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Dodger Thoughts


Friday, December 19, 2003


And Now, For Those of You Who Wanted Actual Information

Site reader Mike Branom pointed me to this length Baseball America chat with Josh Boyd regarding the Dodger farm system. If you want to feel encouraged about the future, read this.

Boyd himself was interviewed in engaging fashion by Toronto baseball site Batter's Box.

I'm Casting Off Material Desires, And I'm Loving It!

I get handed the phone ...

Hi, Dad.

--Are you in the middle of dinner?

I'm microwaving, if that counts.

--Well, I have a question for you.


--What are the Dodgers going to do for players?

Microwave ticks down: 9, 8, 7...

--Well, call me back when you have an answer.

Look, the bright side is, when you are rock bottom offensively at first base, second base and shortstop and near the bottom at third base, left field and center field, well, just think how easy it would be for Bart Simpson to raise his grade-point average.

The Dodgers may or may not get an A ballplayer, but some Bs could help nicely, and even the Cs like Juan Encarnacion won't necessarily hurt.

There are guys out there. They just may not be the guys that excite you. And in the end, they may not be the guys that give the Dodgers a title - even though those guys are out there.

I find myself in a sanguine mood this morning. After being exhausted by rumor after rumor, I find myself, without even trying, just thinking about the game. I find myself thinking about how much I like going to Dodger Stadium, no matter who is wearing the Dodger whites.

This may not be much consolation to those of you who aren't so peculiarly addled today, who can't understand why (re)building the Dodger offense is a shaky hand wavering on whether to cut the red or blue wire.

I don't know. I guess today, with my dad's question, I find myself forced to look at the positive. I find myself willing to embrace the ascetic. I find myself willing to suffer with Cesar Izturis' quest for a .300 on-base percentage, with Adrian Beltre's attempted escape from the poisoned Fountain of Youth, with good guy Dave Roberts attempting to show that it is possible to deliver only 13 extra base hits in 440 plate appearances. It's liberating.

The holidays are coming. I'm tired of fighting, tired of railing. For the time being, however short, I'd rather accept. Just accept. And I'll hope to be pleasantly surprised, though I won't expect it.

I know it's denial. I feel strangely like Jerry Maguire in the war room after he's been fired, with all the other agents regarding him with car-wreck pity.

But I just don't have it in me to be angry today. Ultimately, baseball is still my favorite game, and that's where I'm at.

I wish I could go to a game right now.
It'll be a Dodger Blue Christmas without me. Enjoy your holidays - Dodger Thoughts will return after the 25th!

Thursday, December 18, 2003


Updated NL West Rosters

Like I did a few days ago, I'm going to let the trade pot percolate a little before commenting again. Updated again are the National League West rosters, if the season started today:

National League West Rosters - Updated December 18
PositionArizonaColoradoLos AngelesSan DiegoSan Francisco
CHammockJohnsonLo DucaHernandezPierzynski
LFL. GonzalezPaytonGreenNevinBonds
* pitcher


  • The Padres continue to amass pitching candidates, signing Sterling Hitchcock and Ismael Valdes to one-year contracts.

  • Jim McLennan from But It's a DRY Heat e-mailed some corrections for the Diamondback roster: most notably that I had left relievers Jose Valverde and Matt Mantei off the roster.

  • Prompted by the Rockies' decision to make Shawn Chacon their closer and their signing of Todd Greene as a backup catcher, I've done additional research on the team, checked with some people at Baseball Primer's Clutch Hits (Happy 10,000!), and rearranged the deck chairs.
I don't believe that the Dodgers' Wilson Alvarez signing is official yet, so I haven't added him in. Whom do I drop out of the rotation: Jeff Weaver or Darren Dreifort? Haven't heard much about Dreifort's physical condition this offseason, have we?

December 19 Update: Alvarez officially signed. I have dropped Dreifort from the rotation, at least until someone from the Dodgers makes a public statement that he is ready to pitch.


