Dodger Thoughts

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

Tag: Ned Colletti (Page 1 of 2)

Tony Gwynn Jr., Tim Cates join Dodger Talk team

GwynnBy Jon Weisman

Former Dodger outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. has joined the Dodger Talk team for AM 570 LA Sports Radio. 

In addition, Tim Cates will host the Dodgers pregame show for the first time, incorporating reports from Rick Monday and David Vassegh leading up to the game.

Vassegh is returning for his fifth season to the Dodger Talk postgame show, where he will be joined by Gwynn with contributions from Monday, Charley Steiner, Alanna Rizzo and Ned Colletti.

Dodger Talk can be heard each night from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. during Spring Training and, beginning March 31 with the Freeway Series against the Angels, following every game through the 2016 season.

Known as a top defensive outfielder, Gwynn had a .309 on-base percentage and 80 steals in 106 attempts across his 685-game big-league career from 2006-14. That includes 239 games with the Dodgers in 2011-12, when he had 10 triples and 35 steals. Gwynn tied or led the Dodgers in triples both years.

Cates tn_1200_Tim-WoodenA UCLA graduate, Cates has worked in sports talk radio for almost 20 years, covering the NBA Finals, World Series, Super Bowl and NCAA Final Fours, and serving as a producer, reporter and host on Fox Sports Radio Network and AM 570 LA Sports. Most recently, Cates has hosted UCLA football and basketball pregame and postgame shows, and can also be heard as the studio host for Compass Media Networks coverage of the Oakland Raiders and NCAA football and basketball.

In case you missed it: The youngest prospect

Los Angeles Dodgers vs the Seattle Mariners

For more photos from Friday, visit LA Photog Blog.

Dodgers at Indians, 12:05 p.m.
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Yasmani Grandal, DH
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Andre Ethier, DH
Juan Uribe, 3B
Scott Schebler, RF
Darnell Sweeney, CF
(Mike Bolsinger, P)

By Jon Weisman

Looks like Louis Mattingly was told he’s not starting … but Mom and Dad don’t seem discouraged about his long-term potential.

Here are some more notes and news …

  • Don Mattingly told reporters today that reliever Mike Adams is days away from being “game ready,” but he looks good so far.
  • “Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke looked sharp Friday,” writes AJ Cassavell of, “facing hitters for the first time this spring. Perhaps more importantly, he came away from his live batting practice session pain free.”
  • Ned Colletti shared his thoughts with Bill Dwyre of the Times about his new role with the Dodgers — paraphrasing Jim Murray in the process. “I think he wrote one time,” Colletti said, “that things can get like riding a tiger. We’re afraid to get on, and once we’re on, we’re afraid to get off.”
  • Of the four players since 1970 who have played at least 300 games at both shortstop and the outfield, two have played for the Dodgers: Derrel Thomas and Hubie Brooks. Hanley Ramirez could become the third, as Doug Miller of ESPN Insider notes.
  • Sunday’s Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic featuring Texas Christian, Vanderbilt, UCLA and USC will have more than 15 top draft prospects, writes David Hood of True Blue L.A.
  • Minnie Minoso was the Latin Jackie Robinson, suggests Allen Barra at Sports on Earth. Barra then goes on to argue for Minoso’s Hall of Fame worthiness based on his on-field performance.

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In case you missed it: 2015 Dodger Caravan begins

By Jon Weisman

Despite this afternoon’s rain, the 2015 Pitching in the Community Caravan, presented by Bank of America, got off to a happy start today with a baseball skills clinic featuring Dodger first baseman Adrian Gonzalez at Garfield High School.

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Dodgers show pride and giving side

Justin Turner gets ready to drop the ceremonial puck between the Kings' Dustin Brown and the Panthers' Willie Mitchell. (Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Justin Turner gets ready to drop the ceremonial puck between the Kings’ Dustin Brown and the Panthers’ Willie Mitchell. (Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

111814JO_LAD_USOBy Jon Weisman

Dodgers Pride Night at Staples Center, hosted by our friends at the Los Angeles Kings, took place Tuesday. Click this link to visit a Juan Ocampo photo gallery from the evening, and click here for video.

Also on Tuesday, Tommy Lasorda, Ned Colletti and Tim and Lori Wallach helped serve Thanksgiving meals to approximately 300 service members at the 9th annual Thanksgiving Dinner for the Troops at the Bob Hope USO, located at Los Angeles International Airport. The event was part of the Dodgers’ 2014 Season of Giving.


And on his last off day before returning home from the Japan All-Star Series, Drew Butera joined Jeff Beliveau of the Rays in visiting a children’s hospital. David Venn has more at

Ben Platt/

Ben Platt/

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Ned Colletti, the Bubble Man and the bubble machine

Clayton Kershaw and Ned Colletti congratulate each other after the Dodgers clinch the NL West on September 24. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Clayton Kershaw and Ned Colletti congratulate each other after the Dodgers clinch the NL West on September 24. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)


Former AMPAS president Tom Sherak

By Jon Weisman

Ned Colletti and Stan Kasten met with reporters at Dodger Stadium today to talk about Colletti’s transition from general manager to special assistant to Kasten. Ken Gurnick is covering it all for, but there was a story that Colletti told near the end of the session that I wanted to share.

