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Dodger Thoughts


Friday, January 23, 2004


And He Gets the Girl in the End ...

In response to Thursday's Matt Luke posting, Tommy Naccarato send this e-mail:

Glad to see you had something in there about Matt Luke.

I used to know his wife Tara, as she worked for my best friend's restaurant for several years, and you talk about a doll. She was (and probably still is) beautiful both inside and out, and it makes even more sense why Matt Luke won her affections.

Jon, this is a gal that was a drop-dead knockout and had a personality to go with it. When I heard she was with a ballplayer, I was crushed because I thought, here goes that wonderful personality because of the money and fame, but when she told me it was Matt Luke, I high-fived her! (He was on the Dodgers at the time!) (And yes, my best friend and my sister, who happens to work for him, used to have quite a fun time at my expense laughing over my crush on her because it was anything but a secret!)

I haven't seen her in some years, but I'm told they do come in the restaurant from time to time. She is supposedly more sincere then ever, and as devoted as a wife could and should be. Now that is a GREAT thing! Sounds like Matt Luke deserves it!


Mix and Match

Okay, I'm going to actually look at the team and put aside the painful obsession with Frank McCourt.

I can't believe that the Dodgers won't make some additional move to boost their offense, but I not going to assume that they will either. So let's see what we've got:

Dodger Depth Chart
First BaseSecond BaseShortstopThird Base
Lo DucaIzturisCabreraCora

Left FieldCenter FieldRight FieldCatcher
EncarnacionRobertsGreenLo Duca

First, let's look at some potential Dodger lineups against right-handed pitching, which the team will face most of the time.

Lineup 1
Roberts, CF
Lo Duca, C
Green, RF
Beltre, 3B
Ventura, 1B
Encarnacion, LF
Cora, 2B
Izturis, SS

Comment: The Dodgers simply do not have a cleanup hitter against right-handed pitching. You might as well say to Beltre, "You're the man," because as of now, there is no obviously better option. Ventura is the next-best alternative, but then you have a left-handed hitter batting behind Green, making it easy for opponents to bring in left-handed relievers.

Lineup 2
Roberts, CF
Ventura, 1B
Lo Duca, C
Green, RF
Encarnacion, LF
Beltre, 3B
Cora, 2B
Izturis, SS

Comment: If Beltre isn't the man, you could try betting on Lo Duca as a No. 3 hitter, drop Green from his best spot to cleanup, move Ventura's walks up to the No. 2 slot, and protect Green with Encarnacion. I thought about Encarnacion in the third slot, but don't think he will walk enough to man it.

Lineup 3
Lo Duca, C
Ventura, 1B
Beltre, 3B
Green, RF
Encarnacion, CF
Trammell, LF
Cabrera, 2B
Izturis, SS

Comment: If Roberts can't get on base enough to use his speed, you could throw the track shoes out the door and put the plate-discipline guys 1-2 at the top. Green bats fourth, and you can take your lousy pick from Beltre, Encarnacion, Trammell and (in this case) Cabrera at No. 3.

Lineup 4
Roberts, CF
Lo Duca, C
Green, 1B
Beltre, 3B
Encarnacion, RF
Trammell, LF
Cora, 2B
Izturis, SS

Lineup 5
Roberts, CF
Lo Duca, C
Green, 1B
Beltre, 3B
Encarnacion, RF
Trammell, LF
Cabrera, 2B
Izturis, SS

Comment: If Green ends up at first, you essentially lose a left-handed bat, as all of the Dodger outfield reserves behind Roberts and Encarnacion are right-handed.

Lineup 6
Roberts, CF
Lo Duca, 1B
Green, RF
Ross, C
Beltre, 3B
Encarnacion, LF
Cabrera, 2B
Izturis, SS

Comment: Dave Ross hit seven home runs in 93 at-bats against righties last year. He deserves a chance to build on that - whether he could do it at No. 4 remains to be seen.

One area where Jim Tracy erred last year was his platooning of Cabrera and Cora. Cora hits better against lefties, yet often sat out against them so the right-handed Cabrera could play. Cabrera, while also better against lefties, is also better against righties than Cora is. Yet Cabrera would often find the pine against righties while Cora played.

