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He men, she men, brutes and dandies… a look at Dodger GMs since Al Campanis

November 27, 2009 4 comments

Your “Dodger Boy” post, which was amazingly detailed and right on, got me thinking about a topic we’ve discussed a few times in our own conversations. I thought I would throw out there the comedy that has been Dodger GMs since Al Campanis. Let me explain…

First off, Al is looked at fondly as a great Dodger character, and was. I don’t think for a second he was racist – drunk, as you point out, probably, and old, confused and thrown last minute in front of the camera certainly, but not racist. We all know Al’s relationship with black and Latin ballplayers, so it bothers me when Dodger haters painted Al as a villain.

An interesting thing happened after Al stepped down though, non baseball people, or business-minded guys with white collar trappings, “Metrosexuals”, began populating the Dodgers front office – as well as other front offices throughout the league. The real issue to me here, and it’s meant to be funny, so please take it in the spirit of which it’s intended – after Al Campanis, there were a lot of “Dodger Boys”, in some way, shape or form – and very few men.

NO baseball men, NO guys who could down a bottle of scotch, grab a dame around the waist, or in fact get away with calling a woman a dame, a broad, a skirt, baby, or any of those lovely chauvinistic things we as guys hold so dear. That is, until Ned Colletti came aboard. (And rest assured, Kim Ng is a better woman because of it!)

Think about it…

Fred Claire – VERY effeminate speaking voice, beautifully sculpted and sprayed hair, natty attire without so much as a wrinkle, always gentlemanly. Can you imagine Fred across from an old school baseball guy at a negotiation? No wonder after his whirlwind of great moves leading up to the 1988 season, he almost never replicated that genius, even backpedaling whenever a trade opportunity arose. Ok, Pedro for Delino bit him in the ass badly, but I’ll go on record and defend that move, as I clearly remember how all of that went down, and moving a little relief pitcher his manager and team physician ruled too slight to start 35 games per year for one of the most exciting young catalysts in baseball, after losing his second baseman, isn’t such a crazy idea. But Fred was impotent (sorry, Fred) for years after that and when offered a then in his prime Robin Ventura for guys like Roger Cedeno or Billy Ashley, Fred shied away. Tsk, tsk, it wasn’t just the voice, the hair, the ironed Dockers and properly fitting polo shirt, Fred, it was your spine. You didn’t have much of one.

Kevin Malone – already gone over in great detail. A guy with a wimpy voice, odd looking, almost Hitler-like mustache (say what you want about Hitler, I hate the guy’s guts, but at least if the Sheriff shaved his ‘stache a little smaller and it actually WAS like Hitler, he might’ve been more of a bad ass), and corporate suck up mentality – how tough could he be? Sure, he immaturely challenged taunting fans to fist fights like an ape, but he also talked an awful lot about God, faith, Jesus, church, and perhaps the Holy Ghost. So again, “Dodger Boy” sitting down across from an opposing GM in a negotiation, a guy who probably chewed pistachio nuts with the shells on, or a Godless parasite like Scott Boras…? No match.

Tommy – ok, a blip on the radar. Here’s a man’s man who has been rumored to have had infidelities, even those of the “professional” nature. Tommy comes from a fine line of hard drinking, foul mouthed baseball guys that any guy would be proud of knowing. He was an abysmal GM however, well past his prime, a throwback not equipped to mix it up with more alert, younger, and better educated GMs. Tommy, at least you were a dude, so I can appreciate that.

Some proof Tommy’s all man…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPx327SbBQ0

Dan Evans – Dan is a hero of mine, a HUGELY underrated Dodger GM. If Malone didn’t foul things up so much, Fox wouldn’t have clamped down on the purse strings the way they did. Evans had to work with nothing, and still managed to field a competitive Dodger team. I went into details about his pitching staff, his defense, his scouting, etc. Evans took over and realized our pitching rotation and lineup needed variety and intentionally went out and found that variety, creating a staff of dissimilar styled pitchers that excelled. The remaking of the sad farm was absolutely brilliant, and it amuses me to no end when Sabermetrics lovers trash Evans and assume all the kiddies they love so much fell out of the air, or that Logan White just appeared and made all of this happen by himself. Dummies. But as far as a man’s man…? Dan wore the famous pink shirts, had a very nicely styled haircut and also spoke in a quasi effeminate voice – though not nearly as Charles Nelson Reilly-esque as Fred Claire’s. Dan, I love you, but we got you on the pink shirt and high-pitched voice technicality.

