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Dodger Thoughts


Friday, January 30, 2004


What If the Dodgers Win in 2004?

What should Frank McCourt, the Dodger organization, you or I be willing to sacrifice for a World Series title this season?

Should we be willing to go the Florida Marlins route of shocking titles sandwiching last-place finishes?

The elation that comes with winning a title is huge, and there isn't much that can erase the fondness of those memories.

But most of the time, we are forced to live in the present. And that means the memories only go so far.

The best-case scenario is that McCourt puts together a staff that engineers the moves that make the Dodgers a champion, and in so doing so galvanizes the city of Los Angeles that baseball revenue starts pouring into Chavez Ravine. Short-term success feeds long-term success.

If that happens, McCourt is a hero.

But if in going for broke, McCourt puts himself at risk of going broke, and plunders what's good about the organization to make ends meet, I fear that even a 2004 title might end up feeling sour as soon as 2005.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that not all World Series championships are created equally. Not all of them have the same long-term joy. I'm expressing a particularly greedy view that we should want the Dodgers to win a title, but not have to shoot ourselves in the foot to do so.


"I have always felt I could base the state or the condition of the Dodgers on one key ingredient - the look or tone of Vin Scully's face," Tommy Naccarato writes in an e-mail. "Yesterday, it looked as if it was a solemn Scully was ready to say, 'While were at it, this will be my last year...' It was really depressing.

For me, this is just chilling. Did anyone else watching the coverage yesterday share Naccarato's impression?


She is ... gone!

In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!

I just felt the need.

How My Crazy Day Happened

Plenty of stuff about the Dodgers if you skip this abominably long post and read on. I won't be offended.

Everything I'm about to tell you meant a lot to me and is a key part of the story that I want to tell, though some of it will seem way the hell too mundane.

In 2002 (and feel relieved I'm only going back this far), a friend of mine started this blog.

Over that summer, I mulled starting one of my own. That July, I did.

I continued sporadically through September 2002, when my daughter was born, at which point I stopped writing.

Twelve months ago, I began again, not really sure how long I'd keep it up. But I did keep it up.

In the spring, my first sports editor at the Daily News, Steve Clow, came across the blog from his current perch at the Times and sent me an e-mail saying hello, good job, etc.

On July 4, Larry Stewart of the Times favorably reviewed Dodger Thoughts.

In December, the Dodgers traded Kevin Brown to the Yankees, and Clow contacted me to get quotes for the reaction sidebar in the Times. The paper wanted an independent source representing the voice of the fans and picked me.

On January 22, Bill Shaikin of the Times, whom I originally met covering Angel games in 1991, interviewed me for his Monday story on fan hostility toward Frank McCourt.

Which brings me to Wednesday. KCRW producer Ileana Justus left a message with a co-worker of mine that they wanted to interview me Thursday for a Which Way L.A. show dedicated to McCourt. She said the appearance (is that word okay to describe radio?) wouldn't be confirmed until Thursday morning, but then did a short, untaped pre-interview about the Dodgers with me. It took me forever - in this case, about 10 seconds - to begin answering her first question.

And thus I was reminded of why I abandoned my dreams as a teenager to become the next Vin Scully. I don't do the talking thing so good. I pause to find the right words, not a prized skill when you are talking in a broadcast medium.

Nonetheless, I did feel that I was ready for the challenge when KCRW confirmed the interview Thursday morning. In a sense, I've been following this subject for close to 30 years. I've been reading and writing about McCourt extensively, almost nauseatingly, throughout the offseason. I had things to say, and I was looking forward to saying them.

In contrast, back in 1991, I took over the sports media column at the Daily News from Paola Boivin and was asked to appear on a sports talk radio station after my very first piece, an article about CBS' huge new contract to televise baseball. It was a fine column but it disguised the fact that I wasn't an expert on that aspect of the game. Nervous, I declined the interview, and though I have never lost sleep over it, I always thought it was a mistake. Better to take the chance.

