Oct 27

The lame blame game

At the bottom of this morning’s Ramona Shelburne news story for ESPNLosAngeles.com about the Bryan Stow situation, she quotes Jerome Jackson, a lawyer representing Frank McCourt, as follows:

… “What happened to Bryan Stow was a tragedy,” he said. “The Dodgers have held fundraisers. The Dodgers have helped police in solving this case. That doesn’t mean we’re legally responsible for what happens here.

“What baffles me is that the level of public outrage at the Dodgers seems to be higher than the level of outrage at the people who inflicted the blows.” …

Here’s what I’d say to that:

1) Let’s be clear — whatever outrage exists isn’t against the Dodgers, it’s against McCourt. (Update: As Dodger Thoughts commenter Zissou_Steve points out, there was more outrage against Dodger fans than there was against McCourt when this incident occurred.)

2) Despite the anger against McCourt, I wouldn’t say that when it comes specifically to the Stow beating, people are angrier at McCourt than they are at the assailants. People understand who the true villains are.

3) However, if you’re trying to address public anger with McCourt, it sure doesn’t help when you make statements such as these:

“I’ve been doing these cases for 23 years and I have never seen one yet in which it didn’t take at least two people to tango,” (Jackson) said, referring to the notion that jurors could decide Stow bears some liability in the attack. “So stay tuned and stand by.”

Whatever the facts of the case are, when it comes to the question of “public outrage,” that’s an issue of public relations. Does this look like an example of good public relations?

* * *

  • Matt Kemp was the only unanimous selection to The Sporting News National League All-Star Team that also includes Clayton Kershaw.
  • Robinson Cano, whom I still link to Kemp because of all the trade rumors involving the pair a couple years back, is looking (via agent Scott Boras) to redo his contract with the Yankees that includes club options of $14 million for 2012 and $15 million for 2013, according to Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com.

    … Boras, has been peddling his sales pitch through the media recently, cautioning the Yankees that allowing Cano to become a free agent after the 2013 season would be extremely risky, not to mention expensive, the implication being that he would take Cano out onto the open market, where he would no doubt draw a lot of interest.

    An insider told Matthews that the chances of Cano’s contract being re-done were “highly, highly unlikely.”

  • Albert Pujols defended his hit-and-run playcalling, as well as the fact that he didn’t swing when he called the first hit-and-run in Game 5 Monday. (Joe Strauss, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Oct 26

Dodger TV rights hearing postponed, but to what end?

The rumors were flying today that the one-month postponement of the winner-take-all bankruptcy court hearing on Frank McCourt’s ability to prematurely sell the Dodgers’ post-2013 TV rights (what a mouthful that was) was actually a sign that a deal was being forged that would facilitate McCourt selling the franchise. (See ESPNLosAngeles.com and Bill Shaikin of the Times for more.)

What’s clear is that talks have been taking place, what’s unclear is whether there was any real momentum behind the talks. And so, there’s no way of knowing whether the next month might see the happy revelation of closure, or whether it will just be 30 more days tacked onto our painful waiting game.

Elsewhere …

  • Hong-Chih Kuo is going to have arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body (no, this isn’t a Halloween joke) in his left elbow. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com talked to Dodger training chief Stan Conte about the situation. Kuo is planning to try to pitch in 2012, but while he is certain to be made a free agent by the Dodgers, they’re still as good a bet as anyone to try to re-sign him to a discounted contract.
  • Maury Wills is the subject of a story in the Times that illustrates what a longshot he was to make the majors with this anecdote: In 1959, Topps chose not to pay Wills the grand total of $5 for the rights to have him on a baseball card.
  • How overdue are the Dodgers for a World Series compared to other teams? Check the list at Cy Morong’s Cybermetrics.
Oct 26

On bended knee for Adrian Beltre

Eric Nusbaum of Pitchers & Poets has paid loving tribute to former Dodger Adrian Beltre at Deadspin. I would excerpt a portion, but I couldn’t find one I was satisfied with – I kept wanting to take more. You really need to read the whole thing.

