Mar 29

The coyote’s after you

Underneath this clip of the Roadrunner from earlier this week is some news from Dodger beat writers Ken Gurnick of, Dylan Hernandez of the Times, J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News, Tony Jackson of and Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.

  • A decision on whether Ted Lilly will go on the disabled list is expected Friday.
  • Josh Bard and Cory Sullivan were released from their contracts.
  • Josh Fields is close to making the Opening Day roster.
  • Matt Kemp is striking out a lot this spring and hitting a ton when he isn’t.
  • Aaron Harang is ready to go, throwing 104 pitches today in the Dodgers’ 3-1 loss.
  • Walter Hamilton and E. Scott Reckard of the Times profile new Dodger owner Mark Walter.
  • Vin Scully and Magic Johnson chatted Wednesday, writes Steve Dilbeck of Dodgers Now.
  • Juan Pierre has made the Phillies and will earn $800,000 this year, writes Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk.
Mar 29

One for the bullish

My longtime friend, former Stanford Daily colleague and all-around smarter-than-your-average bear Mark Rogowsky has analyzed the Dodger sale and comes to the conclusion that the finances more than hold up. It’s lengthy but definitely worth your time. Read it here.

* * *

  • Bill Shaikin of the Times was interviewed by PBS News Hour about the Dodger sale. Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy passes along the video.
  • Frank McCourt’s farewell e-mail to Dodger employees was posted by Ken Gurnick of
  • Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles offers a San Francisco perspective on the Dodger sale.
  • Featuring a big giant graphic, Beyond the Box Score looks at the Dodgers’ roster commitments between now and 2017.
  • Third-generation major-leaguer Jerry Hairston Jr. talked to J.P Hoornstra of the Daily News about the connection between Jackie Robinson and Magic Johnson.
  • The Dodgers released minor-leaguer Jared Lansford, son of Carney Lansford, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America, after barely a month in the organization.
  • At age 28, Chin-Lung Hu failed his physical with the Phillies, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • The New York Times gives the background on its 1966 story that inspired the opening scene of the season premiere of Mad Men.
Mar 28

Optimistic despite the warning signs

Eight years ago, I placed myself firmly among a small group of skeptics concerned about the qualifications of Frank and Jamie McCourt to be owners of the Dodgers, and never left.

This week, despite the presence of a greater number of skeptics worried about whether the $2.15 billion outlay by the Dodgers’ new ownership group is sign of trouble, I find myself aligned with the optimists. Tonight, I wondered why this was.

  • It’s not because I’m a contrarian. For one thing, there are probably still more optimists than pessimists out there right now.
  • It’s not because of the greatness of Magic Johnson. I love Magic, but I know his role is too small to make all the difference. I also remember Magic’s coaching days with the Lakers and, yes, The Magic Hour. In fact, what pessimism I have comes in part from my recognition of his limitations – if anything, I’m not quite enjoying Magic’s ascension to the Dodger royal family as unabashedly as I’d like.
  • It’s not because I’m happy that McCourt still has a shelf in the Dodger pantry.
  • It’s not because I can’t see the possibility that the new owners went a little crazy and got a little fuzzy with their math, to an extent that even the TV rights windfall can’t save them.
  • It’s not because I’m not wondering whether a majority owner based in Chicago with no real connection to Los Angeles or the Dodgers truly has the franchise’s best interests at heart, regardless of what his minority partners desire.
  • It’s not, in short, that I don’t think the new owners have the same fallibility as so many other owners throughout the world of sports.

Those factors, and maybe a few others I can name, have bridled my enthusiasm for the new owners – but haven’t reversed it. Because …