Anyway, until last month, my only public speaking since that lost opportunity involved being on the DVD commentary of Roughnecks - The Starship Troopers Chronicles - The Homefront Campaign, having written one of the episodes. (Yes, it's been a long, strange journey.)

Back to Thursday. I let people know about the interview, via e-mail and via this website, and got lots of good wishes and advice for my inaugural (if not final) radio appearance. My friend John Lilly and I, of course, discussed wardrobe and breath issues.

The taping was scheduled between 3:30 and 4 p.m. and would include myself, Frank Del Olmo of the Times, city councilman Ed Reyes and host Warren Olney, all of us patched together by phone, none of us in the same room.

Meanwhile, I did pretty well at the thing I really needed to do: concentrating on the job that actually pays me. Having a lot of work to do certainly helped my anxiety. Chaos was good.

And then chaos increased: At about 2:15 p.m., 15 minutes before the McCourt press conference that my job would prevent me from watching and 75 minutes before my KCRW interview, I got an e-mail from Associated Press reporter Daisy Nguyen, asking if I would comment for a reaction piece on McCourt's purchase after the news conference was over.

This is what my day had come to - I was actually having to juggle interviews. I told Nguyen I would be happy to talk to her but I had commitments until 4 p.m.

At 3 p.m., someone at work suggested I drink some something hot to relax my throat. At 3:01, I spilled water on me. At 3:03, I spilled again.

At 3:25 p.m., I left my cubicle, refilled my troublesome water cup and went into an unused office to wait for KCRW's call, which came slightly after 3:30, by which time I was - yes - out of water.

There was no real fanfare. You're on hold, and then you hear some background chatter, and then the taping starts - it just starts. Warren Olney is introducing himself, introducing the topic, and then mentioning something about a Jon Weisman and an independent (this has become my defining adjective) website, Dodger Thoughts.

And sure enough, the first question comes to me and I'm saying, "Well, um ..."

I never panicked during the interview, though. I did find myself having to work to complete some sentences. When I talk, I'm like an old car whose gears you can hear grinding. I get from here to there, but I really have to grind a lot.

I was asked five questions before they moved on to Del Olmo and then Reyes. However, my ongoing self-critique of how I performed kept impeding my ability to listen to them. The biggest thing was that I worried that I had been shouting. Whenever I'm on the phone with my 93-year-old grandmother, who is lively as all get-out but a little hard of hearing, I have to talk loudly to her. That's how I thought I sounded on the radio to poor Mr. Olney.

Another thing that I realized during this interlude was that I really wanted to address the issue of the supposed gag order that McCourt was under, preventing him from speaking publically to the people of Los Angeles during his purchase bid. As I've said before, I think his silence was more than deafening, it was catastrophic - and that the recent misunderstanding about whether baseball actually required him to be silent only raised more questions about him. So I kept hoping they'd get back to me to talk.

But after Reyes spoke, instead of starting the circle back with me, Olney went back to Del Olmo. Inwardly (but not audibly!), I cursed. "Damn, I'm not gonna get another chance." And then: "Damn, they must think I stink."

I did notice, if I'm recalling things correctly, that both Del Olmo and Reyes referred to me as "the other gentleman," which I thought was really slick. Brought a smile to my face.

Olney then returned to me, with a question that caught me off-guard: Why did I think Dodger fans were not apathetic? This was one of the few questions about the Dodgers that I've never asked myself, so I didn't have a ready answer. Further, I had this point about McCourt's silence that I was burning to make.

Now, I've seen a few presidential debates in my time, and I've seen candidate after candidate respond to a question with an off-topic answer that only addresses something on his agenda. Well, that's what I did. I started, "Well, um .. " and then talked very briefly about Peter O'Malley and Fox having to deal with fans who want a winner, and grinded over to talking about the McCourt silent treatment. It was awkward, but I have no regrets.

