Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Category: Uncategorized (Page 45 of 63)

Morning brioche …

It’s the first anniversary of ESPNLosAngeles.com … hope you all have enjoyed the content …

Here’s what some of the other folk are up to …

My favorite TV shows of 2010

Drama

  1. Mad Men
  2. Breaking Bad
  3. Friday Night Lights
  4. Luther
  5. Terriers
  6. Boardwalk Empire
  7. Lost
  8. Treme
  9. Justified
  10. Rubicon

Honorable mention (in alphabetical order): Chuck, In Treatment, Men of a Certain Age

Comedy

  1. The Daily Show
  2. Modern Family
  3. Party Down
  4. Parks and Recreation
  5. Community
  6. Bored to Death
  7. Louie
  8. The Big Bang Theory
  9. Better Off Ted
  10. The Office

Honorable mention (in alphabetical order): 30 Rock, The Colbert Report, Curb Your Enthusiasm

Estimated 2011 Dodger payroll approaching $110 million

The estimated 2011 Dodger payroll is approaching $110 million.

This includes deferred payments. Why does this include deferred payments? Because if you don’t include deferred payments, then you’re never accounting for those payments being made. The fact that some of those payments are going to players no longer on the team doesn’t mean they’re not part of the player payroll.

The Dodgers are paying Manny Ramirez this year, even though he is no longer part of the team. But it’s not like those payments shouldn’t count. Not only were they an investment in the 2009-10 pennant pursuits, they have an impact on what’s going on today.

We can debate endlessly about the wisdom of all Dodger contracts, but don’t let anyone try to tell you that the Dodger payroll is in the $90 million neighborhood right now. It’s simply not true.

Footnote: The Dodger 40-man roster needs to lose a player, or perhaps more accurately, the Dodgers need to tell us who they’ve dropped. There are currently 41 players listed.

   
* $25,500,000 Starting pitchers (5)
  $8,000,000 Hiroki Kuroda
  $7,500,000 Ted Lilly
* $6,000,000 Chad Billingsley
  $3,500,000 Jon Garland
* $500,000 Clayton Kershaw
     
* $13,780,000 Relief pitchers (7)
  $7,000,000 Jonathan Broxton
* $2,000,000 Hong-Chih Kuo
  $2,000,000 Vicente Padilla
  $1,500,000 Matt Guerrier
* $430,000 Blake Hawksworth
* $430,000 Ronald Belisario
* $420,000 Kenley Jansen
     
    Other pitchers on 40-man roster (9)
    Scott Elbert
    John Ely
    Javy Guerra
    Brent Leach
    Jon Link
    Carlos Monasterios
    Travis Schlichting
    Ramon Troncoso
    Luis Vasquez
     
* $46,620,000 Starting lineup (8)
  $12,000,000 Rafael Furcal
  $9,250,000 Andre Ethier
  $6,950,000 Matt Kemp
  $5,250,000 Casey Blake
  $5,000,000 Juan Uribe
* $4,500,000 James Loney
  $3,250,000 Rod Barajas
* $420,000 Xavier Paul
     
* $5,245,000 Bench (5)
  $2,500,000 Jamey Carroll
  $1,000,000 Dioner Navarro
  $675,000 Tony Gwynn, Jr.
  $650,000 Jay Gibbons
* $420,000 Chin-Lung Hu
     
    Other players on 40-man roster (7)
    Ivan De Jesus
    A.J. Ellis
    Hector Gimenez
    Jamie Hoffmann
    John Lindsey
    Russ Mitchell
    Trayvon Robinson
     
* $17,350,000 Also paying
* $7,700,000 Manny Ramirez
  $3,500,000 Juan Pierre
* $3,375,000 Andruw Jones
  $1,500,000 Jason Schmidt
  $1,000,000 Vicente Padilla
  $150,000 Brad Ausmus
  $125,000 Octavio Dotel
     
*Estimate $108,495,000 GRAND TOTAL

Some of the above figures are estimates. Research for this chart was based in part on Cot’s Baseball Contracts and True Blue L.A.

I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I’m saying it: Tony Gwynn Jr. should start


Denis Poroy/AP
Tony Gwynn Jr.