  • OK, Magic. Magic. I’m really of two minds with him. I know his influence is small, but I know his determination is huge. It’s hard for that not to affect me. I’ve got Magic on my team.
  • McCourt reportedly does not have a controlling interest in any Dodger operations, on or off the field. This is the third-best-case scenario out of at least seven involving McCourt that I have in my head, including one where he rides a missile from space toward Dodger Stadium while waving a cowboy hat and yee-hawing at the top of his lungs.
  • The money. The McCourts should have had The Borrowers be the title of their memoirs – until other titles came to mind. Despite the stratospheric purchase price this time around for the new guys, the new guys are without a doubt better equipped financially to face the challenges of ownership. And the TV money coming in is still astronomical, in ways I think most people still don’t grasp.
  • The McCourts came in with no understanding of the Dodger community or the sports world. I’m not sure they came in with any understanding of human relations, to be honest. I believe Johnson, Stan Kasten and Peter Guber have it. They might not always do what we want, but the odds are much better.
  • The pessimists are saying that the new owners can’t make this work. With all the potential on the table, including the possibility that the Dodger debt was wiped out by money down, I can’t go that far.

And, admittedly, there’s one other thing. Maybe I’m tired of all the negativity. I’ve been locked into pessimism about Dodger ownership for so long now, maybe I’m just ready for that lifeboat. If these new owners were another set of McCourts, I think I’d still be able to recognize it, but I am liking giving the benefit of the doubt.

So it’s possible I’m committing the same sin of naivete that others were guilty of eight years ago. But I just feel I’ve got enough reason to feel light.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter what I feel now, or what any of us feel now. It just doesn’t matter. The future will tell us all we need to know.

Mar 28

Cash for the merchandise, cash for the button hooks

Bill Shaikin of the Times corraborates a Wall Street Journal report by Matthew Futterman. that the new Dodger ownership is paying all cash for the Dodgers, wiping out the team’s debt without using the TV money. Skeptics remain, however.

“The bid was described as a ‘100% cash offer,'” Futterman wrote. “Mr. Walter is making a significant personal contribution to the purchase price, with Guggenheim Partners, of which he is chief executive, playing a substantial role in financial contribution.”

Adds Shaikin:

… the deal is all cash and no financing, so it wouldn’t add to the Dodgers’ already significant debt load. The purchase price for the team itself is $2 billion — roughly $1.6 billion in cash and $400 million in debt assumption. An additional $150 million is for a joint venture between the Johnson group and outgoing owner Frank McCourt to control the parking lots surrounding the stadium.

Under terms of the deal, no development would take place on the lots unless the Johnson group and McCourt agree. The deal also ensures that McCourt can retain partial ownership of the lots and share in any future development revenue.

The money fans pay to park at Dodgers games goes to the new ownership group. …

Whether there are some games being played to facilitate this all-cash payment, I don’t know.  Andrew Zimbalist is among the economists who are aghast at the sale price, according to this Arash Markazi piece at Despite reports otherwise, they seem to believe that the Dodgers’ future TV money is being used to fund the deal.

The importance relates to what’s left over to invest in the team after the sale is done. Chad Moriyama reminds us that if the Guggenheim group has the cash to fund the Dodger purchase, we shouldn’t worry if they overpaid. Everything centers on that “if.”

At this point, I’m not sure any pundit really knows. And with this much money at play, I’m also not sure the Dodger operating budget — small by comparison — depends on how much cash was paid up front. Let’s put it this way: The Dodgers are certainly less likely to reject a star player than they were before Tuesday, let alone let someone like Hiroki Kuroda walk away for a million or so. I’m still much more worried about which star players the new management thinks are worthwhile to begin with.

Meanwhile …

  • Bill Plaschke of the Times has a news interview with Johnson, Kasten and Walter. It’s worth the click. and Ken Gurnick of had similar conversations.
  • Matt Kemp and Dee Gordon think they could beat Magic Johnson in one-on-one basketball today, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Times. I’m not so sure … and Tony Gwynn Jr. agrees with me.
  • Former Dodger owner Peter O’Malley told Shaikin that he believes in Johnson and Kasten.
  • Joe Flint of the Times says that your cable TV bill (if you have one) will help fund the Dodgers’ acquisition.
  • Ross Newhan wonders if the sale of the team was destined for Magic all along.
  • Phil Gurnee writes at True Blue L.A. about how amazing it is for us Dodger fans who grew up adoring Johnson to see him in this position.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness shares his thoughts.
  • J.P. Breen of Fangraphs looks at possible future free-agent targets for the Dodgers.
  • If you want to go back and read my Variety story on Johnson’s plans to launch family-friendly cable channel Aspire, here it is.
  • Let’s hear it for 44-year-olds! Omar Vizquel will be on the Opening Day roster of the Blue Jays, according to The Associated Press.
  • The turnover of former Dodgers continues, with Chin-Lung Hu and Joe Thurston headed to the Phillies, as noted by MLB Trade Rumors.
  • Katie Sharp of examines whether Chad Billingsley’s problems last year related to his slider.
  • Oh yeah – the Dodgers played today.
Mar 28