In my final response, I told Olney (not verbatim), "Anyone can run a bad campaign and get elected, but if you do great things, history will rewrite itself." After I said this, Olney laughed and said, "Well, no one's been elected to anything," and I felt a little stupid, although 1) I meant it as a metaphor and 2) actually, McCourt did win a vote of the owners, so he was in fact elected to something. Just not by you or me, unless you are a baseball owner. No big deal, though.

The show ended. I have to say, it was very enjoyable. The last moment aside, I really enjoyed Olney (I've always liked him), enjoyed what Del Olmo and Reyes had to say, enjoyed the whole damn thing.

Five minutes later, Daisy Nguyen was on the line. I talked to her for about 15 minutes, pausing whenever I damn well pleased. (Print reporters love pauses, believe me - they provide time for jotting down quotes.)

By the time I got home, Nguyen's article was on the wires, with a quote from me in the third paragraph.

Later that night, I turned on Which Way L.A. - enduring the part I didn't know was coming, 10 minutes about some presidential primary fooforall. Then we began, unedited, unexpurgated.

Like everyone else, I hate my voice, and I wasn't happy with the pauses, but I'm glad I wasn't shouting like a lunatic.

Out of the entire broadcast, I had one response that I really liked. I was ready for the question and I jumped right in with a relaxed, comfortable answer. I talked about the anxiety of Dodger fans, their willingness not to judge, but their fear that not only the performance of their team was in doubt, but also their whole experience of going to a baseball game.

Those last seven were the words I liked the most. I felt like I had boiled it down to the very thing that I and so many people care about. Baseball is a home, a place for us to enjoy ourselves, and we're desperate to keep it that way. We want the experience we've grown to love.

Anyway, it's over. I'd been punditized - and I loved it - but now it's back to normal.

I'll admit that normal has changed just a little.

Two years ago, I didn't have a blog. One year ago, I had a blog with five daily readers. Today, I have a blog with readership in the hundreds. I have something of a reputation. I will confess to some pride, both for myself and for the people in the blogging community whom have helped me so much and whom I've learned so much from.

This thing has just been a kick, and I look forward to kicking it some more.

Thursday, January 29, 2004


KCRW Appearance to Discuss the Dodgers

Wish me luck. I have been asked to be a guest on today's edition of Warren Olney's Which Way L.A. on KCRW-FM (89.9). The show is discussing Frank McCourt's purchase of the Dodgers and can be heard at 7 p.m., both on the radio and online. Frank Del Olmo, who wrote this commentary for the Times on Sunday, is also scheduled to appear - and it is possible that McCourt will be a guest as well.

(If anyone has the technology where they could somehow record the show and burn a CD, could you e-mail me? I will gladly pay you for the service.)

Update: Offers from kind readers willing to record the show poured in. You folks are the best - thanks.

His Team Now

Frank McCourt makes me feel powerless.

He could be the next great disaster for the Dodgers. Or, he could be a hidden treasure of, well, adequacy.

But how disturbing is it that after Thursday's press conference to discuss his purchase of the team, there is nothing that actually inspires confidence? Every potential positive statement made by or about McCourt had to be qualified.

Whatever the future holds, good or bad ... today, the Dodgers really seem to belong to someone else. Maybe this feeling will go away, but they don't feel like the city's team right now. They don't feel like our team.

Literally, they never were ours, but figuratively, they were. Not today.

Consider this: throughout the entire day, I didn't find a note of celebration that the News Corp. (majority) ownership of the Dodgers was over. Can you believe this? A few months ago, the city of Los Angeles would have held a bonfire of revelry at Fox's departure. Today, there's just uncertainty.

It's perhaps the oddest feeling I've observed in following the Dodgers.

Here are some primary statements that contribute to this feeling, followed by my response to them.

1) David Wharton, Los Angeles Times: "McCourt had been precluded from speaking publicly during four months of negotiations with News Corp. and Major League Baseball."

I don't know why the Times would publish this statement when people, including a Times reporter, have stated that this was not the case - that there was no rule against McCourt speaking - his silence becoming the first sign of trouble.

