Friday, December 05, 2003
Ah, Sweet Unnamed SourcesThe Times, 24 hours ago:
The Dodgers' off-season search for a first baseman could finally end with the team reacquiring Paul Konerko, two club sources said Wednesday.
The Times, this morning:
A deal for Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, a two-time Dodger minor league player of the year, has been on the table for weeks, sources said, but Evans apparently isn't interested.
Further celebrity guests on the sports page today are Nomar Garciaparra and Jermaine Dye. It's sort of like a parade. I love a parade.
I guess we should enjoy this while we can, before the January procession of non-roster invitees like Ron Coomer and Pedro Borbon, Jr.
Stadium Shooting Not About Rivalry, Police SaysMeant to mention this Thursday. The Times quotes Lt. Jorge Villegas of the Los Angeles Police Department as saying that the September Dodger Stadium shooting was not related to fan rivalry:
On Sept. 19, about 10 p.m., Marc Antenorcruz of Covina was walking in the stadium parking lot with his sister, brother and a friend, when an argument broke out with another group, which included Marron, police said.
"Despite what was reported, there is no information from anybody that the dispute was over the baseball teams," Villegas said. "It was not about baseball."
The dispute, which Villegas did not describe further, led to Antenorcruz being shot twice after a man he was arguing with pulled a .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun from a truck, police said.
Thursday, December 04, 2003
As You Expected, the Yankee Rumors Cool
The Yankees appear to have traded Nick Johnson for a starting pitcher, but it's not Kevin Brown or Odalis Perez, but rather Javier Vasquez of the Montreal Expos.
With Jeff Weaver still penciled for the Yankee rotation, the Yankee interest in one of the Dodger starters won't have diminished, but ...
(Jay Jaffe of The Futulity Infielder analyzes the Yankees starting pitching needs with ferocious detail. The caveat is that he concludes with what the Yankees should do, as opposed to what they will do. Nevertheless, on a list of targets that placed Vasquez fourth, Brown is third and Perez is fifth.)
... with Johnson gone, Dodger general manager Dan Evans may shut things down. Unless he is encouraged by the news contained in this New York Times report:
Weaver (reported) to Tampa to work with Billy Connors, the organizational pitching guru who has since been hospitalized after bypass surgery last weekend.
Weaver said in a telephone interview that Connors altered his arm angle, telling him he had been throwing sidearm too often and swinging his leg too far behind him in his delivery. Weaver was relieved to find a mechanical cause for his struggles.
"It's like if you practice a bad golf swing over and over, you're not going to really notice what you're doing after a while," he said. "I was throwing sidearm for so long, I didn't even realize I was down so low and really dropping my head."
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times passes along Paul Konerko as the Dodger target o' the day. I was a little disappointed by this, because I think he's overvalued in the current market. (See my analysis of Konerko here.) As I wrote then, the trade is valid only if the White Sox picked up some salary.
* * *
Paul Quantrill's imminent signing with the Yankees could yield two high draft picks for the Dodgers (then again, maybe not, according to post #116). A fringe benefit is that because he was so superb with the Dodgers in 2003, and because some of that suberbity had to do with Cora and Izturis fielding the many ground balls hit off his pitches (he induced more than two grounders for every fly and for every strikeout while with the Dodgers), Dodger fans are not likely to be tortured by seeing another player leave Los Angeles and perform better elsewhere.
Which is not to say that we won't see Quantrill pitching in October without us.
I congratulate Quantrill for being rewarded for his risk in opting out of his Dodger contract. I question whether he is worth the near-$7 million committment for two years that the Yankees have reportedly promised him, but wish him the best.
Oh, and MLB.com reports that erstwhile Dodger Larry Barnes is following Mike Kinkade to Japan.
Peak PeekLooking at the ages of the hitters the Dodgers are pursuing, I got to wondering about how old certain Dodger players from the past were when they had their best offensive seasons.
I ended up looking up EQAs on Baseball Prospectus for about 50 Dodgers - just about everyone who was a regular for at least two seasons. (I omitted current, younger Dodgers, because they would skew the chart.)
Not surprisingly, some of the players were not with the Dodgers when they had their best season. But it's not as bad as the cynical among you might think.
