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Dodger Thoughts


Friday, January 09, 2004


Paris Hilton? Yesterday's News

Finally, Liz Smith has weighed in on the Pete Rose controversy:

BASEBALL'S ROGUE champ, Pete Rose has, as you know, just published his autobiography containing his "sorta" mea culpa confession that, yes - he bet on baseball. Sports commentary for the most part insists Rose hasn't been humble and regretful enough to be allowed into the Hall of Fame, despite his record of achievement. Well, his legacy will always be tainted, whether he is in or out. He isn't the world's most engaging personality - just put him in and get it over with.

Anyway, Rose's story is now hot, and Hollywood is eager to option the book. Already, names like Matt Dillon, Brad Pitt and Nic Cage are being thrown around as those starry enough to eventually play Rose.

Listen, who needs the Hall of Fame if in the end a hottie like Brad Pitt portrays you for the ages onscreen?

In other news, Ross Newhan of the Times sees love in Liz Taylor's future ...


Leg Man Cashes In

Who wants to be 97.5 percent of a millionaire? Dave Roberts. I definitely underestimated Roberts' 2004 salary. The Dodger outfielder signed a one-year contract Friday for $975,000.

Roberts had an OPS of .638 in 2003, with an incredibly disappointing 13 extra-base hits in 388 at-bats, though he did sneak in those 40 stolen bases in 107 games. He turns 32 in May.

Surprisingly, in limited opportunities, Roberts has hit left-handed pitchers better than right-handers each of the past three years.

Thursday, January 08, 2004


A Four-Team Race

The most glaring weaknesses remaining for National League West teams to fill:

Arizona: None. Roberto Alomar may prove inadequate at second base, but the Diamondbacks roster looks pretty fully formed.

Colorado: The Rockies have an inexperienced double-play combination in Aaron Miles and Clint Barmes, backed up by retreads Royce Clayton, Damian Jackson and Benji Gil (only one of whom may start the season in the majors). Overall, this looks like the division's last-place team.

Los Angeles: Nothing's changed. The Dodgers need a slugger to move Robin Ventura out of the starting lineup, if not another to move Alex Cora out. I also still have Joe Thurston and Chin-Feng Chen filling out the bench. It's probably time to see if these two can contribute for more than a few games each season (if Thurston is ever going to unseat Cora, this is the moment), but I'd expect the Dodgers to bring in better challengers than Jason Romano for these roster spots.

San Diego:
The Padres have a promising lineup but can they possibly want to start the season with Phil Nevin fielding balls in the outfield? With a surplus of infielders, as well as reserve starting pitchers like Ismael Valdes and Sterling Hitchcock, San Diego is poised to make a trade. With anything short of an idiotic move, the Padres are ready to contend.

San Francisco: Neifi Perez at shortstop. Someone wake these guys up. And my guess is that live-by-the-hit, die-by-the-hit Marquis Grissom is due for a regression. The Giants won the division by 15 1/2 games last season but had a 28-12 record in one-run games, a level of luck 6 1/2 games better than anyone else in the NL West. San Francisco has a cushion to work with, but it's not as much as one might think.

Right now, this division has four contenders, and by April, let alone September, any one of them could be the favorite.

National League West Rosters - Updated January 8
PositionArizonaColoradoLos AngelesSan DiegoSan Francisco
CHammockJohnsonLo DucaHernandezPierzynski
LFL. GonzalezBurnitzEncarnacionNevinBonds
* pitcher

According to the Washington Post, contract talks between the Baltimore Orioles and Vladimir Guerrero are about to end, one way or another:

Whether the process will end with Guerrero in an Orioles uniform, or with another team snatching him away, remains to be seen. But this unprecedented situation -- never before has the consensus top player on the market remained unsigned this late into the winter -- may finally reach an outcome.

One source speculated the Orioles may have placed a deadline on their standing offer of five years, $65 million.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004


Bargain Day

A 32-year-old outfielder who hit 25 home runs with a .276 EQA for San Diego and isn't Daryle Ward, signing for the major league minimum of $300,000 (with the Yankees paying $1.25 million)? Yeah, Bubba Trammell is a good signing for the Dodgers. He doesn't get hit by pitches the way Mike Kinkade does, but he should serve to replace the Japan-bound Kinkade sufficiently.