Colletti remembered his good friend, Tom Sherak, the former entertainment executive and president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, who passed away in January after a long battle with prostate cancer.

“When he left the Academy, he wanted to work for the Dodgers,” Colletti said. “Grew up in Brooklyn. So I hired him for a dollar a year, special assistant to the GM. He used to always tell me, no matter how bad his day was going — and this man was in a lot of pain for a lot of years — that everything was going to be OK. And he’s said, ‘I’ve had this marvelous life, coming out of Brooklyn. coming out of not much, worked for Paramount for years, Fox for years, the Academy. I’ve got this protective bubble around me, so you can call me “The Bubble Man.”‘

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Dodgers hire Andrew Freidman as president of baseball operations — Ned Colletti to remain as senior advisor

J. Meric/Getty Images

Andrew Friedman (J. Meric/Getty Images)

By Jon Weisman

Andrew Friedman, the 37-year-old architect of four playoff appearances and a trip to the World Series for the Tampa Bay Rays, is joining the Dodgers in the newly created position of president of baseball operations.

Ned Colletti, the Dodgers’ general manager since 2005, will remain in the organization as a senior advisor to president and CEO Stan Kasten. A news conference will be held at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.

Friedman is six years older than Paul DePodesta was when the latter was named general manager in February 2004. And it’s those six years, plus three more as Rays executive vice president of baseball operations, that probably will impress those who would otherwise doubt someone so young and who came to baseball after starting his working career with Bear Stearns and MidMark Capital.

Though they finished 77-85 in 2014, the Rays had a run of six consecutive winning seasons — five of them with at least 90 victories — despite operating with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. At age 31, he became the youngest-ever winner of the Sporting News’ Executive of the Year award.

“Andrew Friedman is one of the youngest and brightest minds in the game today and we are very fortunate to have him join our organization,” said Kasten. “The success he has had over the past nine years in molding the Tampa Bay Rays team has been incredible.”

Lest you think Friedman was a baseball neophyte when he joined the Rays, he went to Tulane on a baseball scholarship as an outfielder.

Since Colletti joined the Dodgers, the team has had eight winning seasons and five playoff appearances in nine years.

“Ned Colletti has played a major role in the success of the Los Angeles Dodgers over the last nine years, and I’m thrilled that we are able to retain him as a special advisor to me,” said Kasten. “Ned’s knowledge and experience in the game covering 33 years will be a great asset to the club as we continue to add and build our player development system.”

Gone Guys: Gonzalez, Dodgers blast their way to victory

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By Jon Weisman

For the first five innings, the Dodgers were being no-hit. Before the next two innings were over, Oliver Perez was throwing at Andre Ethier (one might have concluded) because the Dodgers were hitting too many home runs.

There were three homers in all, two of them three-run blasts in back-to-back innings by Adrian Gonzalez, who became the first Dodger since Eric Karros in 1993 to hit two trifecta round-trippers.  (Cody Ross, a Dodger opponent today, had a three-run home run and a grand slam for Los Angeles in 2006, in his final start with the team).

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Fortunes change, don’t ya know? It’s all about piling up more good than bad. And that is what the Dodgers have done in 2014.

Saturday, I interviewed Dodger general manager Ned Colletti for the print edition of Dodger Insider, and I asked him if there had been a defining moment for the 2014 Dodgers. He didn’t immediately see one, acknowledging at least so far that this year, the team was more methodical than dramatic. That lack of drama has come to be considered a strike against the Dodgers, as if the pennant race were a beauty contest rather than a measurement of which team has the most victories at the end of season.

Today, the Dodgers moved 19 games about .500, tied with Washington for the best in the National League.

But those insisting on an observable spark certainly have to like what they saw from the Dodgers this afternoon, when, after waiting until the sixth inning to gather kindling, they lit a fire. Dee Gordon broke up Trevor Cahill’s no-hitter with a one-out double, Hanley Ramirez walked, and Gonzalez absolutely smashed a ball over the fence in to dead center.

Though this won’t qualify as a late-inning clutch hit, it was a huge one, and comes a day after Gordon’s tiebreaking RBI single in the bottom of the eighth Saturday. Yes, Virginia, this team does come through.

An inning later, it was the same trio. Perez walked Gordon, then Ramirez reached base on an error by shortstop Cliff Pennington. Gonzalez hit his third home run of the past 21 hours and second homer of the year off a lefty, giving him his seventh 100-RBI season of his career and matching his 2013 total as a Dodger. And then for good measure, Matt Kemp hit his 19th of the year. (This article seems timely.)

Perez then smacked Ethier in the back (making him the Dodgers’ all-time leader in HBPs with 53), and when umpire Laz Diaz warned both benches, that didn’t sit well with Don Mattingly and Monday’s starting pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, both of whom were ejected. Thankfully, Kershaw isn’t pitching against Arizona again this year, which saves us the worry about him retaliating and getting thrown out himself.

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Since August 29, San Francisco has won six of its past eight games. If the Giants don’t win tonight in Detroit, they’ll have gained no ground on the Dodgers in that stretch.