Paul DePodesta – whiz kid smart-ass Paul DePodesta looked and sounded like a child. His squeaky voice and Howdy Doody look no doubt got him shoved into many a locker during his school days. A wimp who tried to pad his resume as a baseball man by saying while at Harvard – yes, Harvard! – he played baseball and football. That’s like saying he… well, played baseball and football… AT HARVARD! A GM I thoroughly despised for his destructive need to screw up a good situation and rebuild the thing in his own Moneyball image, it’s highly unlikely DePodesta has reached puberty yet. A wimp, putz, dork and dipshit all in one package, this bespectacled waste of space is a blight on the name Dodgers. And did I mention he’s a jackass? No? He is. And not a man by any stretch of the imagination.

So there’s my case – except for the Lasorda speedbump that did it’s darndest to derail our ship, even in the brief time he had in the hot seat, the Dodgers GM office was high on flower arrangements and Kenny G music from Al Campanis’ time ended, to Ned Colletti entering.

Now we have a red meat-eating man’s man with forearms Lou Grant would be proud of. Ned’s a no-nonsense tough Italian who could kick my ass and yours – at the same time. Ned’s all man and no doubt has had driver/bodyguard-loving Jamie McCourt sighing lustfully at the Dodger offices and fanning herself more than once. No Jamie, those aren’t hot flashes, sweetie, that’s Ned’s man musk driving you crazy.

Ned should be bottled. He’d surely outsell Axe, the products marketed to Neanderthal-ish young men who read Maxim magazine and are told to believe if you use some of it, chicks will line up around the block to hop into bed with you. Axe probably has no hormonal effect on women, but Ned…? Ned’s Robert Mitchum, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Forrest Tucker, Lee Marvin, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Jimmy Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Sinatra, Dean Martin and Russell Crowe all in one guy.

Does all this testosterone matter for a Dodger GM? Of course it does! When Ned sits down with other GMs, they know a man’s sitting across from them. They send Manny to Los Angeles for Andy LaRoche, and PAY Manny’s salary to boot! When reporters ask asinine questions at a press conference, Ned rubs his face with disgust and growls out a short answer that has none of the nasally twang of gentlemanly Fred Claire, math whiz DePo or genial Dan Evans. AND Ned shuts the dumb reporter down – fast, moving onto the next question, and probably dinner at Musso & Frank.

Ned’s a smart baseball man who makes a mistake on occasion, but GETS the game. He isn’t pouring over spreadsheets and developing cute, little Excel macros to calculate a player’s worth. Ned looks at a player’s performance, factors in his character, goes with the word of his scouts and coaching staff, and uses some old-school gut to make the final decision.

While the same folks who criticize Evans take shots at Ned, I’ll defend both to the grave. Will I say both are flawless? Hell no, I already said as much. But would I prefer either of them over some of the other dolts who have managed to majorly screw our beloved team up?! You better believe it.

Ned, here’s to you, the winner of the Most Manly Dodger GM Since Al Campanis award, given to you for your thick, hairy arms, mussed, unstyled hair, sloppily trimmed mustache and overall machismo.

And lastly, a word from our sponsor…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_saLrADKqNM

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Categories: Uncategorized

Dodger Boy

November 26, 2009 3 comments

Okay DFNY.  I’ve been staring at that absurd picture of Kevin Malone for days, just trying to get my mind around your last post.  There is so much more to be said about the Fox era, I wasn’t sure exactly where to go next.  But that face kept taunting me.   Ultimately there was no denying it – the Sheriff demanded to be accounted for.

So.  Kevin Malone then…

Is there a figure as easy to mock in Dodgers lore?  Talk among fans of the team, both casual and fanatical, and you’ll find someone willing to defend even the most unlikeable and ineffective member of the organization – past or present.  But who defends Kevin Malone?   Certainly not me.

No.  I won’t defend him.  But I will take him seriously, if only to reconcile his impressive pre-Dodger career with the debacle that followed.  His was a fairly unprecendented swan dive into ignominy.  How did it all go so badly?  The cheap, easy answer is to write him off as a fool.  While he may have had some foolish moments, I don’t completely buy that explanation.

I blame the 1997 Marlins.

Though perhaps a forgotten perception now, anyone who was a baseball fan back in 1997 can remember the grousing.  The Florida Marlins had bought a World Series victory.  Owner Wayne Huizenga had committed to $89 million in contracts (much of which we would later be conned into paying) the previous off season and had managed to spend his way to a championship.   Listen to any sports talk radio station or talk baseball around any watercooler in the last three months of 1997 and these sentiments were sure to be expressed by someone.

I don’t know if any other single event has effected the Dodgers franchise in quite as insidious a manner.  Keep in mind, all of this is what the Fox people were seeing as they were just entering the baseball business.  It must have seemed so seductive to them – the notion that they could write a few checks and find themselves the owner of a championship team.  Baseball was easy.

So a deep-seated case of Marlin envy took hold.  Within a few months they’d traded for many of the key players from that Marlin’s team – and done so by taking the highly unusual step of bypassing Fred Claire, their own general manager.  In doing so, they created the need for a new general manager.   Enter Kevin Malone, right?

