Friday, February 07, 2003
Eric Karros: Sparring Partner
I woke up this morning realizing that overnight I had dreamed that Eric Karros had hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the 17th inning at Wrigley Field to give the Cubs a victory over the Dodgers.
I had been thinking about writing about Karros 2003, and decided this would be the day. Then I got the Times and saw that Ross Newhan had beaten me to the punch. Man, I hate getting scooped.
But moving forward…
First of all, what does this dream represent? Feelings of anxiety, certainly. Fear of betrayal? Fear of having misjudged? Too much preoccupation with the Dodgers? Latent wish-fulfillment based on the idea that I would want all ex-Dodgers, no matter who they were, to succeed?
It is true that, long, long ago, I was a Karros fan. Seems hard to believe now – Grandma Sue, who teases me about my antipathy for Karros every time we go to a game – would not dream it possible.
But in May 1992, as the Dodgers’ fortunes and my own simultaneously spiraled downward, Karros hit a pinch-hit, three-run, bottom-of-the-ninth home run to beat the Pirates. Karros gave me a big lift that night – I even thought about writing him a letter to thank him. I didn’t follow through, but clearly, consciously if not unconsciously as well, that homer has stuck with me.
Though I am much happier now, anxieties remain. And for better or worse, Eric Karros will not be part of the solution. As a Cub, there isn’t much he can do to make me feel better about myself, the world, life in general.
But will he be part of the problem? Will Eric Karros come back to haunt me, in my waking hours in addition to my dreams.
Here are some of the basic possibilities:
--Buoyed by the easier hitting conditions of Wrigley Field, Karros’ numbers could go up. Burdened by the tougher hitting conditions of Dodger Stadium, the numbers of Karros’ replacement, Fred McGriff, could go down. Though McGriff might still be the better player for the Dodgers, superficial fans will scream “I told you the Karros trade was dumb.”
--Karros plays poorly against the rest of the league, but torches the Dodgers here and at Wrigley.
--Karros can’t beat out Hee Seop Choi for a starting role and languishes on the bench.
I am hoping the Dodgers made the right decision in getting rid of Karros for their sake, but I admit that I also have the same hope for my sake. I really don’t want my opinion of this move to be wrong.
It’s not like I’m in the minority among those who analyze the game about Karros’ potential effectiveness. But for whatever reason, I feel I have a great deal invested in having drawn this particular conclusion. I’ve been on Eric Karros’ back the way UCLA basketball fans have been on Steve Lavin’s. For years, we’ve been fed up with the Karros/Lavin weaknesses – and even fed up with their occasional successes, because those successes would enable the weaknesses to continue.
Well, now Lavin is going, and Karros is gone. The punching bags are being removed. What will take their place? Will a new punching bag emerge? And, if Karros somehow manages to reverse his downward spiral and have a great year, will that punching bag be me?
Thursday, February 06, 2003
Thumbs Up (?)
A neutral party as far as I can tell, Chris Kahrl of Baseball Prospectus, gave the Dodgers' offseason moves a fairly positive review - some of which in contrast to what I've been saying.
Do I agree with him? Not completely. But he makes a better case than the mainstream media coverage of the Dodgers has.
I also appreciate any and all references to Strat-o-Matic baseball.
...Actually, no. (I mean, yes about Strat-o-Matic, no about the better case for the Dodgers.) I'm rereading Kahrl 20 minutes later and finding myself not convinced. I was swayed originally because I agree about McGriff and that Chad Hermansen has the potential not to be awful as a backup. But I still don't think they should have given up pitching for Ward, and most of the other guys mentioned as insurance remain dubious to me. I've never heard of Chris Clapinski, much less the news of the Dodgers acquring him. Maybe that just makes me ignorant, but as a 31-year-old who hasn't played in the majors since 2000, he doesn't inspire much salivation, either.
Almost Makes Me Want To Love Him All Over Again
From the Associated Press:
New York Yankees outfielder Raul Mondesi is focusing on the start of spring training, not on trade rumors.