The rarity of Dodger rookie regulars in April

Los Angeles Dodgers first full squad workout

By Jon Weisman

Just to show how unprecedented it would be for Alex Guerrero to step into the Dodger starting lineup at the beginning of the 2014 campaign, consider this:

In the eight previous seasons of the Ned Colletti era, no position player without previous MLB experience has been the Dodgers’ intended starter in March or April.

Since Colletti arrived, only three Dodgers have started more than 10 games before April 30 without previously playing in the Majors, and none was the first resort:

Blake DeWitt and James Loney in action at Game 1 of the 2008 National League Championship Series in Chicago. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2008)

Blake DeWitt and James Loney in action at Game 1 of the 2008 National League Championship Series in Chicago. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

James Loney, 2006: Loney made his debut on April 4 and started 10 games in a platoon with Olmedo Saenz while the Dodgers waited for Nomar Garciaparra to recover from a strained ribcage muscle suffered in the Freeway Series. Loney, who OPSed .595 in 44 plate appearances during this first taste of the Show, went to Triple-A once Garciaparra was activated April 22.

Blake DeWitt, 2008: DeWitt had but 45 games of experience above Single-A when he was thrust into the role of starter at third base, thanks to injuries not only to Garciaparra (wrist microfracture) but also Andy LaRoche (torn ulnar collateral ligament in right thumb) — both suffered in the same March 7 Spring Training game — as well as Tony Abreu. Nicknamed “The Solution,” DeWitt played regularly at third base with an OPS above .800 as he passed the 200-plate appearance mark in mid-June, before he slumped and was ultimately replaced by midseason acquisition Casey Blake. DeWitt remains the only Colletti-era Dodger to start the most games of anyone at his position in a given year (77) without having previously earned an MLB paycheck.

Jerry Sands, 2011: Sands slugged .529 for Double-A Chattanooga in 2010, but still began 2011 in the minors as predicted. He was called up April 18 to fill the roster spot of Xavier Paul, who was designated for assignment, and play some left field in a year the Dodgers began with Tony Gwynn Jr., Marcus Thames and Paul (with a sprinkle of Jamie Hoffmann). Sands played somewhat regularly into early June and ended up starting 53 games for Los Angeles in left field, right field and at first base.

Bringing up players in May has been a different story: Russell Martin, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp are notable examples. But handing a position to a pure rookie before May Day just hasn’t been happening. Even Yasiel Puig, of course, waited until June last year.

While Guerrero isn’t a typical rookie, it would still be groundbreaking for him to serve as a regular for the Dodgers in March and April.

In case you missed it: Spirit Day

Dodgers FanFestBy Jon Weisman

Thanks to all the fans who came out today for FanFest.

  • Ned Colletti, Vin Scully and Don Mattingly are featured in Ken Gurnick’s FanFest roundup for Here’s perhaps the most memorable quote from Colletti, who as Gurnick writes, “credited the club’s brawl with the Arizona Diamondbacks as a key to the team’s midseason turnaround after beanings of Yasiel Puig and Zack Greinke.”

    “Our guys took the field and went after them,” Colletti said. “As much as I don’t condone that, it kind of galvanized our club and got us together and brought friendship in the room and we got closer. In a bizarre way, it was a defining moment for the building of inside the room.”

  • Even as FanFest was taking place, there was also the second annual Community Day at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton. Yasiel Puig was among those visiting, writes Earl Bloom for
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu getting into shape is the subject of two short pieces (here and here) by the Daily News’ J.P. Hoornstra, who also passes along this update about Dodger Stadium wi-fi and about the Union Rescue Mission learning center being named for Andre and Maggie Ethier. Nicely done, Ethiers.
  • An update from Kershaw’s Challenge: “After discussing our plans to renovate and add on to Destiny Community School in Lusaka, Zambia, we have solidified our plans and will begin construction soon.”
  • The last batch of Dodger Pitching in the Community Caravan photos, from Friday’s fifth day, can be found at the Dodger Photog Blog, thanks to Juan Ocampo.
  • Ex-Dodger pitcher Chris Capuano is a potential free agent bargain for some team, writes Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs.
  • Sixteen-year NBA vet Tracy McGrady is looking to make a switch to pitching, at least on some level. D.J. Short at Hardball Talk rounds up the basic info.
  • More than half of the teams in the majors are planning to platoon or divide up playing time with at least one position, writes Anthony Castrovince of

Live-blog: Dodgers’ 10 a.m. press conference (Yes, it’s about Kershaw)

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By Jon Weisman

We’ll be covering the highlights from the Dodgers’ press conference today with Stan Kasten and Ned Colletti at 10 a.m. Refresh for updates. If you’d like to watch the presser on a separate browser window, click here.

10:00 a.m.: The Dodgers sent out the press release officially announcing that Clayton Kershaw had been signed to a seven-year contract. Here’s Kershaw’s quote for the release …

“It is an incredible privilege to be part of the Los Angeles Dodger organization for another seven years,” said Kershaw. “L.A. has become a second home to me and my wife, and I’m excited for the opportunity to represent the city for a long time to come. I am particularly grateful to our team’s ownership and front office for believing in me. With this contract comes tremendous responsibility, not only as a pitcher, but as a good steward of the resources given to me. To whom much is given, much is required. Ellen and I are excited to take an undeserved blessing and, Lord willing, make a difference in the lives of others. I’m humbled by this recognition and looking forward to a new season, and hopefully, a World Series championship for the city of Los Angeles.”  