The Dodgers actually had a semi-productive lineup facing left-handed pitching last year if they wanted. Let's see what they might look like in 2004 with a southpaw on the mound against them.

Lineup 1
Cabrera, CF
Lo Duca, C
Green, 1B
Beltre, 3B
Encarnacion, RF
Trammell, LF
Cora, 2B
Izturis, SS

Comment: You might as well give Roberts some rest against lefties.

Lineup 2
Cora, 2B
Cabrera, CF
Lo Duca, C
Green, 1B
Beltre, 3B
Encarnacion, RF
Trammell, LF
Izturis, SS

Comment: I'll take a chance leading off Cora against lefties. You won't see me put Izturis up there, though.

Lineup 3
Cora, 2B
Lo Duca, 1B
Green, RF
Trammell, LF
Beltre, 3B
Encarnacion, RF
Ross, C
Izturis, SS
Comment: And so on ...

I think Tracy is destined to do a lot of experimenting in March, if not in April and May.

A guy with power and on-base capability against right-handed pitching would make all the difference in the world.

Forget Eli Broad - Here's Hideo Nomo!

Once again, I'm linking to an oddly written article about a Japanese ballplayer (scroll down if you click on the link):

TOKYO (AP) - Hideo Nomo is giving back to the system that allowed him to become one of the best pitchers on either side of the Pacific.

The Los Angeles Dodgers' pitcher now has his own baseball team to go along with a long list of playing achievements, including his two no-hitters.

The Nomo Baseball Club will be based in his hometown of Osaka and begin play this spring in Japan's semipro league.

"If it wasn't for the opportunities I had when I was young, I have no idea what I'd be doing today," Nomo said Thursday at a news conference to introduce the team. "This is my way of contributing to the development of baseball."

Nomo, who joined the Dodgers in 1995 and was rookie of the year his first season, said he was inspired to lend his name to the team by the charitable efforts of his fellow major leaguers.

The article says that Nomo "has" his own team, which I originally took to mean that Nomo had purchased it or was sponsoring it. The phrase at the end of the article about "lending his name" gave me pause - maybe that was Nomo's only act of charity and no money changed hands. But no, he has to be paying the bills, right?

It occurs to me that this might be the biggest offseason move the Dodgers have made.

Update: Frank McCourt was in Osaka last year hoping to purchase the team and the surrounding metropolis, but was rejected by semipro league officials. A gag order prevents McCourt from commenting.

Real Update: Here is a more full account. I'm taking advantage of the blogging system and giving this story to you as I uncover it, rather than rewriting it so that the pertinent facts are prominent and the confusing and irrelevant facts are eliminated. Ain't that grand?

I'm also ignoring the revelation that this news came out in July, so it is not the biggest offseason move the Dodgers have made - although July wasn't much for Dan Evans to write home about either.

Anyway, the Japan Information Network wrote:

With the amount of support provided by companies to their corporate teams dwindling, amateur and semipro players face an increasingly tough situation. Hoping to give these players some encouragement, Nomo supplied the funds for the new team himself in what could be described as a gesture of putting something back into the world of baseball. ...

About 50 people, ranging from former pros to veterans of high-school baseball, took part in the tryouts held in April to select players for the team. The team chose 12 players, including trainees, and began practicing soon after. As it is a truly amateur team, the players receive no salaries. They earn their livings working in places like factories and gas stations by day and attend practices in the evenings. The team aims to start competing in official games from spring 2004, but the dream held by every player is to use the opportunity as a springboard to a professional career - just like Nomo did.

Final? Update "The Wall Street Journal had an article a couple of weeks ago about the decline of 'company' baseball teams and how some of those players were being signed by independent league teams in the U.S.," Bob Timmermann writes. "All part of the decline of the Japanese economy."