Well…sort of.  But not before an exhaustive GM search. Actually the man at top of Fox’s wish list was none other than Dave Dombrowski – the architect of the Marlins championship roster (did you think I was kidding about Marlin envy?  It is amazing they didn’t change our uniforms to teal!). Other candidates interviewed included Jim Bowden, Bob Watson, Omar Minaya, and Dean Taylor.  And then of course…Kevin Malone.

Dombrowski ultimately opted to stay with the Marlins.  Perhaps he sensed how dysfunctional the situation would get in LA, but that says something given the fact that he had just been ordered to dismantle a world series team and new ownership was also taking over in Florida.  It leads me to wonder what the GM  interviews with Fox were like.  I picture them something like this:

Dave Dombrowski: Given the state of the current roster and the talent within the farm system, I propose a three-year plan to bring a championship to LA.

Fox: Next.

Bob Watson: I believe in a strong focus on player development.

Fox: (yawn) Next!

Jim Bowden: I think a rebuilding process is warranted here.

Fox: (annoyed) Next!

Omar Minaya: Building the proper team chemistry is crucial.

Fox: (lots of eye rolling) Get this guy outta here!

Dean Taylor: I’d like to win the Dodger way.  With strong pitching, speed, timely hitting and defense.

Fox: Ugh!

Kevin Malone: Buy a championship?  I can do that!

Fox: By Jove, I think we’ve got our man!

My point being, I don’t think Fox unwittingly hired an idiot.  I think they specifically hired someone to do an idiotic job.  It was your standard issue “garbage  in/garbage out” situation.  No self-respecting baseball man ought to have agreed to do it.  Maybe Kevin Malone was dumb enough to think it was a good idea.  Maybe he simply wanted to return to the GM’s office after having grabbed that brass ring in Montreal and losing it through little fault of his own.  Who knows?  Maybe I’d have done the same.  After all, Fox had a an almost limitless budget and Malone had already built baseball’s best team once, only to see the 1994 baseball strike deny his 74-40 Expos the post-season berth they clearly were heading for.  He probably decided to put his faith in his own talent and in God (he is an avowed evangelical) – and so he agreed to attempt one of the most colossally foolhardy bad ideas ever attempted by a major league team: He tried to turn a sow’s ear into silk within a single offseason.

The common wisdom surrounding the Dodgers going into the 1998-99 season was that they lacked an ace and were badly in need of left-handed power.  So an argument could have been made for making Kevin Brown baseball’s first $100 million dollar man, but it would have been a very bad one.  Especially given that the last and most expensive years of the contract extended into Brown’s 40’s. If the Dodgers were already a contender and Brown was the final piece needed, this might have made sense.  But as a first piece towards creating an instant contender… it was absolutely reckless.

Similarly you could look sideways at both Todd Hundley and Devon White  and tell yourself that they were the answer to our left handed power problems.  If you had only the  free agent pool and trade options available at that exact little sliver in time, it would be possible to view guys like them as  reasonable targets.  Of course you’d have to put out of your mind the fact that Hundley  was coming off reconstructive surgery and that an aging Devon White was coming off of only his second season of 20+ homers in a o15 year career.

And so it was for almost all of Malone’s moves.  He paid top dollar and gave out long term cntracts to players simply because they were there and they appeared to fill a need on his roster – if you did not look to closely.

Meanwhile he seemed to enjoy shooting his mouth off for the press, proclaiming himself the new sheriff in town at his first official press conference.  But within the organization he was hardly the law.  Fox was still convinced that they knew baseball well enough to make baseball decisions and thus they forced him to hire Davey Johnston to manage the Dodgers over his clear choice  Felipe Alou, who had all but accepted a deal with us before supposedly changing his mind just minutes before an announcement.  Could it be that the Expos simply outbid us with a last  minute offer?  I doubt it.  Not given the open check book Malone clearly had.  Nope – the incident clearly stunk of interference by Fox.

The net result of all of these and other moves was a third place finish in 1999 led by a barely interested davey Johnston.  Fox would allow Malone to continue to try and spend his way to a championship in 2000 as they approved his trade of disgruntled Raul Mondesi for Shawn Green – a trade which allowed the Dodgers a  window to extend Green to a six-year $84 million dollar deal.  Green was a talented player and had success in LA, but the team around him was still too fundamentally flawed to truly compete for a championship and  ended up in second place 11 games behind the dreaded Giants.

After that Fox apparently abandoned their hope of buying a championship, clamping down on the wallet from then on until the sale to Frank McCourt.  Meanwhile our hero Kevin Malone finally shot his mouth off one time too many when he challenged a heckler to a fight during a game in San Diego in April of 2001.  He resigned a few days later.  Not to return to baseball since.  Among other ventures since he is co-owner of a Mercedes dealership in Southern California with Hall of famer Eddie Murray.