And Now a Word From Your Sponsor ...

Though I'd love to earn some income from this site, I've instead gone and spent some more money. Dodger Thoughts now sponsors the 2003 Los Angeles Dodgers page at Considering how much I rely on this reference source, the support was long overdue.

More Nawlins

Jay Jaffe's rousing account of his Winter Meetings experience in New Orleans - "four days of pure sensory overload, intensive immersion in a realm of the baseball world I had only previously imagined" - was well worth the wait.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003


Is Jim Edmonds Still Out There?

Check out the relative positions of the Cardinals' Jim Edmonds and the Dodgers' Dave Roberts on the Aaron's Baseball Blog chart of center-field production.

Mike Cameron would have also been a good signing. Instead, he's with the Mets.


Over a Barrel, or Under It?

Either way, the Dodgers may have to roll with it down a potholed road.

Newsday, the first publication to report the Kevin Brown for Jeff Weaver trade when it was actually happening, states this morning that neither Nomar Garciaparra nor Magglio Ordonez will not be traded to the Dodgers, but traded for each other.

The Los Angeles Times also has the sudden rumor, although tag-teamers Ross and Jason add that the White Sox might still trade Garciaparra to Los Angeles.

Essentially, by creating the possibility of withholding both these players from the Dodgers, the White Sox may force Dan Evans to cave in and surrender more talent than he wants, to get just one of them.

There is reason to panic if you're a Dodger fan, but it may not be the obvious one.

The Dodgers could well survive and even prosper without Garciaparra or Ordonez. Keep in mind that both players are rentals. Each has a contract that expires in 2004. Ten months from now, the Dodgers could easily rue the day they gave up multiple players for one of them.

Sign Vladimir Guerrero, and you're in clover, picking up the jewel of the free agent market while retaining Odalis Perez, Guillermo Mota and the niblets of promising young pitching the team has nurtured.

Ah, but here's the alarming part. As Bob Keisser writes in a strong column for the Long Beach Press-Telegram:

While the public mandate given Evans was to improve the team while staying under last year's self-imposed salary cap, sources believe Fox higher-ups made it clear they will not approve any major multiyear free-agent signing.

That explains why Evans has been so focused on Nomar Garciaparra and Magglio Ordonez, whose contracts expire after the 2004 season, rather than free agents Miguel Tejada and Vladimir Guerrero. An investment in Nomar or Magglio doesn't tie up any long-term money.

Is this where the barrel rolls over us? Yes, Dan Evans is promised no salary cutbacks for 2004 - but what about 2005? Will the Dodger payroll be slashed $20 million? $30 million? $40 million?

On the one hand, I feel I'm jumping the gun on this. On the other, with Frank McCourt's loan-heavy purchase proposal - redefining the term "collateral damage" - maybe I've been all too slow to realize what's going to happen.

If that is the scenario, here is what we're looking at:

1) For the Dodgers to compete in 2004, they may have to trade young talent like Edwin Jackson, Greg Miller, Joel Hanrahan, Franklin Gutierrez or James Loney.

2) For the Dodgers to compete in 2005 and beyond, they may need young talent like Edwin Jackson, Greg Miller, Joel Hanrahan, Franklin Gutierrez and James Loney.

That barrel's got us where it wants us, all right. The fury of the Dodger fans will be intense if the team does not add a single power hitter this offseason, prospects be damned. But if the 2005 budget is going to be cut, there is no best-case scenario aside from the Dodgers actually winning the World Series next year. Unless he conjures some Billy Beane or Billy Beane-like magic, McCourt will have smothered the means to improve the team beyond next season.

Which do you pick: one shot at winning in 2004, or bitter patience so that we can turn to the young core to carry the Dodgers through the rest of the aughts?

Hell, who'd have thought we'd have to choose?

When the McCourt agreement was announced two months ago, I was nervous. That's my nature. That being said, the possibility of rollbacks in 2005 has only just started to sink in for me - I'm not sure I can fully appreciate it yet. Maybe it's still all paranoia.

