Saturday, July 19, 2003
Time to Revisit the Shuey Trade - But Not Today
Evaluating the Dodgers' acquisition of Paul Shuey became more complicated Friday, when the Cleveland Indians' traded former Dodger prospect Ricardo Rodriguez, along with outfielder Shane Spencer, to the Texas Rangers for outfielder Ryan Ludwick.
I hope to look at all this sometime soon - but I just don't have time right now. In general, you may have noticed that my entries in the past week have become more rushed. The reasons: a very busy time at work, and the recent development of my daughter into a crawler and pull-herself-upper. I hope you'll bear with me as I try to get ahold of my schedule without sacrificing these primary needs.
Heck - I couldn't even pause long enough to make that last sentence as articulate as I wanted it to be.
Thanks for understanding.
The Price of Admission
Sometimes, you get rewarded for staying home. Though Friday's Dodger game may have been one of the most entertaining of the season, it was fun to be able to see the TV coverage in the Dodger dugout of Rickey Henderson playfully demonstrating his home run swing to his new teammates. The festivities even encouraged Kevin Brown to show off, of all things, his home run swing - a little Air Home Run competition, if you get the idea.
Friday, July 18, 2003
I Like Mine with Relish
Two observations I made during the 23 pitches Rickey Henderson saw in his Dodger debut Thursday night.
One, Rickey periodically stretches his mouth wide open like he's warming up to swallow a hedgehog.
Two, his swing still has a snap like a Gray's Papaya hot dog.
Insert Play on Words Using the Word "First" Here
It's funny - sometimes I just check the Dodger coverage of the Orange County Register as an afterthought. Nothing against the paper, but with the Angels as its local team, the Register doesn't devote a lot of space to the team up the Golden State Freeway.
Concise or not, beat writer Robert Kuwada sometimes hits more relevant territory than some of his competitors. Today, Kuwada reports that Shawn Green will start playing first base sooner than people might expect (perhaps before Mike Piazza, I might add).
Sad but poetic, the Register now requires registration. But for complete Dodger coverage, it may well be worth it.
Ironically, Green on Thursday made perhaps the nicest catch I've seen him make all season - a sliding grab of Scott Rolen's shallow fly with one on and two out in the eighth.
You've Got Gas
I got a kick out Bob Pool's article in the Times Thursday on the Union 76 station in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. In case you missed it, click here.
I take it that the price of Dodger Gas hasn't risen the way the price of a Dodger Dog has.
Thursday, July 17, 2003
Reflected in the Spotlight
Dodger outfielders: Shawn Green, Jeromy Burnitz, Rickey Henderson, Mike Kinkade, Paul Lo Duca, Jolbert Cabrera.
Dodger third basemen: Adrian Beltre.
While all eyes will be on Burnitz and Henderson beginning tonight, in one respect, their arrival in Los Angeles has made Beltre even more pivotal.
Beltre's on-base percentage, a sorry .286, is at its highest level since he went 2 for 4 on Opening Day in Arizona. I leave it to you to decide whether that makes your hot corner 1/4-full or 3/4-empty.
Should Henderson or Burnitz falter, the Dodger outfield could fall back on Cabrera, Kinkade and Lo Duca (which is to say, Dave Ross catching so Lo Duca can play outfield) - all of whom have are at least average major league hitters in 2003. If and when Dave Roberts and Fred McGriff return from injuries, even more options will be available. Dodger manager Jim Tracy will have plenty of opportunities to mix and match combinations.
But barring a trade, there is still no alternative to Beltre, the guy I continue to pull for more than any other Dodger. He's become my Timmy Lupus. And eventually, the camera is going to focus back on him.
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
A Super Week for Clark Kent
In November 1989, the Daily News promoted me from 29-hour-a-week part-timer to full-time status. My first assignment after the promotion was to do a feature on a senior swingman for the Kennedy High School basketball team in Granada Hills. Not only was the guy a 20-plus-points-per-game scorer, but he had also hit a game-winning home run as a junior in the City 4-A baseball championship.