Variety interview with Peter Guber

Peter Guber, partnered with Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten, Bobby Patton, Todd Boehly and Guggenheim Partners in the new Dodger ownership group, was a keynote speaker at Variety’s Sports Entertainment Summit in July. A longtime Hollywood executive and producer, Guber is also a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors, and he and Johnson are co-owners of the Dayton Single-A minor-league team.

Here’s a link to the 43-minute conversation Guber had at the Summit with my colleague, Stuart Levine, talking about all aspects of entertainment and sports, including ownership.

Peter Guber – 2011 Variety Sports and Entertainment

In addition, I’ve posted a new story at Variety about how the Dodger sale illustrates the immense faith in the dollar value of the Dodger local cable rights.

Mar 27

SOLD: Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten acquire Dodgers

“The Dodgers have reached an agreement to be sold to Magic Johnson’s bidding group, according to a baseball source,” tweets Ken Gurnick of

Update: “Breaking from WSJ: Magic Johnson-led group buys LA Dodgers for $2 billion, shattering all previous prices paid for sports franchises,” tweets Dennis K. Berman of the Wall Street Journal.

That has to include the parking lots, right? Right?

Update 2: From the Journal:

… With a bid of $2 billion, Johnson and partners Peter Guber, Stan Kasten, Bobby Patton and Todd Boehly beat out a group of some of the wealthiest businessmen in the country to land a team that is one of Major League Baseball’s flagship franchises. The sales figure shatters the previous record sales price for a U.S. sports franchise, Steve Ross’s purchase of the Miami Dolphins for $1.1 billion three years ago. …

Update 3: Official statement:

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Frank McCourt Announce Agreement With Guggenheim Baseball Management

LOS ANGELES, March 27, 2012 – The Los Angeles Dodgers and Frank McCourt today announced an agreement under which Guggenheim Baseball Management LLC (“GBM”) will acquire the Los Angeles Dodgers for $2 billion upon completion of the closing process.  The purchasing group includes Mark R. Walter as its controlling partner, as well as Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Peter Guber, Stan Kasten, Bobby Patton and Todd Boehly.  Mr. McCourt and certain affiliates of the purchasers will also be forming a joint venture, which will acquire the Chavez Ravine property for an additional $150 million.

The Los Angeles Dodgers stated, “This transaction underscores the Debtors’ objective to maximize the value of their estate and to emerge from Chapter 11 under a successful Plan of Reorganization, under which all creditors are paid in full.”

Frank McCourt stated, “This agreement with Guggenheim reflects both the strength and future potential of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and assures that the Dodgers will have new ownership with deep local roots, which bodes well for the Dodgers, its fans and the Los Angeles community.  We are delighted that this group will continue the important work we have started in the community, fulfilling our commitment to building 50 Dream Fields and helping with the effort to cure cancer.”

Earvin “Magic” Johnson stated, “I am thrilled to be part of the historic Dodger franchise and intend to build on the fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt as we drive the Dodgers back to the front page of the sports section in our wonderful community of Los Angeles.”

“Fantastic foundation.” Yeah, that’s what it says.

Update 4: The initial report from Bill Shaikin of the Times is live.

Mar 27

Looking back on 2012: The Dodger Thoughts reader predictions thread

For the seventh year in a row, I’m asking Dodger Thoughts readers to summarize the upcoming season before it happens.

The Dodgers went xx-xx in 2012 because ______________.

(And, yes, if you need an extra x, take it.)

Here are the best predictions from 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006. Unfortunately, 2011’s predictions were erased during’s comment-system changeover.