2) Frank McCourt, Dodger owner: "We have no plans to do anything other than play baseball here at Dodger Stadium."

It's better than nothing. On the other hand, I had no plans to start a baseball blog two years ago, and look at what's happened since.

3) David Wharton: "But other changes could be in store for the venerable ballpark at Chavez Ravine, including a corporate naming rights deal."

This was a punch in the gut. I know, we're all prima donnas. But if Fox avoided selling the Dodger Stadium name, it's hard to swallow that the new owner is already broaching this one.

Some say that if the money goes to the payroll, then it's worth it. Prove to me that that's where the money is going.

4) David Wharton: "Terms of the deal remained unclear. McCourt said he committed more than $200 million, but baseball sources maintained Thursday he had taken out an unspecified bank loan and that none of the money was his."

This is good. Already, someone's spreading misinformation. Don't know if it really matters who.

5) David Wharton: "McCourt also announced that, for the first time, all 162 of the Dodgers' games will be televised next season."

Even I think this is overkill. I'm not criticizing McCourt on this decision, but of the added telecasts, how many will Vin Scully be broadcasting? Not enough, I fear.

6) Frank McCourt: "At the end of the day, it's not platitudes, it's performance that matters."

Agreed. This is a whole new chapter. McCourt's actions are the key. Does he know right from wrong? Does he know good from bad? No matter how many misgivings have built up to this point, I don't think there's a Dodger fan in town who won't come to like McCourt if he can do the job.

7) Frank McCourt: "We're going to sign a guy that can hit."

Follow-up question: Who determines who can hit, and what criteria do they use?

8) Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times: "Of his focus, [McCourt] said, 'This is about baseball, baseball, baseball.' Yet throughout the afternoon of interviews, he didn't mention one player."

I don't know if this is a crime. I'm wondering which player I would have mentioned. I guess I would have found some way to drop in, say, I'm excited about Eric Gagne or something. I don't know if this matters, but I don't fault Plaschke for bringing it up.

9) Bill Plaschke: [McCourt] said baseball prohibited him from meddling in the Dodgers' off-season moves, thus excusing himself of the failure to acquire a power hitter. "We were forbidden to influence the team," he said.

That's an appalling statement. Is it disengenous or just plain false? Does he not understand what the word "influence" means? His very existence was an influence. It may have induced paralysis, but I think that counts. Disturbing thing for him to say. Take responsibility, Frank. Say "I wish we (yes, we) didn't have to hold off on finding a power hitter, but the waiting is over, and we'll look to make the best deals we can from here on out." It wouldn't have made everything right - we'd still have to see what the future holds - but at least he wouldn't be insulting us.

10) Bill Plaschke: "Yet in the past several months he repeatedly has met with top Dodger officials. And back when the Walt Disney Co. was in that long holding pattern to buy the Angels, Disney was allowed to approve any moves costing more than $50,000."

Good for Bill, not letting McCourt off the hook on that one.

11) Frank McCourt: "We will have a $100-million-plus payroll."

For how long? Not that it matters, not that this figure makes or breaks the Dodgers' chances. But this statement needs elaboration.

12) Bill Plaschke: "Good. Make a trade for a high-priced slugger such as Magglio Ordonez."

Careful. Be very careful. One-year rentals (on players entering their free agent year, such as Ordonez) are dangerous. Never say never, but don't over-spend. This is where you fear McCourt trying to make too big a splash.

13) Bill Plaschke: "Only two years ago, the new ownership group in Boston was greeted with similar skepticism before confounding baseball officials by spending the money to build a contending team."

Although Plaschke is comparing apples to cantelopes here, this is why we're going to give McCourt his chance.

14) Frank McCourt: "It's not how much money you spend, but how smart you spend it."

See 7) and 11).

15) Bill Plaschke: "But right now, they have what appears to be the worst team in the division."

