Jul 25

Hanley Ramirez trade shakes baseball world

The earthquake before an earthquake — the Dodgers’ acquisition of Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate from Miami — is official. Here’s some of what’s been posted in the 10 hours since the news broke.

  • Overall, the main concern regarding the decline in Ramirez’s performance in the past two years is that he might never be what he was thanks to a 2010 shoulder injury. It sure would be great to get Stan Conte’s take on him.
  • It’s been a weird year for Ramirez, who has a .336 batting average on balls in play at home, .198 on the road. His batting average reflects the difference, even though his power production is almost even home and away.
  • The Dodgers were able to nab Ramirez, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (via Hardball Talk), mainly because they were willing to take on his full contract, while Oakland was not.
  • Chad Moriyama is apprehensive about the trade but sees the upside as a worthwhile gamble.
  • Cliff Corcoran of SI.com is a bit grimmer, noting that the only saving grace of the deal for the Dodgers is that it improves an area of the team from terrible to less terrible.
  • While the Dodgers were trading for Ramirez, the Yankees were losing Alex Rodriguez for a few weeks to a fractured hand. That puts New York in the infielder market, as Jay Jaffe of SI.com discusses.
  • Cole Hamels will not be putting on a Dodger uniform. Philadelphia signed him to a six-year contract extension worth $144 million, the second-biggest deal for a pitcher ever.
  • After seeming on the verge of acquiring Ryan Dempster from the Cubs, Atlanta has backed off, reports ESPNChicago.com. That leaves the Dodgers as the apparent leading suitor — thanks, apparently, to the friendship between Dempster and Ted Lilly.  But this saga has had too many turns to make confident predictions about.
  • Dodger prospect Tae Hyeok-Nam of Ogden hit for the cycle Tuesday. Robert Emrich has details for MLB.com. The last Ogden player to do so was former Dodger and current Ogden hitting coach Doug Mientkiewicz.
Jul 24

Report: Dodgers acquire Hanley Ramirez

The Dodgers made their first big move of the trade deadline, and it’s for former All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez.

Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports report that the Marlins have traded Ramirez and Randy Chote to the Dodgers for Nathan Eovaldi and a minor-leaguer to be named.

Ramirez, 28, had a .410 on-base percentage and .543 slugging percentage as recently as 2009, when he finished second in the National League Most Valuable Player voting, but he has struggled in the past two years. In 2012, he has a .322 OBP and .430 slugging – far off his career totals, though still good enough at his worst to make him a central part of the shaky Dodger lineup. His 14 home runs this year top every Dodger save Matt Kemp.

Choate, who will be 37 in September, gives the Dodgers a second lefty reliever. He has a 2.16 ERA in 50 innings over the past two seasons, and left-handed batters in 2012 are 9 for 60 with three walks and 20 strikeouts against him.

At age 22, Eovaldi remains a pitcher with potential but an uncertain immediate future.  His ERA is a respectable 4.16, but he strikes out fewer than six batters per nine innings and allows more flies than grounders.

The trade won’t be ready for evaluation until the fourth player is named, but on the surface it seems sensible, offering from a position of relative depth for a position of desperate need (and using the Dodgers’ newfound cash reserves to make it happen by paying the remaining big salary owed on Ramirez’s contract, which runs through 2014). Ramirez can play shortstop, as he did until Jose Reyes joined the Marlins, or he can play third base, as he has this season. He happens to be the same age Rafael Furcal was when he came to Los Angeles.

Ramirez has been sidelined since July 20 with a hand infection that came after he punched a dugout fan.

To replace Eovaldi in the starting rotation, the Dodgers have short-term minor-league options, as well as their ongoing pursuit of such outsiders as Ryan Dempster and the imminent recovery of Ted Lilly, who is nearing a minor-league rehabilitation assignment. Next year, Rubby De La Rosa, whom I believe is the sole untouchable pitcher in the Dodger universe next to Clayton Kershaw, should be ready to step in to a starting slot as well.

Update: Rosenthal is now reporting that the other Dodger going to Miami is Scott McGough, a 22-year-old righty reliever who has a 3.88 ERA, 24 walks and 47 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga.  It’s clear that the Marlins wanted to reconfigure themselves without the weight of Ramirez’s contract, which pays him $15.5 million in 2013 and $16 million in 2014, as well as the remainder of a $15 million 2012 salary.