  • Marking the 25th anniversary of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Mark Simon of ESPN.com presented 10 tidbits on Bill Buckner, many of them Dodger related.
  • The shining of the World Series spotlight on Mike Napoli has put Mike Scioscia in its path. In an interview with ESPN 710 AM, chronicled by Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles, Scioscia said health and durability questions were the reason for the trade.
Oct 26

Remembering 2011: Hong-Chih Kuo


Kirby Lee/US PresswireHong-Chih Kuo (29)

The setup: Coming off his spectacular 2010 (1.20 ERA, .211 opposing on-base percentage, 73 strikeouts in 60 innings and a career-high 56 games) and three years removed from his most recent surgery, Kuo was expected to be an integral, if not the most integral, component to the Dodger bullpen.

The closeup: It was a bruising season for Kuo.

He lasted fewer than three weeks before he landed on the disabled list April 16 with a lower back strain, related to problems we would learn had been with him since the season began. That, at the time, seemed to explain why Kuo had walked four in 2 2/3 innings of a shaky start to 2011. Kuo returned to active duty May 1, only to be charged with four runs on a walk, a hit batter and two singles in one-third of an inning that night, though three of those runners scored with Mike MacDougal on the mound. Kuo’s ERA soared to 15.00; it would never drop below 8.00 at any point in the remainder of the year.

Only 10 days later, on May 11, Kuo went back to the disabled list, but not for physical reasons. Officially sidelined by “anxiety disorder,” Kuo was the subject of a piece by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports in late June:

… Kuo, who turns 30 next month, is one of the game’s top left-handed relievers when healthy. But he has undergone four elbow operations and battled the “yips” — an inability to throw the ball with accuracy — in 2009. In early May, during a series in Pittsburgh, he told Conte he no longer could pitch due to his anxiety.

Conte, after receiving permission from Kuo, spoke at length about the pitcher’s condition.

“The analogy I use is if you’re scared of small places, you’re claustrophobic and you’re scared of snakes. But you’re really good at catching those snakes, and they ask you every day to walk into a small, closed window-less room to grab them,” Conte said.

“They bite you. It hurts. But you’re the best in the world at doing it and they pay you a lot of money to do it. And every day it becomes worse and worse. It makes you believe you can’t do it, not for glory, not for fame, not for money.

“That’s how he was in Pittsburgh. He was like a guy in water who couldn’t float and begging to get out of the water. It was very emotional, the way he was begging us not to put him out there.” …

When Kuo came back on June 21, it still wasn’t with any sort of consistency, allowing at least one run or one inherited run in 14 of 31 appearances through the end of the season. He could still strike batters out at an incredible rate – 36 in 27 innings – but he couldn’t be relied upon to do so without putting a bunch on base.

In September, Kuo did have two games in which he pitched two shutout innings. The first, on September 2, earned him his only victory of the season. The second, on September 24, lowered his season ERA to exactly 9.00. Kuo, who had allowed 48 baserunners in 60 innings the year before, finished with 49 in 27 innings this time.

Coming attractions: Entering the offseason, Kuo figured to become a free agent based on the assumption that the Dodgers will not tender him a contract that would commit them to paying well over $2 million in 2012. Though Kuo himself speculated to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that he might retire, he was planning to pitch in a series of exhibition games against major-leaguers in his native Taiwan – only to come down with left-elbow discomfort, as Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports.

If and when he’s ready to resume his major-league career, Kuo (like Hiroki Kuroda) might decide he’s only comfortable doing so with the Dodgers, who could re-sign him for a lower base salary after non-tendering him. It is a very uncertain future for Kuo in baseball to say the least, but I’ll always be struck by how Dodger fans, who can be a bitterly impatient lot when it comes to struggling players, always seemed to stand by Kuo no matter how bad it got. Signed by the organization in 1999 and a battler almost every day since, sidelined by the first of two Tommy John surgeries after his very first game in the minors in 2000, Kuo has earned tons of respect from this community.

Oct 25

Remembering 2011: Rod Barajas


Ric Tapia/Icon SMIRod Barajas (28)

The setup: Barajas bashed the ball for the Dodgers last year (.939 OPS, five home runs in 72 plate appearances) in a short stint after the Mets designated him for assignment in August 2010. In a 24-hour whirlwind that December, the Dodgers cut ties with incumbent-but-injured Russell Martin and signed Barajas to a one-year, $3.25 million deal for 2011, in contrast to the $500,000 plus incentives the Mets had guaranteed Barajas 9 1/2 months earlier. At his peak, Barajas had never been guaranteed more than $3.2 million for a year, and neither Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. nor myself thought Barajas could get more than $2 million. Though there was a cost savings in switching Martin’s uncertain future for Barajas, and though Barajas was a Southern Californian happy to be with the Dodgers, the contract had small-scale blunder written all over it, the same way that the second years in Los Angeles for Marlon Anderson and Ronnie Belliard went so unhappily.