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of no frontline left fielder, with yea but another candidate abandoning us to  aimless wanderings,  my thoughts seek a place to turn.

I believe that Xavier Paul, Jay Gibbons and Jamie Hoffmann can make positive contributions, but as I started to make a case for each of them in left field, I couldn’t finish the job. The offensive ceilings for Paul and Hoffmann just seem too low, and the defensive limitations of Gibbons too pronounced. I’m content to see them get a chance, but I just don’t have confidence it would go all that well.

The problem with turning to a 35-year-old Scott Podsednik is that his defense is pretty poor itself. Podsednik would probably post a better on-base percentage than any in-house Dodger candidate, but not so much better that he’d be worth more millions spent by Ned Colletti.

Minor-leaguers Jerry Sands and Trayvon Robinson? Despite their relative promise, only once in five seasons has Ned Colletti promoted a AA player into a major-league starting role in April, and that happened to Blake DeWitt only because injuries had left Chin-Lung Hu and Ramon Martinez as the only alternatives.  Paul, Hoffmann and Gibbons don’t fall to that level. And I’m not convinced that Colletti should break that policy right now, because unlike with Paul and Hoffmann, I imagine Sands and Robinson still have more to learn in the minors.

There’s a guy out there who would represent a pretty nice part-time addition to the roster, by the name of Manny Ramirez, but I know the Dodgers don’t want to go down that road.

That doesn’t exhaust all the possibilities, but there really isn’t much else to talk about in terms of difference-makers. And that’s why, more and more, I find myself ready to throw my lot with Tony Gwynn Jr. — if, as was discussed last week, he plays center field.

Of everyone discussed here, Gwynn offers the most elite skill, if not the only one — his defense.  He’s something of the polar opposite of Ramirez, and it seems to me that he is the one person left in the conversation who can truly transform the Dodger lineup. By placing him in center and moving Matt Kemp to right field and Andre Ethier to left, Gwynn would turn the Dodger outfield defense from a weakness to a strength.

At a minimum, it would be a low-risk way to buy some time until Sands or Robinson proves more ready to make the leap to the majors, possibly at midseason. Or, until the Dodgers decide to make their annual midseason trade.

I don’t think Colletti or Don Mattingly would be opposed to asking Kemp or Ethier to switch positions. Would either player rebel? Perhaps, although if they are that selfish, we’ve got other problems.

Here’s a Dodger lineup with Gwynn in center:

Rafael Furcal, SS
James Loney, 1B
Andre Ethier, LF
Matt Kemp, RF
Juan Uribe, 2B
Casey Blake, 3B
Rod Barajas, C
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF

Offensively, it’s shaky, but it’s not as if any of the other outfield options would save the day. But defensively, there’s actually hope.

I’ve looked at the Dodgers’ outfield dilemma many different ways — coming at the problem, in fact, with a bias against Gwynn signing with the team to begin with. There might be no more surprising event to me than making an argument for Gwynn to be in the Dodger starting lineup. But I just don’t see a better way to go right now.  Tony Gwynn Jr.  has a first-rate skill that no other Dodger has, and the Dodgers absolutely must consider taking advantage of it.

Russell Martin looks ahead following a rough goodbye to Los Angeles


Jason O. Watson/US Presswire
Russell Martin

It’s really a complicated dance between struggling player and dubious team.

As we now know, Russell Martin did not score any financial windfall by signing with the New York Yankees after parting ways with the Dodgers. So from a money standpoint, there’s no indication whatsoever that the Yankees wanted Martin more than the Dodgers did.

Further, we know the Dodgers had a handicap. They were bound to the possibility that Martin might earn a substantial  raise through salary arbitration, had they guaranteed him a 2011 contract at the December 2 deadline for eligible players. Martin himself understands why the Dodgers might not have wanted to take that risk.

Despite all that, it’s pretty clear from his introductory press conference with the New York Yankees — who have named him their starting catcher — that Martin’s ego was bruised by the whole experience.

On an emotional level, you can understand it, even if it isn’t quite logical.  Martin himself seemed to be struggling with the contradiction.

“Not necessarily surprised,” Martin said of his reaction to being non-tendered by the Dodgers. “I always knew that there was a possibility, and it was probably a tough call for them.  You have a guy who wasn’t doing that good past couple of years, and probably getting a raise again (if arbitration was involved.