Isn't it wonderful, though, that Major League Baseball is going to great lengths to keep a gag order on McCourt, to ensure that the fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers are kept completely in the dark about the team's future.

Snag May Benefit Dodgers

The players' union has rejected proposed changes to Alex Rodriguez's contract that would enable him to be traded to Boston. This may make it impossible for the deal to go through before Major League Baseball's deadline of 3 p.m. PST Thursday.

If that trade falls through, that would presumably end the Red Sox' plan to send Nomar Garciaparra to the White Sox for Magglio Ordonez. In that case, the pendulum swings back in the Dodgers' favor; they would become Chicago's principal outlet to unload Ordonez' contract.

Of course, Ordonez may never become a Dodger no matter what - reports are spreading that neither Dodger general manager Dan Evans nor White Sox GM Kenny Williams wants to give in to the other, due to the fact that they were once both candiates for Williams' job. Whatever happens, I again say that this is less about Ordonez specifically than about how the pending ownership change may affect Dodger offseason plans for years to come.

Dodger Thoughts reader Bill Simms, in an e-mail responding to my morning post, noted that by 2006, a lower payroll becomes less of an issue for the Dodgers, because the Shawn Green and Darren Dreifort contracts expire by then. (Here is a new link to a website, Ahead of the Curve, that details the Dodger contract commitments.)

Simms is correct, if the Dodgers have the young, low-paid talent ready to take the reins. However, if they trade it all away prematurely, then the team will face the prospect of having to overpay in two years to be competitive. This market correction we are now seeing won't last forever.

Again, if there a payroll cut is coming in 2005, the Dodgers have to decide whether 2004 is an all-or-nothing year. Some would say "nothing ventured, nothing gained," but personally, I hate the idea of all-or-nothing years, because nothing is too easy to come by.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003



While you and I wait on the Alex Rodriguez deal and the ensuing dominoes, read the Sports Bard's meter-free treatise on suffering. It dovetails with my March entry, "The Meaning of the Game," in examining why we put up with all the frustration that accompanies our love of our team or our game.

Quick Updates

1) The Dodgers seem firmly out of the Vladimir Guerrero bidding, fearing his long-term viability following back surgery.

2) Potential free agent signee Todd Walker appears ready to sign with Texas if an A-Rod departure creates a vacancy there.

3) The Dodgers' interest in Ivan Rodriguez seems sincere, as does their willingness to trade Paul LoDuca. If this gains momentum, I'll devote a full entry to the matter.

4) In case you missed it in the morning papers, Wilson Alvarez is close to signing his return ticket to Los Angeles.

Monday, December 15, 2003



Two of my colleagues, Alex Belth of Bronx Banter and Jay Jaffe of The Futility Infielder, ventured down to New Orleans to get a first-hand taste of the Winter Meetings. Make sure to check out their sites today: Alex offers a personalized description of what it's like to be a neophyte at the confab, while Jay fills in the gaps about the duo's poker-playing adventures with the gang from Baseball Prospectus.

Looks like I would have been drunk under the table and separated from all my finances had I gone. I can only rest easy with the confidence that I could have out TV-watched them.

More on Encarnacion

Lee Sinins, publisher of the Baseball Sabermetric Encyclopedia, writes that "in the past half century, (Juan) Encarnacion is in the top 10 for worst career OBA, vs. the league average, among OF with 3000+ PA."

RankPlayerDifferentialPlayer's OBPLeague OBP
1John Shelby -.047.281.328
2Gerald Williams-.042.302.345
3Tony Armas-.041.287.328
4Cory Snyder-.037.293.330
5Bill Robinson-.036.290.326
6Tony Scott-.034.297.332
7Cito Gaston-.034.297.331
8Juan Encarnacion-.029.313.343
9Brian Hunter-.029.313.342
10Don Demeter-.029.296.325

Shelby, Snyder, Encarnacion and Demeter are all once or future Dodgers, Bob Timmermann wrote to note.