The closeup: Not unlike Martin, whose surge-and-retreat year for the Yankees ended with a .723 OPS (92 OPS+), Barajas had a streaky 2011. His OPS was .635 at the end of July, before he connected for a .403 on-base percentage, .750 slugging percentage and six home runs in 62 plate appearances in August. His 10 total bases (two home runs and a double) against St. Louis on August 23 were unsurpassed by any Dodger this year. Thanks to that, he was able to finish the year with a .717 OPS that was slightly lower than Martin’s but a 97 OPS+ that was slightly higher. Barajas finished second on the Dodgers in home runs with 16, a mere 23 behind the team leader, despite missing a month at midseason with a sprained ankle and playing in only 98 games, seventh on the team. Fangraphs pegged Barajas’ value for 2011 at $5.8 million, Martin $13.8 million.

As late as August 23, Barajas had the same number of home runs and walks (14 of each), but he avoided becoming the rare Dodger to finish with more round-trippers than free-trippers, ending the year with 16 of one and 22 of the other. He threw out 20 of 80 runners attempting to steal.

Coming attractions: Barajas, who turned 36 in September, is a free agent who will sign somewhere for next year, but his Dodger future depends on his willingness to reduce that 2011 salary. His Los Angeles return would allow the Dodgers to slow-cook Tim Federowicz, who has played only 115 games above Single-A in his career, in the minors a bit longer next spring. But no outsider seems sure about whether Barajas will wear Dodger white and blue in 2012, and I don’t know that any insiders are sure either.

Oct 25

How dare you accuse me of doing the thing I already planned to do!

Major League Baseball has put a number and a name to what Frank McCourt has done with the Dodgers: “$189.16 million” and “looting.” ESPNLosAngeles.com and Bill Shaikin of the Times have more.

I want to call out the last two paragraphs of Shaikin’s story:

… The Dodgers also charge Selig with bad faith in declaring he would reject any television contract proposed by McCourt. The league claims any deal would necessarily require McCourt to divert some team revenue for personal use, including a $130-million divorce settlement.

That claim, the Dodgers said, is “simply make believe.”

We have been down this road before …

Dodger Thoughts, April 27:

… In a nod to the concerns over how much Dodger revenue he and his now-estranged wife had allocated for personal spending, McCourt said today that the proposed Fox deal would include an immediate payment of $300 million going directly into the Dodgers.

“None of those dollars (would be) used in any personal way,” McCourt said.

Dodger Thoughts, July 22:

Selig then delved into McCourt’s plan to put the 35% equity interest in Fox Sports Net West 2 that the Dodgers would receive into a holding company separate from the franchise, as well as his plan to take at least 45% from the $385 million up-front payment to settle personal debts.

Look, we all know that McCourt, if he somehow wins in the TV rights hearing, will be on track to have so much money coming in that he’ll be able to paper over all his sins — paper ’em with green. But come on — no matter how many machinations he drums up, the idea that TV money would not play some role, explicit or implicit, in resolving his enormous debts is about as far from the Neighborhood of Make Believe as one can travel.

* * *

  • Jerry Sands’ midseason swing adjustments have been carefully analyzed by Chad Moriyama. “To say I’m impressed by the changes that have taken place is an understatement,” Moriyama writes.
  • Clayton Kershaw is going back to Africa for the second consecutive offseason. Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy passed along an MLB.com clip with a Kershaw interview from the World Series. By committing $100 in Kershaw’s Challenge to Arise Africa for every strikeout he had this year to build an orphanage, Kershaw donated $24,800. The challenge has about $20,000 remaining to reach its goal of $70,000. Donate here.
  • It’s come to this: Andrew T. Fisher of Rockies blog Purple Row is optimistic about center fielder Dexter Fowler improving in 2012 because he will be working out this offseason with Matt Kemp.
  • A round of the aghastly reaction to Tony LaRussa’s managing of Game 5 Monday has been pulled together by Jeff Gordon of STLtoday.com. Sample:  “As La Russa played subterfuge artist, offering a story dotted with holes unbecoming of a man with a law degree, it was obvious that he was trying to protect someone, and he would go to such lengths only to save himself,” wrote Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.
  • Mark Townsend of Yahoo! Sports summarizes the five outs the Cardinals gave away Monday.
  • Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors has an update on 25-year-old Japanese ace Yu Darvish, who might be coming to the U.S.