“It definitely, definitely wasn’t easy, but it’s kind of hard to explain emotionally how I was feeling. It was just one of those things. … I really wanted to see how much they really wanted me, because if they did, they would have tendered me a contract. See if they still believed in me and things of that nature.  By doing (what they did), they kind of gave me the answer I wanted to find out about.”

The Yankees, essentially, never had the same opportunity to hurt Martin’s feelings (justifiably or not) the way the Dodgers did. And so, once that December 2 deadline had passed, a fresh start was inevitable.

Martin said he doesn’t regret the money he possibly might have lost in the transition.

“I just really wanted to find out, and the only way to find out how much a team wants you is you take a risk,” he said.

Of course, Martin represents a risk for the Yankees as well. Not only has he been recovering from his season-ending hip injury, but his physical revealed a small meniscus tear in his right knee that will require surgery. The recovery time is expected to be three weeks.

Not surprisingly, Martin said he isn’t concerned.

“It’s the first time I had any problems with my knees, so I really don’t know what to expect,” Martin said. “From what I’ve heard, it’s a pretty simple operation. I think CC (Sabathia) had it done at the end of the year. Three-week recovery, and obviously I have to rehab.  I’m not too concerned with it — obviously the timing’s bad, because it will affect my offseason training a bit. But from what I’ve heard, I will be ready by Spring Training.”

Martin added that his hip has felt fine for about a month. He said that he can’t say for sure how it would feel after catching 10-12 games in a row, but then conceded that people don’t necessarily want him to do that anymore, as much as he might resist rest.

“I like playing baseball, so it’s hard for me to not want to catch, ever,” Martin said. “My best years are probably the years where I’ve caught the most. I don’t really have a number in mind. I like to let the manager dictate those types of things. (Writer’s note: We’ve heard otherwise in past seasons.)

“I’ve learned through the years, when I do feel my body is banged up, it’s better for the team for me to take a day rather than drive myself into the ground and be worthless for the rest of the year.”

Martin also talked about his offensive struggles of the past two years. In recent winters, stories of Martin’s offseason training have often come across like warning signs, each year seemingly bringing a different approach. Mostly, he feels he lost strength, then tried to compensate with his swing and ended up fouling that up.

This winter, he suggests, brings the back-to-basics edition.

“I think it’s (been) just me trying to make adjustments to strive to be even better,” he said. “I’ve tried some things to be a little more athletic, a little faster, instead of sticking to the basics of what made me successful. I think I almost got in my own way. So this year, I made sure to go back to my roots … instead of trying to do more, just really trying to reflect back on what got me there.”

He noted that while his offense has regressed, he feels his defense and handling of pitchers has only improved.

In the end, Martin seems genuinely pleased with where he has ended up: closer to his family home, in an everyday role (health permitting) and with another (and of course potentially better) contender.

“My main goal is to have a chance to win,” Martin said, “and if you want to pick a place to win, I don’t think there’s any better place to pick than New York with the Yankees.

“They’ve told me that I’m the starting catcher, and that’s what I expect to be. That’s what I’m training to be.  Obviously, I feel like I need to earn that. I don’t feel that there’s anything owed to me or anything like that, especially the way the last two years have gone for me. But my goal is to go in there and do the best I can and help this team win.”

Martin doesn’t leave Los Angeles without some regret.

“We got a taste of what we wanted to accomplish,” he said, “but there’s only one winner, and the goal is to win the World Series. We got to the playoffs — we had some good seasons, (but) we fell short a couple of years. It was a great experience, a good learning process.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed  in how it all ended, but what can you do?”

Why Guerrier could lose the WAR

Just one more quick note on soon-to-be-newest Dodger reliever Matt Guerrier:

According to Baseball-Reference.com, Guerrier has had Wins Above Replacement values of 2.3 in 2009 (age 30 for most of the season) and 1.4 in 2010 (age 31).  The Dodgers’ expectation or hope in giving him a $12 million contract through 2013, presumably, is that he’ll repeat that performance over the next three years.

