Saturday, November 15, 2003
Interview with a Banterer
Rich Lederer of Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT has a series of interviews going with online baseball writers, and his latest, with Alex Belth of Bronx Banter, is terrific. Here's an excerpt that'll make you jealous, in which Alex talks about his first job in the film industry, working as an intern for Ken Burns' documentary, Baseball.
RWBB: Which celebrity encounter had the most impact on you?
Alex: Without a doubt, Buck O'Neil. He came into town for a screening in the spring of '94, and it was my job to pick him up at his hotel and escort him around the city for the afternoon. I was already familiar with how special he was from what I had seen of him in the movie, and he was even more charismatic in person. You know that saying about how a person can light up a room? I've run into a lot of actors and celebrities, but Buck O'Neil was the first person I ever met that I could say that about.
I picked him up at his hotel on Park Avenue. He was wearing a suit and looked elegant. It was a sunny afternoon, and he was easy to be around, naturally charming. We hailed a cab and headed over to the Jackie Robinson Foundation to meet with Rachel Robinson. What I remember most about that cab ride were Buck's hands. They were enormous. Like mitts. They looked like Rodin sculptures, I kid you not. I could barely take my eyes off of them.
Do take the time to check out the entire interview, which also eloquently connects Alex's relationship with baseball to his relationship with his father. Turns Field of Dreams a bit on its ear.
Friday, November 14, 2003
Vote for the Dodger Cy Young of Cy Youngs
With Eric Gagne winning the Dodgers' ninth Cy Young award Thursday, I got to thinking of who would win a Cy Young ballot between those nine pitchers.
Then I decided to hold an actual vote.
So here are the candidates. I've added a 10th from the pre-Cy Young Award era to round out the ballot.
Rank your top three choices. Your winner will get 5 points, second place 3 points, third place 1 point.
E-mail your vote to ShiftyJ@aol.com. Your e-mail address will be safe with me.
I will tally the votes and let you know the results in a few days.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com. ERA+ is a player's ERA relative to the league average that season - the higher the number, the better it is.
Rube Marquard, 1916: 13-6, 1.58 ERA, 169 ERA+, 205 IP, 169 H, 2 HR, 38 BB, 107 K
Don Newcombe, 1956: 27-7, 3.06 ERA, 130 ERA+, 268 IP, 219 H, 33 HR, 46 BB, 139 K
Don Drysdale, 1962: 25-9, 2.83 ERA, 128 ERA+, 314 IP, 272 H, 21 HR, 78 BB, 232 K
Sandy Koufax, 1963: 25-5, 1.88 ERA, 161 ERA+, 311 IP, 214 H, 18 HR, 58 BB, 306 K
Sandy Koufax, 1965: 26-8, 2.04 ERA, 160 ERA+, 336 IP, 216 H, 26 HR, 71 BB, 382 K
Sandy Koufax, 1966: 27-9, 1.73 ERA, 190 ERA+, 323 IP, 241 H, 19 HR, 77 BB, 317 K
Mike Marshall, 1974: 15-12, 2.42 ERA, 141 ERA+, 208 IP, 191 H, 9 HR, 56 BB, 143 K (21 saves)
Fernando Valenzuela, 1981: 13-7, 2.48 ERA, 134 ERA+, 192 IP, 140 H, 11 HR, 61 BB, 180 K
Orel Hershiser, 1988: 23-8, 2.26 ERA, 148 ERA+, 267 IP, 208 H, 18 HR, 73 BB, 178 K
Eric Gagne, 2003: 2-3, 1.20 ERA, 335 ERA+, 82 IP, 37 H, 2 HR, 20 BB, 137 K (55 saves)
Just in passing, did you know that Gagne has pitched 82 1/3 innings in 77 games in consecutive seasons? Dodger manager Jim Tracy told the Daily News, however, that he thinks Gagne can handle more innings next season.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
I Said It Before and I'll Say It Again
The Dodgers need to improve their offense against right-handed pitching more than left-handed pitching.
More names are being dropped in the trade rumor pool - today, it's the Daily News whispering about Magglio Ordonez, who's a prince at the plate to be sure, and Richie Sexson.
Rich Hammond of the News also mentions Jim Edmonds, but caveats it by saying that "the Dodgers primarily are coveting a right-handed corner outfielder in addition to a first baseman."
I'm not gonna shoot the messenger here, but can I just reiterate the following?
Dodgers vs. RHP in 2003: .647 OPS, 1 HR every 49 AB
Dodgers vs. LHP in 2003: .735 OPS, 1 HR every 34 AB
Any offense is going to help the Dodgers, but offense against right-handed pitchers is going to help more. Now, it's fine if you find a right-handed batter who slugs it out against same-side pitchers, as Ordonez and Sexson do, but to rule out Jim Edmonds not because of age or cost, but because he swings the bat left-handed? Let's wise up.