    … Last week, I polled five agents and one team executive about Darvish’s potential posting fee and contract. Guesses on the posting fee ranged from $30-55MM, with the team executive making the highest prediction. The average of the six guesses was $45MM. As for the contract, most people predicted a five or six-year deal in the $72-75MM range. One agent wondered if the winning team will “try to force some options down his throat,” especially if it’s the Blue Jays.

    The bottom line: everyone I talked to expects a minimum of a $100MM commitment to acquire Darvish if he’s posted this year. …

  • A “treasure trove” of records of the Philadelphia A’s has been found, notes Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk, and are “now in the hands of a historian who is making a big documentary about Connie Mack.”
Oct 24

‘Vin Scully and Nobody’

During Sunday’s World Series game, Joe Posnanski asked fans on Twitter “if you could have any two living people (broadcasting) tonight’s baseball game, who would you choose?” He soon noted that he received “526 responses in two minutes, the vast majority of them being some variation on ‘Vin Scully and Nobody.’ ” Posnanski elaborated in this column:

… No second person. Just Vin. Brandon McCarthy chose Vin and someone to bring him water. Several chose Vin and Teller from Penn and Teller. And so on. I could not agree more. What I think makes Vin such a wonderful listen — and has for more than a half century — is that his voice stays in the background, the statistics he uses make sense and feel true, his stories enhance what you’re watching, he’s honest about whatever he’s seeing and he has Coltrane’s sense of rhythm. It’s a remarkable combination. Baseball is a tough game to announce. The action is spread out. The pace is uneven. The strategies are often intricate and not especially interesting for casual fans (they don’t call boring politics “inside baseball” for nothing). The statistics are often wonky. But there are great opportunities, too — baseball’s a wonderful game for stories, for drama, for insight. Yes, it would be great to hear Vin Scully call a World Series again. Well, hey, at least we got him to trend on Twitter for a while.

The conversation even managed to steal the spotlight from whether Game 4 national anthem singer Zooey Deschanel is an agent of good or evil.

In any case, I have to say again, as much as I would love Scully to do the World Series, I have seen no indication that he has any real desire to do one with the Dodgers not involved.  Tony Jackson backed me up on this with a tweet: “Vinnie’s last WS was 1997 (on radio). He stopped doing them because he wanted to stop doing them.”

If Scully were to do a World Series, it would almost certainly be as part of a three-man booth with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. I can’t see Fox being willing to open the can of worms of pushing its favorite baseball announcers aside. Roaming the country for the better part of two weeks, when he has actively sought to reduce his travel schedule to spend more time with his wife, just to be one of a trio, doesn’t sound like our friend Vin.

Oct 24

Dodgers cut season-ticket prices, just as fans might be more eager to buy

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more on this morning’s news that the Dodgers were cutting season-ticket prices almost across the board. The price-cutting is an implicit acknowledgment of the flight from Dodger Stadium this year, and what’s potentially ironic is that it comes just as the owner who inspired much of that flight, Frank McCourt, continues to see his hold on the team fraying.

The official creditors committee in the Dodgers’ bankruptcy case has formally asked Judge Kevin Gross not to approve a premature auction of the team’s TV rights, reports Bill Shaikin of the Times, labeling it a “risky proposition” and calling for a sale of the team instead. The committee did ask, however, for a 30-day period before Judge Gross rules, to increase the possibility of a sale strategy that MLB and McCourt could agree upon.

McCourt has become an underdog in the objective sense, he’s up against a huge power play at this point. That doesn’t mean he can’t score, but more than ever, he is facing a situation where in order to retain any ownership, he might have to sell a significant portion of the franchise to potential teammates. And even the viability of that scenario is fading.

In any case, the landscape might change rapidly enough that fans who reduced or eliminated their Dodger ticket purchases in 2011 might have double the reason to amp up their ticket-buying for 2012. You can find a full chart of the price-saving here.