LOS ANGELES DODGERS V COLORADO ROCKIES10:10 a.m.: The troops are gathered in the press room, and we’re about to get started. By the way, Kershaw will be speaking to reporters via conference call at 11 a.m.

  • Colletti, smiling as much as you’ve ever seen him as he sat down: “We’ve all seen a lot of players and a lot of great pitchers in our careers. There are those that stand out above pretty much all the rest, including in my mind Clayton. Not only as somebody that’s won a Cy Young, finished second, won another Cy Young, leads this staff, 25 years old, left-handed, ultra-competitive, something that we’ve watched grow as we’ve drafted him and developed him. That’s what you can read on the back of the baseball card .. For me, it’s also that he’s got the heart that he’s got. Ellen Kershaw and himself, with the perspective they bring to their lives and others, I think when you’ve got the complete set like that, it’s somebody that not only represents your baseball team but represents your organization and your city at probably the highest level.
  • Kasten: “I don’t usually sit in for contract press conferences or trade press conferences, but because of the size and significance of this deal, I was involved more than I typically am. From our standpoint in ownership, we felt Clayton is so special. He checks all the boxes, on the field, off the field, in the community, home-grown, age-wise. It really was the perfect storm, both for Clayton as well as for the Dodgers. There’s been a lot of attention about this being the biggest contract for a pitcher in baseball, and that is the case. If someone should have this contract, it should be the best pitcher in baseball.
  • Kasten: “For us, in ownership, it was all that he does on the field, in the clubhouse, as well as all the things he does away from the field, away from Dodger Stadium, which as you know to us in ownership, is very, very important to us as well. Representing this organization today, continuing its legacy of 50 years here, Clayton is as good as it gets. “
  • Kasten on negotiations: “Long. We started in March. It was always pleasant and constructive and collegial. If it had not gotten done now and had taken until next year, I wouldn’t have been surprised if we signed him then also, because the relationship has been great. I think both sides respect and appreciate each other; that’s what made it comfortable. There are ups and downs like every negotiation, because it was dragging on for a long time. And so, in the middle of last summer, we were nearing something that might work, but then it was dragging on so long, and we both said to each other, ‘Yeah, let’s put this off until the offseason,’ and I think both sides were comfortable with that. I think both sides thought we would get something done, but we were prepared in the event that we didn’t to still keep talking. Fortunately, we didn’t have to get to that, and we can now turn our attention to the next thing, whatever that may be.”
  • Kasten: “As I reflect back on the first discussions that we had … it wasn’t all that far away from where we wound up, but there were probably a thousand iterations from last March to now. … I will say this, if (agent Casey Close) and Ned and I had dedicated a week to being in the same room, but that was never there for us. Casey’s in New York, we’re here in the offseason, Clayton’s in Texas, our owners are in other cities. We’d have a conversation, we’d get back to the other side a week or two later. Because there was never any urgency or a feeling of ‘get this done  or else,’ from either side.
  • Dodgers Press ConferenceColletti: “And when the season gets going, you have even less opportunity to really do it … because you never want anything interfering with the thought process of Clayton.
  • Kasten: “We know all the precedents, we know all the risks. A big part of this for us (was) getting as much protection as possible from insurance, which we did. That was helpful, to both sides, to know that you could do that. A big, big factor for us that really was a positive for us was Clayton’s age. We have that going for us. Clayton has that going for him. I’d feel differently doing this contract for a player in his mid-30s. … Doesn’t make it foolproof. There are still risks, but every day in this business, we have risks that we have to evaluate. Nothing is risk free.”
  • Colletti: “It’s tough to have in our mind to have the best pitcher in baseball, the youngest best pitcher in baseball, and tell him we’re not going to do what others have done for others.”
  • Kasten: “I’m sure there is (a top end to our payroll), but we’re comfortable where we are. For right now where we are in approaching our second full season (as owners), we’re still first and foremost concerned with the quality of the team we can put together. Adding it up comes after that, and that’s because this is a long-term strategy for us. I think after five years, six years, seven years, when you add it all up, it will make a lot more sense than it might to some people who look at today’s snapshot.”
  • Kasten: “(Luxury tax) is an expense that we’re well aware of, and we understand to the decimal point what the costs are.”
  • Kasten: “Nothing precludes anything else. Everything has to be evaluated independently. That’s what I ask Ned and his people to do. When there’s something that makes us better, we would do it, irrespective of what came before that. I know that’s generic, but that’s actually how we evaluate.”
  • Colletti: “That’s a great quote.”
  • Kasten: “I’ve only got a couple of messages, and I’m just going to keep beating them into you.”
  • Kasten: “The reason (Kershaw) is not here today … he’s had an awfully busy offseason. He’s made a couple of cross-country trips just this week, including earlier this week for a physical for all this. So we said, ‘You can stay home today — we’ll get everyone with you on the phone.’ He’s also had, and I hope this is something that continues for the rest of his career, a fairly short offseason. And so we let him stay home today.
  • Kasten: “For me, personally — I hate no-trade clauses, and I’ve never done one. I will tell you, I do hate them. Opt-outs are more reasonable to us, particularly with our circumstances here in L.A. and the resources that we have, the appeal that we have to guys. … I wouldn’t just give it out willy-nilly, but there are times that it really has value during the course of a negotiation. That has been the case in the most recent negotiations.
  • Colletti: “I talked to Casey (about Masahiro Tanaka) probably not yesterday but every day this week and we’ll talk to him again this week.”
  • Kasten, on the deadline today for exchanging arbitration salary figures: “Not a hard deadline, but all deadlines have the advantage of concentrating the mind, to see what we can do. Today we would have had to put a number in, and does that change the dynamics? Hard to say. Wouldn’t have been a brick wall, but it made it more complicated, so we said let’s use that as a good benchmark to see if we could get it done by then. And both sides wanted it done, so this was a tool.”