This almost seems off topic - talking about a pennant race. Anyway, the Dodgers are not worse than Colorado.

16) David M. Carter, USC Sports Business consultant, to Mike DiGiovanna, Los Angeles Times: "If [McCourt] makes changes soon, it looks like he's cleaning house and is a reactionary. If he waits, he runs the risk of a year going by with a lame-duck management team and forgoes a chance to get his own people up to speed."

A real dilemma, exacerbated by the tensions raised by McCourt's silence during the McCourtship with baseball.

17) Dave Roberts, Dodger outfielder, to DiGiovanna: "We have to hope the people controlling things have the organization's best interests in mind."

It all rides on hope for everyone.

18) Unnamed baseball agent, to DiGiovanna: "I think anything the commissioner's office can do to take a premier spending franchise out of the mix, that will bring more salary restraint, it will do."

The source is bad, but the statement is too obvious to ignore.

19) T.J. Simers, Los Angeles Times "THE FIRST guy I ran into at Dodger Stadium was one of parking guy's many PR advisors."

Boy, do these people need help.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004


Three More Seasons of Gagne, And Then ... ?

So you're worried that Eric Gagne might leave the Dodgers when he becomes a free agent?

Here's some food for thought. Some munchies for musing.

Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus had a theory that "the best relievers in the modern era have short, high peaks before slipping." He identified major league baseball's 16 best relievers since 1980, limiting himself to closers who excelled when they were between 26 and 30 years old, and analyzed their statistics.

First of all, he found that four of the 16 pitchers were completely out of baseball by the time they turned 34. Four others, including Trevor Hoffman, Robb Nen, and Billy Wagner, each lost a season because of injuries.

"Collectively, relievers who are dominant in their 20s do decline in their early 30s," Sheehan said. "Much of that risk is in the form of injury, rather than performance deterioration. The real break for the guys on the field seems to occur between 31 and 33, where the pitchers who had formerly been dominant step back to being just good, often at the same time they become very expensive. The chance of getting a star-caliber season from a top relief pitcher after they turn 30 is less than half of what it is before that."

Eric Gagne is 28 years old now. He is not eligible for free agency until after the 2006 season, at which point he will be nearly 31. We have no way of knowing what kind of pitcher Gagne might be and how much he will demand nearly three years from now. But if this small sample is any indication, it serves no purpose to worry about it.

"What I take from this research," Sheehan concluded, "is a reinforcement of the idea that there is no reliever in the game worth the risk of a long-term free-agent contract. They don't age well, they miss entire seasons with too much frequency, and the salaries they command on the market make it nearly impossible for them to end up as a good value."

Unless, I suppose, they create a whole bunch of concessions sales.

This is anything but me trying to usher Gagne out of town at the first opportunity. Rather, this is me using an interesting article to attempt to minimize stress during a trying offseason.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004


The Devil You Know, The Devil You Don't

Many Dodger fans are impatient with lack of change to the roster. Here's the flip side.

As Twins manager Ron Gardenhire proved on Friday during the Twins' annual media luncheon, fans aren't the only ones stumped about the talent level of this year's team.

Gardenhire stepped to the podium holding some papers and immediately looked over to General Manager Terry Ryan.

"Terry, I'm going over the roster here," Gardenhire said. "Who in the hell are these guys?"


Desperate Yankee Alert

With Aaron Boone injured on the basketball court, will the Yankees be coming after the Dodgers for potential-ridden Adrian Beltre or veteran presence Robin Ventura? Could free agent Ron Coomer rise from the ashes?

The smart thing for New York to do would probably be move Derek Jeter to third base and try to fill their infield with a slick-fielding shortstop.

Update: checks in with might-someday-be Dodger general manager Billy Beane:

Beane meant no disrespect to the American League champs, but his decision to not call Cashman sent a clear message: even in their moment of crisis, the Yankees have nothing that would interest the A's: no affordable starting talent, and nothing in the farm system, either.