“The Miami Marlins have identified infielder Hanley Ramirez as the core of their woes,” wrote Bob Nightengale for USA Today. “Ownership wants him gone. Manager Ozzie Guillen is tired of him. And the fans have grown indifferent.”

Update 2: Ramirez’s defense is an issue – so this is just speculation, but maybe Ramirez someday follows the Alfonso Soriano path to left field, or becomes the first baseman the Dodgers have been lacking …

Update 3: It appears that Ramirez will take Adam Kennedy’s roster spot. The reserve infielder is headed to the disabled list after aggravating a groin injury Tuesday, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

Choate will probably take Shawn Tolleson’s spot in the bullpen.

Jul 24

July 24 game chat

Dodgers at Cardinals, 5:15 p.m.
Kershaw CXXXVII: Kershuwnger Games

Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
James Loney, 1B
Juan Rivera, LF
Luis Cruz, SS
Matt Treanor, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

For all their woes at different times this season, the Dodgers and Angels are tied for the seventh-best record in baseball as play opens tonight …

  • With Luis Cruz’s HR last night, the Dodgers have matched Babe Ruth’s 1927 season with 60 HR, notes Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. And it’s only July!
  • James Loney nearly made his pitching debut Sunday, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness delves into the rising costs of deadline acquisitions.
  • Ross Stripling, the Dodgers’ fifth-round draft pick this year, earns praise from John Sickels of Minor League Ball. “I would not be surprised if Stripling rises rapidly through the Dodgers farm system in the next year or two,” Sickels writes. “He could be an inning-eating strike machine at the major league level.
  • On this date in 1947, writes Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times, the Dodgers ended a 38-year period of being below .500 all-time as a franchise. A 6-1 victory over Cincinnati made them 4,650-4,650.
Jul 23

Billingsley returns from disabled list

Dodgers at Cardinals, 5:15 p.m.
Bobby Abreu, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, 1B
Adam Kennedy, 3B
Luis Cruz, SS
A.J. Ellis, C
Chad Billingsley, P

Chad Billingsley isn’t the only righthander of note coming back from the disabled list. Plagued with a calf problem this year, 42-year-old former Dodger reliever Takashi Saito finally made his 2012 debut Saturday, pitching one inning for Arizona and allowing an unearned run.

Jul 21

Tenth Anniversary Freeze-Out

Sunday, July 21, 2002

This is where I will vent, and, if I can ever feel so comfortable, exult about the Dodgers and baseball in general.

* * *

Ten years, three kids, one puppy, 855 wins and 782 losses later (including 9-14 in the playoffs), I realize I might better have described my mission just as inhaling and exhaling – catching my breath – about the Dodgers and baseball in general, and life.

The landscape has certainly changed. This website began to fill a void in my writing life – “bad scooter searching for his groove” – now I don’t have enough time to write all I want. Life in general has only become more challenging. At the same time, when this site began there was virtually nothing like it covering the Dodgers; now there are more than I can keep track of, doing excellent work, providing a level of insight unprecedented in the history of Dodger reporting.

But overwhelmingly, I want to express that I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the invention of blogs, for the invention of the Internet, that enabled this platform for all my thoughts, baseball and otherwise. It has really helped sustain me. And I’m grateful to anyone who stopped by over the past 10 years and gave something I wrote a glance of consideration. I’m grateful for the support I’ve received, even through posts as self-serving as this one, and for the friends I’ve made through this site.

Sometimes, I wish I had channeled the past 10 years into something more majestic – a book or script that would stand the test of time. Sometimes, I wish I had just gotten away from the computer more altogether. The rest of the time, I can’t think of anything better than writing right in this spot and hanging out online with you.

Dodgers at Mets, 10:10 a.m.
Bobby Abreu, LF
Adam Kennedy, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
James Loney, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
Luis Cruz, SS
Matt Treanor, C
Chris Capuano, P

Jul 20

Vin Scully’s brush with Monday Night Football

If you haven’t read the 1964 Robert Creamer feature on Vin Scully, don’t put it off any longer.

Meanwhile, Scully told Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News that he was approached to be the original play-by-play man for ABC’s Monday Night Football.

… Scully stands by the Red Barber philosophy of having one voice in the booth narrate for radio or TV. He says he saw the trend of analysts taking over came back in the 1970s, when he was asked by ABC producer Chuck Howard if he’d be interested in becoming the first play-by-play man on “Monday Night Football.”

“He said it was going to be the hottest thing on TV — and he was right,” said Scully.