Thursday, January 22, 2004


Touching Base with the 1990s' Jack Fimple

Steve Bisheff of the Orange County Register caught up with one of those short-term Dodgers that everyone rooted for, Matt Luke. The headline calls Luke an ex-Angel, but it was with the Dodgers that he had his greatest success, hitting nine home runs in 160 at-bats during the 1998 season.

Bisheff writes that dual shoulder surgeries ended Luke's career at age 28. But as you'll see from the warm, sincere story, that hardly seems to matter now.

Professional Musings

David Pinto of Baseball Musings is making a big move. Congrats!

Eric Gagne: Harry Potter?

I've added The Bench Coach to the Dodger links on the right; I think you'll enjoy checking him out. The Coach's font also looks better on my computer than the Dodger Thoughts font does.

I liked the Coach's post this morning on Eric Gagne because it really takes a calm but pointed approach to the situation regarding Gagne's contract status. Perhaps the Coach's most noteworthy comment: Gagne "seems to be morphing into the leader of the Dodgers just when the team needs him most."

The Coach adds: "But there is coming a day, possibly as soon as Jan. 31, when it will be time for Gagne to be rewarded. How that plays out will be the first major test of McCourt's ownership, and I fear it will tell Dodger fans all we need to know."

The other day, I stated my feeling that a salary arbitration hearing between Gagne and the Dodgers would turn into a non-event. Today, however, the Coach writes that he's "been waiting for the Gagne negotiations to get really, really ugly," and I admit the Coach is right when it comes to any negotiations for a multiyear contract. There is going to be a huge disparity between what Gagne wants and what the Dodgers - whoever "the Dodgers" are - will prepared to offer.

For that matter, Times smacktalker T.J. Simers, who you'd expect would have nothing good to say about the $5 million the Dodgers are paying Adrian Beltre this year, fulfills those expectations in a way you wouldn't expect, noting today the risk that the Dodgers are taking by not locking the young Beltre up to a long-term deal.

Gagne and Beltre are symptoms of a much larger uncertainty that is facing Dodger fans now that the Voldemort ownership appears ready to take over Hogwarts. (I promise to drop that analogy post haste, but it seems to fit today.)

No one wants to lose Gagne and no one will want to lose Beltre if he flowers. Ultimately, though, Dan Evans, Billy Beane or whoever will do their best to make the most of whatever New Age payroll they have to work with. If that means they can't pay $8-10 million a year for your closer, well, that doesn't eliminate the Dodgers' postseason chances. In fact, many will argue that paying a closer that much money - even with a $100 million budget - is a misallocation of funds.

The mystery that needs to be solved, before any individual players are concerned, is just how low will Voldemort go with the payroll. Any contract discussion of any player works its way back to that question, and I'm not sure it's worth worrying about Gagne or any other single player right now. The whole team is caught in the ether.

That is going to be one interesting press conference when Voldemort finally appears and speaks. We do need a Dumbledore.

(Okay - that's it, J.K.)


I've got some questions for Ross Newhan to follow up with today. Actually, I've got many, but here's a mere sample:

In the Times today, Newhan writes that revisions to Frank McCourt's ownership bid, revisions that would would leave News Corp. as a temporary minority owner, give McCourt "from one to two years, the source said, to find a Los Angeles-area investor to buy out News Corp."

Can this window of one or two years be extended indefinitely, or will the investor-to-be-named later have McCourt over a barrel, further weakening his ownership position and in turn the Dodgers?

After all, we've heard from baseball how McCourt shouldn't have to sell his Boston real estate under the gun. Doesn't this revised proposal simply transfer this burden - to the Dodgers and their support base?

Famous First Words

From the October 9, 2003 Times:

The proposed sale of the Dodgers to Boston real estate developer Frank H. McCourt could adversely affect the club's off-season plans if the process drags out much longer, baseball executives said Wednesday. ...

The negotiations might produce an agreement by the end of October, sources close to the talks said, and the other owners would be expected to eventually approve McCourt. But the potential length of that process has stirred concern at Chavez Ravine. ...

That would be especially problematic for the Dodgers entering a winter in which General Manager Dan Evans is under pressure to improve the National League's worst offense, and the club hopes to be a player in the free-agent market after dropping more than $19 million from the 2004 payroll.

