Friday, October 10, 2003
Here We Go
By KEN PETERS
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Frank McCourt, a Boston real estate developer who failed in two earlier attempts to buy major league teams, has reached an agreement to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers from News Corp, both parties said Friday.
McCourt will head an investment group that reportedly has offered as much as $400 million for the team, Dodger Stadium and adjoining real estate, plus training facilities in Vero Beach, Fla., and the Dominican Republic. Terms of the deal were not disclosed in a joint statement.
Major league team owners must approve the sale before it can be finalized.
Paranoiacs, start your engines. This means people like me, who don't assume that things like ownership can't go from bad to worse. It's bad enough that Schwarzenegger says he can balance the budget without raising taxes or cutting essential programs. What will McCourt's plans for the team contain?
Having said that, I'll try to be positive. Most of all, I'll try not to jump to conclusions, positive or negative, about McCourt, until more information comes in. I feel like I know less about this guy than (take your pick) Nottingham knew about Robin Hood or Iowa knew about Prof. Harold Hill.
Thursday, October 09, 2003
Dodger Pitching - Top Five All-Time
Dodger Hitting - Bottom Six All-Time
From Tom Tippett at Thoughts From Diamond Mind:
The Dodgers allowed opposing teams to score runs at only 70% of the league-average rate. On the all-time list, you've got three teams at 69% (the Cubs of 1905, 1906, and 1909) and one at 70% (the 1939 Yankees), so the Dodgers are now in the top five all-time when measured this way. A lot of people complain that the word "great" is overused in the sports world, and I agree. But this, friends, was a great pitching staff, and the defense behind it deserves some of the credit, too.
On the other hand, the offense was almost equally dreadful, scoring runs at only 73% of the league average rate. Only five teams since 1901 have been worse. Even the Tigers rallied to finish at 75% of the AL average this year.
McCourting the Dodgers
More on Frank McCourt, who the papers are saying has acquired exclusive negotiating rights for the purchase of the Dodgers. Hammond writes:
"Any transaction would include Dodger Stadium, and a source said McCourt would leave the team there, even though his 2001 bid for the Boston Red Sox included a plan to move the team from Fenway Park and build a waterfront stadium in south Boston."
Meanwhile, Jason Reid and Ross Newhan tell us in the Times that "McCourt, realizing he is currently the only viable bidder, apparently has taken a hard-line stance on some of the remaining issues." Further, the understandable fear in the organization is that the length of time required for the approval process of McCourt - even if he agrees to terms this month - will hamstring offseason moves for the team.
You knew Shawn Green is scheduled to have surgery, but did you know that Hideo Nomo and Paul Shuey just had it? Rich Hammond of the Daily News provides the operating room roundup.
On Karros, From Chicago
Christian Ruzich at The Cub Reporter adds the following on Eric Karros:
Nice column on Karros today. Allow me to point you toward my column, "In Praise of Erik Karros," from June.
Also, while all the numbers you cite are true, consider these as well:
That's Karros' AVG/OBP/SLG against lefties this year. He murders 'em. His numbers against righties are so poor (246/286/397) that his overall numbers have been dragged down, but I submit that that is not Karros' fault. It's Dusty Baker's. Instead of recognizing that what he had was a deadly platoon player, what Baker thought he had was an everyday player. So, he ran Karros out there almost every day, to the detriment of the development of young Hee Seop Choi. Karros responded the way you'd expect him to respond, which is to say, not very well. It wasn't until Jim Hendry went out and got Randall Simon that Karros' PT was curtailed, and even then he still started pretty regularly against righties.
Karros is, at this point, a platoon player.
Walter O'Malley Turns 100 - In Cyberspace
This is sort of out of the blue (or Blue), but I got two announcements Wednesday of a website: www.walteromalley.com.
I thought this was rather random, but it turns out that this is a serious endeavor.
Debuting on the 100th anniversary of O'Malley's birth, the site was commissioned by Peter O'Malley and his family. If I may be so pedestrian as to quote from the press release, "With more than 600 pages, www.walteromalley.com is one of the largest biographical web sites on the Internet." But judging it by size would appear to sell the site short.