Reports indicate that the Dodgers will non-tender Encarnacion a contract if he does not agree to their terms, but that those terms could be as generous as $4 million per year for two years.

The guy's supposed to be a hell of a fielder, though, which is probably why the rumors of Shawn Green moving to first base are rekindling.

Fears of a Scorched Earth Ownership

The Dodgers might acquire Freddy Garcia from the Seattle Mariners, with the hopes of exchanging him for offensive help.

It's just a rumor. But it leads to this question:

Does Dodgers/Freddy Garcia/offensive help = Frank McCourt/Dodgers/real estate killing?

McCourt's bid for the Dodgers is almost entirely financed with loans, the Times reports today. While Ross Newhan and Jason Reid write that this could jeopardize the approval process for McCourt, they add that "because of baseball's financial relationship with News Corp.'s subsidiary, Fox Sports, which holds national TV rights and the regional rights of many clubs, it has been tolerant in regard to McCourt's financing and less inclined to challenge the possible deal."

From my vantage point, one of two things need to happen.

  • Someone in baseball needs to acknowledge that the Dodgers are a money-making activity, after years of saying the opposite, thus justifying McCourt's leveraged investment.

  • Someone in baseball needs to stop the McCourt bid before it reduces the Dodgers into a tear-down.
Dodger Stadium does not need to be replaced. Downtown does not need a baseball stadium. New housing that is built on the Chavez Ravine site of a former Dodger Stadium will not go to the people who were evicted from the area five decades ago, nor their descendants.

But at the rate things are going, the converse of all these statements may be used to justify some destructive moves.

What McCourt might do to the budget for Dodger player salaries, right now, is the least of my fears. I'm happy to eat crow if and when the time comes, but this stuff is making me more and more nervous for the fate of the franchise.

Update: I e-mailed Doug Pappas, writer for Baseball Prospectus and Doug's Business of Baseball Weblog, with today's McCourt story.

"Interesting," Pappas said. "I don't think MLB has any (predisposed) interest in McCourt - but it DOES have an interest in cooperating with News Corp., which between the national broadcast and local cable contracts is its single biggest business partner. If News Corp. wants to sell, MLB doesn't want to stand in the way."

My reply: With Fox poised to become the Dodger landlord (via financing McCourt's loans) instead of the Dodger owner, I continue to wonder if the ownership situation is going to go from bad to worse. And that's before one even confronts McCourt's likely interest in making team ownership a real-estate venture.

Encarnacion Signs

Juan is staying, for $3.55 million in 2004 and $4.45 million in 2005.

The Florida-bound Dodger to be named later has been named: Travis Ezi, an outfielder who had 33 walks and 33 steals while OPSing .650 for the Class A South Georgia Waves.

Updated NL West Rosters

Remember, these are rosters laid out as if the season started today, not predictions.

Noteworthy changes:
  • Based on defensive value, I've put Shawn Green in left field for the Dodgers and Juan Encarnacion in right.
  • I've changed the Rockies' last bench slot into a slot for a 12th pitcher, given their lack of depth in position players and their likely roster construction.
  • I've got Garrett Atkins at second base for the Rockies, even though he is a third baseman. Colorado signed Vinny Castilla to play third but cleared out its middle infield. The Rockies' current starting shortstop, Clint Barmes, had an OPS of .710 at Class AAA Colorado Springs last season.
  • Colorado released former Dodger farmboy Luke Allen.
  • Just in passing, the Padres have built a lot of bullpen depth.
National League West Rosters - Updated December 15
PositionArizonaColoradoLos AngelesSan DiegoSan Francisco
CBarajasJohnsonLo DucaHernandezPierzynski
LFL. GonzalezPaytonGreenNevinBonds
* pitcher

Right now, I would say that the NL West is the second-weakest division in baseball, behind only the American League Central.

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