* * *

  • Matt Kemp has been officially announced as the winner of the fan-voted National League Hank Aaron Award for top hitter. From MLB.com:

    … Kemp made one of the best Triple Crown bids in recent years, falling just short. In addition to leading the NL in homers and RBIs (126), he finished third in batting behind Jose Reyes and Ryan Braun, at .324. Kemp also led the NL in runs (115) and total bases (353). The 2011 NL All-Star also finished among league leaders in multihit games (57, tied for first), hits (195, second), slugging percentage (.586, second), extra-base hits (76, second), stolen bases (40, tied for second), on-base percentage (.399, fourth) and walks (74, tied for eighth).

    Kemp became the seventh player in Major League history to finish the season ranked in the top three in homers, batting average, RBIs and stolen bases in their respective league, joining Hall of Famers Ty Cobb (1907, ’09-11), Honus Wagner (1908), George Sisler (’20), Chuck Klein (’32), Willie Mays (’55) and Aaron (’63). In addition, the sixth-round selection in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft was the first Dodger to lead the NL in home runs and RBIs since Dolph Camilli in 1941, and the first Dodger in history to lead the NL in homers, RBIs and runs scored….

  • I meant to do some research on World Series that were tied after four games, but Cliff Corcoran of SI.com beat me to it. “Remarkably, though a tie-breaking win in the fifth game of a best-of-seven series puts the victor just one out away from a series win, just two-thirds of the teams that have won a tie-breaking Game 5 in a best-of-seven World Series (26 of 39) have gone on to win the series, and just three of the last nine teams to break a Series tie with a Game 5 win went on to win the championship,” Corcoran found.
  • I found this anecdote from Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about former Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin poignant:

    … Franklin attended Sunday’s game as a guest of general manager John Mozeliak. “He made quite a commitment to our organization,” Mozeliak said. “It was very important to him to remain part of this club. And I think that was reflected in the way we worked with each other.” Mozeliak frequently sought Franklin’s input on rival personnel during the pitcher’s 4 1/2 seasons with the club. The two have remained in contact since Franklin’s release June 30 and Mozeliak has broached the possibility of Franklin rejoining the organization in another capacity. “It’s definitely something I would think about if I decide I’m done” playing, Franklin said. As for watching the team he was a part of compete for the World Series championship, Franklin admitted, “I feel connected in a way, especially to guys like (Jason) Motte and (Mitch) Boggs. It’s fun to watch but it’s also tough to watch.” Franklin hasn’t shut the door on playing again but admits he is leaning toward retirement. “I know if it started tomorrow I’d be leaning toward staying around the house,” Franklin said. “It was pretty neat to be able to take my kids on their first day of school. My wife thought so, too.”

  • Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge will become free agents with the Phillies buying out their 2012 options, but if you’re looking for the most fun ex-Phillie pitcher to consider, consider one Jamie Moyer, who turns 49 next month. Moyer will be more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery when Spring Training starts in 2012.
Oct 24

A Fielder of dreams


Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesFuture teammates? (In Los Angeles, we mean.)

If the Dodgers lived in a world of riches and roses, they would sign Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, get as much value in exchange for James Loney as they could, and greet the 2012 season with high hopes.

Now let’s talk about the world they actually live in.

It’s a world that I’ve believed does not include any realistic possibility of Pujols or Fielder coming to Los Angeles except in the visitor dugout. Even if the imminent hearing on Frank McCourt’s ability to auction off the team’s TV rights results in the final blow to his ownership, I’ve felt there would be too much chaos this winter to allow the Dodgers to commit, if I’m low-balling it, what would be a minimum of $150 million for a Fielder signing.

Plus, there’s an argument that even if all was normal with the Dodgers – and by normal, I’m referring to the Dodgers as they’ve been at their best, as opposed to the Dodgers spending like the Yankees – the team shouldn’t be pursuing Fielder or Pujols, much less aging, gimpier players like Carlos Beltran (35 in April) or Aramis Ramirez (34 in June).

The Dodgers will have no more important long-term signings to pursue than Matt Kemp before the end of the 2012 season and Clayton Kershaw before the end of 2014. Each of those players will require contracts that, at some point, are paying them more than $20 million annually. In the middle of this decade, the Dodgers could be spending more than $40 million a year on those two players alone. And I hope they do, because both Kemp and Kershaw are great bets to make good on the deals, and because the Dodgers are long overdue for some great, homegrown players to spend a solid decade or more with the team.