Scully declined, in part, because “the more I thought about it, I realized it would conflict with the Dodgers’ schedule.” But another reason he passed, he said, had to do with how he saw the play-by-play man’s role being diluted.

Keith Jackson ended up with the job for the first year of “MNF” in the debut year of 1970, with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith as the analysts. Frank Gifford replaced Jackson in 1971 and stayed on play-by-play until 1985, when Al Michaels came in, and Gifford moved to an analyst until 1997.

“Because of how football was going to be televised, you’d have one or two analysts now in the booth,” Scully said. “I had been doing games with Jim Brown on one side and George Allen on the other, and there were times I wasn’t sure, ‘Do I turn to him first for an opinion?'”

Scully said the emergence of John Madden, who he had as a partner at CBS, “really put the analyst front and center. And baseball picked up on that. The whole business changed in my opinion because of the way ‘Monday Night Football’ did it.”

Change, maybe not for the better, as far as how local baseball broadcasts were influenced by the national presentation. …

* * *

  • Mike Sandlock, at 96 the oldest living former Dodger, will have a meet-and-greet with the team today, writes Jack Cavanaugh for the Times.
  • J.P Hoornstra of the Daily News checks in with Javy Guerra, who just returned from caring for his ailing father.
  • In May 1960, a 24-year-old Sandy Koufax threw 785 pitches in a 22-day stretch, capped by a 193-pitch, 13-inning outing. Geoff Young discusses at Baseball Prospectus.
  • Via a conversation with Dodger president Stan Kasten, Dylan Hernandez of the Times analyzes the Dodger trade-deadline prospects.
  • De Jon Watson talked about Dodger minor-leaguers with Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner.
  • Believe it or not, the Dodgers have been the fourth-most clutch team in baseball in 2012, according to a study by Ari Berkowitz of Beyond the Box Score.
  • Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods offers The Bad News Bears in Breaking Bad.
  • Happy birthday to Rachel Robinson, who turned 90 on Thursday.
Jul 18

Jim Eisenreich, baseball hero, Dodger nemesis

Phillies at Dodgers, 12:10 p.m.
Kershaw CXXXVI: Kershawmdog Millionaire
Tony Gwynn Jr., RF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Juan Rivera, 1B
Jerry Hairston, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Luis Cruz, SS
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

Tuesday night, when Carlos Ruiz was hit by a pitch in the Dodgers’ dreary eighth inning, I got to thinking about what a constant thorn in the team’s side Ruiz is.

Still, he’s no Jim Eisenreich — the biggest nemesis to the Dodgers in my memory.

In 232 plate appearances from 1993-98, Eisenreich had a .405 batting average, .468 on-base percentage and .620 slugging percentage against the Dodgers. And then, when he signed with the team in ’98, he batted .197/.266/.244.

Eisenreich, who famously overcame a struggle with Tourette’s Syndrome, was a great story in baseball — except when the Dodgers were involved.

* * *

  • The most thorough review of Dodger Stadium beer options that I’ve seen is delivered by Eno Sarris of NotGraphs. “Depending on your goals, Dodger Stadium is either a boom or a bust from a beer perspective,” he writes.
  • Also on NotGraphs: Patrick Dubuque on baseball Shrinky-Dinks.
  • Here’s a nice feature on Dodger prospect Angel Sanchez by Chris Martinez for MLB.com.

    … Sanchez put school before baseball and attended the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, the only public university in the Dominican Republic. There he studied accounting and put school ahead of baseball, even as he dreamed of playing in the big leagues.

    “I had to go to school first because baseball is not forever,” Sanchez said. …

  • Buster Olney’s assessment of the Dodgers at the trading deadline for ESPN.com:

    … In my opinion, the Dodgers’ new ownership shouldn’t feel pressure to make the playoffs. The question that should be asked, in the midst of L.A.’s month-long slump, should not be “What the hell is wrong with this team?” Rather, it should be, “How the heck did these guys win so many games early?”

    It’s a flawed team, and the new ownership really hasn’t had much time to apply its vision of roster reformation. Overpaying to improve the 2012 Dodgers feels like an overreaction.

    But L.A. is being aggressive in trying to make the team better. Other execs continue to view the Dodgers as the front-runners to land Dempster. The club’s new owners seem intent on bolstering the team after its improbable early success. …

  • Stephen Fife has been sent back to Albuquerque, while Javy Guerra has been activated from the bereavement list.
  • Ted Lilly will throw a bullpen session Friday, reports Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.
Jul 18

‘The Hall of Nearly Great’ now for sale

I’m happy to announce that “The Hall of Nearly Great,” an e-book with chapters on 42 ballplayers worth remembering despite falling short of the Hall of Fame, is now for sale for only $12. To make a purchase, click the image at right. 