Besides a detailed review of the Walter O'Malley era, the site posts many, many obscure photos, personal and business correspondence, and film and video clips (examples: B-roll from a 1978 Vin Scully interview of O'Malley, and rehearsal outtakes from what is apparently an apperance by O'Malley on the television show, Branded).
Again from the release: "Among the rare offerings are stories about young John F. Kennedy, before he was President, and Joseph Kennedy's attempts to buy the Dodgers in the early 1950s, communication from Cary Grant, the Marx Brothers, Walt Disney, Coretta Scott King, Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth."
I'm quoting from the release because I'm too impatient to do a thorough review of the site before sharing it. I'm assuming the release is citing the highlights, but you can almost pick a link out of a hat and find something interesting. The first document I went to was: "Report of Findings - Chief Administrative Office of Los Angeles County," in which "The Chief Administrative Office of Los Angeles County publishes its 1955 report displaying facts why the city of Los Angeles should receive strong consideration for a Major League Baseball team." On the cover is a handwritten message:
Among other things, the report states that "several suburban and downtown sites are available which, by reason of proximity to centers of population and traffic arterials, are feasible locations for a Big League Baseball Park."
I urged this survey. Some of it is faulty but I think you should read it regardless. Could offer something.
This site looks like a place where we can spend hours.
Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Not that his batting average doesn't matter at all, but here is why so many people have problems with Mark Grudzielanek on defense. From Joe Sheehan at Baseball Propectus:
Mark Grudzielanek made an early run at being this series' Jose Cruz Jr. with two poor efforts in the ninth inning, one mental, one physical.
On the first, when he bobbled a Luis Castillo ground ball and never did tag Juan Pierre, I don't understand why he didn't throw to second base for the force play. He had to know he'd blown the tag--great call by Fieldin Culbreth--and in that situation you must get one out. Not doing so was critical, because there's a huge difference between two outs and two on, and one out and three on.
The next play didn't get the attention, but it highlighted the Cubs' main problem coming into this series. Ivan Rodriguez hit a line drive past Grudzielanek that, had he just fallen down from where he stood, he might have caught and at least would have kept in the infield.
Hot Topics, Continued
Bill Simms connects the two topics of the week: the Dodger-Cub comparison and the Dodger-Marlin comparison - with this e-mail:
You do have a valid point regarding the Marlins' success. Maybe they don't deserve as much credit as I've given them. Things broke their way, the stars aligned. And it could just as easily happened to the Dodgers. McGriff stays healthy, Jordan stays healthy and Green has his normal year and the Dodgers win the wild card.
Your resentment is understandable. I have no fear the Dodgers will become the Cubs. And I'm sick of hearing about no post-season victories since '88. So we got swept twice. Anything can happen in a short series. The real futility is the lack of a post-season appearance since '95 (in what was once a four team division). But, the Yankees had a streak from '81-'95 didn't they? We can rebound. But, I'm beginning to think the sale will never happen.
Speaking of the sale - topic No. 3 of the week - the Times follows the Daily News Tuesday report that new candidates were entering the (snail's) race to buy the team by naming one: a real-estate developer from Boston, Frank H. McCourt, to replace the local real-estate developer that is also dropping out, Alan Casden.
Jason Reid writes that "the sides are moving quickly to resolve the numerous remaining sticking points." So I'll hedge my judgment that the sale was going to drag on for quite a while, keeping in mind that we've been hearing about sides moving quickly for quite a while.
Finally, if you are looking for a Florida perspective on the playoffs, check out a new blog, The Book of Mike. Subhead: "Three More Games Until the Cubs Are Eliminated." Go there now to be one of the first 300 visitors there ever. In today's entry, not surprisingly, Mike is forced to consider whether Marlins manager Jack McKeon has made a deal with the devil. (Perhaps Dan Evans' biggest problem is he won't trade with Satan.)
For the Cubs' side of things, stick with the excellent Christian Ruzich at The Cub Reporter.