Stats below from ESPN.com, Baseball Prospectus and Baseball Graphs.
Magglio Ordonez, Chicago White Sox, OF
Salary: Owed $14 million for 2004
Mainstream stats: .317 BA, 29 HR, 57 BB, 73 K
OPS in 2003: .926 in 160 games (.980 vs. LHP, .906 vs. RHP)
EQA in 2003 (park-adjusted): .310 (17th in the American League)
Win Shares in 2003 (park-adjusted): 23 (20th in American League, 6th among OF)
Trend: Second-best OPS of career in 2003; EQA was high in 2003 but higher in 2001 and 2002.
Worth acquiring in exchange for Odalis Perez or Guillermo Mota? Definitely, but dream on.
Worth acquiring in exchange for Odalis Perez and Guillermo Mota? Yes. The $14 million for 2004 is a very mixed blessing. It's a huge chunk of change, but/and the good/bad news is there's no commitment to Ordonez beyond next season. In any case, the talent is clearly there.
Richie Sexson, Milwaukee, 1B
Salary: Owed $8.6 million for 2004
Mainstream stats: .272 BA, 45 HR, 98 BB, 151 K
OPS in 2003: .927 in 162 games (1.005 vs. LHP, .904 vs. RHP)
EQA in 2003 (park-adjusted): .308 (21st in the National League)
Win Shares in 2003 (park-adjusted): 26 (9th in National League, 3rd among 1B)
Trend: Career-high in OPS and EQA in 2003
Worth acquiring in exchange for Odalis Perez or Guillermo Mota? Yes.
Worth acquiring in exchange for Odalis Perez and Guillermo Mota? Right now, Perez is being sold low while Mota is being sold high. The more I say "yes" to trading Perez, especially with Mota, the more nervous I get that Perez' value is being underrated. But basically, I'm finding it hard to resist any hitters with EQAs over .300.
Dan Evans and Billy Beane Converse - Film at 11
The Times picked an odd moment to catch Billy Beane fever.
Splashed atop the Times sports section today, above even the Lakers (which is saying something in this era), is this news:
Apparently fed up over speculation that Billy Beane has been campaigning for his job, Dodger General Manager Dan Evans confronted his Oakland A's counterpart during a phone call last week, a baseball official said Wednesday.
For such major play, the story fails to ask, let alone answer, two relevant questions:
1) Is Beane campaigning by promoting himself, or by denigrating Evans?
2) Whom is Beane campaigning to? Prospective Dodger owner Frank McCourt, McCourt's staff, or the media, or anyone who will listen?
I honestly don't know what to make of the story. Because the above questions aren't addressed, I can't tell if the story reflects Beane's sportsmanship, or Evans' paranoia, or if it's merely trying to legitimize the Beane-to-Los Angeles rumors.
According to the (unidentified) official, Beane assured Evans during the call that he hasn't been campaigning for the job, and Evans supposedly accepted that answer. The two have had trade discussions during the general manager meetings here this week.
Nevertheless, sources said Evans has also expressed concerns about Beane's campaigning to other baseball people.
So, Beane said he wasn't campaigning. This assertion is not refuted by anyone anywhere in the story. Rather, sources tell Ross Newhan and Jason Reid that Evans is still concerned about the campaigning. That's something else.
The implication is that Evans has reason to remain concerned, but nothing else is presented in the article to explain why.
As far as the campaign angle of the story goes, it boils down to enough people have repeated a rumor, so it must be true. However, as much as we read about people (including Evans and Beane himself) having heard the rumor that Beane has campaigning, no one actually steps forward in the story claiming to have heard Beane's alleged stump speech.
I'm as intrigued by Billy Beane as the next guy, but I think this story is underreported, especially for a lead story in the sports section. The news is that Dan Evans spoke to Billy Beane about a rumor he heard. I'll grant the possiblilty that the rumor is true. But the article doesn't confirm that it's true, nor does it begin to analyze the significance of it being true.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Shawn Green, meet Jay Jaffe. Best wishes, Jay.
National League Cy Young Award
My heart tells me Eric Gagne should win. My head tells that Jason Schmidt should win.
Take two identical teams of 24 players. Add Gagne 2003 to one team and Schmidt 2003 to the other. I think Schmidt's team wins more games.
Dodger Thoughts - proud to be a member of the Score Bard's wonderful Periodic Table of Bloggers, completed under the gun this November 12 after being highlighted during the construction phase by Instapundit.
I am Tantalum: "rare, grey, heavy, hard but ductile, metal with a high melting point."