The Dodgers said throughout the season the potential sale of the club would not affect day-to-day operations and continue to maintain nothing has changed because News Corp. is still operating the team.

"[Chairman] Bob Daly continues to stress to all management that it's business as usual," said Derrick Hall, senior vice president. "It will continue to be just that."

Times stories from the past year on News Corp.'s attempt to sell the Dodgers can be found here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004


Thoughts That Count

The words come probably too late and definitely too clumsily - read it and tell me it doesn't appear to be written by a sixth-grader - but the editorial page of the Times comes out sorta kinda against the Frank McCourt ownership bid today. I'm glad the paper did so, but it's a feeble effort, and pales in comparison to the outstanding work led by the paper's Ross Newhan over the past several days.

More impressive than the editorial is this recap from Jay Jaffe at The Futility Infielder. Jaffe touches my normally pacifist heart with these words:

I will concede that if the speculation is true that McCourt, a Boston real estate developer, is interested in buying the Dodgers so that he can build a downtown ballpark, raze Dodger Stadium and develop the Chavez Ravine land for his own devices, then there is no action on the part of Bud Selig, the United States military, or organized criminals (even disorganized ones) that I will not condone to prevent that from happening. Smite him and his seed from the earth if he so much as lifts a finger to harm that ballpark; I promise not to say, "boo."

Doug Pappas adds this at Doug's Business of Baseball Weblog:

The Los Angeles Times reports that even though Commissioner Selig has recently reiterated the importance of the debt rules in the context of the proposed sale of the Dodgers, one unnamed owner on the Executive Committee "saw no problem with McCourt buying the Dodgers entirely with borrowed money." In the words of the owner, "If he didn't have the collateral he wouldn't be getting the loans."

Then why have a debt rule at all? Without one, I could bid for the Dodgers as easily as McCourt can. If as part of my bid, I could agree to sell naming rights to Dodger Stadium, let real estate developers subdivide a chunk of Dodgertown, and auction off the next concessions contracts for a hefty upfront sum, I could offer MLB $100 million up front and finance the rest, secured by the club and its assets, without investing a dime of my own money.

If the debt rule isn't enforced to ensure that prospective owners have the liquidity and operating capital necessary to operate a club properly, its only purpose would be the one long feared by the players: a weapon wielded by the Commissioner to hold down salaries by limiting the rights of owners to sign the players they want.


Comparison I Can't Resist Making

Adrian Beltre is 24, turning 25 in April.

Here is what Eric Gagne did at age 24: 4-6, 5.15 ERA, 101 1/3 innings, 106 hits allowed, 20 home runs allowed, 60 walks allowed, 79 strikeouts.

At age 25, Gagne went 6-7, 4.75 ERA, 151 2/3 innings, 144 hits allowed, 24 home runs allowed, 46 walks allowed, 130 strikeouts.

At age 26, Gagne went 4-1, 1.97 ERA, 82 1/3 innings, 55 hits allowed, 16 walks allowed, 114 strikeouts.

Gagne is obviously not a first-rate comparison for a third baseman. But like it or not, Beltre is still young and primed to improve.

Comparison I'd Like to Resist Making

Adrian Beltre is 24, turning 25 in April.

Last year, Beltre had an EQA of .251 (.260 is average) and an OPS+ of 89 (100 is average).

At age 24, Alfonso Soriano had an EQA of .299 and an OPS+ of 131.

At age 25, Soriano had an EQA of .296 and an OPS+ of 128.

Soriano, maligned for his plate discipline, has walked 61 times in the past two years, in a Yankee lineup with better hitters behind him. Beltre, in a Dodger lineup that gives opposing pitchers little else to be afraid of, has walked 74 - once more per month.

Beltre signed a $5 million contract this year; Soriano will earn $5.4 million.

Soriano has less service time in the majors than Beltre, thus lowering what Soriano could stand to earn in salary arbitration this month. In his third full season with the Yankees last year, Soriano earned $800,000. (By comparison, Beltre earned $1 million in his third season and $1.25 million in his fourth.)