Dodgers Apparently Merge with Diamondbacks

Or at least, they appear to have learned to share, at least according to this preview of baseball's Western divisions in the San Francisco Examiner:

The Dodgers, hamstrung by the pending sale of the club, have picked up some help by acquiring free agents Juan Encarnacion, Shane Reynolds and Roberto Alomar, but they lack a big bat to support the pitching staff.

DIPSy Doodles

Have baseball's mathematicians built a better crystal ball to predict future pitcher performance?

In trying to answer this question from a 2004 Dodger perspective, I'm gonna try to keep this as simple as possible - for my sake as well as yours.

The theory: Major League pitchers essentially only control walks, strikeouts and home runs. On balls hit in the playing field, defense and chance play more of a role than the pitcher's skill.

As Jay Jaffe writes in his detailed examination on The Futility Infielder:

The Defense Independent Pitching Statistic (DIPS) system was invented by Voros McCracken. His studies of pitching statistics suggest that major league pitchers do not differ greatly on their ability to prevent hits on balls in play. The rate at which a pitcher allows hits on balls in play has more to do with defense and luck than to his own skill, and can vary greatly from year to year.

The upshot: By predicting what earned-run averages would be based only on innings pitched, strikeouts, walks allowed and home runs allowed (using a method of run estimation, a time-honored sabermetric concept, according to Jaffe), one can eliminate the chance elements from the equation and arrive at an defense-independent ERA, or DERA, that more accuarately reflects a pitcher's performance.

That number is more useful in predicting a pitcher's performance for the following season than his actual ERA is (obvious mitigating factors like injuries and age notwithstanding).

The mitigating factors: Subsequent studies on pitchers with long careers have shown that they do have some ability to prevent hits on balls in play, though this is still less than their impact on walks and strikeouts.

Let's see how DIPS works with Dodger pitchers from 2002 and 2003 as we look to 2004:

Comparison of Dodger ERAs with DERAs, 2002-2003
Player 2002 ERA 2002 DERA 2003 ERA2003 DERA

Pitchers whose 2002 DERA was higher than their 2002 actual ERA
(and therefore should have expected a poorer 2003):

Wilson Alvarez, Andy Ashby, Omar Daal, Kaz Ishii, Hideo Nomo, Odalis Perez, Paul Quantrill, Jeff Weaver.
Correct? Ashby, Daal, Perez, Weaver
Incorrect? Alvarez, Ishii, Nomo, Quantrill
Comment: Alvarez's injury recovery was probably a factor. Ishii and Nomo, both high-walk pitchers, continue to defy gravity in their ERAs. Note that while Daal had a 2.44 jump in actual ERA, his DERA remained almost the same.

Pitchers whose 2002 DERA was lower than their 2002 actual ERA
(and therefore should have expected an improved 2003):

Kevin Brown, Eric Gagne, Guillermo Mota, Paul Shuey (negligible)
Correct? Brown, Gagne, Mota, Shuey
Incorrect? None
Comment: One starting pitcher recovering from injury and three relievers.

As we consider the key guys on the 2004 Dodger staff, the system has had trouble predicting Nomo and Ishii - which may signal a flaw in the system, or may mean that those two are particularly due for a decline. Alvarez's ERA should normalize.

On the other hand, Weaver and Perez would be due for improvement, as would Dreifort if he is healthy. Even Gagne underperformed his 2003 DERA and could be considered a candidate to improve (!) this year. (Meanwhile, as many predict, Brown may be headed for a decline pitching in 2004 in front of the Yankee defense.)

I asked Jay Jaffe to comment further and he wrote, "Ishii and Nomo don't look so hot because of their high walk rates, but Nomo's K rate is good - he's not going to be your problem. Perez doesn't look so hot because his K rate is down, but he'll be OK. Call him and Nomo 'somewhat better than average but not spectacular.' Gagne ought to remain ungodly - it's not results on balls in play that makes him dominant, it's keeping balls from getting in play. Mota looks pretty good (though not as great as his ERA would lead you to believe), Dreifort too. I don't see any serious red-flags here, even with Nomo and Ishii's presence in the Higher dERA than ERA board."