As for me, I’m waiting for the day that they  get the bright idea to sell off all of their inventory in a single off-season.  I could use a cheap Mercedes!

Categories: Uncategorized

Fox

November 22, 2009 4 comments

This topic is too large to dissect in one post, so hopefully I’ll have help with comments and subsequent posts, but the Fox piece of our history should be put out there.  Why?  Well, the hot stove has just begun to warm and how many times can I say “We need a solid pitcher or two” and “Our owner is a sham”?  So, without further ado…

When I first heard Peter O’Malley was planning on selling the Dodgers, I couldn’t believe it.  I hoped, once the idea sunk in and it was obviously going to happen, that some local businessman would step up.  I had the same hope when I learned Fox then planned to sell the team.  Anyway, Fox turned out to be O’Malley’s buyer, and I must confess I had some mixed feelings on the transfer.

Of course losing the family history dating well back into Brooklyn sucked, but of course times change and at some point it seemed inevitable something like this could happen.  O’Malley handed the keys over to Fox and the good news was we suddenly had very deep pockets.  While Peter O’Malley was not Frank McCourt, obviously we were starting to feel the same effect – that our large market team might not be able to compete financially with other large market teams.  So, it intrigued me to see what Fox might be able to do.

Fox went to work right away, having suits handle baseball operations since they obviously didn’t have much respect for “baseball people”.  I guess in some ways you can understand that.  Anyone who fancies himself a baseball geek feels at one time or another they know more than the “experts” in charge.  Playing Monday morning quarterback is easy sometimes, though I must confess, oftentimes I arrogantly do feel I know more than some of these geniuses.  I’m sure anyone reading this has felt the same way.

If you watch GMs sign guys who obviously are coming off a career year, or just suck in general, or are injury risks, to big, bloated contracts you know they’ll never in a million years be able to live up to, it’s easy to feel you know more than they do.  Of course they might know what we know, but they’re rolling the dice, making a move to save their butts, or any number of other reasons.  So, when you get some smarmy entertainment execs together, why shouldn’t they feel they know more than guys like Fred Claire?  He of the Aquanet hairspray, Dockers and closeted, effeminate voice.

I recall many memories of my life as a Dodger fan, one of the best, I think, was after a game seeing Fred Claire on the Club level of the stadium, come out of a door suddenly and make a bee line for the exit.  People were filing out, talking about the game, and Fred, with some papers tucked under his arm, neatly pressed polo shirt and Dockers, zigzagged through the throng like Walter Payton in his heyday.  A friend and I tried to keep up, but by golly, that white haired gentleman with hair Steve Garvey would be proud of, disappeared into the mob and was gone, without anyone but us noticing him.  Anyhow, I digress…

Fox executives Peter Chernin and Chase Carey overstepped Fred Claire and traded Mike Piazza and poor Todd Zeile, who signed with the Dodgers at a hometown discount, to the Florida Marlins for disgruntled asswipe Gary Sheffield, bloated and disinterested Bobby Bonilla, Charles Johnson and Jim Eisenreich, a guy who suffered from Tourette syndrome and a notorious Dodger killer, but also past his prime.  Fans’ jaws collectively dropped, sports talk show switchboards went nuts and the Dodgers were never really the same, reaching new points of darkness, with more and more foibles to come.

We all know about that, but let’s discuss a few points of the Fox era.

First, Fox could have been a good owner.  They came in and immediately doubled payroll.  That’s a great thing if you have a GM like Ned Colletti around, or Dan Evans, but the Fox group hired Kevin Malone, another effeminate speaking guy with scrubbed skin, a meticulously manicured mustache and not that many brain cells.  Malone, who nicknamed himself “The Sheriff”, wanted to be a GM for so long that he told his bosses he could do the impossible – rebuild the floundering Dodger farm system, while fielding an immediate pennant contender – at the same time.

Generally rebuilding means, well, rebuilding.  To assume you can rebuild and win is a stretch.  It’s possible, I suppose, but if your cupboards are fairly bare, it’s ambitious, to say the least.  The Dodgers farm, once the envy of every major league team, had gotten pretty barren, left to develop somewhat talented, but imperfect ballplayers.  At some point along the line, the Dodger way to play baseball message had gotten watered down, and scouting seemed to beat the bushes to find some raw talents who weren’t that sharp, or not taught the skills they needed to develop properly.  That’s my take anyway, I witnessed lots of guys who could do something well – hit for power, run, throw, etc., but very few, almost none, who could put it all together into any sort of cohesive package.  Raul Mondesi, perhaps, was as close to a complete package as we had, and he was emotionally immature, impatient and never going to amount to the talent he could have.