Mar 26

Dodgers invest in 16-year-old pitcher

Did the most significant moment of this Dodger exhibition season involve a teenager?

Ken Gurnick of reports that the Dodgers have signed 16-year-old Dominican pitcher Bryan Munoz for a bonus of $300,000. “The signing bonus is believed to be the largest the Dodgers have given a Dominican player since signing Joel Guzman for $2.25 million in 2001,” Gurnick writes. Hopefully, a sign of a rebirth of commitment to the international market.

Elsewhere …

  • Jamey Wright will soon be made official as a Dodger reliever, while John Grabow has exercised his opt-out clause. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. has details on that and more from today’s Dodger action.
  • Tony Jackson of has still more on Jerry Sands and the possibility he was getting too much advice from coaches during Spring Training.
  • Is it the end of the line for former Dodgers Alex Cora and Joe Beimel? They were released by the Cardinals and by the Rangers, respectively.
  • Ramona Shelburne of says there’s a buzz around town that Frank McCourt might go with the Magic Johnson-fronted ownership group even if it’s not the top financial offer, but also acknowledges that might be a naive sentiment.
  • Jim Caple of has a great list of 49 facts celebrating Jamie Moyer, none better than No. 1: “At 49 years and four months, Moyer not only is older than Robert Redford was when he played Roy Hobbs in “The Natural” (46 when filming began), he’s older than was Wilford Brimley (48 at start of filming), who portrayed old manager Pop Fisher.”


Mar 25

‘Mad Men’ opening day, ‘Luck’ season finale

The words that I’ve been using to describe the season opener of Mad Men are “jarring and fascinating.” The show has constantly evolved in character and look, but you’ll never notice it more than in the leap forward it has taken between its last season, which ended 17 months ago, and tonight’s season-five premiere. So some of it comes as a shock to the system, but at the same time, you’ll see the logic behind every move of the many pieces on showrunner Matthew Weiner’s chessboard, while feeling a great deal of anticipation for what’s to come. There’s also some pretty sly humor mixed in with the darkness and tumult, I will say.

Meanwhile, a less successful but still intriguing show wraps up its first and last season tonight. The final episode of Luck lays out all its strengths and weaknesses. Some of the characters are extremely compelling – Kevin Dunn as Marcus particularly shines in the finale – but others are a mixed bag, including Dustin Hoffman’s Ace, who is played almost like what might have happened if his Rain Man character had gotten, say, 65 percent of the social skills he’d ideally have. Above all, though, the cinematography of the final race is beyond spectacular. Of course, the reliance on horses is what ultimately sowed the seeds of the show’s demise, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any program that had more appreciation for the artistry of the animals. Luck will occupy a place in the middle range of HBO shows of the past several years for me, but I don’t regret watching it.

My Variety colleagues and I will be talking Mad Men and other TV in a live chat Monday starting at approximately 9:45 a.m. I’ll post a link when I have it – join us then, but feel free to have any initial discussion here tonight.

Mar 24

For you Rosterfarians

We’re within two weeks of Opening Day. Here’s the latest on the projected 25-man roster …

Starting pitchers (5):
On track: Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Aaron Harang.
Any reservations? Ted Lilly missed a bullpen session today with neck stiffness, and Chris Capuano had a hamstring twinge in today’s start, but neither is expected to affect their roster status. If anything worsens.
Next in line: Nathan Eovaldi, with a 0.84 ERA and 12 baserunners in 10 2/3 spring innings, would step up.  Keep in mind the Dodgers won’t use a fifth starter until April 14.

Relief pitchers (7):
On track: Kenley Jansen, Javy Guerra, Todd Coffey and Scott Elbert.
Any reservations? Mike MacDougal has allowed six runs, six hits and seven walks in five innings with one strikeout in March. Matt Guerrier has thrown only two innings so far this spring.
Next in line: There’s at least one spot that’s open, and it will probably go to veteran Jamey Wright, because Josh Lindblom has minor-league options. But in addition to those two, John Grabow and Scott Rice are still alive. Don’t be surprised if Guerrier ends up on the disabled list to buy the Dodgers more decision time on this group.

Catchers (2):
On track: A.J. Ellis and Matt Treanor.

