusiasm again after his rookie campaign, but by then U.S. fans had other Japanese stars to cheer for—Ichiro, Matsui, Hasegawa, Matsuzaka, and many others.

LEFTY O’DOUL (1897-1969)—A man of many hats—most of them green, to match his favorite color of suit—the legacy of Francis “Lefty” O’Doul is so varied and accomplished as to defy neat description: a San Francisco native, still revered as a favorite son of the city (his sports bar is still a civic landmark), O’Doul began his big-league career as a relief pitcher, but re-emerged as a slugger after a reclamation stint in the Pacific Coast League. He terrorized NL pitchers during the late 1920s and early 1930s, won two batting titles, nearly hit .400 in 1929, and retired with the fourth-best career average of .349 in 1934. Returning to the PCL, he managed the San Francisco Seals through one of their most productive periods, mentored the young Joe DiMaggio, and established a reputation as one of the greatest hitting coaches in history. He also found time to work as a baseball ambassador to Japan, giving the professional game a leg up in that country. He is in everyone’s Hall of Fame except for the one that counts: Cooperstown.

TONI STONE (1931-1996)—Born Marcenia Lyle Alberga, Toni Stone played baseball from the moment she could walk, a standout player among local boy’s teams, American Legion squads, and black semi-pro outfits through the WWII era. Barred from play in the segregated AAGPBL, she was signed in 1953 by the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League to play second base, a position recently vacated by Henry Aaron. She had her greatest thrill in baseball with the Clowns: a chance to bat against Satchel Paige. A victim of the sexism prevalent among all races during the era, her skills as an athlete were overshadowed by her value as a publicity tool, and after a stint with the fabled Kansas City Monarchs in 1954, she retired. She was inducted into the Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1993, and is memorialized in two separate permanent displays at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The thirty-nine individuals previously elected to the Shrine of the Eternals are, in alphabetical order: Jim Abbott, Dick Allen, Roger Angell, Emmett Ashford, Moe Berg, Yogi Berra, Ila Borders, Jim Bouton, Jim Brosnan, Bill Buckner, Roberto Clemente, Steve Dalkowski, Rod Dedeaux, Jim Eisenreich, Dock Ellis, Mark Fidrych, Curt Flood, Ted Giannoulas, Josh Gibson, Pete Gray, William “Dummy” Hoy, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Bill James, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Roger Maris, Marvin Miller, Minnie Minoso, Buck O’Neil, Satchel Paige, Jimmy Piersall, Pam Postema, Jackie Robinson, Lester Rodney, Pete Rose, Casey Stengel, Fernando Valenzuela, Bill Veeck, Jr., Maury Wills, and Kenichi Zenimura.

Jan 07

Winter Development Camp opens

From the Dodgers:

The Dodgers’ fifth annual Winter Development Program, which helps prepare minor league players for the Major Leagues both on and off the field, kicks off this weekend and will include workouts, community visits, informational seminars and visits to different areas of Los Angeles. Fifteen of the Dodgers’ top minor league prospects will be in town for the week-long event and workouts will focus on fundamentals, strength training and conditioning.
Dodger Manager Don Mattingly will be on hand to work with the prospects along with Third Base Coach Tim Wallach, Hitting Coach Dave Hansen, minor league roving instructors and Specials Assistants, Baseball Operations & Player Development.
Prospects attending include the Dodgers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year Shawn Tolleson and Minor League Player of the Year Scott Van Slyke. Other position players include Alex Castellanos, Griff Erickson, Tim Federowicz, Tyler Henson, Alfredo Silverio and Matt Wallach. Pitchers Steven Ames, Michael Antonini, Stephen Fife, Josh Wall, Allen Webster and Chris Withrow will be in attendance along with the Dodgers’ 2010 Minor League Pitcher of the Year Rubby De La Rosa.
Throughout the week, these Dodger prospects will familiarize themselves with the greater Los Angeles area through community service with a visit to A Place Called Home, a youth center in South Los Angeles, and social events, including attending an L.A. Clippers game. They will also meet with Dodger legends including Tommy Lasorda and Don Newcombe and learn from Dodger staffers about topics including media relations, diet and Major League travel. Prominent Los Angeles sports figures who have spoken to the program in the past include John Wooden, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Phil Jackson.
Since the Winter Development Program’s inception in 2008, 30 participating players have reached the Major Leagues, including 2011 participants Rubby De La Rosa, Jerry Sands, Dee Gordon, Nathan Eovaldi and Javy Guerra. Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Ramon Troncoso, A.J. Ellis, and Scott Elbert are among other past participants.