10:26 a.m.: Questions end.



Notes: Miguel Rojas to contend for playing time at second base

By Jon Weisman

In addition to discussing Don Mattingly and Yasiel Puig, Ned Colletti touched upon several other aspects of the Dodgers in his conversation with reporters today.

  • Colletti’s priorities now for 2014 are to fine-tune the club, including another infielder off the bench that would give the club more versatility, and making sure the team is healthy. “I talk to our medical people every other day to see where we are at,” he said.
  • Miguel Rojas will get “a good look” during Spring Training for playing time at second base, thanks to his defensive wizardry. Rojas had a .303 on-base percentage and .307 slugging with Double-A Chattanooga last year, but Colletti calls him an “excellent defensive player.”
  • Alexander Guerrero is still leading the pack of contenders at second base, but Colletti said “we still have questions.” The Dodgers are taking a conservative approach with Guerrero and the hamstring issues he dealt with this winter.
  • Caution is also the byword with Matt Kemp, but the outfielder has had his walking boot off for the better part of four weeks now and is beginning to hit.
  • Josh Beckett should be ready to go for Spring Training, but Scott Elbert and Chad Billingsley remain targeted for midseason. Elbert could come sooner than Billingsley, thanks to being a reliever.
  • Andre Ethier and Hanley Ramirez have generated nothing but positive medical reports. No lingering issues.
  • Colletti is eager to see what Rule 5 draft-day acquisition Seth Rosin can bring. “Again, some of what we do is to continue to build the depth you need for a season.”
  • Preliminary conversations with the agent of Japanese pitching star Masahiro Tanaka have taken place. Colletti described it as a “feeling-out process.”
  • Infielder-turned-reliever Pedro Baez, essentially following the path of Kenley Jansen, “still has some things he’s got to learn, but he’s a very interesting talent.”

Ned Colletti on Yasiel Puig: ‘There are boundaries you’ve got to stay in’

Jon SooHoo/© Los Angeles Dodgers, LLC 2013

Jon SooHoo/© Los Angeles Dodgers, LLC 2013

By Jon Weisman

Speaking to reporters on Winter Development Camp media day at Dodger Stadium, Ned Colletti reiterated (among several topics, including the three-year-contract extension for Don Mattingly) that the team does not tolerate Yasiel Puig’s offseason mistakes — most recently an arrest speeding 110 mph in Florida — that conversations to educate him are ongoing and the outfielder has shown contrition.

“It’s a very interesting dynamic,” Colletti said. “I see a lot of different sides to it. I don’t condone what he’s done. I don’t know if it’s ironic, but it’s interesting to me that since the offseason began, he’s spent a lot of time in L.A., and he’s really spent a lot of time with kids. … He’s setting this great example and doing stuff I don’t see many big-league players do within the community. At the same time, there are boundaries you’ve got to stay in. Whether it’s how you drive or other things in your life, it’s part of growing up. That’s part of being responsible. That’s a key thing for us, and a key thing for him.”

Colletti said that he and Puig converse regularly, including the day he was arrested. He stressed that “he is an adult” and a 24/7 babysitter is nor what’s called for.

“He’s always been contrite with me,” Colletti added. “When I talked to him, he knew. He wasn’t in a good conversation, and he knew he wasn’t in a good spot. And he knew he had let a lot of people down. I said to him, ‘You did all this wonderful stuff in the community. How do you plan on explaining this to the kids? What if something tragic had happened — how are you going to explain that to the kids?’ ”

Colletti said several members of the organization continue to work with Puig to help him mature.

“We don’t condone the behavior,” Colletti said. “We do a lot of different things to teach and to mentor and to show him the responsibility that’s necessary … and educate to get to the point where the behavior conforms with what we need.”

Dodgers in a race to the upside down

Sure, OK, we can start with the bullpen. It’s hardly the only thing going on with the Dodgers, but it’s something. Oh yes, it’s something.

You need good relief to win, but you can’t plan for good relief. 

This comes up every year, so it’s tedious to point out, but it doesn’t seem to go without saying.

I’m going to ask take my years-old research into this on faith; whether you choose to do so is up to you. But what you find is that there is virtually no consistency year-to-year among relief pitchers. The best might give you two or three consecutive good years. The very best.