Malone went shopping and decided to rebuild the team on the fly, using Fox money and the available free-agent pool.  It was a debacle fraught with gambles, poor choices, and just an overall poor assemblage of players.  No thought went into character, as players with checkered pasts, questionable attitudes and most of whom were fairly unlikeable, were tossed together and called Dodgers.  Dodgers?  These weren’t Dodgers.  These were guys.  Guys who cursed out reporters, demanded extra money to come play here, who beat up water coolers, choked flight attendants, drank too much, seemed completely disinterested, wanting more to fish than play baseball.  Oh, for the days of The Infield, geeky Orel Hershiser, Scioscia sitting on home plate in a manner I was convinced was perfectly legal as an opposing baserunner rounded third, and so on.

Kevin Malone whined, perpetually looked like he was about to cry, yet with the power of Jesus in his hip pocket, was decidedly arrogant, and even challenged taunting fans in San Diego to fist fights.  The team was a mess, and with the disappointment on the field, Fox ultimately lost interest in the Dodgers.  They had gotten what they wanted, a West Coast cable sports network established, and since they were proven right that “baseball people” – like Kevin Malone – knew very little about baseball, and there was NO guarantee that throwing good money after bad would change the situation any, they shut their wallet and let the Dodgers drift.

Eventually Malone was gone and Dan Evans came in – a guy often maligned, but to me was someone who should get much more credit than he has.  Evans managed to somehow turn Malone’s mess into a fairly competitive team, reestablished Dodger pitching, made defense a priority, chemistry, and put Logan White, Kim Ng, Bill Bavasi, John Boles and others in place to fix the farm system.  Under Evans watch, most of the players we hold near and dear today were drafted and cultivated.  Scouting returned to its former glory, and the big league team was very close to contending.  Of course, without any help from ownership, Evans’ Dodgers were reduced to scouring the waiver wire and picking up guys who were well past their prime, in hopes of finding lightning in the least likely places.

The worst crime of all was committed during the 2003 season as Fox scrambled to sell and Evans’ Dodgers had the best pitching staff in baseball, led by a resurgent Kevin Brown, lights-out Hideo Nomo, and Cy Young winner (and then unknown steroid user) Eric Gagne.  Not only was the pitching staff collectively the best in baseball that year, it was the best pitching staff PERIOD in almost 30 years.  Also, the team was one of the slickest fielding units assembled – all they needed was another bat.  Evans pleaded, but was not allowed to spend a penny (shades of this past season with Ned left to answer our ace needs with Ranger dump Vicente Padilla).

Without money, Evans had to add offense with the likes of 100 year old Rickey Henderson, a game but aging Robin Ventura, and of course Jeromy Burnitz.  The Dodgers just missed the wild card – that record pitching and defense wasted as Fox prepared to help Boston phony Frank McCourt “buy” the Dodgers and leave us in the hands of someone who cared just as little as they did.

For the record, if you look back at 2002 and 2003, here are some of the players Dan Evans, Logan White, Kim Ng and Bill Bavasi managed to draft and get into our system:

  • James Loney
  • Jonathan Broxton
  • James McDonald
  • Russell Martin
  • Delwyn Young
  • Eric Stults
  • Chad Billingsley
  • Xavier Paul
  • Matt Kemp
  • Andy LaRoche

Not bad, eh?  This is pretty amazing, especially when you consider how much crap Dan Evans had thrown at him by nouveau Sabermetricians.  When called on this, these data crunchers inevitably give all the praise to Logan White, but neglect Evans who brought White aboard, as well as Kim Ng and the rest of the team that turned a failed farm system into one of the best in baseball.  The farm literally went from bottom 5 to top 5 during the Evans years.

Anyway, that’s a trip down Fox memory lane, so much to talk about, so much left out.  

I’d like to delve deeper into the flight attendant strangulation – pretty outstanding stuff, considering this occurred on a 75-minute flight.  What in god’s good name could a flight attendant do to bring upon that sort of reaction?  Like the age old question of how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.

(This entry dedicated to Peter Chernin and Chase Carey, Kevin “The Sheriff” Malone, Todd Hundley, Gary Sheffield, Devon White, Kevin Elster, Carlos Perez, Davey Johnson, and all the other wonderful people who made this era of Dodger baseball so entertaining for all of us)

Categories: Uncategorized

We need a pitcher, not a belly itcher…

November 21, 2009 2 comments

Sure DFNY.  Lets go ahead and talk about starting pitching.

Last night Yahoo’s Tim Brown reported the following via twitter:

Source: Dodgers and Blue Jays are discussing Halladay again. Looks like Anthopoulos is restarting the process of moving Doc.

Following four hours later with this tweet:

They’ve talked about Halladay trade, but source close to Blue Jays-Dodgers says deal, as of tonight, looks, “highly unlikely.”

I hate to be a fatalist, but I suspect that might have been the most exciting four hours we Dodger fans will see this offseason.

Look – maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe Frank McCourt will figure out that he stands to make a lot more money with a real championship calibre team than a pretend championship calibre team.  Maybe.  But I’m not so sure.