I am taking at face value the fact that charges were not pursued against Trammell following a police report filed in September that he had allegedly threatened to kill a friend of his estranged wife, according to the New York Daily News.

Trammell does not hit for a high average, but draws an occasional walk and has decent power. Perhaps only Ward had a worse season for an outfielder than Trammell did in 2003 (55 at-bats, 0 home runs), but Trammell isn't too old for a rebound. Hopefully, he has received counseling for his emotional state.

* * *

I know I wasn't the only one shocked to realize that second baseman Alex Cora will earn a higher base salary in 2004 than Hall of Fame candidate Roberto Alomar, who signed a $1 million contract - $350,000 deferred - with Arizona on Tuesday.

Alomar turns 36 in a month, however, has been a below average hitter for the past two seasons and a below average fielder as well. He earned 12 win shares combined with the New York Mets and Chicago White Sox last season, while Cora earned nine. I'm not saying that I wouldn't prefer Alomar to Cora for 2004, but I'm not saying I would, either. In any case, the difference between the two players is nothing like their reputations would suggest.

* * *

The Dodgers might have done well to get 34-year-old Juan Gonzalez at the $4.5 million he signed for with Kansas City, even if Gonzalez were to play only half the season, as he has done the past two years. Gonzalez hit 32 home runs in 152 games over 2002-03, admittedly while playing home games in hitter-friendly Texas.

His 2002 EQA, on the other hand, was lower than Trammell's that year. Gonzalez's recent performance is closer to his reputation than Alomar's, but again, he's aging and not the hitter he used to be.

If the Dodgers were to sign Vladimir Guerrero, there would be little reason to have Gonzalez. But the Dodgers need more power from somewhere, and passing on Gonzalez tightens the noose another stitch.

Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record writes that the Dodgers have a five-year offer on the table for Guerrero, but I haven't seen that confirmed elsewhere - certainly not in the Los Angeles papers. Klapisch adds that Guerrero is adamant in wanting seven years, but coming off his back injury, that is unreasonable in this climate. Klapisch's article notes that the Mets hope to woo Guerrero with a lower offer than anyone else's.

* * *

Dodger non-roster signee Bill Simas, a six-year major league veteran with the White Sox, had a low ERA for AAA Las Vegas last season, 1.96, and allowed only one walk every five innings, but struck out only 25 in 46 innings - a ratio that does not necessarily imply major-league success. However, depending on Darren Dreifort's availability and Edwin Jackson's maturity, there may be a role on the major-league roster for Simas.

Fellow returnee Troy Brohawn looked promising with the Dodgers before he was sidelined with season-ending surgery. He and Steve Colyer will be the prime left-handed candidates to fill the last slot of the bullpen.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004


Credibility Revisited

Should I be surprised or just gratified that some readers want the mainstream world to take blogs as seriously as much as writers want them to? Dodger Thoughts reader Terry Austin writes:

Your entry on the "credibility" of bloggers and other online reporters reminds me of some recent mini-research I did on how newspaper editors typically respond to technological matters. It seems most of them get bent out of shape over the latest version of Quark or Photoshop; you can imagine how threatened they feel by something as seemingly complex as the Internet (and, in turn, blogging).

I read the other day a note from the Dodgers’ webmaster (and, I presume, PR flack) to the posters on that site's fan message board. He noted that Dan Evans semi-regularly reads that board to gauge and gather fan interest, opinion and - tell me this isn't scary – even trade and signing ideas. Evans seems to grasp the importance of the Internet’s "grass-roots" nature. But many baseball writers attack online sources as a way to validate themselves: "Internet rumors yesterday claimed X, but GM Bob Smith dismissed the idea as ridiculous." You’ll note they don’t do the same to one another. As you pointed out, when's the last time someone took Peter Gammons to task?

The Baseball Prospectus folks may be in for a long wait if they're hoping for ESPN to throw them a bone. The good news is that they – and folks like you – gain more and more credibility every day where it counts: with readers. Eventually the "big dogs" will figure this out, too – such as when the Los Angeles Times contacted you for comment a few weeks back.