So, is it really sensible to turn that into $60-plus million per season on three players? It’s hard not to notice, for example, that neither of the two teams playing in the World Series have devoted that much of their payroll to so few players.

  • St. Louis paid Matt Holliday $17 million this season and Pujols (in the last year of an eight-year contract signed before he could become a free agent) $16 million. Chris Carpenter made $15 million, but no other hitter who started the season with the Cardinals made more than Lance Berkman’s $8 million.
  • Texas paid Michael Young $16 million and Adrian Beltre $14 million in 2011. Josh Hamilton, like Kemp a potential free agent after the 2012 season, made only $7.25 million.

You can look at those bullet points two ways, actually. On the one hand, you don’t need a $20 million player to make the World Series. On the other hand, spending even $30 million on two guys doesn’t guarantee you’ll have enough to fund the rest of a championship team – Texas and St. Louis were anything but locks to play in the season’s final week.

Pujols will be 32 when he starts his next contract and near 40 when it ends. Fielder is younger than Pujols, but would be closer to 300 pounds than perhaps any Dodger ever. (Beats Frank Howard, right?) Even if the Dodgers were in the best financial shape of their lives, doesn’t part of you imagine that if Pujols or Fielder signed with Los Angeles, somehow, some way, something would go wrong? Horribly wrong?

So guess what. The Dodgers should sign Prince Fielder.

Betcha didn’t see that coming.

Here are the reasons:

  • Fielder, who is only 4 1/2 months older than Kemp, might not play until he’s 40, but no one’s going to give him a 12-year contract. The big first baseman should be good for the next several years easily. For all the concerns about his physical condition, he has averaged 160 games per season since 2006.
  • He is truly awesome, not only supplying mammoth power (that admittedly would decline some playing regularly in Dodger Stadium) but also the mammoth on-base percentage that made Manny Ramirez so valuable during his Los Angeles heyday. Fielder’s lifetime OBP is .390, including .381 in road games (.386 in 70 plate appearances at AT&T Park, if that sort of thing interests you). That ability isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
  • He would be a bird in the hand. He would be insurance in case Kemp, who might command more as a free agent, proves too difficult to come to terms. His presence could also help entice Kemp to stick around, given how he would feel about having Fielder in the cleanup slot (although at the end of the day, the best contract offer will carry the biggest weight for Kemp, plain and simple).
  • The Dodgers – even the bankrupt Dodgers – can afford him.

That last point is the one I’ve sort of put out of sight, out of mind, out of a belief that it wasn’t even worth thinking about. But then, I started to think about it.  The Dodgers could always backload a Fielder contract so that the hefty portion (pun acknowledged but not admired) comes after the post-2013 local TV contract money can be accessed. However, the Dodgers should be able to afford Fielder even if they pay him the proper amount starting next year.

The Dodgers have a somewhat shocking amount of 2012 payroll commitments: over $100 million. But then you notice that roughly $20 million of that total is allocated for Loney and Andre Ethier: two players coming off mixed seasons, two players who themselves will be eligible for free agency a year from now and unlikely to be resigned. If you replaced those two players with Fielder and an up-and-coming minor-leaguer, the Dodgers might be better off, if not next year, than as the decade goes on.

Let me reiterate that a Kemp-Fielder combo doesn’t get the Dodgers automatically credentialed into the 2012 World Series, any more than a Ryan Braun-Fielder combo did for Milwaukee in 2011. With or without Fielder, the Dodgers are an ownership-challenged team with holes at second base, on the bench and, pending what happens with Hiroki Kuroda, in the starting rotation.

Essentially, those problems will exist even without Fielder. Signing Fielder might even help solve one of them, by allowing them to trade Ethier. At any rate, I’m confident a Fielder signing wouldn’t mark a repeat of Andruw Jones.

If it’s a choice between Kemp, Kershaw and Fielder, then Fielder is the lowest priority for me on that list. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a choice.

It won’t be heartbreaking if the Dodgers don’t sign Fielder as a free agent, and it certainly won’t be surprising. It could, however, be very, very cool.