As it stands, my strong suspicion is that all of this will come down to  Ned Colletti’s ability to work miracles.  I think he will once again be held to a budget that will force him to rob Peter in order to  beef up Paul.  So unless some team comes forward with the pitching version of Manny Ramirez – a malcontent they deem toxic enough to pay their way out of town – Ned is gonna have to pull something from the bottom of the pack.

One way he could potentially do it is to shop K-Mart for every other need.  Perhaps manning second base with Blake DeWitt or a Jamey Carroll type and filling in the bench with warm bodies.  Then he could walk into McCourt’s office and point out all of the money coming off of the books this season and try and get permission to make one big splash for a starting pitcher.  DFNY – you mentioned that you did not understand letting Wolf and Garland walk,  but perhaps Ned was anticipating his need to go this direction when he made that decision.

This is probably the best case scenario for this season.

More likely Ned will be forced to do the same thing all of his counterparts are doing – trawling the free agent and trade market for bargains.  Generally this manifests in one of two ways:

1) Finding talent that is undervalued by the entire baseball establishment. – a great trick if you can pull it.   I could give a list of guys that I think fit this bill, but I’d be full of shit.

or

2) Signing high risk/high reward guys. –  There are always a few.  This year’s crop includes Rich Harden and Ben Sheets.  Not a bad idea if you can do so cheaply, but realistically a championship team does this to fill the bottom of it’s rotation, not the top.  Besides – a lot of teams will be going this route, so even damaged goods like these guys will not come cheap.

The option I did not include was trading for a guy that a smaller market team can no longer afford.  This would be the smart thing to do, but it would require investment in something other than real estate.  Think McCourt has the stomach?  If so, we ought to be all over Josh Johnson.  I  hope in the end, we are.

I wish I could believe otherwise, but I envision the end of this story having us signing a former ace like Randy Johnson or John Smoltz and then engaging in some kind of experiment in mass myopia as Dodger nation tells itself that Kershaw/Bills/Kuroda/Old Guy might just possibly go all the way.

Ugh.  Still bitter.  I’m not sure talking it out is working.

Categories: Uncategorized

Let’s talk starting pitching

November 20, 2009 3 comments

What can we realistically expect to add to our rotation, which as we all know was the thing that’s kept us from going further the past 2 years?
I think with the contracts of Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt off the books, and allowing our best pitcher last year, Randy Wolf, to walk, and not keeping Jon Garland, and probably not Vicente Padilla, we should have money to get someone, right?  Probably not.
I think the only way to add pitching is through trade anyway, because unless we added John Lackey for quite a bit of money, and who’s a health risk anyway, there’s not much out there.  The next best guy is Wolf, who we’ve had twice, and who I suspect we’ll add again at some point.  Wolf’s a very good pitcher, healthy, and a local guy who obviously enjoys playing at home.
Which brings up a good point – if we’re thin in starting pitching, why let Wolf and Garland go?  I don’t like Padilla, but after some of his clutch games down the stretch and in the post-season, you could say the same for him.  I think Ned and team have some plan of action, or else they wouldn’t let these guys go – unless…
McCourt wants payroll even lower due to his divorce, and Ned knows his only hope is getting lucky with cheap, young arms.  Zach Greinke for a player to be named, anyone?
But what else is there available?  Roy Halladay is set to make about $16 mil and is a walk free-agent, so we can’t afford him in 2010, much less beyond.  I’d be pretty shocked if we could go that route.
Josh Johnson?  Edwin Jackson?  Those are the guys I’d target, but realistically we’d need both of them, or one, and someone almost as good.
We’re in the same situation just about as we were last winter when fat boy Brad Penny split and Derek Lowe was allowed to walk.  Arguably our two best, or certainly most highly paid, starters left and we added one – Wolf.
Now we have a rotation of Clayton Kershaw, who will have another year’s experience and could easily leap into the elite, or, as a kid, stand pat, or digress.  Chad Billingsley may have something to prove and reclaim his spot as “ace”, due to no other ace being around, or he could be mentally damaged from last year’s collapse and obvious lack of confidence from his manager.
Hiroki Kuroda could be a reliable middle of the rotation guy who is ace-like on any given day, or he could be a guy who wins a handful of games and/or gets hurt again.
Who fills the other two slots?  Is it Charlie Haeger who looked pretty good after coming up from AAA Albuquerque?  I like the idea of a durable knuckleballer in the mix – lots of innings, few injuries, plus he’s reasonably young – and for McCourt, cheap!
Maybe we go into the winter meetings and make a nice move for Josh Johnson and go with a rotation of Johnson, Billingsley, Kershaw, Kuroda and Haeger.  Not bad.  I could live with that, but you could also see how it could go south fast.  Johnson is about as close to being an ace as anything out there, and would be a nice fit in LA.  And then there’s Edwin Jackson…
Edwin was dealt from the Dodgers after never quite living up to his first start against Randy Johnson at age 19 or 20.  People cried when he was dealt, but I’m man enough to admit I didn’t.  Sometimes kids don’t develop the way you hoped, or you just need other parts and have to deal prospects to fill needs – especially when you feel you have a chance to win now.
It took awhile for Edwin to get it, but he apparently has.  Tampa also dealt him, and now apparently Detroit is willing to.  Of the three teams, us, Tampa and Detroit, we look the least silly for dealing him.  When he played for us, he wasn’t very good.
I say if we can get Edwin back in blue, we do it.  He’d be a great fit also, and again, if we could add both Josh Johnson and Edwin, I’d love our chances for 2010.
I think we have everything else we need – just needing to see who fills out the bench.  We’ll know soon enough, I guess, as the winter meetings approach.  My favorite time of the baseball year, I’m such a geek.  Somehow the excitement of the hot stove tops the action on the field.
So, who do you want to see in the Dodgers 2010 rotation?  Who do you feel we can realistically add?  Obviously there’s a plan, or else “getting better in starting pitching” means letting three veteran arms walk and replacing them with Rule V picks and assorted garbage.  If that’s the case, and 2010 likely being Vin Scully’s final season in the booth, it would be a very good time for me to call it a career as a Dodger fan.  My heart couldn’t take anymore.
P.S.  The notion of Charlie Steiner and his East Coast phoniness replacing Vin as the “voice of the Dodgers” makes my skin crawl.
Categories: Uncategorized