The old guard of sportswriters and editors may not welcome or even acknowledge bloggers and online journalists, but that doesn't make your work any less important or valuable. The folks at the Poynter Institute seem to take blogging as a serious newsgathering and reporting medium. A few golden parachutes may have to be opened before mass media follow suit.

What I want to know is, does Dan Evans read Dodger Thoughts? Cause I've had some ideas ...

Austin adds as a P.S.:

Dare we draw any parallels between the steroid "saga" of Derrick Turnbow and the feel-good story of Eric Gagne?

If it turns out that Turnbow's 98-mph fastball perhaps owes some of its oomph to andro, does that (again) cast suspicion on Gagne's mysterious velocity (and weight) gain prior to the 2002 season and his conversion to ubercloser?

I mean this sincerely - don't mean to be pithy in any way - but I guess it casts as much suspicion as you want it to cast.

An 87 Percent Raise for Adrian Beltre?

Ken Gurnick of takes an advance look at Salary Arbitrationrama 2004 and predicts some eligible Dodgers will pursue some serious raises.

For Dave Roberts, from $400,000 to $1 million. (With my limited expertise, I have been predicting $500,000.)

For Jolbert Cabrera, from $475,000 to $1.4 million. (I've been saying $500,000.)

For Guillermo Mota, from $675,000 to $2 million. (I've been saying $1 million.)

For Odalis Perez, from $3.4 million to $5 million. (I've been saying $4 million.)

For Adrian Beltre, from $3.75 million to $6 million. (I've been saying $4.5 million.)

For Eric Gagne, from $550,000 to at least $6 million. (I've been saying $6 million.)

My pick on Cabrera seems the most conservative, but I really would be surprised if all the Dodgers got the raises that Gurnick is outlining. But these are my first attempts to make these predictions, so I don't have any kind of track record.

The total difference between my picks and Gurnick's is approximately $5 million. That would affect the Dodgers' ability to sign a mid-level player, but not a major one. And, of course, they could still get multiple strong mid-levelers.

Ownership Transition No Excuse to Avoid Guerrero

  • Also-ran team in ownership transition.
  • Premier outfielder available on free agent market.
  • Team signs premier outfielder before ownership transition is completed.
  • Team wins 103 games.*
Is this the fantasy version of the 2003-2004 Los Angeles Dodgers?

No, it's the reality of the 1992-1993 San Francisco Giants.

"On a Dodger board I read a reference to the Giants signing Bonds in 1993 concurrent with the new Magowan ownership group," Dodger Thoughts reader Brian Greene wrote me Monday. "But according to [Baseball], the Giants signed Bonds on 12/8/92; however the sale was not appoved until 1/12/93."

Furthermore, according to, the 1992 Giants payroll was $30.8 million. After making the changes that included signing Bonds, the 1993 payroll was $34.9 million, an increase of $4.1 million or 13 percent. Keep in mind that the Giants wouldn't move to their new baseball stadium until 2000.

The Barry Bonds that the Giants signed was 26 years old, coming off a season with 34 home runs (in 140 games) and an EQA of .374.

Vladimir Guerrero is 27 years old, coming off a season with a back injury, 25 home runs (in 112 games) and an EQA of .327.

Riskier signing? Sure. The difference is, the Dodgers don't have to increase their payroll to sign Guerrero.

We can't fairly judge anyone's decision to sign or eschew Guerrero until he plays out his entire contract and we see what kind of injuries he had. But for the Dodgers not to aggressively pursue Guerrero, it had better be because of definitive evidence that his back will likely keep him off the field for months, if not years, at a time.

And even so ... if such evidence exists, wouldn't that evidence scare off all teams? (Perhaps it has already, explaining the sluggish interest in Guerrero.) If so, shouldn't that reduce Guerrero's bargaining position for all, making his demands reachable?

Is there any team with better reason or better means to gamble on Guerrero than the Dodgers?

*But not 104.

Breaking News from 1988

Kirk Gibson's home run came off a Hall of Famer.