More thoughts about the Dodgers being at risk of becoming the Cubs of the 21st century, courtesy of reader Rick Todd:
Going to have to disagree with you on us becoming the Cubs. First of all, making predictions of a team's future 60 years in the future, is silly, and tenuous at best. (Jon's note: It's not a prediction; it's a fear. Big difference.) There are no stats in this past season that can determine something so far into the future. Literally anything can happen. The Red Sox were bad for so long because they were consistently a racist team for so long, being the last team to assimilate, and had a vastly white roster well into the 80s (even today's roster is pretty white, clumsy big guys who are bad on defense). The Dodgers are just the opposite, and are the second-most minority team after the Expos. And this is with a white GM picking the players.
You have stated that Dan Evans and Tracy are actually a good team, and should stay on. I agree. With it becoming more and more evident that the Dodgers will stay unsold, Evans and Tracy's jobs are safe. That means some things are guaranteed to happen.
First, Evans, whose eye for pitching talent is impeccable, will be able to maintain a great staff. Our starters are magnificent, our bullpen the same, and almost all are re-signed through next year. Gagne will probably be re-signed as well, for less than Mariano since Gagne has no post-season experience, which will be a blessing. Mota will walk since he doesn't sell cool t-shirts like Gagne does. That means we can expect largely the same results from our bullpen this year. Injuries? No problem, our farm system has one thing going for it: pitching.
The next problem we come to is position players. We need offense. Evans isn't an idiot, he knows not sign old guys like McGriff any more, even if they have good stats. They're ticking time bombs. Expect someone like Palmeiro to NOT be signed. Sexson is the big rumor, and if we get him there's one bat. Shawn Green should make a great recovery; it's not unheard of in this day and age for a player to have a bad year, have surgery, and come back. Then, we have some money left over from the dumping of Jordan, Ashby, McGriff etc., and we sign one other person, perhaps Juan Gonzalez or someone who's been spotty but capable the last few years. Tada, we have an offense.
The Dodgers have two large factors going for them: One, they play in a weak division, and two they play in a city where players want to play. Most players grew up in SoCal because of the warm weather which promotes high school talent and all-season playing. And most free agents want to play here, because to play here means to hobnob with the stars. Remember, when this team does well, that means Hollywood takes notice (remember when Karros and Piazza were in Pert Plus commercials, and had huge beach parties in Manhattan Beach). Talent comes here because it is born here, and wants to live here.
Finally, we have the budget. It's large, and getting more wieldy with every passing year, as Malone detritus washes off. The Cubs historically have never had that, with smaller revenues from a smaller park. This team's future is bright, so bright that I would say the one thing that ran against it these ten years was MERELY an insane front office. That has been removed, and winning can be achieved. I really think this team can win the division next year. It has the biggest budget in the division, and there's no guarantee Bonds wants another year on a choke team. Expect him in red next year as the Angel's DH. And expect the Dodgers getting a playoff berth.
I might disagree with some of the details, but Rick and I are in essential agreement about the future of the Dodgers. But to be clear, my point has been that if the Dodgers aren't careful, they could become the Cubs of the 2000s. Again, it's not a prediction. Call it, if you will, an alternative reality to consider.
In my opinion, Dan Evans has led a movement to be careful, and that's why I'm cautiously optimistic. But clearly, that movement to be careful is what's tenuous. Radical or impatient decisions by ownership, old or new, could scuttle this carefully honed direction.
Confronting the Karros Demon
"Karros is tumbling from mediocrity to uselessness."
You might want to re-think this. (Unless, of course, you haven't been watching the Cubs in the post-season).
The quote is mine, carefully retrieved by Karen from this January 14 entry.
To which I reply: No, not useless. Still mediocre.
My angst over the all-time Los Angeles Dodger home run leader is better documented in this entry a month later: Eric Karros: Sparring Partner. Karros was once a hero to me - a precursor to Paul Lo Duca, a grinder working his way up the system, becoming a bright light in a particularly dismal season, 1992. However, Karros came to embody much of what was wrong with the Dodgers on the field. He was an overrated player - hitting his 30 home runs a year, but providing little else in offense. He brought no fire to the game - acting aloof, even contrary at times.