The guy wasn't talkative, but he was polite. I massaged a decent story out of it, concocting some sort of Superman theme: mild-mannered on the outside, but heroic when it counted.
I'm gonna cut to the chase because this is a busy day at work - the guy was, and is, Garret Anderson. And I'm amazed at his calm evolution into a true baseball star. I've covered plenty of guys who have since made it big - heck, I once took a final exam with Mike Mussina in an Omaha hotel conference room during the '88 College World Series - but the idea that my first story as a full-timer, that soft-spoken guy I interviewed in the Kennedy gym, is the reigning Home Run Derby champ and All-Star Game MVP, 14 years later? It really makes me happy. Guess it would have been cooler if I had been in Chicago this week to cover it all, but what can you do?
Way to go, Garret.
Correction: Bob Timmermann of the History Department at the Los Angeles Pubilc Library writes:
Thanks, Bob. I'm sorry for the mistake, but am going to believe/hope that I had it right back in '89.
Love your site, but I thought I should tell you that Garret Anderson did not hit a game-winning homer in the City High School baseball championship game at Dodger Stadium. He hit one in the semis against Sylmar, however, and that may be where you were confusing it.
I'm enough of a geek to have the complete list of people who have homered at Dodger Stadium as high schoolers (City Section also): http://home.earthlink.net/~btimmer/homers.html.
And I went to Kennedy, although I am several years older than Garret. I think Garret has cemented the title of "Most Famous Athlete Ever to Play at Kennedy" at least on the male side. Sherri Howard won a gold medal on a 4x400 relay team in the 1988 Olympics, I believe.
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Will Someone Please Think of the Children?
And here I was, preoccupied with the parents here in Los Angeles. Sadly, Monday's trade was more costly than we realized, according to the Florida Times-Union:
"The Jacksonville Suns' prospects for a second-half Southern League title took a big hit yesterday when the Los Angeles Dodgers traded second baseman Victor Diaz and pitcher Jose Diaz (no relation) to the New York Mets for outfielder Jeromy Burnitz."
Jeff Elliott writes that Victor Diaz "was named the Southern League All-Star Game's Most Valuable Player on Tuesday after hitting a two-run home run and a single at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville." Hope the Suns didn't plan a bobblehead night for him.
Meanwhile, the New York Post makes Joselo Diaz out to be something of a child - although isn't that the pot calling the kettle ebony:
July 15, 2003 -- Newly acquired minor league pitcher Joselo Diaz overslept and missed a start when the Vero Beach Dodgers were - ironically enough - facing the St. Lucie Mets a month ago, The Post has learned.
The 23-year-old Diaz, one of three minor leaguers the Mets acquired yesterday in the Jeromy Burnitz trade, told the Dodgers that his alarm clock didn't go off, a source said. The Dodgers told Diaz to stay home.
"Diaz has a major-league arm, but, in spite of being a good kid, what most outsiders don't realize about him is he has a shoddy work ethic," a minor-league source said.
Monday, July 14, 2003
Save and Sane
Andrew Baggarly of the Riverside Press-Enterprise had two interesting notes today.
The first note was that both Paul Quantrill and Tom Martin each appeared in their sixth consecutive game Sunday, something that no major-league pitcher did last season.
It wasn't exactly punishing work for Quantrill (74 pitches) and Martin (61 pitches), so I wouldn't make too big a deal out of the exertion, especially with the All-Star break beginning today.
At the same time, that looming All-Star break should have made the Dodgers more liberal with their use of the well-rested Eric Gagne. With the bases loaded and one out in an eighth-inning tie Friday in Colorado, Gagne should have been brought in to pitch instead of Quantrill.
Yes, Canada's other pride did throw a borderline 3-2 pitch that could have gotten him the strikeout he needed, instead of the walk he abhorred, but I still would have gone with someone less likely to go to 3-2 in the first place and someone more likely to blow two batters away in a tie game.