I won't try to draw any conclusions from this chart, but I will say I thought I'd see more 27s than I saw 29s or 31s.
To think Rick Monday has been coasting for 35 years now ...
Career-Best EQAs of Selected Dodgers
I'm sure you're all fascinated to learn that Jeff Hamilton peaked at age 25.
|Player ||EQA||Year||Age |
|Paul Lo Duca||.309||2001||29|
Dangerous AssumptionsSpoke to my brother just now. He suggested that Duke Snider was not active in 1854, as the chart below indicates. I asked him if he had researched this topic, and he confessed, with great embarrassment, that he hadn't.
I decided to leave the chart as is to teach him a valuable lesson.
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Second Arrest on Dodger Stadium Shooting
Just to complete the roundup of news that didn't make the morning papers, this came over the wires:
A second man was arrested in the shooting of a San Francisco Giants fan at Dodger Stadium, authorities said.
Pete Marron, 19, a fugitive since he was charged with murder in September, was arrested during a traffic stop Tuesday after officers saw him leave a home they had staked out on a tip, said Officer Jason Lee of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Mike Kinkade Goes to Japan
Dodger utility man Mike Kinkade, who didn't get enough chances against left-handed pitching early in 2003 and then couldn't hit right-handers well enough later to take advantage of injuries to Brian Jordan and Fred McGriff, signed an $800,000, one-year contract with Japan's Central League Champion Hanshin Tigers.
In other National League West news, the Giants resigned pitcher Dustin Hermanson, coincidentally to an $800,000, one-year contract. And the Rockies traded infielder Juan Uribe to the White Sox for infielder Aaron Miles.
Update: The Giants resigned Jeffrey Hammonds, he of the 37-game hitting streak for the 1990 Stanford Cardinal, to a one-year, $1 million contract with performance bonuses, according to The Associated Press, that could total an additional $825,000 - if he played 150 games and reached 550 plate appearances.
The rest of the baseball world always picks on Hammonds and the teams that sign him - you won't see me do that here.
National League West Rosters - Updated December 3, 5 p.m.
Though I don't expect Paul Lo Duca to be the Dodger opening day first baseman, given my operating philosophy of treating the rosters as if the season started today, I think you have to put him there until a new first baseman is found.
|Position||Arizona||Colorado||Los Angeles||San Diego||San Francisco|
Rumors, Coast to Coast
Some consensus, some discrepancies ...
From the Newark Star-Ledger:
The Yankees have had discussions with the Los Angeles Dodgers, as first reported yesterday by Newsday, about a trade that would bring right-hander Kevin Brown to the Bronx. Officials with both teams said yesterday the talks have not yet progressed very far ...
Dodgers officials said yesterday there was "no chance" they would agree to a Brown-for-Weaver swap, but they left open the possibility that the Yankees' offer could be improved and the talks rekindled.
The Dodgers have interest in dealing Brown because of the $15 million he'll make each of the next two seasons. Receiving Jeff Weaver in return wouldn't get it done, Dodgers sources said yesterday. Los Angeles would like Nick Johnson ...
From the Los Angeles Times:
Pitcher Kevin Brown's desire to play for an East Coast team has further complicated an already difficult off-season for Dodger General Manager Dan Evans, who might trade the All-Star right-hander to the New York Yankees, team sources said Tuesday.
Agent Scott Boras recently informed Evans that Brown wants to play for a team closer to his off-season home in Macon, Ga., the sources said, saying Brown would waive his no-trade clause to join the American League champions. ...
The Yankees, apparently aware of Brown's stance regarding his future, have offered beleaguered 27-year-old right-hander Jeff Weaver. But the Dodgers won't trade Brown for Weaver straight up, two team executives said.
From the New York Post:
If the Dodgers were to trade Brown, according to sources, it would be for a hitter, not a hittee. In fact, industry sources on both the left and right coast shot down such a trade ...
From the New York Times, which seems to have concluded that this is old news:
The Yankees toyed briefly last month with another significant pitching acquisition, speaking to the Los Angeles Dodgers about acquiring 38-year-old Kevin Brown, who makes $15 million a year and is an elite pitcher when he stays healthy. The same baseball official said the discussions about Brown were part of a hypothetical four-way trade that "never got off the ground."
