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Dodger Thoughts


Friday, January 24, 2003

Are the Dodgers planning on trading some of their pitchers, or are they just concerned that they aren’t healthy?

The team will carry 11 pitchers on its roster this season. Currently, the Dodgers have five starting pitchers in Brown, Perez, Ishii, Nomo and Ashby, five relievers in Gagne, Quantrill, Shuey, Carrara and Mota, plus Darren Dreifort. Their only real need right now is for a lefthander to substitute for one the aforementioned relievers, who are all righties.

Unless …

1) The team plans on trading from its surplus of starters or righthanded relievers to bolster the offense.
2) They don’t feel that the pitchers they have now are healthy enough to endure this season.

The Dodgers have signed such lefty relievers as Pedro Borbon, Jr. to non-roster contracts to fulfill the slot that Jesse Orosco most recently handled. But the recent addition of Wilson Alvarez, an injury-plagued and ostensibly washed-up lefthanded starter, has me wondering.

Alvarez has won 88 games in his career and threw a no-hitter, but he had to sit out the 2000 and 2001 seasons before going 2-3, 5.28 in 23 games (10 as a starter) with lowly Tampa Bay last season.

General Manager Dan Evans told the press that envisions Alvarez as a candidate to replace swingman Omar Daal, now with Baltimore. But there’s a key difference. Daal was healthy – Daal was insurance. Alvarez is anything but. Plus, they already have six starting pitchers on the roster before you even get to Alvarez.

With a non-guaranteed contract, of course, Alvarez may be nothing more than a flight of fancy. But he only amplifies the imbalance on the Dodger roster: lots of dubiously healthy starting pitchers.

If Alvarez actually can pitch, what can we expect? Dreifort and Brown are untradeable because of their contracts. Nomo and Perez pitched too well last year to trade at this point. And in the current economy, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone wanting to take on the contracts of Ashby and Ishii before the late-summer pennant push, even if those two pitch well.

The only role for Alvarez right now is to take the lefthanded short relief slot (which in itself implies that Mota or Carrara will be traded – I don’t think either would be heading back to Las Vegas.)

Unless – and this is the big one - the Dodgers already suspect that at least one of their starting pitchers will not be ready to take the mound in March?

This is my hunch. Further, I’ll make Kevin Brown my head huncho.

Shav Glick in the Times today raised a point that I am surprised I haven't seen mentioned before. When Barry Bonds comes up to the plate, will new Chicago Cubs (and former San Francisco Giants) manager Dusty Baker pitch to him?

Thursday, January 23, 2003

I just found a nice - and very up-to-date - Dodgers depth chart graphic on CBS Sportsline.
The Dodgers have signed some players to non-guaranteed contracts to create more possibilities for their very weak bench. (See and scroll down to my January 8 entry).

Terry Shumpert, 36, plays seven positions. Though his OPS in 2000 and 2001 was near .800 and in 1999 it was near 1.000 – all as a reserve – it fell last year to an unimpressive .676.

Quivio Veras, a 31-year-old infielder, has more of a pedigree as a starter. He has always had speed but hasn’t always hit. In 2000 he had a fine OPS of .822 in 84 games with Atlanta, but that fell to .687 in 71 games in 2001. He missed 2002 because of knee surgery.

Shumpert and Veras, though not stars, offer some useful alternatives to Jolbert Cabrera. I can’t say for certain that they would be better. Cabrera is younger and healthier (though he did suffer a gunshot wound to his buttocks a couple of years ago!) and also plays infield and outfield, like Shumpert. But Shumpert and Veras have probably had more productive moments.

In other bench news, Ken Gurnick of reports, as I sort of suspected, that the Dodgers would like to keep a third catcher in David Ross, since Todd Hundley squats behind the plate at everyone’s collective peril. Hundley would be more likely to fill the role of lead left-handed pinch hitter vacated by Dave Hansen.

I’m also dropping Wilkin Ruan and Luke Allen back down to Las Vegas. In this week's analysis by USA Today Sports Weekly of the Dodger farm system (which I hope to address soon), I saw that Ruan really doesn’t look like he’s ready to hit in the majors. Hermansen may not be ready either, but he’s a little further along. Allen looks the most ready, but he doesn’t play center field. To use Allen would leave Dave Roberts without a true backup in center field (Shumpert is also more of a leftfielder). My suspicion is that the Dodgers see no better option than to let Roberts go for 150 games in center – but they’d still want to have some sort of backup who can play the position.

So here’s a revised look at the makeup of the Dodger bench (certainly not the final revision):

Todd Hundley, C/1B, .722 OPS
Mike Kinkade, 1B/LF, 1.083 OPS
Cesar Izturis, SS, .556 OPS
David Ross, C, ,985 OPS (in 10 at-bats, including his home run off Mark Grace)
Chad Hermansen, OF, 651 OPS
Terry Shumpert, IF/OF, by a hair over Cabrera and Veras.

I hope to look at some recent signings to provide choices for the pitching staff next.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Reactions to the news that Dave Checketts, former impresario of the New York Knicks, New York Rangers and Madison Square Garden, is going to try to buy the Dodgers:

1) I don't know much about Checketts, but I do know that he presided over most of a most chaotic decade for the Knicks, a decade that has been about as unrewarding to them as it has been for the Dodgers. The Knicks have made it to the NBA Finals twice in the time since the Dodgers made it to the World Series.

Checketts did hire Pat Riley when Riley still made a difference as a coach, but later clashed with him. Checketts then hired Don Nelson, then fired him in midseason and gave the job to assistant Jeff Van Gundy. Checketts also clumsily contacted Phil Jackson about coaching the Knicks during 1999, the one season that Van Gundy was leading them to the Finals.

2) One of the Dodgers' strengths right now is that they seem to have refound some stability and sanity in management. To upset that now would be devastating, unless Checketts is like a Jerry West - which I have no reason to believe that he is.

3) Am I in love with News Corp./Fox owning the Dodgers? Of course not. But I think the most painful part of the Fox era has passed. Whatever the next era is, I pray that it begins less painfully.

I asked New York sports sufferer James Gray to comment on Checketts. Here's his e-mail:

checketts was a disappointment to me when he ran the knicks. he seemed to
show an amazing capacity to build a contender, but that's about all.
consistently, he put together squads that were one or two pieces short and
made a few AWFUL moves as knicks' gm that kept them from winning it all. he
did the same thing in utah, assembling a squad that would win 55 games every
year but never had a decent center or two-guard. it should be said in his
defense that he clearly cares about winning--and the rangers did win the
stanley cup during his tenure--but something tells me he'd give you a team
in l.a. that comes up a hair short. he is the man, after all, who got the
knicks charles smith and thought john starks was a championship-quality
shooting guard (2 for 18, game 7, finals).

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Hi -

There's an interesting article today about Jim Tracy, comparing him to 23-year Dodger manager Walter Alston. But the most interesting thing I found was this: Tracy is 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.

This may be an innocuous detail on the surface, but Tracy always struck me as so mild-mannered, it never occurred to me that he is in fact bigger than most of the players on the team. (Yes, ballplayers are getting bigger, but 6-3, 205 is still big.) I would have thought he was closer to my size.

I'm sure that it's more important that Tracy is smart and not dumb, and I'm sure there have been plenty of smaller managers that have been successful, but I would think bigger is better in terms of leading a team. Maybe I'll look up the top managers in baseball history and see if I can find out their sizes. (I know, as if anyone really cares...)

Another question is, where would short but stocky fall in this spectrum? Tommy Lasorda, anyone?

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