Knowing full well the lackluster commodity the Dodgers were getting in Todd Hundley, I was glad to see Karros go. We can all agree that the Dodgers needed help on offense for 2003. Well, Karros was unlikely to be the man who provided it. Further, I did not anticipate that he would accept the part-time role that Dodger manager Jim Tracy would otherwise have had in mind for him.
Still, back in February, I wrote:
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.
So, am I the inflatable Bozo?
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?
From a team standpoint, of course, the results aren't pretty. Karros is playing October ball; the Dodgers are not.
But what about the player?
Let's start with the postseason, to address first the specific point raised in Karen's e-mail. With two home runs (and I'll assess no penalty points for them both coming in a losing effort), Karros has an OPS of 1.125 in 16 plate appearances. Look, that's outstanding. At this point. Karros would have to go about 0 for 8 before he reaches mediocre, and 0 for the series before reaching useless. If you only want to judge Karros on what he's done in the playoffs, well, you've got yourself one heck of a first baseman.
But in the postseason, the Cubs have played six games. Karros has played four. Not much to go on. And the fact that he's been benched for two games brings us to the larger point.
In the regular season, Karros played in 114 games. He missed 48 games - 30 percent of the season - and not because of injury. He missed them because Dusty Baker, a manager who places his faith in veterans like almost no other, didn't have a role for him in those games. So right there, you're starting with a player who is 70 percent of your ideal.
You're also talking about a player who plays the game's easiest defensive position, meaning that whatever stats he produces on offense should be at a level better than those of players at any other slot.
When he did play, Karros posted a batting average of .286, his highest since 1999. But again, this was a Slim-Fast stat. Karros had an EQA, according to Baseball Prospectus, of .271. Among major league first basemen with at least as many plate appearances as Karros had, Karros was tied for 18th in EQA.
Using another Baseball Prospectus stat, Runs Above Replacement Value, which accounts for the fact that there were some games in which Karros literally did not produce at all, Karros was tied for 26th among first basemen.
And again, because of the lack of defensive value that Karros provides, here are some Dodgers that Baseball Prospectus ranks as more valuable:
Yes, Karros performed a bit better than his replacement in Los Angeles, Fred McGriff, who came in 28th. And certainly, the Cubs got more out of Karros and Mark Grudzielanek than the Dodgers did from McGriff and Hundley.
- Adrian Beltre
- Jolbert Cabrera
- David Ross (a catcher who hit only two fewer home runs than Karros in 2003).
However, to answer the question of how useful Karros is, that answer is, not very.
Go ahead and be impressed by Karros' performance this season, but realize that you are being impressed by mediocrity.
If you acknowledge that the Dodgers would not have signed McGriff had they retained Karros, then Karros' departure from the team had virtually no negative impact on the Dodger performance this season. That the Dodgers' trade with the Cubs looks bad in hindsight is mainly a reflection of the offensive divergence of second basemen Grudzielanek and Alex Cora, not Karros.
As for me, well, I've documented my desire for the Cubs to seize the opportunity before them and win the World Series. And if Karros contributes to that, then congratulations all around. Though I may have low expectations of the player, I don't wish Karros anything ill at all.
But if the Cubs do find the magic, I would hate to see people in these parts record in their personal histories that Eric Karros was the magic wand.
Tuesday, October 07, 2003
Still On the Market
The Malcolm Glazer family's bid to buy the Dodgers is on "life-support," according to Rich Hammond of the Daily News.
Hammond adds that "other potential buyers are likely to enter the picture" alongside the most-mentioned remaining candidates, former Seattle Mariners owner Jeff Smulyan and real estate developer Alan Casden.
Hammond's report is based on anonymous sources.
Is it just me, or are any of you starting to think that the sale of the Dodgers will drag past Opening Day 2004?
The Fast and the Furious
Dan Reines has finished atoning and realized the following:
You mentioned something not long ago about the Dodgers running the risk of becoming this century's Cubbies (It's true, I did.), which of course seems absurd at first. But then I started thinking about it yesterday (gave me something to ponder while not eating and standing for extended periods of time at Yom Kippur services).