A second baseball official said the Dodgers had no interest in the trade, which Newsday reported yesterday as a potential straight-up exchange involving Brown and pitcher Jeff Weaver, who has struggled mightily as a Yankee. That official said that Dodger conversations about trading pitching had centered on adding offense, not cutting payroll, which would be the main benefit of trading Brown for Weaver.
As evidence that the Dodgers could add salary, the official noted that the team spoke to the Florida Marlins about first baseman Derrek Lee before he was traded to the Chicago Cubs last week, and to the Milwaukee Brewers about the slugger Richie Sexson before he was dealt to Arizona on Monday. The Dodgers backed out of both deals, the official said, when the asking price, in terms of players, became too high.
From the Los Angeles Daily News:
Although the New York Yankees have interest in starting pitcher Kevin Brown, the right-hander apparently will be staying in L.A. ...
However, sources said Tuesday the Yankees' offer was rejected. The Dodgers have received several offers for Brown and Hideo Nomo but apparently will only trade pitching in exchange for an offensive upgrade.
The Dodgers and Yankees talked last month about potential trades involving Nick Johnson or Alfonso Soriano, but those talks centered around Odalis Perez, not Brown.
And then, there are the Carlos Beltran and Rafael Palmeiro rumors. The Daily News continues:
Rafael Palmeiro might be the Dodgers' best free-agent option, and Randall Simon will be expendable since the Cubs acquired Lee.
Several teams, including the Dodgers, have expressed interest in Kansas City outfielder Carlos Beltran, but it seems increasingly likely the Royals won't deal him. They turned down several offers for Beltran at last season's trade deadline and, beyond that, the Dodgers are reluctant to trade for players who will be free agents after 2004.
From the Kansas City Star (annoying registration process required):
The Los Angeles Dodgers, after failing to land either Derrek Lee or Richie Sexson, are again showing interest in acquiring Carlos Beltran in an effort to boost their punchless lineup.
The problem for Dodgers general manager Dan Evans is nothing has changed since last summer when he pushed harder than anyone else in efforts to pry Beltran away from the Royals.
Simply put: The Royals don't see a match.
The Royals want more than lower-level prospects in return for Beltran, a superb defensive center fielder who led the club last season in virtually every offensive category.
My take Tuesday on the theoretical Brown trade is here. I find today that Bill Plaschke of the Times and I are in agreement, which hasn't happened much in the past year. So from the Dodger standpoint, I have to assume that the trade is a no-brainer. Whether it will happen, of course, is another story. But I don't mind that Evans is trying to negotiate with authority rather than desperation, trying to get more.
Time permitting, I'll take a closer look at Beltran and Palmeiro.
Advancing the Insight, One Base at a Time
Alex Belth of Bronx Banter, who made a Thanksgiving weekend foray to some used bookstores (that is to say, bookstores that sell used books, not bookstores that are washed-up), is reading Maury Wills' autobiography, On the Run. He quotes from it today, and now I'm going to steal that quote from Alex - less because Wills is an ex-Dodger and more to relay the compelling thoughts about bunting and fundamentals from one of the game's most famous small-ballers.
I refuse to get upset with modern ballplayers who can't bunt or run the bases. They said the same things when I was playing.
So it doesn't drive me nuts to got to a game and see players who can't execute fundamentals. There were only a handful of players when I played who could do the little things like bunting properly. The game hasn't really changed that way. Managers get made because someone didn't sacrifice a man over, but very few managers insist that their players learn to bunt.
...They don't have a column in the papers to tell who's leading the league in sacrifice bunts. You don't see guys demand that their salaries be doubled because they lead the league in sacrifice bunts. There's not glory for bunters. All bunting does is win ballgames.
...Learning to bunt takes a lot of time. The manager ends up assuming that some guys can do it and others can't and he leaves it at that. You have to have time for infield practice. You have to have time for batting practice, the great priority. You have time for all that other stuff, but you don't have time for bunting.
It's like I wrote way back in Feburary.
Brian Jordan is quoted as saying more little ball is coming. “We shouldn't have to sit back and wait for the three-run home run. We're going to do a lot more."
Or in April, during the opening week of the season ...