The book includes my chapter on former Dodger outfielder Reggie Smith. Other former Dodgers in the book include Dick Allen, Ron Cey, Eric Davis, Kenny Lofton, Fred McGriff, Andy Messersmith, Fernando Valenzuela and Robin Ventura, as well as manager Don Mattingly. Here’s more on the project from its intrepid editors, Sky Kalkman and Marc Normandin:

The Hall of Nearly Great is an ebook meant to celebrate the careers of those who are not celebrated. It’s not a book meant to reopen arguments about who does and does not deserve Hall of Fame enshrinement. Rather, it remembers those who, failing entrance into Cooperstown, may unfairly be lost to history. It’s for the players we grew up rooting for, the ones whose best years led to flags and memories that will fly together forever. Players like David Cone, Will Clark, Dwight Evans, Norm Cash, Kenny Lofton, Brad Radke, and many others.

This is not a numbers-driven project (although our contributors lean analytical in their views). Our plan isn’t to be overbearing with stats and spreadsheets to convince you that these players are worth remembering. What we aim to do, instead, is accomplish that same task through stories. Think of your favorite players growing up: they have their moments, games, seasons, quirks, personalities, and legends worth remembering and sharing. Now, combine the best of everyone’s forgotten favorites, and you’ve got a Hall of Nearly Great. Ask the people who have those memories and love for these players to write essays about them, and you have The Hall of Nearly Great ebook.

It takes a talented writer to give these players their due honors, and we’ve collected forty-two talented writers to do just that. These are All-Star writers, some of our favorite must-reads in today’s expansive baseball coverage landscape. They have diverse voices, diverse backgrounds and diverse interests, but they all love baseball and have a passion for the players they’re writing about.

R.J. Anderson * Cee Angi * Tommy Bennett * Ted Berg * Jon Bernhardt * Jon Bois * Grant Brisbee * Craig Brown * Dave Brown * Craig Calcaterra * Carson Cistulli * Cliff Corcoran * Bradford Doolittle * Craig Fehrman * Chad Finn * Steven Goldman * Owen Good * Jay Jaffe * King Kaufman * Jonah Keri * Matthew Kory * Will Leitch * Ben Lindbergh * Sam Miller * Rob Neyer * Marc Normandin * Eric Nusbaum * Bill Parker * Jason Parks * Jeff Passan * Joe Posnanski * Old Hoss Radbourn * David Raposa * David Roth * Jon Sciambi * Emma Span * Cecilia Tan * The Common Man * Wendy Thurm * Jon Weisman * Josh Wilker * Jason Wojciechowski

This is an ebook, available in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI formats, suitable for reading on a computer, iPad, Kindle, Nook, other e-reader, or smart phone. It is DRM-free, not because we want people to steal it, but because we’d rather put our efforts into making better products than limiting their convenience. Buy now for immediate download for only $12.

Note: If you buy a copy of the book using any of the links on this page, I will get a $3 slice of the payment. So thanks in advance for your support.

Click here to buy the book

Jul 17

Fife digs the groundball in effective debut

Fanning one batter in six innings, Stephen Fife had the fewest strikeouts of any Dodger starting pitcher in his first major-league game since Sandy Vance went six whiff-free innings in 1970.

But Fife stymied the Phillies tonight, allowing no runs after Philadelphia leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins doubled and scored on a Shane Victorino sacrifice bunt (yes, a sacrifice against a Triple-A pitcher in his debut with a runner on second and none out) and a Chase Utley groundout. Matt Kemp threw out Ryan Howard trying to score from second base on a Hunter Pence single to end the sixth inning, and Fife’s happy debut was complete.

He allowed four hits and three walks, while recording 13 groundouts. That can be a dangerous way to live if those grounders come close to finding holes, but Fife thrived.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, delivered consecutive hits from Andre Ethier, Adam Kennedy, James Loney and Luis Cruz to score two runs in the bottom of the second inning against Roy Halladay, who came off the disabled list to make tonight’s start. “Stubbornly,” as Vin Scully put it, the Dodgers took that 2-1 lead into the eighth inning.

And now you don’t know the rest of the story