Jan 07

Our friend Mike Sharperson

Quickly on a Saturday morning …

  • Maligned for his 1992 All-Star Game selection but nevertheless a most likable player, Mike Sharperson is remembered at Lasorda’s Lair by Scott Andes, who passes along this quote:  “I first walked in (to the N.L. clubhouse) and saw all the superstars, and I’m not even close to being considered a superstar. But here I am, and I’m going to play with them. I definitely feel like a kid in a candy store. I can’t wait to take my bats around to be autographed. For me to do what I’ve done, to be selected, is going to stop a lot of critics from doubting me.”
  • Former Dodger Alex Cora is drawing offseason interest both as a player and as a coach, says Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via MLB Trade Rumors).
  • Colorado has acquired 26-year-old Chad Tracy, son of manager Jim Tracy, from Texas in exchange for Greg Reynolds, whom the Rockies took with the second overall pick in the 2006 draft ahead of Evan Longoria, Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum, among others. The first baseman had an .814 OPS for Triple-A Round Rock last season.
Jan 05

Why Time Warner Cable is no lock to buy Dodgers

Without Tom Lehrer to poke holes in the New Math, I’ll take a stab at it.

Lately online, I’ve seen a rash of speculation that Time Warner Cable will buy the Dodgers, based on the following algebra: Why would Time Warner Cable pay up to $4 billion for 20 years of Dodger cable television rights when it only needs to spend an estimated $1 billion or so to buy the team (and in turn control of the TV rights) and be home free?

Well, I’m here to tell you why.

The main thing is that the math above doesn’t compute. Sure, TWC would be committing less money initially if it bought the team, but it still has to operate the team. You can’t simply ignore the cost of that, and it’s going to be considerable.

So while TWC wouldn’t pay the TWC-owned Dodgers $4 billion for broadcast rights, it would have to pay them a big dollar amount nonetheless. How much will Dodger player payroll alone be over 20 years? I’d say $3 billion (not adjusting for inflation) is hardly outlandish. Then there’s stadium improvements to be made, etc., etc. And TWC would be paying out all that whether the Dodgers made money or lost money.

That leads into a second but not insignificant point. Operating a sports franchise is a big headache, and the Dodgers, with all their on-field and off-field needs, are no different. It takes a lot of manpower, and if you’re not doing it right — if it’s not your top priority — it can be a public relations disaster.  And the odds are that lots of fans will find decide TWC doesn’t know how to run a baseball team.

Fox essentially has every reason to try to buy the Dodgers that TWC has — as we’ve discussed here repeatedly, the fate of Fox-owned Prime Ticket probably depends on keeping the Dodger’ TV rights — yet with the benefit of previous ownership experience, Fox is not going to bid on the franchise. Despite the New Math, Fox doesn’t want the hassle, even if it means risking astronomical sums in the event of a Prime Ticket collapse.

Then, finally, there is Frank McCourt himself. He will decide which of the MLB-approved ownership groups will get the team. No doubt, he will go for the richest bid, and secondarily, an owner he isn’t personally affronted by. But if the competition is close, he’s likely going to feel more comfortable, in terms of doing what little he can to salvage his legacy, selling to a group that has a friendly face, be it Magic Johnson or Joe Torre, than a group that has no face at all.

I’m not saying TWC won’t bid on the Dodgers — I mostly expect it to. Owning the Dodgers eliminates the risk of Fox retaining the TV rights, and heck, maybe TWC can learn from Fox’s mistakes (not to mention the very different mistakes of the McCourts) and make the Dodgers’ day-to-day operations themselves purely lucrative.

But it’s worth remembering that there are no free rides. Buying the Dodgers has great reward potential but is also a bonafide risk, more so if the bidding becomes heated. The ultimate prize for TWC right now is the success of its upcoming new cable channels dedicated to the Lakers. Those are the real revenue generators, and if TWC is confident it can acquire the Dodgers’ TV rights to support those channels (without the angst of running the Dodgers themselves), or even if it isn’t confident, TWC might let Dodger ownership be someone else’s problem. 

Jan 05

Who’ll stop the bullet points?

Still I wonder …

  • Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles passes along perhaps the greatest parable ever written: “It’s about a fox who sees a pile of moldy grapes in a dumpster behind a Cheescake Factory.”
  • In a lengthy piece for True Blue L.A., Phil Gurnee looks ahead at the 2012 Dodgers with downcast eyes: “My spider senses are all tingling disaster disaster, and try as I might, I can’t shake it.”
  • Imminent future Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin has been “working out” Dodger youngster Dee Gordon among others this winter, according to Joe Lemire of SI.com.
  • Jay Jaffe, trustworthy as they come for Hall of Fame recommendations, offers his 2012 list to date at Baseball Prospectus: Larkin, Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez and Lee Smith.
  • Former draft phenom Brien Taylor, whose career was thwarted by an off-field fight, turned 40 last week. Mike Azisa of Fangraphs looks back at the derailed success story. Sample quotes:

    “I’ve been through 28 drafts,” said Scott Boras back in 2006, “and Brien Taylor, still to this day, is the best high school pitcher I’ve seen in my life.”