I think I could find a quote like this every year from more than one Dodger. I know this was supposed to be a big part of Bill Russell’s approach as manager, and I’ve heard Tracy advocate it as well.
But it’s like the bunting thing. It’s all well and good to want to hit and run - who doesn’t want to send a runner from first to third on a single? But unless you teach these guys to do it -- and apparently, major leaguers still need to be taught -- it ain’t gonna happen. So hopefully, it’s being taught this year, not just talked about. Think Mike Scioscia would leave the Angels to become a hit-and-run coach here?
Frankly, I’ve been wondering what makes mediocre offensive teams like the Dodgers think they would be any better at manufacturing runs than they are at buying them retail. If they’re not good enough build an above-average OPS, what makes them think that they can execute a fairly difficult play, the hit-and-run?
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
A Contract Killing?
From Newsday, the whopper of the Dodger offseason:
According to multiple sources, the Yankees have seriously contemplated acquiring righthander Kevin Brown from the Dodgers. In return for Brown, who will turn 39 in March and will make $15 million in each of the next two seasons, the Yankees have offered their beleaguered righthander, Jeff Weaver.
First of all, can I say how stunned I was that Brown has only two years left on his contract with the Dodgers? You might have figured Harry Potter would be in law school before the Brown deal ran its course.
Weaver is owed $15.5 million through 2005, meaning that his contract is almost exactly half the cost of Brown's. Of course, Weaver doesn't appear to be half the pitcher of Brown - a healthy Brown, anyway. He's more like a - 10%.
Still, you have to believe the Dodgers would most certainly make Brown available to anyone, even straight up for Weaver.
They should obviously negotiate for more. Add Nick Johnson to the trade, and it's a slam dunk. For that matter, with all the ridicule the Dodgers got for the picking up Todd Hundley a year ago, acquiring Johnson might be as important for image reasons as talent reasons.
But if it's only Weaver, you set up the T.J. Simers barricades and still make the trade.
Brown is a significant injury risk with a huge salary on a pitching-rich team. Especially with the ownership in transition, they would be eager to add flexibility to the payroll. Moreover, he is the symbol of the misguided excess of the failed Kevin Malone "Bring 'em on" era. If the team can trade the other symbol of the Fox era, Gary Sheffield - which they did fairly easily - they could and should absolutely trade Brown. He is Cisco stock purchased at $80 a share.
Weaver averages fewer than six strikeouts per nine innings, so I'm not betting that he'd turn his career around in Los Angeles. But at age 27, I think one could risk that Weaver is more likely to perform like Omar Daal 2001 than Andy Ashby 2003, or even Hundley 2003.
If you can mine the best from the pitcher, as the Dodgers did with Daal and Terry Adams and Wilson Alvarez, that's gravy. But to lower the payroll by $14.5 million, plus all those round trip plane tickets for Brown's family, that's the meat.
Meanwhile, From the Department of Not Compromising
Here's a tangent to a tangent. A story about the Barry Sanders of the comics world. (Does baseball have a Barry Sanders?)
Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson. Last seen in northeast Ohio. Do not approach.
Meanwhile, speaking as a big fan of Bloom County, I think Berke Breathed is going to have to come up with more than snappy artwork - say, humor and interesting characters - to make Opus worthwhile. Does no one miss Milo or Binkley?
Monday, December 01, 2003
Under the Interview Knife
By now, I hope you're making it a habit to check out Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT at least once a week for his superb interviews with people of the Interbaseballnet. In case you haven't, be sure to catch the last two, with Baseball Prospectus' Will Carroll (who helped me so much with my Shawn Green article) and David Pinto of Baseball Musings.
From Ball Talk, with a nod to the Bill James Handbook 2004.
What NL pitcher threw the most pitches under 80 MPH?
Hideo Nomo in a landslide, throwing 150 more under 80 MPH pitches than number two on the list, Mark Redman. We think of Nomo as a premier strikeout pitcher, but this is just a reminder that it isn't how hard you throw the ball...
Headline at Dodgers.com:
Five Dodgers on Hall of Fame ballot
And the teaser begins:
Juan Samuel and Jim Eisenreich are making their first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot this year...
Now that's poetry.