Justice dictates that the Dodgers should not be paying Beltre only $400,000 less than Soriano in 2004. But that's life in the big city right now. The greater point may be that baseball should review the rules that so prioritize major-league experience - good or bad - in salary arbitration awards.

The Single Life

Is the lead graph in this Kyodo News story insight into Japanese culture? Or just an awkward use of English?

OSAKA — Kintetsu Buffaloes infielder Norihiro Nakamura will single himself out from the rest of the team and take part in the Los Angeles Dodgers' spring training in Florida next month, Buffaloes general manager Keisuke Ashitaka said Wednesday

(Bob Timmermann, who toured Japan last year and saw games at every Pacific and Central League Park, writes: "That sounds very much like a non-native English speaker writing. The Kyodo News Service is Japanese-based and I met one of their writers last year. Nice guy, but I could tell that his English wasn't great.")

Did You Ever Think You'd See the Day?

Farewell, Jesse Orosco - Man of Baseball.

When You Think About It,
Mike Scioscia Blocking the Plate
Makes Him the Most Ironic Dodger


Pick your favorite! This is mine:

Men's Hoopsters Outgunned by Quakers—Both Ironic and Deeply Humiliating, When You Think About It


They really just seem determined, in the face of all logic, to make He Who Should Not Be Named the man.

I feel like I've been facing a grave future for the past month. It may finally be time for me to face the present.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004



Some of you probably thought I was too easy on Adrian Beltre on Monday. In the interest of fair play, here's a reason why you might have thought that.

According to Lee Sinins, Beltre's career on-base percentage vs. the league average ranks fourth-worst in Dodger history (min: 3000 PA).

Diff. OBP Lg. Avg.
-.057 .275 .332 Otto Miller
-.037 .295 .332 Ivy Olson
-.034 .299 .332 Steve Yeager
-.024 .320 .344 Adrian Beltre
-.022 .303 .325 George Cutshaw
-.022 .310 .332 Bill Russell
-.017 .313 .329 Hi Myers
-.015 .325 .341 Eric Karros
-.014 .312 .326 Willie Davis
-.014 .315 .328 John Hummel

Not Exactly India vs. Pakistan

Although no one likes a salary arbitration hearing, the idea that The Los Angeles Dodgers v. Eric Serge Gagne will turn into a visit to Jerry Springer seems farfetched.

What are the Dodgers going to say?

"Uh, well, Eric's not a starting pitcher."

"He allowed 12 runs last season - 11 earned."

"He lost three games."

"If not for great plays by Dave Roberts and Shawn Green, he would have blown two saves."

"He gave up that All-Star Game home run."

("That didn't count.")

"Our bosses at Fox told us this time it counts."

That's really it. The points are there to be made, but honestly, what else is there to say? The facts in this case are pretty indisputable. The only drama is the picking of the dollar figures - what is justfied based on salary arbitration history. But it's not like the stage is set for the Dodgers to trash Gagne to his face.


Ross Newhan Is Playing Ping-Pong With My Brain

The Frank McCourt camp has its rally cap on today, and the Times has the latest. Here are the major grimaces:

Although Broad's emergence has provided baseball with a viable alternative — a person who is highly respected in the community and requires no credit check — the timing of his letter, coming late in the process, has almost seemed to increase support for McCourt.

What are we, seven years old? Is this some Afterschool Special where we're supposed to stick with the 98-pound weakling to defend our honor? Must our attitude toward alternative bids for the Dodgers be "better never than late?"

On Monday, a high-ranking baseball official said McCourt was being "prejudged unfairly" by Los Angeles media, which has raised questions about his leveraged proposal and operating resources if approved.

The media is reporting the facts of McCourt's bid. If anything, the media has refrained from prejudging McCourt - they've been almost silent on what would happen if his bid succeeds. They've only gone as far as to calculate from the debt he would be carrying that he'd have trouble making ends meet. More likely, it's baseball that would be unfairly prejudging McCourt if they approve him.