Infielders (6):
On track: James Loney, Mark Ellis, Dee Gordon, Juan Uribe, Adam Kennedy
Any reservations? Jerry Hairston Jr. is battling shoulder inflammation apparently related to an October 2011 injury, as Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. and Tony Jackson of note.
Next in line: Justin Sellers, already a candidate to be the team’s 25th man, would move up a spot in the pecking order if Hairston can’t make it – assuming Sellers himself can stay healthy.  Corner infielder Josh Fields continues to make a case with some power in his past and a .937 spring OPS. And making a late bid, according to Ken Gurnick of, is Luis Cruz, 7 for 20 with a triple and home run this spring. However, Cruz only has a .535 OPS in 169 career major-league plate appearances and a .301 OBP in Triple-A last year.

Outfielders (4):
On track: Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Juan Rivera, Tony Gwynn Jr.

25th man
In addition to the folks mentioned above, there’s Trent Oeltjen, who held the spot throughout the second half of 2011 and is out of options. Some feel Cory Sullivan is in the running. One guy you can forget about is Jerry Sands, who has combined his remaining minor-league options with a terrible March.

And then after the season begins, the roulette wheel spins agaon.

Mar 23

Going where the wind takes you, being who you are

So I was debating what to do with the rest of my night.

My mood is fine this evening, so that’s not an issue. It’s more an issue of direction.

I spent a full day at my day job at the end of a full week, came home and made my kids a decidedly mediocre dinner, then spent a couple of hours working on a lengthy freelance piece for It’s 9 p.m. I haven’t written about the Dodgers on this site today, not about their 17-4 victory over the White Sox that was filled with interesting subplots, nor about their simultaneous 2-0 loss to the Royals that was desperate for them, nor about, as Bill Shaikin of the Times reports, the narrowing of the Dodger ownership chase to three groups.

It’s not for lack of anything to say that I’m passing on the Dodgers. It’s not for lack of belief in the value of my own work in general. But tonight, I find I’m not as motivated to write about the Dodgers for the sake of informing my readers as I am to perpetuate an image of myself as someone who doesn’t get beat at the Dodger blogging game. And the thing is, that image is false to at least some extent, if not entirely. There are Dodger bloggers who do better work than me covering the Dodgers on any given day, and today would be one of those days. I knew, as I contemplated writing about today’s events, that would be the case.

So is there value in doing work if it’s not the best? Is it important for this vocation that I have cared so much about that I don’t surrender its original reason for being? Or does it make more sense to shift gears when I’m not going to bring my A game or even my B game, and do the one thing no one else can do (lucky for them): Write about what’s on my mind?

Some people enjoy anything I write. I love those people, but they’re not the ones I’m worried about. Some people don’t read other Dodger blogs besides this one, a fact I take some small pride in, and so my failing to give them more information about today’s Dodger events gives me some small amount of shame. Then again, some people are only interested in my particular personal spin on any event, baseball or otherwise, and so a post like this, rambling as it is, will have more meaning.

It’s 9:27 now.  I’ve spent the past half hour on a question that might or might not have been a waste of your time, but one that crops up for me periodically. What’s the best use of my time? Sticking to the blueprint, tearing it up, or doing neither and simply grabbing a slice of cake and a spot on the couch?

This much I’ll say: At the end of a long work week, I feel more rejuvenated right now then I think I would have felt knocking out bullet points about Dee Gordon, Matt Kemp, Jerry Hairston Jr., Zach Lee and even the Green family, on this important day in memory of Christina-Taylor. As pointless as it might have been to put these thoughts into words, it doesn’t feel pointless to me. Sometimes, as with my Phil Dunphy piece, it really just feels good to get some stuff out.

I’m publishing this now, having given it a quick edit, and will be walking away from the computer to the cake and the couch, feeling okay about my effort but thinking about that little girl in Arizona, the same age as my own little girl is now.

Mar 23

Troncoso departure leaves Elbert as dean of Dodger bullpen

Dodgers vs. White Sox (in honor of Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation), 1:05 p.m.
Dodgers at Royals, 4:05 p.m.