The other three, by the way, are Steve Garvey, Tommy John and Fernando Valenzuela. You can make the best case for John, but even he should wait in line behind at least Bert Blyleven, Ryne Sandberg, Paul Molitor and Alan Trammell.
For a perspective on Garvey's candidacy, in which I point out that he was not in any given year the best hitter on the Dodgers, click here.
The Worthy Pain of Compromise
When my 14-month-old daughter is smiling with her glittering eyes, cheek-to-so-pinchable-it-looks-like-there's-chaw-in-there cheek, when she laughs from the back of her throat like you're Richard Pryor and you've just killed, when she buries her tired face in your chest in a darkened bedroom at 6 a.m., little else matters.
When my wife cuddles next to me, just like she has every night of the past four years - we've only been separated about seven nights that entire time - little else matters.
When I'm away from them, at the office or in the spare room, writing - in days past for the screen, in days present for this website - well, little else matters.
There was a time, just in the last decade, where all I had was my writing, and I did plenty of it, but I didn't have the stamina to do it all day. So there were hours, days, that were empty. Just plain empty and sad.
Now, 24 hours, seven days, 52 weeks, 365 days, it's not enough. It's not enough for me to fully experience all the joys I percieve in life. I make compromises just to get tastes.
I am not as good as I want to be in anything. I want to be a better father, better husband, better writer, better athlete. I want to travel like I could when I was younger. I was fortunate enough to visit London three times by my 20th birthday. Sixteen years later, I haven't been back. I haven't been to Yosemite since I was 11 - even though I tell myself every year I have to go. I want to see Ireland, Australia, Japan. And oh yeah, I want to ski at least two weeks each year. Good luck.
I used to play basketball two or three times a week. Last week, while with my family at the park, I picked up a stray ball - had to be the first time in two years. Usually, when I pick up a ball, I miss a shot, then hit three in a row - feeling loose as a goose, before I start to think about my shot and settle back into making about a third, or about a fourth. This time, there were so many misses of the same shot in a row, so shaky, air balls from seven feet, I felt like I was relearning how to walk.
Even reading is a tradeoff. I juggle magazines and newspapers, barely able to fit in all that I want. Then there's all the informative writing about baseball on the Web - an area where, you can imagine, I have built a significant interest. Barely manage. When I try to squeeze a book in, the wheels come off. I can't read all I want to read. Is that right? Is that possible?
I have slashed my television watching to try to help this. When I could say with conviction that I was in the profession, I was watching about as many hours per week as there are prime time hours in the week. Bought a second VCR in case there were three shows on at once that I wanted to see, and sometimes relied on my brother's two VCRs for backup as well. Now, I feel misgivings when I test a new show, even if it might be good, because it may stretch my rubber-band existence further.
Oh yeah - and I have a job. Doesn't require overtime in labor or stress. The people I work with couldn't be nicer. But, you know, those are 40 or so hours a week where you know, I need to pay attention.
I put off calling friends because there's so much I feel I need to do. Is there much in the world to be less proud of?
This website has made my year, as far as anything to do with work goes. Something as silly as writing about the Dodgers has made me feel that my education and my career are worth more than food and shelter. When I read something or see something that I want to discuss here, I'm revved up, Indy 500-alive. When I piece together sentences and I like the way I've done it, I don't need someone else's praise to feel pride. And I like pride. I'm not overflowing with it, so it's still a treat.
Rest assured, when I'm recognized by a reader or a fellow writer, I'm on Cloud 10 1/2. Oh, man, can I milk some praise, even the smallest praise.
In this niche of the world - baseball writing on the Web, unpaid division - objectively, I'm somebody. I'm a role player. I'm - I'll pick a ballplayer I don't even like, but he's on my mind today and he fits - Craig Counsell. I'm not an All-Star - in fact, give someone else my roster slot, and he might do better. But you know, I feel like I'm in the Show. It's a blessing. Writing this website is a blessing. I get triple-digit readers daily now, but I'll tell you, the moment I realized I had crossed into double digits, that was a sweet exhale on a cold day.
But my god, this site is nowhere near the quality I want it to be. It is thrown together, rapid-fire, a machine gun barely under control, spraying bullets every which way. It has the potential to meet or surpass what others do, but I can't seem to make it happen. I can't find the resources to take the extra base when it's there - and god, it's right there, all the time. So little time is spent refining the writing, which means so much to me. I settle for the obvious words. I let stand a turn of phrase that's an obvious stretch.