Oct 22

Cardinals and Cardinal roll

Wrapping up a crazy World Series night that, above all, means that I won’t be seeing clips of Reggie Jackson in the 1977 World Series nearly as often  …

  • Congrats to Bill Shaikin of the Times for his election to the presidency of the Baseball Writers Association of America – and to my former Stanford Daily colleague, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser, for winning the vice-presidency. Slusser is poised to eventually become the group’s first female president in its century-plus history.
  • The Baltimore Orioles will interview Dodger player development exec DeJon Watson for their vacant general manager position, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Casey Blake is having some pre-Halloween fun, according to the Des Moines Register.
  • Bud Selig is thinking of moving the All-Star Game to Wednesdays in the hopes that more rest will encourage more stars to give their all. Learn more at MLB.com.
  • The Wall Street Journal entertains some baseball proposals with the number “9” in them.
  • Here’s a fun little story from former Stanford and major-league pitcher Jeff Austin, who now works for Google.
  • Howard Cole of the Register wants Colorado to move to the American League instead of Houston. I respectfully disagree, but see what you think.
  • A few tidbits about my Stanford Cardinal football team. (Hey, when the Cardinals win by more than a touchdown in the World Series, I’m allowed.)

    1) Stanford scored 65 points tonight. The Cardinal scored 127 points in the entire 2006 season.
    2) Stanford has become the first team since the so-called poll era began in 1936 to win 10 consecutive games by at least 25 points.
    3) Andrew Luck threw for only 169 yards as Stanford rushed for a school-record 446 yards.

  • After Albert Pujols’ postseason-record-tying night of three home runs and 14 total bases ended, Fox’s Ken Rosenthal asked the slugger if, going into tonight’s game, he had a “special purpose.” Rosenthal should have been asking Steve Martin. …

Oct 22

Remembering 2011: Jay Gibbons


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireJay Gibbons (27)

The setup: When Gibbons hit his fifth home in about a month with the Dodgers late in the 2010 season, it seemed clear that the power-starved team would be signing him up for 2011 – and sure enough, that’s what happened. Having OPSed .819 in his short 2010 spurt, Gibbons was expected to begin the season as part of a left-field platoon. Then, in March, word began to surface that Gibbons was having eye problems, and then some. His comeback story detoured into a season-opening journey to the disabled list.

The closeup: Gibbons eventually returned to active duty in April with Albuquerque and OPSed .832 in 49 April at-bats, convincing the Dodgers (to at least hope) he was ready for major-league pitching (as his platoon partner, Marcus Thames, went on the disabled list). From May 3 to June 3, Gibbons played in 24 of 28 Dodger games, starting 15, with a .323 on-base percentage and .345 slugging percentage – including a .359/.432 surge in the last 12. Though those weren’t dominant numbers, they were good enough on a struggling team and heading in the right direction that it came as some surprise that the Dodgers designated Gibbons for assignment on June 6. Technically, Gibbons’ departure made room for the return of Thames (who himself was eventually cut loose for Juan Rivera) but effectively, Gibbons’ role as a left-handed hitting reserve outfielder was taken by Trent Oeltjen, who was called up June 9 and remained on the team for the rest of the year.

Gibbons cleared waivers and finished the year with the Isotopes, for whom he ended up with a .403 on-base percentage and .456 slugging percentage. His entire Dodger career consisted of 61 games, 142 plate appearances, six home runs and a .755 OPS.

Coming attractions: Gibbons, who will be 35 in March, is a free agent.

Oct 21

Remembering 2011: Lance Cormier


Nam Y. Huh/APLance Cormier (26)

The setup: Signed to a minor-league contract in February, the 30-year-old Cormier was coming off three straight adequate years in the American League in which he pitched in 158 games with a 3.71 ERA. He walked four batters per nine innings in that time, so he was no one’s idea of a savior, but he was coming off a better year than, say, Mike MacDougal.

The closeup: Um, yikes. Thrust into a mop-up role, Cormier kept spilling the bucket, allowing 11 runs (nine earned) in seven innings over his first four appearances through April 15. He pitched only three games in the next month.

On May 18, the Dodgers rallied from deficits of 4-0 in the fifth inning and 5-2 in the eighth to tie the Giants, 5-5. But they had used three relievers in the process, and three others were unavailable (Vicente Padilla had forearm stiffness, while Kenley Jansen had pitched four of the past five days and Matt Guerrier the past two). So they turned to Cormier, who hadn’t pitched in a game closer than three runs all season. With two out and two on, Cormier allowed a three-run, game-winning home run to Cody Ross.