Now that Ramon Troncoso has been designated for assignment by the Dodgers, the last man standing from the 2009 Dodger bullpen is Scott Elbert, who pitched 19 2/3 innings that year with a 5.03 ERA.

Of the 25 men who pitched for the Dodgers in 2009, from Jonathan Broxton to Mark Loretta, 20 are gone and only three will be on the 2012 Opening Day roster. The five who remain in the organization in 2012 are Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Elbert, Ronald Belisario (who was added to the 40-man roster Thursday but must still serve a 25-game suspension) and reacquired minor-leaguer Brent Leach. Troncoso could return to the Dodger farm system if he clears waivers.

* * *

  • “Blue Revolution,” a documentary about the Dodger fan efforts to remove Frank McCourt as owner of the Dodgers, is screening tonight at 8 p.m. at Dodger Art Shop on 1321 W. Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles.
  • Shameful: Nominations for the top moments in Dodger Stadium history at the team’s official website don’t include “THE SQUEEZE!”
  • The Union Station-Dodger Stadium shuttle is back in service for 2012. It’s free for game-ticket holders.
  • You can audition March 31 to sing the national anthem at Dodger Stadium.
  • The future is now (for the time being): Nathan Eovaldi, Allen Webster, Zach Lee, Chris Reed, Ethan Martin, Angel Sanchez and Shawn Tolleson are scheduled to pitch for the Dodgers in Tucson today.
  • J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News has a story on the Dodgers’ current place in the scouts-stats world.
  • The son of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy blogger Roberto Baly loves him some Tim Belcher.
  • Jamie Moyer threw four perfect innings Thursday to improve his chances of making Colorado’s starting rotation at age 49. As David Pinto of Baseball Musings notes, Moyer has struck out seven and walked none in nine innings this spring. “I’m still not convinced this is a good idea, considering a) how Moyer pitched in 2010, and b) Coors Field,” Rob Neyer adds at Baseball Nation. “But of course, it’s impossible to help pulling for him to pitch again in the majors, and pitch well.”
  • Bill James has an interesting piece at Grantland (via Baseball Think Factory) about the history of fan behavior as it relates to prison life.
  • As I’ve often said, sometimes the best (or only good) part of a story on The Onion is the headline.  Here’s a case where the story lives up to the promise of the headline, “Grounder So Routine Nothing Could Possibly Go Wrong, Nothing At All” …
Mar 21

Kershaw-Lincecum 2011: Epic and have a small package on the Clayton Kershaw-Tim Lincecum rivalry, including the video above and this story by Tim Keown. I contributed my own piece to the coverage, which begins thusly:

Clayton Kershaw’s third start of 2011 against the San Francisco Giants is largely forgotten. Having thrown 26 1/3 consecutive shutout innings against San Francisco, the young lefty hit a snag during which he allowed singles to seven Giants in an eight-batter stretch over the third and fourth innings May 18 in Los Angeles.

The first three singles came with two out in the third and led to a run. The next four led off the top of the fourth, and were followed by a walk to one Mike Fontenot and then a sacrifice fly by Aaron Rowand. As sudden as a storm, Kershaw found himself trailing 4-0.

But if the moment served to remind the world that Kershaw was human, it also seemed truly aberrational, a wayward asteroid in the Dodgers-Giants galaxy dominated by the rivalry between Kershaw and Tim Lincecum last season. For one thing, Lincecum didn’t start — Matt Cain was the beneficiary of San Francisco’s unexpected offense. For another, the Giants’ lead didn’t hold, thanks to an out-of-nowhere rally by the Los Angeles Dodgers capped by three runs in the bottom of the eighth. The deciding pitcher of the night was not Kershaw, but Lance Cormier, who surrendered a three-run game-winning home run to Cody Ross in the ninth. It was just the Giants and the Dodgers, acting nutty again.

In other words, when the stars weren’t aligned to bring Kershaw and Lincecum into the same orbit last season, there was little rhyme or reason to what might happen on the ballfield. But when they were, there was no altering the gravitational pull. Lincecum would pitch magnificently; Kershaw even more so. Each and every time. …

You can read my whole piece here.