The reasons for this should be clear. You don’t become a reliever unless you are flawed in some way that prevents you from being a starter. That obviously doesn’t mean you can’t be a fantastic reliever in a given year, but for the most part, relievers are pitchers who aren’t designed to be great over the long haul. They typically have a limited number of pitches, which leaves them vulnerable to being figured out over time. The good ones end up getting overworked, or maybe they were never that good in the first place, instead merely a triumph of small sample size. We could go on, but let’s sum it up this way: Mariano Rivera is not reality.

The 2003 Dodger bullpen was incredible. It was also, in many significant ways, an accident.

Staffing a bullpen has always, fascinatingly, been Ned Colletti’s simultaneous strength and weakness. Colletti has had a knack for finding capable non-roster talent (Takashi Saito, Ronald Belisario) over the same years that he has invested multiyear deals in such inconsistent arms as Matt Guerrier and Brandon League. There is no correlation in the Colletti tenure between salary and performance, yet the expensive signings continue.

The point is that you can never feel good about your bullpen entering a season – never. I really believe that. You can’t feel anything at all. The best thing you can do is assemble a number of arms before Spring Training, a combination of youth and experience and promise and reclamation, and then hope for the best.

The peril of having someone with a long-term contract is that you feel obligated to keep him past the point of effectiveness. That’s the boat the Dodgers are in with League and Guerrier, even with a new ownership that doesn’t much worry about player salaries these days.

The Dodger bullpen is leaky through and through. Almost nothing is working right now. Just as you were gaining supreme confidence in Paco Rodriguez and Kenley Jansen, they found growing pains that left them struggling like the more experienced J.P Howell, League, Guerrier and, if you will, Belisario and Javy Guerra.

Fans tend to have unreasonable expectations of bullpens – you see outrage anytime any relief pitcher gives up a run, let alone a lead. I’m not sure where fans get the idea that every reliever on their team should have a 0.00 ERA, but there it is. Every Dodger relief pitcher since the heyday of Eric Gagne and Saito has been attacked for his failings, however momentary, however good that pitcher has been overall.  So when a bullpen is collectively struggling as much as the Dodger bullpen is, it’s frogs and locusts time.

Don Mattingly’s instinct has been correct in general to try to play matchups with his relievers. You can debate the specifics of all his choices – I don’t agree with them all – but the bottom line is, there’s little he can do when no one is reliable.

Mattingly’s bullpen Sunday faced 18 batters and got nine outs. When Jansen entered Saturday’s game in relief of Chris Capuano, he had thrown only 21 pitches in his previous 72 hours. Capuano had pitched well that night, but he was past the 90-pitch mark and going on a balky calf.

But when things are bad, things are bad.

Tim Federowicz is not a martyr.

This morning brought the news that Tim Federowicz, and not Luis Cruz or Ramon Hernandez, had been displaced from the active roster to make room for the return of Mark Ellis from the disabled list. Federowicz is more valuable than Cruz or Hernandez, but the hysteria this caused was rather remarkable.

When I called out this freakout on Twitter, several people lectured me, as if I didn’t know, that it wasn’t just about Federowicz, but that it was symptomatic of the Colletti Dodgers’ larger mismanagement in general or obsession with experience over youth in particular. As if I needed to be told that Colletti values experience, sometimes to the franchise’s detriment.

I’ve spent a lot of time on how to phrase this next section, because I don’t want to give the impression that you shouldn’t try to maximize every advantage you can. Federowicz can’t help the Dodgers that much right now, but sure, I’d rather see him get five at-bats a week over Hernandez, because an on-base percentage over .500 in Albuquerque and above-average defense suggest a better skill set than Hernandez currently offers. Scott Van Slyke’s callup was overdue, not because he was guaranteed to hit two homers in a game, but because he was on a hot streak in the minors that made it clear there was no better time to try him out.

But just as there is with the bullpen, there’s a level of knee-jerk fan reaction with the bench that is out of proportion. When a player is a single game away from having better stats than his competition, as Hernandez is compared with Federowicz (3 for 17 with one walk and no extra-base hits as a major-leaguer in 2013), and neither is projected to be a starter, and the alternatives to Hernandez as backup if A.J. Ellis gets hurt are Jesus Flores, Matt Wallach and Gorman Erickson, the uproar should not be Defcon Anything.

Yeah, Cruz stinks right now, and no one in their right mind would keep him over Juan Uribe – just like no one in their right mind would have argued to keep Uribe over Cruz last summer.

See what I’m getting at?

If you’re not frustrated with the Dodgers right now, you’re either not a Dodger fan or very zen. You’re not wrong if you’re unhappy with Federowicz’s demotion. But if you’re angry over Federowicz being sent down, you’re overreacting. It’s not symptomatic of the Dodgers’ larger problems. You’re not going to plug in Federowicz, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Alex Castellanos into the Dodger bench and as a result see things turn around.

And May 19 is too soon to give up, if only because of one person.

Matt Kemp.

Until Kemp starts hitting, nothing is going to happen with this team. Nothing. The Dodgers cannot win without his bat. And again, it’s not something anger will solve. The effort is there – if anything, he’s trying too hard to get things going. But it is up to Kemp.