Love Hurts

November 19, 2009 3 comments

You put me to shame DFNY.  Not just because you are a better writer than I am, but because you were right to gently chide me for laying on the negativity too thick.  I suppose I figured it ought to be obvious that we both love this team to an almost ridiculous extreme based on the sheer comic obsession evident in our writing.  But I suppose it really does need to be spelled out clearly – especially given the context of our conversation.  So I’m saying it loud and proud:  I love this God forsaken dysfunctional nightmare of a franchise – though often the love feels just a wee bit unrequited.

This brings me to a fairly obvious question – one I think we need to get at if this little therapy experiment is to take hold.  I think we need to ask ourselves why we bother to love this team?  Why do we tie so much of ourselves up in the fortunes of a bunch of strangers who simply have a talent (on most days) for  playing baseball?

Jerry Seinfeld famously remarked that since players changed teams so often after free agency, fans were essentially reduced to rooting “for laundry”.  But even as he had the insight to make that observation, the guy clearly remains a baseball fan. Clearly there is an element of cognitive dissonance involved in baseball fandom.  And being a Dodger fan would seem to require outright psychosis of some kind – unless you only go to do the wave and play with the beach ball.

Given the above – can you offer any explanation for my inability to extend that  cognitive dissonance one step further? Why can’t I convince myself that the folks that own the Dodgers cares as much about championships as I do?  Why does my love for this team so often seem tragicomic? I know how I was seduced, but what I don’t ger is how I stay seduced.  Bitter as I am, why do I continue to line up for more?

The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind.  Can you shed some light?

.