But since 1990, again according to Baseball-Reference.com, only three relievers above age 30 have had as many as five seasons with WAR over 1.0 without striking out more than 7.0 batters per nine innings (Guerrier’s career high). And none of those pitchers — David Weathers, Mike Timlin and Steve Reed — did so in more than three consecutive seasons.

In other words, what the Dodgers are asking Guerrier to do — be a productive reliever for a third, fourth and fifth season in a row after turning 30, without striking out many batters — has not been done by anyone in at least the past 20 years.

Update: To be precise, Jeff Reardon accomplished the feat from 1988-92. His first two seasons fell outside my original search. Dan Quisenberry (1983-87) and Kent Tekulve (1981-87) also succeeded. But that’s it since at least 1970.

Martin’s base salary with Yanks lower than Dodgers’ final offer

According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com, Russell Martin’s base salary with the Yankees will be $4 million – lower than the Dodgers’ final offer to him two weeks ago. Not sure what the incentives were in the case of the Yankees’ deal – with the Dodgers, it’s been reported that he could have earned $1.5 million in incentives. Martin has passed his physical, Olney reported.

Russell Martin heads to the Bronx


Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Curtis Granderson scores the fourth run of the ninth inning for the Yankees ahead of Russell Martin’s tag June 27.

When Russell Martin last saw the Yankees, it was as he was being ejected in the 10th inning after striking out against Mariano Rivera on the night the Dodgers’ season turned nightmarish — the 8-6 collapse at Dodger Stadium on June 27.

Reportedly, Martin will be catching Rivera next season, as it appears he has signed with the Bronx Bombers. Financial information to come.

Farewell, Coltrane … you left me with a lot of good memories.

Eugenio Velez wins a trip to Camelback

Thinking of a Dodger bench trio that could be made up of Juan Velez Mitchell (almost no one will get that joke, and those who do won’t laugh) …

  • Add Eugenio Velez to the Dodgers’ list of non-roster invitees to Spring Training 2011. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. has drawn up Clayton Kershaw’s five-year, $36 million contract with the Dodgers, leaving both parties the small detail of signing it.
  • How bad were the free agent signings of 2006-07? Dave Cameron of Fangraphs shows you.
  • If MLB worked like the BCS, here’s what the bowl matchups would have been, according to Dayn Perry of Notgraphs.
  • You’ve probably seen it, but the video of the snow pouring through the collapsed Metrodome roof in Minnesota is pretty amazing.
  • Sons of Steve Garvey passes along a link to Peter Keating’s ESPN.com post discussing Sandy Koufax’s perfect game as the most perfect of perfect games.
  • Fun list at Baseball-Reference.com of the players who hit the most home runs while playing in under 1,000 career games.  No. 5: Henry Rodriguez.
  • MLB Network’s first-time-in-50-years broadcast of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series is Wednesday. Set your DVRs.

Red Sox paying Manny Ramirez until 2027

Once again reminding us that the Dodgers aren’t the kings of deferred payments …

Ten bullet points

Fire when ready, Gridley …

  • The Dodgers re-signed Trent Oeltjen to a minor-league contract, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com (among other notes).
  • Former Dodger manager Jim Tracy, now with Colorado, is recovering from a mild arrhythmia that caused him to collapse shortly after midnight Tuesday. The Associated Press has details.
  • Clayton Kershaw is married! Check out the pictures at Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • More great news: Longtime friend of Dodger Thoughts Jay Jaffe has been voted into the Baseball Writers Association of America.
  • This book, A Brief History of American Sports, was co-authored by Elliott J. Gorn, whom I took “Sport in American Life” from at Stanford when he was a visiting professor 21 years ago.
  • I like these Dodgers-Fritos collectibles featuring Larry Sherry and Charley Neal, showcased by Blue Heaven.
  • Who are the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame? Baseball Past & Present offers a list, based on the vote of 63 people including Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods.
  • King Kaufman argues for the value of being average.
  • Alex Belth of Bronx Banter has the best piece I’ve seen on Derek Jeter this offseason.
  • Longtime Dodger Thoughts readers might recall how big a fan of Spalding Gray I’ve been. Stephen Soderbergh has a new documentary about the monologist/actor, writes David Ng at Culture Monster. LACMA will screen it Monday.