The official said reports that he has had his "fingerprints all over the Dodgers' off-season operation" are not true.

Baseball insiders have said on the record that the Dodger payroll is being frozen if not cut, as a result of the status of McCourt's ownership bid. And up to now, no one has denied that the tenuous state of McCourt's bid kiboshed the Dodgers' pursuit of Vladimir Guerrero.

"I know the deadline is Jan. 31, but it could be Feb. 10 or March 4. If it's a delay caused by baseball requiring certain clarifications, I can't imagine there'd be a problem getting an extension."

That's a quote from an unnamed MLB owner. Next to Broad's proposed alternative, the best thing Dodger fans have had going for them during McCourt's evaluation process has been the deadline a week from Saturday. How fun will this be if this is still dragging on by the time pitchers and catchers report to Vero Beach?

Messages Received

You may be trees falling in the Big Blue wilderness, but you do make a sound. And someone is there to hear it.

Dan Evans reads the fan forum at

Ben Platt, national correspondent for and overseer of the message boards, said in an e-mail interview Monday that he discusses fan postings with Dodger general manager Evans, president and Chief Operating Officer Bob Graziano, and senior vice president of communications Derrick Hall.

"Evans peruses the board on a regular basis during the season," said Platt, who introduced the Dodgers to the Internet in 1994 and was webmaster of until took over all individual team sites in 2001.

To be sure, Evans isn't looking for advice from fans on the boards. Nor should people expect a response of any kind from Evans in the forum - unless the collective train of thought is venturing into Neverland.

"He and I will talk about certain threads," Platt said, "and if he feels a clarification is needed or if a rumor is floating around on the board that is completely off-base or with no foundation, he will call me and I will relay the message to the board."

The most the Dodgers have done with fan-posted information, according to Platt, is get an idea for a marketing campaign.

"I remember in 1999, a fan had pointed out on the old message board that the Dodgers had won the pennant in '55, '66, '77 and '88, and we were due to win it in '99, but that didn't pan out," Platt said. "The publicity department ran with that all through the 1999 season."

Nevertheless, if you do have something to say, you might as well give it your best (and most articulate and unprofane) shot. Evans and Co. is listening. None of the displeasure that many Dodger fans are feeling is lost on anyone at Chavez Ravine.

"The negativity is at an all-time high," said Platt, who was prompted eight days ago by the hostility and vulgarity of some messages to respond with this plea: "Will everyone please just take a chill pill?"

The fury that led to this response became part of one of Platt's discussions with Dodger management.

Is there a moral to this story? Ultimately, the message boards are for the entertainment of the fans. The folks sitting on either side of you at the game are the principal audience for anything you might post.

Still, Dan Evans gets wind of what you post. And I would rather be heard by Dan Evans - even if I'm going to be ignored - than not heard at all.

Want proof? I didn't ask Platt if anyone with the Dodgers reads Dodger Thoughts. I was afraid the answer would be no. (Well, I also thought it would be a pretty pathetic question.)

Anyway, what follows is the interview with Platt, who also discusses the official Dodger website's approach to news. It is not the task of sites to break any stories, so don't look for any revelations about Frank McCourt or Eli Broad there.

* * *

--How are topics for news stories chosen (aside from game coverage and notebooks)? Does writer Ken Gurnick choose them? Is he assigned? A combination?

A little bit of both. Ken gets assigned some stories, but most of the time he writes what he wants. Often or not, the story of the day dictates what Kenny's covering. He has a little more freedom to do more profiles, etc., during the off-season.

--What is the relationship between and Dan Evans/Bob Daly/etc.? How does your site's access to the braintrust compare to that of Ross Newhan or Jason Reid of the Times?

I personally have a great relationship with upper management, but even with that I have to request on-the-record time with Dodger publicity just like everyone else. But I would say because of my proximity to everyone and because it's the web and we need to prep a story with graphics, etc., I'm sometimes tipped in advance on a breaking story, just to get everything setup. The understanding is we won't release the story until the Dodgers want it released.