Monday, January 05, 2004


At a Newsstand Near You

More childhood memories of Baseball Digest, courtesy of Steve at Linkmeister.

I never subscribed, but I was a religious purchaser of the magazine back in the early 1960s. I got mine at a newsstand on Westwood Boulevard just above Olympic. 25 cents cover price, as I recall, which was the price of two issues of the weekly West L.A. paper I delivered every Wednesday morning to six blocks of 40s-50s era housing a few blocks over from my home on Kelton.

Let's Talk About the Issues, Not About Rose

Most of all, I just want the issue of Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame to disappear.

I always felt that there was ample evidence that Rose bet on baseball, including bets on his own team while he was managing. His denials since these disclosures have included misrepresenations of what was in the public record at the tmime, further rendering his innocence unlikely to me. And his combative stance in making those denials was an abuse of his popularity, villainizing those with more integrity than he has.

Now, with his admission that he did bet on the game, we are re-confronted with the question of whether he should be in the Hall of Fame.

I don't care.

You can make an argument that Rose should be forgiven, that gambling is an illness that makes no distinction between betting on someone else's team and betting on your own. You can make an argument that he committed what serves as the closest thing to original sin in baseball, and that he should be kept out.

But my bottom line is that we should be talking about the perils of gambing addiction, about the difficult morality of admitting your guilt, about why baseball has the no-gambling rule in the first place. But enough angst over Pete himself. The last thing this guy deserves is the spotlight.

Wishful thinking on my part. It's because the issue of his Hall of Fame election is Ground Zero for all the above philosophical discussions, with arguments on either side, that it won't go away.

Where is Sophocles when you need him? He's the guy that would make this a morality play worth watching.

Credit and Respectability – Are We Journalists by Name or by Action?

As Alex Belth writes today, Will Carroll and Derek Zumsteg of Baseball Prospectus broke the story in August that an agreement was in the works to allow Pete Rose to return to baseball this year. The mainstream press and Major League Baseball pilloried Carroll and Zumsteg at the time, as much for their unnamed-sources story as for "who the hell are these guys to break a story like this." However, Rose’s admissions this week are logically part of the effort to make that agreement happen, basically vindicating Carroll and Zumsteg.

Belth interviewed me today for his article, perhaps because I had written this piece at the time of the Baseball Prospectus story. Belth wonders whether this event will be a watershed moment, marking a time that the mainstream press starts to take outsiders seriously, whether those outsiders be up-and-comers like Alex and me or up-and-arrivers like BP. As you can see from my quote, a better reason for people like Carroll and Zumsteg and their BP colleagues to be taken seriously is not because they got this scoop, but for the consistent quality of their work.

I had some further thoughts in talking about this with Alex, which I'd like to share here.

I have a very precise line of thinking about the nature of scoops and I think it's relevant today. Basically, I trusted Will and Derek, but I didn't trust their sources because they were off the record. I'd still be an advocate for waiting until two sources are willing to go on the record before reporting a story, because once you lower that standard, I think you risk being wrong on a story and consequently losing your readership's trust. I do realize, though, that not everyone agrees with me. In any case, I'm thrilled that Will and Derek weren't led astray.

I also have to say that, though there is no Baseball Tonight on right now for me to watch and I haven't paid attention to SportsCenter's coverage (for example), I don't think there have been nearly enough mea culpas in the mainstream press, which seemed to attack - viciously at times - Will and Derek's report. Will Outside the Lines return to this story? Are they bringing Will back? I only think that these events will help outsiders like BP and bloggers like us get respect if we're given credit. Rob Neyer, whom I like and respect, has gotten considerably more credit - to the extent that some consider he has broken the story - just for noting that Rose's book deal was timed with his ABC interview, right? Astute observation by Rob, but he's hardly deserving of more credit than the BP guys.

I guess it's a function of ESPN being the de facto New York Times of the sports world. Unless someone, inside or outside ESPN, steps up this week and points back to Will and Derek's report, then I think little victory has been had. I take that back - the other possibility is that ESPN will stay silent about it now, but look closer at Baseball Prospectus in terms of future hires.

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