It would help if Andre Ethier hit more, but the difference between what Ethier is doing compared to what is expected of him is not what it is with Kemp.

I’m sure Kemp has had all the advice in the world, from Mattingly, Mark McGwire and any number of coaches or people he meets on the street. But no one else can synthesize the good from the bad and put it into action.

You can start firing managers or coaches or trainers. Kemp still needs to hit.

The bullpen can start putting out fires. Kemp still needs to hit.

The defense can stop making two errors a game. Kemp still needs to hit.

But what if he does?

Let me tell you one more thing.  I would love to give up on the 2013 Dodgers. It will be a relief if and when I can. I spent part of my Sunday writing this 1,500-word piece that probably isn’t worth a damn, especially for a team barely winning 40 percent of its games.

And the season might be over, except for this. For all their problems, Los Angeles is still somehow only seven games out of first place. The Giants, in case you haven’t noticed, have their own cauldron of concerns. And Arizona and Colorado … I just don’t know. I can’t see them not hitting their own skid. I can’t see it.

The National League West looks like an 85-win division. That’s still within the Dodgers’ abilities.

The team gets healthier. The bullpen stops being a disaster. Matt Kemp starts to hit. And then …

Honestly, that’s as far as I can go. The team does look awful right now. It looks nothing like a winning team. It’s creaky and crumbly. Race to the bottom or race to the top – I truly can’t decide.

R.A. Dickey and Colorado: Climbing the mountain, falling off a cliff

All this and Mt. Kilimanjaro too? Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is everything Dodger fans wanted Charlie Haeger to be and more.

You might have thought climbing the big mountain or publishing a book might be Dickey’s biggest accomplishments of the year, but perhaps not.

Dickey, as David Schoenfield of notes, has not only thrown consecutive one-hitters, but in his past six starts, “Dickey is 6-0 with a 0.18 ERA (one earned run in 48 2/3 innings), 63 strikeouts, five walks and a .131 average allowed.”

Venerable New Yorker writer Roger Angell offered this:

… Dickey, whose full beard and peaceable appearance suggest a retired up-country hunting dog, is thirty-seven years old, with ten years and three prior big-league teams behind him, and hard work has brought him to this Shangri-La, perhaps only briefly. He’ll hope for another visit on Sunday, against the Yankees. Watching him, if you’ve ever played ball, you may find yourself remembering the exact moment in your early teens when you were first able to see a fraction of movement in a ball you’d flung, and sensed a magical kinship with the ball and what you’d just done together. This is where Dickey is right now, and for him the horrendous din of the game and its perpetual, distracting flow of replay and statistics and expertise and P.R. and money and expectation and fatigue have perhaps dimmed, leaving him still in touch with the elegant and, for now, perfectly recallable and repeatable movements of his body and shoulders and the feel of the thing on his fingertips.

* * *

Pitching is easy to predict – and hard too!

“Colorado’s rotation has undergone the most turnover and is the hardest to peg in the division, though you could say it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence,” I wrote in March for “A look at Colorado makes one appreciate the apparent stability of the Dodgers’ starting rotation.”

Basically, while there were several grim preseason forecasts about how the Dodgers would do this season, the one thing I was most sure of was that they wouldn’t finish behind the Rockies, whose pitching seemed to be in disarray.

Vindication of that position has come throughout 2012, with the Rockies’ starting pitchers combining for an ERA of more than 6.00. That has brought one Jim Tracy to the brink of … something: a four-man starting rotation with pitch-count limits of 75 per game.

Here’s Rob Neyer’s take at Baseball Nation:

… Tracy’s just guessing, of course. And there’s another, perhaps larger issue. If Tracy sticks to that 75-pitch limit, he’ll routinely be turning to his bullpen in the fifth and sixth innings. Now, if managers are crying for relief help with starting pitchers on 100-pitch limits — as they do, routinely — what’s going to happen with 75-pitch limits?

Theoretically, it could work. Tracy’s starters have been terrible, so he’s been going to his bullpen early in most games, anyway. The hope, I suppose, is that Tracy keeps going to his bullpen early, but with his starting pitchers allowing fewer runs than they have been. It’s a lot better to call the bullpen when you’re ahead 4-3 than when you’re losing 6-4.

So this should be interesting. For a week or two. Which, if history’s any guide, is how long this experiment will last.

Said Jorge Arangure Jr. of ESPN the Magazine:

… Tracy seemed almost stunned when talking to reporters about the plan. Obviously, this is not what he expected prior to the season when the Rockies were a trendy pick to win the NL West. Instead, just minutes before taking the field for batting practice Tuesday, Tracy gathered his pitching staff and told the players the surprising news.

The asterisk in the plan is that nothing is definite. Tracy conceded that anything could be modified should one of his starters excel during a particular start. The 75-pitch limit could be ignored. Heck, if Guthrie pitches well in relief, it’s not inconceivable to think that he would be placed back in the rotation.

For the past several weeks, Colorado reportedly has been looking to trade Guthrie — who is making $8.2 million this season, the highest salary on the pitching staff, excluding the injured Jorge De La Rosa. A demotion to the bullpen won’t help his trade market. But the only way for Guthrie to reclaim any trade value is to pitch well, and maybe pitching out of the bullpen is the solution.