--The Times (and for what little it's worth, Dodger Thoughts) has found concerns over the financing of McCourt's bid. How has reported this story? Would Gurnick or anyone do any investigative reporting, or do you consider your role to report the news as it is revealed?

In this case, because all the dealing are really going on at Pico Blvd. (the offices of Fox Broadcasting), not at Dodger Stadium, we find out a lot of stuff just like everyone else does. In the case of the sale, we don't speculate or do our own investigating. We will just report the facts as they come out.

--Did know before anyone else that money gained from the Kevin Brown trade would not be spent on a long-term free agent signing, at least until the McCourt bid was resolved? That there would be, as you wrote on the message boards, "a spending freeze during the final phase of the sale."

No. My comments regarding the spending freeze were based on my experience in 1997-98 when the O'Malley family sold the team to News Corp.

--If and when has a scoop (as opposed to public knowledge) that reflected negatively on members of the organization, how does the site treat that?

It's really not our place to break a story like that. If the rest of the media finds out about it, we'll post the facts. For instance, if I had found out about Guillermo Mota's DUI and the rest of the media didn't, I would have sat on it. You walk a fine line with the players and organization and those are tough calls.

--Roughly how many messages are there on the message boards are there in a given day or week or month?

It really depends on time of year and what the news is. I would say there are at least 100 posts a day, minimum, and it could jump up to 500 or 600 if there is some big news. On our old message board we averaged more than 1,200 posts a day in May of 1998 when Piazza was traded.

--What percentage of the messages do you read?

I try to read as many as I can. I go on the board about four times a day. I am fortunate that because of my position with MLB I was able to get two other people, Andrea Berman and Jared Ravich, on to monitor the board with me. It is by far the cleanest message board in baseball. We don't tolerate personal attacks or profanity. We use a bend-but-don't-break defense with posters. But we're also not afraid to delete posts that break the Terms of Service agreement and throw out people that continuously break those rules. We want the board to be a fun and safe place for fans to talk about the Dodgers.

--What has been the hottest topic since you've been on the job?

Piazza was the all-time champ back in 1998 on the old board. This has been a very trying off-season for fans and the negativity is at an all-time high. I feel for them, because I'm still a fan at heart and I know what they're going through.

--Do Dodger executives read the messages?

Yes they do. Do they post? No. Dan Evans peruses the board on a regular basis during the season. He and I will talk about certain threads, and if he feels a clarification is needed or if a rumor is floating around on the board that is completely off-base or with no foundation, he will call me and I will relay the message to the board.

--How would you describe your relationship to the people posting messages?

For the most part, I have a good relationship with the posters. I see the board as entertainment. To me it's a fun community where like-minded people can get together and talk about their favorite team. There is a faction on the board of people who take what goes on with the Dodgers way too seriously or have transferred their own personal frustrations into the team, so if the team is a winner - so are they; if the team is a loser than they are too. To those people, I write periodically and say, "Turn off your computer and go take a walk in the park, call a friend or a relative or just go do something different." Remember, with everything going on this is still suppose to be fun. If you're not having fun, then it's time to go.

--Your post on January 12th reflected some genuine (and I'm guessing legitimate) frustration on your part with some recent messages on the site. When you see that level of frustration or even hostility displayed on the site, who does that get reported to in the organization, if anyone?

I will periodically talk it over with Dan and Bob Graziano. Bob has always been interested in what the fans are thinking. Derrick Hall and I talk about the board too.

--If you were a fan, not employed by the Dodgers, what would your state of mind be about the Dodgers today?

I think the current team needs a one more real spark plug to compliment a healthy Shawn Green. Shawn is a quiet, lead by example type. The team needs that one superstar to really rally around. As for the future on the field, I'm very optimistic. I've met all of the Dodgers blue-chip minor league prospects. If the organization hold on to Loney, Miller, Gutierrez, Jackson, Nixon, Pilkington, Billingsley, etc., and they stay healthy - watch out. That is going to be a good nucleus to work from for many years to come.

-- Can you describe an example or examples of when someone on the message boards posted an idea that hadn't occurred to the Dodger management, and that idea was followed through on? Or has that never happened?