First of all, it's been 15 years since the Dodgers' last series win/appearance, and with every year that goes by, that number rises closer to the "years and years of futility" label that gets pasted on teams like the Cubs and the Sox (both Sox) and the pre-2002 Angels. And it occurred to my fast-addled mind yesterday: Since '88, even with the repeat successes of the Yankees and the early-'90s Jays, there've been nine different World Series champs, and 14 different teams have won their respective leagues. That's almost half the major leagues, including two teams that didn't even exist when the Dodgers last won.
Of course, the Dodgers haven't even won a post-season *game* since then, which puts them in a class with, as far as I can figure, only five other teams: the Expos, the Brewers, the Tigers, the Royals, and the Devil Rays, who of course didn't happen until 1998. In other words, the Dodgers are currently nursing the fifth-longest postseason futility streak in all of baseball.
Jon, the Dodgers may already *be* the Cubs. Except that the Cubs are lovable.
I can't tell you how much more difficult this made my fast.
Yep. I'm telling you, it's serious, man.
Readers Make Their Case for the Marlins
In response to my provocative anti-Marlins posting Monday, these responses:
From Gregg Rosenthal of Gregg's Baseball, Etc.:
As a Sox fan who doesn't really hate the Yanks as much as my cohorts, I can identify somewhat. Especially after watching the Twins/Yankees and wondering if I wanted a Sox/Yanks series, etc.
But I write because I think it is possible to root for the Marlins - I sort of have been. I usually root for fan bases or organizations too: In that way, the Marlins are an impossible sell - as you pointed out.
As a baseball fan, though, I've watched them a decent amount this year - and they play exciting baseball. Maybe it's just because they play so different than the rest of the league (speed and defense) - it's exciting. I'll be happy for them or the Cubs, whoever wins - but the Marlins a much more fun team/style to watch. And I don't need a flogging lobotomy...
Well, I like exciting. I don't know that the Marlins play defense so differently than the rest of the league, but they do anecdotally seem to go for the extra base like the Angels of 2002.
My point was not that the Marlins' players or their style were not likable. It was that how could anything they do, no matter how likable, be likable when it was assembled with such apparent haste. It was about fate and justice, notthing personal.
Though he rooted for the Marlins against the Giants, Bob Timmermann takes up this point in another letter:
I can't think of another pro team comprable to the Marlins. They just sort of show up, do well, and then disappear into the woodwork.
Quite mysterious. However, I feel I have to be consistent in my hatred of the Giants. I would have pulled for the Giants against the Yankees in the WS however.
A Yankees-Marlins World Series would suck however. I can't imagine anyone thinking that Florida would win that matchup.
Another whose dislike for the Giants trumped all was Bill Simms:
I have to completely disagree with you when it comes to rooting for the Marlins and the Giants. I can't imagine anything worse than a Giants championship. Maybe it's different because I live in northern California. I have to concede to Giants fans that their team has been run better than mine for the past 10 years, but at least we have some trophies.
I can understand your feelings about Marlins management. But, they have put together a pretty good team. While they seemed to have wasted a lot of pitching talent over the last couple of years, you have to give them credit for having assembled a lot of great arms. They made several moves that I thought were wasted because I didn't believe they could contend this year (Rodriguez, Urbina, Conine & holding on to Lowell), but it turns out they were right and I was wrong. Who knows, if Torborg had been replaced in spring of 2002, A.J. Burnett might have made their rotation even better this year.
While there is no reason to like Loria, there is really no reason to dislike McKeon or his players. I will be rooting for the Marlins over the Cubs (though I'll be the only one in my house doing so). I got tired of Dusty's act in SF. And as a semi-stathead, I disagree with too much stuff Dusty does to root for him. If Vegas had a line on Prior and Wood spending some significant time on the DL next year, I'd put my money there. On the positive side of Dusty, do you remember the "Dusty Baker hamstring game" in 1983? I need to go back and look up the details of that one, but I remember it was exciting.
First of all, I don't know what the "Dusty Baker hamstring game" was, so I look forward to being educated/reminded.