Cormier pitched one more game for Los Angeles, giving up two runs in two innings to lower his 2011 ERA to 9.88 in 13 2/3 innings. On May 24, he was designated for assignment, making room for Rubby De La Rosa. Cormier returned to the Tampa Bay organization, spending the rest of the year in Triple-A Durham with a 5.51 ERA, allowing 80 baserunners while striking out 25 in 47 1/3 innings.

Coming attractions: Cormier faces an uphill march trying to get back in the majors, but with relievers, you never know.

Oct 21

Remembering 2011: Dee Gordon


Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireDee Gordon (25)

The setup: Many branded Gordon the Dodgers’ shortstop of the future, but not without reservations. He had a .332 on-base percentage and .355 slugging percentage with 53 steals in 73 attempts and 37 errors for Double-A Chattanooga at age 22. This prediction from January rather accurately laid things out:

… In different circumstances, 2012 might seem to be the earliest Gordon would reach the majors, with a starting job not in sight for at least another year after that. However, 2011 likely marks the end of the six-year Rafael Furcal era, and by now it’s safe to expect that that era will include at least one more trip to the disabled list for the otherwise talented Dodger shortstop. While Jamey Carroll has shown he can fill in for Furcal, a prolonged absence conceivably could compel the Dodgers to accelerate Gordon’s timetable, allowing him to reach the majors this summer. …

The closeup: Yep, that’s what happened … not that it wasn’t still something of a shock when Gordon got the call to the majors June 6. Playing for Triple-A Albuquerque, he had a .361 on-base percentage and 22 steals in 25 attempts, but there was still the fear that this promotion was coming too soon and that the majors would eat Gordon up.

After making his debut as a pinch-runner (and scoring) that night in Philadelphia, Gordon got his first major-league start the next day. It certainly helps calm the naysayers when you get hits in your first three at-bats, as Gordon did. Gordon’s speed and defensive range and overall sparkle became immediately apparent, so much so that it encouraged one to be patient with his weaknesses.

That patience would be necessary. After starting out 14 for 43 (.326) with one walk and eight strikeouts in his first 10 starts, Gordon went into a 5 for 39 slump that left his OPS at .530. Nine steals in 12 attempts couldn’t make up for that. He would have games like this one on June 13 in which he’d electrify the offense in one moment and then make a critical error on defense in the next.

On July 1, Gordon became the first Dodger in 83 years to steal second, third and home in the same inning. But a few days later, when Rafael Furcal was activated from the disabled list, and Gordon was sent back to Albuquerque, it was easy to understand. The kid still had things to work on, and he needed to play every day.

Gordon came back to Los Angeles after St. Louis traded for Furcal, but his second stint was short-lived. He hurt his shoulder making an awkward tag on a rundown play August 6, aggravated the injury a few days later and ended up missing the rest of August. Again, as disappointing as this was, there was some upside in the possibility that Gordon might learn to take better care of his body.

In September, Gordon gave the Dodgers a treat. Playing 26 games in 28 days, Gordon had 42 hits — most in the National League — along with 12 steals in 16 attempts, seven doubles and a triple for an .850 OPS. He finished the 2011 major-league season with a .325 on-base percentage and 362 slugging percentage, and his 24 steals (in 31 attempts) tied for the most by a rookie in the NL. Of the 48 Dodgers who suited up in 2011, Gordon finished ninth in Value Over Replacement Player. For all his foibles, it’s hard to call this anything but an impressive debut.

Coming attractions: Gordon eliminated all doubt that he’ll be the starting shortstop when the calendar turns to 2012. Now, that doesn’t mean he has put the minors behind him forever — he could struggle with the bat as pitchers exploit his lack of walking ability and find himself back in training mode. But the best guess is that you’re looking at the Dodgers’ 6-man for the next several years. If he improves his defensive fundamentals and maintains that wonderful speed, the Dodgers can live with his offense at shortstop.

Oct 21

Familiar defeat

Having won the 2006 World Series, I’m not sure St. Louis can be haunted by postseason defeat the same way the Dodger fans have been in recent times, but losing two Game 2 one-run leads in the ninth inning in the past three years – one against the Dodgers in 2009, one against the Rangers on Thursday – has to smart.