The McCourt decision

Here’s a link to the 100-page McCourt decision from Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Hall of Fame passes on Garvey, John

It’s no surprise, but former Dodgers Steve Garvey and Tommy John missed on their latest (and perhaps best) chance of making the Hall of Fame.  The expansion committee vote also left out the most deserving candidate, Marvin Miller – by one vote – while choosing to elect longtime executive Pat Gillick.

Garvey and John each needed 75% of the 16 votes, but did not cross the 50% barrier.

Amid the flurry on the mound, quiet times in left field (for now)


Jeff Roberson/APAre the Dodgers sincere when they say Xavier Paul is a contender to start next season?

Overall, I’m satisfied – even impressed – with how Ned Colletti has pulled together the 2011 Dodger starting rotation over the past month.

I was worried about how the Dodgers would fill their three offseason vacancies in the rotation. Then, thanks in part to Hiroki Kuroda’s agreeability, the Dodgers got their front four. As in the past, I would have been prepared for the team to enter Spring Training with a combination of youngsters and journeymen battling for the No. 5 spot. But the Dodgers didn’t even make us wait until December before filling that spot with a solid (though not spectacular) starter in Jon Garland.

There was another shoe to drop: Garland admitted to AM 710 that there are concerns about his health. Whether this means shades of Jason Schmidt remains to be seen, but it’s hard to get too worked up when the salary commitment to Garland is about 90% less than what the Dodgers paid Schmidt (are still paying, in fact). Garland figures to give the Dodgers something, and perhaps more than something.

There have been rumors that the Dodgers aren’t done with the pitching, that they are contemplating also bringing back adding Vicente Padilla as a swingman, a super-utility pitcher. The addition would further increase the Dodgers’ chances of presenting a smothering pitching staff next season, led by Clayton Kershaw in the role of Tim Lincecum, only wholesomer.  Yes, my friends, the Dodgers have their ace – or rather, their king and his court.

All that being said …

The left-field situation resembles what we expected the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation to look like. Journeymen, kids and babies. Jay Gibbons is Jeff Weaver, Xavier Paul is John Ely, Jamie Hoffmann is Carlos Monasterios, Trayvon Robinson and Jerry Sands are Chris Withrow and Rubby de la Rosa. I’m not losing sleep over it – certainly not in December. Should it remain this way until April, I’ll admit I’ll be surprised.  But also fascinated.

If the Dodgers don’t make any big additions in the outfield – and it could be months before we know – they will be doing exactly what they did when they handed four April starts to Charlie Haeger.  That they did so once means they could do it again, but I have trouble believing the Dodgers have invested all this money in catcher, second base and the starting rotation, just to let left field twist in the wind.

On the other hand, they might sign Scott Podsednik and think they’ve done something useful, and simply be wrong.

* * *

Following the news that former Dodger outfielder Jayson Werth had signed a remarkable seven-year, $126 million contract with Washington, I tweeted the following:

At Matt Kemp’s current age (26), Jayson Werth hit .235/.338/.374 before sitting out his age-27 season because of injury.

Through 2009: Matt Kemp career 116 OPS+, Jayson Werth career 115 OPS+. Kemp is 5 1/2 years younger.

The point, I hope is clear, is not to say that Matt Kemp is better than Jayson Werth (though he might be, sooner than people think). Rather, it’s to remind people that it’s a wee bit early to be giving up on Kemp because he had a disappointing season at age 25.

If we stipulate that Kemp has some issues to address going forward, let’s remember that they are not insurmountable.

* * *

I was very satisfied with the season finale of “Boardwalk Empire,” both in how it wrapped up this season’s threads and set up Season 2. We haven’t had any formal TV chat here in a while, so if anyone wants to share their thoughts, please feel free.

How would you have spent that money?

So far this offseason, the Dodgers have committed a minimum of $27.9 million in 2011 salary and $74.9 million in overall 2011-and-beyond salary (thanks to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. for the quick snapshot). This much we know.

So, how would you have spent that money?

* * *

The Padres are about to roll the dice, trading Adrian Gonzalez – their best player, and perhaps the NL West’s best as well – for a package of Red Sox minor leaguers, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.

For some historical context of the trade, read Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk.

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