“We don’t know what’s going to come out of this,” Tracy said.

Hey, credit Tracy — at least it wasn’t bland and boring.

And finally, this from Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post:

… The defining moment, with the beaker fizzing, will arrive when a starter actually performs well. But Tracy insisted that even if a starter is working a shutout, he will be removed at roughly 75 pitches.

“He has got to come out, because he has to pitch four days later,” Tracy said. “But if he goes five innings, he has pitched you to the point where you can go to a bullpen with some very significant people.”

But as easy as Colorado’s woes might have been to predict, you might not be able to say the same about Atlanta’s – at least, that’s what Michael Barr of Fangraphs argues.

And Tim Lincecum’s struggles are another thing unto themselves, becoming fodder for a discussion of luck and pitching by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.

… Saying that Tim Lincecum has been unlucky is probably not true. He’s struggling with his command, falling behind in counts more often, and throwing pitches that are rightfully getting crushed based on movement and location. If Wells had fouled off that fastball on Saturday, that would have been luck, so maybe you could argue that Lincecum is suffering from a lack of good luck (in that it’s quite possible that hitters aren’t missing his mistakes as often as they used to), but that’s not the same thing as suffering from bad luck.

And that’s why we should probably try to reduce our usage of the word luck to begin with. Yes, there are bloopers that fall in, broken bat squibs that find holes, or times when a defender just falls down and the pitcher gets blamed for his defensive miscue. There are definitely instances of luck in baseball, and they do effect the results that a pitcher is credited with. I’m not arguing against DIPS theory – I’m just saying that perhaps we should try to do a better job of talking about it when a guys results aren’t lining up with his process because he’s throwing bad pitches that hitters aren’t missing.

What Voros McCracken and the others who followed his research really showed us wasn’t that pitchers have no control over batted ball outcomes, but that the things that cause those gaps don’t hold up over time. Lincecum can be doing things that are causing him to give up a lot of runs now but history suggests that he won’t keep doing those things in the future. He’s either going to figure out how to fix his command or he’s going to change his approach to pitching, and he’s not going to keep locating 91 MPH fastballs middle-in at the belt with regularity. Maybe hitters will start missing his mistakes more often. Maybe he’ll start making fewer mistakes. Whatever the cause is, the effect is likely to be that Lincecum is going to get better results in the future than he has in the first two months of the season.

But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t earned his poor results to date. The word luck absolves him of blame for the outcome, which shouldn’t be what we’re trying to do. Blame Tim Lincecum for throwing terrible pitches – just realize that it doesn’t mean that he’s going to keep throwing terrible pitches in the future.

* * *

Elsewhere around the small white stitched globe …

Ned Colletti’s stock in trade

Evaluating Ned Colletti’s trading ability today is R.J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus:

… Colletti has traded 36 young players since taking over as GM. “Young,” in this case, includes players either in the minor leagues or at the beginning stages of their big-league career at the time of the trade. It’s a subjective measure, but that’s a given. Of those 36 players, 17 have never appeared in the majors. Fourteen of the remaining 19 have recorded one Win Above Replacement Player or fewer (with three finishing at less than -1 WARP). That means that, essentially, five players have had productive big-league careers since being traded by Colletti. Those players are Edwin Jackson, Dioner Navarro, Cody Ross, Carlos Santana, and James McDonald. …

Colletti’s evaluation mistakes cost the Dodgers two middle-of-the-rotation starters, an All-Star catcher, and a good fourth outfielder at most. But what about the flip side? What about when Colletti correctly evaluated his own prospects? Silver wrote, “One of [Colletti’s] strengths seems to be knowing when to bail on his own players.” In the time since, Colletti has reaffirmed that notion. Some of Colletti’s better trades have come when correctly identifying the lemons in his own bunch. He traded Bryan Morris and LaRoche to acquire Manny Ramirez (easily the best deal of his career), used the intrigue of Joel Guzman to land Julio Lugo (whom, for whatever reason, fell to pieces, mitigating an otherwise clever deal), grabbed Jon Garland for Tony Abreu, got Jim Thome for nothing, and added Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot for Blake DeWitt and two prospects who were unable to make the Cubs’ top-20 list this preseason.

Tagging Colletti as a good or bad general manager adds no value. What can add value is breaking general managers down to tools and skills. Colletti seems to understand that future value is worth less than present value, particularly when his team has the ability to compete now and the resources to compete later. Proper evaluation is the engine in Colletti’s machine. That means the Dodgers have to continue to land potentially useful players and continue to evaluate and harvest the potentially overvalued prospects. Every once and a while, Colletti is going to miss on a player. It happens; even John Schuerholz, the master of farm system self-evaluation, lost a few times.

This isn’t to say that Dodgers fans should have blind faith in Colletti, just that cowering in fear seems to be equally as unreasonable.

I like the specificity of Anderson’s story, though I would quibble with some of his objective assessments of the deals (not excerpted here). Anderson also doesn’t factor in Colletti’s work on the free-agent market, which has all kinds of pluses and minuses. In the end (appropriately enough), I agree with Anderson’s concluding statement.

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