And please, don't give me that nonsense about it not being a save situation again. Tie or not, that was the biggest save situation of the game.
Essentially, to go into Colorado on a Friday, knowing that your best pitcher will not be pitching Monday or Wednesday at a minimum, and only use him for one inning, is a waste - one that might have cost the Dodgers a game.
The second note was this: although March hope Joe Thurston has been making progress at the plate, he is a remarkable 0 for 10 in stolen base attempts this season. Thurston's OPS at Las Vegas, I might add, is still an unremarkable .718.
Baggarly writes, "Though GM Dan Evans said that several teams inquired about Thurston last year, the Dodgers couldn't give away the second baseman now." I don't believe that literally, but the sentiment is understood.
Joey Ballgame and David Eckstein are struggling. It's a rough year for Team Moxie.
Do the Giants Have the Pitching?
San Francisco strengthened its bullpen late Sunday by acquiring former Dodger Matt Herges from San Diego. This is Herges' fifth National League team in 16 months.
Not that every little bit might now help, but if I were the Giants, I'd be more worried about their starting pitching behind Jason Schmidt than their bullpen. The ERA for San Francisco starters is 4.09 - including Schmidt's 2.37. The Giants' bullpen ERA is 3.70.
Either way, the Giants have real pitching worries. Their ERA away from pitching-friendly Pac Bell Park is 4.41. Of course, the San Francisco offense still packs a punch.
Arizona is looking pretty ship-shape these days, but here are two quick thoughts on what might stop Arizona from completing its comeback and winning the National League West: 1) Randy Johnson struggles like Kevin Brown 2002. 2) The rookies that have led the Diamondbacks' rally to this point fade as opponents figure out their weaknesses, and the veterans aren't able to keep up the slack.
The race isn't over for the Dodgers, but they do need some serious dominos to fall in line.
New Blood - First Reaction
I am irrationally jazzed about Rickey.
That the 44-year-old Hall-of-Famer-to-be is a no-lose pickup for the Dodgers has been discussed here at length. (Here and here, for example.) Henderson may struggle to hit .200, but he will walk, and he will spark. Think about this: the man will be perhaps the greatest offensive player ever to wear a Dodger uniform (challenging Frank Robinson, among others, for that award). No, he's not that player on the field any more, but he's not Rafael Landestoy, either.
And does anyone love the game more than Rickey does? He may not win the Dodgers a playoff berth, but he adds juice - and for the major-league minimum salary. Truly one of the most exciting Dodger acquisitions in my memory - no matter what he does.
Jeromy Burnitz - well, let's say at a minimum, my excitement is a little more adulterated. Here are some quick thoughts. I'm hoping Rob Neyer, Aaron Gleeman or one of the other smart guys out there will come through with some hardcore analysis of the trade, but until then, here are the initial reactions inside Weismandom.
1. Initial reaction: Ugh. That was based on the misery of his 2002 season, in which he OPSed .668 for the New York Mets.
2. Subsequent reaction: Hmm. Based on the fact that Burnitz has turned it around this year. No, he hasn't made the Mets a contender, but he has OPSed .925, with 18 home runs - eight more than any Dodger has in 2003. Pretty impressive turnaround at age 34.
3. EQA, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus: .300. That's higher than every Dodger except slugging Guillermo Mota (.353). Paul Lo Duca leads the Dodgers at .285. Brian Jordan is second at .282. Shawn Green is down at .262 - near the major league average. If Burnitz keeps it above .300, that would be enough to make a difference.
4. Yep, he really does spell it "Jeromy."
5. Who did the Dodgers give up? Three guys, 23 or younger, that might be major leaguers in 2005 or 2006, but none with stardom ensured. Two of them are pitchers, but even though John Wiebe quickly e-mailed me to say that both are striking out nearly a man per inning, I think he would agree that none projects as a frontline starter. Meanwhile, Victor Diaz is a decent-hitting second baseman, perhaps a better prospect than Joe Thurston, but I don't know if you can go much further. Put simply, in recent years, Los Angeles has traded better prospects than this.