Bill's got some good points. He's correct that the Marlins probably would have been better sooner - and therefore this year's success wouldn't have seemed such a fluke - if their pitching hadn't been abused under Jeff Torborg's management. He's also right that Dusty makes managerial moves that seem to work despite themselves - his reliance on over-the-hill veterans being atop the list, with his high pitch counts for his young pitchers coming up fast.
Bottom line, though, Bill is simply more gracious than me. Saying the Marlins were right and he was wrong in the spirit he does is wonderful. Me, I am pouting that their moves have worked so well. I mean, where does Juan Pierre come off getting 200-plus hits outside of Colorado? That's drawing to an inside straight, or however that goes.
So I'll cancel the lobotomies, but let me say this. A lot had to go right for the Marlins this year to get this far - they beat the odds. There are lessons in what they did this year, but there are also things they did that are not lessons at all. We need to stay clear on which is which.
Monday, October 06, 2003
The Chevy Chase Show Is Back
Unlike the other two Dodger blogs that have taken pleasure in the Giants' defeat at the fins of the Marlins (here and here), this one does not.
That's because a) I've always thought the Dodgers' biggest enemy wasn't the Giants, but the Dodgers, and b) I don't understand how one can take pleasure in Florida advancing.
Except for the excitement that they brought to the first week of the playoffs, the Marlins deserve success about as much as Chevy Chase deserves another talkshow.
The Marlins won a World Series as a wild card in 1997, in their fifth season of existence. Great - Cinderella story. However, following a fire sale by its owner, the team wallows around in the muck for five more seasons and part of a sixth. Four months later, they are back in the National League Championship Series - the lone roadblock between a team that embodies suffering, the Cubs, and their first World Series in 95 years.
If you have no misgivings about the postseason glory that has twice come to the Marlins since the Dodgers' last playoff appearance, then you forfeit the right to have any critique of Dodger baseball.
Florida's success mocks logic. It sends a message that any team can get hot for 4 1/2 months, no matter how much the team has mismanaged its resources.
Florida's success mocks poetry. This is not the Cubs, or the Angels with their 42-year drought. This is not even the Dodgers, with their 15-year postseason drought. This is one of only four teams to win the World Series in the past seven years, playing in front of a fan base that abandoned the team when things turned south.
The Marlins are in baseball's Final Four neither through excellence nor penance. It has just been luck.
In the offseason, the Marlins picked up Juan Pierre, a castoff from Colorado. At the midseason trading deadline, they acquired Jeff Conine, a castoff from Baltimore.
They signed their biggest preseason acquisition, Ivan Rodriguez, after a bidding war against ... no one.
The Marlins have not earned their success, mentally or spiritually. The only reason they are still playing this week - and I say this with all irony and without it - is that for some reason, they keep ending baseball games as the team with the most runs.
Throughout the Giants-Marlins series, I did have to remind myself that I was rooting for the Giants. Believe me, I wouldn't have taken much pleasure in their victory. San Francisco itself seems to cobble winning seasons out of nowhere. Having Barry Bonds is like being granted Boardwalk and Park Place before the first dice are rolled. It has become such a built-in advantage, how can the Giants not be around at the end of the game?
But the Giants have had Bonds since 1993 - the same year that Florida joined the National League. And the Giants have had less postseason success than the Marlins.
The Marlins are the most disturbing organization in baseball today. Florida is the dumb oaf who gets all the girls - in high school and college. Florida is the Quick Pick lotto winner who got to retire at age 30. Florida the guy who sold his first screenplay.
If you take any pleasure in the Marlins' success, even at the expense of the Giants, then you're endorsing a world in which it doesn't matter who plays for your team. Just tell us what the score is. The end justifies the means.
Perhaps the proximity of the Giants in our state and in our psyche makes it too hard for some to root for them in anything. And sure, the Chicago Cubs have written their own legend with mistakes on the field and off.
But the Cubs have suffered for their sins like no other. If there is anyone outside Miami-Dade County rooting for the Marlins against the Cubs this week, they need a flogging lobotomy.