    “If I’d been doing things that were stupid and didn’t make any sense, I would have felt a lot worse about it,” said Taylor in 1994, a year after the injury. “I feel that what happened with me is a family thing and I was there for my family. But I don’t feel bad about it for one day because the reason it happened is not because I was being stupid out there.”

  • At Grantland, Jonah Keri looks at “The Myth of the Small-Market Window.”
  • Earl Pomerantz tells us what happens when someone speaking French asks Jim Appel his name.
  • Finally, Alex Belth shares a story at Bronx Banter that was simply and wonderfully impressive.
Jan 05

Dodgers back with Mac

Predictably, the Dodgers have re-signed reliever Mike MacDougal to a 2012 contract with a 2013 club option.

According to The Associated Press, MacDougal gets a slight raise from his 2011 salary this year, to $650,000. If the Dodgers pick up his option for 2013, he’ll get another $2.35 million, which means the Dodgers will pick up his option over my suspendedly animated body. But if things go according to Hoyle, MacDougal will get a $350,000 buyout after the coming season.

MacDougal returns to a bullpen that figures to also include Kenley Jansen, Javy Guerra, Scott Elbert, Matt Guerrier, Josh Lindblom and one other.

Previously on Dodger Thoughts: Remembering 2011: Mike MacDougal.

… MacDougal not only ended up pitching more innings for the Dodgers than all but one of those names, he finished the year with the lowest ERA on the entire staff: 2.05. Now, if you were paying attention, you’ll know that latter figure is tainted: He allowed 17 of 51 inherited runners to score. It was actually much worse before the All-Star break, when he allowed 13 of 33 inherited runners to come home – nearly 40 percent. His second-half numbers (4 of 18) were respectable. He struck out 6.5 batters per nine innings but allowed 13.1 baserunners. So, he was effective, but then again he wasn’t, but considering his $500,000 salary, then again he was. …

Jan 04

Digging trenches for the bidding war

And on and on …

  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com and Bill Shaikin of the Times each have an update on the Dodger sale process.
  • it would be a travesty if Jeff Bagwell doesn’t make the Hall of Fame, writes David Schoenfield of ESPN.com.
  • Alex Belth, who wrote that amazing story about sportswriter George Kimball late last year, today posted an entertaining interview he did with Kimball.
  • Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes that the Yankees are saving money this winter to make a run at Cole Hamels or Matt Cain a year from now (via Baseball Musings).
Jan 04

Torre enters Dodger ownership fray

Once a Dodger (no matter how late), always a Dodger?

Joe Torre has resigned as MLB executive vice president of baseball operations to join a group pursuing ownership of the Dodgers. ESPNLosAngeles has more.

The group Torre is joining was not immediately named, though Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeted that it was one led by real estate developer Rick Caruso. (Update: Torre and Caruso subsequently confirmed in a joint statement, and Bill Shaikin of the Times tweeted that the banker is Byron Trott of BDT Capital in Chicago, “called by Warren Buffett ‘the only banker he trusts.'”)

Former Dodger executive Kim Ng will be part of a trio splitting Torre’s MLB duties on an interim basis. If Torre’s group prevails in acquiring the Dodgers, it’s natural to wonder if Ng would be the team’s next general manager.

Jan 03

Haunted house

Jordan Williamson’s game-costing missed field goal for Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl is no doubt devastating for him, yet not unusual for his position, his sport or even sports in general.

Or even life. Subtract the national stage, and I have no trouble calling back my own Jordan Williamson moments in my life. I don’t think about them every day, but they are profoundly powerful considering the decades that have passed for some of them. If quietly periodic haunting still counts as haunting, as opposed to crazy no-holds-barred “American Horror Story” haunting, then call me haunted.

Sometimes you get a chance for redemption, like the time I had the chance for my first real kiss when I was 11 and choked, and sometimes you don’t, like … well, let’s just say there are a few kicks I’d like to have back.

Jordan, you’ve got it bad right now, as bad as that mangled kick with time expiring, but while most of us can’t relate to the exact situation, we can feel it. I can, anyway. (And then there’s a fellow named Jonathan Broxton I might introduce you to …)