Categories: Uncategorized

Head over heels for the 2009 Dodgers…

November 16, 2009 Comments off

I’ll say it – I loved the 2009 Dodgers.
The shortcomings you mention are absolutely right on, but for people who pass through here thinking all we do is whine and we’re not real Dodger fans, that’s entirely incorrect.
Watching a game this year, one of our one hundred announcers (another thing to complain about at another time), I think Steve Lyons, was saying that unlike in past years, there wasn’t one bad guy on the team.  He said all the players got along, were cool, didn’t give him or other announcers/reporters problems when approached, and were all respected by their teammates.  I think it showed.  The chemistry naysayers bring up “winning breeds chemistry”, and inevitably cite Charlie Finley’s Athletics as their example (find some other examples, I’d argue).
Well, in some cases that could be true – these are highly paid professional athletes, so to be professional, produce, even while having some personality conflicts with a few teammates, sure is possible.  I do think though that these guys are human, just like you and I, and if we prefer going to work more where we like people and get along with co-workers, they probably do too.  So I think while chemistry in the clubhouse won’t necessarily rack up wins, it sure can affect you from winning more games.
I was chatting with Bitter once during the year and asked who he thought the dumbest player on the team was.  In the past, we discussed “Baseball IQ” as a measuring stick for players’ worth, more than just their stats.  We always had some dummies around, but now?  In 2009, our bench players were smart veterans who got it, actually improved the quality of play, at times, when asked to fill in, etc.  Juan Castro?  Mark Loretta?  Brad Ausmus?  Juan Pierre?  Doug Mientiewicz?  Not a dummy among them.
We came to the assessment that our dumbest player was Manny, but he could be forgiven since his bat was so far and above mere mortals.  It’s ok to have a somewhat dumb guy on your roster – and by dumb, we’re not talking about SAT scores, but by baseball smarts and all around play… knowing when and how to hit the cutoff man, when not to be acting like a clown, etc.  Manny is Manny, and that’s part of his charm.  At least we didn’t have any pariahs, or curmudgeons – the DePodesta era was filled with strange chemistry guys, uncaring folks and powderkegs.
The development of Matt Kemp in 2009 was impressive, as he was certainly someone on the Baseball IQ fence in the past.  Very talented, relatively new playing organized baseball, Kemp often made mental errors, especially on the basepaths.  It seems he sat down over last winter and decided he wanted to be a superstar, and it showed.  Kemp was fantastic, as his Gold Glove and Silver Bat show.
There were guys who really stepped up, and some who stepped back.  Chad Billingsley was moving up quickly as the ace we desperately needed, but then for whatever reason, he tumbled back.  I think coming off a broken leg, which wasn’t talked about enough this season, probably was a major reason for his mid-season decline.  The guy has legs like tree trunks, and most great power pitchers use their legs, so the fact that he pushed his progress after breaking his, is a good reason, perhaps, for his fall.
I’d also cast a bit of blame at Rick Honeycutt for not being able to quicker diagnose Billingsley’s problems (by the time his real swoon got going, a lot of it was mental too – Hello? Pitching coach?).  We saw Billingsley flounder, then flounder more, then flounder still more.  How this wasn’t addressed sooner is somewhat amazing.  Maybe it was, but Billingsley was just too far gone, which explains his time out of the rotation, and his post-season blackballing.  Still – when you say the kid is your ace, now and in the future, you owe it to yourself, and him, to get it right.
The stumble of Russell Martin is interesting.  He came into camp very thin and slight, saying “off-season yoga” was his thing, as he felt too bulky in 2008.  Just throwing it out there – could it be he dropped weight, and subsequently hitting, and even baserunning skills, due to getting off PEDs?  Remember Pudge Rodriguez coming back after an off-season, 40 lbs lighter, saying he had dieted over the break?
Martin went from arguably the best catcher in baseball not named Joe Mauer to a souped up Jason Kendall.  Martin and his agent were dreaming of a big FA payday with the Yanks or BoSox, both of whom could use a franchise catcher to replace aging stats, but now he’ll be lucky to keep his job – unless he picks it up.
Luckily Martin still was tough and managed to call a great game, something catchers should still be greatly judged on.  I think though he has dropped from being the absolute leader of the team to a supporting character.  I hope this off-season’s yoga is mixed in with a lot of hitting practice and some weight training, so some of those fly balls find their way over the fence, or at least as doubles into the gap.
A remarkable aspect of 2009 was the fans finally seeing Juan Pierre’s worth.  The Stockholm Syndrome Moneyball contingent have long disliked Pierre since he doesn’t walk that much, and doesn’t hit homeruns.  They blame him for his fairly generous contract, and don’t recall at the time of his signing that we really had NO outfield at all.  The mentality, as Bitter pointed out in his opening entry, is somehow that Pierre’s (and other well paid players) salary is being paid by them.  They take it personally, too personally, and get pissy about it.
In point of fact, Pierre was (and is) a durable speedster who could man an outfield position for years and hopefully Ethier and Kemp would develop into the players they are now.  At the time though, we had pretty much nothing, and that doesn’t bode well for a contender, or even a wannabe.
Pierre’s work ethic and patience are to be admired, and fans finally got it (though I still read “fan” posts and hear dummies occasionally call in on talk shows and disparage the guy – such is life).  Pierre regularly gets ovations now after saving us when Manny had his suspension.  He did the same thing the previous year when fatty Andruw Jones let us down.  If we didn’t have Pierre around, big contract or no, what would our 2008 and 2009 have looked like?
Obviously my praise of Pierre isn’t as important as him winning this year’s Roy Campanella award, voted on by his teammates.  The guy’s a stud.
Well, time’s running out and I have to go.  I will say 2009 was also impressive to me for the following:  our great manager and coaching staff, who with just a few wobbles, did a great job this regular season.  Andre Ethier was simply amazing, he continues to improve and make me look good to folks I’ve bragged to about him for a few years.  Our bench, as noted, simply the best.  When you have Doug Mientiewicz who can’t even make your post-season roster, you know you have a super bench.  Not to mention poor Blake Dewitt, who really should be starting someplace.
Good pitching and development from Hong-Chih Kuo, Clayton Kershaw of course, and most of our pen.  I wonder what Jonathan Broxton’s future is, perhaps he’s the guy we use to get our ace?  I like big Jon a lot, but think we could afford to move him if we got back outstanding quality in return.  He’s a bit soft between the ears, it would seem.
Thanks for bringing up this topic, Bitter – lots to discuss, for sure.

 

Categories: Uncategorized