That has really never happened. I remember in 1999 a fan had pointed out on the old message board that the Dodgers had won the pennant in '55, '66, '77 and '88, and we were due to win it in '99, but that didn't pan out. The publicity department ran with that all through the 1999 season.

Monday, January 19, 2004


Third Base: Your Ticket to Riches

Cub Reporter and Transaction Guy Christian Ruzich e-mails me upon hearing this news and asks, "Is it just me, or does five million seem like an awful lot to give Adrian Beltre?"

Of course it is. The Dodgers paid Beltre $3.7 million in 2003, and he proceeded to stumble on the treadmill and nearly get flung off. He had an on-base percentage of .290 last season and an OPS of .714. For the more advanced out there, Beltre's park-adjusted OPS+, according to, was 89 on a scale where an average player is 100. I'm sure it makes no one in the Dodger administration happy to sign Beltre to a near 33-percent raise, as the Dodgers did today.

Chalk this one up to the position Beltre plays: third base, where there is a talent drought throughout baseball. Oh - and of course, this Frank McCourt-induced offseason of paralysis for the Dodgers. They could not risk declining Beltre salary arbitration: Beltre led the Dodgers in home runs last year, and the team has made no acquisitions to make itself less dependent on him. And Beltre fielded superbly.

However shaky Beltre has been, he's still the best they've got at the position, by far. And I know you're tired of hearing it, but Beltre isn't even 25 yet. That matters. At this point, the $1 million to $4 million that he's being overpaid is the least of the Dodgers' problems.

Heading into his free agent year, with the Dodgers presumably a bit more on track organizationally, Beltre will have to earn his next raise.

(I won this one over Ken Gurnick. He predicted $6 million for Beltre; I had him at $4.5 million.)

Sunday, January 18, 2004


The Jig Is Up

In the Times and (finally) Daily News sports sections today, there are six stories describing the flaws with Frank McCourt's Dodger ownership quest and the promising alternative in Eli Broad's backup proposal.

Caveats are these: Broad has often been a proposer, not a closer. Peter O'Malley, who may be joining Broad's effort after his offer to help McCourt was apparently spurned, is not God. And Broad himself is asking for loans and credits, as well as higher payments from Fox for the Dodger television rights.

But Broad has certainly closed on plenty - Disney Hall being a prime example. And the help that Broad is asking for is minor compared to what McCourt is needing. And even if O'Malley is not God, he does define integrity when it comes to operating a baseball team.

Even without Broad's 11th-hour apperance, McCourt's bid to buy the Dodgers should have been rejected on its merits. The Daily News, silent on this story for more than a week, finally decided to write about it and - lo and behold - found a gaggle of material highlighting the McCourt bid flaws. In particular, Rich Hammond has a great article today. I don't understand why it took so long for the Daily News to start covering this freight train jumping the tracks - think about how unconscionable it would have been if the Times had followed suit and the story was ignored - but at least the Daily News is starting to make up for lost time:

"It could turn into a big mess," said one source familiar with details of the McCourt transaction. ...

"I'd give him three years before he has to sell the team," another source said. "He will either realize he can't do it, or he just won't be able to make payroll."...

"It's like a high school kid who convinces his dad to buy him a car," said David Carter, a Redondo Beach-based sports consultant and USC professor. "He gets the car, but then he realizes he can't afford to buy the gas. I think Dodger fans should be concerned that, in this case, they're going to be the ones buying the gas."

Without backing, McCourt would have significant trouble running the team, and sources say he has been rejected by several potential partners because of concerns about his finances and because investing in the Dodgers is considered risky business. ...

"On many levels, it doesn't look good," Carter said. "I think the fact that the deal is almost entirely funded through loans makes it a big risk for Major League Baseball."

With Broad on the horizon - even if he is not a closer - how in any way can baseball's owners approve McCourt. It would be like signing Darren Dreifort to a long-term contract with Pedro Martinez still available on the free agent market.

The deadline for baseball to approve McCourt's bid is January 31. Bluntly, it should not take that long for the bid to be rejected.

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