6. The Dodgers only have to pay $2 million of Burnitz's salary, and he'll be a free agent at the end of the season, which means they might get at least one draft pick in compensation. (I'm a little hazy on the current state of those rules - feel free to write me with a clarification.)
7. Burnitz doesn't have the upside of a Brian Giles, or even an Aubrey Huff, but the Dodgers didn't have to give up Odalis Perez to get him. (Robert Tagorda compares Burnitz to Giles at Priorities and Frivolities, also noting Burnitz's poor performance historically at Dodger Stadium.) Is Perez + Burnitz > Giles? Maybe not, but you can make the case.
8. Burnitz has crushed right-handed pitching this season - thank God the Dodgers attended to that need. Burnitz's OPS vs. RHP in 2003: 1.001.
9. Against lefties, he is at .774, which isn't bad by Dodger standards. However, those are good days to make sure Mike Kinkade - or Henderson - is in the lineup. (See #12.)
10. Burnitz also has a dramatic home-road OPS split: .718 at home, 1.136 on the road.
11. Major downside #1: Burnitz doesn't walk anymore. Although he drew 99 walks in 2000, his totals have declined to 80 in 2001, 58 in 2002 and only 21 in 2003. Burnitz was out for a month (April 22 - May 23) after a pitch broke a bone in his left hand, that's still not a lot of walks for a team that needs them. His OBP, .344, is nothing spectacular.
12. Major downside #2: his defense. Burnitz has become a liability in the outfield - and until Dave Roberts returns, might even be asked to play some center. A defense of Green in right, Burnitz in center and Lo Duca/Kinkade/Henderson? Man, the Dodgers had better keep the ball on the ground. Another reason to sit Burnitz against lefties.
13. Before Roberts or Fred McGriff come back, the Dodgers still don't have a lot of lineup flexibility against righties. On days that Henderson does not play, you might still see Cesar Izturis or Alex Cora up high, where they don't belong. But by August, perhaps you'll see something like this.
Lo Duca, C
Lo Duca, C
Even putting my excitement about Rickey's intangibles aside, I'm probably way too optimistic about him. He wouldn't help every team, but boy, I do think he helps the Dodgers. The Dodgers got an OBP guy and an HR guy, and still have the same pitching. I'm not usually very positive about midseason trades by the Dodgers, but I think they've found a balance between the needs of 2003 and the needs of 2005. Did they get enough for the three prospects they gave up? I don't know, but I think they're in the ballpark.
I can already feel the buzz coming when the season resumes Thursday. Never would have imagined that Rickey Henderson would someday be a Dodger. And never would have imagined that a guy like Jeromy Burnitz could actually help a team I'm rooting for by playing for it, as opposed to stiffing against it. But such is the state of the extremely strange Dodgers.
Answered and Asked
So it looks like hitting coach Jack Clark will be sticking around for a while. Fair enough.
But what was he getting at with these comments to Jason Reid in the Times today?
"Some of my frustrations were because of a lot of the ways things were handled personally with me, where I was told things were going to happen for me, and they never [did]," Clark said. "The reasons why? I never knew. All I knew was, I just never got phone calls returned. I never got answers for things, for what was going on, so I could make decisions in my own life.
No follow-up explanation came from Reid, so I guess the Secret Story of Dan Evans will wait to be revealed another day. And maybe it should stay secret, for all I know. But if it is meant to be private, why would Clark tease Reid and Reid's readers like this?
"But Danny kind of opened up to me and explained some of the reasons; the health [problems] he was having in his family, and some different things he had going on from the move from Chicago. There was a lot of stuff I wasn't aware of. He came out and said he made mistakes and he learned. I actually felt bad after I got done talking to him, because there were so many things I didn't know. It gave you the ability to understand the plan a little bit more."
Evans isn't returning phone calls because of some "things he had going on from the move from Chicago." That move was more than two years ago. Don't you find that strange?