Below is the full chart for the 2003 Dodgers, courtesy of Jaffe. Please go to The Futility Infielder to read much, much more about DIPS.

(BFP is actual batters faced by the pitcher. BIP is actual batting average against the pitcher on balls in play. ERAR is how many fewer earned runs the pitcher will have allowed over the number of innings pitched, compared to a replacement-level pitcher - that is to say, not an average player, but your average last man on the roster.)

Dodger DIPS Chart - 2003
LOSV Alvarez*31.400675 1 6 0 137.57-1.5
LOSW Alvarez* 377.286 92 81 31 425 3 5 823.0123.8
LOSA Ashby318.329 75 81 34 717 2 3 414.0410.9
LOST Brohawn*48.276 12 105 2 4 0 0 133.86 1.9
LOSK Brown856.289209184 681060 6 51842.9456.0
LOSS Colyer* 84.373 20 177 010 1 0 163.15 4.8
LOSD Dreifort 261.319 63 52 23 527 2 0 673.3414.0
LOSE Gagne306.243 82 429 220 2 31371.0139.4
LOSK Ishii* 656.288144129 7514 102 5 61404.6611.0
LOSE Jackson 91.259 21 199 211 1 1 194.04 3.0
LOSM Kida53.357 13 124 0 3 0 082.84 3.6
LOST Martin*210.236 49 43 21 522 2 2 523.84 8.3
LOSG Mota 410.256102 87 31 625 3 1 992.7529.5
LOSS Mullen* 17.200333 0 5 0 119.09-1.1
LOSR Myers 42.2909 105 1 4 0 154.95 0.4
LOSH Nomo897.253207195 952199 7 11774.1228.3
LOSO Perez* 772.294184188 842448 6 31414.0925.8
LOSP Quantrill291.260 71 69 24 215 2 3 443.0817.8
LOSP Shuey281.247 65 57 28 532 2 4 603.96 9.9
I continue to think that Steve Colyer is a good candidate for the Opening Day roster.

A Despicable Vendetta

Unfortunately, I missed this piece from a week ago by Bob Keisser of the Long Beach Press-Telegram (scroll down after you click), in which Keisser takes baseball commissioner Bud Selig's honor to the woodshed:

...nothing titillates him more than the thought of the Dodgers going to seed. Selig grew to despise Peter O'Malley because he represented old-school baseball people who still acted with a sense of integrity, a word Selig couldn't say without swallowing his tongue.

The betting line or so Pete Rose told me is that McCourt gets approved, announces he must reduce payroll in the spirit of baseball's new-found frugality, and then starts ruminating about a new stadium.

Imagine Selig's joy in seeing the Dodgers bumble and become part of baseball's middle class and then leverage the city on a new playpen. Selig won't be happy until the Dodgers are a bigger joke than his own team (the Brewers).

Speaking of which, is there a better model for sports fraud? Selig becomes acting commish while owning the team; passes the team to his daughter when he becomes full-time commish; has his heir hire an African-American in a prominent role, who eventually resigns because he was nothing but a figurehead; gets the citizenry to pay extensively on a new stadium; builds said stadium on the cheap to the degree that it's considered a pothole; reaps the usual bump in ticket revenue that comes from a new playpen; and then self-imposes a salary cap of $30 million to make the team more attractive to buyers.

Bud Selig deserves to be suspended by baseball as much as Pete Rose.

Keisser doesn't source his statement that Selig "grew to despise" O'Malley. I had at one point added another comment here but have since removed it to abide by my policy on not using unnamed sources.)

Cora Breaks Arm Playing Baseball

At least Dodger infielders injure themselves the right way, not playing hoops ...

Second baseman Alex Cora broke his right arm trying to break up a double play in a Puerto Rican winter league game, according to The Associated Press, and is out for four to six weeks.