There had been speculation the Yankees were trying to deal the strong-armed right fielder, possibly to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"If they trade me to another big league team, there's no problem,'' Mondesi said Wednesday. "It would be difficult if they traded me to a football or basketball team because I don't know how to play that.''
Really, Raul, you're too modest...
Wednesday, February 05, 2003
No. 6 for the Dodgers…
If there is one player most identified with the Dodgers from the 1970s, that player is Steve Garvey.
But by the measure of OPS, not once was Garvey the best hitter on his team – not even during Garvey’s National League MVP year of 1974:
1974 Garvey .811 -- Jimmy Wynn, .884
1975 Garvey .827 -- Ron Cey, .845
1976 Garvey .813 -- Ron Cey, .848
1977 Garvey .833 -- Reggie Smith, 1.003
1978 Garvey .852 -- Reggie Smith, .942
1979 Garvey .848 -- Ron Cey, .888
1980 Garvey .808 -- Dusty Baker, .842
1981 Garvey .733 -- Ron Cey, .846
1982 Garvey .719 -- Pedro Guerrero, .914
Heck, even Eric Karros led the Dodgers in OPS once, in 1998.
Though some would point to the Dodgers’ failure to resign Garvey after the 1982 season as one of the lowpoints of the pre-Fox era in Los Angeles, by 1982 Garvey trailed Guerrero, Baker, Ken Landreaux, Cey and even Rick Monday in OPS among Dodgers who played 100 or more games that year – making the No. 6 on his uniform ever so appropriate.
Keep in mind, also, that Garvey played an easier defensive position than the rest of these players. Garvey’s production, after years of consistency, was declining sharply – much like Karros in recent years.
The much maligned Greg Brock, Garvey’s replacement in 1983, hit only .224 but walked 83 times with 20 home runs, giving him an OPS of .739 that was also sixth on the team. Not nearly what one would hope for in replacing a legend, but not as bad as it seemed at the time.
For his part, Garvey went to San Diego in 1983 and for the first time in his career, led his team in OPS, producing a .803 mark. Of course, other than a young Tony Gwynn, the Padres didn’t have the talent that the Dodgers had during those years.
Unfortunately for Garvey, 1983 was the year he finally got hurt, playing in only 100 games. This was more or less his last gasp as a productive player. Garvey then finished his career with OPS marks of .680, .748, .692 and .507.
Steve Garvey has always been a borderline candidate for the Hall of Fame, and each year it looks more and more like he won’t make it. This is not meant to kick him while he’s down. It’s more to point out that if we looked at things then the way we are tending to now, not even Garvey’s senatorial image would have ensured him being viewed as the most vital cog on the Dodgers.
Tuesday, February 04, 2003
A Bad Call
Not that I couldn't have commented on this before, but since the Bruce Froemming story became a Dodger story today, I feel a little more compelled.
First of all, this is a great decision by the Dodgers. There are certainly plenty of other umpires that you can hire to work a fantasy camp before you use someone who called his supervisor a "stupid Jew bitch" on the telephone. Talk about an umpire's bad call.
Going beyond that, there's the issue of Froemming's punishment by Major League Baseball. His remark cost him a 10-day suspension and a trip to Tokyo to work MLB's opening day.
He shouldn't have gotten anything less. I think his remarks are sufficiently insubordinate, insensitive and destructive to the workplace to merit suspension.
Some say he should have been fired. At least one person has compared this to Al Campanis' egregious remarks about African Americans on Nightline.
Campanis' actions called into question his qualifications to supervise the control of players' careers, so whatever his previous track record, I supported and still support the decision to fire him. I don't know if anyone's going to check Shawn Green's batting stats when Froemming has been behind home plate, but barring any remarkable evidence of that sort, I don't know that the situations are greatly analogous.
However, I do think Froemming, as an on-field supervisor, deserves more of a suspension than John Rocker got for his awful remarks about minorities and others in an interview with Sports Illustrated. Rocker was originially suspended for 45 days of Spring Training and the first 28 days of the regular season. That suspension was later reduced to 0 days of Spring Training and 14 days of the regular season - still more than Froemming has gotten.