It's not enough to wipe away the blessings, but it's frustrating. I crave doing better. I want to be the storyteller, the unequivocal storyteller.
I make compromises instead. They're the best compromises I can think of - because believe me, I weigh this stuff every day. But I think I have my priorities straight. Family comes first, every time. (Well, maybe there's a moment when I cheat, and my wife changes a diaper while I sneak a peek at the latest comments on Baseball Primer Clutch Hits, but that's about the worst of it.) When work needs my full attention, it gets it.
And I think I'm a nice person to be around. (At least, I hide my anger in public well.) That counts.
But I find myself wondering, with ignorant curiosity, what happens to ballplayers when they get married and they have kids. Who makes compromises? What kind of compromises do they make? I know of one for sure - they're gone from their families for longer on one road trip then I've been gone my entire marriage. But beyond that unavoidable issue of logistics, the ones who have stayed close with their family and retained the ability to hit and pitch, those are the Hall of Famers.
I find myself scoffing, with equal parts superiority and jealousy, at writers out there who are single. What I could do with their extra time. Then again, what did I do with it when I had it? No excuses - everyone has hurdles, and you are judged by what you leave on the page.
I find myself pondering the notion of team chemistry. Mention the term, and people always bring up the A's of the 1970s: "They didn't need to like each other to win." Duh! All of a sudden, that seems like the obvious conclusion, the natural one - to have to make the case for it is like having to make the case that reality shows don't reflect reality at all. Being nice to people can so innocently erode the single-minded devotion to getting better at your trade, for two reasons: 1) it often involves sacrifice and 2) it can give you enough pleasure that you don't need to get better at your job. In the game of baseball, if you hate the uni next to you, what else have you got for yourself but to try to be the best there ever was?
No, I make the compromises. I savor my family and accept the frustration that this site isn't as good as I'd like it to be. I'm gonna try every day to be better than I was the day before. But at the same time, I'm posting this message at 9 p.m. without reading it over, Stanford Cardinally sinning, because at some point a man's got to eat dinner. I have a wife who worries when I don't.
I'm the kid who has this habit of dreaming
Sometimes gets me in trouble too
But the truth is I could no more stop dreaming
Than I could make them all come true
- from "The Kid," written by Buddy Mondlock
Sunday, November 30, 2003
Not Even in a Coma and They're Pulling the Plug
In an article about NFL owners salivating over the land of Chavez Ravine for a football stadium, Billy Witz of the Daily News writes that there is "the widespread notion that Dodger Stadium is nearing obsolescence."
Widespread notion? Gimme a damn break. Where is the evidence that a new stadium is necessary? Or is this just a convenient phrase to fuel a movement as ill-conceived as any in Los Angeles?
Why does Witz take the need for a new stadium for granted?
Witz does note that prospective Dodger owner Frank McCourt 1) has made several trips to Los Angeles since the announcement he would purchase the team and 2) the purchase must be completed by January 31, but 3) McCourt is under a Major League Baseball-imposed gag order until the purchase is completed.
This gag order? Also tremendously ill-conceived. But at least Witz writes:
Although McCourt is prohibited from commenting, his representatives - who have talked on background with reporters - are quick to phone in protests whenever speculation about a new stadium is published.
"It's kind of laying out there -- is he going to tear down the stadium, sell the land and build a park downtown?" one person close to McCourt said. "None of those issues are under consideration. Coming in there, he has no intention of doing anything to Dodger Stadium. His immediate focus is on bringing the Dodgers back to a World Series and whatever it takes to get that done is his priority."
This is a great message. And whether or not you agree with that, it's an important message. This word needs to be spread, so that craggy notions about tearing down Dodger Stadium are efficiently nipped in the Bud.
Of course, there remains the question of can we trust this message.
Meanwhile, Witz is so preoccupied with exploring the teardown of the baseball stadium to build one for football, that he doesn't take the time to talk to talk to the many, many people of Los Angeles who would contradict his opening suggestion that Dodger Stadium is dying. Folks, that's the story.