Go with the Old Guy?
Because the following potential trade acquisitions for the Dodgers cited in the press today are logical enough from a rumor standpoint, they are worth a quick review.
Although his salary and age scare me, Jim Edmonds looks like the best fit, at least compared to Carlos Lee and Paul Konerko.
Stats below from ESPN.com, Baseball Prospectus and Baseball Graphs.
Jim Edmonds, St. Louis, OF
Salary: Owed $34 million through 2006, including $9 million in 2004
Mainstream stats: .275 BA, 39 HR, 77 BB, 127 K
OPS in 2003: 1.002 in 137 games (.897 vs. LHP, 1.036 vs. RHP)
EQA in 2003 (park-adjusted): .325 (seventh in the National League)
Win Shares in 2003 (park-adjusted): 22 (24th in National League, 10th among OF)
Trend: Career-high in OPS in 2003, second-best EQA of career.
Worth acquiring in exchange for Odalis Perez or Guillermo Mota? Yes, but at that salary, the Dodgers had better keep him from banging into walls.
Worth acquiring in exchange for Odalis Perez and Guillermo Mota? Yes.
Carlos Lee, Chicago White Sox, OF
Salary: Eligible for arbitration. Earned $4.2 million in 2003.
Mainstream stats: .291 BA, 31 HR, 37 BB, 91 K
OPS in 2003: .830 in 158 games (.632 vs. LHP, .902 vs. RHP)
EQA in 2003 (park-adjusted): .283
Win Shares in 2003 (park-adjusted): 20 (29th in American League, 11th among OF)
Trend: Second best OPS and EQA of career in 2003. Walk rate down dramatically.
Worth acquiring in exchange for Odalis Perez or Guillermo Mota? Yes.
Worth acquiring in exchange for Odalis Perez and Guillermo Mota? Maybe not. Batting rate against left-handed pitching has been inconsistent through career - is he a reverse platoon player?
Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox, 1B
Salary: Owed $16.75 million through 2005. Sources say White Sox will pay portion if he is traded.
Mainstream stats: .234 BA, 18 HR, 43 BB, 50 K
OPS in 2003: .704 in 137 games (.966 vs. LHP, .571 vs. RHP)
EQA in 2003 (park-adjusted): .244
Win Shares in 2003 (park-adjusted): 4 (272nd in American League, 16th among 1B)
Trend: One of baseball's biggest 2003 disappointments after four consecutive seasons with OPS above .840 and EQA above .280. Had .885 OPS vs. RHP in 2002 and .851 OPS vs. RHP in 2001. However, walk/strikeout rate in 2003 best of career.
Worth acquiring in exchange for Odalis Perez or Guillermo Mota? Not without the White Sox picking up some salary.
Worth acquiring in exchange for Odalis Perez and Guillermo Mota? No. Even figuring on a return to pre-2003 levels, he does not do justice to the Dodgers' best bargaining chips, especially at his salary and at his position.
By the way, Jim Edmonds' EQA at age 27 was .296.
Monday, November 10, 2003
My feeling is that you've got a better shot predicting a winner of the 2012 presidential election than predicting the Dodgers' key acquisition for the 2004 season.
On a quick count, there are 309 free agents that have opted onto the Do Call list and are waiting to be contacted by an operator near them about exciting offers that will change their lives. Add in the many players who will not be tendered a contract by teams that want to avoid salary arbitration. And then there is the remainder - nearly every other major leaguer and minor leaguer - that does not have a no-trade clause and is available for barter.
Oh yeah - and we can't bank on anything about the Dodger owner or general manager for 2004.
Honestly, there are so many possibilities out there, would it surprise you that much to see Mary Carey or Arianna Huffington at Vero Beach next March?
In August, I talked about the holes that the Dodgers needed to fill for 2004, and not much has changed since then. Paul Quantrill pulled an apparent Jody Reed, turning down a guaranteed $3.1 million to join the free agent flood. Adrian Beltre again tantalized with a power-heavy (but nearly walk-free) second half, perhaps reinserting himself in the plans of a Dodger team with many holes to fill and few other third basemen to choose from. Other than that, the state of the team today is like it was when it was still pretending to contend three months ago.
I've also discussed the Dodgers No. 1 need being a power-hitting left-fielder, more than the admittedly problematic areas in the infield.
Beyond that, is there really much more to talk about on November 10?
Case-in-point update: ESPN.com predicts the Dodgers will sign Miguel Tejada ... and Javy Lopez. With the Dodgers already sporting Paul Lo Duca and David Ross behind the plate, if they end up signing Lopez - even assuming that Lo Duca or Ross must have been traded to create an opening - it will have been because the team threw a dart that landed on Lopez' name.