Froemming's excuse for making the remarks was that he thought he had hung up the phone - and by the way, he told the press, "There was no anti-Semitism whatsoever on my part.''
This looks like a bad call all around.
Let’s Hope Those Ballet Lessons Are Worth It
…and Shawn Green as Timmy Lupus?
Darren Dreifort may not have much in common with Shaquille O’Neal, much less Tatum O’Neal, but there is this:
Shaquille O’Neal, who has a lucrative contract for many dollars to play the Lakers, has been plagued by injuries (to his toe).
Tatum O’Neal, who had a lucrative contract for many ballet lessons to play for the Bad News Bears, was plagued by injuries (to her elbow).
Darren Dreifort may not now, yet or ever be has valuable to the Dodgers as those two were to their teams, but he is their third-highest paid player. And to be sure, he has been plagued by injuries – he hasn’t pitched in a game since June 29, 2001.
Based on how much has been written about him this offseason, no one seems to care about Dreifort’s fate. But he is arguably the Dodgers’ biggest story entering 2003.
Sidebar - Top 5 questions facing the 2003 Dodgers:
5) Will they get any production from their bench, particularly if a starter gets hurt?
4) Can Eric Gagne be more than a one-year wonder?
3) Will Adrian Beltre finally become a star?
2) Does Kevin Brown have anything left?
1) Whither Darren Dreifort?
Monday, reliever Giovanni Carrara signed his contract for 2003. In today’s Los Angeles Times:
He has been used primarily as a set-up man and middle reliever, but General Manager Dan Evans said Carrara could move to the rotation if Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort don't return from injuries.
Dreifort was actually expected to pitch late last year in his first attempt to come back from arm surgery, but injured his knee. The idea that he might still not be ready to pitch, that Dan Evans is talking about Carrara, in addition to injury-riddled non-roster signee Wilson Alvarez, as potential starting pitchers is a very underplayed story this offseason.
Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in a week, with several weeks to go before the regular season starts, and so there will be plenty of time to talk about it then. But in a city where Shaquille O’Neal’s toe was written about virtually every week of the NBA offseason, the Dreifort and Brown situation merits concern now.
Though Brown is owed $45 million through 2005 and Dreifort is owed $35 million, I think Dreifort’s the bigger story because he is only 30 years old right now, whereas Brown is 37. Even though Brown has had by far the better career, Dreifort has the greater potential for recovery. He is the biggest X-factor on a team that barely missed the playoffs the past two seasons, and no one’s talking about it.
Darren Dreifort in the role of Tatum O’Neal? The Dodgers in the role of The Bad News Bears? Fox in the role of Chico’s Bail Bonds?
It’s worth watching.
Monday, February 03, 2003
The Bridegrooms as Bridesmaids
The Dodgers, who were known as the Brooklyn Bridegrooms for several years in the late 1800s, have played six consecutive seasons without making the playoffs – their most since a seven-season streak from 1967-73.
It could be worse (and indeed, it can still be worse).
Longest streaks without postseason play for the Dodgers since 1900 (keeping in mind that only two teams made the postseason until 1969):
If you’re reading this, you probably know that the Dodgers haven’t won a postseason game since 1988 – 14 seasons. So the top two streaks above are what they are challenging for true postseason futility.
During those three long streaks that began before 1969, the Dodgers finished in second place in the National League in 1902, 1924, 1940, 1970, 1971 and 1973. Just for fun, let’s say the Dodgers were the wild-card team those years. Then, in the hypofunical world, the streaks would be:
In researching this, I actually found something even more interesting, or at least surprising.
In their long history, the Dodgers have not played a postseason game in more than two consecutive seasons.
They almost broke the streak in the mid-1990s. They were leading the NL West in 1994 when the strike hit and wiped out the postseason. The Dodgers then won the division in 1995 and the wild card in 1996.
Surprising to me, anyway.