Joey Thurston, your life is calling.

(The above should not be construed as an endorsement of Joe Thurston.)

Monday, January 26, 2004


By the Way

Won't it be nice when McCourt appears and the Times finally gets to take its own picture of him, instead of having to run the same old Boston Globe photo with every story?

Prove Us Wrong, Frank, Prove Us Wrong

So here he comes, dressed to dazzle in his rented tux, pink corsage in hand. (We're wearing blue.)

Our blind date is ringing the doorbell, and now all we're wondering is what he's gonna say when we open the door.

Back in November, I urged Frank McCourt to come meet the parents. I wrote:

If you intend to bring glory back to the Dodger franchise, Frank, then Step 1 is for you to come to Los Angeles and tell the people so.

If you intend to have a generous approach to payroll, then come to Los Angeles and tell the people so. If you intend to have a conservative approach to payroll, then come to Los Angeles and tell the people so.

If you intend to preserve Dodger Stadium, a high-functioning city treasure, rather than embark on a real-estate swap that will make Mayor Jim Hahn's crackpot scheme for LAX look like genius, then come to Los Angeles and tell the people so.

In the absence of such a visit, in the absence of any statements on these issues, I can only assume the worst about your intentions, Frank.
After I published this piece, readers wrote to me to tell me that McCourt was under a gag order imposed by Major League Baseball and could not make any public comment on the purchase until after it was completed.

However, when Bill Shaikin of the Times interviewed me for this McCourt story and I mentioned the gag order, he clarified that there is no rule preventing McCourt from commenting, just a recommendation.

Are the two the same? Perhaps McCourt was in no position to find out on his own. But the smart thing to do would have been to tell MLB commissioner Bud Selig that silence was anything but golden.

The best interests of everyone involved - Selig, McCourt and the fans - woud have been much better served if, at a minimum, McCourt could have prepared some talking points that would have filled the information gap about his intentions. If he's the family man/passionate baseball fan that his supporters would have us believe, then all the more reason to let him converse with us.

Instead, McCourt let Selig and his lieutenant, Bob DuPuy, make guarded comments that offered platitudes but nothing concrete, let the media and fans fill rest of in the blanks and, as I predicted two months ago, created an environment of fear and resentment.

So now, McCourt has to make up for it.

First, he's going to have to answer questions about Dodger Stadium, and either he's going to say a teardown is on the table or it isn't. That's most of the game right there - more than anything, his intentions about the Chavez Ravine property will determine whether McCourt gets a kiss on the lips or his corsage thrown back in his face.

As for the team on the field, yes, the Dodgers need hitting. And yes, not a single Dodger minor league prospect should be considered untouchable in the literal sense.

But Dodger general manager Dan Evans has been on the right track in being ferociously careful with the jewels of the team's minor league system. (Vladimir Guerrero, as we all know, could have been signed without sacrificing a single ruby.) If McCourt's idea of winning the fans involves giving up top prospects for a one-year rental on a hitter that, given the team's payroll concerns, will leave the Dodgers as empty-batted eight months from now as they are today, then Los Angeles and McCourt will have truly embarked upon a dysfunctional relationship.

The hostile reaction to McCourt over the past two months has debunked the myth that Dodger fans are stupid and apathetic. They haven't bought in to the myth that no owner can be worse than News Corp. And after years under that ownership, they will surely recognize when the future of the team is being trashed.

The good news, of course, is that because of McCourt's cash-poor situation, he may have no choice but to hang onto the prospects - or if he's going to approve a trade, make it a trade for a productive, long-term investment.

We can only hope. We can only hope.

When that door opens and you walk in, Frank, you get a clean slate. Everyone in Los Angeles is perfectly willing to eat their words, to apologize, to say that their fears about you were misguided.

Be smart. Be good. That's the whole ballgame.

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers and baseball. To respond or contribute -- or if you are having technical problems with this site -- please e-mail

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